Frank Lloyd Wright at Florida Southern

I joined Urban Sketchers Orlando at the campus of Florida Southern College for their Frank Lloyd Wright tour. Frank Lloyd Wright designed many of the buildings on campus in the 1940s– two churches, a huge dome fountain, covered walking paths, and even the planetarium!

I painted Usonian House, which was designed for faculty housing.

It looked really cool on the inside, too!

Since it was an urban sketchers gathering, we all shared our drawings at the end!

Getting started with watercolor

Occasionally I get asked about what to buy to get started with watercolor… I love this question, and it’s been almost exactly five years since I bought my first watercolor supplies! In honor of my five year watercolor anniversary next month, here’s what I would buy if I was just getting started today:

art supplies! 😍
  • Paint: I would buy small watercolor paint tubes (8 mL) of the Windsor & Newton Cotman brand in the following colors: alizarin crimson, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, sap green, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, burnt umber, and payne’s gray
  • Brushes: I’ve had good luck with Princeton brushes, and this set from Princeton Heritage is a great deal, and would be perfect for getting started– a small round, a larger round, and a flat brush for washes– perfect! And if you’re feeling fancy, I would get this brush set from Etchr. I have it and I use it almost every day.
  • Paper: these watercolor blocks from Fluid are so great! The paper is attached at the top and bottom, so the paper doesn’t curl up while you’re painting, and you can peel it off easily once it’s dry. Get the 6″ x 8″ size if you’re painting on the go, and the 9″ x 12″ size if you’re painting at home.
  • Palette: I would get the small folding palette box from Blick.

That should do it! Let me know if you try these out, and what you think… I love talking about art supplies!

State Fair Plein Air competition

I’ve been enjoying plein air painting (literally, “open air” painting– popularized by the Impressionists to capture the light at a particular time and place) lately, and so I signed up to be part of the plein air painting competition at the Florida State Fair. I wasn’t sure what to expect (would I be painting a ferris wheel? Fried twinkies?), but I discovered a lovely “living history” village within the state fair, composed of historic homes, a post office, black smith shop, and other structures that had been collected over time for educational purposes. I fell in love with the view of Carlton House, which was the governor’s mansion in the 1800s, tucked under some enormous oak trees, and so I set up shop there!

Painting Carlton House at the plein air painting competition

I was really happy with how the painting turned out, and honored to win second place in the judging!

watercolor plein air painting of Carlton House

I’ve got my eye on a few other plein air competitions– it was exciting, and great to meet other artists. And in the meantime, I’ll keep exploring and painting outdoors!

New art studio!


Hi there! I’ve been in the process of setting up an art studio in our new house these past few months, and I’m really happy with how it’s coming together! I love painting outside, but this is where I paint when it’s more practical to work indoors… I love the bookshelves (can you spot Audacious Ignatius and Sorin Starts a School on the shelf??) and all the natural light that comes in.

January painting roundup!

Lake Carroll at sunrise, backyard fern jungle, beachy blues, and a tunnel of banyan trees, 4″x6″

I can’t believe that I was able to paint outside almost every day in January! Here are my favorites from this month. I ended up with pictures of my backyard (the orchid tree is blooming!), a nearby lake, Lettuce Lake park (my favorite spot this month!), and just one interior that I did on a rainy day.

several Lettuce Lake paintings, and one rainy day interior!

I’ve been liking how painting small helps me finish a painting more quickly, and not get bogged down in too many details. I bought a 4×6 inch block (Fluid cold press), and used that a lot this month. I also ventured a bit bigger on a few occasions– 6×6 and 9×6 inches!

Backyard studies
suburban sketching (the oak trees!), 6″x6″
orchid tree and key lime tree, 9″x6″

Illustrating a cityscape

I’m working on the illustrations for a new book (more details soon! It hasn’t been officially announced yet…), and really enjoying this one of a character (and her cat) living in a high rise building. I loved imagining the view out the window, and drawing the skyscrapers and a little rooftop garden! I enjoy urban sketching, which is done on location, and got started with it in Chicago– though this illustration is not of specific buildings, I definitely think that it was influenced by the time I spent urban sketching in Chicago!

Painting, noticing, and curiosity

I moved back to my home state of Florida last year, and it’s been a joy to rediscover the natural landscape that I grew up in. I really love the parks in our area, and I’m hoping to do more outdoor painting in them this year!

Yesterday, I went to Lettuce Lake Park, and brought my paints along. The park has a boardwalk with lots of views of the Hillsborough river, tons of birds (especially in winter), and huge cypress trees. I found a sunny spot on a bench, and painted the river and trees. The colors are interesting in the winter– a lot of the trees are brown with no leaves/dead leaves, and others have bright green leaves (spring growth already? Need to learn more about this!) After I finished painting, I noticed so much more about the colors, values, and shapes around me, and felt really curious about the plants and animals I had seen. Stopping to paint made me notice more, and noticing made me curious. This is one of my favorite things about painting!

4×6 watercolor at Lettuce Lake Park
Watercolor setup on the go – loving this 4×6 watercolor block

Starting small

We were able to spend the weekend at the beach as a family, and I brought my watercolors with me. I flipped through my sketchbook when I was packing my art supplies and noticed that I had several unfinished paintings from the past few weeks. In each case, I had sketched out a complex scene on location, and had not finished it before it was time to go home! Each sketch was a lovely start, but I get overly ambitious with making detailed sketches, and I really wanted to finish my beach paintings. So, I took some small scraps of really nice watercolor paper that I had trimmed to do some 11″x22″ illustration spreads, cut them into little rectangles, and taped them in my sketch book. They were so small that I had to choose a simple composition, and I couldn’t get lost in the details.

In this case, I wanted to focus on the amazing colors of the water and the sky, and the fuzzy looking vegetation on the horizon. It seemed too simple as I started to paint, and I was afraid they would be boring! I’m really happy with how it turned out, though– I love the texture of the watercolor with those beachy blues!

I like how making a small painting forces me to simplify my plan. And maybe I’ll work up to a slightly larger painting next time– maybe 6″x6″?!

Are you ready?

I remember when Paul and I were first starting to work on Audacious Ignatius (four years ago now!). I was enrolled in a drawing class and was learning a lot. My work was getting better as I learned and practiced and I thought– let’s wait. I’m not ready to make this book yet. I’ll be a better artist next year, and the book will be better! I’m so glad I kept working! I could have waited, but I learned so much from working on Audacious Ignatius. I grow from taking classes, I grow from practicing, and I grow from throwing myself into the project that’s in front of me right now, even if I don’t feel quite ready.

Portrait of Paul and me, for the author and illustrator bios of Sorin Starts a School

This week, as we put the finishing touches on our second book together, Sorin Starts a School, our designer suggested I draw portraits to accompany our author and illustrator bios in the book. It was a fun challenge! Glad to be tackling another project together, and glad we didn’t wait to begin!

Snowy rooftops

Snowy Rooftops, watercolor on hot press paper

It’s so snowy out there! Looking out my window at the white sky and white rooftops this afternoon, I wondered if I could show the edge of the rooftops using only the tree branches between them. I was nervous as I was erasing my pencil lines, wondering if you would be able to distinguish the edges of the roofs, but I think it worked! The snow makes everything feel a little more calm and peaceful outside, and this painting also has some of that calm for me. 

I painted this for the Chicago Urban Sketchers theme of Negative Space, which is the art term for the “empty” space between objects. Staring out my window at the snow, I noticed that the white was like a blank canvas of empty space, with just bits of trees and houses to define the landscape.

A milestone

Wow, this has been a work in progress! When I first sketched out a storyboard for Sorin Starts a School, I knew I wanted to have a big panorama towards the end to zoom out and give the feeling of wrapping up the story, but I didn’t think through how long it would take to do this! It is definitely the most complex illustration I’ve ever attempted, and I learned so much from making it. (Be sure to imagine some inspiring words that Paul wrote up there at the top of the page!)

This is a watercolor painting, with lots of tiny details added digitally, using the Procreate app.