Nature and Sketching

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the woods lately. If you follow me on instagram, you are probably aware of that fact. If you want further proof, check out my SW adventure blog, Southwest Direction.

Sometimes I don’t walk very far, even if I’m gone for a long time. The environment is so different here that almost everything I see is new and exciting and catches my attention. Then I must stop, look, maybe take a photo, and maybe collect a few rocks, flowers or leaves.

I’ve started to take photos of some of those collected treasures once I get back to the cabin.

lichen on rocs

variety of wildflowers


When I collected several oak leaves, the wind was too crazy to even think about making an arrangement to photograph outside, so I drew them instead.

oak leaves

I take many more photos than those that I post onto instagram or my adventure blog. Sometimes the beauty I saw in person just doesn’t quite translate to pixels on a small screen. One photo that I was particularly enchanted by was a “miniature landscape” that I found along the shore of Luna Lake.

miniature landscape photo

One night when I couldn’t sleep, I decided to try sketching the mini landscape to see if I could capture some of the magic that had initially captivated me.

Part way through sketching, I took a quick photo of the drawing before taking a break.

miniature landscape in progress

A little later I finished it.

miniature landscape

It’s amazing to me how different the two stages of the drawing are. The final is more finished and anchored on the page, while the first stage feels looser and airier. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I thought the change was interesting!

I think I’m also soaking up inspiration in a less direct way. I’ve been doodling a bit everyday.


I was particularly drawn to the upside-down V shapes on the left of the page, so I did a more complete pattern on another page in my sketchbook.

tents or forest

I wasn’t consciously aware of the inspiration source, but someone on instagram mentioned that it reminded them of tents or a forest, and I think that’s just perfect! The surrounding nature is definitely starting to knit itself into my subconscious, and I for one am glad for it! I can’t wait to see what will come through next!

Hidden Critters

About 5 months ago, I posted about a few drawings I was planning to make for my brother, James, and his wife, Rachel. Although I pretty much figured out what I wanted to do for the drawings back in October, I didn’t have a chance to work on it. I had hoped to make it a Christmas present, but with so much going on around the holidays, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. With my brother’s birthday coming up at the end of March, I decided to finally finish them up for a nice birthday surprise.

After talking with Rachel about the previous sketches I made, we zeroed in on three that they liked best. Rachel also had a fun idea to add a little “surprise” element to each drawing, which I was happy to explore.

I did some more sketching to work out the composition of each drawing, including the new added surprise elements.


Once the planning was over, I started drawing the originals with black and gray markers.

working on an ant drawing

Since I’d done so much preparation with sketches, the final drawings came together really quickly. Most of each is drawn with only black and gray marker, but each of the added surprise elements is a bright color that I added using prismacolor colored pencils.

little orange fish
The drawing that looks like overlapping river stones now has a little orange fish swimming in the stream above them.

blue ant
A blue ant now hides between layers of sediment.

bird nest
I added a branch, bird’s nest and leaves to the abstract birch forest. Initially I had planned to only color in the egg, but I couldn’t resist adding a fresh green to the leaves. Although having two colors in the drawing is a little different than the other two, I think it work for this drawing, and I also think the three drawings still work as a set.

All the drawings were done on 13″ x 13″ Canson drawing paper. I cut a few extra sheets when I was getting ready, so once the birthday drawings were done, I got to work on another large gray drawing of a pattern style I’ve been working with lately in sketchbooks and on smaller pieces of paper.

At this point it’s still not quite done. I hope it won’t take another 5 months to complete!

If you’re an artist, how do you like to work on final pieces? Do you do a lot of sketches beforehand and plan out what you are going to do, or do you start with a blank piece of paper or canvas and dive right in?

strange sunsets

I’m not much of an early riser in general. If left to my own devices, I’m more likely to stay up late and wake up late. So it’s no surprise that in general, I’m a stranger to sunrises.

In fact, even the word “sunrise” seems to be unfamiliar to me: today when I was downloading the images to gather for this post, I named them all “sunset-1,” “sunset-2,” etc. Oops!

Obviously I’m much more familiar with sunsets! I enjoy the colors and the play of light amidst the clouds as the sun falls to the horizon, and I often can’t resist taking photos of sunsets, such as these:



For the past week and a half I’ve been up before the sun rose to get myself to Annapolis where I had an on-site freelance gig. When the sun began to rise, the skies were breathtaking, and I was inspired to snap a few shots during my morning commutes.





Whenever I get up before dawn, I relish the soft glowing light of the morning. Despite the difficulty of having to get up when it was still dark outside, the sunrises I got to enjoy were a real treat.

instagram photos

This last week zoomed by for me. I had a few freelance projects that took up a lot of time, but I did find moments to take a few noteworthy photos that I shared on instagram.

Surprisingly, I seem to have found plenty of time to do some meaningful cooking this week. Since September I’ve been following a “Paleo” style diet, which essentially means that I don’t eat grains (especially wheat) or refined sugars (and I limit natural sugars for the most part too). I do eat some dairy, which is a Paleo-purist no-no, but I don’t have a bad reaction to it, so I do eat some cheese, and cream, and butter.

Does that sound awful to you? Well, truthfully, before I started I thought it would be SO HARD, but I gave it a shot for a month, and then I was hooked. Mostly I was surprised by how easy it is to maintain once you get going with it, and I have a ton of fun trying out new recipes.

This week, I made kale chips, fish salad “tacos”, and BROWNIES! Yes, brownies. Seriously. They are good.

I made these kale chips and ate them all within 24 hours. Ok, maybe it was more like 12 hours.

I had some leftover roasted tile fish, so I decided to make a fish salad. I stuffed it into some crisp romaine leaves for some paleo “tacos” with beet and carrot salad on the side.

Brownies! I made these as a trial run. My mom’s birthday is on Thursday, and she’s eating Paleo style too, so I thought it would be fun to have a wheat-free birthday treat. These are made with almond meal and sweetened with dates! If you’d like to try to make a batch for yourself, see the recipe on my friend Val’s blog, Oh Hopscotch!

Besides eating and working, I also found the time to be creative. I had a good time messing up my clean studio, doodling recklessly in my big sketchbook, and working on the pages of a collaborative sketchbook I’m a part of.

the bottom two images are a little sneak preview of the pages in the collaborative sketchbook, “portrait : landscape” that I’m a part of.

I got a fun surprise in the mail this week too. My first mailart from Kati Driscoll, a talented artist from Delaware.

I was so excited to open the big envelope this present came in, and was so happy to see the bright red bow around a big box that was just for me! I knew I was going to get spoiled, so I decided to take some photos of the box. and then Otto with the box. and then of all the envelopes that were in the box. i didn’t pause to take photos of the actual stuff that was in the envelopes, so I snapped a shot of the aftermath.

Lastly, I took a couple of photos of some quiet moments. One with Otto basking in the sun, and another while waiting at a stop light on a very blustery day.

There were several days where I didn’t have a chance to take any photos at all, but I captured some happy, inspiring moments. I’m looking forward to see what this week has to offer!

I Heart Instagram

I know it’s been forever since I’ve really shared any of my art here. The truth is, I haven’t been making a ton of art lately; at least not stuff I can or want to share (some of it’s crap, some of it’s still a secret). BUT! I have been taking photos with my iPhone, and my app of choice lately is Instagram.

I’ve been thinking about sharing some of the photos I take each week on this blog, but I wondered if people would really like to see those images, so I had a look through the photos I’ve taken with Instagram so far (over 300 of them!), and I realized that I definitely have a few categories of various types of photos I tend to take. I thought it would be fun to share a few of these groups here, and see what people think.

First and foremost, of course one of the main categories is Otto and Kasi. They are my dachshunds (a.k.a. wiener dogs), and I take a lot of photos of them. Sometimes I wonder if I take too many photos of them.

In the above photo, for example, looks like maybe Otto has had enough of being my model.

I take photos of Otto and Kasi on their own, and sometimes as a pair as well.
otto & kasi
Category: Wiener Dogs

Aren’t they cute?

Wiener dogs are not my only photographic interest, however. I also photograph another of my loves: art and the process and place where it happens.
Category: Drawings

Category: Paint Palettes

Category: My Studio

My nieces and nephew make great models when they are around, and they are always doing fun stuff, so it’s hard to resist snapping photos of them.
Category: Kids I’m Related To

I don’t think I realized I was such a bibliophile, but what can I say? I love books! I love to go to the library. I love to buy books. I love to thumb through and read them. I love to write in them (blank ones). And apparently I love to photograph them too!
Category: Books

I’m a freelance designer, so I spend a lot of time at home. When weather happens, I usually take a photo of my backyard.
my backyard
Category: Backyard

Same goes for sunsets. There’s something about bare winter branches silhouetted against a colorful sky that I just can’t resist. These are, incidentally, also all shot in my backyard.
trees and sky
Category: Trees & Sunsets

The last few categories are somewhat related. I was amused to find that I take photos of my hands, of my hands holding stuff, and of other people holding stuff.

my hands
Category: My Hands

me holding stuff
Category: Me Holding Stuff

others holding stuff
Category: Other People Holding Stuff

The last category that I thought I’d mention has to do with a little photo challenge that I’m taking part of this month: February Photo a Day.

febphotoaday shots
Category: #febphotoaday

The Feb Photo a Day has been interesting because I’ve definitely taken several photos that I never would have shot if it hadn’t been for the themes that correspond to each day. Some are kinda, “meh” like the photo of my cellphone, but others have turned out pretty nice–like the self portrait that I’m now using as my twitter icon. Taking a self portrait with an iphone is so awkward that I probably never would have taken it without having the “self portrait” theme. I actually doodled the suns that are pictured above for the “sun” theme since that particular day was gray and rainy. There are also a few photos from the challenge that I included in some of the other categories above, so I guess all in all it’s not a bad way to take some different photos and see what happens.

There are quite a few other categories that I noticed but didn’t make collages of for this post, so it wouldn’t get too crazy-long, such as “food” “art supplies” “flowers and plants” “stuff around the house” and “stripes”.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my Instagram photos. Like I said, I haven’t been churning out the drawings or paintings lately, but taking photos has been a really fun, quick way for me to be creative almost everyday, and I wanted to let you in on what I’ve been up to!

Would you be interested in seeing more Instagram photos from me, here on this blog? I’m curious to know if you have a favorite category of the bunch. Should I stick to the art-related photos, or sneak in a photo of Otto, Kasi, or a cute kid every now and again?

Just one final note that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else: Instagram is a little odd in that they don’t have a way to view images in a really meaningful or easy way online, other than direct links for individual photos, but there are some third party web-viewers that are pretty good. The favorite that I’ve found so far is If you want to see more of my Instagram photos, you can check them out over there, where you’ll be able to see descriptions and comments, etc. And if you know of a better web-viewer, let me know!

From My Garden, Two Rainbows

As you might have suspected, I’ve been really busy lately! I haven’t created nearly the amount of garden-inspired art that I wanted to, but I have been carefully tending my garden every evening, giving all the plants plenty of water to help them through this very hot and dry time.

The other day I was spritzing the flox with the hose, and I noticed that the sun was cooperating with the water droplets to create a pretty little rainbow. Luckily I had my phone on me, so I snapped a quick photo at just the right angle.


The second rainbow I discovered in my garden developed in quite a different way.

Since I haven’t had the time to sit and watch and sketch lately, I went out early this morning to take some photos of all the lovely flowers that are in bloom right now. As I was snapping lots of photos, I realized that I probably have flowers blooming in all the colors of the rainbow. I had to search a bit for red & purple, but I found them on the side of the house and in the front yard.

I realize this is going to make for an extra long post, but I think it’ll be worth it. Without further ado, here is rainbow #2!

Hot Pink










Isn’t it pretty?!

These two rainbows are just a couple of the ways my garden inspires me. I’ve been enjoying the quiet time spent outside each evening when I water the flowers. Even if I don’t have the time to draw or paint every day, it’s wonderful to spend time looking at all the plants and noticing how they grow. I’ve got so many ideas brewing, especially after this colorful photo shoot. Now I just need a little spare time!

Late Night Visitors

I noticed a huge moth clinging to the screen of the window. I went outside to check him out and was so impressed by his markings that I had to grab my camera and snap a few shots. I was even lucky enough to have one of them turn out well too!


Gorgeous, right? I love the pattern on his wings and the slightly iridescent dark blue sheen on some of the spots in the middle.

Much to my surprise & delight, once I’d finished the photo shoot with the moth, I happened to spy a pebbly green tree frog clinging to the trim that wraps around the front porch.

tree frog

tree frog

Isn’t she beautiful? I’ve seen similar frogs now & then, but usually they are gray or brown. To see such a pretty green one was a real treat!

It’s amazing what can be discovered if you let your curiosity lead you & investigate the things that catch your eye!

photographing art

I have a very high-tech method for photographing my art that is too large to fit on my scanner. I tack it on the wall, or more often, lay it on the floor and zoom in my telephoto lens, bending my body into an uncomfortable arch while trying to get the edges of the paper as square as possible in the view finder. It’s no easy task, and with a “kitty helper” it’s even more challenging.

Hi-tech photo studio

My cat mojo wants nothing more out of life than to sleep on my art. The moment I pull out my pens and lay paper on the table, Mojo invariably appears out of nowhere, ready to snooze in the middle of what I’m doing. Paper on the floor is even more irresistible, so of course Mojo was nearby when I photographed my most recent in-progress art.

Art Photo Shoot, Zoomed

Even after zooming in, he makes his presence know.

I took these photos to see how my new flash would work to photograph art. It makes a big difference; the light is a lot more even than I could have gotten from my on-camera flash or light from the window. I had to brighten them up a lot in Light Room, so I’ll probably tweak my set up a little more to get brighter out-of-camera shots, but so far so good.

iphone photo-a-day side project

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a 365/something-a-day project since my birthday last June. I didn’t quite get my act together in time to do birthday-to-birthday, but as January 1st was approaching, I thought again about what kind of project I could do. My main priority was that I wanted it to be something that I could realistically stick with every day. I considered doing a sketch-a-day which I’m sure I would have benefited from immensely, but I questioned whether it would be sustainable over a year.

One afternoon I was chatting with my brother, and the topic of iphone photography came up. He shared his posterous site with me that he’d created solely to post iphone photos to. I was captivated by the idea, and since I have an iphone and a tumblr blog (very similar to posterous) that wasn’t doing much but sitting idle, it seemed to be a good candidate for a year-long project.

On January 1st I still hadn’t definitively made up my mind, but I thought, “ok, either you are going to do something or you are not… so what’s it gonna be?” I didn’t want to make a decision by not making a decision, so I made the small effort to take a photo, edit it with the Camera Bag App, and upload it to my renamed and restyled tumblr blog. I took the first photo and of course had 10 other ideas immediately. It was hard not to post more than one photo, but I’m in it for the long haul.

My only rules are that it’s 1 photo every day, taken with my iPhone, and edited with Camera Bag if needed. I toyed with the idea of coming up with some kind of theme or consistent subject matter, but in the end I decided that I’ll just wing it each day and see what I come up with.

Here’s today’s photo:

I’ll be sharing a link to each day’s photo on twitter ( @aisforanika ), but if you want to follow along directly, you can check out my tumblr blog.