Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category



October 8, 2018

My good friend Kevin has cockatiels as pets — Pitiful and Shemp — and I had the pleasure of bird-sitting them a couple of times. I fell in love right away. Especially with Pitiful, who made me late for work one morning when he jumped on my shoulder and I couldn’t get him off. As you can see from this picture, I wasn’t that mad about it.


I liked Shemp too, but he wasn’t as friendly with me, this rando human that he didn’t know. But Pitiful would eagerly hop onto my hand and whistle songs.

The only other experience I had with birds was when I was five and my mom got two parakeets. The day she got them we were sitting on our porch with their cage and I thought it would be a great idea to let them stretch their wings. So I opened up the cage and away they flew. Forever. We’d had them for like 2 hours. If memory serves, Mom was way cool about it.

Luckily I learned from that experience, and 30+ years later when Kevin let me take care of his cockatiels I managed to keep them in the house.


Pitiful earned his name years ago when Kevin found him in a dry canal and he looked so…well, pitiful.

The last time I bird-sat I got this great photo of him. He seemed to know that I was trying to take a picture and cocked his head in the most flirty adorable pose.

He could look at you like he wanted to know all about you.


Sadly, he passed away just a few weeks after this picture was taken. Kevin was obviously heartbroken. Pitiful had been a wonderful pet to him for 24 years.

I was also very sad, and wanted to do something to commemorate this sweet little bird, so I decided to make Kevin a picture to remember him by.

I used the photo I took for reference, but I guess all those big head caricatures I’ve been doing lately sort of seeped into my subconscious cuz Pity’s head and beak ended up a bit out of proportion. I kinda like that though. It shows how smiley he was. 🙂

I used alcohol-based studio brush markers to color him in. I have a tendency to go too dark too soon when I use these markers, and I was afraid that would happen here. Pitiful’s upper torso is actually a darker grey, but I held back a bit out of fear of ruining it.

For the background I wanted to do something kinda abstract so I made some rays of cerulean shooting out from behind him. Then I used some bottle cap stamps that I had made to add some random purplish shapes.

I like how the shape right above his head sort of looks like a bird in flight.

I found a really cool metal frame at Michael’s that sort of looked like a birdcage. I put the drawing in it and I gave it to Kevin on his birthday.

I was a little worried that he might think it was a drawing of Shemp, his other cockatiel. (Not to be bird-racist, but they do look a lot alike.) But he didn’t. When Kevin unwrapped the picture he looked at it for a little while and then quietly said, “I miss him.”

I do too.


Griffith Observatory

September 13, 2018

Last weekend I visited my little brother in LA. Turns out he lives within walking distance to the Griffith Observatory, which is a place that I have been wanting to visit for many years. It’s a steep little hike to get up there, but totally worth it.

Unfortunately the observatory didn’t open until noon and I was there at about 10AM, so I didn’t get to see inside. But while I was up there I did some pencil sketches.

After I got back from the trip I inked and shaded.

This is a bit out of my comfort zone. I mostly draw people, and I get really impatient when it comes to architecture and nature. I did kind of a sloppy hasty job here, but I still had a lot of fun.

I recently bought some brush pens and I have enjoyed experimenting with line quality. I think the brush pen is a great tool for drawing foliage and stuff, but I am definitely going to need more practice.

After I finished I remembered that my pal — rad artist, and lover of sharks– Jessica Hickman proclaimed September to be Sharktember, a drawing challenge where you draw a shark everyday. So I decided to put a hidden shark or two into everything I draw this month.

Here is the new and improved Sharktember version. See if you can find the sharks.


Snapchat in the Garden of Good and Evil

September 25, 2016

Next up in the “big head people with different backgrounds” series…

(I need to find a shorter way to describe these things.)

This one is my brother. I won’t identify which one (I have three) because the bro in question was horrified by this representation of him. And to be fair, it truly is a horrible representation.

But hey, I’ve been saying all along that the person I’m looking at is merely a jumping off point. From there I blow up their head and distort their features. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it’s not.

When he saw the initial pencil sketch he said, “Where are my muscles?”

Then he said, “I guess I’d better shave.”


Anyhow… I did the sketch one night while he and I (and some other fam) were having dinner outside. He’d been snapchatting all day, which is why he is staring at his phone.

SIDE NOTE: I am going to take this opportunity to rant about something that’s been getting on my nerves lately.

There are a lot of cranky old curmudgeons (aka COCs) who like to make stupid jokes about millennials (I’m looking at you WWDTM) and gripe about how they are a bunch of lazy entitled brats who just stare at their phones and take selfies all all day.

Well, I have three things to say to you COCs:

  1. Oh shut up! Do you realize that people have been making the old “this new generation is sooo lazy” complaint since BIBLICAL TIMES? Really, they have. Here is just one of many articles quoting angry old fuddy duddies who’ve been saying the same damn thing since 20 BC.
  2. I happen to think Millennials are pretty freaking impressive. Most of the ones I know are very smart and open-minded. And they’re doing a lot of cool, creative, ambitious work. Meanwhile, a big chunk of the Gen X-ers and Boomers I know seem to be spending quite a lot of their free time watching Netflix, posting selfies, and complaining about Millennials. (Contrary to popular opinion, oldsters post a lot of selfies too).
  3. As someone who likes to sketch strangers in public, I find it VERY convenient that so many of them are staring at their phones nowadays. Not only are they keeping still, they are completely unaware that I’m staring at them. The smartphone phenomenon has led to a huge reduction in awkward, “Are you drawing me?” encounters.


So back to the drawing. When coming up with ideas for the background, I tried to think of stuff that my bro was into. One of the first things that came to mind was Doctor Who.

And what is the best Doctor Who episode of all? The weeping angels, of course!


So I added a weeping angel type statue to the background.

Then that statue made me think about the book/movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which I always thought was the best title ever. I saw that movie in the theater entirely because of the awesome title, and because I loved the creepy cool poster.

(BTW, the movie was disappointing. Very boring IMHO. Maybe the book is better.)


The poster has this statue of a sad girl in the middle of a swampy overgrown graveyard. So I added in my own swampy background, with the same sort of alternating rays of dark and light cutting diagonally across.

My biggest regret here is that I jumped the gun and colored in my brother before figuring out what I was going to do with the background.

If I had known I was going to do the whole creepy-swampy-statue thing, I would not have used such bright colors in the foreground. I would have tried to integrate him into the setting more, like I did with the Frankenstein drawing.

Too bad I can’t hop into a TARDIS and go fix it.

Ah well. A not-so-great drawing is still a hundred times better than a non-existent one. Plus, I had a lot of fun coming up with the setting for this one.

Even though I have regrets about each of my drawings, I usually have things I am secretly proud of too. Whether it’s a happy accident, something I learned while working on it, or just a nice memory attached to it, I’m always glad I have the drawing in the end.

The thing I secretly like about this one is the smartphone in the statue’s hand. I know it’s corny, but when I came up with that idea I was pretty darn pleased with myself. It’s that one little detail that turns this picture into a story.

Failing forward!


Hiking vs Drawing. HatMan vs the Elk

June 19, 2016

A couple weeks ago I went to Estes Park, Colorado with my husband and his awesome family. Estes Park—which is within minutes of the RMNP—is basically paradise. The place we stayed—a bunch of cabins at the edge of town called Idlewilde—is a paradise within paradise. The Big Thompson river raged right outside our porch. Snow covered mountains continually took my breath away. And beautiful wildlife roamed the town freely, undisturbed by dorky humans gawking at them.

The average high while we were there was 60 degrees, which happens to be one of my favorite degrees. (And half what we are experiencing right now in Phx).

A couple days before the trip, I hit up AZ Art Supply for some new pens. I probably didn’t need knew pens, I could have scavenged my art supply drawers and made due with what I have. But I guess it’s like buying a new dress for an upcoming wedding. I could wear one of my old ones and I probably wouldn’t look much different too everyone else. But in a new dress I would feel better and newer, and subconsciously I would be more excited to attend the event. With new pens I would be more excited to draw.

Or so I thought.

But as frequently happens, my soul’s desire to be creative went head-to-head with my body’s need to be active. This seems to be one of the major struggles of my life. And I admit, in the universe of struggles, this is NOT something to complain about. It’s definitely preferable to say, having to choose between feeding your family vs putting a roof over their head. Or going to work vs going to Urgent Care.

Hiking vs drawing is not exactly a Sophie’s Choice situation. It’s a wanting my cake and eating it too situation. But I will say that for me, being active and being creative are both necessary components to my mental health. I am at my best when I do both. I am in trouble when I do neither. And when I have to pick between either/or… well, I’ll be fine, but it’s just hard to know which way to go.

Anyhow, when I got to paradise and saw all that beautiful nature, I was torn between sitting down to capture it on paper, or walking in and becoming a part of it. In the end, the mountains called, and I had to go. I know that John Muir would understand. Michael Petry probably would not.  😉


So here’s how a typical day went. Wake up, drink coffee, and head into the RMNP for a challenging hike. Return to cabin, scoop up Richard, and head back out for a shorter, more leisurely hike. Return to cabin to shower, nap, and read. Take lawn chairs out to sit by the Big Thompson river. Spend the evening hanging outside with the rest of the family, eating dinner, drinking beer, occasionally running back into the cabin to check basketball scores, and maybe taking a nighttime walk up the road to the YMCA of the Rockies to look for deer and elk.

Pretty damn great, right?

To quote my little brother at age nine: There IS such a thing as too much paradise.”

Anyhow, I did manage to do a little sketching here and there. Not as much as I wanted, but there was just so much effing paradise going on.

I did one pretty cool sketch of Richard as he was sitting on the couch in our cabin reading. Richard has a lot of unusual hats, and he was wearing one that night. That hat made for a fun sketch. I spent a lot of time on the inking, but I never got around to putting in the background or colors.

Another night, while we were in the cabin, winding down for bed, Richard suddenly shouted, “HOLY SHIT!!!”

I said, “What? Is there a bee?”

(He’d found a bee in our enclosed porch earlier and his frustration with it had been a little over dramatic, IMHO.)

“No! Antlers!”


“Out the window!”


“Just put down that drink and come outside!”

And so out we go, and right there in front of our cabin is the biggest most beautiful elk I had ever seen. We spent the next hour stalking the poor thing like paparazzi as it strolled the grounds, snacking on grass. To the elk’s credit he did not seem to mind us at all. In fact, sometimes he would stand a certain way, turning his head, as if posing for a picture.

elk by river

If Richard hadn’t spotted it, that elk would have walked circles around our cabin all night and I never would have known.

Yesterday I was looking at that unfinished drawing and trying to figure out what to do with the background. Then I remembered that cool experience with the elk. That’s it! Instead of adding the background that was actually behind him when I did the sketch – a boring old wall and TV – I drew a window with the grazing elk, and the river beside him. Then I colored it with colored pencils.

So here it is. My one and only completed drawing from Estes Park. But at least it captures my favorite moment from the trip. And that goofy hat.

HatMan vs the Elk

Happy Accident: In the drawing, Richard is holding a book, but he isn’t looking at the book. That was an error. I didn’t draw his eyes pointing in the right direction. I make that mistake a lot. The effect here is that it looks like Richard is distracted by a thought or something, which is preventing him from reading.

Now with the background added in, it looks like Richard is sensing the elk standing outside the window and he is about to turn his head. And that is pretty cool because he is always spotting things that I seem oblivious to. Like in our house, he has found dozens of scorpions, and I never find any. It’s almost as if he has a sixth sense for that kind of stuff.

Hey! Maybe that’s his super power! And if so, maybe his hats are what give him that power! Look out world. Here comes HatMan!



NYC circa 1999

July 8, 2013

As promised, here are some cringe-worthy sketches from my Fall of 1999 sketchbook. These are all from the first time I ever visited New York City. I was 22 years old, an art student at ASU, and had been carrying a sketchbook for less than a year. I was traveling with my friends Satin and Kevin. We only had 24 hours in the city and were determined to cram every single NYC experience into that time.

Now it’s time to play… “What the heck is that???”

Ah, the perfunctory interior airplane sketch. The first of many that I would do over the years. I still have a hell of a time getting those seats right. I see that I’ve made sure to note that “Cookies Fortune” was the inflight movie. Obviously I felt that was an important detail and feared that the image I drew on the video screen would not make this clear.


Next up we’ve got another scene from inside the plane. What, this doesn’t look like the inside of an airplane to you? Please note the carefully rendered tray tables on the right. That heap of scribbles in the middle is my college pal Satin sleeping under a blanket. And to help capture the essence of the moment, I’ve skillfully added some “ZZZ” above what is quite clearly the top of her head peeking out of the blanket. IMG_0315

Okay now it is approximately 11:50 PM on Friday night. We have arrived in New York and are at the rental car place where we’ve just learned that we are 3 years shy of being able to legally rent a car. Which means that we have no way of getting to the hotel we had reserved in New Jersey.

That big scribble on the left is Satin. I was a big fan of the cross-out method in the early days. My pre-2K sketchbooks are full of X-heads. In the middle is Kevin at the counter talking to the Hertz employee. And over on the right side of the page we’ve got Satin using an ancient relic we called a “phone booth”.


Eventually we got a cab and wound up at a no-tell motel in Queens somewhere around 2 AM. We had to BEG the manager to let us rent a room for the entire night because this was normally a rent by the hour type of establishment. We crashed out for a few hours, then took another cab to Manhattan. When the driver asked us where, specifically, in Manhattan we wanted to go we just shrugged and said, “wherever.”

So he dropped us at the Empire State Building. We went to the top and I sketched pigeons while Kevin took pics with his new camera and chatted up the ladies.



Then we went to Central Park where we said, “I can’t believe we’re in New York” over and over again. As you can see, the sketch below is something of a montage of the Central Park experience. We’ve got Kev using one of those new-fangled cell phones at the top, a homeless person on a bench in the middle, and some light reflecting on the pond in the lower left there.

Actually, that was the first time I had ever (somewhat) successfully rendered the surface of water. Also, according to my notes at the bottom, the quote of the day was when Satin pondered, “I wonder if there is such a thing as a genius duck.”


Here is another scene from Central Park. A mom and some kids yelling at the (possibly) genius ducks. Across the pond we’ve got some painstakingly rendered foliage.

From there we ventured into the subway. Here is Satin on the subway platform singing “On broadway!” It’s hard to tell from my sketch whether she is crouching, or sitting, or if her legs are just broken.

Next stop, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was way too busy talking Satin and Kev’s heads off about 19th century European paintings to do any sketching.

(Side note: that crash course in art history later proved useful when Kevin used his new found knowledge to impress a woman he met on the plane ride home. You’re welcome Kev.)

After the Met closed we found this cool-looking restaurant called “Jekyll and Hyde.” We decided to go because we like monsters. And also because we were starving and exhausted. I did this sketch of the building as we waited in line to get in. What? This doesn’t look like a building to you? Come on people, use your imagination.


Here’s my attempt at sketching the interior of the restaurant. It had this awesome haunted house theme and I really wanted to capture all the cool details. I may have overdone it just a tad. When I showed this sketch to Richard the other day he said, “Oh my god.” As in “oh my god, my eyes, they’ve been over-loaded, they cannot take in all this information at once, remove this from my view.”


Here is another attempt. This place was so neat I really wanted to remember it. And I totally do. That’s one of the reasons sketching is better than photos. It really forces you to take time to look at things and notice details. So even though I was unable to convey the awesomeness of this place through my sketch, the act of sketching it imprinted those details into my memory. And when I look at this scribbly mess I can remember everything.


Check out these pics on the restaurant’s website to see what it’s really like.

After dinner we hung out at a bar in Times Square for a while, then headed downtown. We had a bit of a snafu with the subway, hence Satin’s confusion re: the E train.


Somehow we managed to get down to Battery Park and then took a midnight ride on the Staten Island Ferry, where I did this final sketch. Hey check out the reflection on the water. Look familiar? I learned how to do that at Central Park.


When the ferry landed in Staten Island we got off, then turned around and got right back on. The three of us stood at the front of the boat as it skimmed across the water toward Manhattan. I can still remember the cold October air on our faces, the city lights twinkling as we approached, and Satin calling out “I’m flying Jack, I’m flying” as our amazing 24-hour adventure came to a close.

Epilogue: A few months later Kevin’s nifty new camera–which contained ALL the pictures from our trip–was stolen. Which leads me to reason #2 of why sketches are better than pictures. Without my sketchbook, there would be no evidence of the trip at all. Without my sketchbook I would have completely forgotten about the eyes that moved behind the portrait at Jekyll and Hyde’s, and the reflections on the pond at Central Park, and the E train, and the pigeons and the genius duck. All the details of one of the greatest days of my life would have eventually disappeared, and I would have never EVER remembered that Cookies Fortune was the movie on the plane. And that would have been a damn shame.


SoDak Sketches

October 24, 2012

I went back to my home state of SoDak in early September. I brought along this new sketchbook that came free with a package of colored pencils. Both the sketchbook and the pencils were of cheap quality so it really wasn’t that much of a deal. But the sketchbook has this little pocket in the back, and a band that wraps around the outside, AND this built in ribbon thing to mark your page. So with all those accessories I keep thinking I love the book, but actually I don’t because the paper is too slick and makes for not so brilliant drawings. But whatever. Here they are…

We begin on the plane. No sleeper is safe around me.

Next we have the view from my gramma’s backyard. A random crane.

Now we head west to the Black Hills where me and my dad did some hiking and camping. One day I climbed up to Harney Peak, the highest mountain in SoDak, and did this sketch of the tower.

Moving along to Mt. Rushmore. I did this sketch in the evening as the sun was setting, causing me to keep making the shadows darker and darker. I remember being at Mt. Rushmore in 2003 and the exact same thing happened  then too. Those brown markings in the upper left corner are the result of me experimenting with combining a waterbrush with markers. Didn’t really work out as I had hoped.

And here is one that I did of my dad as we drove from the Black Hills back to Sioux Falls. This is probably my favorite drawing that I have ever done of him.


Sloping Houses and Translucent Trees

July 20, 2012

Here is a really old sketchbook drawing I came across. It’s the view from the front window of our old house, and it must be at least 10 years old. I did this back in the days when I thought it was cheating to sketch things out in pencil first. One clue (aside from the fact that the house appears to be sitting on a hill that slopes downward from left to right) is that you can see the lines from the roof of the house showing through the palm tree. Since most palm trees are not translucent I must have added the palm tree as an afterthought. And look at that other tree. Nice big hatch marks, Carrie. Way to flatten out a drawing.

By the way, the candle in the foreground is fake.


Restore Faded Color

May 17, 2012

So I went back to the Grand Canyon recently and did a handful of campfire drawings. I did the sketching and inking at camp and then colored them with pencil in the car ride home. Actually I only did some of the coloring in the car because (as usual) I got carsick and had to finish the rest at home.

That was easy part. But getting motivated to scan the drawings, that’s a whole different story. The first three drawings scanned with no issues.


But when I went to scan the last one I had some trouble. It came out way too faded…

Everyone just looked pale and sickly, which is not how I colored them. And the sky just looks white. This sometimes happens when I am scanning and it drives me crazy. I attempted to fix it by adjusting the contrast in photoshop to punch up the colors, but then I had to change the brightness as well, which made it come out too dark…

Finally I tried to rescan the drawing altogether (which took an enormous amount of patience on my part) and this time I noticed something that I have never noticed in all my centuries of scanning drawings: the “restore faded color” option. Just put a check mark in the box and wahlah…

You learn something new every day.



October 12, 2011

This past weekend I joined up with about 20 other people to hike the Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim. I brought along my sketchbook with the hopes of doing a few sketches to remember the experience by and came back with more than I expected.

As I’ve stated before, I have never been very comfortable with using color. This past year it has been my goal to work with it more, and I’ve made a few attempts with watercolor that came out okay, but I’m still having a tough time. One of the challenges is that I am usually drawing on the go: in restaurants, museums, on buses, airplanes, or at some kind of festival. It gets real tricky trying to do watercolors in these settings, especially since I am pretty awkward with it to begin with.

So this weekend I tried something different. A couple months ago a co-worker randomly interofficed a small set of German colored pencils to me, so I brought them on the trip and took a bold step into the world of color.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These aren’t masterpieces by any standard, but they are definitely important drawings for me. I’ve written before about lightbulb drawings–the products of moments when I somehow become enlightened by an idea and reach a new skill level. These drawings represent the time I found my way into working with color.

The most important drawing from the weekend is this one that I did from the deck of the North Rim Lodge.


Not only is it in color, but it’s also a landscape, which is something else I struggle with. This is probably one of the hardest sketches I’ve ever done. The challenge was figuring out how to take a very complicated landscape and simplify it to fit within the limitations of time, color, and paper size, but also still make it recognizable for what it was. I actually started and abandoned two other sketches before I finally produced this one.

The whole weekend was pretty great. I did a ton of hiking, met a bunch of cool people, and had some fun times around the campfire. But coming home with these drawings ensured that it will be unforgettable.


Sketching vs Hiking

June 29, 2011

I am way into hiking and yet I have very few hiking-related sketches. Since I use my sketchbooks as a means to document the moments in my life, it saddens me that a huge part of it gets left out.

The problem is that hiking and sketching do not mix. For one thing, it’s just inconvenient to lug my sketchbook and tools up a mountain or down into a canyon. And for another, my hands don’t seem to work after a few hours of intense activity.

I mean, yeah they work well enough for me to unscrew the lid from my water or bring a sandwich to my mouth. But when it comes to smaller, more detailed movements, like sketching, it just doesn’t go well. It’s as though I can only operate in one mode at a time. Either it’s the high intensity, full body activity of hiking, or the mellow yet precise act of drawing. Switching back and forth rarely yields good results.

But perhaps I just need practice. A couple months ago I lugged my sketchbook up to the top of Mt. Wilson in Sedona and managed to draw this gnarly tree. I kind of like it, though I wish I wouldn’t have done such a poor job on the shading at the base.