To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Monday, December 31, 2007

My Hawaii Nature Journal -- Day 2 -- 12/19/2007

On my second day I got up really early, about five, thinking the sun would rise at 6. But it got light closer to seven, so I had time for a nice leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I picked a seat where I could watch the sunrise over Diamond Head as I slowly woke up over my good cup of hot Kona coffee. Be sure to click on the pictures for close-up viewing.

Since my plane didn't leave until ten thirty, I had time to stroll on Waikiki Beach, examine and sketch an outrigger canoe, visit the Queen Kapiolani Park right across the street, and do some birding before catching the airport shuttle. There are some picturesque open-air trams that run through Waikiki, and next visit I would love to ride on one of those.

I love the banyan trees in Waikiki, with their multiple trunks and great, umbrella canopies. What treasures! I never did get a good photo of one.

The flight to The Big Island went off without a hitch. So far, beautiful, sunny weather. But coming into Hilo I saw the sunshine wasn't necessarily going to last. Well, Hilo is on the windward side of the island, and there's a REASON it's so green, lush, and jungley! As soon as I disembarked, I called for my car rental pick-up -- the rental cars based at the airport are handier, and you could drive right off in one, but you pay for that privilege -- and my agency arrived within minutes to take me to my car-for-the-week, so it wasn't an issue.

As soon as I had gotten my car and checked in with Emma, with whom I planned to stay the night, I took off down the highway to the south-eastern corner of the island to explore. I kept noticing wonderful scrubby trees with brilliant red bottle-brush flowers -- they were EVERYwhere. Later I discovered this is the tree favored by the fabled Hawai'ian honeycreepers, the ohia lehua (oh-HEE-uh LEH-hoo-uh). I found ohias throughout the big island, mostly small, but sometimes up to 80' or so. I love the name -- it rolls off your tongue like syrup.

I also noticed vigorous vines with huge leaves which reminded me of houseplants. Sure enough, they turned out to be monstera, commonly found in pots in office buildings here on the mainland. They really know how to climb a tree!

I was headed for Kapoha Tidepools, where lava meets the sea and makes some interesting snorkeling (which I didn't plan to do this trip). Nearing the tidepools I was amazed to see trees with huge orange tulips on their branch tips. I stopped to take a photo and pick up some spent blossoms to sketch later, and got into BIG trouble (see the journal page with the orange "tulip" flower on it.) Here's a photo of the tree branch... The flowers are a good 4" long!

It rained off and on all afternoon, but only when I didn't plan to be out in it (except once when I stopped for lunch and needed the help of a woman with an umbrella to make it back to my car without getting soaked). I don't mind a little rain, and I was fully expecting to get wet -- brought along a little plastic poncho for just-in-case.

Okay now, to keep from getting confused, read the right-hand page with the yellow noni-fruit on it before reading the left hand page with the business card from KALANI on it. This was a page spread that didn't go quite as planned.....

After my adventure with the tulip tree, I took my rescuer's advice and headed off southwest down the coast to 1. try to find the retreat center where I might be able to hold my Journal Sketching Workshops and 2. see where the lava flow buried the road.

On the way, I drove along a magical tunnel of a road with trees meeting and tangling overhead. I did find the Kalani Oceanside Retreat(YES!) and after leaving off my business brochure and description of my workshop (as I'll be teaching it in Costa Rica in February -- hey, come join us!), I emerged into the open where the sea once steamed great clouds as lava rushed into it.
I did find the sudden end of the road, but it's demise was years in the past, and there's not much to see. But you can sure get some great ice cream in the little store at the end of the pavement.

Then I high-tailed it back to Hilo to meet Emma so she could guide me to her wonderful house in the jungle for the night. I ate my first dinner on The Big Island accompanied by good conversation, sketched all evening as we talked, and was later lulled to sleep by the "Bo PEEP?" call of the coqui frogs ( from Puerto Rico, but they still sound nice). Wonderful day! Warm thanks to Emma, Manny and Ophelia for a perfect evening.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Hawaii Nature Journal -- Day 1 -- 12/18/2007

Aloha! Here I am, back in Oregon, with the results of my Nature Journaling trip to The Big Island of Hawaii. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, and since the object of the trip was to produce interesting journal pages, I'm going to include the actual pages instead of typing in the journal entries and adding the sketches (as I did for last spring's Costa Rica journal -- see the first entries on this blog, May 2007).

Here I am, all my traveling gear attached, and ready for my Hawaiian adventure.

Some things to keep in mind as you follow along: 1. I was traveling alone so I could do anything and go anywhere the urge struck me. 2. I was determined to be adventuresome, try new things, learn all I could, meet people and ask lots of questions, and I did. 3. The object of this trip was to create an interesting journal -- not necessarily "beautiful," but one that would keep readers turning the pages to see what happened next, plus be fun for myself to go back to later on. 4. Days in the tropics are about twelve hours long, so there's not enough time in the day to do/see/do everything -- but evenings are perfect for journaling. 5. I didn't go to Hawaii to swim

That being said, Here We GO! [The front cover of the journal is in the last blog.] In that last blog, I showed the inside of the front cover, but before I left home I added a clear-plastic pocket to hold flat things I might pick up during the day. The plastic is stiff (you could use a square cut from some bubble-packaging) and taped down on left and bottom edges, so things just slip inside and stay nicely in place. I was keeping an eye out for things to glue onto the pages, and used this pocket every day.

The first leg of my journey was from Oregon to Honolulu, where I stayed overnight in a hotel on Waikiki Beach. Click on the image to bring up a large enough image to read. Nearly all of the sketches in the journal are done in ballpoint pen, which keeps me from obsessing to get everything perfect, as I would with a pencil and eraser.

For the first page, I sketched all my gear the night before, laid out on the carpet ready to go. That's my entire outfit, and although it weighed only 19¼ lbs, I'm pretty sure things secretly multiplied in the dark pockets, because it seemed MUCH heavier by the end of the trip.

The next morning on the plane, I tried out my gold calligraphy pen to letter the initial cap for the journal entry, and outlined it with the ballpoint. I glued on my ticket stub as we flew.

Airports are great places to work on sketches. It beats the boredom and people stop to watch and chat. I met some really nice people, which normally I wouldn't have. The second page talks about the third page, and also gave me a place to draw my plane out the waitingroom window.

If you want to draw people, you have to be reasonably discreet and try not to stare too much. But if they catch you, you have to fess up. I was really taken with this beautiful child and tender parent.

The trip to Hawaii was over ocean, nothing to look at, so I read in my paperback novel -- the only time I even took it out during the trip. Upon landing (no baggage to claim!) I went out and caught a generic airport shuttle to my hotel, arriving about dark. With the whole evening ahead of me, I went down on the boulevard which fronts the beach and just soaked in the ambience; then after sushi dinner in a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant (for $8.50) I picked up some fallen flowers, leaves and seedpods from the trees along the beach, and some coral from the surf to sketch in my room later.

Remember, I'm not here for the night life!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Prep For My Nature/Journaling Trip to Hawaii

Hello! I've been nose-to-the-grindstoning the last two months to get my new book The Southern Swamp Explorer ready for press. Every day, all day, no weekends off. Finally, yesterday, I sent off the last three proof copies to my proofreaders and turned off the computer for the day. Boy, does THAT feel weird!

While it was off, I started, finally, collecting together what I want to take to Hawai'i -- wait. . . .I don't think I've mentioned the trip I am taking for nine days over Christmas to scout out Hawai'i as a possible nature sketching/journaling workshop site! That's a NASA photo of of The Big Island at right. It's about 50 miles across.

One of my recent students has a house on The Big Island in Hawai'i, and I'll be staying there for part of the time. My idea is to take this trip using all of the tips and techniques I use in my Nature Sketching/Journaling class, taking in the wonders of each lovely spot and recording them in my sketchbook. Normally I travel with someone else, and that kind of dictates what you end up doing. I'll miss my traveling buddy Daniel, but by myself. . . well, I'll try new ideas out.

I am traveling l.i.g.h.t. I want to be able to carry everything in my backpack and fannypack -- on the plane, while I travel in my rental car, etc. So I've been paring down everything I can, and the process is amazing.

In this blog I am going to outline my travel kit, and when I get back I'll tell you how it worked. Here's the plan for right now.

All of my drawing supplies need to fit in my fanny pack, so I got a sketchpad that is 6x9, the Robert Bateman Cover Series with 100% recycled paper (which is marvelously heavyweight and smooth) -- I used one like this in Costa Rica last spring (see blog #1). To prepare the sketchbook, I scanned in a roadmap of The Big Island from Hawaii, The Big Island Revealed, by Andrew Doughty (looks excellent, comes highly recommended) which I will also take. With the map on the cover, I'll always have a convenient map handy. I also decorated it a bit with the Hawai'i banner across the end just to pretty it up. I haven't yet covered it with clear package tape, but that's the next step. I'm expecting it to get rained on, and the tape will repell rain for quite some time. It weighs 13 ounces.

Inside the cover I've fastened a light, clear ruler and two business cards in case I lose it.

Next comes my drawing kit. Here's a scan of it. The stuff all fits in my clear plastic "cosmetics" container, which I use as a bug jail for sketching bugs. Actually,all the sharp goodies are put first into a little snack baggie to keep them from scratching the "jail" -- I need it scratch-free so I can draw insects I put inside (only briefly, to draw; this ain't death row!).

Here's what I put inside: magnifying glass on a colorful string so I don't lose it, business cards to give away, mechanical pencil, extra leads, kneaded eraser (that blobby gray thing at top), paintbrush with water in the barrel (it's blue, LOVE it!) , blue wipe cloth. eraser in pink barrel, a pencil sharpener for colored pencils (at bottom), a couple of pencil smudgers (tortillons, at left), safety pin, paper clips and a rubber band. That weighs 5 ounces.

I was going to just take my watercolor pencils in their flat metal box, but then I realized that, weightwise, the box could be replaced with a whole slew of other pencils, so I added a lot of in-between colors from my workshop kit. I've tried several different brands, and they mostly work fine. These are Staedtler (which I haven't used before) and Van Gogh and Faber-Castell, both of which are great. All together, they still don't weigh as much as half the original pencils IN the metal box

I'm taking my gold calligraphy pen (in center) with which I can make lovely initial caps. They really dress up a page.

All these things go in the fanny pack. Also in there is my smallish flashlight (4 ounces). Hawaii is in the tropics, and the sun will be going down around 6pm, so I might get caught out. I'd like to see the lava eruptions at night (if there are any) and it could come in handy. A flashlight is also super for looking into crevices for insects. Next, I have a very thin 9"-12" foam pad which weighs less than an ounce, a 3"x5"x ½" little packet with an emergency poncho in it, and a couple of energy bars. There is a pouch to carry a water bottle which slips on the belt, and I'll get a bottle for it when I'm there.

The whole fannypack, without the water, weighs 3 pounds exactly, and I'll probably stuff some other things in it, too (chapstick, sunscreen, deet, etc.). And maybe my little binoculars, which still will probably total less than four pounds.

Then, in a separate camera bag slung over my shoulder, I'll carry my camera bag, which weighs in at just under a pound. The camera is an iffy thing. I've noticed that when I have the camera sometimes I'll take a picture and skip drawing. So I may have to ration camera use. I probably should clip my cell phone onto my belt, too, in case I fall off a cliff. Well, I may look like a burro with all that gear, but I'll have everything I need to have fun with.

Sometimes I wear a fishing vest instead of using the fanny pack. It distributes weight evenly over the shoulders and is more comfortable than the fanny pack. I'll have to think about it. I don't wear it when I'm with Daniel because he thinks it looks goofy, but hey, I don't care.

So there's the sketching end.

For the workshop end, I'm taking along my workbooks from both the nature sketching workshop and the nature journaling workshop. I can show these to anyone who is interested, because they really do outline what I teach in the workshops. As well, I can give away my business cards (see inside the sketchbook cover) which have this blog address and my workshop website address on them. (By the way, I got those business cards at for free -- you just fill in what you want them to say, choose a design, and click. All you do is pay shipping and handling, $3-$4. Don't they look nice? And no, I didn't get paid to say that -- I just think they're a terrific deal!)

Now, as for the clothing, Hawai'i has ALL the climate zones except one, I understand, from sea level to the top of Moana Loa. I'm told that in addition to shorts and T-shirts I will need my fleece jacket and jogging pants. So, since it's December in Oregon, on the plane I will wear the jogging pants with my summer-weight safari pants over them. The safari pants have zip-off legs to make shorts, and lots of pockets, perfect to travel in. And I'll wear several layers of tops including my jacket. . . hey, maybe my change of clothes can consist of a swimsuit, a pair of sandals, a sun hat and some extra underwear! I'll have access to a washing machine if I need it. Cool!

So there it is. I think everything else (paperback, comb, first-aid kit, teeny travel towel, toothbrush, maps, addresses, sunglasses, bird book, cellphone charger, etc.) will fit in my pack which I can skooch under the seat in front of me on the plane.

Now I must clean the house for the house-sitter and make her a list of what to do in emergencies. (and hope Jesse doesn't pounce on her like he did the last house-sitter). Jesse says he will get along just fine without me, and he has already hung his stocking (in progress, at left). Well!

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays, dear friend! I will blog again when I return, with results of my trip.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Family Takes My Workshop

I think I could start nearly every blog with "puleeze excuse the long delay between posts!" or "sorry this is so long in coming." So, to avoid such inane beginnings, I'll just, from now on, ignore the eonic lapses between the times I get to the writing.

It's not that nothing is happening to blog about -- too MUCH is going on. F'rinstance, my family just had a big reunion a state away (in Idaho, 500 rangey Oregon sagebrush miles from here, some of it along The Oregon Trail). The trip takes all day to travel, but the fall colors were gorgeous. I always stop in Vale, a tiny Oregon town with wonderful murals painted on most of the buildings, to rest and admire the once-upon-a-time scenes.

The reunion consumed a full week since I stayed with my brother the printer and not only got my family visiting done but also oversaw the printing of some Campsite Critter Guides (a sideline to my book business) and a batch of one-page lead responses which I'll send to the multitude of people who requested more information about the Costa Rica journaling workshop from my ad in The Artists' Magazine. Go take a look!

At any rate, here are my sibs: David, Elsie, Diane, Laura, and myself.

Now, normally, a family reunion is just lots of related people talking and reminiscing and getting reacquainted after a long period of intermittent, fleeting, or nonexistent contact. But this one (in addition to all that good stuff) was pretty scary.

Actually, it's not that I have scary relatives -- it's that my sister Laura talked me into giving my watercolor pencil workshop for all the siblings while we were all together. Now, doing a workshop for strangers has gotten to be a pretty comfortable prospect. But doing the same workshop for the people one holds most dear and who once gave one advice from on high and/or participated heartily in sibling rivalry with one, and for whom one wants to shine (and, I admit it, to impress just the teensiest bit) -- well, that's pretty daunting. But I figured it would be great practice and a quick way to add a bit more polish to my delivery (I don't feel I have a class properly groomed until I've given it ten or twenty times) so I agreed to give the workshop.

In the end, it turned out to be great fun for all of us. We all stayed at my brother David's house, and I gave it twice, because not everyone could make the first class, right there on the kitchen table and using my workbooks which I always bind with watercolorable paper in the back. The table was a little crowded, and we only had three hours for the class each time, but I am pleased to say that either I have a phenomenally talented family (including sis-in-law and a nephew) or I'm hitting the right note with the workshop. Or maybe both.

Here are the results, and since I didn't get around to asking each one if I could put it up on the blog, I won't identify who did what. Aren't they FINE? By the way, the models are an apple from the tree in the back yard, tomatoes and red peppers from Marcia's garden (these are heritage tomatoes, orange and purply-green), one of Marcia's nasturtiums, and a gourd from the grocery store. Actually, that isn't the same apple because the original got put in a salad. But this one was close.

I think they're pretty terrific for three hours work, including the introduction to right-brain drawing, drawing the subjects, then coloring them. Click on them for closer views.

By the way, for the Nature Journaling Workshop, which I talked about in the last post, I still need to make a third workbook. I was going to just use the watercolor pencil workbook from the Nature Sketching Workshop, but I decided there are things I need to condense and add to make it work better for the Nature Journaling Workshop. I now have a journaling workshop scheduled for January in Ashland (Oregon) (the actual date eludes me) which will give me time to tidy up any loose ends before I give it again in Costa Rica.

So. until next post....keep tuned! And if you want to be notified when these infrequent posts happen, click on the little box in the right-hand panel that will notify you when a new post comes up so you can come and read it. It's a handy little gizmo.

Cheers, fellow artists, and adieu!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Report on my Sketching/Journaling Workshop

Thursday night was the third and final session of my new Sketching/Journaling Workshop (I still haven't figured out a good name for it ~ any suggestions?) This is the one I've been chronicling over the last couple of months as I've worked on it.

My workbooks arrived in plenty of time (whew!) and were received by the students with surprised pleasure (you don't usually get a pretty workbook in a workshop ;^)

The workshop went well, and throughout this blog today I am introducing my class and their works, having their permission to post their photos and works here. They were wonderful people, every one. I miss them already. The first two classes were on Saturday and Sunday from 9-2:30.

However, I can't claim it went exactly as expected. Although I've been writing books and teaching art for many years, I'd never taught creative writing, and I set my sights a bit too low. The students jammed through the exercises with great gusto and skill, leaving us finished half an hour early. Falling back on my art experience, I gathered them in a circle and we all sketched each other for the remaining time. It was a great exercise, but not exactly "writing." I sketched this student, and colored it later as a demonstration in the watercolor pencil session.

The class attracted people who wanted to journal and sketch. Some had never journaled, most weren't able to sketch as realistically as they wished. Some had neither drawing nor journaling experience, so the challenge was to keep everyone working at their own pace and level. Suzanne, a very creative artist, had created a gorgeous hand-made journal that she'd never worked up enough nerve to write in -- it was too beautiful! Shirley S. had tried journaling many times, but always gave up in despair over her art. Everyone had different approaches and needs.

SESSION 1: The first day was full to the brim with drawing exercises and projects. I use right-brain techniques to get beginners off the ground and remind intermediate artists about ways to draw more accurately. Beginners were discovering skills they hadn't realized they had. My one intermediate student brushed up on line work and tried out new tools. We did contour and modified contour drawings and other fun things. Evern's cowrie (at right) came out nicely, as did Shirley B.'s abalone shell, below. The assignment for overnight was to journal and sketch a page, and find a related item to glue onto the page to add interest.

SESSION 2: The next morning we critiqued the journaling efforts -- some great entries came back -- Gail sketched a hail-torn leaf, wrote a bit about it, and glued in pieces of her awning which had been holed by the hail. Shirley S. sketched maple leaves and seeds in the park, and glued in maple seeds and a pressed leaf. A student told us about microwave plant presses! I need to get one!

We sailed right into the writing exercises: take a boring sentence and turn it into an interesting paragraph. The biggest problem with journals is that often we don't work to make them interesting -- but if we do, we'll have far more interesting reading in the future. Their efforts were stellar, and each one read their paragraph to the appreciative audience.
Later, we progressed to poetry, haiku, rhyming and free verse, and limericks. Poems really add a personal touch to a page -- both in content and visual effect -- and the students seemed quite pleased with their efforts, inserting poems and haiku into later entries quite skillfully. In general, the writing was MOST excellent, often funny, drawing appreciative laughter, head nods, and applause from the group.

We also experimented with rendering the haiku with felt-tip calligraphy pens, and making calligraphy initial caps. But in retrospect, I think I will try another approach to that. The ink felt-tip tends to soak through onto the reverse side of the page and the tips are too large to render the letters small enough to visually complement the page. The students offered some good ideas to pursue in that area, which I'll probably mention later.

The assignment was for two journal entries and sketches, with glued-in items. While this isn't a scrapbooking class, a journal is a good place to save important flat items, and they do add a tactile and visual boost to a page.

SESSION 3: This was an evening session and lasted from 7-9 (well, 9:40). Class was supposed to let out at nine but went on another forty minutes because people were having such a good time coloring their sketches and enjoying one another.

I introduced the watercolor pencils, and various techniques they could use, then I sat down with them to demonstrate techniques by coloring the sketch I had made in the portrait circle on the first day, showing them tools and rendering techniques as I proceeded and answering questions and helping individuals as needed. Our critique at the end was helpful, with students seeing what others had done and learning those techniques for their own later renderings.

LATER: Since I've taught long versions of the drawing and coloring classes before, those sessions were relatively easy, although without the full length drawing sessions I couldn't take the students as far toward their goals as we wanted. So I did suggest they might want to attend drawing classes I'll do later on in the season.

I was sorry when the class ended. So were the students. They asked for a list of people's email addresses so they can get in touch with each other after the class, and I sent that out yesterday, plus a .pdf of the letter I'll be sending out to people who responded to my ad in The Artist's Magazine (more about that in a later blog). So there it is, the first run of the Sketching/Journaling Workshop has debuted.

At left is a "patch" Suzanne glued over a drawing that she felt "bombed." At right is our workshop announcement and the Journalist's Credo that Gail glued inside her journal's front cover. Above, check out Shirly B.'s pressed flowers. Above are Dan's fuzzy almonds, and scattered throughout this blog entry are a lot of other great pieces from the class!

At the end of the last session, I held a raffle for my book The Redrock Canyon Explorer in return for evaluation sheets which each student filled out. To me, that's a great trade, and I got lots of good feedback from them, which I'll put to work next time I give this class.

By the way, the students knew they were experiencing the first run of the class (and that they'd gotten a $20 discount because of that). I decided to tell them right from the get-go, and they seemed to enjoy helping me spot areas to be improved. In the last session as they colored their sketches, they offered a whole raft of ideas to add to the longer Costa Rica workshop next February.

Thanks to each and every one of you students for your bright presence and participation in this inaugural run of "our" Sketching/Journaling Workshop. You made it a joy for everyone around you, and your contributions will have a definite imprint on all the future presentations of the class. Thank you!

Here's a grab-bag of other entries...

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