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, August 25, 2008

Back to Work on Workshops! ~ August 25, 2008

The biggest problem with workshops, I have found, is promoting them. Shouldn't it be possible to have an online matching service for people who like to promote and people who have something to promote, sort of like a dating service?

There could be a side bar with sample agreement forms, from simple to complex, maybe with open boxes where you could fill in your particular item or terms. And profiles, of course, so one could see what the potential "partner" was like and whether they could do what you need.

Hmmmm.....I see a big opportunity for SOMEbody here-- maybe even a moneymaker if you were smart. If you happen to be that somebody who starts the business, would you please send me a notification when you get it all sorted out so I can join?

I've returned from Idaho (500 or so miles across the Oregon High Desert) with lots accomplished with regard to both workshops and my book The Southern Swamp Explorer. On my way over, I passed through the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, and had the brainstorm while I was there that the curators might like to have a field sketching workshop for their people. So I'm in contact with them now about that and who knows how it will shape up.

Sarah, the director at The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center where I will give a workshop in October, is easy to work with, and I think we're both on the same track about the workshop. She took me into the archives to photograph old items we might like to sketch, and answered my questions about the emigrants (for instance, do you know what "saleratus" is? A lot of the diaries written by emigrants mention saleratus).

Sarah also gave me directions to one of the few places you can still see the actual tracks of the Oregon Trail on my way to my brother's. It was sort a holy grail place to me, and I walked along it a ways, thinking covered-wagon-linsey-woolsey-oxen sorts of thoughts. Here's a picture of it. Would you believe the distance between the tracks -- hence, the width of a covered wagon -- is only about four feet, roughly the distance between the wheels of a 4-wheeler (I know, because we use these in the native plant nursery where I work)?

When I arrived at my brother David's place in Idaho, the press proof for The Southern Swamp Explorer was waiting for me to check. David helped me for one whole evening (what a trooper!) and I spent the next 2 days working on it, making the changes, and (with David's help, since some of the fonts were giving me fits on this different computer) burning a new DVD. With all the illustrations, it had to be burned to a capacious DVD since it wouldn't fit on a CD. And on Saturday we sent it off FedEx, overnight, which meant it would arrive during business hours on Monday. Cost me some $56 for about 2lbs. Yikes! The big hurry was so that my print job wouldn't lose its place in the queue and get further delayed. Still, $56........!

THEN I could relax for a few days and just have fun. I started back on Wednesday at 8am, and hit both the Four Rivers Cultural Center and High Desert Museum, leaving my card and a workshop workbook so that they would have something to look at when I contact them later with a proposal for a workshop. I'll be putting together the rough draft of the proposal today, I hope.

Coming back across the Oregon High Desert, (a quick aside here: I'd say about 80% of my route from my home in southern Oregon to western Idaho is through rough country where there is no cellphone reception. I carry the cellphone, but it's mostly for looks.) about twenty miles out of Bend, my cellphone rang -- gasp -- what's that sound! It was the print company doing my swamp book telling me that they'd sent the corrected pages back to me email (at home) and that they'd need them at 8am sharp (Central Daylight Time -- I'm on Pacific Daylight Time) the next morning to continue to keep my spot in the queue. Well, I was delighted that 1) they actually were able to reach me and 2) that they warned me, because I might not have checked my email when I got home.

But that also meant that after twelve hours and 500+ miles on the road, tired and a bit groggy, I had to sit at the computer with an actively engaged brain (yeah, sure) and recheck the pages they sent to make sure all was copacetic, and then email them back that night so they'd have them the next morning. But NOW, I'm DONE with the book, there's nothing else I CAN DO with the book. Sure feels funny! By the way, I upgraded The Southern Swamp Explorer page with a peek inside the book if you'd like to look. Let me know if you think it helps!

And as for promoting the workshops, I now need to telephone or email the places I left workbooks during my trip and make my pitch. I'm awful on the phone. I hate telephoning (talk about being out of step with today's world!) and I have to force myself to follow through with a phone call.

By the way, I spent yesterday spiffing up my Upcoming Workshops webpage because if I'm about to start promoting my workshops seriously I want the webpage to look upscale so that people will know what happens in the workshops and feel comfortable contacting me about scheduling one.

I hope you'll go take a look (I added lots of graphics) because I need some feedback about whether I was successful in improving it, and also I need to know if anything is off the mark or if something else (or more of something) is needed. Also, I need to know how long it now takes it to come up on your screen, because of all the images. Please go see it and get back to me about what you see. I need you!

Where the heck is that person that wants to promote my workshops?

In the next few days, I'll be inventing my pitch for the workshop. I need something I can send along with my business card and a sample workbook to convince people that they need me to come give my workshop either to their people or to people they promote it to. When I get something together, I'll post it.

In the meantime, I hope you will check out my Upcoming Workshop page. It would be greatly helpful to get your reaction/opinion, and I'd really appreciate it!

p.s. Saleratus is a natural soda formed in drying alkali lakes, and the emigrants picked up chunks to use in their baking on the trail (and afterward, too, I expect).

Friday, August 8, 2008

Costa Rica Sketch Journal ~ July 16-17, 2008

With just a little time left, we tried to be philosophical. Our plane was to leave mid-morning, so there was time for Gerardo-the-driver to take us in the lodge Land Rover to Puerto Jimenez a little bit early to see the town.

After eating breakfast, I went out to find my last "gift" from El Remanso, and discovered this lovely, lacy mushroom right at the edge of the restaurant entrance. Fair enough!

Then it was time to say goodby to all the good people there, and Gerardo and Dan talked at great length about seedlings and compost because Gerardo is preparing a photo/description listing of all the plants and trees found at El Remanso. He plans to collect seeds and raise seedlings to reforest surrounding areas and to plant where needed. It is an awesome project, and Dan wanted to make sure Gerardo's seedlings would have the best chance to survive. Since Dan started Plant Oregon native plant nursery many years ago (and still owns and runs it), he has a lot of expertise in that area. We also said goodbye to Maekal (in the photo), who waited on tables with grace, skill and humor during our stay.

Then we hugged Adri and Danni goodbye and it was time for Gerardo the driver to take us to our plane. It had rained quite a deluge the night before, and we had to ford several streams, one with water up to the runningboards on the Land Rover.

As always, I was much taken by the cattle, and Gerardo stopped at one place so I could jump out and take photographs. Gerardo the naturalist had said the Ticos call these cows "Jerseys," but I can't think of anything less Jersey-like (real Jerseys ~ the ones from the Isle of Jersey ~ are colored like deer, have dark soulful eyes, and are about 2/3 the size of these honkers! This is a former farm girl speekin, and I know whereof I speek!).

However, these cows thought I was the one who looked pretty funny ~ you can tell by the expression on their faces....

At length, we made it to Puerto Jimenez, and Gerardo took us out to the Parrot Bay sanctuary, an inlet in the mangroves, open to the ocean. I had no idea there were crocodiles there. Be sure to look at this image close-up if you wanna see a real corker of a crocodile "smile." By the way, in my book The Southern Swamp Explorer (it's being set up to print as we speak ~ I'll receive a copy to proof next week!) I have written a little ditty to help one distinguish between crocodiles and alligators. Here's how:

A 'gator's nose is short and wide,
and hides the lower teeth inside.
The skinny nose of a crocodile
lets teeth poke up outside its smile.

Dan and I snapped photos of the croc (that's Dan's photo above) and some smaller caimans ( a type of alligator) and the egrets in the cattle egret rookery, and I briefly saw a boat-billed heron (yes!). But by now, it was time for our plane to leave, so Gerardo toted us back to the airport to catch our plane.

I snapped a picture of Pto. Jimenez and the mangrove swamps just after we left the ground. I think Parrot Bay may be at the end of that little finger of water entering the mangroves at right.

The little Nature Air planes are great fun, and fly low (unlike Sansa flights, which fly WAY up high), and we had great views nearly the entire way.

The rest of our flight was the epitome of what you wish flights weren't ~ long, sleepless, cramped, blah, blah...although there were a few light moments ~ see the pilot washing his windshield at right and the cigar-maker plying his trade in the San Jose airport.

I was too tired (and blue) to sketch, and at 26 hours, the flight was a tad too long.....(read the journal page for more gory details). But Dan'l and I managed to not get too cranky, at least not with each other, and it went as well as could be expected, although it took me a full week to recover after we got home.

And in the end, this final photo which Dan took just before our waterfall visit encompasses my memories of this lovely trip, so the icky ending didn't have any permanent effect.

So there you have it. By the way, I'm going to visit the director at The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center next week to line out just how we want to run the workshop I'm doing for them in October. When I have a plan, I will blog about its construction. If you want to be notified when I start, be sure to click the box in the right column that sends you a notice when I blog. It's a lot easier than trying to remember (then to find the blog address) to come and check.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Costa Rica Sketch Journal ~ July 15, 2008

Hey, it's NOT the last day of my journal! This was July 15, and we didn't leave until the NEXT morning.

On THIS morning, after a 4:45 wakeup call from howlers then a visit by macaws, of which Dan got some darkish photos (hey, the sun was barely up, and it was cloudy!) Dan'l and I had one last pilgrimage to make ~ to the waterfall and grotto where you can stand beneath the falls for a wonderful drubbing. So I guess you'll have to put up with one more day of blog entries!

We trotted down the steep trail after stopping to greet a couple of the fine women who clean our rooms daily, sweeping out the debris we track in, cleaning out the ant moats (see the ant moat on yesterday's page) and making our beds. Then down past where workmen are building a new cabina, carrying heavy beams and roof panels down on their shoulders and wheeling bags of concrete down by hand so as not to create noisy construction to disturb the guests and wildlife in the surrounding rainforest. They'd been working since sunrise, and were taking a break when we arrived.

Here's the trail just before it lets out onto the beach ~ you can hear the surf rumbling, and the breeze comes freshly up the ravine at this point. It's only a short distance down the beach to where the waterfall stream comes out to the ocean, and shady this early in the morning.

We passed the coconut grove at the mouth where tides have washed in coconuts, which subsequently sprouted and grew, and headed upstream. Inside the ravine, it is cool and moist, with braided strangler figs climbing trees, heliconias sparking red in the dimness, and a morpho butterfly flip-flopping (blue~brown~blue~brown) ahead of us (we never DID get a picture of one ~ they are beastly difficult to photograph!).

The air quickened as we approached the falls, which is about 70' high. The water spills over black rocks, splits into two main strands, and drops into a sandy, knee-deep pool. It is daunting to consider stepping under this deluge, but it's worth the trauma. If you stand under one stream you get a great massage of smallish water drops. They drum mightily on your head and shoulders, and if your rump sticks out they pound there, too (that kinda hurts, so one's posture improves under this waterfall). Standing under the other strand, you get a real thumping by larger drops.

I could only stand under the strong side for a few moments, but Dan loved that heavy drubbing best. We took advantage of the free massage for a long time, although there was always the possibility that a rapelling group might come over the edge and catch us in the altogether.

Finally, pounded to a pulp, I dried off with our microfiber towel (this is a terrific improvement over any other travel towel, by the way: beach towel size, very efficient, and folds to 5x9x1" to carry back to one's cabina to dry out) and went looking for poison dart frogs ~ but I didn't spot any. I found one here in the past, a lovely blue and red one, but I didn't luck out this time.

At length, we ended up back on the beach, and while I winnowed through the beach wrack for treasures (see the lovely palm bark I found!) Daniel pulled out a couple of trash bags he'd gotten from the restaurant kitchen and commenced to pick up plastic bottles, flip-flops, and other things the storm had washed up on the beach. As I mentioned before, this trash was an anomaly ~ it's usually pristine on this beach, and even today there was far less trash than there had been the day before.

I was intent on one last sketch, so I stood as far from the jungle's edge as I could and drew the scene up the ravine we had just visited. Occasionally the incoming tide swirled around my knees, and, intent upon my drawing, it was only chance that I refocussed and rescued my shoes a moment before they sailed out on a wave.

The photo is taken from closer to the jungle's edge, after the tide had come in, but you can SORT of see what I was sketching. When drawing knee-deep in ocean, in hot sun, with a pen, the drawing might not EXACTLY reflect reality. Also, I had to make the tallest tree shorter when I ran out of paper room..... Still, I'm delighted with my beach picture because it catches the feeling of that beach and bit of rainforest. And it's nice to have the photo as well, because if I ever want to color this scene, I have everything I need to prompt me.

Dan stayed down on the beach for the rest of the day, but I had one last mission. When I packed up for this trip, I had included watercolor pencil sets, pencil sharpeners, waterbrushes and workbooks for Adri, Eljer and Gerardo, and planned to do a workshop with them. Eljer, though, was working in Spain for the season, and we couldn't find a time Adri and Gerardo could both get together, so I ended up teaching Adri one afternoon and on this last afternoon, Gerardo. Both mini-workshops were very rewarding, and we were all pleased with the progress that was made. While Gerardo was working on his lesson, I colored in my journal. I think Gerardo can go far with his art if he practices.

The sun set as Gerardo was working, and after he left, Dan'l and I sat soaking up our last evening's worth of frogsong and cricketcreaks. A thunderstorm flashed lightning out over the ocean in a final lightshow for our vacation. We'd be leaving in the morning.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Costa Rica Sketch Journal ~ July 14, 2008 (still)

Sketch/journaling is half the fun of traveling or taking a vacation. It gives your trip a continuing life ~ that vacation is never really "over" if you can go back and relive it in full color (and with memory joggers for scents, sounds, ambiences, and other happenings). Making a sketch and/or writing about your day's adventures will greatly enhance your memories later. Hey, sketch/journaling your DAILY LIFE is a trip of its own!

That's why I journal my travels and also why I love teaching travel journaling to others. What a wonderful gift to be able to give other people ~ the ability to "retake" a vacation!

....Back to July 14, Daniel and I were enjoying wandering down the creek, which was about four feet wide and only a few inches deep (navigable in Crocs or other water-type shoes, but you wouldn't want to do it barefoot or in shoes you expect to dry later ~ they'll probably mould before they would dry out at this time of year, the beginning of the rainy season).

A troop of howler monkeys passed by overhead, about five of them, one mother with a baby and ... WHOA! A pinto howler! One of the howlers, a big male, had areas on his body without black pigment and the fur was brilliant golden-orange! Since the troop was about 70' up in the leafy canopy, we didn't get a lot of clear viewing, but it was very obvious that a large part of its tail was pure orange, and part of its lower body. Fascinating! We must have watched for twenty minutes, until our necks complained so loudly they drowned out the fascination and we walked on.

The stream had a cut a ravine down the mountain so that the banks rose at an angle on each side covered with trees, shrubs, and vines. For much of the distance, the creek traveled parallel to the ocean, separated from the beach by a high ridge. We could hear and smell the ocean for much of the walk (see the map journal page above).

We saw cecropia trees in a canopy opening (they grow fast to fill up openings caused by fallen trees) and along the stream we found a palm studded with spines. You definitely wouldn't want to mess with that spiny palm! I collected a spine and a bunch of leaf skeletons, as well, which you can see on this journal page.

We were fascinated by the exotic buttresses on the trees. These are adapted to help hold the trees upright in the shallow, often water-logged soil. On this tree species, whatever it may be, the top of each flange was a gorgeous, unusual coppery orange.

Reaching the lagoon, where the stream pools before wandering out to the ocean, I found a big, boxy crab shell (see the picture at right).

Here you see the (fairly) well-equipped casual hiker, with a walking stick found along the bank, camera, binoculars, water bottle and lunch and a sitting pad in the bag. The camera is usually in the bag, but I'm holding it here. I also should have had a bandana to tie around my forehead (or a soft hat to wear) because later, on the beach, sweat kept running down into my eyes. This is the humid tropics, after all.

The lagoon waxes and wanes with the seasons. On a couple of our visits it has been almost entirely absent, with the stream emptying out right into the ocean. This time, it was lovely and broad, and I saw a jesus-christ lizard race across the lagoon from one side to the other (I didn't make that name up, they really call it that because of how it "walks on water"!). They're really fast and alert, and difficult to photograph.

It was a relief to get out into the beach breeze. As we sat companionably on a log eating energy bars (from my bag), we discovered we were being watched. Be sure to click on the image here to see who was peering out over the top of the log from under the beach almond. (Hint: remember what a pizote is from previous blog entries?)

After the pizote wandered off, we were just sitting watching the waves when Dan noticed a black blob coming toward on the beach us from the north. As we watched in puzzlement turning to astonishment, an Indian water buffalo pulling a wooden cart filled with people hove into view. Talk about incongruous!

We both started snapping photos of it, hoping not to offend, and apparently the people on the cart thought we were pretty funny, because they smiled and waved at us. Later back at the cabina I sketched the preposterous scene from the viewfinder on my camera (this is Dan's photo ~ his were the best, mine were too hasty).

I love my digital camera! That oxcart was in sight for only about five minutes, and only close enough to sketch for maybe one minute ~ I'd never have been able to draw it as it passed.

Speaking of digital cameras, when I travel, I always carry two spare sets of rechargeable batteries for my camera, plus my charger. That means I always have an extra set to carry along with me, even if I have to leave a set charging in my room ~ which has happened. Additionally, I don't have to worry about running the batteries down if I want to draw from the viewfinder or share pictures with others. I never have a problem with my camera running out of juice.

As well, I use a 1 or 2 Gigabyte storage card in the camera and always carry a spare card in case I fill the first one up. Knowing I have the spare card, I can take as many pictures as I want. And I have learned the hard way that before checking my bag for the plane ride home, it's a good idea to either carry the camera or to at least remove the card with my precious photos and tuck it into my wallet. My camera was stolen, along with my entire trip's photos, last February. I minded losing the photos a LOT more than I minded losing the camera ~ it sure was a good lesson!

Tomorrow's entry will the last one for this trip. It includes sketching the jungle from the beach, drawings of some cool things I found along the beach, and the trip home (including a crocodile!). See you then! And after that, I will get back into the process of preparing for my new Oregon Trail historical workshop.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Costa Rica Sketch Journal ~ July 14, 2008

You may have noticed.... the last blog entry contained the early morning entries for July 14, today's blog. You could go back and read them, but just in case you don't want to, I'm going to pull out an observation I made verbatim:

"The variety is the pull of this place. Every day has its new adventure, visitor, or revelation. I suppose the same could be said of my Oregon woods, if one searched hard enough, but here they pour from a cornucopia in great profusion, right in one's path. Yesterday it was an 8" chameleon perched on a little shrub by La Caramba. Last night it was bats lacing the air over diners in the [open air] restaurant."

Here's the chameleon ~ remember to click to see a bigger view!

We (and the other guests) were entranced with the bats ~ one of them got out his camera and managed to get some really excellent stop-action in-flight shots.

Hmmmm.....I'm running low on time today. I work at Daniel's native plant nursery, weeding, transplanting, pruning, stuff like that, most days from about 4pm on, and it's getting late. I'll get as far as I can today and take up the rest tomorrow.

This second journal page (with the map) has a hole cut in it to show the back of the fungus glued on the other side (the first journal page at the beginning of this blog). Be sure to take a look ~ it resembles nylon netting! Okay, onward.

Dan and I'd been planning to do the River Trail from the beginning, and finally we both felt lively enough to take it on. During breakfast, Dan pored over the reptile book so he'd know of any snakes to watch for, while I caught up my journal.
We were both entranced with the beautiful hike, the gorgeous heliconias, other strange plants with amazing fruits, and the strangler figs and big-buttressed trees we discovered.

Okay, I'm out of time,
more tomorrow.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Costa Rica Sketch Journal ~ July 12 & 13, 2008

Ya stay close to home when you have the trots, so I'm combining journal entries July 12 and 13 to make a decent showing. Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.

We spent most of the day at our cabina, out on the terraza (sometimes "elsewhere"), Daniel reading in the hammock or gazing out over our lovely view, I coloring yesterday's currasow and other drawings and sketching the flower of the jicaro tree ~ that's the stonefruit tree in the path with the cantaloup-sized green fruit upon whose topside perches the big brown cicada.

Then I sketched a big cockroach I had previously found belly-up on the path. The ants hadn't even discovered it yet, so it was quite freshly dead when I found it. I had kept it under a water glass on my bedside table for a couple of days to deter ants (probably to the horror of the maids), waiting for time to draw it. Now, finished with the sketch, I laid the cockroach down on the grass over the edge of the terraza to see what would happen (to find out, read the bottom of the first journal page).

Feeling a bit better, I got out my camera to photograph nearby wonders: the tent bats (in the palm by the path) which chew halfway through palm frond blades so that they drop down to form a little alcove the bats can hang in (look at their badger-like, stripey faces in the closeup!); a colorful little grasshopper that entertained Dan and me for awhile, a bigger green one that also kept us guessing ~ whenever a breeze rattled the big leaf it was perched on, it made chattering sounds with its leg and abdomen that sounded exactly like an angry bird. Took us awhile to figure it out.

To be honest, the surroundings are so lovely and so many fascinating things happen all the time, it wasn't a terrible tragedy to just sit still and watch from the terraza!

Early the next morning we were feeling a little better, so to get a little exercise we walked up the driveway to the road, spotting (and smelling) two collared peccaries in the dim green light. Still, we kept pretty close to home for obvious reasons ~ we weren't cured quite yet.

Finally, I found time to draw and paint the three-toed sloth skull. It's an odd skull, very heavy and without the seams (sutures) found on most skulls, for some reason. It was also very irregular in shape, with one side not exactly the same as the other. Skulls are usually pretty symmetrical, but not this one. Check out the brown, hollowed, peg-like teeth in the photo. Cool, huh?

Late that afternoon I taught a watercolor pencil session to Adri, who wanted more advice on the painting part. As she painted, I did a little protrait of her, but it's pretty bad ~ she's MUCH prettier than that.

Oh well, that's one thing about journaling. It's a real-time record of where you are and what you're doing, with all its warts. Poor Adri!

I only filled half of that journal page, and being "all sketched out," I made a page divider which looked like a long twig to separate July 14 from the next day. I like that twig a lot. I think maybe I'll try designing a whole bunch of page dividers to use as inspiration when I need them.

++And Now, TA~DA! ++

They don't make fonts BIG enough to express my great elation at having finished and sent off The Southern Swamp Explorer to the printer!

It's like bearing a child, raising it in intimate detail for five or six years (I'm afraid to figure out how long this book has really been in process) then delivering that child to the kindergarten door and waving goodbye.

You come home and look around and say "NOW what am I supposed to do?" I'm sure I'll get over it ~ it isn't as though I don't have things to attend to. But my overriding goal for years has been to get that book off to press, and now it IS off to press and....umm......well........ONWARD ~ I guess

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

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