Category Archives: Drawing

The Long Overdue Italy Post

On my trip to Italy last month, I tried to do one sketch a day, and came pretty close to it. They aren’t exactly stunning works of art, but after not doing any drawing or painting for a year I was happy with them. Besides, a sketchbook makes for a great souvenir!

(I also took photos. They’ll get posted someday. Maybe.)

Piazza del Signori, Padua

Piazza del Signori, Padua

We flew into Milan and immediately took the train to Padua, where we walked around for four hours before enjoying Campari and Aperol spritzes on a piazza. We also had gelato and pizza because Italy. We ran across the 9/11 memorial (with a girder from one of the towers), got a bit lost, and got un-lost again. The next morning we saw the botanical garden, which has a palm planted in 1585 that inspired Goethe, and some very modern greenhouses. The hotel’s free breakfast was amazing–lots of pastries and cold cuts.

Outside the Artblu Cafe, Venice

Outside the Artblu Cafe, Venice

The next day we met up with the rest of the family in Venice, which looks like all the photos you’ve seen of it. We walked from Campo Santa Margarita near our Airbnb to the La Salute church, stopping for gelato twice because Italy. Dinner at Artblu involved Aperol spritz and gnocchi.

Then we had one full day in Venice. We walked to St. Mark’s Square and then to the Jewish ghetto. The Jewish history museum was interesting (and depressing–this is where the word “ghetto” comes from) and the synagogue we looked into was lovely.

That evening we had our obligatory gondola ride.

Gondolas in Venice

Gondolas in Venice

Bridge in Venice

Bridge in Venice


Friday we drove to Bardolino, a town on Lake Garda. It’s very touristy, but mostly German-speaking tourists. The American guidebooks barely knew it existed.

We had the best meal so far there. First, they brought us complimentary glasses of the local rose. Then we all decided to actually order first and second courses for once. I started with pasta with smoked salmon and zucchini ribbons in a cream sauce. That was followed by what turned out to be a salad of warm steak, fresh arugula and cherry tomatoes, Parmesan, and a wedge of lemon. We also had a local red wine. The other three adults had the mixed seafood grill which had too many legs for my taste (the octopus and white fish I tasted were delicious, though).

Despite being full we all decided dessert was a good idea. The tiramisus were nine cubic inches. It was amazing. And then, because we had not ingested enough, they brought us bottles of limoncello and Goccia Nera (licorice liqueur).

I did sketch the tiramisu but it looks like a drawing of a rectangle, so I didn’t bother to post it.

We had an afternoon in Verona, which is really emphasizing the Romeo & Juliet connection. The more interesting thing was the Roman arena. I’m pretty sure there was gelato in Verona, too.

In Milan, the main thing I wanted to see was the Duomo, a really fancy cathedral that looks like a fairy tale castle crossed with a seven-year-old’s idea of a wedding cake.

The best part there–other than the sculpture of the guy who got skinned and is wearing his skin as a cloak, which was clearly carved by someone who studied anatomy via dissection, which was illegal, yet this is in the cathedral–the other best part was you can climb 300 stairs up to the roof and walk among the spires where the frosting fairy threw up.

Then we wandered back toward our apartment via Sforza castle, a 14th century fortress where da Vinci lived for a time. Dinner included bacon and cheese risotto and a suspicious-looking Negroni.

Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia, Milan

Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia, Milan

We spent the whole next afternoon at the science and technology museum, housed in a former monastery. They have one long hall with models built from drawings in da Vinci’s notebooks, which were interesting to see. Plus some trains, planes, boats, and a submarine.

Random small tower near our dinner spot

I can’t remember if we had gelato in Milan. I guess I’ll have to go back someday.



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Last month I spent a week in Barbados with some friends. It was a wonderful trip with good people. We did a lot of swimming and reading and some tourist things. I brought my colored pencils and watercolors expecting to not use them as much as I planned, but I did a fair amount of sketching.

I also took a few hundred photos, mostly of water and clouds, but I haven’t sorted through them all yet.

These two are going to turn into real paintings someday:



Both are views from the villa we stayed in. Every day, we woke up early to sunlight and birdsong and walked out the back door to go snorkeling. I could use another month or three of that.

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BLTTs and Fall Fun

On the way home from work the other night, I was grumbling about having to make tofu for dinner. I keep looking for good tofu recipes, but we always end up falling back on stir fry. I didn’t want to do all that chopping only to end up with a meal that’s only ok.

Luckily, when I walked into the house the bowl of tomatoes caught my eye. I’d been meaning to have BLTs ever since the tomatoes started getting ripe. I ended up slicing the tofu into thin slabs and frying it in the bacon skillet once the bacon was done (best tofu ever). The bacon, lettuce, tomato, and tofu sandwiches turned out quite tasty.


I still plan my life in semesters. Here’s what I’ll be doing this fall:

• Writing, of course. I’m working on a short story to be finished this month, I plan to write a novella in November, and I have various things in various stages of revision to finish up and send out.

I also have a new story coming out in November: Fictionvale is publishing “Alpaca Tricks” in their mystery issue. This was a fun story to write. I watched a bunch of alpaca obstacle course competitions on YouTube.

• Tennis. I rejoined the singles league I was in a couple years ago. I’ve been playing doubles all summer, and the Thursday workout we go to is mostly doubles, so playing singles is tough. Tennis courts get really big when you have to run back and forth across them for over an hour.

• Painting. I signed up for an introductory acrylic painting class. Then it was canceled because no one but me registered. They moved me to the second session. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll either try to switch to a drawing class or find some tutorials online.

• A Coursera class called Designing Cities that covers the history of cities, current urban issues, and possible future cities. In addition to being interesting, it might be a good source of story ideas.

Some recent posts from my writing group’s blog:

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Filed under Drawing, Fitness, Food, Life, Writing

Yes, I’m Still Here

It’s been a busy couple months, but at least it’s finally spring. My garden is going strong. We’ve eaten a lot of radishes and lettuce, and a few carrot thinnings. (Did you know the leaves taste like parsley?) The chard and beets struggled to sprout but seem to be doing nicely now. The zucchini, beans, tomatoes, and pepper are flowering, and the carrots have lots of leaves. The volunteer raspberry in the backyard has little green berries that I’m sure will delight the squirrels in a few weeks. Last month I added a potted lingonberry, which has a few small flowers.

In April, I took an introduction to drawing class, which was awesome. This month I’m taking landscape drawing. The first class was (obviously) pretty basic, but I learned a lot. Even with the parts I’d read about before, having the instructor there to help makes a huge difference. We’ve only had one week of the landscape class, and it made me appreciate charcoal. We’ll also be using ink (with a brush and bamboo pen) at some point. Of course, I’m just happy for an excuse to sit around outside.

I posted this to Twitter et al when it happened, but if you don’t follow me elsewhere, my story “Pictures in Crayon” went up at Cast of Wonders. It’s really neat to hear my words read by someone else.

Some recent-ish posts from the All Rights Reserved blog:

Finally, a great post on persistence from James Clear: How to Stay Focused When You Get Bored Working Toward Your Goals

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Filed under Drawing, Garden, Writing

Parks, Outside, and Pretentiousness

I used to volunteer with the local park system regularly, but it’s been a while. A couple weeks ago seemed like a good time to get back into it, so I pulled my bike out of the garage, knocked off the spiders and pumped up the tires (it had been a few months), and headed out to presumably hack down some honeysuckle. (Getting rid of this invasive species seems to be the most common activity. I’ve also pulled garlic mustard and collected seeds.)

They’d canceled the work day, but I got a nice walk out of it. I sat on a bench by the creek and did some sketches of a tree along the bank before going on a walk through the prairie. The redwing blackbirds are back, screeching constantly from the trees along the edges of the prairie. (Story title for anyone who wants it: “The Redwing Blackbirds Cry Good Morning”)

In places the path was covered in ice. Sometimes it was thin sheets suspended in air where the water beneath had vanished. Other places, it could support my weight. The grass sounded like it was dripping.

The past two weeks I’ve planned to go on a bird walk run by the park district. I changed my mind last weekend when snow was forecast, and this weekend when an hour disappeared in the middle of the night. I went out this afternoon and walked around. It was a balmy 45 and the park was crowded. For a while I sat on a bench and sketched some grasses. (I ordered a proper sketchbook that arrived Friday, and sitting out in public with it and my set of pencils made me feel pretentious.) I found an interesting tutorial for drawing grass, so later this week I might go back to my favorite of the sketches and turn it into a drawing.

Pretentiousness aside, drawing is a great excuse to just sit and soak up the outside-ness for a while without feeling guilty for doing nothing.


Filed under Drawing, Outdoors

Drawing class

I signed up for a drawing class from the Champaign Park District yesterday. It doesn’t start until February, but I’m already excited. The supply list included charcoal and markers as well as pencils, so I’ll get to try some new techniques (and I know what I’m getting for Christmas, too).

I’m looking forward to having feedback from an instructor. I can find problems in what I’m drawing all by myself, but figuring out how to fix them is harder.

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Story (almost) published and drawing flowers

My story “The Girl with Flowers for Hair” will be emailed to Daily Science Fiction subscribers tomorrow. Everyone else can read it on the web next Tuesday.

The story mentions drawing and improving at it. I’ve wanted to draw for a long time, but I didn’t get around to trying until recently. You know the joke about drawing instructions? Step 1, Draw an oval. Step 2, Add a few lines. Step 3, Paint the Mona Lisa. That’s what it always seemed like.

Last year I bought a couple drawing books and this year I started looking at them (mostly Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner). It explains things in a way my art-deficient brain can understand.

Friday I drew this sunflower, from Drawing Nature for the Absolute Beginner.


It’s the first thing I drew with actual drawing pencils instead of a single mechanical pencil. Having a choice of pencils made shading it a million times easier.

I still have a lot to learn, but it’s starting to feel like I could eventually do this well enough to entertain myself.


Filed under Drawing, Writing