Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Fun?!

Acadia National Park Sketchbook Cover
Stillman & Birn Zeta Paper
Watercolor and Ink
Going on a trip, for me, begins long before I ever get in the car or plane. It starts with the planning of the trip and once the tickets are purchased, I begin the long and lovely process of deciding which journal format I'm taking, the type of paper I'll be working on and what pigments to put in the palette (often, but not always, determined by the location).

"A-n-t-i-c-p-a-t-i-o-n is making me wait…"

As you might have guessed, I'm heading up towards Maine and the art you see above is the cover of my new sketchbook I'll be using.

I decided I wanted a long horizontal spread for the trip. Take a look over on Flickr at some of the panoramas and you'll know why I want this format! Here lately, my paper of choice has been Stillman & Birn's Zeta paper, but they don't make a horizontal themed sketchbook.

What they do make is loose sheets of paper, 22 x 30 inches!

And violá, I have the beginnings of my sketchbook. The folded page is 7.5 x 4.5 inches. A full spread will be 15 inches wide—plenty of room for some of those gorgeous views. You may be wondering about the size…let me explain:
Damaged paper
Unfortunately, when I received the paper from the art house, it was damaged. Since I'd already decided on the long format and to go against the grain with the pages, It was just a matter of adjusting the width to eliminate the damage at the bottom.

Over on Facebook, in the Artist's Journal Workshop group, Tina Koyama shared that she made signatures of paper, but them in a cover and then bound them together after they were complete rather than carry the entire sketchbook around at one time.

I decided to take that fabulous idea and run with it, but I needed a cover:
Leather Cover with an elastic loop close
If this puts you in mind of a Midori's Traveler's Journal then I did something right as that was my inspiration! I stumbled across those journals late in 2011. In mid-2012, I bought some leather, stamps and dye with the intentions of making my own. We already had a collection of tools for working with leather.

Ummm…I have no idea what happened to the intervening years so let's fast-forward to July 2014 and I finally got around to making my own journal. For those of you interested in making your own, there are a number of excellent YouTube videos on the subject.

The sketchbook allows me to carry two signatures of 4 pages each. I've already punched holes in the middle of the pages  and tied them together. This is only for the sake of carrying and so the pages don't move when I'm working across the spread.

When I finally complete my journaling from the trip, I will take all of my completed signatures and bind them with covers using the coptic binding method. (There are also a number of YouTube videos on this as well.) Using this method, I won't have a lot of unfinished pages and I won't have the bulk of the entire sketchbook to haul around.

One other plus will be that if by some odd chance I should lose the sketchbook (eek!) or drop it in the water (argh!), I won't lose all of my pages.

I'm only just getting started on this journal and I'm already having way too much fun and building my anticipation. Rather than have all the fun and then bombard you with all the pages at the end of the trip, I'm going to start sharing them now and along the way.

What do you do to prepare for your travels, anything special?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Drawing In The Moment, Mistakes and All

Swallow Tailed Kite
Ink in Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
8.5 x 5.5 inches
Back in the spring while out and about on errands, I happen to glance up and see the most beautiful, acrobatic show put on by a couple of sea gulls. I had never noticed gulls being so graceful before! They would dive and hang out on the thermals before falling away and gliding around in slow, flowing twirls and twists.

They combined grace, ballet and acrobatics into a beautiful dance.

As I continued to watch, I noticed their tails were odd. Finally, I caught a glance of one from almost straight above me and I noticed the swallow shape of the tail feathers.

By the time I realized they weren't gulls at all, they were too far away for me to see any real detail and I didn't even bother to reach for my sketchbook. I did, however, make myself a promise that if I saw them again, I'd be ready!

Last week, I happened across another one! According to my brothers these kites have been around for a while—it was me who was missing!

Anyway, I grabbed my sketchbook and a black pen. My first attempt is at the bottom and just line work. You can see where I struggled to get the shape right of the wing. I didn't get it quite long enough with my first drawn line and tried again. Also, the area where the tail and body meet is not quite right.

Mind you, this guy wasn't just sitting still. S/he was doing cartwheels in the sky while I attempted my sketching.

My second attempt was better, though still not right. The tail shape still isn't working quite right and her/his neck is odd. (Many of my inaccurate lines are covered by the black wash of ink.)

My third attempt was a side view and s/he was gone before I could blink. I attempted to go on from memory and realized it was a lost cause.

My last attempt was the tail at the top of the page. Since I knew I wasn't getting that area right, I focused in on just that area.

Then…s/he was gone. Too far away for me to see much more than a speck.

Arriving home, I pulled out my Pentel Color Brush and painted in the wings and tail on two of the line drawings. I added the title only to realize this morning I had it wrong!


I used my white Sharpie Marker, but the ink bled and now I have a nice gray smudge.

Still, it was fun attempting to capture this gorgeous creature in my sketchbook. I knew before I started the page that chances were good great it wasn't going to be a "pretty" page, that it would be full of "mistakes" as I'd never drawn a kite before.

I decided it was more important to me to get the bird down on paper and I'd figure out the mistakes later. But you can bet the next time I see them I'm gonna try again!

You can learn more about swallow-tailed kites here.

Have you taken any chances with your sketchbook lately?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Taking Chances

Imaginary Traveler
Stillman & Birn Zeta
Ink and Watercolor
When I first created this sketch just after the first of the year, I was very unhappy with the way it turned out as it looked nothing like I hoped it would. It is based on imagination and just didn't feel fight, it didn't have that sketchy feel to it. In fact, I stopped working on it. I had intended to put a large advertisement poster in the background to push the woman forward, but decided not to waste more time on the sketch.

So I turned the page and ignored it.

Fast forward to this week and I realized I hadn't posted anything on the blog last week and I didn't have anything to post this week. I've been sketching and painting but on things I can't share—yet.

Looking through my sketchbook, I came across this page and decided since I didn't like it anyway, I was going to play with it. (I know I have a scan or photo of the page without the changes somewhere, but after two searches, I can't seem to find it—sorry!)

I went to get one of my juiciest black pens and sat down with my sketchbook and started to scribble in more lines. At first, I was still being careful. As I began to see improvement, I relaxed and just went with what felt right.

Once I was finished, I set the book aside so I could study the updated page. I saw a few places that needed a bit of refinement and then decided to call it "good enough."
More and More Ink Scribbles
Is this my most favorite sketch I've ever done? No, but by being willing to make a mess of it I managed to get it to where I considered it good enough to post.

If you've been reading the blog for very long, you may have guessed that my sketchbook is where I play, try out ideas and such. I try very hard not to let any sketch become too precious and it still happens on occasion. When it does, I find that time is a great equalizer. Time tends to help me gain distance from the work whether I consider it a great piece or garbage.

By allowing time to neutralize my stronger feelings towards this piece, I could see it still had potential. By adding more line work, by not being so careful, it gave the sketch a subtle change. It now feels less contrived and flows better.

Neutralizing Fear So You Can Play
If you have some sketches you're not crazy about in your sketchbook, but don't quite have the courage to jump in and take the chance of messing up the page, I would suggest scanning it or photographing it and then printing it out and practicing on it. If you're not any happy with the changes you can just ball up the paper and throw it away.

Consider printing out more than one copy to try out different ideas.

Staying stuck, especially out of fear, stops our artistic growth. Taking chances, trying different things, will almost always move you forward even if you don't like the end result because even then, we're learning.

So pull out your sketchbook and look for a page that just doesn't quite make you happy or that you downright dislike. Consider what you can do to make it better, more likable. Will more pen work help, will adding a different color or a background or more values or perhaps using stamps change it up? Will small changes do the trick or do you need something more drastic like gesso or a piece of ephemera? Is there an area you can cover up with another piece of paper, like craft brown paper that would help?

Finding the courage to make those changes is the first step.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hot and Muggy With A Chance Of Beach

WIP - Beach Visit
Watercolor in Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
Ah, yes, summertime is upon us here with a vengeance. It's hot. It's humid. It's like walking through a furnace whenever you go outside. 

It's Florida in July. 

And June. And August. And September. And most of October. And sometimes, part of November. 

When you live in the state of perpetual summer, there's only one thing to do…head to the beach!

The page above was started here. I used torn tape to make the faux deckled edges and while, the page is not done, I am quite pleased with how it's turning out. 

The sketches are all from the John's Pass area where we'll be visiting in our Winter Interrupted: An Artist's Beach Holiday in January of 2015. 

The dolphins are frequently spotted playing in the channel underneath the bridge and there are always lots of birds around to keep us entertained. 

One of the things I found interesting was the changing color of the water.* Depending on where we were as well as the time of day and weather conditions, it changed appearance frequently even though the water is all of the same body. 
Torn tape to make the faux deckled edges
Creating Faux Deckled Edges*
To create the faux deckled edges, I took white Artist's Tape, similar to this (I have no affiliation with the product or Amazon) and tore it in half. I then built random shaped boxes with the strips of tape, being careful to burnish the edges.

A note on burnishing edges: do yourself a HUGE favor and test out the tape and your sketchbook paper before you put the tape all over a page and find yourself with a disaster! Depending on the type of paper you have and the amount of texture is does or doesn't have, you may need to adjust how hard you burnish the edges. 

Also, the tape may not stick well (leaving you with lots of little bleeds). It may stick too well and tear the paper (in the exact wrong place) or it may not want to come up at all and you'll be forever stuck with tape on the page! 

I also would suggest you NOT leave it on the page for a long period of time. I put the tape on my page at the end of April, painted one square and then got distracted.

When I went to remove the tape from around the dolphins frolicking in the channel, the paper tore next to the binding. Luckily, it did not cause any major issues. 

Be sure to wait until the page is bone dry before removing the tape or the wet paper could tear. 

And last, but not least, even if you've used the tape before, be sure to do a test strip as manufacturers often change their processes and make significant changes to adhesive. 


While we swelter in the heat, me thinks it's time to go take a dip in the ocean and watch the fireworks as the US celebrates Independence Day!
Happy Fourth of July!!

**To learn more tips and techniques such as torn-tape edges and how to paint water, I hope you'll come and join me for Winter Interrupted: An Artist's Beach Holiday! Only 6 months and 15 days to go, but who's counting!?!

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