Changing It Up

Sewing Inspiration Board

Sewing Inspiration Board

Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, I was taught by my mother to sew aprons from handkerchiefs and grosgrain ribbon at age 6.  In junior high and high school, I won prizes in 4-H dress reviews, and I made most of the clothes I wore to college.  I bought a Kenmore sewing machine with summer job money the year after my first year at Wake Forest.  

That machine went with me though early jobs, several moves, marriage, divorce, and another marriage.  I made a tailored wool suits, bridesmaids dresses, and a wedding gown. 

Back then, North Carolina was the center of textile manufacturing.  There were numerous fabric outlets, and quality fabric was available and relatively inexpensive (compared to “‘store-bought” clothes), especially if you rummaged through the remnant barrels. 

Over the intervening years, I did some home decor sewing, but I spent a lot time on career, gardening, painting, and other interests.  I had less free time and more money, so I bought most of my clothes.  The choices weren’t always exciting, but I found things to wear.

Since I retired, I’ve been looking for some different pieces to add more art into my wardrobe.  I’ve discovered a renewed interest in sewing. I saw the costume exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art, met some people on the trip to Canada who are into textile art, and visited an “art to wear” boutique on a recent trip to Asheville.  When I get ready to sew, I found out that… oh my gosh, the fabric stores have closed! Or have only quilting fabrics! No one is sewing anymore! How could this have happened?  

Well, it’s not quite that bad.  Designers are making patterns, and some people are sewing garments.  But fabric shopping is online, patterns are downloadable pdf files, new fabrics have names like digital prints and scuba knits.  It’s going to take some time to figure this out, but I’m ready for a new adventure. In the video below, I invite you to come in and see how I have set up my studio for sewing.

So, what do you think of my new adventure?   Do you make clothes?  What are favorite sources for fabrics and patterns?  Are you interested in hearing more about my experiments, or do you just wish I’d stick to painting.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Quebec City

Quebec City Tulips ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Quebec City
©2017 Lucinda Howe

The second part of Jane LaFazio’s watercolor sketching class was in Quebec City, Canada. After a cool, wet spring, the weather warmed up the week we arrived.  The tulips were in full bloom around the Chateau Frontenac and City Hall, but as the temperature rose to 85 degrees, the petals were dropping even as Jane conducted a lesson in flower painting.


Quebec City Window boxes ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Quebec City
Window boxes
©2017 Lucinda Howe

The city had beautiful old buildings with flower boxes on many of the windows.  I did these sketches quickly in pencil and added watercolor later when I had a few spare minutes. 


Quebec City Boat Tour on St. Lawrence River ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Quebec City
Boat Tour on St. Lawrence River
©2017 Lucinda Howe

One afternoon, we enjoyed a boat tour on the St Lawrence River on the Louis Jolliet, named for the French explorer and cartographer. 


 Île d'Orléans ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Île d’Orléans
©2017 Lucinda Howe

On our last day together, we had a tour of  Île d’Orleans, and island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, a short drive from Quebec City, known as the “garden of Quebec”.  The island has a warm microclimate and is know for its produce including strawberries, apples, wines, and maple syrup. 

Posted in Plein Air, Travel Tagged , |

Where the Sun Sets in the North

Montreal Map in Sketchbook ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Montréal Map
in Sketchbook
©2017 Lucinda Howe


When I arrived in Canada, I took a taxi from the airport. The cab driver said nothing for most of the trip and drove quickly and carefully on the freeways. Arriving in old Montréal, he circled the block where my hotel was located, working his way through a maze of one-way streets, construction barricades, and double-parked delivery trucks to get close enough to the hotel to let me out. He sighed in frustration and said, “Everywhere you go in Montréal, the street is blocked.”

After checking in and dropping off my luggage, I wanted to take a walk to orient myself. My iPhone compass said the front door of the hotel faced west. Behind me was the river on the east side. Armed with my AAA map, I stepped out of the door, turned right to walk north on Rue St. Paul Ouest parallel to the river. Crossing Boulevard St. Laurent, I was on Rue St. Paul Est. (what?) After meeting my travel group, I realized they had picked up maps at the hotel that had the river on the bottom (south?) side. The next day our walking tour guide, Martine, said Boulevard St. Laurent was the main thoroughfare dividing the east and west sides of town. I was thoroughly confused until I read this explanation in my AAA guide book.

“The streets in Montréal are laid out in the traditional east-west grid, in this case parallel to the St. Lawrence River. The river, though, takes an unfortunate northwest swing at Montréal, resulting in the east-west streets actually running north-south.”

This is why Montréal is also called “the only city where the sun sets in the north”.

By the time I figured out the directions, we were boarding the train for Quebec City. Jane LaFazio’s lesson for the day was how to cut a map into a square, fold it, and insert it into our sketchbooks. I chose to insert my map with a traditional north-up orientation, even though it was missing a corner.


If you want to see how the map folding works, here is a video on Turkish map folding that shows how to do it. Once the map is folded, check the orientation and glue it to the sketchbook with the point in the gutter. Apply glue to the other side and close the book until the glue sets.

Next week, Quebec City.



Posted in Travel


Montreal & Quebec Journal Pages 1 & 2 ©2017 Lucinda Howe NFS

Montreal & Quebec Journal
Pages 1 & 2
©2017 Lucinda Howe

In last week’s email, I talked about packing an art kit for traveling. I was thinking about that because I was packing for a trip to Montréal and Quebec City, Canada. I went with a small group of artists studying watercolor sketching with Jane LaFazio.

The first day we received an accordion-fold book, and after a walking tour around Montréal, we had a lesson in the Notre-Dame Basilica. Although I thought I had an idea of what to do on a trip like that, I learned a few new things.

I can travel lighter and carry a smaller kit than I planned. We used very small (6×4 inch) sketchbook. A watercolor palette, brush with water in the handle, a pencil, a kneaded eraser, a water-soluble pen, a permanent pen, and a paper towel or sponge made up the basic kit. This was my first experience with the water brush, and it was certainly easier than carrying a water bottle and cup.

Small Watercolor Kit @2017 Lucinda Howe

Small Watercolor Kit
@2017 Lucinda Howe

The walking tour of Montréal was informative, but moved too fast for me to do much drawing as we walked. I made mental notes of several things to explore on my next trip. Montréal had a young multi-cultural vibe with many art galleries, museums, and festivals. I quickly realized that two days was not nearly enough time in this diverse city.

Jane took us into the Notre-Dame Basilica for a drawing lesson. She said to focus on what attracts you first, isolate a small section, and draw the detail. That was a good lesson in how to deal with overwhelming architecture.

Montreal & Quebec Journal Pages 3 & 4 ©2017 Lucinda Howe NFS

Montreal & Quebec Journal
Pages 3 & 4
©2017 Lucinda Howe

Also, in my journal, I drew street signs, practiced lettering key words, and glued in a map.

All too soon, we left boarded a train and headed for Quebec City. In next week’s email, I’ll show drawings from the second phase of the trip.


Posted in Travel Tagged , |

Back on the Bus!

Journal page Cabrieres d'Avignon, France ©2011 Lucinda Howe

Journal page
Cabrieres d’Avignon, France
©2011 Lucinda Howe

Now that I have my travel kit packed, how do I use it?

My goal is to record impressions for myself, not to produce finished art. What I remember most about my trips are the times when I stood still long enough to focus on something, absorb the sensory input, and process it through my fingers onto the page. I also take photographs, but they don’t have the same impact. In fact, sometimes I look at a photo and wonder why I took it, but I always know what attracted me to a journal entry.

Years ago, I took Margaret Hoybach’s journaling workshop.  She talked about how to work when you’re in a tour group with non-painters. You may have only a few minutes to draw while everyone else is snapping photos.

In that case, I carry only part of my kit. Journal, pencil, pen, possibly watercolor crayons. Dry media only, no water. I make a small drawing about the size of a photo (4×6 inches), leaving white space around it on the page. A few lines establish the horizon and major design elements. In the margins, I make notes on color, weather, smells, sounds, and texture. This is an exercise of 5 minutes or less. I do more than one if I have time. How much can I capture before someone yells “back on the bus!”?

Later when we stop for lunch, or have a few quiet moments in the hotel, I add color with paint and details with black ink. I also add tickets and other bits of paper with the glue stick. If I do it the same day while the memory is fresh, I will retain the important information and eliminate unnecessary details.

Posted in Travel Tagged |

Ready, Set, Go!

Travel Kit Watercolors, drawing media and journal

Travel Kit
Watercolors, drawing media and journal

June is the beginning of travel season for me. Of course, I may travel year-round, but the feeling is a holdover from school days and the excitement of summer vacation.

I’ve been cleaning out and repacking my art supplies, and thought I would show you what I’m using these days.

When I attend a plein air event or workshop, I pack my Soltek easel, canvases, acrylic or oil paints. I’m glad to have all of that if I have a lot of painting time, but it’s heavy and doesn’t leave much room for clothes and souvenirs. If I’m going with non-painters, I want a small, portable art kit.

The minimum I need to make art is paper and pencil. That lets me make a variety of marks, capture shapes, and make notes. I also want a way to add color. Everything else is an expansion of these requirements.

Paper can be bound or loose, mixed media or watercolor paper. It needs to be heavy enough to take watercolor without warping. I’m using a small watercolor palette by Winsor-Newton that I refill with my favorite tube colors. I squeeze out the paint and let it dry on the palette. It will rehydrate when I add water to it. In addition, I use a watercolor brush that holds water in the handle or carry a water bottle. I put it all in a plastic box and carry it in a cloth bag with shoulder straps.

  • Shoulder bag
  • Strathmore Art Journal with watercolor paper (8.5 x 5.5 inches)
  • Watercolor crayons
  • Water bottle
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic box
  • Winsor-Newton watercolor palette
  • Pencil
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Black pens (Faber-Castell, Staedtler, Tombow, Sharpie)
  • Watercolor brushes
  • Glue stick
  • White gouache
  • White gel pen
  • Exacto knife (put in checked bag if flying)
  • Small cup for water
  • Wax (for resist)
  • 6 inch ruler

Next week – how to use this kit when traveling

Posted in Travel Tagged |

Carolina In Color

We Toil in Shadows 36x48" Acrylic on canvas ©2015 Lucinda Howe $3,500

We Toil in Shadows
Acrylic on canvas
©2015 Lucinda Howe

I’m honored that the Palmetto Curatorial Exchange has selected my work for an exhibit at the South Carolina Department of Commerce on Main Street in Columbia, SC.

The Palmetto Curatorial Exchange is a collaboration between CC: Curating and Collections, The University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and Coastal Carolina University – that aims to make existing collections and contemporary art more accessible to under-served publics, nurture the network of existing arts organizations within the state, and cultivate the next generation of arts professionals studying in South Carolina. Read more about it here.

See photos of the paintings on exhibit and read the curator’s comments here.

The exhibit is on display until December. If you have business at the Department of Commerce, please take a few moments to appreciate Carolina In Color.


Posted in Acrylics

Oakleaf Hydrangea #2

Oakleaf Hydrangea #2 12x12 inches Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas ©2017 Lucinda Howe $395

Oakleaf Hydrangea #2
12×12 inches
Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas
©2017 Lucinda Howe

The oakleaf hydrangea in bloom in my garden is a southeastern native. It has big, bold leaves and large white blooms that turn to pink and tan through the summer. Red leaves in the fall and peeling bark through the winter make it a shrub for all seasons.

I painted this piece in the garden, enjoying a warm, quiet morning and focusing on one bloom and the surrounding leaves to emphasize the dramatic structure of the plant.

Posted in Uncategorized

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea 12x12 inches Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas ©2017 Lucinda Howe $395

Oakleaf Hydrangea
12×12 inches
Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas
©2017 Lucinda Howe

Hydrangea quercifolia, commonly known as oak leaf hydrangea, is blooming in my garden this week.  We’ve had moderate temperatures and some rain recently, so the garden is a lush tapestry of many shades of green.  The challenge for a plein air painter is to simplify the surroundings and focus on the identifying characteristics of the plant, in this case the large lobed leaves and white panicles.

Posted in Acrylics, Garden, Plein Air Tagged |

Along the Cart Path

Along the Cart Path 5.5 x 17 inches Watercolor on paper ©2017 Lucinda Howe

Along the Cart Path
5.5 x 17 inches
Watercolor in journal
©2017 Lucinda Howe

After doing some yard cleanup and mulching this week, I was inspired to relax on the deck and paint the view of the perennial garden and golf course in the back.  It’s nice to have a green background that I don’t have to maintain.  

Posted in Garden, Plein Air Tagged |