CRAFT BYTE – Upcyled Denim Coasters

Deanna Williamson, Coaster 1, 6" x 6", denim
Deanna Williamson, Coaster 1, 6″ x 6″, denim
Deanna Williamson, Coaster 4, 6" x 6", denim
Deanna Williamson, Coaster 4, 6″ x 6″, denim
Deanna Williamson, Coaster 3, 6" x 6", denim
Deanna Williamson, Coaster 3, 6″ x 6″, denim
Deanna Williamson, Coaster 4, 6" x 6", denim
Deanna Williamson, Coaster 4, 6″ x 6″, denim

This is a good way to recycle worn-out or out-grown jeans. And it makes a very practical coaster.  These lie flat, are absorbent, machine washable and dryable, and very easy to make.

  1. Cut the denim into whatever size squares – or circles –  you want.
  2. Stitch two or more layers together by hand or on a machine.
  3. Color them with permanent felt tip markers.  You can color on both sides and make them reversible.

When you wash them the first couple of times they will get some straggly looking loose threads loose around the edges. Just trim them off with scissors – unless you LIKE scraggly looking edges. To each his (or her) own.


Deanna Williamson, Blocks, 6" x 8.5", ballpoint pen, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Blocks, 6″ x 8.5″, ballpoint pen, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Shop Corner, 8.5" x 6", ballpoint pen, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Shop Corner, 8.5″ x 6″, ballpoint pen, 2016

Like the previous post this one is about drawing the effect of light and shadow outside.  The light/dark contrast is greater in these drawings because they were done with a ballpoint pen instead of the #2 pencil lead used in the previous drawings. Pens are great for contrast, but the fact that you can’t erase makes them a bit trickier to use.

The thing is, the ability to erase can actually slow you down – especially if you are a perfectionist. This can be a problem when drawing outside due to the fact that the earth is rotating approximately one thousand mph. By the time you erase and redo just a few things, your light can have faded or your shadows moved significantly from where they were to begin with. However, if you’re working with a pen you will be forced to either keep going and try to make adjustments or start completely over – in which case you may never get a finished drawing.

The best thing to do then, is find a pen that is capable of making a light mark without skipping.  That way you can develop a preliminary sketch before irreversibly darkening anything.  And you can do some subtle cross hatching. Problem solved.

I used to draw a lot with the really cheap Papermate™ pen that sells in packages of a gazillion for a dollar. (You get used to these types of economies when teaching art in public schools.) They were adequate as far as value changes go, but can be unreliable and also they have the inconvenient caps. (These caps are also a problem in high school class rooms where they can serve as convenient missiles for students who are tempted to throw things. I once had nearly a whole baseball team in 5th period. That year I discovered that pen caps were only a fraction of the arsenal lying around the art room just waiting to be pitched.)

Anyway, lately I’ve tried several different pens including the Paper Mate InkJoy™ ball point and two different kinds of Pilot™ gel pens. My favorite pen so far, however, is the Bic Atlantis™ ballpoint.  It makes a wonderfully smooth yet variable line, and is retractable.

August is a good time to try out new products like pens, because school supply sections in stores are bursting with promotional deals. They will also have some products that are not normally on the shelves the rest of the year.


Deanna Williamson, Bricks, 6" x 8.5", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Bricks, 6″ x 8.5″, pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Afternoon, 8.5" x 6", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Afternoon, 8.5″ x 6″, pencil, 2016

Like painting, drawings can emphasize one element over another.  A drawing can be about line, value, texture and even color. These drawings are about contrast in value.  Lately, I’ve been very interested in trying to create a convincing light and shadow effect.

Strong contrast in value can be created indoors by shining a lamp on the subject. However, if I want to draw outside, I need to look for contrast in the environment. My favorite times of day to do this are in the early morning or late afternoon. That’s when shadows are long and the sun lights up the trunks of trees and other things that are usually in shade. (Mornings and evenings are also more comfortable for being outside in the summer where I live. Less heat and humidity and fewer mosquitoes and such.)

Two things to consider while working outside.  1) Typical of other on-the-spot drawings, these need to be done quickly since the sun doesn’t stand still. In fact, when you’re trying to do a realistic drawing, shadows can change ridiculously fast. 2) The drawing medium can make a difference in the level of contrast possible. These drawings were both done with the Pentel™ 0.9 mm pencil which gets as dark as a regular # 2 pencil but never truly black.  If you want really strong contrast, work with a softer lead or with a pen.  The drawings in the next post post will be similar to these but in ball point pen.


Deanna Williamson, Cafe, 8.5" x 6", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Cafe, 8.5″ x 6″, pencil, 2016

In the previous post I wrote about drawing things from the viewpoint of the passenger seat.  These have to be super fast sketches because of the length of our visual memory, so my drawings were tiny renditions of individual objects.

This post is about drawing the things you may encounter at stops along the way.  The top drawing was at a cafe in Fort Davis, Texas.  I would love to have gone into more detail on that ivy but ran out of time. As I mentioned in a previous post about on-the-spot drawing, sometimes you have to let go of the idea of a finished drawing or you may never get started on one in these situations.

Deanna Williamson, White Sands, 6" x 8.5", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, White Sands, 6″ x 8.5″, pencil, 2016

This is the picnic area at Sand Hills State Park near Monahans, TX.  If you ever get a chance to go there, you’ll find that it’s like the beach without the ocean.  They even have plastic surfboards for sliding down the dunes.

Deanna Williamson, Roadside, 8.5" x 6", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Roadside, 8.5″ x 6″, pencil, 2016

This shade tree was at a rest stop near Sweetwater, Texas.  Taking a dog along on a trip gives you more reasons to stop at places like this. See the windmills in the background? Wind farms are a wonderful sight to see in west Texas.

Deanna Williamson, Flat Tire, 8.5" x 6", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Flat Tire, 8.5″ x 6″, pencil, 2016

I saw this truck while sitting at a Sonic Drive-In in Monroe, Louisiana. I got the tires out of proportion to each other, but it was necessary to spend some of my time there eating a hamburger (actually a delicious steak sandwich which are not available at our local Sonic).

Deanna Williamson, Palmetto, 8.5" x 6", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Palmetto, 8.5″ x 6″, pencil, 2016

This palmetto was at a service station also in Monroe.  Since we were only there to get gas (and boudin) I didn’t feel that I had time to do it justice so I took a picture and drew it later from the phone gallery.  Soon I’ll do another post about using a cell phone camera as a source of models.


Deanna Williamson, Roadtrip, 8.5" x 6", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Roadtrip, 8.5″ x 6″, pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Texas Trees, 8.5" x 6", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Texas Trees, 8.5″ x 6″, pencil, 2016

Visual memory is very short but this is a good exercise for it. To look, see, and draw while riding down the road 80 mph is a challenge.  It’s easier, however, if you decide on a category or theme of objects to look for.  This is similar to an add-on drawing but is unified by subject.

I discovered the idea on a recent road trip.  At the time I was just trying to find a way to draw while riding. I started the first drawing with some simple buildings, grain elevators, the distant mountains, and one of the ever-present pumps. As the scenes flew by, the drawing evolved into a collection of mostly signs. Repetition of the signs unified the whole. That is where I got the idea of a theme. So on the way home I drew the collection of Texas trees.  Later I may get the road sign one back out and try to do a finished version with shading or color.

Themed collections are good for practicing observational skills. For instance a drive through west Texas may seem to be just endless miles of beige flatness broken only by scrubby trees, trains, light poles, and oil pumps. However, when you start looking closely enough to draw, you will notice that each of those scrubby trees has a unique character. The pumps vary in size, and configuration.  The trains are strings of bright saturated color passing over a panorama of earth tones. The light poles range from simple T’s to monstrous two legged constructs that seem to march across the desert like an army of robots. Even the desert is a constantly changing palette of color and texture spreading over vast distances like a tapestry.

I found a similar idea to my themed drawing prompt in a book called SKETCH by France Belleville-Van Stone. She calls it an inventory and offers some variations on the idea.  I highly recommend this book if you’re into daily drawing and would like some inspiration and practical tips.





Deanna Williamson, Car Wash, 6" x 8.5", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Car Wash, 6″ x 8.5″, pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Monahans, 6" x 8.5", pencil, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Monahans,TX 6″ x 8.5″, pencil, 2016

The focus of this post is about basic materials for on-the-spot drawing. First, I usually carry a small sketchbook – 8.5″ x 6″ or smaller – because they are more convenient to carry and because it’s best to do smaller drawings when time is limited. If I go out just for the purpose of drawing, I might carry a 9″ x 12″ or larger, but the idea here is to always have one with me in case an unexpected opportunity arises.

I also prefer mechanical pencils because they eliminate the need for a sharpener. Again, if I’m going out specifically to draw, I might take an assortment of pencils, a sharpener, some pens and maybe even watercolors. (Wait! Do I ever get to do that? Uh, no.) Anyway, the Paper Mate SHARPWRITER™ was my favorite until my recent road trip to Texas, where I purchased a Pentel Twist-Erase™ at the Hobby Lobby in Odessa. It was my first mechanical with 0.9 mm lead.

The next day I took it for a test drive at the car wash in Monahans.  (By the way, this is the second road trip to Texas on which we’ve had to pause and wash the car.  Last year the windshield was coated with honey when we hit a swarm of bees.  This year we had to drive through some flash flooding. The irony is that we’d passed through Louisiana during all that historical flooding without having encountered any standing water, only to have to plunge into it on a Texas freeway. Who knew?) But back to the amazing pencil. The coverage and durability were so much better than my usual .7 mm’s that I used it exclusively for the rest of the trip and now keep one with me all the time.



Deanna Williamson, Waiting Room, 7.5" x 11", ballpoint pen, 2015
Deanna Williamson, Waiting Room, 7.5″ x 11″, ballpoint pen, 2015

When I was in college, one of my drawing teachers loaned me her copy of On-the-Spot Drawing by Nick Meglin.  This book is not a how-to-draw book.  It’s an inspirational book full of the works twelve famous illustrators who draw on location. Any location. I loved it so much that I got myself a copy as soon as I could afford one and have carried sketchbooks around with me ever since. My next several posts will contain some of my on-the-spot work and some tips I’ve learned for drawing in various situations.

This post is about drawing in waiting rooms which are great places to practice drawing people. The main reason is because they’re usually reading, watching TV or even dozing, like the man in my drawing below. Also, anytime you’re drawing strangers, you don’t have to worry about getting a likeness.

The problem is that people may get up and leave before you’re finished with them. There are different ways of dealing with this. One way is to just let go of the idea of a finished drawing. If you look at the work of sketch artists you will see that this is prevalent. Many of them routinely leave parts of drawings unfinished and allow the viewer’s imagination to finish them.  I’ll spend more time on this idea in a later post.

Another solution is to make some creative adjustments to the drawing. In the book I mentioned above,  Alan E. Cober tells of how he began drawing a nun who was reading a magazine in a waiting room.  He had only finished her veil when she got up and left. Right away a man came in, sat down in that seat, picked up the same magazine and began reading. Instead of starting over, Cober just added the man’s face and body to the nun’s veil. The result was an unlikely but interesting looking “man nun”.

Sometimes if you have too much time it can result in a drawing that looks fussy and overworked like my portrait below.  I thought the man had an interesting profile and went to a lot of trouble trying to capture the pronounced nose and tiny ponytail.

Deanna Williamson, Waiting, 8.5" x 6", ballpoint pen, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Waiting, 8.5″ x 6″, ballpoint pen, 2016

I don’t think this book is in print anymore but you can still find it on Amazon. Mine is worn out from being carried around shared with my own students.


Deanna Williamson, Popcorn Tree,7.5" x 7.5", copper foil
Deanna Williamson, Popcorn Tree, 7.5″ x 7.5″, copper foil

Repoussé is a process in which lines or shapes are pressed into the back of metal foil to make an image stand out on the other side.  My piece above is really more like foil embossing than genuine repoussé, which can involve expensive tools and metal.

I chose a tree as a subject because line is often a dominant element in this medium. This particular tree was inspired by a gnarly popcorn tree outside my kitchen window. The patterns in between the branches are based on zentangles. These make good fillers for any spaces that need pattern added in.

If you’re interested in more details about the process of repoussé, here are a couple of good references. Read this one if you’re working with children or just want to try it out without going to a lot of expense. Go here if you want to see the real deal. If you want to see some fabulous work, look at this Pinterest page and others like it.


Deanna Williamson, Shinar, 8" x 11", ballpoint pen and watercolor, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Shinar, 8″ x 11″, ballpoint pen and watercolor, 2016

This is another sketch-book prompt that can yield endless ideas. The process is similar to the add-on drawing except that you work from photos instead of taking subject matter from your surroundings. Just collect a bunch of interesting pictures out of old magazines and put them in a folder to take along with your sketch book. Here’s the process for creating a composite:

  1. Choose a photo from the folder and draw something from it anywhere on the sketchbook page. (Feel free to leave out details you don’t want.)
  2. Choose another photo and add that into your drawing.
  3. Keep adding things until you fill your space.
  4. Let some things touch or overlap.
  5. Finish with color, pattern or shading. Or leave it as it is.

The objects you compile into a drawing may or may not be related subject matter. In my composite above, I was using mostly landscape elements when I got the idea to turn the drawing into a Tower of Babel scene.  To do that, I needed to get rid of some Grand Canyon rock formations I’d drawn in the background. Since I was working in pen, I couldn’t erase them, so I used a craft knife to cut them out and wound up cutting out the whole sky as well.  (It was really hard cutting around all those tiny branches!) I replaced the sky by gluing the drawing onto a colorful watercolor wash. (It was very difficult to glue down all those tiny branches!) Then I colored the river to reflect the sky and create a unified effect. Finally, I added the kitty in the lower left corner as a nod to my cat loving friends.

If you’re not familiar with the story of Babel, here’s a good article about it.