Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sketchbook Review - Field Artist 4" Square Watercolor Art Journal

Click to enlarge
Every once in a while, I spot a new art toy that I just know is going to recharge my flagging art energies and it happened when I saw the Field Artist 4" Square Watercolor Art Journal!

I just knew I was going to love it because:

  • It's small. At only four inches, it fits in the palm of my hand when closed. 
  • It's square. I've been having a love affair with squares for many long years and I am almost always captivated by something squared, especially if it is not usually found in that shape!
  • It's a watercolor journal and that always makes me happy. 
Upon receiving the art journal from Amazon (no affiliate links), I immediately pulled out my stamps and embossing powder and decorated the front cover. The journal does have an elastic band to keep it closed that cannot be seen in the image. 

While I adore the effect, I don't recommend doing this as the embossing is not holding up well. My journals are well traveled. They go everywhere I do and that means they typically tumble around in whatever bag I am carrying. The cover itself is a "PU leather-like fabric" and is holding up just fine. It's the embossing I added that is not. 

My first piece of art is on the inside of the cover. The paper used as the endpaper is not the same as the journal pages. It's much lighter in weight so I opted to use markers to create my design. The paper didn't hold up well even under marker so I caution you about using any kind of wet media on it.  

The endpaper on the inside right sports the sketchbook branding and is oriented so that the logo only reads correctly when the book is opened top to bottom with the fold of the journal above the logo. You can also see the yellow ribbon page marker in the image below. 

I'm thinking I'm going to be gluing an additional piece of watercolor paper over the branding page and using the space as a place to put my "if lost, please return" info:

Eventually, I worked my way to my first page. Since the book is small and I knew I wanted it to record "everyday adventures" that seemed to fit as the title page as well as the theme. I think we often have far many more adventures than we realize. It takes paying attention to notice them though. 

Those adventures can be as simple as having to take a detour due to construction and seeing something new or it may be notice a pretty bloom on your way to the mail box (even if it's a weed!). 

By elevating the ordinary by paying attention, we can make it extraordinary!

The page has ink from a Faber-Castell Artist PITT Pen as well as watercolors on it. There was no bleed through from the pen or paint. The pen performed very well on the paper with no skipping or bulking. 

There is a slight textural difference between the two sides of the pages and they don't always match up. Sometimes you have two different textures across a spread. There doesn't seem to be a pattern to where the difference will show and where it will not. It's slight enough that it can be ignored even if it is visible. 

I found the time to capture a family of wrens that have been visiting our backyard in the evenings. The babies had just fledged and were a little clumsy the first time we spotted them. Four days later and the only way to tell the parents from the babies was the fact that the babies were still following mom and dad around with their mouths open waiting to be fed!

There is a stamp in the upper corner that did not bleed through to the other side even when I painted over the stamped area. Again, pen and watercolor were used in the piece.

One last little surprise was the long accordion-fold, panorama page that is attached in the very back of the book in place of a pocket. It is four panels wide, but the fourth panel is partially glued to the back cover giving you only three panels to be painted on the back. I have to admit a pocket at less than four inches in width probably wouldn't have been very useful! 

The paper is marketed under the Chinese brand, Image. I was not able to find further information on the maker or the paper. 

So here are my pros on this adorable little journal:
  • It's small and very portable. 
  • The size is perfect for capturing a quick sketch. 
  • The paper is acid-free and dries flat without having to be weighted or dried with a blow dryer. 
  • The paper has hard sizing which makes it very forgiving when you want to pick up paint to get back to the white of the paper. 
  • It lies flat making it easy to work across the spread. 

My cons:
  • The sketchbook is very small and it takes some adjusting to getting used to working in it. It's hard to rest the heel of your hand on the page and draw at the same time! It is not difficult to adjust to the size challenges, but I'm thinking folks with big hands would really be challenged. 
  • The paper is not archival. Chances are good it is made from wood pulp instead of cotton or linen and they have removed the acids. However, this is not a deal breaker for me as I'm using this to play in rather than creating works I expect to wind up in a museum!
  • The paper has a hard sizing which makes it way too easy to lift color unexpectedly and it seems to take a bit longer to dry than other papers. While I put this down as a con because speed is important to working on location, it's not a huge problem. It just means I need to alter my approach a bit to fit with the paper of the journal.  
  • The fact that the paper textures do not match up across the pages. It's a minor thing to fix and because it wasn't, it speaks to rather shoddy workmanship or a lack of pride in their journals, especially given the last point... 
  • For the size, I find it a bit pricey at $12.95 (I guess we're paying for that extra dose of cuteness!).
So far, I've been very pleased with the journal and I've thoroughly enjoyed using it! I look forward to finding more little everyday adventures to record on its pages!

What new art toys have you found lately?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tea POT of Happiness, FULL of Joy, Reposted

Reposted from April 2010! An oldie but a goody!
Watercolor over Ink
3.5 x 5.5 Moleskine WC Sketchbook

Here's something you probably don't know about me—I'm not a huge fan of black ink. It has its place, just not in my sketches. I'm not sure why I feel that way. Maybe because it's...well, because it's so dark? It seems stark to me. Now, in some sketches, other people's sketches, it looks great. In mine it looks....harsh. So why am I telling you this? Because I've started searching for an alternative (permanent) ink color to use in place of black. 

The teapot featured above is one of those little look-a-like Limoges boxes and is drawn with ZIG® Clean Color Real Brush Marker/Pen in Oatmeal. It's permanent ink, water resistant and can be blended. (BTW, did you know blendable is not a word? I didn't. The word is out there on the internet, but it's not in the dictionary. There, that's two things you've learned today.) I like the oatmeal color, but I'm not sure it's what I'm looking for. 

I went with my Father-In-Law this morning to the eye doctor, well actually, to the surgeon as he had just cataract surgery. I was the designated driver and I had about 2.5 hours to kill. On the way out of the door this morning, I was looking for something to sketch and my eyes landed on this little teapot. It was left over from the yard sale this past weekend. I also took my computer as I had some work to do. When we arrived I pulled out the laptop and did my work. When that was finished I pulled out my little teapot.

I may have imagined it, but it seemed the volume went down for a second or three when I set the little teapot on the table so I could see it to sketch. Mind you, I was easily the youngest in the room by 25 years. Maybe 30. And I hadn't just had eye surgery!

I had the feeling that most of them were thinking "What is that young un' up to now?" (Remember, I'm in the South down here.) Finally, one brave soul leaned over and whispered loud enough for the other 21 folks in the room to hear, "Whutrudoin'? [Translation: what are you doing?]"

She had to have been eighty, if she was a day!

"Sketching," I replied with a smile. "Kinasee? [Translation: Can I see?]" she asked. I leaned over and showed her just the bare bones contour drawing (no paint yet). She looked at it a minute then stared at me a minute longer before saying, "Yous not too good, are you?"

To which I burst out laughing and said, "No, ma'am, I gotta long ole' waystago."

We can either enjoy the experience of other people looking over our shoulders or we can be intimidated, irritated or outraged. Me, personally? I think it adds to the experience. I can still remember her...she was very thin and her movements were bird-like, but she was curious enough to ask me what I was doing. There's a lot to be said for still being curious at eighty!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Drawing A Luna Moth

For some reason, we have been blessed with several visits from these luminous-looking creatures over the years. When they do put in an appearance, they're usually found hanging out on or near our front door.

Until Friday morning.

As Chris was about to leave for work, he spotted something odd laying in the driveway. Upon closer inspection, he found a Luna moth. It was no longer capable of flight. He carefully picked it up and brought to me.

You see, I collect bugs. And snake skins. And animal skulls. And other bits and bobs. And yes, I'm aware that's a little odd, but it works for me.

I set the moth up high on a shelf near a light source until it left this earthly plane.

When I have seen these in the past, I was always so impressed with how thick and velvety their wings seemed. More so than other moths and butterflies. Or so it seemed.
I kept the moth under a glass bowl for protection from a naughty cat that lives with me. 
This little one did not seem nearly so hale and hearty. The wings were nearly translucent and the overall size was not nearly as large as some of the others we've seen. The other visitors have shown up in May or later. Perhaps our non-existent winter had something to do with the early arrival.
These moths do not eat or drink as adults and only have a lifespan of about seven days. Their only purpose in adulthood is to mate and reproduce the next generation. Since we have none of the trees that they like to lay their eggs on, it's always a little bit of a surprise to find one by the door.

I chose to paint him on toned paper as I was hoping it would give an indication as to how translucent the wings actually are, but I don't think I quite captured that look. This was sketched using ink, watercolor, and watercolor pencils.

Now that I have a "specimen" in my collection, I'm sure this won't be the last time it will make its way into my journal. You just never know what you'll find if you keep your eyes open!

Have you found any unexpected gifts from nature lately?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Training To Overcome The Fear Of Sketching On Location

A-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n Spread, completed
Stillman & Birn Zeta, 7 x 7 inches
Ink & Wash 
The idea of stepping out into the world where anyone might want to take a peek at the pages in our sketchbook can be daunting. Especially if we're new to the idea or at the beginning of developing our skills. Of course, this make an adventure like An Imaginary Trip Made Real To England seem huge, but it's not!

It boils down to performance anxiety. We're afraid of disappointing ourselves and others. What would we do if we went and then couldn't get anything worthwhile down on the page? Eeeek!

Let me ask this: if you were doing a speech in front of 150 people, would you wing it or would you write and practice your speech for days, if not weeks, in advance? If you decided to run a 5K race, would you wait until the day of the race to start building your endurance? Of course not!

My friends, sketching is no different! It takes practice, a willingness to leave our comfort zones and a sense of adventure. 

To begin conditioning yourself means starting to sketch NOW. Today. 

And that's where things like a-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n pages come into play. For me, anticipation pages began as a way to practice and psyche myself up for the "big event." Eventually, I realized that I kept creating them because they gave me a great deal of enjoyment. I like the build up of excitement before the actual trip.

By doing anticipation pages, I "knock the rust off" of my skills if I've been lazy about sketching on a regular basis. When I create pages in my home environment, I try to work from life, but sometimes that's not possible. Since I don't have any chickens, I went to the computer for inspiration. I worked from the screen rather than printing out a photo. Same goes for the soccer ball.

I had a champagne cork so I used that as my model, but I didn't have any cheese rolls lying around, so it was back to the computer. This time, I found out what cheese rolls looked like and then drew them in the composition I wanted for my page. The umbrella and tea cup were my own and I drew from life to strengthen my eye and hand coordination.

Taking It To The Next Step
While you're definitely in training when you're sitting in your kitchen sketching away, working outside of our normal work area, is an entirely different experience and one that should be practiced as well.

When I first decided to sketch on location, I waltzed out the door and went to a town about twenty minutes from me. The downtown area was full of interesting old buildings and mostly deserted on a Sunday morning. I was making sure there was no one about, but it didn't matter, I still failed spectacularly! I had not yet discovered a new mindset.

Since working on location totally blew my mind, I decided to begin again with baby steps—I started in my kitchen. I would pull a chair away from the table and draw something with my sketchbook in my lap. I sketched and painted whatever was outside the window or I'd set a leaf or pot of flowers on the window sill and draw.

After a while, I became bored with this set up and went outside and drew in my backyard. My backyard's not all that exciting so it didn't take too terribly long before I decided to go to the park and sketch. Sure, I chose an area where I wasn't likely to run into anybody, but I was still getting out there. I eventually went into town to sketch and then a restaurant and so on until I conditioned myself to sketch anywhere. Not all sketches were successful, but the training was!

I would occasionally gather up my courage and go sketching around a bunch of people in a busy location. Sometimes it worked out and other times it looked like a rabid squirrel had scribbled all over the page. My nerves would get the best of me and I'd panic.

But you know, I survived. And with each attempt I became a little stronger, a little gutsier. I also realized that most people have no clue what I'm doing. They don't notice. They're too busy with their own dramas to be worried about me and my little sketchbook.

There's also something about interacting with people, by choice, that lends another layer of patina over the whole experience. Most folks that stop and talk to you, who want to see what your doing, want to be like you. They want to be brave enough to sketch "out in the wilds." They want to be creative. Just listen to them. You'll hear it in their voices when they speak.

Changing Your Mindset
When sketching in the wilds, it requires a different mindset than sketching in familiar [safe] surroundings. First and most obvious, is the amount of time we'll have. When we work in our homes, we can work as long as we want [in comfort] on something, usually while working from a photo.

When we're on location, we have a much more limited amount of time and we must adjust our expectations to match the amount of time we have as well as the current skill level we possess.

Rather than viewing the time limit as a bad thing, use it to challenge yourself to see just how much you can get done on location. If you're not getting much down on the page, start looking for ways to work quicker. This usually means leaving out details or suggesting them rather than meticulously recreating them.

Another big change to consider is this: if you don't get finished on location, you can always take a quick snap with your phone and use it for reference later. Knowing you can take a photo helps to reduce the amount of pressure we place on ourselves to get the page finished in one sitting. Sure, that's the long term goal, but we're in training and that goal will be met eventually.

Last, it's a sketch. It's not a mini-masterpiece! When we're on location, dealing with the elements, the light changing, people walking around and other distractions, sketching becomes a mini-adventure within the bigger trip! It takes on a life of its own that becomes an indelible memory that queues up every time you look back at your sketch. And I will share a secret with you...even lousy sketches still serve as a great portal back to the moment in time where it was created!

So instead of postponing a marvelous adventure like An Imaginary Trip Made Real To England until "you're ready," go ahead and sign up today! Then start training for an adventure unlike any other. Challenge yourself to sketch something each and every day. Even if it's for just 15 minutes a day, you'll have logged over 30 hours of practice before we leave for England!!

And remember, once we're in England, you'll be with likeminded people and I'll be there by your side to help you create a sketchbook full of great memories!

How do you prepare for a big art trip? Any "training tips" you'd like to share that help you move past fear?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Night Sketching

Bonfire Sketch, Stillman & Birn Zeta Softcover, 3.5 x 5.5 inches, watercolor and ink
Click To Enlarge
This past Saturday night, we had a bonfire at my sister-in-law's house. She had a huge oak to fall recently and it took down the old playhouse. Between the stump and the wood from the playhouse, there was plenty of wood to burn.

It happens to be spring in Florida and the trees and grasses are blooming themselves silly. Since I am an "professional level" allergy sufferer, I had taken plenty of allergy medicine before we left to go over, but I knew the smoke would be an aggravating factor in keeping my allergies under control.

After we roasted hot dogs over the open flame, I opted to retreat back from the fire and sit on the lanai. This gave me the view you see in the spread above. I was about thirty to forty yards away and I could not help but notice the way the Spanish moss dangling from the trees seem to pick up the light from the flames and sparkle.

This prompted me to pull out my sketchbook and begin drawing.  My husband's aunt and uncle showed up with a bottle of Disaronno (yum!) and it seemed appropriate to add it to the page. Those pesky people were added because they kept wandering on and off the "stage."

The gal on the far right was one of the last to arrive and the fire was burning quite hot by the time she attempted to roast her hot dog. Her stance was created from trying to get close enough to the fire to roast her dog without roasting herself!

The whole thing was sketched in low-light conditions and I even started adding paint while sitting there. I finally realized I was having a harder and hard time seeing what I was doing and I was going to need better lighting conditions to finish up. I still needed to add the lettering and fire sparks.

It was until late Sunday evening that I had another chance to work on the spread. I had painted the tree, the stump and the fire the evening before, but after being away from the spread, I could easily see I needed to go darker. Much darker!

My other challenge came in trying to show the heat of the flames against the night. Everything was actually very warm in temperature—the surrounding background, trees, sky and ground.

I opted to make the background much cooler by making it a dark blue with violet and burnt umber added in. I kept the ground around the stump, the tree, moss, fire and light being cast by the flames as warm as I possibly could to building up contrast between the to temperatures. I showed a slight hint of grayed green to indicate the grass.

Last I added in the headline on the right page echoing the same colors as the flames. The added text at the bottom was just the date and reasons for the bonfire in the first place. I have to say I wasn't at all sure of how this would turn out when I began the page, but I am so glad I did as I enjoyed the evening immensely!

There are few things better than good food, good friends, a roaring fire and my sketchbook!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Creating A-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n Pages For England!

I don't know about you, but I love to create "a-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n pages" in my journal way before the actual trip starts! In this case, I'm already creating pages for my trip to England in August! (There are still a few spots left!) Anticipation not only increases my excitement, I also get to enjoy the trip for a much longer period of time!

Anticipation pages can be anything from purchases you make specifically for the trip (a new art bag anyone?) to things you learn about the place you're visiting (see below) to places you want to visit while you're there (umm, everywhere?!). Since this is art journaling, there are no rules and the anticipation pages in your journal can be anything you want them to be!

It's always a lot of fun (to me) to look up slang terms and arcane facts about a place I'm going to visit:

  • Have you ever wondered what "high tea" is or how it started? 
  • Do you know how many cups of tea are consumed in England on any given day?
  • What about how"football" aka soccer got started (hint: a very barbaric beginning!)? 
  • Do you know how much it rains in England? 
  • How far the coast is from any given point inland? (I'd kill it in a trivia game...assuming it was about England!) 

Below is a series of photos of me prepping two facing pages to be used to capture information about England I did not know until I started getting ready for this trip. The pages have cut-edge borders to make them a bit more interesting.

As I add artwork and information to the page, I'll share over on my Instagram account and on my Facebook page!

What will you put on your "a-n-t-i-c-p-a-t-i-o-n pages" for England?" Why don't you come to England with me and then we can share our sketchbooks with each other over tea?!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Come and Play With Me In The Gardens!!

Blue skies, blue water, and green gardens with every possible color under the rainbow! Sound like a great sketching opportunity to you?

Then come and join me at Selby Gardens! Florida has had an extremely mild winter and everything is bloom in wild abandon. There are so many wonderful features at Selby besides just what's blooming—statues, topiaries, special garden areas, green houses, and a Marc Chagall exhibit!

The koi pond, the bay just beyond the gardens, and the lavender garden are not to missed either. It won't take long to fill our sketchbooks in a place like this!

If you're in the area, I hope you will join me for a one-day class on April 21st, Painting Postcards In The Gardens! (They called it Advanced but it's not. It was just a way to differentiate between the first workshop and this class.) We'll be splitting our time between the classroom and the gardens and hopefully, most of it will be outside! To register for this class, please click this link.

If you're not in the area, you can still join me in the gardens! Introducing "An Imaginary Trip To Selby Gardens!" I'm doing an online class with lots of demos that will focus on using color harmonies, suggesting detail and texture by using broken color washes as well as how to focus in on what really matters to you most so you can get it on the page.

There are now three different class formats that offer something for everyone! To learn more about the class and the new formats, please click here.

Have questions? Shoot me a message via the Blogger contact form over in the righthand sidebar.

I hope you can join me and help me to usher in Spring in all her glorious color!

Friday, March 17, 2017

NEW ImaginaryTrips.com Class!

I guess it was inevitable though I didn't see it until last week—we're going to visit Marie Selby Botanical Gardens! These gardens are spectacular and given Florida's mild winter, everything is busting out in glorious colors EVERYWHERE!

Registration for An Imaginary Trip To Selby Gardens will open on Friday, March 24th, as the sign up process will be changing for all of the ImaginaryTrip.com classes.
You will now have the option of taking the class in an interactive environment with a blog and feedback from me and your fellow travelers
you can opt to have the class materials for a year, work at your own pace and not worry about interacting on the blog.

If there is sufficient interest, I may add a third option where you can join the blog AND keep the materials for a year after the interactive portion of the class is complete, but that's down the road a bit!

I think in the long run, this will serve us all much better and eliminate some of the double work I've been doing that slows down making the classes available over at TheImaginaryRealm.com.

As always, please let me know what questions you have!

P.S. If you're going to be in Florida on June 24th, check the sidebar for an exciting workshop opportunity!

P.S.S. Next, we're going somewhere hot, sunny and red! Any guesses!?!

Another GREEN Tutorial Just In Time For St. Paddy's Day!

In the first Green Tutorial (HERE), we discussed making friends with those greens on our palette by blending them with other pigments on our palette.
In the second Green Tutorial (HERE), we put what we learned in the first post to work by painting individual leaves.
In part three of this Green Tutorial, we're going to apply what we learned about painting leaves by painting a basket of flowers and last, a charming cottage garden in England!

A Pretty Basket of Flowers
The image at the top of the graphic is from a postcard I started at Selby Gardens but did not get a chance to finish. There were hanging baskets everywhere just brimming with blooms. This one was full of Impatiens. In the first layer, I laid down a scribbled wash of yellows and greens after I completed the pot.

In the second step, I add spots of color to represent the flowers. Again, these are mostly little scribbles of color without any real attempt to look like a certain flower but rather something generic.

In the third step, I started adding in darker greens. I used my base green mixed. This included yellow mixed into my icky palette green to make it more natural. I then added blues and violets to get a variety of darker greens.

In the last step, I went even darker and when I felt I had enough darks built up, I add some "raggedy edges" to the edges of the plant mass to make it read more natural.

Notice the lack of details. There's nothing there but suggested shapes and a variety of colors. I've used my darkest darks to indicate the areas in shadow so that I am suggesting a light source (see the small penciled sun in the left corner just above the border).

When we're out on location doing quick sketches, we don't have a lot of time for details, but we can certainly suggest them to our viewers!

English Cottage Garden
Below is the "inspiration source" I used for an English cottage garden sketch.
Click to enlarge
I gave myself a maximum of 30 minutes to create a sketch based on the image. Knowing my time limit helped me to focus in on what I liked best about the image—the row of trees with the garden and lawn below it. I love the cottage in the background, but with only a half hour, I decided to forego it until I had a bigger window of time to tackle it and do it justice.

In the top image, you see my beginning sketch...just a few outlines to tell me where things belonged. Since I planned on letting the paint do most of the work, I didn't need much. Notice I've used the rule of odds with five trees.

Also, I wasn't shooting for a copy of my photo but rather my interpretation of the garden. 

In the second step, I painted in the lawn using a smooth wash that had a mix of the yellows, oranges and icky green on my palette. Next I mixed blues and yellows with the green to get the tree "balls" with squiggle shapes to suggest trees.

I added the back lawn using more green and less of the yellow and orange.

In third step, I add spots of color to suggest flower shapes and then I added in a very dark background to help establish the middle ground. This also helped to push the foreground closer to the viewer.

Again, this was all done with squiggles except on the left side in the background where I used long strokes to suggest long pieces of grass.

Starting in Step 4, I begin to build the flower garden at the base of the trees. To make sure I was going dark enough with my first layer in this area, I also added in some of the dark, dirt color. If I waited to add the darks until last and my first layer looked too light, I would have to paint yet another layer over the first. Layers take time to dry and are not ideal for location work. It is best to limit them as much as possible by going dark enough on the first layer.

In Step 5, I added more detail in the background, closed up some of the white skips and adjusted some of the background darks.

In Step 6, I've completed the foreground garden and added in a second layer of "squiggles" over the tree balls to give them more of a leafy texture.

I've added in turquoise and Indian yellow which are no where to be seen in the "Inspiration Source" photo.

In the last image, I've added in the sky with some fluffy white clouds meandering by to give the image a more complete look.

This entire sketch was accomplished with a base green and by adding the other pigments on my palette to it.

If the green on your palette is not a natural green found in nature, it helps to go ahead and build a puddle of a base green and working from that. Be sure to use lots of pigment and as little water as possible. It may take yellow, blue or both to make the green look like something you would expect to see outdoors.

The rest of the work was done via texture, shapes, temperature and value.

Texture - the trees, background and part of the flower garden are nothing more than squiggles. The lawns are a smooth wash.
Shapes - the grasses in the background are long lines as are some of the shapes in the front garden.
Temperature - notice the warm yellows and greens that make up the grasses vs. the cool greens that make up the tree balls and the darker areas of the background on the right and directly below the trees.
Values - by using darks, I push the background further into the back. By using lights, I am pulling the trees and the front flower garden towards the viewer into the middle ground. The light value lawn also moves towards the viewer. I also used lights and darks to give the trees roundness and volume as well as to separate them, one from another.

Greens are here to stay and it only makes sense to make friends with them if we're going to find ourselves outside in a England or a Garden (click the words for upcoming workshops!). Just looking out the window can bring greens into your view!

Questions? Questions about greens or another troublesome pigment? Let me know in the comments! 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wow, What A Week and More Yet To Come!

Painting Postcards in The Gardens Workshop

Oh my! We had a super fun time at Selby Botanical Gardens this past Thursday and Friday! I kid you not when I tell you it did not matter what direction you went, there were at least a half dozen views that were sketch-worthy within a dozen steps! Blooms, bees, osprey, boats on the water, butterflies, statues, koi, water fountains, planters brimming with saturated color were everywhere...an artist's paradise! Can you tell I was digging it?!

The weather could not have been any better if we had custom-ordered it. Lots of sunshine with a hint of coolness in the breeze and shade...Florida at its best! The image above is some of the fabulous postcards the group created in just two days! There were more, but I would have had to climb up a ladder to get all of them in.

I think one of the most important things that came out of this workshop was the participants realized how different your mindset has to be when you are working on location vs. working in the studio. You don't have time to capture every detail, every leaf or bloom and there's a bazillion more things calling out to be drawn on the page and painted!

We were out and about in the gardens, sketching on location. We "appropriated" cuttings from some of the work carts to draw back in the classroom before we ventured out to do more sketching.

We worked on using thumbnails to get a page composition we liked, we worked on embellishing our work by adding color and elements that were not there as well as on exaggerating what was already there. We also worked using a template to create title banners and flags as well as date and temperature boxes.

We even shared our kits and inspiration with each other. There is just something about sharing with like-minded people that cannot be beat!

And if you missed this workshop, not to worry! There will be one more class in April. It's a one day class from 9 - 12 on Friday, April 21st. The title of the class is Advanced Painting Postcards in the Gardens, but do not let the "Advanced" deter you. Anyone with a desire to art journal is more than welcome!

To register for the class, please click HERE. (Please sign up soon though as spaces are going quickly.) I hope to see you there!

Keeton's and Flamingos

On Saturday, we painted a fabulous, pink flamingo! I introduced everyone to working on a simplified grid system to be able to quickly get a likeness of their photos down on the page.
We worked on creating broken-color washes and then creating a unifying wash once everything was dry to create the look of feathers without having to render each and every one.
By the time we were done, we had a finely, feathered flock of phenomenally fantastic flamingos! One of the coolest things to me about these classes is how everyone can work from one photo reference and come up with such a diverse crowd of flamingos!

But if you missed this class, not to worry because I have you covered! You can still take the online class. It is available HERE. You'll have the materials for 365 days from the day you signed up and you can watch the videos as frequently as you'd like.

Annnnnnd...we'll be doing it again next month at Keeton's as well! We're going to be creating that big blue Florida sky with gorgeous fluffy clouds and a beach umbrella! Sound interesting? You can call Keeton's at 941.747.2995 to register! Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Birds, Gardens and Glue—All Good Things! (Classes)

Wow, it's been a busy week! I hope you can join me for one of the following treats:

Painting A Fabulous Flamingo
These gangly creatures are so much fun to capture on the page! It may seem like a lot of work, but by using broken color washes, it's actually not so hard at all. In this class, we learn to suggest texture as well as work with contrast to give our bird that gorgeous and warm, sunlit look.

If you struggle with developing your drawing skills, this may just be the class for you. I introduce using a simplified grid system that gives you a support system to develop your drawing skills, and also helps you to develop your skills more quickly than tracing an image.

If you'd like to get your pink on and be a fabulous flamingo, come and join the fun here in The Imaginary Realm

I will also be teaching this class live at Keeton's Office and Art Supply on Saturday, March 11th! I hope you'll join me if you're going to be in the area! Click here to get the details.

Painting Postcards In The Garden
While much of the country has been dealing with crazy up-and-down temperatures with the occasional snow dump the day after wearing shorts, Florida has already ushered in spring! The flowers are blooming, trees are busting out with new leaves and everything is that bright, brilliant green!

I can hardly wait to go to Selby Gardens on March 10th and 11th for the two-day workshop, Painting Postcards in the Garden! This workshop will cover making friends with your palette, working on location, how to create a more finished postcard (or page) and basic drawing skills. This workshop combines time in the garden with plenty of classroom time.

It's also a wonderful opportunity to soak up some sun, enjoy being outside, enjoying the gardens and spend time with other artists. Interested? Click this link for more info and to register!

Using A Glue Resist With Hand-Lettering - A Free Tutorial!
As promised, I have created a tutorial showing how I used a Tombow® Glue Pen to create a fun resist with hand-lettering. I'm the first to admit I'm not a letter artist as that takes way more hours and patience than I can imagine, but I LOVE to play with letters as an art form.

This tutorial will take you through the steps of setting up a drawing a word and using both water-soluble markers along with the glue resist to get some great effects. There's even an ombre technique in there!

It's FREE and it's available here! (I have no affiliation with Tombow or their products.)

I hope to see you—online or in person—and I hope you enjoy these learning opportunities!

Friday, February 24, 2017

7 Awesome Reasons To Take An Art Walk Workshop

Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife's, family home
If you're wondering whether or not take a weeklong workshop (like the Art Walk England in August!!) is a good fit for you, I hope the following will give you a better idea:

7 Awesome Reasons To Take An Art Walk Workshop

1. Ummm, because it is sooooo much fun!! It's total immersion into the location you're visiting. In our case, we'll be spending time in Stratford-Upon-Avon. We'll have plenty of time to explore our surroundings, mingle with the folks that live there, and absorb the environment. How often have you been on a trip where it felt like all you did was snap a few quick pictures, but when you arrived home, you felt like you didn't really get a good feel for the place? Have you ever wanted to linger in a place but your travel schedule didn't allow you to dawdle?

Blue Walk Tours gets that this about travelers, especially about artists. They get that we need to take our time and not just look but truly see. They make sure we have the time to sketch the fabulous wildflower in the meadow or shamble around the old bookshop.

2. Speaking of  s-l-o-w-i-n-g  d-o-w-n…you have time to plop down and sketch where you are because there is time built into the schedule. You'll still have time to see the various sights without being rushed. There's time for you do a little exploring on your own if you'd like, or maybe you'd like to enjoy a good "lie-in" (British slang for staying in bed later than usual).

3. The joy of being with like-minded people. Artists are, or can be, an odd lot. We want to draw and paint the darnedest things like our meals, a pot of flowers near a bench on a busy thoroughfare, a cat in a window or an unusual piece of pottery in the garden. But when you're with like-minded people, they get it. They totally understand why you just have to stop and commit those daisies to the page. They're likely to join you!

There is also safety in numbers...it makes it easier to be brave when others are near-by doing what you're doing and if you just happen to be one of those artists that loses all perspective of where they are and what they're doing (also called getting into the zone), there's someone nearby to watch your back. If you want to travel, but do not have someone in your life to travel with, this is an excellent way to see the world as well!

4. You're NOT sitting in a classroom! This is both a scary and exciting point. After all, you're there, in England, out in Stratford with a sketchbook in your hands and you have TIME to put something on the page. Freaky-scary-kinda cool, right?

You also have a secret weapon—me! I will be there by your side each day to help you get started, to answer questions, to make suggestions on how to fill the page, to show you how to tackle different subjects as well as different approaches to the page. I promise to help you get past the sticky bits by doing impromptu demos based on the day's activities.

Think how exciting it will be to come home with a sketchbook of your making full of little snippets of your memories—each page an instant portal back to where you were, who you were with and what you were doing!

5. It's a small group so you won't get lost in the crowd. The group is deliberately kept small in number so that I have time to work with each artist and so that you can see the spontaneous demos, ask questions (and get answers) and not get overwhelmed by too many people.

Blue Walk Tours strives to find the right balance between enough participants to make it interesting (as we can learn a lot from our travel mates) and activities (sight-seeing places of interest) with spending time with our sketchbooks and giving you plenty of opportunities to work with me. (There are still some spots left! Click here for more info!)

6. Assistance is at your fingertips. The Blue Walk Art Tours are guided tours and there is always someone around to assist with questions, challenges and obstacles. And they know the scoop on all the cool places to go and the ones to avoid! They are there to make sure you don't have to worry about getting around, to the playhouse, back to the restaurant or anywhere else. Having visited Stratford before, they can answer questions you may not think to ask until after the day's tour is long over. They provide a wealth of knowledge as well as peace of mind. They have our backs so we can enjoy our time!
Cottage garden

7. No dishes, no housework, no laundry, no job interference for seven days. How often do we try to create our art in stolen moments found between the demands on our time? You get to concentrate on your art without all the distractions you have when you're at home (what's for dinner, I need to go pick up the dry cleaning, I need to prepare for that big meeting tomorrow).

There is a sense of freedom when you're totally away from the daily demands. The idea of having all that time to create as much (or little) as you want is liberating in a way that's hard to describe, but it's worth experiencing!

We're heading out to Stratford, on August 14th! I hope you'll join in the fun.

Please let me know if I can answer any questions in the comments!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Part 2: Frustrated to Fabulous Green Pigments

Information does not become knowledge nor does it become powerful until we after we apply it and make it our own.” 

Think about it…how often have you heard a piece of information that seemed helpful, but had no relevance to your life because you had no use for it or didn't put it into use right away?

It is much the same with learning new information with art. Unless it is applied and we make the information our own, it will continue to be just that, information.

However, when we apply it and grasp what it means to us, even if we only get an inkling, then it gains in power and it truly becomes knowledge!

So it is with color charts.

You've created color charts and you've begun to "see"  that icky frustrating green pigment may not be quite so frustrating after all. It's still kinda icky by itself, but we now know there's hope for it.

Without applying what we learn from some of those super-cool mixes we came up with from the first part of this tutorial, well, it's kind of a waste of time. The color charts don't really help us to take a step away from frustrated and towards fabulous. Sure, we have a hint, but we don't have any application.

Welcome To Part 2: Applying Color Mixing To Simple Subjects
If you're like me, there were a few mixes that really caught my eye and appealed to my color sense. (Color sense or preference is as individual as our fingerprints!)

Look back over the color mixes you created and evaluate which ones sparked your interest. They don't have to be "traditional" leaf colors. If you like some of the zanier color combos, play with those as that indicates where your interest lies.

Begin With Simple Shapes
Draw out a few leaves on a piece of watercolor paper or in your sketchbook. The leaf shape can be quite simple, as the focus of this exercise is color mixing rather than rendering a perfect copy of the leaf. If you happen to live somewhere in the world where the only green leaves at the moment are on the artificial arrangement sitting on your table, it's quite acceptable to use leaves from the arrangement.
Draw a simple leaf shape.
Someone got the munchies
and this add interest to the shape.

I have also taken a photo of some leaves I picked up on my way out to the mailbox today. Click this link to download a high-res copy of the leaves I used. (I specifically chose leaves with interesting color combinations to help with the learning process.)

**If you are new to watercolor, don't worry about making the leaves look like specific leaves. Remember, this is about color mixing. If you become so focused on making the leaf look like an exact leaf, you often miss the other learning opportunities like, say, color mixing!**

Mixing on the paper
Once you're ready to paint, choose a two-color combination from your prior mixing exercises. If you have not created any color mixes, take a look at this post to learn more.

Try painting both colors on the paper and let them mix rather than mixing the two paints on the palette and then applying it to the paper. On a different leaf shape try mixing the colors together on the palette before applying the paint to the paper to see which you like best.
Adding the third and fourth color
to the combo

Once you're happy with the results of the first two-color leaf, choose a different combination and paint the leaf shapes again.
Note the legend at
the bottom of the art.

Remember to keep color notes (legend) at the bottom of the shapes so you can refer back to the color you used to create a specific result. See example on the right.

After you've exhausted the two-color combos, move on to three- or four-color combinations and repeat the process of mixing the paints on the paper as well as mixing them on the palette before applying the paint to the paper.
In these last few images, I have added the color mix I created in the first exercise in the corners of the art to show where I started. In the example on the right, I started with a mix of yellow and the palette green. To get the darker spots, I add a hint of brown at the end.

In the next example, I used a mix of yellow and blue on the paper. I then added in touches of the palette green as well as brown at the very top of the stem.

Whether you mix on the paper or the palette, there is no right or wrong way. There are different uses for each method for various subjects, but it mostly comes down to which style you like best.
In the last example, I used yellow and the palette green for the leaf on the palette. I then added violet and brown for the darks as well as a hint of orange. I allowed the violet and brown to mix on the paper. You can combine techniques in one subject.

While I'm sharing only three of the leaves I created, I have many more. I highly, strongly recommend you play and paint as many leaves as you can stand! Why? Because the more we do, the more we understand. As the information is used and understood, it becomes knowledge and with repetitive use, it becomes reliable. That's where the power lies. It is only with constant use that our knowledge can begin to help us create consistent results that are predictable and remove the guess work!

Next we're going to tackle foliage in the shape of bushes to build on what we've learned from our leaves.

Did you do the first part of the tutorial and come up with lots of great mixes? Are you going to try your hand at the leaves? If so, send me a link in the comments or via email—I'd love to see what you've come up with and even more important if this series is helping you to turn your greens from frustrating to fabulous!!

Even better, come and join me at Selby Gardens in March for a two-day workshop and put your knowledge into action! Click here for more information.

Part three of this series is here.