Ladies of the Canyon

This song has been rolling around in my head today as I’m working on a project whose potential is quite big. I am trying not to think of the big-ness of it all, rather ‘sticking to my knitting’ as it were, and keeping my pencil to paper. How do special songs or music or activities feed your best work? I’d love to hear about it!! Wishing you warm and productive thoughts this lovely spring day….

Breaking in the Book



Greetings Taosenas!!  I have crafted another little video for you, this time sharing with you how I go from the daunting plain book that many folks lament over ‘messing up’, to the book-bound playground every sketch-journal should be.  As I suggested in the last video post, I recommend the Stillman & Birn Alpha series books.  But any book will work for this class if the paper will stand up to watercolor.  And my process of ‘trickin’ out the book’ so to speak can be used on any book, even the fancy ones.  Even if you have a lovely little leatherbound book that someone gave to you as a gift, you can still do things to make it YOURS.



Usually I do collage on my covers as I demonstrate in the video, but anything goes really!  If you have a painting practice already, paint something wonderful on the cover of your book!  Think about what these books will mean to you over time and choose a quote to place inside the front cover.  I call this a ‘Quote of Intention’.  It tends to set the tone, which is a nice way to start a new volume.  Install a place for ephemera.  By ephemera I mean the brochures and business cards you might pick up on your travels,  bits of paper and information you might want to glue in later.  I often keep handy a few post card stamps to mail things out to friends while on my travels.  Pockets are just fun.  So put one in your book if you are so inclined!  The point is, before you even begin making drawings or playing with your watercolors, HANDLE your book.  Make friends with it.  Number the pages even!  Get the spine cracked.  Otherwise it’s just too difficult to get going on those first few pages.  Best to give yourself the headstart of a gently altered new book.  Over time, as you fill these books up with your drawings, your grocery lists, your thoughts about things, the travels you take, etc, they add up to be a physical indicator of time well spent.  You’ll find you focus on positive stuff in your day to day when you have a journaling process, especially one grounded in drawing and painting.

So give yourself some time to play with your new book, to make it into a one of a kind!  This video is just over 15 minutes long.  But the process of getting the book ready might take a few hours.  There’s no wrong or right amount of time to spend.  Enjoy!  And let me know if you have any questions!!


Last gasp of winter



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.


Mona Lisa


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.


foggy morning sheep

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.


spring grove cherries


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.


winter 4

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.

winter 3

The daffodils seemed to be requesting a do over, with their cheery faces leaning back into the soil.

winter 2

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…

winter 1


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.

The joy of mind-full travel

This little gem has been going round the interwebs in recent days and so today I decided to watch it, as a number of trusted friends seemed to be gushing over it. Now I join their ranks. And I just had to share it with you here. I love that they laugh so much, and cry over the joy of a fantastic new experience. I hope that I myself never lose the child-like wonder that travel can bring to things…. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!




Dearest Taosenas!

Welcome to our super secret blog page!!  If this all works like I think it should, you all are the only ones with access to this page.  If you go to the link I sent via email and view this page any time in the coming weeks, any new posts, just for you, should appear, newest ones at the top.  Keep an eye on comments from each other and feel free to post questions to myself and each other here.  Use this as your pre-Taos forum!  I will check it daily.

We are just over 2 months away from our trip together so it’s time to start talkin’ details!!  Today I’m sharing with you the first of a series of videos that I’ve made, this one showing a few of my own well loved and lived in books, and displaying the basic supplies you will need for the trip (also detailed below).  In the weeks to come we will learn a little bit about trickin’ out the book with a lovely, one of a kind cover, how to take those first wobbly steps into basic drawing, and a few little watercolor exercises to try before you head to New Mexico.

When I first started this workshop, my students were all from my home town here in Cincinnati and we met once a week for a few weeks before class to prepare our books, learn some basics about drawing and colors and collage.  By the time the group reached Taos, they were already well into practice and could hit the ground running so to speak.  I wanted the same pre-workshop benefit for my students now that they are from all over the country and so you get video me!!  🙂  I hope you enjoy these videos and overlook any cringe worthy moments in them.  I am new to video format but I have found making them to be a lot of fun! And I have learned a great deal in the process.  I hope you enjoy them and that they help you feel that much more well prepared for the workshop.  I know many of you are busy with ‘real life’ between now and the trip, so none of this will be too terribly time consuming.


book: Stillman & Birn, Alpha Series book, white (not cream) paper, (approx 5.5″ X 8.5″)

watercolor set: Windsor and Newton travel set, Cotman is nice.  If you want to splurge, get the artist’s grade series.  it’s worth every penny

Drawing supplies: Pencil (yes, a simple #2 will do, but if you have others you like, bring them!) Pens: Uniball Vision Elite, fine point in black (get 2, available at art supply stores but also in office supply stores) 3 Pigma Micron pens, (.005, 01, 02)

Brushes:  Your WC set will come with a lovely tiny brush.  You may find that is enough, especially on the go.  But I also like to bring a larger brush for washes.  Something like THIS would be great, though I am sure you can shop around for better prices.  And for detailing, a little pointed round brush is a nice option as well.  I will have some of these on hand to borrow out in Taos for classroom work.  The brush in your set is all you need for field work and quick studies.  (be sure and get a brush that is short enough to fit in your to-to pencil bag.  I’ve been known to saw off the end of a good brush and sand the end a bit to make it fit.)

Water container (your choice how complicated you want to get here, a simple toss away paper cup is just fine!!)

Bag for pencils: quart sized ziploc bags work nicely!

Bag for carrying your supplies.  I like the ‘messenger’ or ‘sling’ style bags as then your supplies are at your side when out in the field and you don’t have to take off your back pack to get to them.  But other folks really like the compartments available in little backpacks made for kids.  I recommend packing your stuff up in your bag and practice toting it around.  Does it hurt your shoulder? Is it convenient to get to when you want to sketch?  Is there room for a camera?  I take a camera to get a reference shot of what I am drawing in the field if I want to make a more finished drawing later.  But it’s no replacement for a sketch!

Field chair.  Crazy Creek makes a nice one if you are good with sitting on the ground.  There are also foldable ‘camp stool’ style chairs that are quite small and packable and nice for field work as well.  This item is optional, especially if you are flying.  A lot of sketching we do will be while standing, or if we are at Mabel’s sketching, there are loads of chairs to scoot around and tuck into the right corner to sit and draw.

That is really all you need.  Like I said in the video, I will bring some supplementary supplies for you to try which will enhance your book pages.  But so much can be done with a simple watercolor set, a little book, something to draw with, and most importantly, time.  I am so looking forward to sinking back into the magic of Taos with you guys in just a matter of weeks!!  Welcome!