Ode to a Gourd

It is Fall and… gourds! I have been taking online watercolor classes taught by my watercolor sensei, Kate Weese, since March of this year. There is still so much about watercolor I am discovering and learning. One of the many things I love about Kate’s watercolor classes are the in-class and homework assignments which push me out of my watercolor-comfort zone of small brushes and wet-on-dry. A couple of weeks ago, this was our homework assignment – Paint gourd(s) from a unique perspective. So off to the market we went… my son picked a greenish, yellowish warty gourd with no stem. Given the variation in color and texture of the gourd, I decided to paint using wet-on-wet letting the water organically move and mix the colors.. I started off with painting the top of the gourd – looking straight down on to it. And then I kept painting… painting the bottom of the gourd… and then the side.

The colors, the texture, the shapes, the shadows… so much to appreciate.

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Gourd – Top
Gourd – Green Side
Gourd – Bottom
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Things I’ve learned:
– Wet-on-wet : Using big brushes (Princeton Snap 9650 Round #12) to lay down water on paper and then small brushes (Princeton Snap 9650 Round #6 and Rosemary & Co. Ser. 441 Half Rigger #2) to drop colors into the water is fun and meditative, watching the color travel wherever the water takes it.
– Perylene Green and Quinacridene Gold Hue from Schmincke are now on the roster of my favorite colors (joining Pewter Lake, Blackcurrant Red Lake and Indigo from Case for Making)

Painting gourds IS as fun as painting pears! This gourd now sits on my desk begging to be painted again.

Ode to Pears

Trio of Pears, watercolor portrait

A few weeks ago, my son approached me about a project for his Digital Photography class. He had been assigned to recreate a painting through the medium of digital photography, by replicating the subject matter, lighting, etc. He chose a Still Life with Skull by Paul Cézanne. This painting consisted of the aforementioned skull, a plant, 6 pears, and what appears to be a single lemon. I was tasked to buy the pears, since that was the only thing we didn’t have on hand. (In case, you are wondering why we already had a skull… I made a skull in my Ceramics class in college and have kept it all these years.). I don’t usually buy pears as I am allergic to them so now that we had them on hand, I took advantage of the opportunity and used them as subjects for a small series of watercolor portraits. Turns out I r-e-a-l-l-y enjoy painting them. Looks like I will be buying more pears in the future.

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Stepping out…

Watermelon Radish - QuickStudy Composition 1 - watercolor sketch

After over a year of sheltering in from the pandemic, we are gradually emerging back into the open, into a new normal. In the spirit of stepping out, I decided that it was time to take my very first online class. I had never taken an online class and if you can believe it, never had a Zoom meeting before (I have Facetime and had Google Meet-ings but no Zoom-ing). Serendipitously, my watercolor sensei , Kate Weese, announced she was going to hold intermediate watercolor classes over Zoom – a year after she had cancelled her in-studio classes. I signed up along with some friends of mine, ready to learn and step out of my “comfort zone”.

Looking at my website, you probably already have an idea of my watercolor “comfort zone” – lots of small, detailed, and mostly realistic illustrations of twigs, lichen, leaves, and branches painted wet-on-dry with small (some say, “tiny”) brushes (sizes 3/0, 2/0, 0, 1, 2, 4) on cold press paper.

So, how did I do? Here is a sampling of sketches from my inaugural online watercolor classes:

Rock with Lichen.
Watermelon Radishes Study #1
Starfish. watercolor illustration
Pears. Wet-on-Wet vs Wet-on-Dry
Twig with Lichen. Experimenting with salt on watercolor
Landscape – Wet-on-Wet
Watermelon Radish - QuickStudy Composition 1 - watercolor study
Watermelon Radish – Study #2
Buddy – a painting of my parrot Buddy in neutral colors

These sketches demonstrate the skills that challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone:

  • Painting wet-on-wet
  • Mixing neutrals using primary colors
  • Using big (in my world, “ginormous”) brushes (sizes 12, 16)
  • Painting landscapes and animals
  • Painting quick studies of under 10 minutes each – which is particularly challenging because I don’t get the chance to let the watercolor dry between layers

I plan to continue practicing these new skills – they aren’t as scary as they used to be, but they are a challenge! Stay tuned – I’ve signed up for more classes 🙂

Speaking of…

sketchbooks. I just created a new page on this website dedicated to my current sketchbook, a watercolor journal. I wanted a place where I could present some of my illustrations in my own way, independent of the restrictions on format and intrusions of ads present on social media.

This little sketchbook has become my daily companion, and a keeper of lessons learned and my meditations “to see things as they are”.


Page 6 | Page 7

Back in August, I posted about my participation in The Sketchbook Project. Well, my sketchbook has made it to the Brooklyn Art Library and has finally been cataloged and digitized – and it even has a call number – 400.18-04!

You can view my sketchbook online: https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/S306347… or if you are lucky enough to visit the Brooklyn Art Library in person, you can check out my sketchbook, turn its pages, and interact with my illustrations and collages. I hope one day to be reunited with my sketchbook – a motivation for me to be creative, to draw, to paint, and to compose. It was my companion for 10 months and a refuge from the anxiety, fear, and uncertainty that defined 2020.

Hindsight is 2020…

Pelicans flying south over the water


2020 was one big surreal blur of a year but it did bring into focus what truly is important.

Hoping 2021 will be a year in which justice, kindness, empathy, compassion, wellness, love, and peace prevail.

The Sketchbook Project

UPDATE – My sketchbook has been catalogued and digitized at the Brooklyn Art Library. For more information, see my note 400.18-04 from Jan.22.2021.

Years ago, my dear friend Stef introduced me to The Sketchbook Project. Basically, you order a sketchbook, fill it, and send it back to live at the Brooklyn Art Library, where it can be checked out in person or online (if you choose to have the sketchbook digitized). Some lucky sketchbooks even get to go on tours and exhibits! Stef encouraged me to participate in The Sketchbook Project, but I was hesitant. The thought of my work being part of an “official” library/exhibition of art was intimidating. Only up until very recently has my art been primarily a more personal, private endeavor.

In November of 2019, 2020 was fast approaching – a new year, a new decade, a perfect year (so I thought) to embark on a renewed commitment to further my artistic ambitions. So… I signed up to be an “Official Sketchbook Artist of the Brooklyn Art Library”. After the sketchbook arrived, it sat on my desk – intimidating me with its blankness. After a couple of days, I took a breath and put pencil to paper.

Fast forward nine months, today I dropped off my sketchbook at the post office and it is making its way to the Brooklyn Art Library. Once it is digitized at the library, it will be available for you to check out online. If you are lucky enough to travel to the Brooklyn Art Library, my sketchbook will be there for you to check out in person, that is, if it is not on tour.

Learning : Watercolor

Rocks. Experimenting with salt and alcohol in watercolor

I have always been intrigued by watercolor. Its fluidity, its transparency, the organic ways the watercolor interacts with the paper… but the same things that intrigued me so, also seemed the most daunting. A little over two years ago, I finally decided to learn more about the medium that had intimidated me so much over the years.

Through a fortunate stroke of serendipity, the person I would look to, to help me embark on my journey in watercolor is someone I met about 30 years ago. Kate lived next door to the basement apartment, my two roommates and I shared in North Berkeley. I had the privilege of getting to know Kate and her family… even babysitting her two boys. I admired (and I continue to be inspired by) Kate’s aesthetic and graphic designs. Now, Kate makes art and teaches watercolor classes & workshops from her studio in Kensington, CA.

In February 2018, I signed up for Kate’s Intro to Watercolor workshop. Through Kate’s thoughtful lessons of the basic materials and techniques, and encouragement to experiment without fear, I quickly fell in love with painting in watercolors. After the class, I began my own explorations in watercolor which marked the beginning of my Down to Earth collection of illustrations.

Rock with Lichen.
Rock with Lichen.
Starfish. watercolor illustration
Twig with Lichen. Experimenting with salt on watercolor
Twig with Lichen. Experimenting with salt on watercolor

Sketches from my first (ever) watercolor class. Feb 2018

Then in May 2019, I attended Kate’s Exploring Watercolor with Beginner’s Mind retreat at the Tassajara Zen Center with a group of wonderfully creative friends. Through Kate’s mindful lessons and demonstrations, I learned even more about watercolor – techniques, tools, color mixing. Tassajara is tucked away in a remote area of the Ventana Wilderness. Off the grid, there are no distractions other than the inspiring views of the surrounding mountains, the sound of the creek, and the warmth of the hot springs. This six day retreat dedicated to mindfulness, watercolor and creativity finally clarified the innate connection between my art practice and my informal approach to meditation.

Leaf. Tassajara
Leaf. Tassajara
Rocks. Experimenting with salt and alcohol in watercolor
Rocks. Experimenting with salt and alcohol.

Sketches from the watercolor retreat at Tassajara. May 2019

I am continuing my journey and diving deeper into watercolor – savoring every moment and always learning.

Thank you Kate for demystifying watercolor and inspiring me with your graceful creative spirit. Thank you for opening my eyes to a medium that speaks to me, and speaks for me. I am so grateful our paths crossed all those years ago.

If you are interested in Kate’s art, classes and workshops, I encourage you to visit her website: https://www.katebweese.com/.

Learning : Ceramics

Ellie. ceramic sculpture

During my days at Cal, my art practice was focused primarily on two-dimensional art: drawing, painting and printmaking. For some reason, that extra third dimension seemed intimidating to me. In an attempt to push myself beyond my comfort zone, I took a Ceramic Sculpture class taught by Professor Richard Shaw. Although I had the skills to translate three-dimensional spaces and objects on to two-dimensional surfaces (paper/canvas), I still found sculpting three-dimensional works challenging, and I ended the class feeling a bit deflated – not understanding the disconnect between my head, my hands, and the clay.

Fast forward to 2013… through a mutual friend, I was introduced to Jenni Ward. Jenni was looking for someone to help her with her website. Serendipitously, Jenni is an amazing ceramic artist who also taught ceramic classes from her home studio. In September 2013, I slipped my toe into the clay (sorry, pun intended) – attending my first ceramic class since the one I took at UC Berkeley. This time around, as my hands began to work the clay – everything felt different – there was no hesitation or intimidation. Over the course of the next 4.5 years, I would learn so much from Jenni – hand-building techniques, how to make teapots that don’t dribble, why ceramics aren’t glazed on the bottom, how to throw on the wheel, to name a few – but most of all a deep appreciation for the workmanship and art of ceramics.

Thank you Jenni for inspiring me with your patience, your guidance, your beautiful nature-inspired ceramics, and your wanderlust. Most of all thank you for reigniting my passion for making art, and showing me that it doesn’t have to be just a “hobby”.

I will be updating the website with a collection of some of my favorite pieces from my time at Jenni’s studio. As an introduction, Ellie – the first ceramic sculpture in the collection – is now on the website: https://www.priscillashihcinque.com/ceramics/in-the-room.

If you would like to learn more about Jenni and her amazing sculptures and installations, please visit her website: https://www.jenniward.com/.

On Line

Forest at Night - close up view

Back in 2014, I began a series of illustrations that resulted in a collection of linescapes. More abstract than my most recent work – these illustrations are meditations on the drawing of lines. Each linescape took a lot of concentration and was completed over multiple sessions. These illustrations represent some of the first works in which I integrated meditation as part of my drawing practice.

I have added a collection of LINESCAPES to the website – you can see them HERE.