About artfulbarb

I’m a teacher, artist, grandmother, mother, and wife, presently making my home in Lexington, Kentucky. Creating art and teaching it to others helps me deal effectively with life’s high points and challenges.

Living in an upside-down world

A white breasted nuthatch often travels upside down on a tree trunk. This bird has very strong feet, one for gripping  and the other to stabilize.  This enables the downward movement, allowing it to see and catch the “big bugs” not seen by most birds.  The nuthatch I painted came from photos taken in Concord MA while visiting a treasured friend.  The desire to paint the nuthatch came from the wish to hold on to a joyful memory.

Nuthatch - Watercolor painting by Barbara Bromley. Copyright 2017 Barbara Bromley.

It also fit with my feeling that the world has turned “upside down”.  Not so long ago I was reading books like the following: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey;  Live and Learn, and Pass it On by H. Jackson Brown Jr., and  Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.

Where have all of these positive forward-looking books and beliefs gone?  Covey’s book promotes “The Character Ethic”  which includes the following habits:

  1. Valuing and respecting  people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.
  2. Using empathic listening to genuinely understand a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you.
  3. Combining the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals that no one could have done alone.

Maybe rereading these books is a way for me to turn my personal world right side up again.  After all, unlike the nuthatch, I don’t need to catch the big bugs.

Thanks for listening!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

 

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‘Tis the Season

Watercolor painting, used as the front of my 2016 Christmas card

The front of our 2016 Christmas Card

December marks a special time where kindness to others is focused on more than usual. In that spirit I wish only good things for you. Seasons Greetings! My artwork for 2017 will be filled with children doing the joyous, magic things that give us hope. That is how I plan to keep a positive outlook.

Our granddog Gilly, playing with a Christmas bell

Grand-dog Gilly playing with a Christmas bell

2016 has been a long year! 2017 could prove even more difficult when facing a Trump presidency built on bullying. As a former school teacher, I have spent countless hours educating students to demonstrate positive behaviors. Many after school hours were spent practicing self control skills with children who hadn’t mastered them. I have been thanked by former students who said social skill instruction proved crucial to their success serving America in the military. As an instructor, my biggest challenge was helping bullies lose bad habits and demonstrate positive behavior. Now America has elected a bully ( definition: a blustering, browbeating person; especially: one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.) I will not debate any of the reasons Mr. Trump was elected, but even those who voted for him know he shows patterns of bully behavior learned when he was young. He stands as a role model for our children who represent all of our hope for the future. Most Americans are wonderful role models for our youth. We must be even more proactive and vocal especially now when the message passed on from the top is that it’s acceptable to bully those who don’t look and think like you, or disagree with you.

To all I wish you joy and promise to treat you as I want to be treated. You don’t have to agree with me to get my respect. Your behavior earns it.

Thanks for listening!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

 

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Birding is the Answer – Part 2

Using the source material from my trip to California, I have been creating cards showcasing  flowers and hummingbirds in watercolor.

Watercolor of several hummingbirds and hand lettered

Originally I thought I was observing  the Rufous hummer, but Toni the gardener from the Hill House set me straight.  It seems though the Rufous & Allen’s look very similar, only the Allen’s breeds in N. California. The male also has a green back further distinguishing it from the reddish brown of the Rufous.   The newly discovered Allen’s hummingbird has filled my summer and fall sketchbooks.  I’ve mixed new watercolor combinations to capture the beauty of the golden oranges, browns, reds, & greens found on this bird.  In the past I always associated hummingbirds with summer due to their fondness for nectar, but the Allen’s colors scream AUTUMN.

I just returned from a visit to Concord, MA where I enjoyed the company of friends who I’ve missed.  While visiting Betsi & Pete, I had the opportunity to photograph nuthatches, chickadees, and cardinals at feeders in their lovely backyard. As it gets cold, plants die, and  birds are drawn to feeders for food, giving us a chance to observe them up close and personal.  I saw a couple hawks watching with interest as well. That fact reminded me of a story relayed by my mother-in-law who saw a beloved cardinal snatched by a hawk near her Michigan feeder which she kept well stocked all winter long .  Ah the food chain……  November will see me happily painting nuthatches climbing down a tree head first, my favorite position.

Happy Birding Everyone!!!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

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Mini Lesson – Painting a Bluebird

This “mini-lesson” shows step-by-step how I created a watercolor painting of a Bluebird.  For reference, here’s the finished painting:

Finished watercolor painting of a Bluebird, by artist Barbara Bromley

1. Begin by sketching the bluebird on your watercolor paper using an HB pencil. Make sure your drawing is accurate. Lighten the pencil lines by dabbing at them with a kneaded eraser. Contrary to what most books say, once wet, these lines can’t be erased completely.

Stage 1, pencil sketch, in preparation for watercolor painting of a Bluebird, by artist Barbara Bromley

2. Use liquid frisket to mask the outline of the bird. Use a cheap brush coated with standard bar soap to “paint” this outline, which will stay white. When the frisket is dry it will look and feel like dried rubber cement.

Stage 2. painting the edges around the bird, in preparation for watercolor painting of a Bluebird, by artist Barbara Bromley

3. Mix the following puddles (a puddle is paint mixed with enough water to dilute it to the desired value):

  • French Ultramarine + Hookers Green (make two puddles: one more bluish & one more greenish)
  • Cobalt Blue + Brown Madder (make three puddles: one dark purple; one reddish; one bluish)
  • Alizarin Crimson + Burnt Sienna
  • French Ultramarine + Paynes Gray + a bit of Alizarin
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna + Raw Sienna
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cobalt Blue + Winsor Blue
  • Cobalt Blue + Cerulean Blue
  • Cobalt Blue + French Ultramarine
  • Sepia + French Ultramarine (make two puddles: one very dilute light gray & one almost black)
  • New Gamboge

4. Paint the background

Background Painting

a. Glaze over the entire background until it glistens evenly; drop in the following colors and combinations based on where they can be seen in the photo:

To the left and lower right use French ultramarine/Hookers Green mixtures.

For the upper right (our light source) use more dilute greenish mixture of Ultramarine/Hookers Green; then drop in a bit of New Gamboge and a little Cobalt Blue/Brown Madder (reddish mixture) near the bird

Important – Make sure to paint quickly but stop if background begins to dry. The background can be re-wet after drying completely; Then stronger washes can be added.

b. Rub off the frisket to expose white outline.

5. Paint the base washes of the bluebird.

Stage 4. Paint background and bird further, in watercolor painting of a Bluebird, by artist Barbara Bromley

Applies to steps 5 and 6

Glaze water over the entire bluebird; drop in the following colors & combinations based on where they can be seen in the bluebird:

a) For the head use both the bluish & reddish Cobalt/Brown Madder mixtures
b) For the back of the bird paint Cobalt Blue/Ultramarine mixture. While it’s still wet, drop in a bit of the reddish cobalt blue/brown madder.
c) For the wings & tail use Cobalt Blue/Winsor Blue as well as Cobalt/Cerulean blue
d) For the belly, use very dilute mixtures of Burnt Sienna/Raw Sienna as well as the purple puddle of Cobalt/Brown Madder
e) For the eye, beak, and leg paint the French Ultramarine/Paynes Gray/a bit of Alizaring mixture; then while still damp add the darks with Sepia/French Ultramarine

6) Paint the log

a) Glaze water over the entire log until it glistens evenly. Paint a very dilute mixture of Sepia/French Ultramarine over the entire log.
b) While still wet drop in darker mixtures of Sepia/French Ultramarine on the left and lower middle.
c) Important – Allow washes to completely dry
d) For the final layer, use scumbling to create texture on the branch. Scumbling technique:

1. Squeeze most of the water from a round brush after dipping it in the Sepia/Ultramarine mixture.
2. Hold the belly of the brush (not the tip) flat to the paper and gently wipe it across the surface where it will hit the raised edges (grain) of the paper.

7. Allow all washes to dry! Never paint into an area that has started to dry.

8. Add the final details using wet-on-dry technique.

a) Use Cobalt/Brown Madder mixtures for head and wing details
b) Use French Ultramarine/Paynes Gray/Alizarin and Cobalt/French Ultramarine mixtures for tail details
c) Use purple mix of Cobalt/Brown Madder for detail below the wing
d) Use Burnt Sienna/Alizarin for chest detail

9. To create or regain white highlights, use the lifting technique:

a) Wet the previously dried area with clean water to reactivate the pigment.
b) Use a small bristle brush to scrub away the undesired areas of paint. ** Remember to dab the bristle brush on a paint rag between scrubbings to remove the paint you lifted rather than reapplying it elsewhere.
c) Dab the white areas with tissue.

10. Fini!

Finished watercolor painting of a Bluebird, by artist Barbara Bromley

Hope you enjoy!  If you have any questions at all, please use the comment form below.

Thanks, and happy painting!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

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Whatever the Problem, Birding is the Answer

After months of bad news including biopsies, surgeries, recovery, setbacks, etc., a birding adventure seemed in order to help force the healing process.

In search of bluebirds, hummingbirds, and jays, Steve and I set out for northern California and the small coastal town of Mendicino.  Some of you may remember Mendicino as representing the fictional Cabot Cove in the TV series “Murder She Wrote”.  We stayed at the Hill House Inn, a quaint hotel also featured in the TV show.  This friendly hotel has the most beautiful, hummingbird-friendly gardens I have ever seen.  (Thank you Ms. Toni, the gardener)

No bluebirds in sight, but as for hummingbirds, Stellar’s Jays, and and barn swallows, we saw and photographed hundreds!  It was awesome.

I observed, sketched, photographed, and painted both Allen’s and Anna’s hummingbirds.  They posed on lovely plants and fed from a broad variety of flowers.  For five idyllic days I wandered the gardens feeling the magic flow through me.  Mental healing began.  As this post is titled:  Whatever the problem, birding is the answer!  As I write this blog post I’m back in the real world, well on the road to full recovery.

I had already planned a July demo – “Watercolor bluebird painting”.   This painting portrays a bluebird originally photographed some years ago by my husband. Watercolor painting of a bluebird perched on a china pitcher In remembrance of my father Albert, who’s birthday was July 14th, I perched the bird on a small china pitcher.  I chose this pitcher because the backstamp represents several emotional connections with my father:  “ROYAL ALBERT” ties to his name, “ENGLAND” is a place beloved by both my parents, and “FORGET-ME-NOT” because anyone who knew him, never will forget him.Backstamp from china pitcher used for watercolor painting

Thanks for listening!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

 

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Basal Cell Carcinoma – The Most Common Form of Skin Cancer

Hear the word “cancer” from your doctor and you feel instant terror.  Visiting the internet to do research can turn the toughest person into a terrified child.  Especially when you look at the pictures.

Not a scary cancer picture

Not a scary cancer picture

15 years ago my Dad told me he had cancer, and my terrified inner child surfaced.  Two and a half years ago when my 29 year-old daughter called to share that she had melanoma, my inner protective mom rose up, mixed with that terrified inner child.  Thankfully my daughter is now cancer free.

My daughter, a melanoma survivor.

My daughter, a melanoma survivor.

Now it’s my turn.   I have several instances of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), with surgeries scheduled next month.

As a teacher I feel the need to educate others on the disease. Basal cell carcinoma is the most curable cancer.  It grows slowly and doesn’t spread to the blood stream or lymph nodes.  It is not generally life threatening, unlike melanoma.  What is a bit scary in this “looks conscious” world:   BCC damages tissue as it grows, leaving scars.  Surgery can exacerbate the scarring resulting in disfigurement.

This April I saw a dermatologist because a rash-like spot on my side began to hurt. This spot had been present for more than a decade.  Years ago a GP physician in Texas told me it was nothing to worry about.  I should have gotten a second opinion from a dermatologist.  Chalk it up to human nature… we often hear what we want to hear, and avoid investigating further.

The silver lining for me is this:  I finally got a diagnosis, and good information from a dermatologist.  I have a BCC above my eye, on my side, and on my back.  Also several pre-cancers around and about.  I thought the spot above my eye was a pimple.  Who knew?

The following information is not to scare anyone.  It is presented to educate those who, like me had no idea what BCC looks like.  This information is excerpted from a pamphlet on BCC provided by the American Academy of Dermatology (www.aad.org). I strongly suggest that you consult a medical professional for additional information.


What BCC looks like

BCC appears on the skin in many shapes and sizes.  You may see a:

  • Dome-shaped growth with visible blood vessels
  • Shiny, pinkish patch
  • Sore that heals, and then returns and can repeatedly heal and return
  • Brown or black growth
  • White or yellow waxy growth that looks like a scar

If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, immediately make an appointment to see your dermatologist.  Tell the person who schedules the appointment why you want to see your dermatologist.


With skin cancer cases increasing every year, sunscreen and hats should be worn consistently as we enjoy the great outdoors.

I’m nervous for my upcoming surgeries.  I’m also confident that thanks to the support of my friends and family, and state-of-the-art Mohs surgery (see literature) I will ultimately be fine.

Thanks for listening!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

 

A friend living a healthy active life, taking precautions due to an incidence of Basal Cell Carcinoma

A friend living a healthy active life, taking precautions due to an incidence of Basal Cell Carcinoma