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, November 29, 2010

Fiddling Around at the Black Sheep

I took some time off yesterday, it being Sunday and all, to revisit the Black Sheep Pub. I hadn't sketched the Sunday Irish musicians, Irish Jam, there for nearly a year, and I had a sketchbook I needed to try out. This blog entry may interest you if you have trouble keeping yourself supplied with sketchbooks ~ they ain't cheap.

Because I'll be making a sketch/journaling journey next month, I wanted a small sketchbook that would fit easily into my pack and reduce the weight of my usual journal (a 6 x 9, Robert Bateman Series journal with smooth, heavy paper, which I love ~ but I'm trying to keep my carry-on weight down).

My brother David-the-printer suggested that we use the paper I had always printed my workshop workbooks on, 8½" x 11", cut in half, punched and coiled to make a 50-sheet journal. This would make the sketchbook half an inch shorter and narrower, 5½" x 8½" instead of 6"x9," and reduce the weight by a couple of ounces.

I wasn't sure the size was big enough, although I knew the paper was satisfactory for ballpoint pen and not-too-wet watercolor pencil application, so sketching at the Black Sheep would give me a clue as to whether this would work for my trip. Besides, I haven't sketched for awhile, and you really do get out of practice.

This group, or at least, as many of them as have the time and inclination, play at the Black Sheep Pub every Sunday from 3pm to about 5:30 or so. The light isn't great, and they're in a circle, which means that the nearer ones have their backs to you and the other side of the circle is further away than I like. But the music is grand, the instruments varied, and they don't mind being sketched at all.

If you'd like to hear what they're like click here (this isn't them, but the sound is very similar). There were about twelve of them there yesterday, and I managed to sketch only five of them since the pub was packed and I couldn't see all of them very well.

I started out with just ballpoint sketches. The first two or three were stiff and lifeless, and I didn't include them here. But then the music entered my pen, the Guinness Stout started to kick in, and I began to roll.

The musicians move around a lot as they play. And a number of these folk play numerous instruments, depending on their mood and the music being played. So there's not much chance to do a detailed study. The drawings have to be quick and sketchy, so you must throw caution to the wind and let fly. I did most of these in pen before I got out the pencils after a couple of hours with the ballpoint pen.

A rollicking group of eight dancers started an Irish set dance next to me and were stomping and clapping and whirling (often right into me) with great abandon. I could only laugh and stomp my feet in response. In fact, I was scribbling with the watercolor pencils and painting and stomping all at the same time, which kinda bent a couple of pages on the backside of the book. Ah weel!

Notice that the best sketches are the closest ones (and from the rear, because of that!). I don't know if everyone has the same response, but I've found that the closer I get to my subject, the better it turns out.

I only had six watercolor pencils with me, all shades of brown. This fits with the clothing they usually wear, the wood and leather instruments, and the dim recesses of the pub ~ besides, I wanted to try a limited palette.

These are shown roughly in the order in which I sketched them, and by the time I finished, with the sketch of the piper (below) from right behind him (I could have reached out and touched him as I sat) I was in rollicking form, scribbling wildly, smearing wetly with the brush, and singing along with the musicians (no, they didn't threaten to throw me out ~ the dancers were considerably wilder than I!).

In viewing the lot, I think I can safely say that the size of this sketchbook is usable although if weight weren't a consideration I think I'd go with my usual 6"x9" pad. The paper seemed to hold up well through my rowdy ministrations, and the surface didn't scrum up at all.

I didn't wet one of the sketches, the guitar player (second image down from the top). I loved the way the scribbled color looked, so I just left it. It will be okay as long as it doesn't get wet. I wonder if you could protect it with a fixatif (maybe on both sides of the paper!).

If you'd like to try making one of these sketchbooks, go to your local print shop and ask for Wausau Exact Vellum Bristol, 67lb, 92 Brightness, White, #82211, 8½ x 11. If they don't have it, they can probably order a package with little ado in their next paper order (print shops use lots of paper, and order often), then have them cut and punch it for you. Be sure to also have them cut and punch however many heavy cardboard backs and card stock fronts you need. To save money, you can assemble them and insert the coils yourself, putting as many sheets as you wish in each sketchbook. I put instructions for assembling these in the backs of all of my downloadable sketchjournals if you aren't sure how to proceed.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip to the pub. Be sure and listen to the irish music in the link above (or click here) . It REALLY sets the scene.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Make your Bandana Into a Sun Hat

Remembered bandana, forgot sunhat? Ooopsy!
A couple of days ago I mentioned in one of my travel packing posts that I had figured out a neat way to make a quick sunhat if you are caught out hiking (or whatever) without one and happen to have tied a bandana around your neck before starting out. Here is what it looks like.

It's really simple if you a) have a bandana, b) wear stud earrings or c) have a safety pin in your pocket (a cactus spine would work, too, if one just happens to present itself to hand).

1. Fold the bandana in half, cornerwise, and put it on your head with the point hanging down over your nose. Tie it behind your head at the nape of your neck. If you don't have a fastener, you can use it this way, although you will probably find the point hanging in front of your nose a tad annoying.

2. Remove the bandana from your head and fold up the point (both layers) about 1½" or, say, the width of a Snickers bar, or maybe the width of two fingers. You may fold up more or less as you please, since it's not crucial.

3. Remove a stud earring and poke it through the four layers to secure the flap. A light-weight earring won't drag the front edge down.

4. Tie the bandana back on.

5. Smile (optional).

I plan ahead and just keep an old earring poked into one corner of my bandana. (The one in the picture here is a little silver frog. I lost the other earring). When you roll the bandana for other purposes, it folds completely out of the way, though a nice-looking earring can be left to show as a decoration.

(Guys, maybe your wife or girlfriend will give you a spare. Or you could go shopping (pretend it's for a lady friend if you want). Or you might be happier with a safety pin, which you can just leave pinned to a corner of the bandana.)

You may choose to fold up the bandana point and fasten it before you tie the knot. Your choice.

A cactus spine could be used like the safety pin ~ minus the "safety" part {grin}.

This isn't haute couture, but it will keep the sun out of your eyes and protect your head from heat and solar UV. If you only want the shading effect over your eyes, roll the bandana into a band, tie it around your head like a sweat band, then untuck enough of the point to shade your eyes.

Oh yeah! I meant to show you how small my travel throw/blanket folds up, in order to tuck it neatly into the carry-on luggage. Here 'tis, snugged up with a velcroed band.

You can see I'm still in travel mode here. But I'd better get moving on preparing for the big Art Show and Studio Sale ~ it's coming up in about 3 weeks!

Hasta luego!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sketchcrawl on a Wild Pacific Beach

Do you love to sketch/journal at the beach? I sure do! That's me below, sketching on the Oregon beach, at Whaleshead Cove.

I've uploaded a new sketch/journal from Oregon's wild Pacific beaches that I have just finished. You can download it here.

I added a tutorial, similar to the one in the one in my sketch-journal Oregon High Desert Crossing, to show how to tackle a project like this to get results you can savor for the rest of your life just by opening your journal.

I'm really pleased with this journal ~ it's the result of a sketchcrawl I did with a friend, each of us determined to sketch the full four days we had available.

And with the tutorial, you can come along with us as we employ all our skills to outdo each other. You'll laugh at some of my booboos, figure out how to get a beach "haystack" (that's a "haystack" in the opening picture above ~ the big island/rock in the water) to fit on your sketch page, walk alongside a scavenging crow, and practically get sand in your teeth as you grin in the salty wind along with us.

Sketchcrawl on a Wild Pacific Beach is full of great ideas and observations about getting the words and pictures down on the paper under sometimes trying circumstances (weather-wise) and spicing them up with native borders, fun fonts and design elements ~ plus a lot of other useful tips.

This was a super-fun sketch crawl, and the pleasure shines through in the sketches of these wild Oregon beaches and their colorful crabs, sea stars, mussels, chitons, sea gulls and other beachy creatures.

I hope you find it useful ~ and enjoyable!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Packing for a Jungle Sketching Trip #4

Finally, the last item on my packing list, the sketching kit, which as you recall, is in the medium sized bag in the picture at right, packed with all of my sketching gear. Its contents are listed here on a PDF.

This type of bag (below) is called a sling bag, and it fits nicely over the shoulder and across your back and chest, taking the weight off your arms and leaving your hands completely free. You can lob it around to the back if it gets in your way.

It's amazing how much stuff can be put in there without crowding or immobilizing the entire thing.

There are 3 pockets. The main large one (the top zipper), a smaller separate pocket (lower zipper) and a small velcroed pocket up on the strap that is intended for a cellphone. Since there is no point in carrying a cellphone in the jungle, this can be used for other important things.

The Large Pocket: I cut the sealing mechanism off the top of a large ziplock bag and lined this large pocket with the remainder of the bag (I couldn't cram it in with the ziplock part intact, but without it, it fits perfectly). This will keep things dry unless the bag "goes overboard." I put a layer of two folded plastic grocery bags in the bottom which pads the end of the sketchpad, and the entire bag can be popped into one of the grocery bags for protection if it's really wet. Here's what's in the big pocket:
  • The sitting pad of ¼" thick closed-cell foam (it keeps your bottom dry because it won't soak up water), is folded in half and fits upright in the back.
  • The sketchpad is next, coil edge up
  • a ballpoint pen with a clasp is inserted into the coil
  • The watercolor pencil pouch containing 36 watercolor pencils is actually short enough to fit sideways in the bag.
That's all I put in the large pocket, making it simple to get the main items in and out.

In the Cellphone Pocket are things I might want to trot out to use on a moment's notice:
  • my folded reading glasses in a little crocheted pouch (which I custom-made to fit and protect them)
  • my magnifying glass with a long, colorful string to make it hard to lose
  • half-a-dozen business cards
  • a small bottle of aspirin
  • several wrapped hard candies to keep my stomach happy when I need to concentrate. (oops! those didn't get in the picture!)

In the Lower Pocket are the rest of the items, helter-skelter, but the pocket is so small that everything is visible and accessible when the zipper is opened. It contains:
  • extra ballpoint pen/s
  • 2 or more waterbrushes ~ take two in case one fails. You might want a couple of sizes.
  • a couple of rags to wipe the ballpoint pen on (I often use the inside of my pants cuff or shoe), and to wipe up with the waterbrush which is used for wetting the watercolorpencil drawings.
  • a small closed-container pencil sharpener for the watercolor pencils. A closed container is essential, since bits of watercolor pencil will stain magnificently if they get wet (which they almost certainly would).
  • a mechanical pencil loaded with #2 leads
  • a kneaded eraser
  • clear tape ~ make a plastic guard to keep it from getting trashed in the pocket
  • a small bottle of glue ~ this might have to be put in the liquids bag if noticed.
  • blunt scissors ~ sharp ones won't make it through the check-in line.
  • a dispenser of plastic toothpicks. These are sold in drugstores, and are useful for lots of things. Especially if you forget to brush your teeth.
Inside the cover of the Sketchpad I have glued a photocopy of a ruler so I can measure things I sketch and a business card in case I lose the sketchbook (heaven forbid!). A plastic pocket is taped in, with the open side toward the coil, so I can tuck things in that I might want to glue in later and they won't fall out.

Although I don't show it or list it in my packing list, it occurred to me that I should attach my tiny key ring thermometer to my sling bag so I will know the temperature. In Peru they measure the temperature in Celsius units, so I've glued in a Celsius/Fahrenheit converter just for the heck of it.

On the front of the journal is a map which shows both the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica where I'll be going first, then the Upper Reaches of the Amazon in Darkest Peru where I'll be staying for the rest of the time. I plan to glue in a closer view when I get to the right point in my journal, so I'll tuck that map into the sketchbook for later.

I do almost all of my drawing with ballpoint pens. Pencils are useless in the moist tropics because they don't mark well unless you really press hard, then they indent the paper so that you can't make corrections. Even if you press hard, the line doesn't register well, so since you can't redo it anyway, you might as well use a ballpoint. If you pick a good one that doesn't blob, it makes a wonderful drawing tool. I use an ordinary medium point Bic pen, costing less than a dollar. Works great. Here's a picture of me sketching a sea turtle on one of my sketching trips, just to keep in focus what this is all about (grin).

I used to teach a workshop on Sketch Journaling. If you want more information like that, you might want to download Nature & Travel Sketch Journaling for more details.

So there it is. Now that I have all this out of the way, everything packed and ready to go a full month ahead of time and the housesitter arranged for, I can start preparing for my Second Annual Art Show and Studio Sale, which will be in Ashland, Oregon, at the Shakespeare Great Hall on Main Street (just below the Shakespeare Theater) on Friday, December 10 (4-8pm) and Saturday, December 11 (11am to 5pm). You're invited! Here's what it looked like last year.

Guess I'd better get started! Hope you enjoyed this little exercise in packing. I sure did. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Packing for a Jungle Sketching Trip #3

We're still in the midst of packing for a jungle sketching trip. Here's the carry-on assemblage, and here's a link to the packing list, so you won't have to go back and find it in previous blog entries.

Okay, now for the fanny pack ~ that's the medium-sized one at right. It has a lifting grip on the top for carrying by hand, it has a shoulder strap, and it has an assemblage that snaps around your waist to take the weight off your shoulder if you want. This can be a lifesaver when you are hiking (whether in the wilds, at airport terminals, or while shopping in towns). It is fairly large for a "purse," being about 12" wide and sticking out about 10" when fully packed. But it rides nicely and has a pocket you can stick your water bottle in, so it is a good choice for this. Additionally, since it DOES stick out, you can set things on it and use it like a portable table for sketching.

Print out that packing list now, so you can ride along with me.

This is where you'll carry your essential-for-happiness-during-your-vacation items, plus anything you want to use during the plane flight.

Let's check out the books first. The sudoku book should keep me busy, but not distract me too much from sketching, and it will be tossed at some point. This could be a novel, but make sure it's one you wouldn't mind dumping if you get tired of carrying it.

I want to study the Plants & Wildlife of the Amazon book on the plane, so that will also entertain me. This, by the way, is a chopped version of Peru by Pearson & Beletsky. I sliced off the first half of the book (1¼lbs!) then punched & coil-bound the rest at a printshop. The part I kept has all the pictures and descriptions, but STILL weighs more than a pound. I kept the part I excised, and I'll reunite them after the trip. Hey, it's a good book, but I just didn't need to carry all that weight around! I hope to study the Spanish diccionario on the plane.

In the bottom of the fanny pack I have tucked things I won't need until I arrive: a 5" LED flashlight with new batteries, my battery charger, extra batteries, binoculars, my bifocal sunglasses for sketching in bright sunshine, and a roll of clear tape which I use to tape soil samples (sand, colored earth, etc.) into my journal.

I've googled my destinations and printed out maps. I may glue some into my journal while on the trip. but I'm hoping to mostly sleep on the plane so I will be bright and alert on a morning arrival, instead of heading for a hotel bed with an evening arrival (hotels are a waste of money if you can sleep for free on the plane). When I'm not in the airport, my travel documents and tickets are tucked into this bag.

Notice my tiny LED book light. This is essential for sketching in poor-light situations such as in hotel rooms, and in my lodge room (this is a wilderness lodge and generator-produced lighting is probably poor. If you expect to do any evening sketches, get one of these to use. They've assured me that I can recharge my batteries at the lodge.

The 1-qt clear bag with liquids/gels in it remains accessible for every plane change, since it will have to be produced and inspected during each boarding. So does the water bottle in the side pocket, which needs to be emptied for passing through inspection, then can be filled again for the trip.

Some things I'll use frequently go in an easily accessible area or pocket: reading glasses, pen & journal (these would be in the sketching kit, but are carried loose in the fanny pack during the plane flight), tissues, handwipes, and breath mints, and business cards. I'm carrying along hard candies and energy bars in case there's nothing being served on my flight when I get hungry.

The medicine kit is in this bag, too, with vitamins, aspirin, Beano, Pepto Bismol tablets, and other things I'll wish I had if I don't bring them.

There is a small mirror with a tiny plastic bag taped to it, to carry a pair of tweezers. Those tweezers are essential for lots of things, so don't forget them. I sawed off half the handle on the toothbrush to make it fit it in easier.

The band-aids should be sports band-aids which will stand up to moisture for quite awhile.

The deodorant crystal, in case you've never run into one of these, is a solid crystal of baking soda. Some versions come as a chunk, which you moisten under a faucet and use. This one is in a lidded container. It is the most effective deodorant I've ever encountered (even if you have to use it after the fact), and has no chemicals in it besides soda. It's dry, invisible when applied, and odorless. Great stuff.

The dry shampoo (in the yellow packet) is something new, and comes in little sheets like tissue paper. You get one out before you step into the shower, slap it on your head, and lather up. There are loads of them in the tiny dispenser, and I plan to use them for laundering undies and socks, as well as washing my face. I haven't used these yet, so I'll report on them when I return. If they don't work out, I expect I can scrounge a bar of soap somewhere to use instead.

Then, there's the little box of "parts." These fit in the "what if?" category: nylon cord can be used as a belt, to tie things together, as a clothesline, etc. Rubber bands can be used for lots of things. Safety pins will mend clothing. The paperclips and clamp will hold flat things together, and serve as clothespins if needed, as will the safety pins, and the carabiner is really handy for attaching things to belts. The little box will go in a pocket during hikes to bring back fragile things to sketch at the lodge in the evenings.

As an aside, I always carry my car and house keys at the end of a keyfob chain attached to my clothing with a carabiner. I switch it whenever I change my clothes, and I never lock myself out of places anymore. On my trip, it will be attached to my ID folder to keep ID and credit cards safely attached to my person.

And finally, the plant ties. You know those little plastic strips with a hole at one end? You loop the strip around any two items you want to fasten together, thread one end of the tie through the hole in the other end, and pull tight. You have to cut it to get it off. These are nice if you find you'll have to part with one of your luggage pieces (on small planes they may have to go in the outside bin).

Just slip a tie through a zipper and fasten it to another zipper or some part of the bag, and the zipper will not open unless you cut the tie. Nail clippers work for this, and won't be confiscated at check-in.

If you had checked luggage, you might want to get some of those airline-approved locks for your checked bags. But the plant ties are quick and cheap, and make access just difficult enough to put off a casual thief (a more determined thief would just slit the pack with a razor, so a lock wouldn't help anyway).

Okay. That just leaves the contents of my sketching kit, at right. But I've run out of time today, so that will be tomorrow's blog entry. Then you'll know almost as much about the contents of my luggage as I do.

Hasta luego!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Packing for a Jungle Sketching Trip #2

Last time I got you to the airport with your carry-on pack, large handbag-cum-fannypack, and camera, using this list (in PDF form ~ go look it over again, then we'll get started on what's in the big bag). You'll notice, at right, that it has a rainbow-colored strap around it? That strap serves three functions.
  • First, it tightly compacts the bag and makes it difficult for a stranger to casually open.
  • Second, it keeps the innards from straining the zippers if it's really packed tightly.
  • Third, the rainbow strap is easy to spot if you and your bag get separated. The bags are black because black shows no grime, so they'll look better far longer than light-colored bags. But black bags all tend to look similar, and this will keep someone else from accidentally carrying off your bag.
But first, let's see what's in that passport pouch carefully tucked out of sight. Some people use these for money belts, and as you can see, I do have some bills tucked into the front pocket. This is my stash, a couple of hundred dollars in new bills no larger than $20. Tattered or creased bills are frowned upon, and sometimes they won't be accepted in foreign countries, so make sure they're crisp and clean. Make sure you have a few $1 and $5 bills for tipping.

The bills are folded in half and clamped down out of sight so they won't come tumbling out when I pull out my passport or vaccination papers. Normally I have this pouch fastened to a belt loop with the carabiner shown, then tucked down inside my pants (not in a pocket). This is very secure, and the least embarrassing if I need to pull it out in public. However, it's best to do this in a bathroom so you won't be observed.

While in the airport, the passport, a couple of $20s and the yellow "shot-sheet" are kept in a buttoned-down pocket for easy access. Although you may not need the yellow proof of vaccination at your destination, you might have to produce it if you have a layover in certain countries, even if you never leave the airport. Be sure to check before you leave home. BTW, the shots may run more than $100, even at a county health clinic, so be prepared!

Now, before we discuss what's in that larger bag, let's get through the frisking line so we can settle down, put our shoes back on, and peek inside. To get through the line, they'll ask you to put anything metal (belt buckles, nail clippers, keys, loose change, etc.) into a bowl on the conveyor belt, along with your shoes and all your bags.

Before the bags roll away out of sight, though fish out the little 1-quart plastic bag you prepared with all of your liquids, gels, and lotions in it to show to the attendant. It should look a lot like this one, at right, with anything that sloshes or squishes in clear sight ~ nothing should obscure anything else. The attendants can get really cross with you, or make you toss something in the trash if you don't get it right, so pay attention. To make sure you meet all the regulations, go online and look up the current requirements for the liquids bag.

If I were checking luggage, I would have put the combination sunscreen/insect repellent tubes into my luggage, because I won't need them until I get there. But I don't have that option, so the two big tubes are taking up a huge amount of space in my carry-on bag.

Always take first-aid items, because it's best to avoid getting any kind of infection in a foreign country. If you get stress cankers or rashes or if your cuts infect easily, make sure you go prepared. I've got an insect-sting reliever here, too, to avoid infected (scratched) insect bites. And eye drops for tired eyes.

Okay, finally, on to the big bag, the pack. By the way, I chose a pack because it gives me the option of carrying it in my hand or on my back. A wheeled piece would work, but rigid carry-on bags sometimes can't be crammed into the overhead space and are whisked away to the luggage compartment. So I prefer the pack. Even so, it is out of my sight during the trip so I always pack the most important things in my hand bag (if I can cram them in) so I can function if the pack is never seen again. I wouldn't be HAPPY, but I'd survive. So let's take a look ~ most of the contents are clothes. The sandals go in the bottom, as I won't use those until I get there. So does the day pack, the extra batteries, and the doorstop. The rest of it can go in wherever it fits, with the very top two items being the neck pillow and the throw. Actually I'll probably be wearing the throw, but if I've included it in the packing I'll be sure to have room to stuff it back in when I reach my destination and don't need it further.

The neck pillow I use is very light, just ten ounces, and filled with what looks like millet husks (you know, the outer covers of those tiny, round, cream-colored bird seeds?). I've tried inflatable pillows, and they're okay for short trips, but I've had two go flat on me. Waking up with a flat pillow and having to make do with a t-shirt is very annoying. If you have a long airport layover, you may end up in the corner under a bench on the carpet (I have, anyway). Your pillow will be your only consolation, so consider the options carefully.

The large water bottle in the pack has been tightly stuffed with clean underwear (I had to add "clean" because the description conjured up the most AWful vision). I'll need that bottle for hiking, but don't need to use it on the plane, so this is an excellent way to conserve room. (Notice it has a loop on it for attaching to a carabiner later.)

I found a very light rain-jacket with a hood for use in the jungle. It may serve as a long-sleeved shirt, too, but it may be too hot. I'll just have to wait and see. It is fairly multipurpose, with a hood, two huge pockets across the front (big enough for a sketchbook! Hooray!), and button-up sleeves.

In case you wonder how to tell if something like this is really waterproof, try to blow through it, really hard. If the air stops at the fabric, it's close to waterproof. If air strains through it, forget it ~ you'll be drenched in a downpour.

I also included an emergency plastic poncho. I used this in the very wet cloud forest in Costa Rica. If you have to fold it up wet, you can always dry it out later and repack it for the next emergency.

The red bandanna serves several purposes.
  • It keeps sweat out of your eyes when tied around your forehead (and looks really jaunty).
  • It hides a Bad Hair Day (although I cut my hair really short so I don't have that worry!)
  • You can use it as a marker if you get lost or want to signal someone which way you went, or signal for yourself if you take a detour off the path and want to find your way back (it's probably better than Hansel's cookie crumbs, anyway).
  • It is good for dumping treasures onto when you come back with a pocket full of goodies.
Always take your camera manual in case something goes wrong with your camera. If you don't have a manual, or you don't want to take your original manual, you can probably download a free one for your model from the web.

The rubber doorstop is to stick under the bottom edge of your hotel door, jammed in tight, to keep out unauthorized people.

I'm carrying one guidebook here, having checked into several. This one isn't strong on pictures, but it has lots of good information of where I'm going: history, climate, geography, things to try and things to avoid, good places to eat, with maps of the town I'll be in and sights I should see or avoid there. It's got info about various illnesses I should watch out for and what do for them. Since my Spanish consists only of stray words I've picked up here and there (although it may be better by the time I get there!) it's good to have a well-researched guidebook to keep me safe and knowledgeable.

I've mentioned safari pants before ~ these are very light-weight, fast-drying synthetic pants with lots of pockets, some zippered. On this pair, the legs zip off to change the pants into shorts, which you can do in the middle of a hike if you get heated up, then fold and tuck them into one of the big pockets for the to return to camp. Or they can start out as shorts with the legs in the pockets, available to zip on if the sun starts to burn or the bugs start to bite.

Finally, there are extra batteries, extra reading glasses, extra aspirin, extra energy bars, etc. I packed some of each of these in my fanny pack, as well, so these aren't my only supply.

Even if I lose all this, somehow, I could still get by with what's in my fanny pack (although I might not smell quite as good!).

I'll describe the whats and why-fores of the fanny pack in the next blog entry. Now for my next bout with Maria and the Spanish lessons!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Packing for a Jungle Sketching Trip

Okey dokey! My travel packing list is ready ~ a check-list for the female sketch/journalist abroad. Guys, this will work for you, too, with the exception of some of the girl-things. I'm assuming you don't wear a bra, fr'instance. Use what you can.

I didn't start this list from scratch, since I've been a-travel before, so this is all stuff that I've taken before and know I will use, or things I forgot to take (or wished I had taken). I'm all packed. This will suffice for two weeks on the headwaters of the Amazon River in Darkest Peru, here.

My packing checklist isn't for the glamour crowd. But it will get a sketch journalist through two weeks in the air and on the ground, happily sketching in the wilds of some far off place. There isn't any "little black dress" or a pair of heels involved, and the make-up kit contains only hand lotion and a blusher, so you can be pretty sure you won't be Queen of the Ball!

But you will be prepared to stay clean and dry and ready to change your plans or take off at a moment's notice because you won't be checking any bags or hauling too-heavy luggage.

And with that starry vision in mind, BEHOLD THE PACKING LIST! (it's a PDF you can print out if you want. My gift to you.)

Above are my carry-on bag, my "purse" and my camera. The camera can fit into one of the side pockets on the bag if necessary, but on smaller planes the bag sometimes ends up in a luggage bay out of reach, in which case I can extract the camera quickly and hang onto it. Everything together weighs 21 pounds. Yes!

Now, just to make sure we're on the same page, here's the premise: Annie the Adventurer is going on a trip to the jungle in a foreign land to sketch and draw wildlife and tropical scenery.
  • Her itinerary includes numerous flights and plane changes & many hours in airports, plus a two-hour boat trip down the Amazon and a hike through the jungle to the lodge.
  • She's staying in an eco-lodge, but expects to be out sketching every day, rain or shine.
  • It's jungle, so it will rain, but it will also be in the 80s & 90s, so she won't need a lot of clothes.
  • She doesn't anticipate any gala events, so she can pack for action, not glitz.
  • She's getting a bit long in the tooth (retired, anyway) and doesn't want to carry even half an ounce more than she absolutely HAS to.
  • She has splurged on some travel accessories to make her trip more satisfying and easy.
  • She's me (see below).
Now with that out of the way, I can present the rest of this without apology. The first target is to pack only as much as you can take as carry-on. No bags to check, no baggage lines to wait in, no lost luggage to try to track down while you should be having fun. This limits the amount of stuff you can take, and every item must be essential, but if you have ever lost luggage, you'll know what a treat it will be not to have to worry about it.

So starting at the beginning, for traveling, wear clothes you plan to use at your destination. If it's winter and you're going to the tropics, how do you stay warm at the airport and on the plane (they keep those cabins pretty chilly and now they charge as much as $8 rental for a blanket!)? Okay, hold onto your hat: Wear A Blanket.

I know, that sounds horrid! But take a look at the classy wrap I'm wearing, at right. It's a microfleece throw folded in half, weighing only 13 ounces, and you'll mostly be wearing it on the plane, not carrying it. A clasp with a 3" chain holds it on.

When they turn the heat down in the plane and start exchanging blankets for dollars with the richer (or maybe just desperately cold) travelers, you slip your wrap off, shake it out, and you have a really nice, warm blankie. When you arrive in the tropics, you roll it up tight, and tuck it into the bottom of your carry-on bag for your return trip (you may actually use it during your stay if the weather turns chilly). That's my own idea, and you can have it for free.

Now, exactly what would you wear under the wrap? The best approach is to pack for your adventure, then wear as much of it as you can on the plane.

So first of all wear light-weight safari pants with lots of big pockets with fasten-down flaps. These are handy for holding your energy bar, ID, tickets, passport, etc., and of course will be terribly useful later to carry your sketchbook, watercolor pencils, and sitting pad.

When you are traveling, your passport should generally stay in your passport pouch, which you wear beneath your clothing, attached to some portion of your apparel or body. But in the airport you need to have it accessible (along with your proof of vaccination for yellow fever and tetanus, etc.) and you won't want to be reaching into your bosom or up under your shirt in public, so it's nice to have a pocket to carry it in temporarily. Same with your tickets. The safari pants are fairly loose and very comfortable for traveling, and since the flaps fasten with noisy velcro, you'd notice if someone tried to lift them and make off with anything.

Next, a nice-looking jersey t-shirt. This will be your nicest blouse. For jungle trekking, you'll want t-shirts you won't care if you ruin, because you never know what messy thing might happen to them (monkeys throwing overripe fruit at you, bugs squashing, etc.). But your plane apparel should be a nice-looking shirt for wearing to meals. If your bag is packed too full, you might pull out a regular t-shirt to wear underneath it for the flight.

Beneath that is your light-weight travel bra and panties. This is one place I saved up my pennies and splurged. The blurb on the package says "17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of underwear (Ok, maybe two)." I think they expect you to rinse them out each evening. These undies generally dry overnight, so this is an excellent choice for the tropics. It's no fun to wear damp underthings in a humid environment, clean or not (believe me!).

Here's another place where you can get tricky: if you get black ones, they can double as swimwear. They look good, too, so you don't need to pack a swimsuit unless you really want to. I don't.

The long-sleeved shirt will be necessary at your destination to ward off mosquitoes, but it should still be comfortable in the air-conditioned cabin.

Another splurge is the long travel socks. These supportive socks are designed to help frequent flyers avoid leg clots from sitting for hours in a plane seat, and while they're expensive, they aren't as costly as a leg clot. You could call them insurance...

Your shoes should be wettable/dryable. While you'll pack sandals for wearing around the lodge, leather shoes for hiking would be a poor choice for a tropical vacation, and you don't want to wear sandals on a forest trail in case you meet a snake (this is not very likely, but possible). So breathable fabric walking shoes designed for hot work (running, sports, etc.) are an excellent choice. Be sure they're well broken-in before you start your trip.

So there you are, the well-dressed tropical adventurer, off on your journey to the jungle. In the airport you can hike from terminal to terminal if necessary with the carry-on pack on your back, the "handbag" either in one hand or slung over your shoulder, and the camera bag slung around your neck. You can deal with 21 pounds for quite awhile before it gets to be a burden, especially if it's decently distributed about your body.

Next blog, I'll show you what's in each bag, and why. Right now I'm going to click outta here and open up my Spanish language lesson program, and start repeating after electronic Maria such things as "Quiero ir a la tienda," and "Que pasa?" and "Necesito tomar un taxi a mi hotel, por favor!" Oiga! Be nice! I'm just a beginner!

Hasta luego!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Costa Rica Jungle & Beach Sketchbooks 1 & 2

I have been scrambling in all directions lately. For some reason, I thought my life would slow down as I approached retirement age, and I HAVE felt sort of "powered down" for the last few months, but when I look at what I've been doing, nothing seems to have gotten more leisurely...

What are centermost in my thoughts these days are the headwaters of the Amazon, where I am going in December. Being a live-aloner, I like to do something exciting on Christmas and my birthday (just after Christmas) to celebrate, and it seemed like a trip to The Headwaters of the Amazon might fill the bill. So I've been putting aside every penny, no dinners out, no movies, no frills atall-atall, for a long time now, and one by one I'm doing the things on my Bucket List. (Click on images to see a bigger versions.)

But that's not what this blog is about. I'll blog my preparations for the Amazon Journey later (it's a sketch/journaling trip, so I've lots of cool stuff to share about the preparation, just in case you're planning something similar ~ or just interested in how one prepares for something like that!).

And this blog isn't about my Second Annual Art Show and Studio Sale I'm getting ready for, just like the one last year, with hundreds of original illustrations being offered at Fire Sale Prices (gotta get those closets cleared out!) on December 11 and 12 in Ashland, OR.

No, dear friend, this blog is about ways YOU can sketch/journal your winter vacation in the tropics (or anywhere else, for that matter), with my two new downloadable e-sketchbooks: Costa Rica Jungle & Beach Sketchbook 1 and Costa Rica Jungle & Beach Sketchbook 2! Sketchbook 1 is pretty much the same book I published last year called "Costa Rica Feb. '08." So if you bought that one then, skip #1 of this pair. But you probably didn't, because it had such a boring-looking cover and ho-hum title that few people were tempted to even check it out. I can hardly blame them. I'll be interested to see if the new cover and title turn out to be more fetching.

Anyway, I added the companion e-sketchbook, #2, which I had created the following July at El Remanso Lodge on the Osa Peninsula. It's full of my jungle/beach sketching adventures, in ballpoint pen and watercolor pencil. The differences you encounter between wet and dry seasons (in vegetation, climate, animals, flowers, EVERYTHING) are amazing.

These are scrumptious sketchbooks, full of interesting sketching subjects and journal descriptions, plus lots of ideas you can put to use in your own sketch journals. Neither one has a tutorial, which has kept the price WAY down there at $6.95. I hope you'll go take a look.

This is just a short post to alert you to the publication date (today!). I'll be blogging again within the next week or so with more big news.

till then,

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

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