Emily M. DeArdo



Sketching Animals and preparing for vacation sketching

drawingEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Sketching animals is not really my forte, but I thought I'd share my completed zoo sketchbook pages with you guys anyway.

The only way you get better is with practice, right? So, here we go. 

OK so the first sketch was of a bonobo. This was first because it was the first really good place where I could sit and observe for awhile. Since I was with my friends and their children I didn't want to drag down their pace, so most of these are pretty quick. All of them are done with colored pencil. 

The bonobo liked to move, as many animals do (obviously), and I tried to catch that by drawing the limbs in a few poses. My favorite part of the sketch is the bonobo arm reaching up for the bar above. The face and all that is just a mess, but that's what happens when I decide to use colored pencils! The arm, though, is done correctly, just wildly out of proportion with the top torso. 

The Flying Fox was drawn in a sort of half-light--this was an indoor exhibit, and since these are nocturnal animals, the fox is hanging upside down, the wings enfolding the body. I tried to get the hard structural edges of the wings, and I think I succeeded pretty well. 

I knew I wanted to get the mandrill's face, since it's so colorful. This guy was very active, but I was able to get the basic shapes and the color variations on his fur. 

The flamingo is probably my favorite. They were out in full sun, and this one was quite obliging and stood still for awhile while I got the basic shape and did some shading with the feathers. I was going to color her in later, but one of the little girls I was with asked me to do it then, and I'm glad I obliged!

This one was drawn inside, with light coming in from above, so I decided to do it in a deep indigo pencil and just get the outlines of the langeurs sitting on their beam. (There are a ton of ways to spell "langeurs" as I found out when I did an Internet search--this is how it was spelled on the exhibit sign). This started as a single line contour and then I went back in and drew heavier lines to differentiate the animals, with the one closest to me getting a bit of his facial fur drawn in. 

The other thing I need to remember next time is to bring the pencil sharpener! 

I'm working on prep for my first vacation with my sketchbooks, and I'm really excited. I think I've got my palette set. We're going to Colonial Williamsburg and the Outer Banks, so I need a variety of colors. I'm definitely going to be playing with mixes. I'll be doing some trip prep (Liz Steel inspired) sketches in my big book over the next few weeks. 


Sketching Summer

drawingEmily DeArdoComment

I seem to sketch a lot more during the summer. Not sure why--maybe because there's so many fun things to sketch? Winter gets boring fast. Maybe what I need is a tinted paper sketchbook so I can draw the whites of winter without it being boring? A thought for the next "daily" sketchbook I need. 

I always have my travel sketchbook but I realized recently that I'd been neglecting my big Moleskine Watercolor book. So I got that out and took it to Pittsburgh. I also got my Stillman and Birn Zeta book (my daily book) into my bag for some daily pages. 

The top sketch here is my "daily page" in the Zeta book for June 7. I really love the shading and coloring I was able to get on the mint tea, and I'm glad the cardigan looks  like a piece of clothing. The first few I'd drawn were awful! 

art journal 6.8.17 1.jpeg


This one was just fun. I was at a stoplight--a very long one near my house--and I decided to draw this really, really fast with a Tombow marker. I added the black pen lyrics later, at home.  (It can take three light cycles to get through this particular intersection. I had a lot of time.) 



This is my sketch kit bag. It's a Vera Bradley cosmetic bag that my friend Tiffany gave me a few years ago for Christmas, and I felt it deserved its own sketch! I drew this in the cafeteria at Children's before my first volunteer shift. 


When we went to Pittsburgh I knew I'd have a chance to draw some fun things. So I did a few different spreads in both books. 

This is a sketch of a bridge over I-70 E near Zanesville. The flowers in the corner are representative of what grows along the highway in Ohio (clover and ox-eye daisies, in this case). 


And since I only have about 8 pages left in my current sketchbook, I ordered a slightly different one for my next "daily" book. This is a softcover Alpha from Stillman and Birn, as opposed to the hardcover Zeta I have now. The paper isn't as thick (150 gsm vs. 270 gsm), but I really like the pages (at least based on the one I've used so far). Like Liz Steel, I do a sketch of my palette on the first page. Not only is it easy, but I love having a reference of what colors are where in the palette at the front of each book! 

This post contains some Amazon affiliate links

Seven Quick Takes No. 127

7 Quick Takes, drawing, family, travel, Jeopardy, hearing lossEmily DeArdo3 Comments


In case you missed it: Thirty Days of Beauty continued this week. It was really all I wrote this week, since I was in Houston visiting my sister, and didn't bring the laptop with me. So go enjoy those posts. :) 

I will be updating my Houston Postcard next week with the places I did this trip, so it will be more Comprehensive for all you Houston-bound people!


When I was in Houston I did a lot of sketching, including making a point of taking my supplies to the beach at Galveston. I knew that the paint would dry faster in the heat, but I wasn't prepared for how much faster. Still, I'm pretty happy with what I managed to get. 


If you follow me on Instagram, you are aware that my sister has a cat. Bella is a pretty sweet kitty, who flicks her tail whenever you say her name, and likes to try to get extra kibble out of the automatic feeder. (My sister is a nurse who works night shift, so automatic feeding for Bella is a good thing!) She discovered that by moving her paw under the slot, she could get extra kibble to drop down. Sometimes. Never having lived with a cat, I was hugely amused by her behavior. 


There were FOUR bookstores visited on this trip, guys. FOUR. One of them, yes, was a Barnes and Noble, and I wasn't there for very long, but still. FOUR! 

Brazos, of course. I introduced Melanie to its beautiful-ness. Small but mighty. 

We checked out Galveston Bookshop--didn't buy anything, though. It looked like it might be a decent place to prowl around and look for books. It's mostly used books, with some new, and they have an excellent collection of books about Galveston and Texas, if that's your thing. They also have a shop cat!


The last shop we visited was Murder By the Book, which was excellent. It's a lot more than mystery novels (at first I was like, mystery novels are not my thing), but I had a lot of fun here. More about this guy later. 


This chocolate cake, people. THIS CHOCOLATE CAKE: 

Does it remind you of this scene in Matilda, or what?!

It reminded me of that. :) And Mel and I love Matilda. So extra bonus points. 

And no. I did not eat that entire piece. Do I look crazy? But it was magically delicious. 


One of the things that I'm terrible at vis-a-vis traveling is unpacking. My suitcase sits in the main room and is gradually unpacked over a series of days. The longer the trip, the longer it takes to sort everything out! 


And finally....

 I wrote a piece for the Cochlear Website about my Jeopardy! experience. You can read it here

It went up on Tuesday when I was in Texas so I didn't have time to write about it. :) But here you go! 

Seven Quick Takes No. 105

7 Quick Takes, drawing, healthEmily DeArdo4 Comments


The snow is melting! The snow is melting!

Really, I don't mind snow--around Christmas. I do mind it when it's crazy cold and I have to scrape off my car whenever I want to go somewhere, and deal with the ice around my car. But it's going to be 50 today, and almost 60 tomorrow! Yay!


I'm glad about that 60 in particular because tomorrow is the Columbus Catholic Women's Conference, and last year a huge snowstorm kept me from getting there. It starts at 8, but you have to get there early to get a decent seat--and registration opens at 7. So that means you get up early. And getting up early plus dealing with snow? Just, no. But this year, no snow! No ice! Yay!

I'm especially excited because Jen Fulwiler is one of the speakers.

At Edel with Hallie Lord (L) and Jen Fulwiler (center)

At Edel with Hallie Lord (L) and Jen Fulwiler (center)


This week I went to my audiologist and got my cochlear implant (CI) tuned up. That's not the technical term, by the way. I hadn't been to see her in awhile, so I went it and we "reprogrammed" my processor. 

The big difference between a CI and a hearing aid is that a hearing aid just makes sound louder, while I CI helps you understand what the sound is. And if you're like me, and your hearing is basically shot, you need the CI, and not a hearing aid, becaus making sound louder won't help you. The cells in the cochlea have been destroyed, and thus the sound isn't getting processed correctly by my brain. Thus--the CI. An "array" was threaded into my cochlea during surgery, and that relays the sound I get directly to my brain, bypassing the broken bits. 

So anyway, with the programs, I can have various settings depending on what I need at the time. I generally use one that allows me to get a wide array of sounds, but there are ones for when I want to focus on quieter sounds, or when I want to focus the microphone to just the person or people directly in front of me (meaning, where my head is pointed is where I'm going to pick up sound.) 

After we fine-tuned the programs (they're called MAPS, if we're being technical, but I forget what that stands for), my audiologist took me to the booth where they run hearing tests. If you are hearing-impaired, these booths are generally awful because you feel like an idiot. But with the new program, I was able to hear a really wide range of sound at various levels (meaning I detected the sound--I could hear it at all) of pitch and volume. So yay! 


The other thing about CIs? They're covered by insurance. Hearing aids aren't. 


I've been doing a TON of drawing this week. Bust out the paints and pencils! 

This is my Atlantic Puffin. I didn't get quite the result I wanted on the black parts, but I did it on watercolor paper, which has that grain. So, whatever. But how cool is this animal? Orange eyes!

I'm also working on sketching and painting teacups. I need to take some pictures of those, though, to show you. 


Reading: Not a whole lot, sadly, other than my Lent books. But when one gives up book buying for Lent...also, the library hasn't had any interesting books on the ebooks roster lately. I love that you can borrow ebooks. No worries about returning things on time!


This week in CCD we're doing Sacraments--we've broken them up into parts. The book does a chapter on the Eucharist when we talk about Holy Thursday, so that's coming up. This week we're covering Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. Next week: Marriage, Confession, and Anointing of the Sick.  



Visual Journals: My Sketchbooks

drawing, Sketchbook SkoolEmily DeArdo1 Comment


2015 brought a lot of surprises, but one of the biggest is that I found out I liked drawing. 

Until recently, I'd equated art with math--it was something other people were good at, but unlike math, it was something I could easily appreciate. I love going to art museums and fawning over the art. I've always wished I could do that. 

My art training was mostly art classes in school, grades K-8, which became progressively more challenging, but we didn't really learn anything about art--concepts or theories or really how to draw. It was, here's the project, do it. And I wasn't very good at it. Art seemed to elude me. I could paint ceramics decently (There was a once-a-month class at a local studio), but that was it. My art was going to have to be music and writing.

Proustian tea break!

Proustian tea break!

But one day last spring, while reading Melissa Wiley's blog, I discovered Sketchbook Skool. Melissa said they could turn even serious non artists into artists. It wasn't formal. It wasn't graded. But all sorts of different artists taught students various ways of drawing, of creating art. 

So I enrolled. I learned to play with colored pencils and watercolors, how to mix colors and blend colored pencils together. I grew more comfortable using pen that couldn't be erased. (Although sometimes it still makes me nervous!) I started carrying around a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook and drawing--sugar packets, fountains, whatever. 

And I found that I liked it, even when my drawings were wonky or not very good, or not what I imagined. 

the bunkbeds at my grandma's house. I'm glad I drew this because the beds have since been dismantled. 

the bunkbeds at my grandma's house. I'm glad I drew this because the beds have since been dismantled. 

I've noticed that my drawings are getting better--meaning they meet my expectations. I am really happy when I manage to blend just the right color of a madeleine with my pencils, or get the shadows right in a watercolor. 

Last week, I finished my first Moleskine sketch journal. I didn't think I'd do that, when I first bought it. I thought that maybe I would really hate art and just leave it to sit in a corner somewhere, with really bad pencil marks marring a few pages. 

But it didn't. All the pages are filled. 

Now I have three more sketchbooks in progress--it's gone mad, I know. :) One is another Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, for my Sketchbook Skool classes--I like having the thick watercolor paper for that, and the larger size. The second is my Moleskine Art journal that I use when I travel. I really liked having it with me when I was in Boston and it's definitely coming to LA with me. 

from the Boston sketch pages. 

from the Boston sketch pages. 

Lastly is a red Moleskine art journal that's for home. By "home", I mean drawing things around here--what I eat at Starbucks during my sketch days, drawings of my house, my parents' house, buildings around my town, etc. I'm having a lot of fun with it so far. 

I'm in no way going to be a professional artist. But drawing taps into my creativity in a different way than writing. I like to think it complements it. I'll never stop keeping my written journals, but I don't think I'll stop sketching now, either. Maybe I just need to buy stock in Moleskine, since I use their journals for both writing and drawing!


impressions of my Christmas tree. 

impressions of my Christmas tree. 

In 2016, I'm hoping to take two more Sketchbool Skool classes, at least--Stretching and Storytelling--and continue filling the pages of my art journals. 

What new skills did you pick up in 2015? 


Daybook 108

books, Daybook, writing, drawing, Tidying UpEmily DeArdoComment

Outside my window::

It's really gorgeous; that perfect fall blue of the sky, a little breeze, and sun. The trees are all at peak color, or will be, shortly, so driving around is a visual feast, especially on days like this, when the sky provides such a nice backdrop.


Jeans, a v-neck royal blue top, and navy flats (or at least, I had the flats on when I was running errands. Now I'm barefoot.)


Those Who Leave and Those Who StayFire Within, about St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, and Daring Greatly

In the CD player::

The 25th anniversary cast of hantom of the Opera.


NaNo starts in just under two weeks, so I'm thinking about what I want to write. I think I'm going to stick with my original idea, which is a re-telling of Carousel--sort of moving it into the 21st century, and possibly with dual narrators, although that might not work. We'll see. I've done a dually-narrated novel before, and it worked well for that piece, but I don't think it works for everything. 

I'm still taking Sketchbook Skool classes. I'm two weeks into their Seeing course, and if you're looking for a place to learn to draw/create art, I highly recommend SBS. 

Two of my latests sketches/painting/drawings

For the top one, I used pencil, pen, and watercolors; the duck is just a Uni-ball pen. (In case you want to know.)

From the Kitchen::

I've got one new recipe up this week that I'm making tonight: Fish tacos from Outlander Kitchen. Tomorrow and Thursday I'm having dinner with my mom, and Wednesday night I'm making a really quick Italian chicken recipe. I'm all for quick chicken recipes--well, quick anything recipes, right? 

Tidying Up:

Still in the komono category. I want to finish this by the end of the month, but we'll see if that happens. This is the category with all the little things in it, so it's not as straightforward as "clothes", "Books", etc. But I'm making progress. Some of the categories, like "electronics and appliances", don't really pertain to me, because I don't have any appliances I can get rid of. I rent. :) Electronics work, or they don't. If they don't work, they got thrown out a long time ago. Everything that's here, and that's electronic (my computer, my phone, my iPad, my CD player [yes, I still have a CD player], TV, etc.), is earning its keep. Also things like "Household supplies": I have what I need, and that's it. I don't have room for ten bottles of countertop cleaner, or 8 boxes of Swiffer dusting pads. 

round the house, otherwise::

Still working on the office, which was tossed about so much pre-exterminator visit, that I decided to do some deep cleaning while it was a mess, anyway. So today I vacuumed the floor, and began to put things back, like the magazine boxes that are stored next to the book shelves. I have to decide what to do with a few random books that have been stored there--do I want to keep them, or are they donate-worthy? 

Plans for the week::

An out-of-state wedding, so I have to pack for that. My month of travel continues. Fortunately, I get the following weekend "off", and then we're going to Pittsburgh for my cousin's Confirmation, which really isn't travel, in a sense. It's the easiest trip of the entire bunch! And I always love seeing my family. 




Daybook No. 107: Back from Boston

books, Daybook, drawing, memoir, Tidying Up, travelEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Outside my window::

Sunny, a few clouds. It's going to be beautiful today--in the low 70s. Yay!


jeans and a dark cherry colored elbow length t-shirt. Keeping it casual today. 


The Story of a New NameDaring Greatly, and the new Rick Riordan book, Magnus Chase--which takes place in Boston. :) If we'd stayed a few more hours I could've gone to the author's book signing! Drat! Since I did so much walking in Boston, my shins are not pleased with me--I get shin splints really easily. So today I'll be reading and putting some ice on the cranky body parts. But it's totally worth it. 

In Boston, I read Bird by Bird and Big Magic--both of which were excellent. I might have to re-read them both before NaNo kicks off. I especially enjoyed the parts that talk about publishing--and how getting rejection letters doesn't mean your work sucks! That's helpful, as I look at the following....


The Manuscript is being delivered TODAY!!!!! Eekkk! Then the three month counter kicks off. (That's about how long they say it takes for them to evaluate a manuscript.) NaNo starts next month, so I'm thinking about what I want this year's novel to be about. So far, nothing is hitting me yet, except last year's NaNo novel, that I had to abandon, because it wasn't working. I think this year I might have a way of making it work, but it may require starting from scratch, which would work for NaNo15! 



OK, so I don't want to do all Boston Palooza on you here--I'm going to spread it out over the week. So we can have Pretty Funny Happy Real Boston Edition, and then some Seven Quick Takes, Boston edition. However, I will talk about Jeopardy, here, because that's what we all care about right? :) 

Boston harbor, as seen from our hotel room 

Boston harbor, as seen from our hotel room 


The audition works like this: You go in, you get a polaroid taken, and then you are called into the audition room. In Boston, they divided us up into two groups--in NYC, we all went in as one group. You are instructed in the ways of the contestant pool--how you got picked, what's going to happen today, and what's going to happen after. We're in the contestant pool for 18 months, so until April 4, 2017. About 100,000 people take the online test, and from that, about 1000-3000 are selected for the second round of auditions. From there, 400 people are called to be contestants on the show. We were reminded many times to be loud and enthusiastic--two things I never have trouble with, ever. 

From there, we had a 50 question test--50 questions flashed on a screen, and you had eight seconds to answer each question (you wrote the answer down on a lined answer sheet). On the online test, you have 30 seconds to answer each question. After that, the tests are collected and graded, and then three people are called up at a time to play a practice round and be interviewed. The practice rounds and interviews are videotaped. 

I was in the first group called up. So we played a "round"--the game board was on a screen and we got to pick categories and everything, just like on the show, and we used the buzzers (more about those later this week, and How Crazy They Are). After that, you are interviewed, and I was interviewed second. Yes, you are interviewed in front of everyone. We were asked what we would use the money we won for, what we did, etc. Nothing really difficult--it was mostly for personality purposes. 

No, you do not find out how you did on the audition. But you just might get a random call summoning you to LA for taping. 


For today::

Happy Feast Day, St. Bruno! And since she's the Gospel reading for today: St. Martha and the Dragons.  Let's give Martha some love, guys!


Tidying Up::

The paper will be finished this week--my insurance stuff and tax materials are stored downstairs, and those have been sorted already, and are good to go. In the office are my other sorts of papers that I probably don't need and can toss. 

After paper comes the category of "Komodo", which is a Japanese term for miscellany, and in Kondo's book, it means: 

  • CDs
  • DVDs
  • Toiletries
  • makeup
  • accessories (non clothes)
  • valuables
  • electronics and appliances
  • household items and supplies 
  • kitchen goods/food
  • and Other: hobbies and such, so for me that's knitting, my music books, board games etc. 

You can see this is a BIG category and will probably take awhile. But after this there are only three more categories: Small change, sentimental items, and photos. 

I've already done the CDs, because those went with the Books to Half-Price, and I've done a lot of the DVDs, for the same reason, but I'm sure there are still some I can put in the sell/donate pile. 

This week::

Like I said, here on the blog we'll have several Boston reports, so you can look forward to that. In other news, I have a dentist appointment, the first BalletMet performance of the season (yay!), the Pirates Wild Card game against the Cubs  tomorrow, and a Lay Dominican retreat all weekend! Whew! 


Daybook No. 100

books, Catholicism, Daybook, dominican saints series, drawing, knitting, links, Sketchbook Skool, writingEmily DeArdo1 Comment

(yes, I need to change the photo. I'll do that soon. :-P)

Outside my window::

Sunny, cloudy, and breezy. By "cloudy", I Mean we've got a few clouds floating around. So I guess that means partly sunny? I have no idea. 


My blue and white stripped breton top (short-sleeved) and my Boden skirt with the seaside print. I get more compliments on this skirt than anything else I own, so basically I have to keep it safe forever and ever. :) I'm also wearing my Charleston goldbug bee earrings. 

In the CD player::

Sterling Road, by Cassie and Maggie. 


Today's the 11th, so I'm off to do Holy Hour as soon as I finish this. I'm part of the Summit Dominican's adoring rosary, so that means on the 11th of every month, I have a Holy Hour. (I chose the 11th because that's the date of my transplant) Last month, my holy hour was in Charleston. :) I'm taking a lot of intentions with me. 

Today is also the feast day of St. Clare, follower of St. Francis and foundress of the Poor Clares--Mother Angelica's order. 


Middlemarch, Persuasion, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose


Working on my Sketchbook Skool classes--I have to draw a piece of toast later today. :) I'm also working on a colored pencil drawing that I did in pen a few weeks ago. I'm adding the color now and trying some new techniques. We'll see what comes of it. 

Also, I'm starting a new knitting project, but more on that tomorrow. Sorry guys, it's not anything exciting....yes. That purl stitch! :) 

Around the House::

It's the master bath's week for deep cleaning so I"m working up there. It always amazes me how many dishes I manage to go through as one person. Really! 


This week I'm doing a series on Dominican saints, and tomorrow St. Thomas Aquinas is up. So far I've done St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena. It came to my attention over the weekend that not too many people are familiar with the Dominican saints, so I'm going to try to rectify that. 

I've also got two September Real Housekeeping pieces being edited. We haven't come up with our October topic yet, so I'm waiting to see what it is before I start brainstorming ideas. 

I'm also playing around with a new idea for a novel that will be my 2015 NaNo piece. In the brainstorming stage now. 


Yoga yesterday, gym today--after Holy Hour. I'm sad that this summer has mostly been too cool to go swimming. 



'To be very accomplished': Learning to draw

drawing, Jane AustenEmily DeArdo2 Comments

'It is amazing to me,' said Bingley, 'how young ladies can have the patience to be so very accomplished, as they all are.'

--Pride and Prejudice

I often joke that I was born in the wrong century. Not medically--in any other century I'd be dead--but socially. A lot of my skills are in the old-school definition of 'accomplishment', as Bingley talks about in Pride and Prejudice (and which we will be talking about on Thursday in the Jane Re-Read!). I can cook, knit, sew (cross-stitch and mend), play the piano, sing, etc.

'A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.'

'All this she must posses,' added Darcy, 'and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.'

--Pride and Prejudice

I certainly have the extensive reading down, but I've never been able to draw. Really. My brother could do it, and my grandfather, but not me. Art class in school was never a subject at which I excelled. As I got older, I thought I'd never be able to learn it.

But then Melissa turned me on to Sketchbook Skool. This is an online art school, taught by professional artists and teachers. It's video-based, and each class lasts six weeks. I enrolled in "beginnings," and I'm in my last week of the course.   I have definitely learned to draw!

My first Sketchbook Skool assignment.

Learning to draw at Sketchbook Skool @emily_m_deardo

(I don't know why the second one is wonky...sorry guys!)

Anyway, yes, I am really happy with the progress I'm making. The classes have been so informative and I love the teachers. I'm enrolling in another class next week, because in 'beginnings' we haven't covered everything. We've done watercolors, pen, pencil, colored pencil, and we've learned a bit about technique, but I really need to work on perspective and depth in my drawings.

Learning to draw with Sketchbook Skool @emily_m_deardo

There are times when it's really frustrating--don't get me wrong. Some of my drawings are much better than others. But I see something good in every piece I do, so that's definitely a step forward.

SBS is a great example of how the Internet can be awesome. I never would've tried to do this if I hadn't gotten the recommendation from Melissa, and I never would've found these great teachers. I can move through the classes at my own pace, right tin my house. It's not something I have to leave my house to do, which is nice.

Summer is a great time for experimentation and learning new things--are you doing anything this summer like this? Or can you draw much better than I can? :)