Thursday, May 28, 2020

A May Calendar of Flowers

Springtime is a season of optimism and hope, a testimony to the fact that nothing lasts forever, including winter (and pandemics).

9" x 12", ink & watercolor in an American Journey Journaling Sketchbook with 140 lb. hot-press paper

Every May, when the roadsides here in Pennsylvania are painted with the colors of wild phlox and buttercups, a certain lifting of the spirit happens.

Virginia bluebells, Dutchman's breeches, & red trillium

Lettering was done with a white gel pen + watercolor fill

My eyes, weary of the greys and browns of winter, thrill to the fiery red-orange of flowering quince...

Flowering quince, larkspur, star chickweed, & bleeding heart

and the blush pink of azaleas.

Azalea, columbine, & lilac

Everything feels fresh and new again. It's like I'm seeing it all for the first time.

Wild phlox, blue-eyed Mary, golden ragwort, & pansy

Primrose, Japanese iris, toad shade trillium, creeping phlox, & common fleabane

Flowers are among my favorite things to paint, especially in spring when I'm starved for color. That's why I chose spring flowers as a theme for this monthly calendar sketch I did back in May of 2018. I never got around to posting the finished painting then, but I thought this was the perfect time to share it with you.

Viburnum, dandelion, & pink dogwood

Each day in May, I drew and painted a flower that was blooming that day, wherever I was. I traveled to Boone, North Carolina, that month to teach at Cheap Joe's for a week, and the flowers were blooming earlier there than at home, so I got to enjoy spring twice.

Crimson trumpet honeysuckle, Cornus Kousa dogwood, fuchsia, may apple, & pink dogwood

I sketched flowers from Virginia and West Virginia, too, as well as the ones growing in my yard here in Pennsylvania.

Pansy, yellow violet, buttercup, & rhododendron

This project gave me a wonderful excuse to focus on beauty for an entire month. I spent hours studying the intricacies of thirty-one different flower varieties as I tried to capture the rich color and unique form of each one. These little wonders brought so much happiness into my life as I was painting them, and they still do each time I look at this painting.

After the calendar was finished, I made a flower key on the opposite page in my sketchbook. It shows each flower's name plus the date and where I sketched it.

9" x 12", ink & watercolor in an American Journey Journaling Sketchbook with 140 lb. hot-press paper

I hand-lettered the flower names using a pointed calligraphy nib loaded with watercolor.

These notes are reminders of a day spent with friends sketching wildflowers, an afternoon in my sister's garden in West Virginia, a trip with my mom to Boone, and days here at home where I'm surrounded by spring-blooming shrubs and trees, perennials, and wildflowers growing right outside my door.

A calendar sketch offers a great way to capture what's going on in your life on the pages of your sketchbook. I'm planning to start a new one next month - I hope you'll think about joining me. Check out my other calendar pages by clicking on the "Calendar Sketches" link under the "Labels" heading in the column to the right.

I hope you're enjoying a lovely spring in your little corner of the world!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

A Walk in the Woods

In mid-April my husband and I got out of the house one morning and headed for Mason-Dixon Historical Park in West Virginia, just a half hour from our home. We wandered through forests carpeted with wild violets and walked along the shores of Dunkard Creek where huge sycamore trees show off their mottled grey and white bark, leaning at impossible angles over the rushing water. A few woodland trees were beginning to bud, and the forest floor was carpeted with wild violets. And, as if all that weren't enough, the hillsides were covered with masses of periwinkle blue Virginia bluebells.

3.5" x 5.5", ink, watercolor, and felt tip pen

It was one of the prettiest sights I've seen in ages, and I did this little watercolor sketch to remember it. I'm glad Fred was with me that day, so I had someone to share it with. And he only had to listen to me say, at least twenty-five times, "Oh, my gosh, can you believe how BEAUTIFUL this is?!"

Come along and see what early spring in our neck of the woods looks like...


Thursday, April 30, 2020

New Spots Open in "Sketch Now - Travel Later"

My foray into online teaching is starting off with a bang! I had planned to begin slowly with one class of 12 people, just to get my feet wet with "Zooming". I'm partnering with my friends at French Escapade to offer a travel sketching workshop while we're all cooped up at home.

the day I announced the class, it sold out within a few hours and had a huge waiting list. Great news for me, but I felt bad that so many people weren't able to get in.

we added a second session!
Which filled by the next day. And there were still people on the waiting list.

Now, we've opened up a third session to handle the overflow. It's almost full, too, so visit the French Escapade website today to grab one of the last few spots.

Sketch Now  Travel Later
May 26 & 28 
1:00 - 4:00 PM (Eastern)

Register here 

Here's a preview of what I have in store for you...

Yes, this live online class will include one of my world-famous class handbooks! 

Each student will receive a PDF download of this jam-packed 20-page book filled with everything we'll be covering during our six hours together. There's no need to furiously scribble notes while you're working on your sketch and watching my demo - everything you'll learn is in the handbook: layout options, border designs, lettering, step-by-step painting guidance, helpful hints, and more - yours to keep forever! 

For more information about the class content, read this blog post
Register for the two-day May 26th & 28th workshop here.

Let's have some fun sketching together and planning for happier days ahead. :)

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Safe at Home

Every day, I remind myself....

Blue-grey Staedtler Fineliner pen, colored pencils, watercolor, & washi tape
in a 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine Japanese Album journal

When I'm resenting the constraints on my life right now and longing for a return to normalcy, I try my best to focus on the ways in which this enforced isolation has been a force for good in my life. The list of positives is long. I've had time to...

    be with my husband



    create new classes


    watch a new series

    talk with friends on the phone

    go for long walks in the spring sunshine


    enjoy not having a schedule

    learn new skills

    take a class & be a student, rather than the teacher

    make plans for the future

    take a deep breath and just be

The constant pressure to do and go no longer exists.

I suspect that years from now, I may even look back on this time with a sort of nostalgia. I hope you, my friends, are finding some beauty and joy in each day, too.

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. 
Jane Austen

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Pandemic Days: Comfort Food, Walking, and a Few Tears

I've filled twenty pages in my little COVID-19 sheltering-in-place journal over the past five weeks, and I think I'll probably have time to fill the entire sketchbook before things get back to normal. Here are some of the sketches I've been working on...

All sketches were done in a 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine Japanese Album journal

I'm still sad when I think about all the workshops I've had to cancel this spring, but my England trip was the hardest. I had so looked forward to sharing that special place that I love with my painting friends. Painting this sketch from a photo I took when I was there in 2018 was bittersweet. It brought back beautiful memories but also reminded me of what we'll be missing this year.

I baked cherry scones one day when I was thinking about the Cotswolds and England. I sipped English breakfast tea from a cup I bought in London as I munched on a scone, and it made me feel better for awhile, but comfort food has a way of staying with me in the form of tighter jeans for days afterward. Weight gain has definitely been a disadvantage of sheltering in place.

I've been getting out for a walk every day when the weather permits. It does my spirit so much good, and I've discovered some pretty places close-by that I've never seen in the thirty plus years we've lived here.

One frustrating day, however, I had a really hard time finding a place to walk that wasn't crowded with people, so I created a page titled "The Walk That Wasn't".

I ended up coming home and going for my usual walk here at my place. A change of scenery would have been nice, but I'm lucky to have a place where I can always get outside in the fresh air for a stroll. Buckley likes it better when I walk at home, too!

The day after "The Walk That Wasn't" I decided to put in a couple of miles at College Park, also known as The Commons, in Waynesburg. This expansive town park was formed back in 1796 to provide pasture for the farm animals of lot holders in the borough. There aren't any cows, horses, or pigs grazing there today, but it sure was pretty on the sunny spring day that I visited and sketched en plein air to create "The Walk That Was".

I realized back in March that I was cooking a lot more than usual since my husband Fred has been home most of the time instead of traveling for several days each week. I thought it would be fun to look back at the end of all this and remember what meals we ate while quarantined.

One of my favorites was a recipe for One-Skillet Chicken Florentine that I cut out of Parade Magazine one Sunday. Here's the link, if you'd like to try it.

Fred's helping with the cooking a lot more lately, too, since he hasn't had to work much and has more time (in between house projects that have been on his to-do list for years), and that's a good thing! When he retires in a couple of years, maybe we'll complete the role reversal, and he'll do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry while I work at PAINTING!

A girl can dream, can't she?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

NEW! Live Online class: Sketch Now - Travel Later

I'm excited to announce my first LIVE interactive online classes....

Sketch Now  Travel Later
May 6 & 8 (SOLD OUT)
May 11 & 13 (SOLD OUT)
& May 26 & 28 (Register here
1:00-4:00 PM (Eastern)

"Sketch Now - Travel Later" offers an introduction to the process I use to create my travel sketches, as well as the everyday sketches I do at home.

Anticipation is half the fun when planning a trip, and this online workshop offers a great way to start a travel journal NOW, while we’re all dreaming of future journeys to far-away places. During the class, we’ll create a fun, colorful sketch about the challenges of packing for a trip. The sketch shown above will be our inspiration piece, but each participant's sketch will be uniquely their own. You’ll paint along with me as I design and paint a sketchbook page from start to finish in real time during the class.

During the two 3-hour sessions, we'll cover:
  • How to begin a travel journal long before the trip
  • Ideas for page layouts for your packing sketch
  • How to plan a composite sketch
  • How to draw a selection of border designs and fit them to your sketchbook page
  • Simple lettering styles for labeling sketches + lettering options for titles
  • Easy ways to transfer lettering to your sketch
  • How to draw banners
  • How to test color choices for page elements
  • How to paint your sketches with watercolor
  • How to unify a page using color
This live-streaming online workshop is a joint venture with my friends Jackie and Valerie from French Escapade. They're the tour operators who organized my trips to Spain and Provence in recent years and who will be handling everything for my French Alps painting tour in 2021. They'll take care of the technical aspects of the "Sketch Now - Travel Later" class, so all I have to do is teach and enjoy seeing your smiling faces in my studio!

To make this easy for everyone, there will be a practice session prior to the class to help you get up and running with the Zoom platform. This should help us iron out any issues that might pop up. And class size is limited to only 15 participants, allowing for plenty of one-on-one interaction.

Now is the perfect time to hone your skills and learn practical tips and techniques for your next travel sketching adventure. So come on in and join the fun - you can even come to class in your pajamas! I won't tell. :)

Visit the French Escapade website for more information and to register.

Stay well, and I'll see you in the studio!

Monday, April 13, 2020

Guest Artist: Karen Colson, & "The Lost Continent of Quarantine" Sketch

My friend Karen Colson from Carlsbad, California, has been sheltering in place for the past month, like the rest of us, and documenting her experiences on the pages of her sketchbook journal. I first met Karen during my Tuscany workshop in 2016, and she's one of my favorite artists. I love her style and color choices, but most of all, I appreciate her insight and the passion she brings to her work. She has a unique take on life, and her sketches always open my eyes to a different way of looking at the world.

When I saw Karen's most recent sketch, I knew it needed to be shared with a wider audience, so I invited her to be a guest Everyday Artist and tell us about what inspired her to create this incredible sketch and what her process was.

The Lost Continent of Quarantine 
Artwork and commentary by Karen Colson

When Leslie asked me if I would be willing to share my page and process, I was thrilled!

In this time of corona virus, we are all coping in so many ways, with so many stressors. We may have different reactions to things, but each feeling and experience is valid and valuable. Working on this page helped me to get my thoughts and feelings out of my head and body, and on to the page. I felt a lightening of my spirit when I finished the sketch. I hope that if you decide to try something similar, it will provide to you a respite from all the bad news.

Click to enlarge & see all the details of the Continent of Quarantine

The original idea was sparked by something I saw online, where someone had "mind-mapped” their experience of dealing with general anxiety. That idea inspired me to do something similar. I wanted to focus my “map” on the lockdown, and thus “The Lost Continent of Quarantine” was found!

1. First, I spent a couple of days brainstorming. I made a list of geographical terms, some on land, some off shore, which I could illustrate on a map. (such as lake, bay, river, forest, island, fog, etc.)

2. Then, I made of list of phrases and words related to my experience going through this strange time in lockdown. (fear, gratitude, frustration, solitude, creativity, etc.)

In hindsight, I think this step was particularly helpful for unloading some stress and tension that had been building inside me. Even when it is lurking around at an unconscious level, it is still taking a toll. For me, I have been experiencing a mix of positive and negative feelings, like a roller coaster.  I was feeling challenged to understand the ups and downs, not knowing what the next day will bring. Many of these things didn’t end up on my map, but that really doesn’t matter. Something about naming them and writing them down felt like a good session of self care to me.

3. Next, I started a new list, matching up geographical terms with my experience words and phrases. No rules here, I just played with what combinations seemed to fit together, to create an image.

4. Next, I needed to figure out what icons might simply communicate these image ideas.

The first one I settled on was the “Caldera of Cancelled Trips” because of all the travel I had been looking forward to in the next few months, which has necessarily been cancelled. I chose a suitcase, a passport, and an airplane symbol, falling into the caldera, to represent that idea.

My “Fence of Forbidden Places” is very significant to me. Personally, I depend on my hikes and walks in open spaces, connecting with nature, as my daily grounding. It is like food and water to my soul. I am having trouble adjusting to the closing of all those spaces here in California. For my map, I needed a way to visually represent that concept, and so the fence,  blocking symbols of nature,  evolved.

I decided on a compass rose design that is the virus itself… to symbolize it spreading in all directions on earth.

5. Once I had several of these image ideas worked out, I roughly pencil sketched my “continent” to fill the page, and began carving out its edges to accommodate bays, coves, islands, etc., that were on my idea list. Then I worked on placing the icon ideas that are on land, such as river, pond, abyss, caldera, etc.

6. When I knew it was all going to fit, I could begin to ink and color the page. I began with watercoloring the bodies of water and icons on land. I then stopped, took a photo and printed it out.  I could then practice in pencil on the copy, adding the lettering for the location names. This allowed me to adjust word placement, so that I could make everything fit and look balanced before committing to ink on the sketchbook page.

Early stage of the painting process

7. Once I was satisfied with word placement, I painted a loose watercolor wash of greens and ochres on the land masses, and, when dry, finished up with lettering the words.

Completed sketch

We are all sharing this strange new world together, yet we all may experience such different things. Leslie and I would love to see how your “world” looks and feels to you, and I hope that this explanation of my process can be of help you, if you decide to give this project a try.

Wishing you peace and good health,
Karen Colson

Karen's sketch was done in a 5.5" x 8.5" Stillman and Birn Beta series sketchbook. She did the initial layout with a pencil then painted it using mostly Daniel Smith watercolors. A variety of brushes were used - pointed rounds for details, and 1/2" flat for washes. Sketches were outlined with Platinum Carbon waterproof black ink and a Platinum Carbon fountain pen with EF nib. For the lettering, she used a dip pen and Rohrer & Klingner Sketch Ink (“Thea"-dark grey).

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