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!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Sit-spot Update

Just a quick note to tell you I've started my Every Day Outside sketching. I just thought of that name for it, which could be shortened to EDO to describe my daily wanderings on my wooded hillside to observe, listen, sketch, journal, and just be quiet.  I have sixteen drawings already which I haven't yet put into the slideshow/flipbook sketchbooks on my webpage ~ good grief ~ time to catch up on that, for sure!

Here's today's sketch outing, with notes about Shooting Star seed heads (the flowers, not celestial events) and Pussy Ears, which dot the hillside now with their furry cuteness.  The white Pussy Ears flower looked very blah on the white paper, so I put a dark background behind the flower-head.  Be sure to click on the image for a picture big enough to read and to see the details!

This kind of dark background is pretty simple to do with watercolor pencils, by the way, and I used to teach it in my workshops.  If you'd like to try it, you could download my watercolor pencil workbook here.  It has clear, step-by-step instructions on how to get this really striking effect. 

Update on the Kenya Sketch Journal: I plan a town trip to get my Kenya sketchbook scans punched and coiled tomorrow so I can start journaling on the pages. I'm trying to keep my carbon footprint small by rationing my trips to town. It's a twenty mile trip, minimum, and the gas expenditure  ~  more than $4.20/gal here ~ makes trotting off to town without a good reason a not-very-enticing prospect. But it takes planning and good lists to make sure I don't forget something and have to make another trip.

Oh yeah, I'm also working on a Douglas fir tree illustration for a watershed interpretive sign done by a colleague for the Bureau of Land Management (I think it's BLM, anyway).  It will be in color, and has witches brooms on it (naw, ya can't fly with them, but they do sorta look like broom heads... They're caused by a parasite which makes the tree put out beau coup bristly twigs).

It's just a rough at this point, with a place left for an owl she already has artwork for near the top.  The tree will fade off all along the length of the trunk, and there will be text and other spot illustrations to the right. The witches brooms are the two blobs near the center. Right now, it's gone to committee to make sure it fulfills everyone's expectations, so it might experience some changes.  That's it at right.

OK, I'll be back later with updates.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Kenya Journal, First Steps

I've begun my Kenya Sketch Journal Remake

Materials I'm working from: here's my original sketchbook, at right, which was pretty unwieldy to use, being so large, but it was what I was used to at that time and I didn't even consider sketching smaller.  Now I use a sketchbook a little less than half this size, and I feel my results are quite nice ~ and a whole lot easier to carry!

My original journal, below, was a "Record" book I bought in a stationery store (do stationery stores still exist?).   I would have chosen an unlined book for my journal had they been available back in 1977.  
This one had blue lines which, while they kept my writing tidy, wreaked havoc with sketches, as you can see.  If I want to use one of these sketches I drew in the lined journal, it will be a major job to get rid of the horizontal lines without messing up the drawing.  In the end, I'd rather have tilty text than damaged drawings.

Additionally, the text and drawings are in two separate places, which doth not a sketch/journal make.

So here's the plan:  I scanned all of the drawings into my computer, then pulled up each image and cleaned it up. The drawings were mostly very lightly sketched in pencil. Some of them scanned poorly and needed to have the yellowed paper calmed down and the drawing amped up (the quail, at right, was properly contrasty, but most weren't). 

Originally, I'd planned to color my sketches with colored pencils, but I hadn't practiced beforehand and my on-location colored pencil skills produced pretty disappointing results, so I dropped that idea and penciled in color notes all over the place.  

Results: the drawings are mostly in faint pencil, in a vertical format, on yellowed paper, with many scribbly color notes and other written details.

Fixing things:  So I cleaned up all the drawings, removed all the written notes, and started moving things around to adjust them to a horizontal format.  This was a formidable job, as you can see from looking at the original Harlequin Quail and Tree Hyrax sketch pages above.  

Results: When I had finished, my twenty-four vertical sketch pages had turned into twenty-eight or more horizontal pages with things rearranged and the drawings sometimes split out onto two pages to fit the new format. 
You can see here how the Tree Hyrax pages were split up and rearranged to put all the foot and scent gland details on one sketch page and the two portraits together on a second page for a more effective grouping. All the stuff is there, exactly as it was drawn, but rearranged to look better.
Now I have printed out all the rearranged pages, two per 8½" x 11" page, onto the heavy paper I make my 8½" x 5½" journals out of.  You can see the pile of printed pages in the photo with the lined journal, above.

That's the point I am at right now.  Next time I go to town, I'm going to take the loose printed pages to a copy shop and get them coil bound into a little sketchbook which I can write in. 

The next step will be to start fishing in the original journal and sketchbook for good journaling information. In my new little sketchbook I'll rewrite the journal in ballpoint pen, re-label the sketches and add notes about the critters in the present tense as though it were happening at this very moment.  All the notes will be true to the original journal and sketchbook ~ I won't fake anything ~ so in the end it will be a reincarnation of the journal as I would do it if I were sketching today.

I MAY decide to use my watercolor pencils and add color to the drawings, as well. It would make the sketch journal much more attractive, I know, and that HAD been my original plan.  But I'd use watercolor pencils, not colored pencils, since that's what I'm most familiar with at this point.

An interesting note: My pleine air sketching skills half a lifetime ago were about the same as they are now, so the art accurately represents my current sketching style and level.  Huh.  I woulda thought I'd have improved a bit in thirty-four years!!!!!

As soon as I get a couple of pages done, I'll bring them to the blog and give you a preview. I'm finding this a fascinating process, and I'm really interested to find out if I can totally immerse myself into the project so that the journaling rings true.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Big Ideas Afoot!

I've been cleaning my studio!

For the last twenty years or so, I've been avoiding throwing stuff away, so walking into my studio was akin to entering an archaeological dig.  I'm not actually a hoarder, and I don't have anything dirty (well, dusty, mebbe) or smelly (I checked) hanging around in piles, but the piles were getting awfully high and it was becoming difficult to "swing the cat" as they say. I had been able to only s-q-u-e-e-z-e into some studio areas for years.

The view from my desk
So you haven't heard from me in quite awhile because I've been busy getting rid of stuff.  I've semi-donated about a hundred books to the Coyote Trails Jefferson Nature Center down by Bear Creek.  I say "semi-" because I actually sold them to the center for 50¢ each, but since some of them are worth $25-$30, that's pretty much giving them away. 

I found a home for my wildlife magazine clip files ~ seventy-six 3-ring binders, which took up a total of 140" of  library shelf space, to a wonderful wildlife artist in Eugene ~ Dan Chen ~ who says he will cherish and use them forever. I have been taking box after box of other items to the Goodwill store for redistribution.  And now, I can swing the cat in as big a circle as HE wants.  Wahoooooo!!!!!  It is incredibly FREEing!

And that leads me into my next topic, which showed up during the cleaning.

Tree Hyrax
Half a lifetime (my lifetime, at least) ago, I went to Kenya.  That was in 1977, and I took my sketchbook and journal and sketched and journaled for more than three weeks.  I rented a car and drove all over the place. I settled in Nairobi at the edge of Nairobi National Park, spending time there and visiting Mombasa, Lake Naivasha, Tsavo and Amboseli National Parks, and Aberdare Forest. It was my first trip out into the world all alone, and I had a scary, wonderful, enlightening time. 

When I got home, my life got busy, I divorced, built a house, supported myself giving school talks, remarried, became a nurserywoman, divorced, traveled and lived a lot of life ~ and the Kenya sketchbook and journal got shoved under a desk for decades.  Three decades.

Last week I pulled it out and scanned all the sketches into my computer, and yesterday I started typing up the journal.  Next, I plan to rearrange the journal and sketches into the format of one of my sketch/journal series with tutorial. 

Bateleur Eagle
My sketch/journaling was done differently then ~ the journaling was done in a separate ledger with lined paper, the drawings were made in a big 12x18" sketchpad on cheap paper (it's yellowing badly). But I will take information from the journal to enhance the sketches, change the shape, and do whatever is possible to create a new journal that is true to the old one.  So in a sense, it will be a fabrication, but in another sense it will simply be a distillation of my Kenyan journey.

As with my other sketch/journals, there will be a tutorial using the photographs I took during the trip. The photos I have are actually slides, and I will have to copy and import them into the computer to use them. To do that I've ordered a slide-to-digital converter  (which I expect to arrive this week).  

I plan to blog the copying process as well, because there are a lot of people with slides in their closets and no idea what to do with them.  I have more than 5000 slides, and almost all my 1980 decade images are on slides and thus missing from my photo archives.  My experience copying slides-to-photos is zero, and I've heard awful stories about machines that work poorly or not at this may get interesting. Maybe I'll get lucky.

Madrone flower page ~ this is #100!
I've also started spending an hour or so every day as I did last summer, sitting out in the woods sketching, trying to catch all the wildflowers in my sit-spot sketch journal before they fade (I only began sketching the woods in mid-July last year, so I missed them all then). It's been a chilly prospect, with temperatures in the 50s so far mostly, but to date I've captured Shooting Stars, Pacific Hounds Tongue, Madrone flowers, and several other little gems.  I just wish spring would come already!!!

I have several other things on my plate as well, including a safari to Crater Lake and another one to South Africa, which I will blog about soon.  

Big blog plans, huh?  I'll really try to keep up! Thanks for your patience with my spotty blogging!

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