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2013: My Year in Review: Art, Diversions, Dog

Apricots and Butter Jar, Flemish Method, oil on panel, 10x10 in
Apricots and Butter Jar, oil on panel, 10×10 inches

I like to spend New Years Day reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the new one. While last year’s review post was full of artistic accomplishments, 2013 was a mixed year. It started off about art and ended with diversions, digressions and Dog. And in the middle I spent the summer studying Flemish oil painting technique with Alex Zonis, resulting in the painting above. (I took photos of each step along the way in this painting and will post about the process very soon.)

January 2013: Urban Sketchers show and painting dogs

Cocoa: Dog Portrait, oil on panel, 8x8"
Cocoa: Dog Portrait, oil on panel, 8×8″I

The year began well. I completed this commissioned dog portrait (one of five I did in December/January) and my Urban Sketchers group had an exhibit of our sketchbooks and hosted a sketchcrawl for the community.

February and March 2013: Sketching and Painting

Waiting and Watching at Peets, ink, 5x8"
Waiting and Watching at Peets, ink, 5×8″

I continued having fun sketching and completed several oil paintings (a decent portrait and some mostly unsuccessful sunflowers).

Poultry Panorama (2-page spread in my sketchbook).
Poultry Panorama (2-page spread in my sketchbook).

April 2013: Spring sprung; creativity flowed

Crab Apple Paired, Oil on Archival Panel, 10x8"
Crab Apple Paired, Oil on Archival Panel, 10×8″

April was a creative month, with several oil paintings completed including my favorite above. I started sketching in an 8 x 11 Moleskine (see bus sketch below) and attended a sketchcrawl, several museum shows, and the Codex Book Fair.

El Volado the Mexican Bus, ink & watercolor, 8x11"
El Volado the Mexican Bus, ink & watercolor, 8×11″

May 2013: Every Day in May

May was the best month of the year because of the Every Day Matters “Every Day in May” project. I had so much fun doing daily sketching!

EDiM 24-25-26, Laugh (Fiona), Tote, Screw, ink & watercolor, 8x10"
EDiM 24-25-26, Laugh (Fiona), Tote, Screw, ink & watercolor, 8×10″

A UK publisher asked to include a couple of the May sketches in a 2014 book on sketching.

June 2013: Started Flemish painting class and more dog portraits

Sam, A Dog Portrait in Oils, Oil on Panel, 8x8"
Sam, A Dog Portrait in Oils, Oil on Panel, 8×8″

After completing another commissioned dog portrait I began studying the Flemish oil painting method with Alex Zonis over Skype. The result was the Apricot painting at the top of this post, with more than 10 layers of paint, and three months work. I will post about the process soon.

July 2013: Hosted First West Coast Sketchcrawl

Coit Tower, from Levi Plaza.. SF Sketchcrawl 40, ink & watercolor 7x5"
Coit Tower, from Levi Plaza, SF Sketchcrawl 40, ink & watercolor 7×5″

My Urban Sketchers group worked hard for much of July to prepare for hosting the first 3-day West Coast Urban Sketchcrawl in San Francisco and Oakland which was a great success with nearly 75 people each day. Meanwhile, I continued working on the apricot painting.

August 2013: Show at the Collector Gallery

My wall in the group show at the Collector
My wall in the group show at the Collector

August was a month of many successes: after a lot of prep work for the show at the Collector gallery, I sold 5 paintings and a print (4 at the show, 2 from my website, 3 of which went to France and Switzerland). I continued working on the Flemish method apricot oil painting with Alex; still the only oil painting in progress in the studio.

September 2013: New York Art Adventure!

New Makeup for New York, ink and watercolor, 7.5" x 11" spread
New Makeup for New York, ink and watercolor, 7.5″ x 11″ spread

I bound a new sketchbook and shopped for things I needed for my trip to New York City after deciding my funky, frumpy Berkeley visage wouldn’t cut it in NY. FINALLY finished the Flemish method oil painting of apricots!

Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, ink and watercolor, 5.5x7.5"
Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, ink and watercolor, 5.5×7.5″

The NYC trip was fantastic! I had a blast, visiting with New York artist friends, going to museums and sketching the city. I didn’t want to come home!

October 2013: A sketchcrawl and the flu

Jack London Cabin and Wolf Statue, ink and watercolor, 10x7 in
Jack London Cabin and Wolf Statue, ink and watercolor, 10×7 in

I did very little sketching or painting in October as I was sick nearly the entire month from a bug I caught traveling that lasted three weeks and finally required antibiotics. I did manage to get to a sketchcrawl at Jack London Square.

November: Thanksgiving and surgery

Thanksgiving Centerpiece, ink and watercolor, 5x7.5 in
Thanksgiving Centerpiece, ink and watercolor, 5×7.5 in

I recovered from the October illness just in time to have a planned surgery on Halloween to correct a long-standing problem. The supposed 2-3 week recovery time took nearly 5 weeks. I was very grateful to be well enough to attend Thanksgiving dinner, my first real outing all month. I did very little sketching and no painting in November, due to limited mobility and energy.

December: It’s all about the DOG

My new dog Millie, ink and watercolor, 5x5 in
My new dog Millie sketched from life, ink and watercolor, 5×5 in

I’ve wanted a dog for years and finally, just as I recovered from surgery I found my perfect pup. I’ve had 5-month old Millie for one month and she is so much fun. We’ve been walking 3 to 7 miles in nature every day. She’s a 20 pound Formosa Mountain Dog, who was rescued with her litter in Taiwan and shipped here by a rescue group for adoption. When I met her it was love at first sight.

Millie in a winter sweater
Millie in a silly winter sweater

I’ve done very little artwork or blog posting while working out a routine with the dog and my two cats in December, recovering from surgery in November and October’s flu bug. Now it’s a new year and I’m finding my way back to painting and sketching again (and hopefully more regular blogging)!

Millie and I on adoption day
Millie and I on adoption day

Looking ahead in 2014

My goal for 2014 is to continue to explore and focus on how (and what) I most enjoy drawing and painting, and then work more consistently with that approach and subject matter. I also want to focus on being more present and connected to nature, the seasons, weather, and the calendar, and reflecting that connection in my art.

18 replies on “2013: My Year in Review: Art, Diversions, Dog”

Beautiful work! Hope your health is very fine this year. And I am excitedly awaiting the Flemish oil painting process demonstration!! God’s blessings for the New Year. C-Marie


This is absolutely fantastic! I love every last thing! I am just in awe at the beautiful things you create, and how marvelous that you are not only gifted to see beauty, but talented and skilled enough to create beauty, and persistent enough to be so prolific. The Lord bless you! What a gift to us all.


Wonderful review, Jana. So glad that you are feeling better and starting in on your New Year goals. Those walks sound ambitious to me but they will be wonderful for you and your dog to share. I always enjoy the beauty and humor that you discover and share with us. It adds to our own lives so much. Happiest of New Years to you !!


Always great posts Jana. Wonderful review and so glad to see you’ve got a dog now. They are wonderful companions and even if not a guard dog, deter crime at your home.
Stay well, and have a great 2014.


Jana, I enjoyed reading about your past year and your new goals. You are so talented in everything you do. Your sketches, and paintings, and your writing are all so well done. Thanks for taking the time to share it all!! I wish you a happy and healthy new year 🙂


Hi Jana

I think your apricot painting is wonderful – the hard work has paid off. I can feel the fuzzy skin and taste the tartness of the fruit. Have a creative 2014 and good health too. Regards Carol

P.S I had a hassle commenting on the blog !!


Wow, what a year. i enjoyed reading your 2013 recap. Your work is all so good be it watercolors or oils. I look forward to hearing about Alex’ class.

And I’m in LOVE with Millie. She’s the cutest. Give her a good girl pat on the head for me.

Happy new year Jana. I hope you make it back to NYC soon.


A happy & healthy New Year, Jana! I love your work, watercolor & oils, and always look forward to seeing your posts. You are so gifted and talented. I learn a lot by reading what you write and observing your painting and drawing. I think I have a “little pen” in everything I do. 🙂 Enjoy Millie, what a joy! I look forward to seeing your 2014 accomplishments.


With the exception of the last few months, you had a phenomenal year! I absolutely love the Flemish Painting technique paintings…so much that I think I might have to go learn something about it! Love your Millie…I see a future artist’s model! Happy New Year!


Hi Raena, How great to hear from you. Thanks for visiting and leaving such a nice comment. I’d been very intrigued by the Flemish method and I’m glad I learned how it’s done, though I think it’s not something I’ll continue in just that way since it’s so time consuming–you basically paint the same painting several times, one on top of the next. I will be posting the whole process shortly. I am happier when doing alla prima work with bigger brushes and thicker paint. But there are portions of what I learned in the process that will be really helpful to use in part. Happy New Year to you too! Jana


Ha ha. Yeah, some of that is definitely true, but I’ve really lucked out with her. Her foster family did a great job socializing her and crate training her. She loves her crate and sleeps in there at night and when I have to leave her home alone (though I also use the back of my SUV as her home away from home and take her with me when the weather is cool enough or I park in a garage). In fact, she sleeps all night, longer than I do. I have to entice her out for a walk in the morning.

We do a lot of walks and the rest of the time she’s pretty happy to sit in her dog beds that I keep on the sofa and another one in the studio and chew on dog toys or sleep. We’ve pretty much got housebreaking squared away, but the leash walking can be challenging as she has a mind of her own–especially around traffic: she either wants to run right into it or is terrified of it and won’t budge if we get near a busy street.

After my son’s wedding in a week I’ll be signing us up for training classes which I’m looking forward to! Jana


All wonderful. A great year Jana! Love Millie, and she looks great in her sweater! Favorite painting – the first still life – gorgeous! Catherine

Catherine Hunt Alspach


Wow what a year. You did some incredible oil paintings, created some evocative, energetic memories in your sketchbook and best of all found the blessing of a real friend in your beautiful new dog. May 2014 be evn more filled with wonder and happiness.


It’s sometimes difficult to keep painting & sketching amid life’s challenges, disruptions & busyness. Great to see your endeavors. The dog portraits convey their “person”alities. The apricots & jar — such lush textures & smooth reflections, subtle color in the shadows. Very delightful! Here’s to creativity in 2014!!


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