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!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New Project!

Hey, authors get do-overs!  I never thought about it that way, but when a book needs a new look, new information, new status, we get to redo it!  Of course, there's a LOT of work involved, but the end result is that we get to erase the wrinkles, firm up the sagging body parts, and try a new hairdo on the book. Quite a perk.

Here's my perennial favorite book, Illustrating Nature, Right-brain Art in a Left-brain World, which is a do-it-yourself guide for the aspiring illustrator, starting from zero if that's where you are, and taking you as high as you want to go ~ ahem... well, it depends on whether or not you stick with it.  

When I taught my Biological Illustration course from it a few years ago, using the handouts that became the basis for the book, the class enabled I-can't-draw-a-straight-line-but-I-need-the-credit students to get their Project B artwork published in nature periodicals after just one term of study.  But once a you publish a book and it goes out into the world, you (the author/illustrator) seldom get any feedback from folks who buy it.  Sighhhhh......

But I got lucky!    

One of my students from long ago, Pete Schroeder, went on to teach Biological Illustration  at Southern Oregon University, the very course I had once taught. Although he was my student back then, he started out at a pretty high level of artistic expertise, and I just helped him polish his skills. His artwork is stunning, and he's also an excellent teacher. When I moved on to teaching sketching and journaling workshops out in the wide world, he took over the course using Illustrating Nature, and has been turning out some really good artists for several years now. 

On the left is an ink drawing, which was then computer-tweaked to resemble a pencil drawing (right).
Problem is, the book has sections that have become a little dated as the technology whizzes along at breakneck speed, and although most of it is fine, some parts, like the ones discussing computer tweaking illustrations and career opportunities, need some work. 

Pete generously offered to meet with me and give me feedback on what could use some changes, and after an intense session involving every aspect (including the possibility of making it into an eTextbook) I came away with a some good ideas on how to improve on it.  I'm already well into Chapter 3.  I'll get together with him again later to see if I'm on the right track.  

So, the Redwood and Beach sketch journal I began in early September has settled into its spot by the couch, waiting for me to find spare moments to add color to the drawings, but it's going to be awhile before I get moving on it.  

The thought of putting Illustrating Nature into e-book form is a little daunting, I have to admit.  When I upload my sketch journals for people to download and enjoy, I just create them as I would create a book, make them into PDFs and upload them.  But eBooks are done in code and have links, and you can't format them because everyone has a different kind of reader ~ from full size computer to cellphone ~ and if you've seen Illustrating Nature, you know that I format the heck out of it.  

In an eBook, every illustration marches down the middle of the page, one by one.  Like this:

As far as I know, you can't even put two illustrations side by side.  So that means that if I want two illustrations side by side, I'll have to join the illustrations into one graphic in Photoshop before inserting them into the text. I did that just now with the little wood ducks above, because they were originally two separate images. It's not a HUGE amount of work, but the book has hundreds of images, so it would be a lengthy process.  I can see I'd have my work cut out for me.  I still haven't definitely decided to do the eTextbook, but there's a good possibility. 

So.  There's where my life is at the present.  (Ha!  A big turkey hen just landed on my roof with a major THUMP.  It's getting dark, and she's probably about to fly up into a tree to roost for the night. Now THAT's an amazing sight I've only seen a few times. They look so amazing, huge lumps up in the trees.)  

Here's an illustration from one of my sketch journals a couple of years ago of a hen turkey doing just that. She's all fluffed up around her perch to keep warm.

Glad you came by.  If you've been using Illustrating Nature, I hope you'll comment with anything you'd like me to add or change.  Here's your chance!  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Finally! A Road Trip!

Mouse in the Redwoods
SO!  After months of rebuilding, refurbishing, revamping, revisioning, and redoing, Mouse (my 1985 22' Toyota Mini-Motorhome) and I FINALLY got things completed enough to take a 5-day trip to Redwood National Park and California Beaches!  It felt so fine to finally, after all that thinking, planning and re-(insert gerund of choice here), to actually hit the road on our first real sketching trip. 
THE sketch from my first trip
It's the second one, actually, as the first one up near Crater Lake (about 70 miles away) lasted one day then got rained out.
We took off on the 4th of September winding along the curvy road to the coast off I-5 at Grants Pass, OR.  That's a lovely road, although some people think it's horrendous with its curves which have you slowing to 20mph on occasion, and road cuts with Beware Falling Rocks signs. The views are terrific, though, as you wind through river canyons, a great long tunnel, and finally into the towering redwoods  just before you start inhaling salty air of nearby beaches. 

Blacktail deer beneath the Redwoods
Mouse is easy to drive, easier even than my little car which gets 27mpg, so we had a fine trip although it helps to have patience on the uphills. We moseyed along at 35mph in places, since there's a lot of weight in a motorhome and it's a hard pull.  I'm still looking for a bumper sticker I once saw that read "Zero to sixty in thirty minutes."  If you know where I can get one, let me defuses the situation for those stuck behind me, although I am a paragon of virtue about using pullouts so people can get past.
A banana slug, six inches long.

I'm not going to go into lots of details about this sketching trip, although I will tap lightly on the high points.  I stopped for a long walk in the redwoods, lots of photos and some sketches, including one of a remarkable 6" long banana slug which I discovered in one of the memorial redwood groves. 
A lovely scene at DeMartin Beach
My sketch of the lovely scene
 Then I skedaddled for the beach where I just sat and inhaled for awhile, finally settling down to draw some wonderful rocks and logs at DeMartin Beach before heading for my first campground at Mill Creek State Park.  

Check out the steps, marked with arrows. This stump is 5' tall.

Mill Creek is a lovely campground down in the creek bottoms in what was once a magnificent redwood forest. It's a redwood forest again, but still growing back after long-ago logging. My campsite was next to a redwood stump about 8' across and 5' high. The loggers had chipped STEPS into it for a place to stand while they sawed.  It sorta dwarfed Mouse, and made me a little uneasy. At least the forest here is protected now, and will, someday, be a lovely old-growth forest again.

Sponges and kelp in the tidepools
The next day I camped in Patrick's Point State Park, which is on a bluff above a rocky beach. Rocky beaches are my favorites, as they have tidepools with fascinating things in them for drawing. 
These are seals ~ seal lions were farther away

These rocks also had a congregation of sea lions honking hymns ("AROONK!  AROONK! AARK! AROONK!") out on a small rocky island below the bluff, and a colony of basking silver seals which kept demurely silent, squawking only when, while in deep sleep on a low rock, a dowsing wave of the rising tide swamped them. Then they'd let out a startled, disgusted "Araaaacghkkkkk!" (I had trouble spelling that, as you can see!).

The bottom end of the climb
182 steep steps & path down
Climbing down to the tidepools at Palmer Point was a major effort. It was 182 steep steps down and then up again, with tiers of steps separated by steep scrambles. It was a wearing trek bookending an energetic scramble over the tidepool boulders. But I found great sketching subjects and gorgeous vistas peopled with seals and gulls (and hardly any humans, since it's after Labor Day), so it was well worth it. I scrambled up and down it again the next morning, quite gladly.

A crab in a tidepool
I spent the next night in an RV park in McKinleyville to access WiFi, recharge my camera batteries, get a shower, etc.  Mouse has a shower, but I disconnected it since the RV already has had too much water damage done to its structure and doesn't need any more hot showers adding to the problem.
Windy Clam Beach

The next day was spent beachcombing on a long sandy beach (Clam Beach, a windy spot!) before driving up to Prairie Creek Campground to camp in the redwoods again and visit with herds of elk.  Prairie Creek is in a big "elk meadow" and you're almost guaranteed to see elk there. Spotting a lot of cars out along the road (shades of Yellowstone Park!), I drove Mouse out to park beside the road,
My sketch from the top of Mouse
climbed up on top with my camera, binoculars and sketchpad, and spent a couple of hours observing a big stag bugling (one of the most amazing sounds in the animal kingdom!) and rooting up grass and shrubs to decorate his antlers as he challenged an incoming stag circling his harem. It was quite a show, and I had by far the best view in the arena, sitting on Mouse's roof which is 8' off the ground.

The view from the top of Mouse

Since I didn't stay in one place for more than a day on this trip, I did quite a bit of driving, which, along with long hikes along the beaches and lots of clambering around on slick wet boulders, made me pretty tired at the end of each day.  

Lots of cool things to sketch
As a result, I didn't spend the evenings, as I have with past sketchbooks, coloring the sketch pages with my watercolor pencils.  This is a great thing to do in a hotel room, since there isn't a much more boring place in the universe than a hotel room. But in Mouse, I can cook, eat, go outside into a lovely spot to wander and photograph nature or sit in my camp chair, and find a hundred other ways to be distracted. 

A sedum fallen from the cliff
To enable me to work on the sketches later,  I took several hundred photos on this trip, and journaled in my daily journal (I don't keep it up daily at home, but on trips like this I do journal a lot) so that I could add descriptions to the sketch pages later.  
The photos and journal would help me add details to the drawings and get the colors right as I finished sketches later.

I'm home now, and working on the sketchbook, loving every minute of it. 
I've discovered if I set aside a daily dedicated block of time to work on the journal, it's more likely to get finished in a timely manner.  I'll post again when I'm further along (or finished) so you can see the results of My First Sketching Roadtrip in my little Toyota Mini-motorhome, Mouse. 

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

Related Posts with Thumbnails