I sat down this morning to play with a new little something I recently acquired, called Joy. No, really, it’s a pen, called the Lamy Joy. Recently a former student of mine shared a link with me to the website and sketching work of Liz Steel down in the Land Down Under. I love the look of her sketches which have so much life and color and bold line work. She uses ink to draw and watercolors from there to bring things even further to life. I often work in the same way but have always used permanent ink pens such as Microns, Sharpies and the like to create my lines – before and after painting. I enjoy the look of a fountain pen line, but had never translated it to sketchbook work. She recommended this pen and, with a name like Joy, how was I to resist?
Last fall I attended an inspiring series of lectures by a number of wonderful children’s book illustrators and writers. One of whom, Sergio Ruzzier, works in pen and ink for the drawing, and then, like Liz Steel’s sketches, follows with watercolors later. I love the look of these drawings and have been playing a bit since then with a variety of pens and some inks. But these inks would ruin a proper fountain pen overnight.
These have been fun to experiment with in the studio but aren’t as friendly for on the go sketching. I do have another Lamy fountain pen which I love, but the ink I use in it wasn’t at all water-resistant so unless I wanted to stay in the grayscale world, it too was not exactly sketch friendly.
Reading Liz’s posts on fountain pens inspired me to do a little more digging into that world (it’s an overwhelmingly big and enthusiastic world, the world of fountain pens!) and see if there was possibly an ink I might take on the go, in fountain pen form, but which might be a tad more welcoming to watercolor. An ink that with proper precaution, wouldn’t ruin my new pen, but would allow some color.
Apparently, noodler’s black ink is the one. You can read all about it anywhere on the interwebs and with many posts all around giving it a thumbs up, even in actual working fountain pens, I decided to give it a go.
Guess what!? It seemed to work!
After just a few seconds of drying time, the little Fox in the Snow became a regular old orange fox and the lines did not run at all. I was thrilled! As much as I love the micron pens, I will admit that my stomach churns every time I go to discard a used up marker. Perhaps there is a way to recycle them somehow, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.
In this throwaway culture of ours, I look for even the smallest ways to not be such a consumer. This feels like a small way to do that. Maybe this pen, with it’s ink that can stand up to watercolors, and it’s variety in line weight options in just the one pen, can be a beginning.
I will need to draw a tad more often to keep that ink flowing, and make a point of cleaning out the ink more often than I do in my other pen. Perhaps this notion will keep me more in practice. I’ve been a bit out of practice since summer’s sketching and travel. This usually happens. But I am ready to dive back into daily sketching, and more and more painting and see where it all leads.
A few local illustrators here in this river valley (remarkably productive, as far as illustrators go actually) gather weekly for a bite to eat and sometimes a morning of sketching together. This morning was one such morning and we spent a quick bit of time at the zoo, dodging cooler temperatures and limiting hours to grab a few drawings from life.
We start with the elephants.
I always find my elephant drawings to tend toward the abstract as they mosey and move, like elephants do. Ages ago I worked at this zoo, as a teenager and college student. I loved it. Many of the keepers from back in the day are still present, being the best stewards they can be for these captive beasts. After all, zoos are the best solution to some serious mistakes humans have made.
They were indoors this morning for the chill, but were working their way out of doors where there is more space even as we drew them.
Later we observe some sweet red pandas and eventually a few felines. The cat house is changed from when I worked there years ago. And yet it is familiar.
There is a caracal, this one more curious and mellow than the one which haunted me and jumped at the glass on my watch.
And a bearcat, a local mascot and icon at the university. One of the few collegiate football games I attended back in the day was as a steward for the zoo’s bearcat who goes to represent his home team.
This explains a lot…..
I hear they are vicious but have only really known them to be sleepy.
We have a lovely, but brisk morning out. I am cold and head first to refill my tea water upon arrival at the local market where we gather for lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant. It is good we arrive early as soon there is a line out the door.
There is the usual sharing of work, a bit of mayhem and illustrated camaraderie as well. I am so thankful for this group of fellow artists at all stages of their careers. They give me hope and encouragement and it’s always fun to head out to draw together.
It’s a funny thing to go out into the world with a sketchbook, some pens and pencils and a little paint set. My friends from the Cincinnati Illustrators group and I routinely set out around town to practice our on-site rendering skills and one of our favorite colder-weather places to sketch is the Krohn Conservatory. Today was, indeed, a cooler day to be sketching and so we visited the conservatory where their annual holiday display is on. There are lovely little woodsy buildings made of natural materials, depicting many local landmarks and iconic places. And of course loads of gorgeous plants and flowers.
I sat for a good bit watching this little incline go up and down the hill to ‘Mt. Adams’ while I drew the scene.
After drawing for a while, I took out my paint set to add some color to my sketch. Soon, I realized that I had a mesmerized young admirer of my work.
and so I drew her.
She was delighted with the results and when her Gran asked her, ‘what’s she painting there, Peyton?’, my new friend answered, ‘that’s Peyton!’
Peyton’s Gran sent me the snapshots she took of our sweet exchange and I share them here with her permission. It was so wonderful to interact with guests of the Krohn, many of whom were fascinated by watching us draw.
Years and years ago, when I was a more shy sketcher, this notion filled me with dread. I am often asked by students, ‘what if someone wants to see what I am drawing?’ (!!!) And my answer is, ‘Let them!!’
We should all share our creative endeavors now and then, even when they might be new to us or feel clumsy. I’ve been sketching for years now. And each time I go out, I marvel at how curious and engaging folks are when I bring my sketchbook out. I no longer mind folks looking over my shoulder as I draw, since now I teach the process. I truly enjoy meeting the wonderful people who take a moment to say hello and ask what I am up to. An active sketchbook is a lovely way to experience the world.
Today is my 46th birthday. As is often the case this time of year, things are in a state of semi-controlled chaotic flux, what with school starting soon and Big Moves happening for both of the kids. Jack returned from Brazil just in time to join us on our annual summer sojourn to the coast of Maine and is now in the process of returning to his collegiate life across town. Meanwhile, in similar fashion, our youngest, Madeleine, is making lists and preparatory pilings of her own as we move her into a dormitory at Ohio State University next week. Things are getting real. They are embarking on a world of their own making….
All of this is, as expected, a little on the bittersweet side of life. But it is also the Way Of Things. This is why we raise them. So that they can hopefully head out into productive lives of their own. It is time for us to focus back on ourselves for the first time in ages. I for one am feeling a delicious fire burning in my art work, music and in my inner life, while the Hub, Tony, has plans of his own involving far flung watery places to explore. It is an exciting time for all of us.
So let me just catch you up a bit on happenings since I last wrote. As you now know, I am in the process of putting together a new workshop, launching in February. I’ve had quite a bit of interest, and a few sign ups too! And while I have been mostly on the road since the announcement and not able to ‘blast’ it properly as of yet, it is my hope that this class will be a ‘go’ with just enough folks to make it a reality. Do let me know if you have any questions!
Ah yes, the road. How it beckons!! Last I touched base here at my online home, I was off to a week of full on music at Swannanoa.
This was a week of complete bliss for me personally. Tearful reunions with people I only get to see once a year. We fell straight into tunes and laughter and musical mayhem that only ‘band camp’ can provide. I opted for two classes, both in flute, with two of my favorite instructors/musicians/people on the planet, Kevin Crawford and Nuala Kennedy.
They are not only brilliant teachers and players but they are absolutely hilarious to spend time with. In my own teaching I try to emulate the sense of fun and level of laughter I’ve known in classes with these two. It is through a childlike sense of play and creative experimentation that the best learning is to be had. Learning a creative pursuit as an adult can be daunting! Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture, adults take themselves (ourselves!) so seriously. Getting out of our own way is half the battle. I am still riding the wave of magic and beauty of that week, with renewed gusto to practice my tunes, to keep learning and improving. I intend to make it back to this week again next year. There is such a sense of ‘Brigadoon‘ to it all, magically happening each summer and then just like that, it’s gone….
Of course, if you follow my summer patterns at all, you know that no summer is complete without a dip of my toes into the ocean in my soul’s home, Maine….
Ginger Small and I were reunited up there as I’d heard very little from her all summer. And we have much work to do!
I spent a fair amount of time just gazing out to sea and doodling….
…that is, when I wasn’t partaking of the bounty of the ocean. YUM!
Our time in Maine usually allows for a bit of the ocean and a bit of the lakeside as well. I did a fair amount of oogling and doodling there as well.
It is a time we treasure, and each year we know it might be the last where everyone attends. Any next year could see the kids doing their own thing elsewhere. So while I painted and sketched a good bit, and came up with a number of tiny paintings, it is never enough.
Maine tugs at my heart strings harder and harder each year. Every year, it gets more difficult to leave the fresh salt air and cool breezes available there.
“She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.” ~Holly Black
Having lived there once upon a time, I know life in New England is not all summer time and roses. Winters are cold and long. But I simply must spend more time there.
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” ~Ranier Maria Rilke
For a while now, my dear, long time friend Amy (she who attended to the births of my children, my soul-sister) and I have admired the whimsical, colorful world of artist Henry Isaacs.
His paintings are impressionistic, energetic, and brimming with color that is at once straightforward and complex. They are the kind of paintings that make me yearn to pick up a paint brush and paint. But not in my usual sketchy fashion.
I’ve had this yearning to paint for awhile now. And I have painted. Here and there. I’ve made some paintings that I like a fair bit. While others have lacked the intensity I wanted them to have. They often feel too cautious to me. I’m not quite sure how to approach the materials, having had only nominal amounts of instruction in this particular way of art-making. Often as soon as I have found my way into a painting, it’s time to quit to attend to Life. And by my next visit to it, I’ve lost the steam. Clearly, I need some help.
So in honor of everyone in this household going off and learning new things and forging exciting new paths, I am heading back to the coast of Maine in just a few weeks to take a workshop with Henry Isaacs. I am so very excited to learn some new ways of approaching paint and then applying these lessons to the sights and sounds I find so enchanting by the ocean.
“I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of the waves.” ~Le Testament d’Orphee
Perhaps I may get the opportunity to paint the ocean of sage in the high desert of New Mexico at some point as well. Again, something I have yearned to capture, but outside of my sketches, have never seemed to accomplish successfully.
I believe in following the voice of one’s heart. That intuitive voice that whispers ‘this, yes, this!!!!’.
I’m following that voice as much as I can these days. My Right Work seems to be a three-pronged dance made up of teaching workshops in beauty-filled places, making up whimsical stories and pictures for the young at heart, and just painting/sketching/drawing by myself (also in beauty-filled places). In between there I’ll work the day job when I can, manage the comings and goings of these adult children of mine, and try to keep this house in some sort of working order. Oh yeah, and music. Always music.
Today is a day of musing. Pondering my life’s path. I feel like the 46 year old me is waving enthusiastically to a younger version of me as if to say ‘This way! This way! Aside from a few bumps in the road here and there, life’s going along quite nicely just now! Just hang on!’ Because it is going along quite nicely actually.
I’m excited at the timing of this painting workshop opportunity, as it falls just as I have a moment to catch my breath before really needing to buckle down to work this fall on February’s offering. I get another taste of salty Maine sea air before they must batten down the hatches for yet another winter. My kids will be off doing their own thing for the first time really ever. I’m thrilled and excited and incredibly grateful for all of it.
Happy birthday to me.
….and here are some of the new Tiny Offerings from recent travels. Let me know if you would like to own one!
It’s difficult for me to fathom that just over a month ago I traveled to Taos to teach my annual summer travel-journal workshop. Has it really been a month?! Was I really just there three weeks ago, mid-way through a fantastically perfect week filled with the company of the most amazing group of people?
If I look at the calendar, it would seem so. And yet, I look at some of the snapshots of that week (captured by my trusty assistant for the week, Taos artist, Jan Haller) and it seems that the workshop never happened, or is happening right now, or perhaps, is just around the corner once again. Taos has that relationship to time.
There was much laughter. Belly-laughs as deeply rooted as the ancient cottonwood trees.
And there were also plenty of precious moments of solitude and quiet.
There were those moments of ‘aha!!’ when we learned a new trick with those wiley watercolors.
There was a fair amount of demonstration done by yours truly, to show my approach to capturing the world in my own journal….
…and yet we learned that there is no better way than one’s own way of working. It was my goal for the week for each workshop participant to find their own visual voice. Which they did. In grand, beautiful fashion.
At the end of this gorgeous week we celebrated our hard work and new friendships with a dinner at Mabel’s which fed not only our bodies but our souls as well, as meals at Mabel’s generally do. There was more of that nourishing belly-laughter, and perhaps some equally delicious tears over deep conversations too. This work is so much more than just drawing and painting in a book. It’s about an approach to life that can sometimes be difficult to find in our day to day. But we re-discover it at workshops like these. We find it in these fellow artistic souls. We are reminded that beauty and laughter, grace and joy, great food and fantastic, fierce friendships are crucial to a life well lived. Today- just now – back in Ohio, it is (not surprisingly) raining buckets. In my ears, on repeat while I work, is thiswhich is the perfect blend of arty and trad. Combine this music with the sound of rain and things can seem a little somber. Especially when compared to the bright beauty of New Mexico.
But there is a lushness to this valley that is at once suffocating and yet deeply and beautifully compelling. It is travel season, and I am torn between all of the amazing, soul-home places (yes, including Ohio!) and people I have the great fortune to know intimately. Those who know me and love me best know that this very restlessness and yearning are what keep me moving artistically. The need to be on the move was instilled early on in me by my ever-changing home life and I’m grateful for the ability to travel as much as I do now as an adult, especially in summer!
Next up is my now annual trek to the North Carolina mountains where I will play music for a week with far-flung friends at the Swannanoa Gathering‘s Celtic week. I will be updating the blog a bit in coming weeks (between trips) with next year’s workshop offerings. There’s a new one being offered in February 2016 about which I am very excited. Much of the same sort of work, but deeper and richer. So stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted!
After a long day of travel, peppered with delays, cancelations and many, many hours of knitting, snoozing and sketching, I found myself at long last, arrived in theLand of Enchantment. Ginger Small was as annoyed with the delay as I was at the way our day of travel had gone…
…and for the second leg of the journey, opted rather for a hot air balloon ride.
Last I heard, she may have tracked down her cliff dwelling friends further down the mountain, but that is a tale for another post.
Meanwhile, I arrived, very much alone. I was greeted by moody skies, a darkening landscape and storms.
It was all quite lovely really and I just got into my little car and drove, intent to make the most of the last of daylight, intent to eventually arrive in Taos.
Thunderbirds guided me up the mountain.
After a day off to soak at the hot spring and nap and visit, yesterday finally found me truly landed and ready to get to work. There are many supply gathering sort of errands to be handled, and meetings with the team of folks here in town and at Mabel’s who make this workshop possible. But I did take a couple of hours yesterday to hike a well loved desert path.
I met many new friends, who were in full plummage due to recent rains.
I was able to sit for a few minutes with my sketchbook and do a quick rendering of a bit of the Rio Grande Gorge before I had to head back up the path to get back to town. It was wonderful to sit in the quiet and witness Raven riding the thermals, and to feel the sun on my shoulders, and the breeze on my cheek. The noise of town and traffic well behind me. I need more open space in this life.
It feels so precious to be back in this strange land, so very different than my own homeland. By experiencing, exploring and cataloging new landscapes, we are surely discovering and perhaps even altering our own inner landscapes. Every visit here reminds me I have much to glean here. From myself, and from the land.
The trip has only just begun, and there are already so many tales to tell and drawings to be made. I am grateful for this quirky place and it’s rugged landscape and beautiful people who are fortunate enough to live here full time.
We thought we had made it through to the other side.
The piled up, well and often used coats and woolens lying around have been tucked away into the closet to await next winter. Pollen has begun to hinder the morning’s runs and flowers are bursting forth all over the landscape with enthusiastic springtime abandon.
Lambs are being born at our friend’s farm, and green grass for them to nibble is growing strong. We have had the first official pass with the lawn mowing tractor.
Neighborhood friends have come back to play in the shadowed corners of the yard, quiet, sweet and quite shy, but willing to make friends if we let them.
Even the ever so flighty cherry blossoms have been on full display at some of the more flowerful places around town.
And then some storms came. With much wind, buckets and buckets of rain. And we awoke to a blanket of thick sticky snow weighing down our springtime lightness.
I couldn’t help but admire it’s loveliness, much as I am over snow as a phenomenon for the season. Springtime has it’s own slant to the light in the sky and so the snow has a more lively crystalline quality to it than it does in the depths of winter.
The daffodils seemed to be requesting a do over, with their cheery faces leaning back into the soil.
The forsythia blooms, just recently opened are feeling a bit droopy and sad with this cold snap and the weight of the snow. I wonder if a few more blooms are still behind these…
The farmer’s almanac did say that we were in for at least one more good snow before we really could settle our bare toes back into the grass and the bubbling creeks without getting too very cold. And they have been spot on all winter long. This too shall pass.
And then we can continue to get on with the busy-ness of spring.
In my last blog post, I hinted that there might be some excitement around here as I continue to spread the word about the Illuminated Travel Journaling workshop in Taos Next summer. Early-bird registration is in it’s final weeks and spots are starting to fill! While we will be accepting registration for the course through early spring time while space is available, I didn’t want anyone to miss out on the chance for the $200 savings now!. What better way to spread the word than with a give-away!! Here’s your chance to win the Go Forth and Doodle sketch-journaling set!
The Go Forth and Doodle give-away set includes a few must have tools to begin your sketching adventure right now! There is a moleskin brand blank book, tricked out with GFaD art work, complete with a place for ephemera in the back of the book. This little book is great for ink or pencil drawings, notes about your travels and doings, a general “butterfly catcher” to enhance deeper work in other books later. I like to work and write in these books with Pigma Micron pens, so I’ve included one as part of this give-away set.
There is also, a more watercolor friendly handmade blank book, made by me out of sturdy paper that can take some wet work and color play. Also tiny in size, this little book is a good one to sit and paint in when out at the park or the public market.
One cannot watercolor with out some paints and a brush, so this give-away includes a Niji waterbrush and an Altoid tin watercolor set, which you have seen multiple times here in the past. These tools make it so easy to grab quick, sketchy studies just about anywhere! And the water is in the pen!!
The whole set can fit in a coat pocket or a small bag or case and with a little practice, you’ll be drawing, sketching and painting like mad wherever you go!
So how do you go about getting in on this gift? The only thing you really must do, so I can keep official tabs of who has entered to win, is to submit a comment to this post on this blog. I love to hear from you on Facebook and Twitter and beyond, but those comments can get lost in the shuffle, and I’d hate to miss anyone who’s name should be among those in the hat. So comment below and you’re in for the give-away! Simple and quick as that. If you know other sketchers who might like to win this give-away, or even better, to join us in Taos next summer, pass the word! Below is a video to share. Best of luck!
I’ll pull the name of one lucky winner from the hat at 7 pm, Saturday December 14 (EST), one day before the end of early-bird registration. So have your comments in before 6:55! Thanks again for passing on the word of this wonderful work. I hope to see you in Taos!
Yesterday I made my way back out into the countryside, an irresistible thing to do this time of year, this time headed northwest of our Queen City to Oxford, where I once spent a few years as a student. My dear friend, fellow musician, artist and 2013 Taos Sketch Trip participant Astrid invited me to see the remnants of a show brought to Miami University recently by artist and sketcher Prashant MIranda.
Mr. Miranda “has been chronicling his life and travels through his watercolor journals for the last two decades. He balances his work between the need to document what he sees in front of him and the madness that comes out of his head.” (quoted from the show’s postcard). We were disappointed to be made aware of this show and his visit too late to meet the artist himself, but were able to see facsimiles of the pages of some of his books at one of the small galleries. His approach of chronicling both the seen and the felt, as it were, is familiar to mine and it’s how I approach my own sketchbooks.
The display offered views into a number of his books and I was pleased to see that he doesn’t seem to stick with just one kind of book, but rather mixes it up and jumps between varying kinds of books with different papers.
I do love a creative approach to lettering and there was plenty to be seen in his lovely work.
Real flowers meet drawn flowers in the pages of a journal.
This page below seemed to be a from a repurposed book of some sort. The effect was to make his drawing that much more time-less, which I believe journal drawings are to begin with. They at once capture time and move beyond it.
Astrid and I noticed that while some of Miranda’s drawings were quite involved and specific, others were simply doodled impressions of the moment, and were equally, if not more so, effective in capturing a glimpse of time and space. The approach to his crowd of brightly dressed people below is an example. Simple, yet, not so simple really. I have found that that simplicity comes from years of distillation practice.
If you are anywhere near the Oxford, Ohio area in the next couple of weeks, the show goes until Nov. 12. And while it is composed of scanned/printed images of his sketchbooks and not the ‘real thing’, they are still lovely to lovely to explore. I hope to run into Prashant Miranda on a sketch crawl someday on some far flung travels and tell him in person how much I enjoy his journaling work.
If you like the idea of keeping a travel journal and don’t know where to start, or need a jumpstart in your own practice, do consider joining me in Taos, New Mexico, USA, next summer for a week of diving into the Art of Keeping an Illuminated Journal. Keeping a travel journal is a wonderful lens thru which to view the world, as the work of Mr. Miranda is a fine example!!
In which we leave the desert behind and venture to the sea…..
Our summer is not complete without a visit to the coast. And so, we drove many miles to Maine where we scooped up god-children we see only once a year and whisked them out to sea for a few days on mystical, magical Monhegan Island. We drew boats and coast lines and hiked miles of trails.
We seemed to blend in well with the others who were drawing and observing on the island.
Sometimes artists stand on the rocks for so long that they become like stone themselves.
As was the case on my last visit to the island, the veil between here and there is quite thin. It was necessary to pay our regards.
But there is always time for more sketching in the sketchbook. Because that is what I do. In the desert. And at the sea.
After partaking of oceanside adventure and cuisine for a number of days, we were called inland to the Land of the Lakes.
The rolling hills of the Kennebec highlands are home to a relaxed pace and sweet berry-pie-laden atmosphere and so we settled in for a week of catching up with our far-flung soul family members.
I spent much time observing the lake.
Watching the skies.
And watching the skies.
Sadly, it was eventually time to return even further inland. Back to Ohio where the kids, ever growing, had their more modern, fast-paced lives to attend to. Maddie is back to her third year of high school, busy with AP classes and digging through the thigh-high pile of collegiate options she is faced with in the coming year. And college, that is where Jack is. Across town but a world away, living his life and pursuing his dream of making a life in music. If this past weekend’s performance of Verdi’s opera Don Carlos is any indication, he has found his place.
And I fill my well where I can, such as sneaking off with my Hub to our own land-locked inland seas for our annual trip to Kelley’s Island on Lake Erie. There was much kayaking to be had with perfect conditions all around. And of course, I also sat and drew as much as I could.
All of this time around big water has only strengthened my fascination with the folklore surrounding the seas.
Specifically, the legend of the Selkie. And so, once back at my drawing table at home, I set about creating a watery world for a Golden Child of the seas…..
“I think of mythology as a function of biology, a statement of the impulse system of the body and the organs. Not something that’s made up in the head. What’s made up in the head is a fiction. What comes out of the heart is a myth.”
Joseph Campbell The Hero’s Journey
In this painting, our selchie heads to her sea cave, far beneath the surface above. There are wonders to behold in the depths, if we but seek them. I’ve thought a lot about myths and stories lately and how traveling into ‘the depths’ can challenge us to discover our very own story in this world, while also seeing how our story sits among the other stories. It’s the weaving together of story, both personal and folkloric, that create the culture we lean upon as human beings.
Some of us are lucky to have friends who will accompany us when we dive deep, and make sure we come back up for air.
And what might a sea cave sound like, you ask?
We have come to the end of my summer’s travels. I was inspired by the duality of my desert/sea experiences and created these little paintings for a small works show called Small Glimpse, now showing at Red Tree Gallery. I am fortunate to be able to find myself so far flung in the summer months with my heart’s work each June for the Illuminated Travel Journaling Course and then family time in Maine with music in between for the rest of the time. All of this beauty brings a magic to my day to day back here at home in Ohio for which I am deeply grateful.