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, March 31, 2008

Promoting the Workshop & Drawing Irish Musicians

Stuffing Envelopes is kind of soothing. I am a great one for organizing movements (I was totally impressed by the efficiency scenes on how to take a bath in Cheaper By The Dozen, many decades ago) . The envelopes are placed with the flaps in THIS direction, the flyers are placed with the opening THIS way, the single-sheet 1/3 page inserts are placed here with THIS orientation, and the business cards face up and to the right HERE. Then I can pick up the envelope in my left hand and flip up the flap with one movement, then with my right hand I slide in the flyer, then the insert, then the business card. I let the flap flip down and push the filled envelope onto my lower legs as they extend directly past the end of the board toward the TV. Hey, it's smoooooth, fast, and I can watch Masterpiece Theater at the same time as I get all 90 envelopes stuffed, then stamped, then return-address-labeled, then licked. Talk about efficiency!

The insert is really pretty. I designed and printed them out on the color printer yesterday, 3 per sheet. Quite fetching, I think. Makes ME want to go to the workshop, anyway.

I was happy to have a soothing evening, because I had a raucus afternoon. My artist friend Cathy and I went to the Black Sheep in Ashland for a Sunday afternoon of sketching the Irish musicians. It was only a small group because that's all that showed up (it's totally off the cuff, and whoever comes, plays -- if enough people show up). So yesterday featured five musicians at its highest count (they came and went), plus a very talented clogger who only dances (he also carves quite marvelous walking sticks).

Cathy tried ink sketching for the first time. She's an excellent artist, but always sketches with a pencil and had never tried on-scene sketching with a pen. She decided today was the day. So we both drew with ballpoint pens, and she was unexpectedly pleased with the freedom it offered. She observed that with pencil drawing she is always fussing around with erasing and getting the lines just right. But with the ink drawing one has to just dive right in, and make the line, right or wrong. Knowing that some lines won't be right, you just have to shrug and think "okay, so now if I squiggle here, it'll look like a hand and be just fine!" A really nice epiphany.

Juiced up with a couple of "The One And Only" Newcastle Brown Ales (on draft) and using an ordinary black Bic ballpoint pen, I was experimenting with making quick original drawings, then fussing back in with a little more detail to give the drawings interest. Hair, seams on the jeans and shoes, details on a neck warmer, etc. As we sketched, the Irish music flowed and jigged around us. While The Black Sheep is a pub, there are generally little children running around, sometimes trying to dance to the music, and yesterday playing with balloons. I loved it when several times the pennywhistler's toddler climbed up into his lap and sat, rapt with pleasure, as the wild notes swirled above his head.

The baby's mother and grandmother had come for the afternoon, as well, and they loved the drawing of little Rowan on his daddy's lap. I told them to come to this blog, where they should be able to download the picture if they wanted a copy. [Hey pennywhistle folks, if you come for the picture, could you give the address of this blog to the other musicians so that they can come visit, too? I don't have their names, and if you'd pass this along they might be pleased.] I do know the baby's name is Rowan and the pennywhistler is Andrew, but that's the extent of my introduction.

It was, as always, a wonderful afternoon of music, companionship with Cathy, and pleasure in sharing the sketches with numerous passersby and the musicians. Rowan's mother tried to explain about the picture to Rowan, and he patted it appreciatively, but I don't think he quite got the concept of "this is a picture of daddy, and this lady drew it, and there you are on daddy's lap!"

My thanks to the musicians for a lovely afternoon. They are a wonderful sketching resource since they expect to be stared at, and don't mind being drawn.

And now, today, I have to get back to work on the editing of the Swamp book. I'm on page 41 now, and have begun to improve sub-par illustrations as I go along because I get bogged down in words after awhile. Stopping to correct or improve a drawing makes a nice break.


Monday, March 24, 2008

The editing begins

Oh, Rats. I just heard back from The Artist's Magazine that they are working on their June issue now, which comes out in mid-May, which is only 6 weeks before my Costa Rica Sketch/Journaling Workshop July 7-10. For $340 I can get my little 1"x2.5" ad (see the previous blog) placed, or I can get a listing, with no formatting or picture, for $150 or thereabouts. I didn't even write the amounts down. That's prohibitive for a listing appearing that late and for such a short time. Too bad I didn't schedule the workshop for a month or two later, but that would take it into the wet season in Costa Rica, which might not be ideal for such a workshop (even though it is remarkably lovely there then). Hmmmm.....

Well, I do have the list of people who requested information about last February's workshop, and I can mail them the flyer, so all is not lost. And I can keep writing about my workshop preparations on my blog, which gets picked up by the web crawlers. I might also look into promoting my workshop using Google's AdSense. More about that later.....

Because right now I'm busy with something else ~ I'm sitting here at my computer surrounded by an arc of manuscripts, all combbound and each turned to the same page and propped up on a stand of some sort. This is the final proof-editing for my upcoming book The Southern Swamp Explorer.

The manuscripts are freckled and slashed with red lines and scribbles, arrows and saucy comments, critical observations and puzzled questions. I would take a picture of this imposing arc of criticism to show you, but Dan "borrowed" back his camera to take a picture of a tree for a customer down at the nursery, so I can't. It's time to buy a new camera, obviously!

ButI CAN scan in one of the pages. This is page 14, upon which I'm working at the moment. There are also eight other red comments for this page scattered amongst the other five manuscripts, and it could take me up to twenty minutes to do a single page. More if I have to readjust spacing or content to fit new text. This is my sister, Laura's copy. At least she thinks the poem is cute. I don't get a LOT of praise on these critique pages, although my proofers seem to think it's a good book. They're concentrating on what's NOT right.

Here's the poem Laura likes, just in case you can't pull up the page at left, or can't read it when you do:

Frogs 'n Toads (a poem)
Frogs can jump, a toad just hops.
Toads taste bad, but frogs are tops.
Frog-egg jelly sticks to things.
Toads release their eggs in strings.
Frogs eat other frogs a lot.
Toads are bumpy, frogs are not.
Frogs are slippery, toads are dry.
Both of them are very shy.
Each sings loudly as it courts,
But neither one will give you warts.

(Actually, some frogs are bumpy. Bullfrogs may be.).

My critiquers comment on the illustrations, too, but I won't be improving illustrations until the next round (right now I'm sticking to text changes, or I'd get hopelessly bogged down in minutiae (is that spelled right?).

My proofers are master critiquers. They know I can take their comments, so they don't pull any punches. Being the author, illustrator, editor, publisher, promoter and distributer takes a certain amount of toughness which I have developed considerably over the years ~ I used to be a real criticism wimp. Now I can just grin, shrug, or even make a suggested improvement without a single change of expression as I type. My goodness, gracious!!!! {grin}

So anyway, along with preparing and promoting the workshops (and giving them, of course) over the course of this spring and summer, I will be sprucing up The Southern Swamp Explorer, painting a cover for it, and sending it off to press, hopefully before fall. I'll keep blogging about the process as I go ~ the interesting parts, anyway.

A couple of days ago I received a very nice Foreword from Dr. Bob (that's Dr. Robert Thomas), who chairs Loyola's Center for Environmental Communications at Loyola University in New Orleans. You may wonder "How'd she snag him?" and the answer is "The internet is a wonderful thing."

Bob used to have an internet column called "Ask Dr. Bob" and I found it online and sent him a number of swamp-type questions, which he courteously answered. Our communications bloomed into a friendship and eventually a boat trip out into the marshes on one of my swings through the southern swamps. I took along my rough draft of the book to show him (I think I was on draft #5 or so by then ~ it's on #9 or #10 now) and he liked it enough that when I asked if he'd write a foreword, he agreed. He even did a final ms. proofing for me, invaluable when one is writing about such a diverse and detailed roster of subjects.

At any rate, the Foreword is glowing, which makes all these pesky red squiggles not quite so annoying. And hey, while I don't utilize every single red comment, I'd guess that at least 90% of them are taken and used. As far as critics go, my best critics are those who don't know the subject I'm talking about very well, and will ask about it or tell me I forgot an important point or phrased something badly, or missed the boat entirely. And I've got a fine bunch helping me.

"They" say to NEVER rely on your family and friends to proof your manuscript. I think that depends on just who your family and friends are. With their various talents and backgrounds, I don't think I could have picked a better bunch. And with that, I'd better quit procrastinating and get back to work. There are 124 pages in this book, and I've barely begun!

See you in due time!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

How I'm Promoting My July Costa Rica Workshop

The most labor intensive part of giving a workshop (and most mysterious, at least to me) is finding ways to let people know about it. The next one, Creative Journal Writing and Sketching Workshop,February 7-10, is my current focus. How can I get the word out?

I've listed the workshop in Shawguides, a workshop-listing website. There are a lot of great-looking workshops there, by the way, if you're interested. They hook to the presenter's website, so that brings in a few interested shoppers.

A classified ad I put in last September 2007 The Artist's Magazine for February's Journal/Sketching Workshop apparently had no results -- but it helped to establish my name in the workshop community so you might call it a "cost of doing business." And if it appears again and again, and people see it frequently it will help my workshops become familiar to them, which might give them cause to look more closely and perhaps decide to take the workshop in the future. I guess that's how it works {grin}.

That ad, by the way, garnered 91 lead responses (you know, "Check Box #133 on this postcard to get more information"), to each of whom I sent, snailmail, my business card and a flyer about the workshop. I'll send a new flyer to those same people again about this workshop, since they were interested in the last one. Let's see.....91 x .41 = $37.31. Not too bad for a highly targeted audience, I guess. It's identical to the .pdf you can download from the workshop site, but I get them printed up professionally so you can hold it in your hand and the colors look spiff, so it's a worthwhile thing to receive. Of course, getting color sheets printed isn't cheap, and it helps that my brother runs a print shop and gives me a break on the price! Still......

But I thought you might be interested in the progression of the ad, how it appeared last year and the steps it went through yesterday to arrive at what MIGHT be its final form. To be honest, it may be too short notice for this one to get into the magazine before it's too late to do any good. But even if it misses the slot for this workshop, it should work fine for the next workshop with a simple date change. Here's a thumbnail, and if you click on it you'll be able to examine not only the ad progression but read the analysis of the changes that happened.

I'm fortunate to have a friend with a good eye for design -- Cathy Egelston -- and I was sending her the various versions for her opinion ~ starting with the toucan version. What a steadfast critic she was! (Thanks, Cathy!) The version at the bottom is my/our latest one. I'd love to get your opinion on it -- or hear if you like the toucans better than the orchid. I wish it could be in color!

Also, I need to get out my workshop newsletter (complete with sketching tips -- figuring out my latest "tips" tends to slow that down). I have a pretty good-sized newsletter recipient list now, which indicates a solid interest group.

I've gotten a few more workshops scheduled now, too. My latest addition, a four-day journaling workshop for The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, in Baker City, Oregon should be interesting, as they want a historic focus, as pioneers working on their journals while they traveled might have written and sketched what they saw. That workshop is a WIP "work in process," but I have plenty of time since it isn't scheduled until October.

The very next workshop, which I'll be presenting April 7-9, is for between twelve and twenty 11 to 13-year-old students at the John Muir Art & Science magnet school in Ashland, Oregon. The kids have been given the option of taking the workshop (or not), so I'm hoping the ones who do take it will be focused and interested-in-learning, art-and-writing-oriented students. I will definitely let you know how THAT one goes -- I haven't taught that age group in many years.

I'm still adding workshops, so keep an eye on my Upcoming Workshops page for new additions if you're interested.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jocelyn's Journal from the Costa Rica Workshop

Jocelyn Curry, who attended my recent Costa Rica Workshop at El Remanso Wildlife Lodge on the Osa Peninsula, has graciously given me permission to show you her journal (which she says is still not quite finished).

This is a beautiful book, and while Jocelyn did indeed take the class and gain new skills and ideas from it, she already was an accomplished artist with many years of art, commercial calligraphy, and journaling experience before attending the course.

The workshop did offer ideas, assignments and instruction which influenced the journal's direction and final appearance. But I am fully aware that I can take only a small amount of credit for the pleasing results. A note about the cover (the first image below), this is the front of the journal. A matching flap, a continuation of the back cover, folded around about two inches over the front (along the right edge) as a closure.

Be sure to click on the thumbnails to see Jocelyn's beautiful journal pages close-up!

This workshop will be held again in July, same place, same general format, except that instead of calligraphy I will be teaching a fun "Vacation Font" with which to title pages and sketches. I'll be creating a new page with the new workshop information as the date approaches, which you can access from here. Also, be sure to check out my other workshops here. I'm adding more dates as I book workshops, with an especially fun one coming up in October at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Third Day of the Nature Sketching Workshop

I really must compliment my students on their composure and good sense of humor. As you probably have noticed, these blog entries have been studded with photos of them at work, what they've produced, and various points in between. And not ONCE did one of them snarl at me "BACK OFF!" They remained totally blasé about the whole thing. What good sports! Thank you, dear students, from the bottom of my heart.

From the email and blog comment responses

I've been receiving, I know that a lot of you find this blog helpful and inspiring, so if you'd just send a silent thanks in the direction of these students for their generous contributions, I (and they, too, I expect) would appreciate it greatly.

Here's how the third day went.

The first order of the day was to lay out the incoming homework, the landscapes they'd begun during last Sunday's workshop session. I was delighted with their strong renderings. The critique was a celebration of how well they ALL did. Some had not been quite able to finish, but as I mentioned in a previous post, people attend workshops in addition to their private lives and doings, which sometimes must take precendence.

Most of the students had also had time to work through a demonstration I had given last Sunday but which they hadn't gotten a chance to try. I had sent home a redwood cone with each of them to try to draw. Some of the results were truly outstanding! I had the students pass their workbooks around the circle so that everyone could appreciate the results.

Here are the sequoia cones:

The workbooks I give the students are full of information and projects which are good for doing outside of class. Sometimes we cover a technique briefly but don't have a chance to try it out in the limited time available. But many can be done later at home. One student had worked through a technique in the workbook for drawing scallop seashells, so during lunch I critiqued that and another shell she had drawn and wanted advice on.

By the way, dear students, I apologize for some of my close-up photos (including landscapes, cones, and final apple or mango) ~ some of which are a little (or a lot) blurry because I muffed it with the borrowed camera. If yours is on the fuzzy side, I'm really sorry!

After the critiques, I had the students do a few contour drawing warmups using a conch shell as a model, then I added a duck to their set of templates (during some hilarious exercises to highlight the process of visual recall).

With the drawing techniques fresh in their minds, each student selected either an apple or a mango from a basketful I had brought for them to sketch, and drew their model on a fresh page of heavy paper in the back of the workbook.

When that was complete, I introduced the watercolor pencils, the waterbrushes (they hold water in the barrel, making a brush, bottle of water and rinsing jar unnecessary), and some exercises from today's workbook Watercolor Pencil Techniques. They experimented with the watercolor pencils, trying different line weights and application techniques, then I set them to blending colors with the waterbrushes, using a hairdryer to dry between coats.

By this point in the workshop I have an idea of how people will pursue their project ~ color is a bit scary to some ~ their drawings tend to be light and tentative. Others pounce avidly and turn out bright, bold results. Neither technique is preferable to the other, although the bolder artists get finished first. The poky artists tend to produce equally excellent results, given sufficient time.

Working in color is usually scary to novices. To help them overcome that initial reluctance to color their fruit sketches, we turned to a practice page in the workbook with black & white plus color examples of beach and mountain scenes ~ sort of a coloring book ~ where they could practice estimating what pencils would give good results as they tried to duplicate the colors.

When they had gotten reasonably well acquainted with what the pencils will do both in their dry and wet states, I had them scribble yellow pencil for a light underwash on their fruit since the apples and mangos both had a yellow cast to them. The underwash ties the colors together and makes the fruit glow in a way that it wouldn't if the colors were put onto a white surface. Additionally, since the undercoat is meant to be covered with a future color, it's easier for a novice to get started with an undercoat.

By roaming the room and keeping an eye on where everyone was in their progress, I could head off most problems before they got started. When useful, I would halt everone to give a demonstration on techniques to use to get certain effects.

I like to use fruits, vegetables or gourds for models, because the students can take them home to finish the drawing if they don't get done in class. Or they can eat them. Since not all students will finish in the time allowed, they are relieved to know that they will be able to finish this final art piece at home if they need to.

With a few minutes left (I keep the students aware of the time, "you have ten minutes left, so try to finish the most important areas...") I went around pointing out final artistic touches that would give the most impact for their final results. And finally, with most of the paintings nearing completion, the session was over.

I had told the students previously that there would be a raffle at the end of the session for my book The Redrock Canyon Explorer (or if they had already bought that from the back table where I always make my books available at approximately half price) a copy of Illustrating Nature ~ Right-brain Art in a Left-brain World. The raffle is my solution to getting usable evaluations, and I always request critical observations and suggestions as well as complimentary ones. They have to fill out the evaluation to enter the raffle. It's a win/win situation.

As the group was filling out the evaluations, I posed indivuals with their fruit and painting to record their progress. Here they are with their beautiful results:

Diane A. Chris B. Belinda V. Candie M. Gaff Jubilee W.

NOTE: I had one other student, Marilyn B., whose work isn't shown here (she became ill during the first session and missed the second session). She had to leave early again and didn't feel her mango was ready for a photo. But I thought it was quite nice.

And here are the fruits, on review:

Is anyone interested in seeing their comments? If I get three (3) or more comments (at the end of this blog) asking me to put them up, I will. Otherwise, I won't.It's always a letdown to finish such a class. I love the give-and-take, the jokes and joshing, the gentle support of group members for each other, and the quiet (or sometimes not-so-quiet)excitement and pride in learning a new skill. But I have several more classes to look forward to this summer. I've been working on my schedule and they're stacking up nicely.

I may not blog this and the journaling class in such detail in the future, since I can always put links to former classes (like this one) for people to read through. But I WILL continue to put up my students' artwork. They work really hard on their art pieces, and deserve recognition for their progress.

As I work up each new class, though, I will blog it thoroughly so that you can see if it's a class you might want to take. I'm taking suggestions for topics, as I'd like to develop workshops that people feel a real need for. Do you have a suggestion?

I also want to put up Jocelyn's Costa Rica Workshop journal. I have about half of it ready. If you scan artwork into the computer, it usually looks pretty good without too much adjusting. But if you photograph it, there are all kinds of problems: parallax problems (sides not parallel); overall darkness (you've probably seen this on other blogs, from people who don't have the program or know-how to fix them); part of the page may be dark, but the rest okay; color aberrations (so that I have to adjust color as I remember it to get it correct); etc. I didn't have time to scan Jocelyn's journal, although she offered to wait, so I'm having to tweak the photos to make the pages look right, and it takes awhile. Next week, maybe.

So. Let me know if you want to see what was on the evaluations. I promise to be honest (I have to ~ my students read this blog!).

And, next week, in addition to continuing with workshop prep, I will be beginning the final edit changes of The Southern Swamp Explorer. I have had a number of requests to post my progress on that and the process of preparing it for press, so tune in if you'd like to keep an eye on what's going on. I'm expecting the return of the final edited copy Monday or Tuesday, then I'll open the book file in InDesign, prop them all (six edited manuscripts) up around my computer, and open them all to page one, and start making the final changes. aughhhhh!!!!! Wish me strength and endurance!

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

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