Cruising and Painting

A cruise ship with an artist’s loft on board!  Sign me up!  (Well actually I found out about the loft after I had already signed up to cruise the western Mediterranean.  At first, my skeptical self assumed the loft was going to be the typical shipboard art auction.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Oceania Riviera had an artist in residence who gave free classes. Wahoo!  I’m all about art classes and free is the right price!  The online info just didn’t say what kind of art it would be and showed photos of artists with various specialties – photography, fiber arts, painting, etc.  I was surprised that it was free considering what they were charging for cooking classes.

The welcome aboard packet introduced the artist, Graham Denison, and listed the schedule.  I knew it was on a first-come, first-served basis so I made sure I was there for a seat at the table.  Denison is an oil painter who uses a pallette knife exclusively.    The loft was like a large corporate conference room with cupboards for supplies and cubbies for work in-progress.

Students had their choice of the loft’s supply of acrylics, pastels, water color or oil pastel.  Although the teacher was painting in oil, passengers were not permitted to.  It would have been too much of a mess and potentially a fire hazard.

Denison had been hired by Disney artist when he was a teen to work in their product division. When the work became digital, he left to start a career in fine art.  The paintings he had on board appealed to cruise ship passengers, including scenes of  Venice.  Between lessons, the artist and his wife were selling prints and paintings to interested passengers.  I couldn’t believe that she worked in the loft in designer clothing including a white lace dress!

He taught short lessons on the materials, drawing, perspective and painting with a pallette knife.  His demos were well organized and everyone could see them on a tv screen.  I learned a few little tricks.

Photo taken in Spain

I chose a photo I’d taken while I was scrambling to find an open shop during siesta time in Spain so I could replace my broken sunglasses.  I liked the couple and the winding street.






We worked in increments of an hour or two over the course of the cruise.  Since I’m not really comfortable with acrylics and limited time I only modified the composition slightly instead of using the photo just as a resource like I would have with oils at home.

The cruise was wonderful and being able to paint was the whipped cream on the sundae (with fewer calories than the desserts in the dining room!)

My painting


Capturing the Colors of the Mediterranean

I love traveling with friends – painters and non-painters.  When I travel with the painters we gear up and choose locations where we can spend time with our paints or pastels.   I love the way painting helps you enjoy the moment instead of rushing on to the next thing.

When I travel with my friends who don’t paint, I take pictures which are supposed to turn into paintings when I get back home.  Once I’m back to real-life, that magic almost never happens.

So, for a recent Mediterranean cruise, I decided that to take a sketching kit with me and grab any minutes available.   I packed the kit and did a local dry-run.  Then I lightened it up even more.

I took:

  • several black Micron pens*
  • a white Uni-ball pen*
  • three water-soluble graphite pencils in their tin
  • several drawing pencils*
  • a small sharpener*
  • a kneaded eraser*
  • three water brushes
  • a  Koi watercolor kit

Everything fit into a cosmetic bag.  (The asterisked items were the ones I used the most.)

I bought several little sketchbooks, trying to decide which would be the most portable and might tolerate moisture if I wanted to add watercolor. At the last minute I saw a little journal with multi-colored sheets on the clearance table at Barnes and Nobel. I am a sucker for anything with lots of bright colors.  After a little cover decor, that won the spot in the suitcase.











I also took a 4×6 inch watercolor block and blank postcards as well as a 7×10 watercolor block (which turned out to be too large to be useful.)




I started sketching right at the airport.





On the ship’s organized excursions I was usually lucky to make a few pencil sketches on site, many while standing.

I embellished the book and added section titles on the long bus rides.






I also did a few sketches on route.  (Tour bus passengers are really good at holding a pose, especially if they’re asleep!)  I left blank pages for notes and pasting in tickets, maps, etc.


Most days I didn’t take the little watercolor kit because it added more weight to my bag than I thought it would.  On days when we were on our own I was able to do a few watercolor sketches on the watercolor block while sitting at a café or park bench.   I did a few onboard, too.  I pasted those into my sketchbook when I got home.  



By sheer luck I had downloaded “The Urban Sketcher” by Marc Taro Holmes to read on my Kindle.  It was an easy read with good suggestions.  There’s a sketchbook in my purse at this moment so we’ll see if the habit continues on this side of the globe.



As new housing goes up, old barns come down. Are the old structures a cliché subject for painters or can askilled artist can find something fresh to say?

My friend and artist extraordinaire, Marianne Miller, is a country girl at heart who loves old barns and farm houses.  She’s a dedicated scout who travels the county roads looking for great scenery and structures, calculating where we could park, and deciding on the best lighting.  We have had some interesting experiences this summer on the backroads of Knox, Fairfield and Licking Counties.

I have learned a lot from painting with Marianne, (after I got over being awestruck by her talent).  She doesn’t look so much at a particular subject, but the angles, shapes, sunlight and shadows.  It works because she comes up with outstanding paintings time after time. She’s focused and she’s fast. I haven’t included any of her paintings here, but you can see her award winning painting at the American Impressionist Society.

Here are some of the scenes I’ve painted on our outings – a bit more limited in nuance than hers, but a whole lot of fun.  There’s no place I’d rather be than the middle of a field!


We tried to ask permission to paint on the property above but no one answered the door. So we ended up painting from the edge of the road.  As you can see, this barn got a make-over back at home.  I exaggerated its flaws/charms.

I painted this sycamore tree at Rustling Brook Farm and then painted it again weeks later.  It’s good practice to redo a scene.  I went with a horizontal format and decided the tree should be the star of the show instead of the house.


Here’s the brook at Rustling Brook. I will paint the barns there eventually.  The owner is almost 90 and he is so gracious when we come there to paint.  He’s also an expert on the local history.

I did the two paintings below from photos I took on our trip to Branstool’s Orchard with a stop at the Old Mill in Utica for ice cream ( justifiable ice cream because we ate some healthy apples first). These were both painted in a workshop with Sean Wang, another artist I really respect.


One last barnstorming painting which was painted earlier in the summer with a larger group of barnstormers including, Sean, Rich Clem and Diana Andrews.

The weather is getting cooler but the barnstorming will continue!