Watercolor Drawing

Monkey Side Bars is a twice-a-week drawing game where you are challenged to a piece of art on a specific theme. The game was created just a few weeks ago by several artists who had been posting their art on Instagram.

I noticed that several times a week a number of the pictures on Instagram said Monkeysidebars.  It looked like a fun game and I wanted to find out about it. I asked one of my Facebook artist friends how could I get in on it and she introduced me to the other players and to the game. The game works because the people who participate enjoy the challenge of creating an interesting drawing. They also get pleasure out of seeing everyone else’s work on the reveal day.

Players take turns selecting the theme for each round. Everyone submits their drawing at the same time on Wednesday and Sunday.  An interesting word is selected by different members of the group.  The word needs to be illustrated in no particular style.  Artists can do the drawings in DrawSomething or in any other digital app or by hand using traditional materials. More information about the game, word lists, members, and how to join can be found on the Monkeysidebars Website. The different time zones are listed here. A listing of the Member Monkeys’ Instagram Galleries can be found here. My Instagram Gallery is here.




Previously I wrote about my interest, perhaps addiction to the mobile app called Draw Something2 by Zynga.  I have been drawing continuously ever since the latest edition of the application was published.  The application has a lot of features but it also had and still have a number of bugs in the operation of the various aspects of the program.  One of the most vexing problems for some people is the need to limit the file size for each drawing.  The game calls this aspect the Ink level.  An increase in the ink level is probably what most serious players would like to see improved. Some people complain of numerous crashes whereby their drawings are lost and drawings disappear from galleries that each game player has where their drawings are displayed. Eventually, it will be impossible to exhibit every drawing because there are so many players accumulating large galleries full of their art.

Another side effect of DrawSomething has been the creation of a community of artists who collaborate and share information with each other via chat and through communication by using a mobile app called Instagram . It is there that a group of artists have joined together to play a game called Monkeysidebars.  Each week  two words are chosen by different individuals. Everyone playing the game has to draw their interpretation of the word and every Wednesday and Sunday, at exactly 5PM CST for me, but whatever time is the equivalent time in other parts of the world, everyone posts their drawing on Instagram at the same time.

A group of more than 50 artists living in Australia, Italy, Holland, England, and all over the United States participate. They often chat with each other prior to the time of submission. The drawings submitted are beautifully rendered pieces of digital art.  Not everyone who plays this game is using DrawSomething2 for their digital drawing.  A number of these artists are using more powerful drawing programs to create their masterpieces.  Most of the artists draw on tablets or smart phones, but there are also some who participate using traditional art materials that they scan or photograph in order to create a digital image. Monkeysidebars, or MSB has become my new addiction.  I get a lot of pleasure out of the count down prior to the 5PM posting. All of my drawings can now be seen on Instagram.


DrawSomething bird

Tree in Yard

Early Spring Tree

Eifel Tower


Draw Something is game for smart phones and tablets that makes people draw in order to play the game.  This need to draw something has spawned a FaceBook page called Draw Something Fanatics.  It is here that a lot of drawings can be seen and where people who have played the game can post their drawings and receive comments and likes about their art. The drawings that are shown on DSF are absolutely amazing.  It is astonishing that people can get their drawings to look realistic using the simple drawing tools provided.  Of course, everyone who is a fanatic, including me, really tries to create the best work they can. Some drawings can be super realistic but others are more impressionistic or abstract.  The fact that you have to draw a word which may be an object, an idea, a place, a person, or something else makes you stretch your mind in order to draw an image which may be completely out of your comfort zone.  These drawings are meaningful because it requires a lot of time and thought to realize a good drawing. The work is just as authentic as any art that artists produce in any media, whether it be digital or material. There are other locations on the web for posting these drawings.  Instagram is an app for posting pictures so many of the artists post their drawings on it where they can be reposted to numerous other sites that receive photographs.  Images on Instagram are sent via # on to other members who can follow an artist and be followed.  Most of the time I feel like a detective trying to find out how these apps work.  I watch and note wheat other people are doing and then I do it too.

Yesterday Talia and I visited the new Modern wing of Chicago’s Art Institute. For me, it was visit number six. Each of my visitors to Chicago gets to go on a tour of this spectacular place with me. I’m not perfect as a guide because I am hobbling around and moving slowly because of having fallen and fractured my pelvis this last winter. But my enthusiasm more than makes up for any deficiency in my movement.

Each time I visit the museum I am just as excited by the space and beauty of this new museum as when I fist saw it in May when it opened. Everywhere you look there is light and space. The art is showcased perfectly. Different paintings have been placed carefully on walls adjacent to other works in such a way that they enhance each. Yves Klein’s Blue painting is across from Mark Rothko’s Orange and Yellow painting. You can look at both of them and the juxtaposition makes each color stand out even more dramatically. All the familiar paintings I’ve seen during my many years visiting the museum, starting from childhood when I was a student at the Saturday school, now look fresh and new to me.

Let me say right now that a trip to Chicago just to see the new museum and visit Millennium Park is worth it no matter what the cost. Of course, it is only 15 minutes away from my house, so it’s easy to say that. But, I mean it.

Artists occasionally find themselves in a blank period when no art can happen for various reasons. Sometimes we get stuck and just can’t do any work. When that happens, it is very hard to get going again. It is so easy to not go to the studio if each visit there results in nothing happening. Sometimes circumstances simply make everything come to a halt. That is what happened to me this winter when I slipped and fell on black ice—that is, an invisible patch of ice in an otherwise clear street that is most dangerous as far as falling is concerned.

I have not had a chance to write anything for a long time. The past four months have been a blur, but I am now back to work drawing and painting. Flowers are still the subject but I am getting ready to expand and get these images on canvas but I also have some new images to upload to my products store on Zazzle at Award Winning Fine Art

My winter was spent recovering from two falls that landed me (literally) in the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for four weeks. After that the time was spent at home trying to get more rehabilitated.

I have started to draw again and it feels good.

Occasionally I am asked how I manage to be disciplined enough to work at home. Many people who have their own businesses work at home and are very successful at it. Their experience is probably similar to mine. It requires having a different set of work habits. I learned how to do it from my husband.

I had a perfect model of how to work at home when my husband set up his own public relations business in 1982. This was a time when it wasn’t fashionable to be telecommuting, but in our case, it was the consequence of necessity. Because of various circumstances in the business world, my husband found himself unemployed after more than thirty years as a public relations consultant with a large firm. Rather than becoming involved in a battle about age discrimination, we opened Phil Richman Associates in the downstairs study of our house.

Neither of us knew how to use a computer. Nevertheless, we bought an early portable computer manufactured by the Osbourn Company and my husband proceeded to learn how to use it. The computer made it possible for him to start the business without an office or a secretary. All he needed was a phone line, a fax machine, the computer, and a very disciplined work ethic.

He began with one client who believed in his talent and ability to do a good job of getting publicity for products and people. He decided that the business would not move out of our house because he enjoyed working at home. Our study was designated “the office” and it was no longer used for any other function besides the business. Not having to get dressed up in a suit and tie every day was a real benefit to this new arrangement. Occasionally there might be a need for an office downtown in order to meet potential new clients. One of his friends who had office space allowed him to use it for meetings in return for public relations counsel. It worked to both of their advantage.

Although he didn’t leave the house for his job, my husband made a clear separation between his working hours and his home hours. He established a firm rule of getting dressed every day, eating breakfast, and then going into his office to work. He would take a lunch break, and then spend the rest of the afternoon continuing his work until I came home from my studio. There was an advantage to being at home in that he could take off work early whenever he wished. And, he didn’t have to work nights and weekends unless something pressing was going on. The most important thing he did was to take his business seriously and use his time productively in order to do the best possible job for his clients. He was able to continue this business until he died sixteen years later.

My studio was not in our house. It was important for me to separate my art working space from our living space because the work I was doing required solvents that are not advisable for home use. I needed space to work and display my paintings.

After my husband died I moved into several rooms in my house and these became my studio. It was a huge change for me. The space is a lot smaller and it is broken up. The most important change was learning to create the separation between being at home, and going to work. My husband did it so easily, but I find it hard to follow his good example.

I am often tempted to paint in my bathrobe. There are times when I think of some thing I need to do to a painting just before going to bed and then I may be up working until quite late at night. If I impulsively begin to paint while wearing good clothes, they become spotted with paint. Once in a while I may have plans to watch a TV program at a certain time and I miss it because I’ve stopped to work a bit before the program begins. Or, I am about to go to a concert and I stop for a minute to take a look at what I have done, and I forget and start working. Then I have to race out of the house in order to get there on time.

It is hard for me to eat breakfast and go to work the way he did. Phone calls from friends are more interesting than trying to work on a painting, especially when I am at a beginning stage or one that is giving me problems. There are household chores that need to be done so I do that in stead of going to work. Being in my house is also very lonely. Previously, in my studio I had access to other artists who also had studios in the building. Now I have to make an effort to meet friends for lunch or coffee. I’m not as involved in the art community as I had been.

In order to get myself into the frame of mind that makes me use my studio productively, I have to remind myself that this is my studio and my work comes before doing the laundry. I invented some routines that help make the separation between home and studio possible. For one thing, every morning I make a bag lunch for myself, as I had done when I had a studio away from home. I don’t take any coffee breaks because once I begin working I want to continue without interruptions.

I moved my computer into one of my studio rooms so I could quickly scan images into it and use that information for the paintings I am working on. I also need the computer because I have several web sites that I manage. The most difficult problem I run into is allocating time for the two different kinds of work. And I try to have regular working hours and leave the household stuff for the weekend. I realize now that the benefits of working at home far outweigh those of having a separate studio. It has taken me quite a while to adjust, but now that I am used to this arrangement, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

My Latest Flower PaintingMy Latest Flower PaintingI have been working on my latest flower painting. I had a few moments of
abstraction lately, but I have come back to my original idea of continuing
the idea of flowers and orchids until I get to the 100th painting. It’s a
strange goal, but there it is.

Whenever I set out to create a new drawing I need to organize my working
space. It is important to make sure I have all of the materials needed. If
there is some color missing, it will require a trip to the art supply
store. When I get to the art store I am in deep trouble because for me, it
is like a high end candy store. There are so many goodies to look at and
choose that I get diverted from my original quest and come back to my
studio with a lot more stuff than I intended to buy. This is probably one
of the reasons it is hard to earn anything in the art business. I spend
more on supplies than I earn in sales.

There are so many different kinds of watercolor paper to look at. Hot
pressed and cold pressed and anything in between. Watercolor blocks are
great. The paper is sized and stretched and glued into a block all ready to
use. Of course, this is the best choice for me because I often take paint,
brushes, and a watercolor block with me when I travel. I used to carry a
box of colored pencils in a tin, but this always causes my suitcase to be
opened by “security” so I usually just take a bunch of pencils
and a pencil sharpener in a plastic bag.

After my studio space is organized and everything is laid out where I
can see the colors, I usually draw in ink. I like to use ink
because of the nice black line. I try to use strong lines and somehow if I use ink it the drawing begins to develop. After the ink drawing is composed, I decide on the color scheme by coloring in the shapes. When I have an idea of the colors I want to use, I start to paint. This is where the art work takes its form and comes to life.

I know when the painting is finished when I can’t add or subtract
anything. It has to look “right” to me. It does happen that I may
set something aside and go back to it later at which time it may need
revision. This often happens to my drawings after some time passes or if I have been to see an art exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago and have been inspired by what I see. This was First published on Qassia but has been revised here. All Rights Reserved.

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