Category Archives: Drawing

Searching Through Line

There is a light covering of snow on everything today, making the fields look like fresh sheets of paper.


Scott, detail     ©2018 Elizabeth Fram, 24 x 18 inches, Graphite on paper

One of the many gifts our dog Quinn has bestowed upon me is being an insistent impetus for stopping whatever else is in the works at 2:30pm to make sure I get outside to enjoy the day. As she runs and sniffs on the new snow, her tracks break through the smooth surface leaving a chaotic trail telling of her excitement as she follows – here, there, and everywhere – the scattered scents of the various critters that share our hill. It reminds me of Bill Keane’s comic strip Family Circus that occasionally displayed a wandering dotted line showing the vast amount of ground covered by 7-year old Billy as he distractedly went from point A to point B.

When I look at my life drawings I see a comparable trail of graphite. The lines are searching and sometimes scattered, marking my numerous attempts to grasp just the right angle or shape while leaving behind a recording of the full experience.

Lost in Thought

Lost in Thought   ©2018 Elizabeth Fram, 24 x 18 inches, Graphite on paper

I don’t begrudge myself these explorations because without them I’ll never improve. In fact, it is a similar probing quality that attracts me to master drawings. Unlike a polished rendering, an amended line speaks to the presence of the artist and his journey through his drawing, leaving tracks for the rest of us to follow and to learn from. Needless to say, it’s also reassuring to see that even the best don’t always get it right on the first stab.

Take a look at Charley Parker’s blog Lines and Colors. Not only does it promise a wealth of interesting and far-reaching information, but this post about Whistler’s drypoint etching of Joanna Hiffernan is particularly pertinent to this discussion about a searching line. Even better, the ghost face of a previously begun etching, that Whistler didn’t bother to conceal before starting over with this particular drawing, is a wonderful example of a “map” left behind for the rest of us to discover and to enjoy.

Back in the (Drawing Horse) Saddle

It’s pretty shocking when I stop to realize just how many years it’s been since I last devoted several continuous hours to drawing a figure. Lately the urge to get back to it has been really niggling at me, spurred by the growing toehold regular sketching has nurtured. For more than a year I’ve been on the lookout for a figure drawing gathering that would mesh with my schedule.

Hat 1

In Process       The majority of my sketchbooks are approximately A4 or A5. Stretching out on an 18 x 24 inch sheet is pure luxury.

Thanks to a couple of friends who tipped me off to a (kinda-sorta) local group, I was able to attend my first life drawing session this past week. I am beyond excited! For 4+ hours I felt like that proverbial clam, snuggled in at high tide, while drawing in the congenial company of a collection of accomplished and welcoming artists who have been meeting regularly for quite some time. The model was superb and there was even jazz playing in the background. Seriously, I was beyond happy.

Hat 2

In Process     The model gets regular breaks, which is also a good time to reassess direction. Taking pictures with my phone mid-process is incredibly helpful, allowing for the distance necessary to identify areas that may need to change.

As something of a resource nerd I’m grateful for the library I’ve amassed over the years, pulling the following books/periodicals from my shelf for self-imposed homework. I would recommend any of them if you’re looking for drawing information and inspiration.

The Visual Language of Drawing – James L. McElhinney & the Instructors of The Art Students League of New York

The Natural Way to Draw – Nicolaides

Drawing Atelier: The Figure – Jon de Martin

Drawing magazine

Hat 3

Blue Hat     © 2017 Elizabeth Fram, 24 x 18 inches, Graphite on paper

Working larger gives me a greater opportunity to consider how shapes define not just the image, but also the way they support an abstracted definition of the composition.  Thinking along those lines as I’ve been stitching this week has made me even more aware of the possible parallels between my drawn and stitched work, and the symbiosis (in my mind, at least) that links both disciplines, which makes working back and forth all the richer.


Blue Hat, detail     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Instagram continues to be a wonderful resource. Check out  @ronniecay@bobart1937,  &  @kevinwueste  They all regularly post work from their life drawing sessions. The variety of style and interpretation is quite inspiring.


There was limited time to write this week, but I was still able squeeze in a daily sketch…and a quick haiku in honor of the ritual.

When was the last time
You really looked at a spoon?
A pen lifts the veil.


Wednesday     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram, 8 x 5.5 inches, Pen and Ink

Measure and Stir

Measure and Stir ©2017 Elizabeth Fram, 8.5 x 11 inches, Pen and ink

2 Bowls, 3 Spoons

2 Bowls, 3 Spoons     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram, 12 x 9 inches, Pen and Ink

Bonne Maman

Bonne Maman       ©2017 Elizabeth Fram, 8 x 5 Inches, Pen and Ink

Center Stage

Center Stage     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram, 5 x 8 Inches, Graphite and Watercolor

Need a Nudge?

October = Inktober…the perfect time for anyone to dive in and follow through on a goal to draw more regularly.

Table Scape

Table-scape     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                                 The path of least resistance is my saving grace. I often finish breakfast and then draw whatever’s in front of me on the dining room table. It’s proven to be a wonderful no-brainer for getting a daily drawing under my belt before the rest of the day begins. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) this surface is rarely entirely clear of stuff… so source material is plentiful. And with a few adjustments, there is a never-exhausted supply of still lifes at the ready.

Created in 2009 by illustrator Jake Parker as a way to jump-start his own drawing habit, Inktober is a challenge to artists everywhere to pull out their pens and commit to making a drawing every day this month. It’s also a powerful nudge for getting a drawing habit underway.


Orchid     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                   We are lucky in VT that our public TV often has shows highlighting Vermont artists. This wonderful quote is from a recent program featuring Peter Huntoon. ” A quick snapshot gives you nothing but facts, but sketching gives you an experience that doesn’t go away; it’s a memory that’s imprinted. It’s the difference between a glance and a warm embrace.”

This short YouTube video gives the skinny on how to get started. And if you fear you’ll struggle with what to draw each day for 31 days in a row, Parker has provided a list of 31 prompts. For those who don’t like the list this year, previous years’ lists with additional ideas are a short Google search away.

3 Houses

3 Houses     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                   I am a sucker for little houses. Last spring I took advantage of a sale at a local gardening center to buy these three ceramic houses that can also serve as votives. They have become regulars in my daily sketches.

The public-minded can upload their drawings to Instagram with the hashtags #inktober and #inktober2017. Prefer not to work on such a public scale? It’s just as easy to follow those hashtags to lurk in private for inspiration. Regardless, there is still a lot to be gained by taking the challenge independently, or even better, with a couple of close artist buddies.

Silver Pitcher

Silver Pitcher     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                           A treasured hand-me-down offers great shapes and reflections, off-set by the stripes of placemats and the slats in the chair behind it.

I see that JetPens has a special offer through October 15th in honor of Inktober. Their site is a lot of fun to visit for the sheer volume of all-things-pen-and-ink they offer — even if you decide not to take them up on their Inktober special.


Hydrangea     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                                     I have a lot yet to learn in portraying this lovely mass of blooms from a friend’s garden. I’m grateful they are such long-lasting flowers so I have time to keep trying before they fade.

And for further support, check out my post “Seasonal Change as Incentive” from last May, which discusses in detail Charles Duhigg’s wonderful book The Power of Habit and an enlightening video by Ingrid Sundberg that provides a step-by-step outline of how to begin a creative habit.

Good luck!


Flowers     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                   Let’s end this on a colorful note…

Marking the Change

As we move into September the days are becoming noticeably shorter and our evening temps here in Vermont have already dipped into the 40’s, making for great sleeping weather.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I know that many bemoan the last days of August, perhaps more so than the end of any other season, but I am happy for the change. I find comfort, not just in the reminder of natural rhythms and cycles beyond my control, but also in welcoming the chance to get back to activities I enjoy without the guilt of feeling I ought to be outside taking advantage of summer’s fleeting sun and warmth.


It’s time to bring in the harvest in earnest and to start putting some of the bounty up for winter enjoyment. It’s been a great year in my garden for garlic, blueberries, carrots, beans, herbs, and greens. My tomatoes, on the other hand, are slow to ripen and have had a relatively weak showing — a result, I’m sure, of all the rain and relatively cool days we’ve had on our hill this year. I’ve come to accept the fluctuation between what does well from one year to the next, and look to that variation as an opportunity to explore new recipes and to evade any sense of being caught in a rut.

Bookended tools

Bookended     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

When summer arrives, I’m ready for a break from the kitchen and try to avoid too much time cooking. But when we begin to see signs that the transition to fall is taking hold, it feels good to pull out my pots for “putting food by” and to get back in the swing of creating with food. It doesn’t hurt that there are endless opportunities for happenstance still-lives along the way, making sketching just another gratifying perk of the job.


Balanced     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

These drawings mark the beans that were blanched, the batches of pesto mixed up, the turkey broth simmered & flavored with fresh herbs, carrots, and garlic…and of course the resulting piles of dishes, before and after washing.

Years ago my mother gave me a copy of the book Putting Food By. It’s a keeper; a trusty resource that never goes out of date. This link is to the most recent edition.

Also, for a bit of meaty reading, artist Anne Sherwood Pundyk recently contributed an essay entitled The Beholder’s Share to the online magazine artcritical. Pundyk discusses the neuroscience of abstraction and figuration, drawing on personal and professional experience in conjunction with consideration of two books on recent scientific findings: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (2006) and Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric R. Kandel (2016). Fascinating! …I found it particularly resonating bearing in mind my ongoing interest in straddling a line between the two (abstraction and figuration) through composition and values.

Finally, a bit of gratifying news and shameless self-promotion: my piece “It Isn’t That Simple” was picked-up and used by the Surface Design Association to illustrate their Friday Fibers Roundup blog last week.


There’s a lot to be said for keeping up the sketching habit while traveling. I love that drawing gives me an immediate sense of grounding in unfamiliar surroundings while allowing for more fully absorbing a new environment. Stopping to sketch is a wonderful opportunity to squeeze in a breather during a busy day of sight-seeing, and to pay closer attention to the common bits that define a particular locale. At the end of a full day of exploration, my husband and I have become very fond of finding a cafe or bar where we can sit with a drink and watch the world pass by while recapping our experiences. Pulling out my sketchbook has become a comfortable part of that favorite routine.

Waiting to Board

Waiting to Board, BTV     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

That said, this past week in Seattle there were eleven of us, so my best chance to draw was in the morning while everyone was relaxing over coffee as we pulled together our itinerary for the day ahead. Therefore, my drawings are mostly rooms around the house we rented and various breakfast-related still-life set ups. Even so, there is enjoyment in going through each drawing after getting home because, even if the subject itself isn’t that exciting, I am brought back to that moment so precisely: the conversation, the surrounding atmosphere, the overarching feeling of that point in time. It’s a wonderfully direct way to re-experience the moment; there is much to be said for the power of drawings in recording an event.

Cafe Flora

Cafe Flora     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

On the flight home I read this article by Lauren Tamaki who had been tasked by the NYTimes to sketch the Bill Cosby trial since photographs weren’t permitted. Her drawings and accompanying text bring a level of humanness to the proceedings, a quality that could potentially become lost in photographs. My point is not to discount the poignancy and recording power to be found in excellent photography, but rather to draw attention to the benefits contained in a drawing made with time and consideration and which, via the individuality of the artist’s marks and gestures, expresses an immediacy and presence in that particular moment. Details Tamaki captured by hand, such as the ornately carved courtroom door, the assistant district attorney’s hand gestures, or the body language of others in the courtroom, convey an emotional connection with the circumstances that might otherwise be overlooked.

Counter Shapes

Counter Shapes, Breakfast     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Since becoming acquainted with Urban Sketchers, I am much more aware of reportage artists and the importance of their work. Using their skills to tell some of the harder stories that surround us, via means that are arguably more intimate than those of a movie camera or still photography, they have an opportunity to fully immerse us in that particular time and place.

Iris Chair

Iris Chair     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I encourage you to explore a few such artist’s work:

Veronica Lawlor drew on the streets of Manhattan as 9/11 unfolded and in the weeks following. She compiled her sketches in the book September 11, 2001, Words and Pictures. This blog post from The Global Art Junkie drills home the power and authenticity of Lawlor’s drawings in marking that day.

I first learned of Richard Johnson’s work on Instagram. Citizen Sketcher Marc Taro Holmes interviewed Johnson about sketching the homeless in Washington, D.C., resulting in a very interesting discussion about the ethical responsibilities of such work.

Molly Crabapple is an award-winning artist who reports on injustice and rebellion around the world. Her work is spellbinding.

And let’s not forget Winslow Homer who was a reportage artist during the Civil War.

In circling back to the more mundane matter of keeping an account of traveling for pleasure, I know that bringing home spectacular images of newly discovered territory is commonplace when everyone has a smart phone capable of taking wonderful pictures. My husband’s photos are terrific and and I am so grateful for the fleeting moments he is able to catch in a heartbeat.

Knife & Spoon

Knife & Spoon     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Yet there is also a lot to be said for the depth of memories that are rooted in the slower process of drawing. For me, they have unmatchable value as souvenirs.


Puppy Love

How great it is

Quinn 1

Quinn 1     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

to have a model

Quinn 2

Quinn 2     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

who is available 24/7.

Quinn 3

Quinn 3     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

One who only asks for walks,

Quinn 4

Quinn 4     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

and dinner,

Quinn 5

Quinn 5      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

and love.

Quinn 6

Quinn 6     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

 How great it is.


Quinn 7

Quinn 7     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Words to Draw By

One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see.     ~ Georgio Morandi

In the Sink

In the Sink      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Drawing is rather like playing chess: your mind races ahead of the moves that you eventually make.     ~ David Hockney


Kitchen Tools     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Drawing is not what one sees, but what one can make others see.     ~Edgar Degas

Wine Sugar Cookie Jar

Wine, Sugar Bowl, Cookie Jar      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen.     ~ Frederick Franck

An Unexpected Cold Remedy

But first — happy news this past week! I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with painter Tessa Greene O’Brien, who generously took an afternoon off from her residency at the Vermont Studio Center for a studio visit here with me. Tessa is organizing an exhibition at Able Baker Contemporary in Portland, ME this June/July, which will be based on the work of a number of artists who take a formal and painterly approach to their work while incorporating textiles in some form. I am very honored and excited to have been invited to participate! Stay tuned for further details as they unfold.


©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Meanwhile, it’s that time of the year again. The seasons are changing and my “number came up”, meaning it was my turn to contend with a head cold. Enough time has passed since my last one that I have no right to complain, but it’s hard to be stoic when it feels like your head is filled with socks and that you’re dragging the equivalent of Jacob Marley’s chains from room to room. I know you know the feeling.

I’m fortunate it didn’t last long, and I am grateful that the combo of a sketchbook and a pen make for a great diversion. You can’t spend too much time concentrating on how miserable you feel when your brain is busy comparing the space between shapes and getting a curve “just so”.

Quinn 1

Quinn #1     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I continue to be challenged by the relatively wide line of my Lamy Safari fountain pen. Crosshatching and creating a sense of form with a much finer .01 Micron nib is comparatively effortless, producing lines that seem to be naturally more energetic. The thicker stroke of the Safari feels decidedly more awkward and necessitates thinking more in terms of variety of mark and pattern in order to achieve values and textural interest.

Drawing with this pen is a whole different ball game and one that doesn’t come particularly easily to me. But I’m determined to stick with it for two reasons: 1) it’s the only pen I have that glides smoothly (without wearing down), over the relatively rough paper of my Classic Cachet sketchbook… & I still have 1-1/2 sketchbooks of this paper yet to fill! And 2) I’m committed to making it work and hope that by putting in the hours I’ll achieve some level of proficiency. After three months of pretty much daily practice, I’m beginning to see some faint glimmers of progress, but I still have a long way to go.

Quinn 2

Quinn #2     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I am reminded of my past post The Reward of Getting it Wrong, in which I wrote about Kathleen Speranza acknowledging that you have to make many, many pieces in order to glean a handful of successes. She estimates she achieves about a 50% success rate; I am way behind that.

But being cozied up on the sofa with the dog, a cup of tea, and a box of kleenex nearby is not only as good a time as any to log in some practice, but also my best suggestion for getting ahead of a pesky cold.

Again and Again…and Again

For the past two weeks I have been so busy posting images of the latest stitched piece that I completely forgot to show you the original sketch.  It would have made much more sense to insert it last week rather than the quick waterbrush drawing of Quinn, but the happy result of my absent minded oversight is it made figuring out what to write this week much easier!

Coffee 1

© 2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                                          Original sketch from which the fiber piece grew.

I feel like there is still plenty to learn by drawing this white cup and saucer, so I’m planning to keep at it. And while you may feel like you’re experiencing déjà vu, these three sketches really are different from any that I’ve posted before. I would like to read about Georgio Morandi as I’m sure I could learn a lot from his work and ideas. Looking for suggestions, I found an extensive monograph on Amazon with the subtitle Nothing is More Abstract than Reality. The title in itself is enough to pull me in, but the library will be a more viable option. However, if you’ve read a worthwhile biography on Morandi, I would greatly appreciate your recommendation.  You can either leave a comment or email me privately.

©2016 Elizabeth Fram

Meanwhile, I found two quotes from Edgar Degas that ring especially true with what these sketches are helping me to discover:

One must do the same subject over again ten times, a hundred times. In art nothing must resemble an accident, not even movement.

The fascinating thing is not to show the source of light, but the effect of light.

                                                                                                        -Edgar Degas

©2016 Elizabeth Fram

I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Wishing you and yours the best of holidays…