Friday, June 15, 2018

Sketching in Nature is Back!!

I am so delighted that Echo Point Books has brought my Sketching in Nature back into print!  It was originally from the Sierra Club, and I had an absolute ball writing and illustrating it in 1990, working with one of the best editors ever, Jim Cohee (actually, on that book and on Painting in Nature, also in the que to be republished!) 

In 2005, I was asked to speak on sketching in nature to the first International Sierra Club gathering, in San Francisco, an amazing experience.  (It was also the first time Joseph and I were able to take a trip together--or rather meet up in that iconic city--heaven.)

As usual, I walked right into the ocean, clothes and all...PRIMAL!!

Imagine my shock...along with many other authors, photographers, and editors...when Sierra Club suddenly got out of the publishing business!  The book languished, out of print, for some time, and although I had a few author's copies I was able to share with people, it was just gone except for aftermarket sellers.

Now it's out in brand new, crisp, beautiful form, and I'm stunned at what Echo Point was able to do...the cover is different, of course, but the book is intact, just as it was, all 230 pages!

The book covers almost everything, from the very basics of composition, format, and lighting, exploring tools and mediums, to field sketching and a whole chapter in sketching in color, including colored pencil, watercolor pencils, and watercolor, as well as working on toned paper. (Upcoming Painting in Nature has many more mediums included, so watch for it!)

Format and composition...

Choosing a subject and deciding how you'll depict it...

Suggesting form and volume with values...

Using a round brush...

Using a variety of tools, in fact...this is the pencil page, with examples of marks

A variety of color pages...

Loved the color wheel exercise I set for myself...
A whole scene in watercolor, from planning to finish...

Or focusing on a single tree...
A chapter on field sketching is one of my favorites...the how, when, and why of it...

Maine tidewater and bird life...,

Working on toned paper is almost like sculpting!

Learning to observe when field sketching...

Capturing a biosystem...

Observing and sketching birds and other creatures...

And the table of contents....LOTS covered in this dense, heavy book!

Can you tell I'm really excited to have it available again?? Grateful, too.  Sketching in Nature is on Amazon, as well as a number of other sites!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Repurposed Prang box, 10 years later

If you've been with me for a while, you may remember this repurposed Prang watercolor box, from the 1950s--when the boxes were still metal rather than plastic!  I took out the kids' paints and replaced them with larger pans of professional colors I actually like...

The photo is from 2008, so I've been using this little jewel for 10 years...I have carried it from Missouri to California to Nevada, and love using makes me feel like a kid again!

These are the colors I added then, or close to it...there's an orange in there, too, in place of one of the yellows!

Actually, I have a couple of with Old Faithful, the Yellowstone geyser on it, as well as this somewhat newer one...I found them on eBay, and a quick check showed you can still find them there.

The pan of kids' colors pops right out...

I stuck empty full pans in with rubber cement, so they're easy to pull out and replace if I want...and then filled with my own choice of colors.

Well.  That was then, this is now.  10 years, many miles, and a whole lot of sketches later!

The mixing area has gotten rusty and I may sand and repaint it...or not.  Some colors have been replaced.  I added a few half pans for more versatility...Manganese Blue Hue, Indigo, Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, and Quinacridone Gold...
As you can see, it's been well used and well loved, and will continue to be so.  (And yes, I cleaned it up some for its photo op.  Really I did!)  At 4.9 ounces, it's my heaviest travel kit, but sometimes you just have to deal with it!  Worth it, to feel like a kid and give yourself permission for whimsy...

On a beach in California...

Friday, June 8, 2018

Lighten up!

I find that over and over I try to simplify my gear and lighten my load--and since I want to be prepared for almost any sketching contingency, it's not that easy! 

Recently I've been exploring the fun little Pocket Palettes from Expeditionary Arts--and Maria Coryell-Martin keeps refining and offering new types, formats, and kits!  Check out her "toolkit" page at the link...

Here you see the original palette on the left and a newer model with a brushed steel case (I think she's offering a traditional black one now too, but I didn't see it on the page.)

I know it's silly, but I'll keep carrying the original shiny one because sometimes a girl just needs a mirror...or a signaling device...or...and the little bag it comes in protects the finish!

The very first ones had small pans, like those on the right in the filled palette, but many of us like to work with a larger brush, so Maria added the square pans.  Perfect! 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Being There, several things have been trying to get my attention lately.  The need for focus, the desire for a deeper, more authentic experience.  For being there. Showing up for my own life. Synchronicity has spoken to my soul, loud and clear.

My re-reading of my last year's rewilding posts and how they got derailed by my tendency to turn everything into work, into a "jobligation" caught my attention.  An inveterate teacher and a lifelong "fixer" (as well as spending a chunk of my life as a caregiver), it's no surprise, but not all that conductive of the end I'm aiming for.  Or mean to aim for, at any rate.

And then this post appeared in my memories, on what inspired you, from our Artist's Journal Workshop blog, and this one, from this blog three years ago today, on the addiction of social media.  (Yes, three.  I keep trying...)

And yet...there is this pull, from both directions.  If something becomes habit, becomes dry, only going through the motions instead of being engaged, fully this productive?  On the other hand, this caught my eye in a book I'm reading--the concept that structure, discipline, repeated actions or rituals can keep us going through those dry times, until we can find our focus again.

That last was something I often heard in my church years.  I spent a time in the Third Order of St. Francis 20-some years ago, but found when I needed a more focused, personal spirituality--at least that's how I perceived it--rather than saying the hours with the church, I was no longer welcome as a member of that community.  The discipline, the praying with the church, was paramount--so said my director.

A friend just repeated the concept on a Facebook post, in different words.  Keep going, keep doing it (whatever it is), until you're inspired again.  But does that work?  For you?  Or for me?  I suspect that's a very individual answer.

I want to be present to my life.  Presence has been a goal for many years now...mindfulness.  Being there.

And yes, I have a tendency to read about it rather than DO it, sometimes...believe me it's not the same.

But I recently read a pair of books that made a very big impression on me: Gerald May's The Wisdom of Wilderness, and David Abram's Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology.  May's book was brilliantly written, personal, engaging, and deeply moving to me.  Abram's had a similar theme...being fully ALIVE, in all our senses.

I don't want the reading, my be simply going through the motions.

And yet...two years ago I chose "presence" as my word of the year.  Last year at this time, I wrote of re-focusing.  Presence.  Being there.

Perhaps someday I'll actually get there...

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Looks can be deceiving...but the end result as well as process counts!

I have been more into drawing than painting of has a wondrous magic to me, as it did to my old mentor, Ann Zwinger, who talked about pulling the image from the blank page.  When we make one of our trips to one of my earliest heart homes, Bennett Spring State Park, I always seem to spend the bulk of my time filling journal pages, and this trip was no exception.

I'll admit I've been puzzled, though...I haven't been working in color nearly as much these past months, and not entirely sure why.

But as I told J., in part it is simply that I love to draw, always have.  It's simple, immediate, magic.

Hand, drawing instrument, paper.

No "Are my paints wet enough, what colors shall I use, oops--didn't wait long enough for that to dry, damn that's not the color I wanted, my yellow is muddy, I got my hand in my wash, where's that spatter brush NOW, I grabbed the wrong brush, and what the heck is wrong with that brush all of a sudden, anyway, it USED to make a point?!?"

Yes, of course I have recalictrant pens that run out of ink or leak at the worst possible times, and leads that break in my pencil.  But that comprises far fewer problems to hang me up overall, and drawing is indeed so delightfully, satisfyingly immediate.

Drawing instrument, paper, MAGIC.

That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it...


I will admit this one is rather simpler than it may look.  My dear friend Pat Southern-Pearce said kindly, "such a light fresh touch..."

Well, sort of...

I had originally just done the slow comtemplative drawing, on the spot, with my Falcon soft extra fine pen that turns out to be sooo dependable.

You can see the bent old sycamore just beyond the table that was my open-air "studio."  (My wee bear Traveller kept me company and encouraged me as I worked.  So did my drum.)

And as much as I love black and white drawings, I decided this one needed a soft spring background.

Way TOO complex and difficult to paint around, though, so I decided to take the chance on liquid mask over the drawing so I could splash in the color all in one go.

When I opened my jar of maskoid, though, I discovered it was so old it had thickened to a gluey I took a chance and thinned it with a bit of water, in the lid.  Too late to back out now!

I sacrificed an old brush to that stuff, but I figured if it worked, it would be worth it.  I carefully painted over the drawing and almost all the vines and tangled limbs, praying that when I removed it, it wouldn't take my drawing with it!  I let it dry THOROUGHLY before painting over it.

The mask was still thick and clumpy in places...

So far so good...
I mixed loose, light, subtle washes, spattered and sprayed and dripped, in spring colors...which I ALSO let dry very thoroughly, to insure the paper was back to full strength.  Any moisture weakens the paper structure and makes it far more susceptible to tearing.

I tried rubbing the mask off with a finger, but it was old and gummy and did not want to move.  I'd wear off my fingerprints before I could clean the whole drawing...

The search for a rubber cement pickup was on!  Fortunately I found one in a pile of other art supplies and began the long, careful removal of the gummy mask.

Hallelujah, the ink drawing survived!  The Fabriano soft press paper in my little folding journal is strong, well-sized, and up to the task.  Nothing tore!  No wonder I love that paper...

 A bit of additional spatter over the dry drawing/painting and I called it done, with a great, gusty sigh of relief...

So thank you, dear Pat!  Whereas it may look like a light, fresh touch it took a lot of slow, tedious work to get there.!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

New Watercolor Paper to try!

This is the new watercolor paper I've been will be commercially available in December, but you can get samples to play with right NOW, Legion Paper's new Stonehenge in a variety of weights and surfaces:

I made a couple of small journals to test it with and will be using more! Here's a teaser--I was testing watercolor pencils, ink, colored pencils and granulating colors...I've had a ball.

Plan a blog post to share my experiments soon...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Focusing...finding our true interests, our gift, our path not always easy.  I have a questing mind, as many creative people do.  I love to explore mediums, subjects, approaches.

Our truest interests, our unique path, can be--and usually IS--plural. 

In the past, there were not so many choices for people, at least those of us of peasant stock.  We worked the farm, or followed our father's trade, or raised our children.  Period.  A few adventurous souls left house and home and "lit out for the territories," or sailed for the New World to escape those limited expectations, or poverty, or oppression both societal, religious and economic, or the Potato Famine.  I'm very grateful my ancestors did just that, though I still have Ireland in my bones two and a half centuries later.

And I am in NO way suggesting that we need to find Our Style or our medium and settle on it, as some galleries will tell you to do "to be taken seriously," or make ourselves into a brand. 

How I paint or draw depending on what interests me, how much time I have, what medium seems to suggest itself, if I'm feeling bold or contemplative, peaceful or angry or excited, what the subject matter is, why I want to capture it!

No thanks.  I am not a factory--or even, truth be told, particularly driven or focused.  Fine for those who can, and find satisfaction in the process, but--not for me.

I believe that as an artist, I need to be free to expand and explore.  To be inspired--and yes, to inspire.

That IS my path.

And so...I experiment, and try different mediums and approaches and subjects.  I'm always surprised when someone says they recognize my me, it's very different, and influenced by where I am on my path on any given day.

What works for you?  What makes you itch to paint or sketch?  Why do you respond to the things you do?  What has influenced you?  What tool feels like part of our hand?  What colors make your heart sing or express an elemental sadness or capture a special tenderness?  What matters to you?  What makes you feel safe, or loved, playful, nervous, or challenged?  What do you need to get outside of your brain and heart and down onto paper or canvas?

The answers to those questions and a hundred others are signposts on our path.

And paths change, and branch, and have dead ends and interesting side trips and wondrous surprises as well as frustrations along the way.  As long as we keep going, at our own pace, in our own way, we will arrive where we need to...and always, always, it's more about the journey than the destination.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin