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!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gettin' Ready for my trip

On packing for the tropics.....just a little update.

Since I've packed for the tropics before (Hawaii, Costa Rica, etc.) I have by now gotten my packing list nicely honed down to essentials. I've also got a good To-do Checklist of things that need your attention during the week before you leave, such as calling the credit card company to tell them where you're going and when you'll be leaving so they won't cut you off during your trip when they see activity in a foreign country. That could be disastrous.

Although you will have different interests and focus, different needs, pets, house-sitter arrangements, etc., you can use my list as a useful jump-off point for creating one tailored to your personal needs.

Since I pack for carry-on only, so there's less chance of losing luggage, I keep the weight around 25lbs. And since my focus is on sketching and journaling nature subjects and hiking on beaches and in the jungle, I don't pack an evening gown or heels.

Obviously this wouldn't be the trip packing list for, probably, MOST people But if you're reading this blog, you might be the sort of person that can appreciate the way I pack ~ and make use of the lists I'm offering.

In my last blog I was trying to figure out what to do with five pounds worth of field guides to Belize birds and mammals ~ well, I have now sliced the picture pages out of my two books and I'll take them to the print shop next time I'm in town to get them punched and spiral bound into a MUCH smaller book that will fit in my pack. It weighs ten ounces now instead of five pounds!

I'm making another thin book, also, printing out and binding together useful pages from the web about my accommodations, how to get around (taxies, buses, water taxies, ferries, bike rentals) in Belize, maps to places I want to go, plus interesting places mentioned on web pages. That's about 12 ounces, and that should about do it for my reference materials. Oh yeah, I bought and downloaded Lonely Planet's guide to Belize and printed out pages (for my little reference book I'm building) that refer to things that interest me. That's a lot more to my liking than cutting up lovely printed books, but those books weren't offered as downloads, so I didn't have any choice.

At the moment, I have the bags roughly stuffed to make sure everything will go in (and to weigh them to make sure I can still carry them easily). My goal is 25lbs, and I'm guessing I'm going to make that goal. Remember, clothes are washable, so I have only two changes of clothing for the whole trip (and I'll be rinsing out things to dry overnight ~ that's where the travel undies come in handy, as they really DO dry overnight, even in humid climes).

So feel free to use my lists if they will help you pack for your vacation. If you don't plan to be traveling soon, you still might print them out and stick them in your bucket-list bucket. When opportunity strikes, you want to be ready!

p.s. In case you were wondering about that purple fleece blankie, well, I have 12 hours of layover in Miami/Atlanta both coming and going, and it's nice to have a fleece to ward off the air conditioning, block out bright lights, and/or use as pillow or padding to get comfortable. I think it will stuff in the pack, but I won't know for sure until I have the pack ready to go. If it doesn't, I can fasten it to the pack with the velcro strap, as shown in the photo.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A new sketch/journaling trip in the wings!

Summer is over, alas, but I made it last as long as I could after it got chilly, going out to sketch and journal in my fleece hoodie, long underwear, leggings (the longies inch away from the socks sometimes so I cut the feet off an ancient pair of knee socks and bridge the incipient gap with the warm tubes), sitting on my canvas chair swathed with a fleece blanket.

I can get an hour's worth of sitting and reflecting, observing and sketching outdoors at 40° with this set-up if it's calm and sunny. But it's a stretch, and to be honest, I guess the daily sketches are a thing of the past for this year. I'm inescapably a fair-weather pleine air sketcher. Foo.

Well, that means I will be eager as a spotted pup to get outdoors in the spring, and when the morning sun shines through shooting stars and fawn lilies (above) out my window in April, I'll be out there, too.

Yesterday I finished uploading my most recent set of Oregon forest-life sketches, the October-November set. You can get to the others by scrolling down to the links below the images on that site.

But in order to try to keep the spirit of summer in my studio, a couple of weeks ago, before it got really cold, I bought a 5-gallon aquarium (that's 16" wide, 8" front to back, and 10" tall) and positioned it in a spot where I can belly right up next to it to observe. I poured about a gallon of coarse sand in the bottom, and placed three lumpy 4-6" rocks along the back side to give it some character.

Next I took a bucket and a yogurt container out to my little pond and my wildlife water tub, and dipped up about 3 gallons of water, various pond weeds, and several containers full of mud and goo from the bottoms of both, making sure to dig down deep enough to collect whatever might have burrowed down a ways.

Bringing this slop back into the house, I dipped it all into the aquarium being careful not to disarrange the sand in the bottom. What a dirty mess it looked, all silty brown water and gloomy water plants lost in the murk. But by the next day, it was a gorgeous little miniature pond, with the lamp shining down into it, all green and yellow from the light passing through the plants, and alive with little animalcules zipping through the water.

I often stop and observe it for a few minutes as I go from my studio to the kitchen for a cuppa, admiring the way the duckweed is sending down long roots to try for the bottom, the strap-like valisneria sending up leaf blades, the coontail growing like crazy (I'll have to start pruning in there soon or it will be packed solid green!).

And all the crazy creatures! Rising up out of the mud are little 2" worms which wave back and forth like cobras. There are limpets on the glass, and if I search carefully I can find them moving snail-like on the rocks and plants, their soft innards protected by a conical lid. A large (1/8") water mite zips around in the water like the energizer bunny-cum-schoolbus, a nearly-square bundle of frenzied activity. It gets its food by sucking the juices from little waterfleas, which sometimes come to rest on the glass ~ I saw it happen! If you sit back and squint a little, the aquarium looks like a little forest scene with lots of little waterfleas, ostracods, amphipods and copepods buzzing around like insects.

There are also CLAMS in there. I've no idea where they came from, but they're about the size of my little fingernail, and they move along by sticking a foot out of the shell and hunching along. The water is pretty cool since I only heat the part of my studio that's under my computer desk, so they're not very active, but it's neat to watch how they move from spot to spot, day by day.

Of course, I can't sit and watch the aquarium all day every day, and I'm already tired of this cold weather outside, and Christmas is a'cumin in (a good thing to avoid if you aren't with family) so I am in the throes of planning for my next sketch-journaling foray ~ this time to Belize.

Choosing Belize was an accident. I was planning another go at Hawaii, to try another island. I've been on the Big Island now, and Kauai, and I was aiming for Maui or Molokai, but I didn't start looking until November when the prices had already started going up. Way up. So with some consternation I started checking airfare to other places of interest, and finally snagged a flight to Belize for only a little more than half the price to Hawaii. It was a freak price, and was gone within a couple of hours, so I was lucky to find it.

So now I am starting to pack. This time I have gotten smart and ordered a wheeled pack, so I can carry it or pull it. In the past I have exhausted myself hauling my pack around on my back. Sometimes in airports with slick floors I would end up dragging it behind me (that's hard on packs and really tacky-looking to do) because I just couldn't carry it another step. It's not that it's so heavy, it just gets heavy after what seems like trotting miles from one terminal to the next when one has already been traveling for 20 hours with not much sleep. FedEx just brought the new pack this morning, and it appears to be the luggage of my dreams. It's considered a kids' schoolbag, so it's fairly small and lightweight, but although it was inexpensive, the online reviews were good and it looks like it's well-constructed. Now I can begin to get ready in earnest.

It's time to line up the house-sitter/s, get my clothes and sketching gear in order, and I'll be ready. I've already chosen and paid for my accomodations: four days on Ambergris Caye and eleven at a jungle lodge in western Belize on a calm river near Mayan ruins.

This is another bold jump for me, so it's a little scary. When I went to the Amazon last year, I was cared for from the moment of my arrival in Peru ~ picked up at the airport in Iquitos by my eco-lodge hosts, carted off down the Amazon to the lodge in their launch, and later returned by them to the plane for my trip home. I felt very safe. This time, I have made all the arrangements and have to find my own way to my lodgings via ferryboat and bus. It's daunting, but I'm sure I can do it.

Belize is a good choice for this: the official language, if you can believe it, is English. The Belizian currency is 2BZDollars = 1USDollar (simple!), and there is a good solid tourist industry infrastructure which makes it easier to get around than in more remote places. I plan to rent a bike for my stay on the Caye, and I won't need a vehicle at the jungle lodge. The hosts will pick me up on arrival in the nearby town and take me back at the end to catch my bus

So my sketching is preordained: four days doing beach things on the Atlantic right next to the world's second largest Barrier Reef, which is less than a quarter mile off the Caye where I'll stay. Maybe I'll TRY snorkeling again (after my embarrassing debacle on Kauai last spring ~ read this journal page for the gruesome details) in the shallow waters if I feel brave.

I have been assured that I'll be able to wander the jungle trails alone, sketching and journaling and keeping an eye out for snakes, howler monkeys and jaguars, of course. I wonder if I can take my pepper spray in my carry-on luggage?

I'm going to close down here now to start pawing through my summer gear for things to take to Belize. As always, I'll pack for carry-on only, so there's less chance of losing luggage, and I'll be trying to keep the weight around 20-25lbs. That means I'll have to rip up the Belize bird & wildlife books I just got, extracting and binding the pictures into a lighter-weight book, because the books together weigh 5lbs, a quarter of my goal! Also, I plan to take a dozen energy bars so I can skip expensive lunches and still make it through the day. The rest of my gear will be a change of clothes, my medicine bag (sunscreen, travel ailment remedies, mosquito repellent, etc.), a rain jacket, and my sketching kit.

I'll try to write more later, to keep you clued in as to how this is all going, in case you're planning (or dreaming of) a similar trip. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes!

Big hugs to all my followers!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Sketch/Journal is now a Slide Show!

I didn't get eaten by a bear although I thought I might at one point ~ read my journal entry here! (you should be able to read the pages if you click on the image).

It's been a fantastic summer, but as one of my blog readers pointed out, I haven't blogged since the end of August (!). Sometime around then I figured out how to create a slideshow and I got sidetracked. Now I've put my Sit Spot Sketch/Journal entries on my webpage as a series of slide shows (although I'm not quite up to date).

They're in two-week clumps, with links to additional slide shows in the series just below each slide show. If you haven't seen them yet, I'd love some feedback!

But in the process, I got way behind on blogging. My apologies!

This has been a momentous summer for me. I have lived in this woods for thirty-one years but this year, for the first time, I have begun to get really acquainted with it. Every day from July 22 until just this week, I have gone out for an hour or more nearly every day and observed, journaled and sketched what I discovered around me.

Now the weather has turned cold and I'm in the process of fetching in wood from the forest for my woodpile before the rains set in, so I'm in a time crunch and my sketch journal has to take a back seat until I get my winter preparations taken care of.

All summer, sometimes I found things to draw, sometimes things to draw found me.

Upon completing a page (sometimes I added color on the spot, other times I worked on pages in the evenings) I would bring my sketch/journal pages into my studio, scan them into the computer, and tweak them to make them legible. The text I tweaked quite a bit, correcting ballpoint ink blobs, misspelled words, and wobbly letters, but the pictures I left as I drew them. Improving the art would be cheating, in my opinion, but you have to be able to READ the things, so tweaking the text is okay.

As I got the pages finished, I joined them together into the slide shows. So come see what I have been doing ~ and consider trying this yourself. If you live in the southern half of the U.S. your weather should make it possible to do it year-round.

For the rest of us poor souls, up here in Winterland, well, maybe y'all can go out before it gets too much colder and collect cool things to draw in the warmth of your living room or art studio over the winter: pinecones, leaves, beetle-chewed sticks or bark, oak galls, feathers, seedpods, shed insect or snake skins, etc. (the oak branch drawings here came out of my woodpile!). I've collected a few such specimens for myself to draw later, and I can also sketch the scene out my windows, as well. And hey, a few minutes drawing out in the cold air won't kill me this winter.

It's okay to draw from photos, too, so maybe a quick tour around your yard, local park, nearby woods or fields, etc., can give you some good subjects for your winter sketching. If the idea is to explore your local vicinity, your own photos would probably be your best source of subjects.

And if you are thinking your skills aren't up to such a project, you can very likely get yourself up to speed using my little workshop workbooks, designed to take you from your own personal skill level to wherever you want to go. To find a workbook that would suit you, click on a cover below to visit the workbooks's page.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Mosquito Solution

Mosquitoes really know how to ruin a perfectly lovely outing. They're masters at it. I'm a total mosquito wimp, and in many locales that's a very good thing to be due to Lyme disease, [oh dear! Kathy Walker has corrected me on this ~ see her letter below and substitute "West Nile" for "Lyme disease" above! ] etc. (to say nothing of the problems engendered by scratching your arms off at the elbows ~ it's SO hard to sketch and journal, after that...).

I first wrote about my problem with the mosquitoes on this page:

So whilst being plagued by the little beasties as I sat in my sit spot one day, I dreamed up the perfect solution. It required a trip to the garden shed and an additional trip to the camping goods section of Bi-Mart, plus a few of those paper clamps (see (d.) below.

Oh yeah, wire cutters were needed, too, and six of those "twistems" ~ the wiry things that fasten loaves of bread and clumps of celery shut.

When I was done, I journaled the results in my journal. Since I'm not certain it's totally clear how it is constructed, I've also created some diagrams to make the directions easier to follow.

You'll need:
  • wire cutters or pliers which will cut heavy wire
  • a cone-shaped wire tomato frame (see a. below)
  • a 5'x7' piece of mosquito netting (it comes this size in the package, but you might want a bigger piece)
  • 6 pieces of light wire, twistable by hand
  • 3 or more paper clamps, clothespins, or some other fastener
  • a comfy chair to fasten everything to.
Cut the middle and bottom hoops of the tomato frame open, next to one of the legs (b.) and spread out the cone until the legs are in a more-or-less straight row. Fasten the wire legs to the chair, and bend the frame as needed to make the top hoop level (c. and e.). You can bend up the cut ends of the two wires to make hooks ~ I hang my glasses on one to keep them inside the net (f.). You could hang your false teeth on the other hook, mebbe...

Fold the mosquito net in half and put clips along one side, starting at the fold (as shown in d.) . You don't have to clip the entire side, as gravity will cause it to fall down and close itself.

Open up and drape the net over the frame, with the corner with the first clip above the center of the top hoop (f.). The drawing isn't perfectly accurate, because there's a bit of a corner splayed out on the ground on each side of the chair.

Even with this size of netting your feet might not be totally covered. So you'll need to wear socks if the beasties are biting your ankles. I was wearing 2 pairs of socks on my final day in my #2 sit spot, which I think is what finally did me in there, since I had simply SWARMS of mosquitoes around my net ~ so many that I could feel their tiny little vibes yearning for my blood. It was unnerving. But for lesser visitations, it's great!

This only takes a few minutes to make once you get the tools and supplies together, and it is so light that you can carry it in one hand from one spot to another. Sitting inside your little haloed dome, there will be no netting dragging against your face or head or hands or sketchpad, and you don't have to wear stinky repellent. You'll need to wear pants, though, since your knees will be against the netting and the little boogers will notice this right away (oops!).

I hope this turns out to be useful to you, if you live in a skeetery place. If you make one and try it out, I'd love to hear your experience with it. Mine makes it possible to sit out on the deck on a warm summer evening in perfect comfort, reading sketching, etc.

Of course, it's not nice to sit on the lawn under your net to chat if your chatee doesn't have a net, though, so you may need to make nets for everyone to be polite.

Let me know if you try this, okay?

BTW, I've replaced, moved, and changed the box where you ask for notifications when I blog ~ now it's on the right near the top when you first enter the blog. If you signed up for but haven't been getting notices, enter your email again now.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Madrone trees and shiny beetles

Have you ever visited a nearby spot and discovered something major you've never even heard of? For instance, the first time I traveled through the South I was amazed to see the miles-wide blankets of kudzu draped over the trees like green quilts. I'd never even HEARD of kudzu before.

A similar thing happened to me when I moved to southern Oregon. I'd previously lived in various parts of Oregon: Hood River (on the northern edge by the Columbia River), Corvallis (west-central Oregon) and Eugene a bare 120 miles north of my place) and I'd neither seen nor heard of the magnificent red-barked madrone trees with their green skin which tans just like human skin during the hot days of summer.

Since my house is nestled deep in a madrone forest, madrones are now a major part of my scenery, and I thought I'd share their fascinating beauty with you, writing from my sit spot underneath and beside their glamorous trunks and branches (to say nothing of the midsummer leaf fall now descending in glorious golden cascades).

There's an actual piece of bark glued to this journal page because their color is so obviously impossible I thought I'd better prove it. But as you can see, I didn't even go as far as reality in my painting. The bark comes in many shades, though, so the color I chose is accurate for many of the trees.

What about the green? It's true! The skin is really that green on many of them at this time of year, while others have a more subdued tone, and all of them tan with age until they're the deep orange or red of the peeling parts ~ the red bark is LAST year's green skin.

And then, of course, I discovered some little black beetles so shiny that when I looked at them through my magnifying glass I could see my reflection looking back at me from their polished black backs!

I hope you like this journal page. There are lots more to come, including a journal page about my invention of a mosquito net contraption that's easy to make and could allow you to sit on your lawn or deck in the worst of mosquito times ~ without slathering on stinky insect repellent.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sit Spot Ear Envy

Humans have such duh ears! I am really jealous of wildlife who have decent sound detectors. In fact, I spent one whole session meditating, journaling and sketching about our rotten ears and my Do-It-Yourself invention to put us humans on a slightly more level playing field.

Here is the journal page for your enjoyment. I hope it gives you a giggle, because I had a lot of fun creating it.

Of course, as I was sitting out in the woods at the time I did it, I looked up (and listened up!) frequently to make sure I wasn't missing anything. And since it was a VERY quiet day, without any passing-through deer or brouhaha in the bird world overhead, and with nothing but mosquitoes pestering me, I had plenty of time to devote to this important page.

So, click on the image to get a readable size, and I beg of you, experiment with your ears for a few minutes to find out what I'm talking about ~ and then maybe even make yourself a decent 'Earing Aid as shown. NOTE: If you are a Grown-Up, abandon your dignity and try this.

All you need is one or two yogurt containers or paper cups, a pair of scissors, and some glasses ~ an old pair of specs without any lenses in them will work just fine. If you (or your kid) wear glasses, you have an instant advantage.

Cut the cup as shown, flatten it on the side that will go next to your head (a paper cup would have the advantage here, but you can just lightly squash a plastic yogurt cup with pretty good results) hook it over your ear, and slide the glasses on, poking the earpiece THROUGH the big end of the cup and out the "bottom."

And then, go outside and play. It's a lot of fun, and if you have kids, they'll have a blast with it! Especially if you do it with them. Try whispering to each other across the yard. How far away can you hear a whisper?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Poison Oak is Turning

This morning marks my 20th page from my Sit Spot, and to celebrate, I herewith offer it up.

Here's something funny that happened. While drawing this I accidentally wiped a drop of "water" from my sketch page, not realizing that the water-droplet-looking-thing was poison oak blood from the broken stem. Then I realized what I had done. Duh!

Still, there's a wonderful antidote, Tecnu, a solvent which you can rub on, even hours later, then wash off, which nullifies the oils so that you don't bubble up like a pudding and itch like crazeee! So I continued to work, but I was hypersensitive about touching the leaves in any way.

Later, when I had finished coloring my sketch of the red leaf and the lower green one, and was painting the top green one, I happened to set the side of my hand down on the lower green leaf of my drawing ~ and SNATCHED my hand back up (don't touch the poison oak!). Then, of course, I laughed and laughed. I wonder what my brain was doing to process that. Does that mean my subconscious thinks my sketches are the real McCoy? Weird!

Interestingly enough, over the course of about an hour and a half, the poison oak "blood" darkened from colorless through orange, cinnamon, dark-brown, to nearly black where it was concentrated. The less concentrated area is still brown. I wonder if it will all darken to black.

And I did remember to apply the Tecnu as soon as I returned to the house about an hour after contact. So far, so good. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

No Prdibit In Sight

I tried an early sit this morning, getting out to my spot before seven, waiting in the dim dawn light with sunshine on the mountains in front of me. Read my journal page to experience my morning adventure (that's a slight exaggeration, but be kind to the poor puzzled sitter, please!).....This page looked a bit pale since I haven't yet had time to add color, so I did some "painting" in Photoshop before I saved it:

Below is the original version. Do you have a preference? (let me know with a response below, if you don't mind!).

So there's today's adventure. Yesterday I found a teensy stinkbug trapped in an Agoseris puff (like a big 2½" dandelion puff) but it had escaped by this morning. Ooooooo~ big deal! (:-O

Still, I am so enjoying these silent waits. Even if nothing extraordinary passes by, I feel as though by observing, considering, sketching and journaling I am more a part of the real world than I am when I sit inside at the computer all day.

Let me know what you think of the two versions above, if you don't mind.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sketch Pages from My Sit Spot

I promised to show you some sketch/journal pages in my last blog, but before I do that I'll set the scene again. Here's the view from my Sit Spot:This scene is from my chair, looking down across a long meadow, with a fairly steep downhill slant. Although it's nearly invisible, my house is behind the trees at far right.

And here's a sketch/journal page showing the little sand chair I use (a short-legged, webbed aluminum frame designed for basking on the beach). Click on any image to get a larger view.

I've been going out for an hour or so every day, at different times, just to see what I can see. You'd think it would be boring, just sitting there looking around, but I find I am usually quite content for an hour or more, and it's often only the mosquitoes that drive me away.

I concentrate on watching for movements: birds, insects, lizards, anything that moves; sniffing the breeze for scents (deer, up close, smell like a barnyard!); watching the weather and noting the breeze direction and how it knocks down showers of madrone leaves; listening to the birds ~ alarm calls will likely alert me to incoming fox or bobcat (or bear) long before they arrive. The birds don't announce fellow prey animals like deer or squirrels, though.

In case you're wondering, the orange trees on my sketch pages are madrone trees. They have green leaves year 'round, and have smooth bark which is lime green when it is new, then "tans" to a lovely sienna or cinnamon color. Right now, at the end of July, they have tanned about as far as they're going to, and they'll soon start to peel, revealing the gorgeous new green "skin" underneath. The golden leaves you see are ready to drop, in mid-summer, because the new leaves are big enough to take over the photosynthesis.

The deer on this page were sketched quickly as they were passing through, but that was only possible because I've drawn deer so many times that I have a mental template for "deer" in my head that I can pull out of the bag whenever needed. I didn't even consider drawing the trees while the deer were still visible ~ they're not going anywhere, so they were drawn later. The color was added with watercolor pencils while I was watching TV the next night. But I decided I like it so much with just the cinnamon browns that I may not paint any more on that page. Maybe.

Sometimes it is very quiet, with nothing much happening, then I reach down beside my chair and pull up something interesting to draw. On this page, I didn't realize there was a tiny cricket on the vetch until I was well into the sketch.

Bugs, beetles, flies, bees, and other denizens of the woods occasionally offer themselves for a portrait, as well. Whenever I receive such an invitation to draw, I grab it. They may not stay for long! It helps to have a mental template for insect legs, and a general idea where they attach underneath, to allow you to get it down before the little critter makes its get-away. Actually, a nice see-through container might be useful for drawing insects. A magnifying glass would also be useful.

Be Prepared. I have a little pump bottle of mosquito repellent and reading glasses which I leave on the log next to my chair. On days without a breeze I tuck a mosquito net under my arm as I go out the door (mosquitoes can be really pesky when there's no breeze to blow them away). I keep something else important at my Sit Spot, too. But you'll have to read the sketch pages to find out what it is.

So far, I have created thirteen pages, and I know for sure that I have only dipped the tiniest tip of a toenail into the amazing pool of possibilities in that one spot. What insects will present themselves for a sketch? What kinds of lichens live there, and why are they mostly only on the oaks, not the madrones? What wildlife life will come by as I sit silently? From my studio window (from which I can SEE my Sit Spot) I've seen foxes, bobcats, skunks, bears, pileated woodpeckers, squirrels, deer, wolf spiders, goldfinches, juncos, rufous-sided towhees, Steller's jays, and any number of other creatures passing by. No reason I shouldn't see them from my Sit Spot if I'm just sitting there waiting for them.

I'm thinking that I might also draw progressions: a wildflower in bloom, then its mature seedpod or seeds, etc. Fawns now are about 24" at the shoulder, but I'll draw them as they get bigger, as well, if I stick to my plan. If I continue to draw through the seasons, what a record I will produce!

[BTW, to create a mental template of something you expect to be drawing frequently (like deer or bug legs) all you have to do is practice. If you don't have the genuine article in front of you, practice from photographs. After a few sessions and an occasional refresher if necessary, you can create your own set of mental templates. It's sort of like investing in a set of paints or colored pencils or pens you regularly draw with ~ and just as important.]

I'll try to blog some sketch pages from my Sit Spot every now and then.

See you later ~ I'm off to my Sit Spot to journal and draw!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Can You See Me Now?

Well! That was An Experience! I haven't had such a great time in years! As soon as I had gotten my latest journal uploaded (Kauai ~ A Beachcomber's Sketchbook Tutorial) I left for camp.

For a whole week the Raccoons (that was our group of adult nature bootcampers) tented in a mountain meadow, crept through the woods in camouflaging mud, rotten log debris and ashes; followed the beat of a drum blindfolded at night; learned how to make fire with a bow drill; made cordage (string); learned to walk (relatively) silently in the forest, and lowered our stress levels several notches. And now we are Fox Trail graduates, still merely on the lowest rung of the woods lore ladder!

We slept in tents; ate in the dining hall; circled the campfires for breakfast and dinner (all campfires were started by bow drill); learned forest lore; shared secrets; and experienced a remarkable sweat lodge. One of our most valuable experiences happened every morning before breakfast when we each went to our own special Sit Spot to sit silently contemplating a beautiful mountain meadow and the surrounding forest as the sun came up.

I really enjoyed the fact that we never knew what was going to happen next. For instance, before going out to camouflage ourselves with mud, and to creep silently on hands and knees, toes and bellies through the forest, we were told only to wear something it was okay to get dirty. And HOW! Above is what I looked like all camouflaged (it is actually a photo of me Photoshopped to get me dirty). Alas, no one took pictures of us when we had mudded up, but the photo above is what the others looked like to me, so I probably looked about like this to them. Wow, huh? Kinda disappear into the landscape, don't I?

Did I mention that we then had to get clean by first plunging into a cold pond, then soaping AND rinsing in only 2½ gallons of sun-warmed water? It IS possible. Honest!

Learning how to make cordage from whatever fibers are lying around, including grass and bark, was fascinating. Here's some cordage I made ~ there is more than a yard of it there ~ and below is my journal page about Step 1 of making cordage ~ preparing the fibers.

A great deal more happened, but to tell it all would reveal secrets essential to the enjoyment and appreciation of future camp-goers to Coyote Trails courses. You'll just have to sign up for a class and experience it yourself!

Now I have established a Sit Spot in my madrone-black oak-ponderosa forest behind my house. I've set up a little sand chair between a dead snag and a tall stump (to soften my silhouette), and I've been journaling as I sit and observe. Here's the view down the hill and to the sides of my Sit Spot. The view in the photo is a full 180 degrees, forward and to the sides of where I sit. I'll show you a page or two from my Sit Spot Journal next time..

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Goin' Off to Camp

I feel like a little kid, getting my gear together to go off to camp!

This morning I uploaded my newest sketch journal tutorial: Kauai ~ a Beachercomber's Sketchbook Tutorial, which has consumed my time for the last several weeks. I'm very pleased with it, but I'm glad to finally get it launched, because now I can go play.

Recently I joined the Board of Directors of Coyote Trails School of Nature, here in Ashland, which on the 4th of July translated into riding on the parade float and howling like a coyote at frequent intervals (there's nothing like being in a parade to let you throw reticence to the wind and be a Wild Thing). On the advice of my friend Otie, at right, I decided I wanted to experience some of the courses they teach, at their forest camp on the mountain above Ashland, and I have signed up for a couple of week-long courses in nature skills.

Here's what I'm to learn in this first class (the Fox Trail Adventure):
  • how to build a stick and leaf shelter;
  • how to make fire with bow drill ~ without matches;
  • how to find safe drinking water in the forest;
  • stalking and methods of tracking;
  • nature awareness and observation;
  • how to move quietly in the forest without being seen;
  • ways of nature journaling;
  • understanding animal body movement and performance;
  • the philosophy of living with the earth
  • and the cultivation of the imagination and wonder
Wow! I will be a new woman! If you'd like to go visit the site, and maybe try this course yourself someday, here's the link. It's not just for kids -- they offer the same classes for kids and adults, but they don't mix the adults with the kids.

I've been checking things off their Supplies List, just bought a new tent I've been meaning to get for some time (whooeeee!) and I tried it out ~ on my deck. 3am I knew the 3" pad I was sleeping on was too hard, so I wimped out and came back in the house to get some sleep.

The next night I tried my 6" foam pad, which worked well enough that I made it through the night without too much waking up. Using a mattress is kinda old-ladyish, but I've no intention of disabling this faithful body any further than it already is!

Jesse loves the new tent, and has spent quite a bit of time sitting in its doorway looking out into the woods. Since he generally sleeps on my bed, I was hoping he could figure out how to nose in under the flap, but he couldn't quite figure it out. He yowled and complained, pawing fruitlessly at the flat, feet slipping down the nylon doorway, but he couldn't quite fathom stepping over the sill down there by his knees. Since there are skeeters out there, I couldn't leave the flap wide open for him, so in the end I had to shut him into the house so I could try to sleep

I think the Wild Things approve of my sojourn. Friday morning a perky little gray fox trotted past my studio window, casting a sly eye my direction before moving on into the forest. And night before last, I was treated to the longest coyote serenade I have ever experienced.

And then......night before last, two coyotes bark/yodeling from about 200 ft out in the woods woke me up at roughly 2:55am, embroidering a dream I'd been dreaming. I listened drowsily for several minutes, then realized that this was going on MUCH longer than their usual 1-2 minute song (especially since they'd been howling for quite some time in my dream) and I glanced over at the clock: 2:59. I listened in amazement for 14 more minutes, the last little yip trailing off just a few seconds before 3:13. That's at least 18 minutes of solid bark/howling (no, none of the barking was dogs), plus however long they were going at it before it finally woke me up. WOW.
(If you're not sure what a coyote howl sounds like, click here and listen to #1 and #3.)

So, with approval of my forest mates, I am finished packing and ready to go up into the mountains to the forest camp where I shall learn how to blend with trees, walk like a deer, and live like a Wild Thing.

Now I need to finish the list for the house-sitter, then I'm ready for my camping trip. The weeds I joust with every afternoon down at the nursery will just have to grow without me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sketch/Journal in Progress

I've been up to my nostrils in preparing my latest sketch journal tutorial, but I wanted to surface for a minute to say hi, that I'm really still here, not disappeared down Alice's rabbit hole.

The weather has finally changed from long, cold, rainy, snitty spring (record cold temperatures and record rainfall, BOTH) to a still fairly cool but sunny summer. The vetch is out on the hillsides in glorious profusion (see above right). The bigleaf maples (at left) have just finished flowering (did you know some people pick these flower clumps and fry them in batter like fritters? I haven't tried that yet...)

Temperatures haven't even hit 90 yet, but that makes it great when I go down to Plant Oregon, Dan's native plant nursery, to weed every afternoon at 4 or 5pm. While the sun is still hot and the temperature varies between 60 and 80+, I weed in the shady spots, or alternate with sunny rows to warm up again. Then when the sun goes behind the western row of trees along the creek, I carry my weeding stool over to the once-sunny rows to weed. Birds are singing, bees are buzzing, it's nice.

But in the mornings I am at my computer, sorting out which photos (of some 730 of them) to use in the tutorial, which means I'm reliving my vacation in Kauai again, day by day, beach-crawl by beach-crawl, satisfying day by day. I'll experience the whole thing again when I put it together and write the tutorial. And then every time I pull the original journal down off the shelf to read it. How could you top that?!

But ya sure wouldn't want to do a tutorial for a BAD trip! Ouch!

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in how it's coming along, although I haven't yet started writing the tutorials.

For the Sea Biscuit tutorial page, I wanted to set the scene with what the beach morning glory vine looked like as I sat sketching. Here are the two photos I'll use for that, plus one I found later in bloom. It's a gorgeous, lush plant, growing on a hot sandy beach you wouldn't think could support such luxuriant growth.

The "sea biscuit" is so exquisite I spent about two hours drawing it. I was so entranced and sat so long my bum got numb. If you look at it close up, you'll see lots of little raised white dots. There was probably a spine attached to each one. I wonder if this is the remains of the spiny black sea urchin I saw earlier washed up onshore.....I don't have a good guide for sea urchin tests (a test is this calcareous skeleton left behind when the animal goes to meet its maker).

Then, since I journaled about the yummy mango that washed up on shore and ended up in my tummy (most of it) and Daniel's (the ridiculously small amount I could bear to be a generous person and share...), I'll include a photo of that, too. The crabs had eaten part of it, the pigs. Best mango I ever tasted!

This will all be accompanied with a discussion of how I approached the page, dealt with setbacks, worked out the symmetry of the test, and did the decorative Hawaiian style border on the right side of the page.

Another page, with brilliant red African Tulip Tree blossoms, posed entirely different challenges.

The original view from the window was too far away for drawing with any clarity, so I worked partially from a photo. Working from the screen of a digital camera allows you to magnify detail a lot, but even so, the details of that flower cluster were ambiguous, so I had to examine a fallen bloom from a different tree to see how the flowers were constructed.

The tutorial will discuss the possible pitfalls of working from photos, and also how to get strong, vibrant color with watercolor pencils ~ which many artists have avoided because they thought it couldn't be accomplished. It can be, as you can see.

So I'm working busily away in my studio looking out into the oh-so-green woods. That rainy spring may have been depressing, but it engendered some of the most riotous greens I've ever seen. The very air is tinted green, even in my studio!

I'm almost finished sorting through the photos in Photoshop, correcting the lighting, making dull, cloudy day pictures sparkle (yes, we had several cloudy days, and those pictures look a LOT better if I brighten them up a bit), and rescuing underexposed photos (hey, check out the before-and-after photo here ~ there's a lot of information you can rescue if you know how to find it, although some of it, color mostly, is lost). It's fun, and I love it.

I'll be done preparing in a couple of days, then I'll start assembling everything into the book in InDesign, the Adobe desktop publishing program I use for all my books, and you'll be able to download it in a month or so, I hope.

If you have put your name in the little bitty box near the end of the right column above, you'll be notified when I blog about uploading it so you can get your copy.

Until then, Aloha! And have a good summer!

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

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