Without Focus

Cynthia Maniglia - journal page.jpgPainting or drawing without focus … without a clear intention … without expectations or ideas. Just seeing where the paint and pen take me. That’s what I’ve been doing lately. It can be ultra frustrating but I try to keep at it and see what I can get out of the exercise. Here, too many colors and not enough clarity … but I say OK. It’s imaginary. I was surprised to find the orange and purple bougainvilleas that I just placed in the garden cropped up here, unintentionally. And I went with that. Maybe a little too far.

Art Journaling & Placemats

Art Journal | Sept 10 2016 | Sand Salt Moon.jpg
Leaves, flowers, waves, ducks – what do you see?

Art Journal | Sand Salt Moon | With dip pen | Sept 10 2016.jpgDip Pen - where it started | Sand Salt Moon.jpg

Art journaling is, for me, about expressing myself in a sketchbook or journal, using art. That could be anything from painting, drawing, collage, doodles, and any combination thereof. Many art journalists do “spreads” (two facing pages in a book) and even alter pages in existing books, whereas I am more a one pager/one side of the sheet art journalist. They also add writing, clippings, photos or images. At the moment, I’m strictly what I produce on the page, although I may branch out in time to come. I like to fill the page without a plan and see where it takes me. This is a page I did last night while listening to music on the radio. It started with my glass dip pen making wave like marks, which I filled in with diluted blue Bombay India ink. I also used markers, watercolor, and chalk paint for this page.

I like art journaling because it opens up the flow of creativity. There are no rules, even though I seem to have mentioned a few (what others do, what I do). Want to glue string on the page? Go ahead! Make it messy? Ok! Use kid’s crayons? Sure! Ugly? No problem. Maybe I am feeling depressed or angry and I’ve got to get that out on the page. If it’s a diary type of art journal, no one has to even see it! What appeals to me, however, is that the emotional part of it, but more the curiosity and surprise of it all. For me, it’s about freedom to experiment.

Here’s a little experiment I added to my journal last week, using a paper cutting inspired by those done by Hans Christian Andersen in the 1800’s (what that man could do with a scissor was amazing!) …


While I was drawing and painting my art journal page last night, I was thinking about the change of seasons here in Florida and how I am watching the native flowers and plants wax and wane like the moon, as it will in a few month be my first year here. If you recall, I did a little drawing of my first year garden, and then a family member wanted me to turn the sketch into placemats (which I ordered from Bed, Bath & Beyond) …

Placemats with my garden sketch.jpg
Placemats with my garden sketch, excuse the fold – this was just out of the package when they arrived and we were so excited, we wanted to see how they’d look on a table. We plan to use them out in the lanai. They’re a nice quality. My garden has already “changed” since this drawing. Next year, I’d love to make a 2nd year sketch of the garden and add to this set.

1st year garden placemat.jpg


On My Desk Today

This was the last thing I did today … Bombay ink and watercolor. Based on a little flowery thing I found in the sweet potato garden bed.

Some markers. Some ink. Some watercolor. Some time spent just playing, meditating, and being in the moment. I have so many things I want to do, it’s good to just “do” something without thinking too much and let the hand and eye go with the flow.

A design made with brown marker
More doodle-y designs in marker


WP_20160821_001.jpgMy sweetie and I went to the grocery store this morning, and when I got in the car, he handed this to me. “Did you see this?” I said, “Yes.” “Do you know where it came from?” I said, “I do.” It’s the flower from a grass-like plant near our garage. We did our grocery shopping, and this afternoon, when I went out to the garden to paint, I brought the little sprig from the plant by the garage with me.


I painted a little pattern, using watercolor in my sketchbook. After dinner, I took the sketchbook up to my studio in the loft to paint some more details and darken it up a bit.WP_20160821_032.jpg

Enjoying the process and wanting to explore some more, I drew the same subject in pencil in a smaller sketchbook …WP_20160821_036.jpg

And then I reworked it so it looked like this …WP_20160821_047.jpg

It feels fulfilling to have sketchbooks open to these two pages, and I look forward to seeing them when I go up there again tomorrow. WP_20160821_044.jpg

This is why I love to draw and paint. This is why I love art. The pictures say something words just can not express. And it happens just like this …

Playing around with filters

WP_20160421_011 (2)I’m thinking hibiscus, animal print, orange, purple, and brown … in my watercolor sketchbook tonight. In an earlier post, I talked a little about how the lighting (warm, cool, natural, artificial) affects digital images when we take photos of our work. Here, I am playing around with filters on the photographs – the top image uses iPhoto’s “Chrome” photo filter and the image below uses my Lumia phone’s “Warm Copper” filter.

For this piece, I used white acrylic gesso over watercolor – you can see the raised textural white areas where I applied the gesso. You can see where I scraped into the paint using the wooden end of one of my small paint brushes to create lines in the gesso.

The flatter white areas in this piece are where the paper shows through – it’s actually more of an ivory/cream color, not white white like the gesso.

I also used brown watercolor paint (burnt umber) and a brown water-based marker on this piece.
cynthia maniglia leopard hibiscus.jpgWP_20160421_006.jpg

All The Little Twigs

c. maniglia 2015

Practice piece, Ink and watercolor ~ Banff, Canada. If you are an artist, it’s good to sometimes take a photo of your artwork and turn it into a black and white photo to see if you’re capturing depth, tones, etc. This is just a quick study on lightweight parchment paper, not a finished painting. I was going to draw all of the little twigs. Well, at least I drew a bunch of them. After playing with colors and lines on the computer, I was itching to get back to paper. Here it is in color …


Reference photo: Mine taken on the way to Banff in Canada.

Morning Meditations

watercolor on newsprint CYNTHIA MANIGLIA
Some things I collected on my walk this morning. Even with the frost on the grass, some flowers still remain and nice red berries are popping up. watercolor on newsprint CYNTHIA MANIGLIA


After my morning walk, toast and coffee, I painted some botanicals I collected. I was reading a great article online about the difference between fall in the U.S. and fall in the U.K. That article totally influenced my choice of study this morning. Can you tell me how/why? (Hint: You’ll know if you check out the online article, which I promise you is VERY interesting.)

Watercolor on newsprint.WP_20151019_007

Transferring an image

WP_20150917_009Here’s a simple example of how to transfer an original sketch onto watercolor paper. Create your sketch on tracing paper in pencil. I used a thick soft pencil. My sketch is of a seed pod I noticed when I came out of a store this afternoon. It was hanging off a tree that was next to my car in the parking lot, and the red tip caught my eye. I thought it was interesting and plucked it up. I only did one simple sketch. My sketch is intended for surface design, and for that, realism is not key here, but rather simplified silhouette and a pleasing shape for a pattern.

WP_20150917_004Once I had the initial sketch on the tracing paper, I placed the paper upside down on top of a piece of watercolor paper. On the side of the tracing paper without the drawing, I used a bone tool to rub the drawing off the tracing paper and onto the watercolor paper. You can use the back of a spoon. Using tracing paper is helpful because you can see through it and look at the design as it is forming on the paper, and decide where you want to place elements.

WP_20150917_001The rubbing comes off the paper and creates almost a stamp effect on the paper. You can rub out several more of your motifs onto the paper before needed to go back over the drawing with graphite so that it’s fresh again for additional transfers.

WP_20150917_003 WP_20150917_002After creating an arrangement of my seed pod things (if anyone know what kind of a tree this is from, please do tell!), I then took out my watercolor paints and proceeded to “color.” I used only two colors – ochre, red, and a touch of white at the end.  After painting the ochre and red, when all was dry, I erased the pencil marks, but because I used a lot of graphite and made heavy imprints, the marks were not thoroughly removed behind the ochre and red. In the red, I liked the graphite giving a little burnished look so I didn’t have to paint in shadows. Doing this differently, for a cleaner more professional look, I’d make the motif larger, use less graphite and lighter “stamps”/impressions, and paint using gouache inside the lines so they could be easily erased.

WP_20150917_007 WP_20150917_008WP_20150917_009seed pod seamless repeatThis was fun to do and meditative. Now you know how I did it!

Happy Fall!