Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Solstice, all! The light returns...bit by bit.

"The Shortest Day

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!"

-Susan Cooper.

Here's to love, and life, family and friends--a most peaceful and happy Solstice to all here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Times, They Are a'Changin...

...and they have been, for the publishing industry, for some time.  Just got word that Sierra Club is going out of the publishing business to focus on their other missions.  Publishing has changed, a LOT, in the past 10-15 years, and they're not the only book publisher to disappear...

They had a great run, and a LONG one, with many, many wonderful books by some elegant, eloquent writers over the years.  I was very glad to be in that august company, and happy with the books I did with them--it was a wonderful experience.

The internet has impacted a lot of publishers, both of books and of magazines; it's a tough business these days; several of the publishers of my natural history books are no more.  (I'm more than grateful North Light/F & W is still around and going strong.)

 Sketching in Nature's been out of print for some time, though it had a great run--hardcover and softcover, with revisions and multiple reprints. I loved doing it...

Painting in Nature came out in 2000 and did very well too...3 print runs are not at all bad! 

The latter book was very meaningful to me; I was working on it when my first husband Harris fell ill, and when he died.  It came out a year or so after, and there are many sweet, poignant memories held within those pages.  We sat together in the woods and I painted while he read or napped...we picnicked by the lake while I drew...he was always supportive, and always proud of what I did.

My dear friend Judy Gehrlein, a wonderful artist and sketching buddy, went with me on many of the field trips--those memories are held between the pages as well.

In 2005, I was invited to speak to Sierra Club's first International Gathering in San Francisco on field sketching; it was the first time my beloved Joseph and I were alone together as well.  What a trip THAT was!  Between my stage fright and the snafus with technical issues like laptops and slide projectors and the Powerpoint presentation that J. put together for me, running late, miscommunications, and...stage fright, did I mention stage fright??  (More like terror...)

For a while there it looked as if I'd be speaking to an auditorium of a couple of hundred people with nothing but my sketchbook and a microphone.  (Thank goodness we had a couple of days to wind down after that and explore that beautiful city!)

Jim Cohee was the best editor anyone could ever have...I loved working with him, and loved finally meeting him in 2005.  Gentle, funny, talented, inspiring...the best, yep.  He's writing books of his own, now!  Just saw The Swan, on Amazon...

Lots of warm memories...

Still, it's a sad day when one of the Old Lions goes away.  You'll be missed, Sierra Club. Thanks for the wild, wonderful ride.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Life has been...LIFE!

...of course that DOES beat the alternative...

It's been too long since I've had time to slow down and just enjoy has been intense, between classes and the upcoming North Light book.  Lots of juggling, lots of confusion, lots of needing to stop and take a breath.  And of course, family stuff...

I need to get out and sketch more often!  This one is from 2009, and no, it has NOT been that long.  I was out just last week...

This is from our October trip to Bennett Spring...I did a LOT of sketches that trip!

My sweetie and the other fishermen at the spring...

Our godchild Molly Hammer, singing at the Broadway Jazz Club with one of her favorite pianists...

Copper Creek Band, good friends we go to hear as often as we can...

Joseph's English Country Dance group...

The beautiful newborn Henry!

BACON and a Buddhist prayer...interesting juxtaposition...

...and three wonderful visits with three wonderful young women--daughters of my heart!  That would be Kristin Frazier, Christiana Farabee, and Ailsa Barrett, all in the space of a week... life is good, but life is crazy.  Looking forward to breathing room December 26...

In the upcoming year I plan more journal entries, more reviews of favorite tools and books, more reminiscences, more on simplifying, more demos, more on gratitude, more mini-class giveaways (that last one was FUN!)--and who knows what else?

I hope you'll join me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Well, nuts.

I just discovered I had comment notification on this blog going to my OLD address, which I no longer use!  No wonder I missed so many of your wonderful comments...thank you so much!  I've tweaked the settings again...

Unfortunately I discovered that some of you are still having problems commenting, and THAT I have no idea about, I'm so sorry!  I've always had it set that anyone can comment, even anonymous.

And that said, I've enabled comment moderation, because I've also gotten some spam. :( 

I don't do CAPTCHA letters or other such nonsense, I do NOT want to make it difficult for you to comment (more difficult than it already is?!?), but it may mean comments don't show till I get a chance to check them. 

That's what I do on some of my other blogs, and it works well...just be patient with me, please!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sorting Out Life, as well...

Happy husband...

This is where we were the other day, and yes, I gave myself permission to stop doing gruntwork and do what I NEEDED to do.  I plan on more of that!
So.  Not only are we simplifying our home and possessions, but life and priorities as well.  Life is too short, things of real importance deserve our attention, and yes, it's okay to be happy!

I know, that should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense, but we do so often do things because we think we should, we must, someone asked, we've committed, we've agreed, SOMEONE ought to, it needs doing, we're responsible...we're trapped.  Tra la.

LONG after these things have stopped being fulfilling, long after they really, actually needed doing, long after the time when someone else might be able to do them better, and might want to have the chance, we're still plodding along.  Blinders on.

And before long we find our souls occupying a tiny corner of our own lives--all the room that's left to them.  I recently posted a link to a site about things happy people do, and it was shared widely.  This is good.  But when I went to some of the shares I discovered a disturbing number of negative comments by people who resented the idea, who thought anyone who had time must be retired (some of the busiest people I KNOW are retired), who didn't have time to be happy (?!?!)...

It made me sad.

The other day Joseph and I were talking about what I actually WANTED to be doing, right now.  (Aside from being Out There, as above!)  I told him about a silly little project I've been wanting to do, for doesn't pay, it's not "work," I haven't agreed I'd do it, no contracts's just fun.  But ya know, I don't have time for that.

He said "DO it!  No wonder all the gruntwork is sucking the life out of you right need to be doing something else, and you're not letting yourself!  Do THAT, and then maybe the Work, capital W, won't feel quite so heavy."

And so soon, I promise myself, I'll do just that.  Right after I put in a few more hours on the contracted obligation.

However, ya know, it felt great to write all this down!  That too is something I need to do.

I'm a lousy Pollyanna, really...I'm stuck in a couple of jobs that have had glitches, lately, needing far more work than I have energy for, and pretending everything is great is just too damn exhausting.

Nuts to that. 

I hope you give yourself permission to do what you really want to, as well.


Meanwhile, there's a helpful series on the Tiny House Blog you may enjoy, on simplifying!…/helpful-tips-downsizing-part-1/

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Discardia on the way to Breathing Room...

Much of this is on its way out the door...yes, it IS a mess.  Eeek.
So.  Here is where I am now...Discardia on the way to Breathing Room.

Getting rid of things via eBay is time consuming and kind of complex, but that's where some of this stuff is going, anyway--I just need time to list the antique teapot, enamel coffeepot, 18th C. style mules or leather slippers, virtually unused.  Books will be offered to a friend before being listed or given away.

(The bins on the floor are full of artwork, both original and prints I offer in my Etsy shop, Cathy Johnson Art & More, so they stay, but I'd love it if I could find a place that wasn't right out in the middle of everything!)

I'm delighted that a dear friend is more into elegant reenacting than we are, now, and he and his camping buddy are taking a fair bit of stuff away.  A big copper cistern for water, a tin biscuit baker, a BIG folding table...gone and welcome!  It's good to know a friend will be using and enjoying them instead of tripping over them, here.

The pile in the other photo includes a bag of art supplies to give to my sketchcrawl buddies...didn't have enough of them show up this time and we forgot the bag in the car...and the current giveaway box, which will go out probably today.  And a heater, and antique books with illustrations I need to scan in my copious spare time, and extra shipping boxes, and...

Yep, it's a mess all right!

My beloved husband is in the basement creating his workroom and simultaneously getting rid of a bunch MORE stuff (why, exactly, did we put two old computers and a monitor down there?), and moving the workbench out of the back room (along with the big folding table) will give us a lot more open space THERE, so we can organize, clean out, and GET TO THE BOOKCASE.

(He was just wishing he'd thought to shoot a "before" photo, so he inspired me to DO so!)

All this stuff served its purpose, in its time, and I'm grateful, as Breathing Room suggests.  It can go to a new home, or recycle, or the dump, with my blessings.  And I won't have quite so much stuff in the way, and will indeed have more room to breathe, both literally and spiritually.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Busy, busy, BUSY!

I have been notably absent from this blog lately, and I miss it!

One VERY pleasant reason for my absence has been one of our glorious fishing trips to the Ozarks last month, a few days after my last entry.  Joseph fishes and I sketch like mad...17 pages, in all, this time!  Can't wait to go back for one more sketchathon this year...

I always seem to sketch this little tower...

Whoops, my ink was water-soluble, so I switched to straight watercolor.

My dad used to stand on the dam and fish--as many people do.  It's mossy and slick and the water rushes over it, and I have YET to see anyone fall!  This one was painted directly, without graphite or ink.

Lovely old stonework all over in Bennett Spring...

My terrific little walker-studio lets me go anywhere I want, to's more comfortable than this bench, actually!

And since we got home, I've been working like crazy on the upcoming North Light book...27 other artists involved in this one, all of them amazing, and I'm getting some exciting stuff in my Drop Box.  The challenge is using it in the best possible place, and putting one more bit IN when it comes in after I've already "finished" the appropriate chapter!

I'll be sharing bits and pieces here, as I go...lovely on-the-spot work!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Making Your Own Pan Colors--not, this time, from scratch, though!*

This is my old repurposed Prang box, filled with colors of my choice and refilled whenever I like from tube paints.
How about a nice how-to post this afternoon?  We all love our gear, our art supplies, but I love to feel free to make my own combinations and choices.  When you buy a palette or watercolor box with colors already in it, they may be what you want, they may not.  In most cases, for me, the answer is most definitely not.
I've posted this before...the first color, from the top, is lifted from the dry paint, the second after spraying with clear water.  Quite the difference, eh?

It’s really easy to do, and have the colors you want in your paint box...I believe it’s even a bit less expensive, too.  I was told by one company that their paints weren’t meant to be used this way, they weren’t formulated to re-wet, but I say a resounding “nonsense!”  I’ve been doing it for 40 years...

That said, some colors or brands DO re-wet more readily.  Horadam Schmincke works well, as does Daniel Smith...but as I say, I’ve used Winsor & Newton for decades and they work beautifully for me. 

You just need to spray with clear water a minute or so before beginning to paint.  (Yes, that makes a huge difference, as you can see above.)

Lovely as M. Graham paints are, they tend NOT to set up well, under some conditions and in humid conditions, since they use honey as a binder.  They may run or “drool” for you, as do other paints that use honey, so you may wish to reserve them for studio work unless you live in the desert.  And mind you, your mileage may vary!

Oh and further simplification...this little set went to live with an old friend...

If your palette box already has divisions, you can just squeeze however much paint into each one that you want...fill them all the way, just put a dab, or fill halfway, it’s up to you--that's what I do with my folding plastic travel palettes, of course.  If it’s a paint I use often, I tend to fill it up.

You can also buy empty half or full pans, made of plastic.  They’ll either fit directly into your palette divisions, as in some of the older style of metal watercolor boxes, or you can stick them down with rubber cement or magnets, so you can re-position them.

Jerry’s Artarama has them:

Kremer Pigments has them here: (full pans) (half pans)

 Cheap Joe’s has them here: (full pans)

Or try your local art supply store!

(The most difficult thing is figuring out how they’re listed on the site!  “Empty full pans” sounds weird...)

Start in the corners first and then the middle...the paint will shrink as it dries.  You may wish to fill partway, let it set up, then finish filling to minimize cracking. 

Allow the paints to set up for at least 24 hours to several days, so they won’t travel when you take them out in the field.

Of course you CAN order pans already full and choose the colors you want--Holbein, Schmincke, Yarka, Kremer, Winsor & Newton and others offer these.  Prices may range from just under $5 to around $15 or more for a half pan, depending on the pigment and the brand; and I prefer full pans anyway, so I can get a larger brush in there!

I love being able to reload again and again from a single tube of paint, AND to fill the pan with as much or as little as I want.  If I'm just trying out a color, a little bit is good--if I'm trying to save on overall weight of my gear, that's an issue, too.

Give it a try, what have you got to lose?  Particularly if you have tube paints on hand and a palette crying out to be filled and taken out in the field!

* I AM looking forward to Nick Neddo's new book,  due out in early 2015, The Organic Artist: Make Your Own Paint, Paper, Pigments, Prints and More from Nature


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