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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wow...you will LOVE this video.

It's Voyage to Egypt by Viaggi Dell'Elefante and I SO wish I could understand his language...

There are a LOT of other videos (not all sketches), so if you go to YouTube, check them out! http://www.youtube.com/user/ViaggidellElefante

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sketching Early in the Morning

It's getting darker and darker with every morning - even by the window with a whole bunch of street light coming through blinds I can hardly see anything but shadows - but this rose smelled gorgeous, in the dark perhaps even more than during light hours :)
And it was fun to look at the resulting sketch when it was time to turn on the light and start my breakfast :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Journal Box - Playing with Watercolor Ground

I've been wanting to try Daniel Smith's Watercolor Ground (DSWG) since it first came out.  My subject.... a cigar box :) 

It's all about repurposing, and now that the smell from the little devil's finally faded, I'm quite excited about the possibilities. Tip: if you have a cigar store in your town, check them out. They sell their boxes for very, very little... Our local store asked $1.00 for the cardboard boxes and $2.00 for the wood boxes!

I decided I liked the red cover on this box and chose to tape off the foil stamped illustration and used this area for application of the DSWG. 

Once applied, the DSWG has to cure for 24 to 72 hours before applying watercolor or acrylic.  It can also be thinned up to 10% with water.  You can see in my second image that the ground looks thin in some spots. My intuition was telling me to add a bit more to even out the first coat, but my adventurous side wanted to see if the uneven coating really mattered.  I had several cigar boxes that I applied the DSWG to.  My studio was filled with the essence of gesso..... it was a bit too strong from my nose.

 You can see in the upper and lower left corners where the ground was applied too thinly.  Could I make this work?

Well, yes and no. The lower left corner was a bit too thin and when you view the box in person you can tell.

Painting on the DSWG was similar to the feel of  painting on watercolor canvas. It was necessary to dry each application of paint with a hairdryer. Lifting paint is easy and I didn't see any wear on the surface.  Truth be told, my lifting was more like scrubbing.....

Almost done! I'll let this sit for a couple of days and no doubt tweak the image a bit more. The last step will be to spray it with Golden's MSA Archival Spray Varnish to seal the surface.
This will be home for my Garden Journal - a collection of single watercolor paper sheets... but more on that later :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Water containers for journaling on the spot...

I've been experimenting with our friend Richard Sheppard's great idea of using palette cups for travel sketching.  (If you haven't seen his Flickr, it's here--have fun!)

Richard is the author of The Artist on the Road: Impressions of Greece and if you love travel journals AND bright fresh watercolors, you'll enjoy this one as much as I did!  It's in my permanent collection now...

You can see that the cups, either single metal ones or double plastic, here, will clip to several types of palettes...

An added advantage here is that the clip itself raises the mixing area so that it's much flatter, when laid on a firm, flat surface (you still need to watch spilling if you're holding this in your hand by the loop on the back though...)

It will fit on my old folding plastic palette, too...very versatile!  Of course these don't hold much water, even the double ones, so if you're painting larger than, say, 7" x 10" you're going to want a source of more.  I like the doubles because I have a source for mixing and a source for rinsing my brush...if I remember which one to dip into!

I used the single metal cup and my small palette when doing this double spread in my current journal, and it worked great!  (Too bad I didn't remember to shoot my painting setup!)

Here's Richard's own kit, beautifully done in his signature style:

Thanks for the inspiration, Richard!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 2011: Enhancing my Watercolor Kit

I love this small watercolor set from Winsor & Newton. I get much done with it - somehow it's not intimidating me - or people around me. But I was spoiled by some additional colors I got to play with recently. Carry another box? Too much...

I recently learned about sugru - which is basically a play-dough for lasting inventions. It's as easy to use as play-dough, sticks to almost anything and when dry is waterproof, ready for cold or hot, flexible, strong - basically you can make your custom whatever from silicone. And you can remove it with a knife and some rubbing when you want to change things :) Their motto is "hack things better" %)

So - looked at my watercolor box and notices this wonderful place for brush that came with the set (original brush is long since drowned in some river and the space is too small for any brush I like ;) And I made some partitions :) That's it - now I have some colors I use rarely but enjoy having for a special mix or accent. I might play with the sizes of the wells at some point - but this is what I have today.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Experiencing Stillman and Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook

I heard about new sketchbook maker and all comments were quite good. The name kept popping up  and eventually I did a google search, found Stillman and Birn web-site and then found them on facebook too. I wrote and e-mail to the manufacturer trying to see if any local shops carry these books  and made a note to order one sooner or later online - but then received an e-mail that a wonderful gift is coming my way! It was Alpha Series sketchbook, hardbound, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 - it became my sketchbook #59 and I spent about 6 weeks with it in my bag. Long story short - it's a great sketchbook to work with - my main adjustment would be the size - it seems that I enjoy larger books lately :)

Cover withstood some vigorous activities, was subjected to kids running over it (by accident), heavy and not so heavy rain, kitchen table and sandbox adventures, sticker attack, not to mention normal wear and tear and now that I am about to deposit it on the shelve - it looks great - not a scratch.

Paper worked very well with dry - and water media - I worked with watercolors, acrylics, multiple inks and gouache and in all cases buckling was well within expected amount for this weight of the paper (100 lb).  I used markers, all kinds of pens, some collage as well. Paper was reasonably responsive to lifting and multiple applications though in some cases uneven in the way pigment settled in: I would do a single brushstroke wash, try to lift something and see that part of the edge is still editable where another part is not. It adds some personality to the page and can be incorporated nicely - you just need to be ready sometimes.

My problems were surprising: waterproof inks (and permanent watercolors for that matter) were not exactly waterproof unless I waited for ink to settle for a long time. And during first 1-1.5 minutes even the most waterproof and smudge-proof ink was smudging badly. It happened with Uniball pens, Pentel Pocket Brush pen, dip pen with Noodlers ink, pitt pens and brush-pens - the only pen that was working without a glitch was the cheap ballpoint I love so much :) So - some smudging and some not-so-waterproof adjustment was needed - and for someone drawing quickly it took me some time - but I had a lot of fun in the process:

(these are obviously not all 124 pages I filled - lots of private notes and experiments took place there - but you still can see some results ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New (silly!) plein air, video!

I learned a great deal, playing with this one! MOST important is that it's difficult to paint in the Jeep with my journal in my lap while holding the camera in the other hand! Talk about hand-held jiggly pictures!

The string that shows in the bottom of some frames is the camera strap...and sometimes I just wandered off the page entirely as I focused on painting, not filming. (I edited out the worst of those!)

I'm also exploring my video edition software with...interesting...results! (I see I forgot to delete "Director Name" on the end of the credits...that's ok, it's pretty undirected!)

Still...I hope you have fun with this!

Travel Journal Tricks

I have been a road tripper since I first learned to drive.

I have been a travel journaler since I first began art journaling.

I do not have the discipline of someone like Kate who can sketch as she goes, but even if I did, that would not work so well on the long stretches of highway that try to bore you to death enroute from this place to that.

There are several of these stretches that I have traversed many, many times in my travels - like the one across the Panhandle of Texas, for instance. At first, you get off at a lot of exits to find interesting things - like old Cadillacs with their noses stuck into the ground, a 19 story tall cross and a leaning water tower that looks as f it is in mid-fall . But after that, what's left for next time?

So, I developed a plan - a challenge, really, to find the "essence" of this road by observing details. I make notes and quick sketches in a tiny Moleskine as I drive (I know, I know - worse than texting), take shots through the car window with my iPhone, and sometimes pull off at an exit to make visual notes of some architectural anomaly or change in landform.

Afterwards, I compile all this into a single spread that tells the "story" of that piece of road.

Scale is not important. Those ranch buildings in the Panhandle are few and far between - but they did seem to all fit just a handful of styles. Perhaps they all come from one ranch building prefab place.

The sky is only a pale blue and it is always windy. I got that effect by erasing wind spirals out of a Panpastel background.

The land is FLAT all the way until you get close to the Oklahoma border, and then some soft hills rise out of the flatness. On this particular Spring trip, the trees had not begun to bud out yet, and were black line drawings against the horizon.

All of that is in this one spread, and made this drive not quite so stultifying.

I have put many of my travel journaling tricks and tips in my Travel Journal Workshop, and I have just made it a WHENEVER workshop you can take whenever you want.

Details can be found here:

Posted by jessica

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Interview # 15--it's Maria Hodkins!

Sorry we made you wait for this one...it's meaty and interesting, and I know it will inspire you!  Interview #15 is with my friend Maria Hodkins, who lives in Colorado and captures its varied beauty in her journal pages.  An astute observer of wildlife...and life itself...I'll let Maria speak for herself!

How did you get started journaling, and how long have you been at it?

I love that the word “journal” evolved from Middle English, meaning “daily,” which came from Old French “jurnal” (for daily record), which originated from the Latin “diurnal,” which meant “during the day, or daily.” And it also parallels the development of the word “journey,” which meant and still means “an act of traveling from one place to another.” I think I have been true to those original concepts, in both my journeys through life and my record-keeping of them.

I've been writing in earnest since I was seven years old, and have been a free-lance professional journalist for over 30 years. I grew up in Chicago, IL, and my first memory of journaling is of when I would climb up the stairs to our unfinished attic, raise up the trap door, and sit down at my small desk that was painted pink, and write—in a world all to myself. I decided early on that I was “going to be a writer,” and never swayed from that conviction. I wrote for my high school newspaper and had my own column, and went on to college and majored in journalism. But art always intrigued me, as well. My mother made sure I got a “classic” education, and so in high school I rode the commuter train every weekend for a while to the Art Institute of Chicago for drawing lessons, never realizing until later in life what an honor and a gift that was. That was really the only formal training I ever had for art, and I believe now that I learned to “see” more than I learned to “draw,” which has helped me discover what each medium will bring out in images.

I have irregularly kept many personal writing journals throughout my life, and dabbled in sketching and watercolor journals for fun. As a professional writer, I developed my own writing business and wrote everything from brochures to books (I’ve even been the ghost writer for 2 published books). I also have always been drawn to nature, and eventually found myself embarking on the adventure of being a naturalist for Colorado State Parks for several years, living in the woods and writing trail guides and interpretive materials, as well as giving programs on moose, bears, and nature journals. I had a wealth of material to sketch every day and sat on the banks of a creek in the early morning with my coffee and journal, sketching wildflowers and aspens. That was when I began to put the writing and sketching in the same journal, because it was handier to just carry around one book, especially when traveling. My journal then became my favorite field companion, a way to process and capture more deeply the places and moments I was experiencing. My entries focused more on natural history, instead of just personal history.

I love the addition of text and details to this icy journal page...

At one point I read Hannah Hinchman's books on keeping illuminated and field journals, and I was so inspired that I signed up for one of her seminars in Yellowstone National Park the very next summer and was exhilarated to find other journalers with mutual passion for the practice. It was such a transformative time for my journaling, when it became an art form into itself. I became an insatiable journalkeeper, and continue to this day to find endless delight in exploring techniques and content. There’s nothing I like better than to go outdoors and walk around, asking myself (as Hannah taught me), “What’s happening here?” It’s a way of looking at the world as events, full of thousands of intriguing things going on at different levels, not as an object or a pretty landscape. I think curiosity and gratitude are the best attributes of a journaler.

Notes, dates, locations add so much to Maria's pages...

Do you use your journals to learn about nature?

Nature has infinite secrets to reveal. I keep track of the movement and stories of the natural world on my pages, rooting my sketches and words in time and place. It's an ecological perspective that gives me insight into how the inner and outer worlds interconnect. Notes on weather, temperature, seasonal changes, when the Sandhill Cranes migrate through, the throaty sounds of the bullfrogs in June, the turning of the aspen leaves in autumn fill my pages. I capture insects in a jar and look at them under a microscope, then paint their incredible iridescent scales or understand the structure and functions of the body of a grasshopper for the first time. In my journal I can be a citizen scientist, unleashing curiosity and fostering discovery. I become an "expert," of sorts, of nature's activities in my own local region through observation and notation. I can begin to predict the date of the first big snow or when the peaches will be ripe for picking, by leafing back through my old journals. Because of the journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, we gained so much knowledge of the flora and fauna of unexplored territories--who knows what important data might one day be discovered in someone's ordinary artist's journal? Besides, art and science can be gateways to each other.

I like this quote from Aldo Leopold:
“All the sciences and arts are taught as if they are separate. They are separate only in the classroom. Step out…and they are immediately fused.”

You seem to capture something of the spiritual about your journaling—can you expand on that a little? 

Journaling slows time, allows the imagination to ramble, and expands consciousness. Just sketching a simple flower brings a sense of wonder and deep, soulful appreciation into my daily life. As I really see the flower, I begin to appreciate its beauty, intricacy, and magnificence. I enter a meditative, grateful state, and feel connected to something larger than myself. My hand starts to move from a consciousness beyond my thinking mind, and I am often surprised and amazed at what spills out onto the pages. Journaling is a sensory path to the profound, an artful spiritual practice for my life through all of its seasons.

Are you comfortable working around other people?

Yes, I find that most onlookers are intrigued with the process of journaling, and it often creates an entry into a conversation or a friendly encounter. I even take my journal to meetings and sketch, take notes, and doodle. It makes the time pass quickly and enhances my concentration and focus on the matters at hand. There is now research that shows that children and adults learn better if they doodle or sketch in an educational setting. I encourage all my students to do this while I am teaching classes.

You teach classes and workshops in different types of journaling. Do you recommend taking workshops (I’m assuming yes), and why?

Workshops are wonderful arenas to explore new and different techniques and be inspired to continue the creativity of journaling. And, the cross-pollination between journalers is enormous. You could never learn about all of the possibilities from books, because each journaler's interpretations are so beautifully unique. I wouldn’t hesitate to take a workshop from another proficient journaling instructor—because I always deepen my skills and increase my own repertoire of techniques.

I love to teach visual journaling, and am honored to have the opportunity to open up a whole new world for those who have never sketched before, and are reticent about trying it. I regard the whole world as “field,” therefore, I teach field sketching in my classes, a less formal approach. For me it is a way of learning about something, of getting to know it through my drawing instrument. That takes away the fears about producing “art” on every page.

Maria loves paint!  Here are three of her palettes...
As Larry McQueen, an ornithological artist says, “A thing of beauty is a worthy goal, but it should not be held with such high regard that it interferes with the real purpose of a field sketch; that is something the artist uses to enhance his/her understanding of the subject and increase the facility of visual note-taking.”

My journals contain a lot of writing, in the form of field notes, reflections, musings, and poetry as well as sketches. The most oft-asked question I receive when people look at my journals is, “Do you start with writing first, or with sketching?” I always answer, “It depends.” It depends on my mood, the subject at hand (Is it moving? Do I need to capture it quickly?), or whether the notes of what I’m seeing or thinking need to get out onto the page first. I love the purity of the blank page—a brand new start, with unlimited possibilities. With that approach, I give myself permission to take risks, to experiment with different media, to try new page designs. I don’t have to adhere to a certain style or technique; I can express whatever comes out in the moment. I always tell my students (and myself) to remember that this isn’t meant for art to hang on the wall, but rather for a record of your one precious life in words and images.

You make your own journals—tell us why?

Once I learned more in-depth techniques of combining writing, sketching, pen and ink, watercolor, collage...and more...in the journal, I wanted the physical features of the journal to enhance the content. And the aesthetics of the journal itself became important to me--the cover design, the tint and feel of the paper, the elegance of the visible stitches on the binding. I wanted to want to journal when I looked at the cover, so I desired it to be an object of beauty in itself. I also wanted the pages to open flat for ease of journaling, to be able to do a double-page sketch without a big spiral binding breaking the continuity through the center, to use papers that were as elegant as they were practical and worked equally well with different media, and to use different sizes and shapes of journals for different purposes. Nowhere could I find commercially-produced journals that met all of my desires, so I decided to learn to bind my own books. Then I could design the size, shape, cover, and paper to fulfill my purposes. I found a bookbinder who tutored me in the basic process of making a journal, then through trial and error and another workshop in bookbinding, I finally perfected my skills. Now I make all of my own journals, do custom journals for others, and have a skill with which I can make lovely gifts for family and friends for any occasion. And, I'm almost as addicted to bookbinding as I am to journaling! Whenever I am on the last pages of a journal, I make sure I have a new one waiting in the wings, with a gorgeous cover and delicious, rich paper just waiting to be filled. I don't know how I would get along now without a good journal at my fingertips.

Looks like a wonderful place to work, doesn't it?  Here you can see some of Maria's several palettes...she's in love with color!
 What direction would you like to go in the future with your journaling?

Mostly, I would just like more time to journal. I see many ordinary things each day that would become amazing and extraordinary if I had the time to study and sketch them. I begin to feel restless and ungrounded if too many days fly by without a good journal session. Journaling connects me with the land, the place I live, and how I’m living my life. I want to continue to study and practice each art and design technique in depth to improve my skills—there would never be enough time to perfect it all, but I’d like to keep trying! I would like to be one of those lifetime journalkeepers, like you, Kate, who have volumes upon volumes sitting on their shelves at the end of my life. My children have already expressed (somewhat timidly) that they want to inherit my journals when I’m gone, and I’m flattered and touched to think that those could be my legacy to them. Really, that would be enough for this journalkeeper.


Thank you, Maria!  A fascinating interview...fun to learn more about you! 

All, don't miss Maria's website at http://www.windword.net/ for classes in journaling of many types, writing, bookbinding and more!
Browse her Flickr sets at http://www.flickr.com/photos/windwordwriter/ --they're inspiring!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Connecting the Dots

This is a short version of a post on my blog, but I thought it would follow on Kate's travel box post quite well.

A comment on my Sheer Heaven palette post mentioned Daniel Smith Paint Dots. As coincidence would have it, I had just purchased some - and it is a great idea, but I wanted bigger dots, so I made my own dot sheet with Daniel Smith paints on Sheer Heaven. It works great.

Since you can make your sheets any size, they fit very nicely into any tin or box - just double stick tape the sheet to the bottom of the box!

See the whole post here:

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