their work and words, interviews, blogs, images, hints, tips, websites
and more...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

exploring primaries and lightening your load with WC pencil!

I love to play with simplifying my kit, to see how I can lighten the load and still do whatever it is I want to. Here, you can see a set of muted primaries from Faber Castell's Albrecht Durer line, and a brighter set from Inktense...both are very versatile! (And if you don't want to be that intense, you can mix like crazy as you can see at lower left!)

I've been working on my upcoming mini-class on watercolor pencils, as you can tell!  It'll be a while yet, but you can watch for it HERE.

These are some possibilities from the Albrecht Durer set...I've found them to be as intense as Inktense, and I choose them for the best possible lightfastness.  Both have their advantages, of course!

Here's another set of possibilities for using only three pencils...Derwent Blue Gray and a couple of A-Ds (wish I could remember WHAT...)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Watch for Interview #11--Lapin!

The French artist who goes by the name of Lapin now lives in Spain and has the most wonderful style--strong, graphic, energetic and clean.  He's a correspondent on this blog as well as the Urban Sketchers blog...I'll bet you've seen his work!  Yum...great sketching tools, too, which you can read about on his blog.

He loves to work on old journals and ledgers he picks up secondhand...he says the paper's delicious.  Sure looks that way, too!  Take a look at this sketch of Veronique... doesn't the ledger paper give this an interesting effect?  I'd like to get to know her!  (And I KNOW I've kept an eye peeled for interesting ledger books at thrift stores...)

Lapin's travel books (check out the links at left on his web page) really capture locales around the world in fresh, immediate ways.   Visit Rome, Japan, New York, Mexico and more with the consummate traveler...I have a copy of this wonderful little book, a reproduction of one of his sketchbooks...sold out, unfortunately! http://laboutiquedelapin.bigcartel.com/product/lapin-%C3%A0-ramatuelle --take a peek anyway.

There will be lots more art when we run Interview #11 with Lapin...and of course in the meantime, don't miss his website: http://lesillustrationsdelapin.com/ or his blog, HERE!

Thanks, Lapin, I know this will be worth waiting for!  (Our tornado/thunderstorm season has kept me off the computer, just when I wanted to work!_

Friday, May 27, 2011

New CD...not yet, but SOON.

I'd started this CD  shortly before I got my new computer...over a year ago!  So some of you have been waiting a long time, sorry...my new machine doesn't like my old movie-making software, and I love the way it works.  I've tried other software, but never quite taken the time to get the hang of it...

I finally realized that when Joseph's not using his computer, I can--it still has the old Windows MovieMaker on it!  (So does my new machine, but it's a simplified version that just doesn't cut it for me!)

I often sketch trees when I work in my journal, either close up or in distant landscapes, and I know a lot of you do, too...the CD will have a LOT of images from my journals, along with hints and tips on how to draw or paint them in various mediums!

This one was done with one of the brush pens we've been talking about here...in this case, a Pentel Pocketbrush, with touches of watercolor.

And these little guys above were a very quick sketch with a dark Prismacolor colored pencil, with watercolor added later.  That's one of my favorite quick journal-sketch techniques.  I either add color on the spot with one of my little travel kits, or do it later at home and hone my color memory!

This wild thing has been one of my favorites!  Watercolor pencil in bold colors--more my impression of a fall tree than an actual reproduction...

It'll be a while till I can finish this, but it IS--finally!--in the works again!  Thanks for your patience...and yes, I'm working on new mini-classes, too...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Artist's Journal Workshop Facebook group

We have a new Facebook group

At this point, the blog here has 28 co-authors, all people who have been involved in the book.  I love sharing here, and will obviously keep doing just that, with my own thoughts on journaling, product reviews,  interviews from our co-authors and their posts on process, supplies, tools, thoughts, needs, just as we've been doing for months now.  The FB group doesn't replace the blog...this place is my baby, not to mention a great place to meet with friends!

But I also wanted to create a place where we could ALL share our work--blog authors, readers, and anyone who keeps an art journal, so the Facebook group may just be the place.  You're welcome to join and post whatever you're doing in your own artists' journal!  I just set it up this morning, so join us and add your bits, you'll enrich it no end...

Don't be shy!  Finished work, quick sketches, whatever you're doing at the time...it's all about sharing.
It's an open group...so whether you do ink sketches, watercolor, collage, memory pages, travel journaling, , add your images! 

If you lose the link above, I kept it simple--it's got the same name as the blog (and the book!)--Artist's Journal Workshop.  Just enter that in the search box at the top of a Facebook page and it should pop right up.

I'm just learning the ins and outs of FB's updated groups, so be patient with me please...but feel free to go check it out, join us, add your own images, whatever!

And it will be fun!

Testing Tools...more ink pens!

As always, I'm looking for good sketching tools, both those with a fine, crisp line and those that offer some variety...

Here's one I tried on a whim, the Platinum Pocket Brush, which has a fiber tip rather than the brush, like Pentel's Pocket Brush (which I also love!)  The Platinum comes with a cartridge of  Platinum's waterproof Carbon Black ink, which I enjoy in my fountain pens, though in bottle form I believe you need to shake it occasionally (The cartridges come with a little roller ball inside that keeps the ink stirred!).

At first I had problems getting the cartridge to fit in place, but the good people at Jet Pens told me how (basically, PUSH!)

I do like the line variety, from very fine to thunderously black...these are inexpensive and versatile, and well worth the $3.00 it cost and then some!  (Yes, you read that right.  THREE DOLLARS.  With cartridge!)
You can see more here.

Like the Pentel Pocket Brush, the ink stays put when you wash over it...FUN for sketching in our journals.  The fiber nib of the Platinum is stiffer, of course, but it's also nicely controllable.

And by the way, I was delighted to find that the Pentel Pocket Brush is now available at my longtime favorite brick-and-mortar art supply store, Creative Coldsnow in Kansas City!  It's a wonderful warren of rooms in an old building in the Westport area...I love to explore there.

Correspondent Laure Ferlita recently tempted us with her video on the 17th, Using One Pen in Place of Three --she was using a Duke Pen, which you can find on eBay; one of our readers recommended the Sailor DE Brush Stroke Style Calligraphy Fountain Pen, which was also available from JetPens--since I was making an order anyway, who could resist??

As you can see, the nib is very similar to the Duke Pen Laure demonstrated.   It will take quite a bit of practice for me to actually use it for calligraphy, but I LOVE the variety for sketching.  (Check out the sample of writing  on JetPens page--it IS lovely, so I guess I need to practice!)

And nope, I don't get a kickback from anyone or any company mentioned here--no free pens, no cut, I just like to make journaling and creativity the pleasure for you that it is for me!

(That said, I still need a pen that's a pleasure to write with, as well...so I still carry my Lamy, Waterman, or the  slightly-too-heavy-for-me TWSBI fountain pen I found on eBay, by chance.  It's smooth and nice, AND has a built in converter with a larger than usual capacity, so I've just filled it with Platinum Sepia ink...)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Good Medicine

Think Day by PJBee
Think Day, a photo by PJBee on Flickr.

After having myself immersed in non-stop work for the last four months I declared a 'Think Day'. No computer... no phone... just a day to get my bearings.

I know of no better tonic than to sit with a sketchbook/journal and favorite writing instrument and hash out life's current questions.

A bonus is having a much loved dog curled up between your legs :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Saturday Night in Altoona

I just posted this on the Urban Sketchers blog, and thought I'd put it here too...you might be interested!

We had planned to stay over in Indianola on our way to the Amana Colonies, but there was no room at the inn.  After much wandering about, we found ourselves on a rainy Saturday night in Altoona, by a truck stop.  I was determined to draw, so I sat at the window and went for it!  The air conditioning unit acted as a table and the windowsill was my taboret.

I've been carrying a woodless colored pencil so I didn't have to worry about the lead refusing to sharpen...did the initial sketch with that, in black...

When I added the color from my retrofitted Prang set (my current favorite travel palette) I discovered it was a woodless WATERCOLOR pencil.  Ooops.  Oh well, I rather liked the effect, it made it look as rainy as it indeed was. 

Joseph suggested I shoot a photo of my subject...looks kind of unprepossessing, doesn't it?  You can see I edited quite a bit out!  (Squished the big truck up a bit, too, so it would fit on my page...)

Quick Sketch with my Lamy Joy pen

We went to see our godchild Molly Hammer in Sister Robert Anne's Cabaret Class in Amana, Iowa, over the weekend, and stayed, happily, at Rose's B & B again.  I had more time to sketch this time--by design--and even to the last minute, as J. was checking out and packing the car, I was squeezing in one more quick sketch!

I loved this tiny shed, and knew I didn't have time for color, so I whipped out my Lamy Joy pen with the 1.1 calligraphy nib and jumped right in there.  I added a few details with my regular Lamy with the EF nib, which is somewhat more controllable.  Loved the morning shadows here...as J. was putting the last of our stuff in the Jeep, I took a quick reference photo...

As I noted before, I would REALLY like a fountain pen with a good flex so I get a variation in my lines, but so far only the antique ones really fill that bill, and they're temperamental and sometimes want to leak. So if I turn the calligraphy pen in different directions, as Laure suggested in her wonderful little video, I get some thick and thin!

I've got the Lamy joy with a 1.1 nib and also a couple of regular Lamys with the EF nib. Again, the charcoal seems to be smoother than the silver nib. (My Lamys are both Vista--that's the same as the Safari only transparent--I can see when I need to think about refilling, instead of just running out of ink.)

Earlier Monday morning, I had taken time to do a longer watercolor...I'd imagined doing sketches all over town, Amana is so picturesque and the old homes and businesses just beg to be recorded, but there just isn't time for everything...

Because I knew how quickly the long, raking shadows of the morning would change,  I sketched in their shapes FIRST, with a pencil, then sat on my folding stool to add the details.  I used my beloved retrofitted Prang box, a 1/2" flat and a #8 round brush.

The sun was strong on my white paper, and my paint dried REALLY quickly, both on the paper and on my palette, so I worked very fast...

And again, shot a quick photo to freeze those shadows!  If I wanted, I could do a more formal painting of the garage/shed at Rose's...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Video: Using One Pen in Place of Three!

When I find a tool this good, to replace several...I just have to tell everyone!

Disclaimer, I nor ImaginaryTrips.com have any association or affiliation with Duke Pens. Please purchase and try at your own risk.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pen Tests...favorite tools

Many of us are on a never-ending hunt for the Perfect Drawing Tool...and for some of us that means a fountain pen, with it's ready supply of ink.

A lot of us use a Lamy Safari or Vista (which is clear but the same pen!)--with the charcoal nib rather than the steel one, they're smooth and dependable.  (If you want to replace the nib, it's EASY, and you can get replacement nibs from several sources, including JetPens Here's one of the many tutorials for replacing the nib.)

This one's a favorite of mine, a Waterman Phileas--it's dependable and sturdy, and almost never skips--when it does, it's usually the paper's fault, not the pen's!  I've gotten these for a reasonable amount on eBay, and one was a STEAL, complete with a converter.  They also come in cobalt blue, red marble, and other colors...

NICE pen.  Interestingly, the Lexington Gray ink looks almost black with the Phileas, much grayer with the Lamy--a difference in how they deliver the ink or how the nib is designed, I believe.

Here, I've tested a variety of nibs--click on the image if you want to see them better!    I've tested out the Lamy Joy nib, too, which you can also find at JetPens--if you already have a Lamy, this may be the way to go, just replace the nib.  New Joy pens can be found for a reasonable amount, though--try Googling!

Our friends and blog correspondents Liz Steel (Interview # 2 on this blog) Alissa Duke (Interview #7) have both had good success with the Joy nib, thank you for the recommendations!

I have a lovely, flexible antique waterman pen which unfortunately likes to leak and clog...you can see that the Joy nib somewhat approximates the thick and thin lines though with a bit more if a mechanical effect.  (Now if I could just get hold of one of Noodler's new Flex pens correspondent Nina Johansson--our Interview # 10!-- mentioned on her blog--but they're out of stock till mid-May.)

Finally, you can see a quick sketch done with the Joy nib, Noodler's Lexington Gray ink, and watercolor washes...FUN.

Let us know what YOUR favorite pen is...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Companion for your Artist Journal . . .

About 35 years ago, I happened to meet an imaginary friend who has served as my alter-ego, muse, artistic counter-foil, and studio companion ever since. She has graced greeting card lines, art prints, my blog, and my artist's journals.

There is something wonderful about having this companion around to check up on me, comment on what is going on, and often let me know how I am really feeling about it all.

Your imaginary friend can have any simple body shape, to which you can add arms, legs, and most importantly, facial features. Mine is actually was inspired by a blanket "fuzzie".

My little buddy's name is Dear Me! after her most common utterance in the early years, but her name has many levels of meaning since she is as much me as I am.

In my two most recent blog posts on my own blog (May 3 and May 11), I have decided to share a bit of Dear Me's history with my readers who have grown to know her well over the years, and also to post some wonderful tips about how to give these little critters all the personality they need with just a mark of the pen.

Here's the link:


jessica wesolek

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Memories of Mom

I've noticed that one thing keeping a journal has done, lately, is make me feel close to my mother...it seems appropriate to share that, on Mother's Day.

She's been gone since I was 18; life's been full in the interim, and I'd not thought about some of these things for a glacial age.  But sitting in my little shed/studio lately, sketching the birds and the spring flowers, has made me feel so close to her!  She loved all of that, and yes, even painted in watercolor a bit...

I realized when I did this journal page how much it reminded me of some of her work, as well as the things she loved in nature; I tried to find the one that had dogwood in it to post (I still have a few of her paintings tucked away in a drawer) but couldn't turn it up.  My own, with this year's astoundingly lush dogwood and a tiny chipping sparrow, will have to do...

Our dear friend and journal correspondent Laura Frankstone wrote in this post about her journal taking her in a different direction...they'll DO that, if we don't impose rigid rules or expectations on them, and that's one of their greatest values.  We learn, we remember, we discover things about our lives and ourselves...

Laura recently recommended a book called The New Diary by Tristine Rainer (with a forward and many journal-keeping ideas from Anais Nin).  The book was originally written in the 1970s, but it is FULL of journaling concepts from many sources to explore...as Rainer says, there is no right way to journal, no right or wrong--she simply offers dozens of possibilities to find your own way.  Many of the suggestions I had done before--as I've said, I'm been journaling for at least 40 years!  But the reminder and the new slant and the hundreds of fresh ideas is energizing.

Some journal keepers do only text, some only art, and some combine the two...something about the dam bursting has made me need a LOT more words again, and lovely smooth paper to write on...so I tipped in some writing paper to give me more room.  A small tab turned up on one edge let me paste new papers into my existing book and I've been exploring them with abandon!

That's when I realized how close I felt to my mother these days...

Happy Mother's Day, mom, and to all the mothers out there...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Journaling Spring

Sometimes you just want to do a fast and loose page, when things are changing as fast as they do in the spring!

This was my view a few weeks ago...it was a lovely warm day, and I sat out on the deck to sketch!

Love my handy little sprayers to wet the page or pre-wet my paints!  I just did a very loose pencil sketch...

And then sprayed right over it...

And added a wet-in-wet wash in spring colors...

Here are my current favorite working tools for on the spot work...my repurposed Prang box, a small bristle brush with the end sharpened, my little sprayer, and a waterbrush or two...

I added a few touches of quin red and mauve for shadows and redbud trees, then I let that dry and began adding a few touches of ink...

Here's my Lamy Vista pen with Lexington Gray ink, a favorite Loew-Cornell Ultra brush, and my "Prangs"....and finally added notes and the date, below.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pam Johnson Brickell's new class--don't miss it!

Garden Journal Workshop
Recreate Your Garden in a Box
An Unbound Garden Journal
Thank you ROZ for the inspiration!

May 24, 25 & 26 · 10 am - 3:30 pm
in Beaufort, SC at 
Coastal Art Supply & The Gardens of The Beaufort Inn

Pam is excited to join forces with Beaufort County's own Laura Lee Rose, a Clemson Extension horticulture agent and one of the area's foremost advocates of horticulture. She teaches the Master Gardener curriculum, oversees county-wide horticulture projects, speaks to schools and community groups, and has been active in organizing and promoting Beaufort's downtown community garden.

Learn sketching, page design, watercolor, lettering and artful journaling techniques from Pam and valuable plant identification/information and other horticultural goodies from Laura Lee.  

By the end of the workshop you'll experience the joys of keeping a garden journal and also how this journal can be used to plan your gardens and be a record of your gardening trials and triumphs.

The fact that you'll be creating an 'unbound' journal takes away the scary 'Oh, I messed up that page!' scenario and will inspire you to new journaling heights!  Come join the fun! 

Register at
Coastal Art Supply · 843-524-2787
You'll receive a small supply list upon registration
Fee: $250 which includes a box lunch each day.
Limited to 10 participants. 

A few rooms are available for a special rate at the Beaufort Inn. 
Please call 843-379-4667 and mention the workshop and Coastal Art Supply

Monday, May 2, 2011

Artist's Journal Workshop--the advance copy is in hand!

Well, this is EXCITING!  The mail just came, and in it were my two advance copies of the journal book!  By the end of May it should be available in stores and for order on Amazon!

I was delighted to see it now has the "look inside" option, but holding it in my hands--all that work, all the gorgeous art that my fellow journal keepers and blog correspondents shared--is very, very good.  North Light did a terrific job, and so did each of the artists involved.  THANK YOU, ALL, you're the best.

You can pre-order it by clicking on the graphic above, or by going to my Amazon Store, Cathy Johnson's Books & More.   (And yes, I do get a tiny commission on anything you get once you're in my store.  Helps keep my furry family in cat food!)

Meet Nina Johansson--Interview #10

Meet our friend, Swedish artist and journal keeper Nina Johannson!  I was delighted when she agreed to be part of the book and subsequently, this blog.  Nina's work always has a clean feeling and beautiful design, as you can see on her website/blog. (More in our initial post, HERE--as always you can click on the images to see them larger.)

She experiments with new techniques, colors and tools, and generously shares with all of us on her blog--it's one of my favorites.

Nina records her travels in her journals, as many of us do...her skill really shows, and invites us right along with her.

I asked Nina to tell us a bit about herself...and here's her introduction:

”Hometown” is a tricky word for me. I was born in Gävle in Sweden in 1970, then then family moved north to Umeå when I was nine. If someone asks, I call Umeå my hometown, though I still have a soft spot in my heart for Gävle. When I was twenty six, I thought I knew Umeå by heart, and couldn´t quite find my future there, so I moved to Stockholm – a dream I had had for years then. Now Stockholm has become my hometown too, so these days it seems I am ”going home” no matter which direction I´m travelling in Sweden.

This is one of the wonderful journal page sketches from Nina's kitchen window...she draws it in all seasons.
I have always drawn, but my formal training in arts began in 1991, at a school north of Skellefteå. I went there for two years, at first mostly to try it out, since I didn´t quite feel at home in the natural science field where I had began my higher education. After that, there was no way back, I felt so at home. Almost all education I have gone through since then has had something to do with art or other creative stuff. I have gone through art classes, went through an education in digital image editing, pre-press and layout, and finally went through the Visual Arts teacher education program at University College of Arts, Crafts and Design (Konstfack) in Stockholm. Since then I have been working as a teacher of arts, design, computer graphics, film making and web design, and I keep drawing and painting as much as I can in my spare time.


Thanks, Nina, good to "meet" you!  And now let's jump right into the interview...


How long have you been journaling? Did you always do an art journal, and how has it evolved?

No, I didn´t always journal. I would say I started journaling, or drawing in sketchbooks instead of on loose papers, some time in 2005. I have always been drawing, in pads, on loose papers, on big and small surfaces, even in sketchbooks, but I only drew a few pages and then went on to some other kind of paper. But in 2004-5 drawing became more and more important to me, and I had a feeling that I should start working more consciously, and collect my drawings in a better way, keep track of them, not spread them around so much. And as soon as I started drawing in a book, and jotting down the date every now and then, it became a journal, not 'just drawings'. It became in a way a chronological record of my days. Not every day, and not
everything I do, but still.

And as every other person I know who draws in a sketchbook, I remember everything around the drawings, like the place I did them in, the weather, the smell in the air on that day, what people were saying around me and so on. I also started drawing much more when i switched to books, because it´s so easy and fast to just do a little drawing and then continue later if I don´t finish it. Drawing on loose papers often makes me feel like I have to finish something, or that the result should be of good quality. My sketchbooks are very free from pressure, I don´t try to accomplish that much in them.

How does this kind of work complement your career or job?

I draw a lot of inspiration from my work, since it has a lot to do with art and creative processes, and the sketchbooks/journals let me spill all that out in a simple way. I try out different techniques, I sometimes do my student´s exercises just to try them out, and I also pick ideas from my sketchbooks to my teaching. But the sketchbooks are also a place to let off steam. At work I have to plan everything, prepare material and be ready when a class starts. In my sketchbooks I hardly plan anything, I just grab a pen and start drawing. In many ways my work and my sketchbook habit are opposites, and I need them both. They balance each other.

What do you enjoy most?

Oh wow, hard question... I think getting in "the zone" while drawing. You know, when you concentrate so much on what you do, that you loose track of time, it´s just you, the pen and that subject you are trying to capture. It´s very soothing, calming and afterwards I always feel like I wake up, or come back to the world, somehow. Must be what meditation is for some people.

Do you have a favorite medium or approach?

Ink pens, preferably fountain pens, and watercolours are my favorites. I love trying out other techniques and materials too, and I often do, but I always return to ink and watercolours.


You do these wonderful composite/montage pages when you’re busy—your vecka pieces, etc. (Does that mean “week” in English?) What inspired you to do those?

Simply lack of time. And yes, ”vecka” means ”week”. Sometimes it´s hard to find the time to do more elaborate drawings, because you´re swamped with work or whatever, and then I just thought it would be better to draw very little almost every day than drawing nothing for many days. And if I do that on the same page and keep to the same technique or some kind of theme for a whole week, I´m going to end up with something that looks very well thought-out even though it isn´t. And it´s really fun to see where you end up if you just keep on patiently working on the same page for several days.

You used stencils and texturing tricks in your paintings, do you ever use
them in your journals? (Any of the images you sent me?)

I haven´t used much of that at all in my journals, though lately I have put a few tiny simple stencils in a pocket at the back of my sketchbook to see if I can do something interesting with them.

My paintings are quite different to my sketchbook pages. I´m sure there are things in both that make them recognizable as my work, but they ARE different. And I have been thinking a lot about how to combine these two ways of working, either by bringing my painting manner into my journals or vice versa. I´m trying to experiment with that now that I´m working on a new series of paintings.

How do you decide to design a page?

I usually don´t decide anything, I just start drawing. After a while I might decide to have a line around the whole drawing, or a bit of text in it or whatever, but I never plan that ahead. Or at least very

Perhaps when you're as talented as Nina, design just happens!


As noted, Nina will be teaching at the second Urban Sketchers Symposium  in Lisbon this July. She'll be giving a workshop with fellow urban sketcher José Louro --it'll we be terrific!
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