Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Wonderful Week at Cheap Joe's

I taught my first workshop at Cheap Joe's Art Stuff in Boone, North Carolina, last week, and the whole experience was above and beyond anything I could have expected. My mother accompanied me on the trip to Boone, and we enjoyed gorgeous spring scenery the whole way through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

The Blue Ridge mountains near Blowing Rock, NC

It was a great time of year for a road trip, and look what greeted me at Cheap Joe's...

Look at the bottom line on the Cheap Joe's sign  behind me - it's true!

My big day had finally arrived - I was a featured artist at Cheap Joe's!

I felt welcomed from the moment I drove up to the store.

Edwina, the workshop coordinator, greeted me and showed me around the classroom (which is the fulfillment of every workshop instructor's dream!)

Ready for the ladies to arrive!
It's spacious and bright, with separate seating areas for student painting and instructor demos or lectures.

My table at the front of the demo area had an overhead camera that could zoom in on my sketchbooks and show the image on a large TV screen suspended from the ceiling, making it easy for the students to see details on my sketchbook pages. It was wonderful!

Every day at noon a delicious lunch appeared for all of us as if by magic! Amazing food catered by local restaurants - the southern pork barbecue was perfection! Cheap Joe's really takes care of their workshoppers - gotta keep our strength up for all that painting! (And talking, and shopping in the outlet store.)

On Monday morning, the students began arriving long before 9 am, when the class was scheduled to begin. I think they were as excited as I was to get started! People attended from as far away as Oregon, California, and Massachusetts.

Joe Miller (Cheap Joe) came around to welcome everyone on Monday and spent almost an hour with us, stopping by each table and taking the time to talk to the students and find out a little more about them.

Joe has written several books, and he was happy to sign them for us. His Joe's Journals was one of the first books I bought when I first discovered sketchbook journaling, and I found it very inspiring. (Still do!) He's a fantastic watercolorist, and there's a simplicity to his style that makes it look like anyone could do it. But that simplicity and looseness are not easy to imitate. It requires a confidence that comes from hours and hours with a brush in your hand.

Both of Joe's books are inspiring reads for sketchbook journalers

Joe is as warm and genuine a person as you'll ever meet. It was a privilege to get to know him last week.

Periodically during the week, usually in the afternoon when everyone was getting a little tuckered out, Joe would pop into the classroom and surprise us with a visit.

Joe as Elvis

Every morning when we arrived at the studio, the classroom was spic and span, the coffee was piping hot, and there was a free gift for each and every one of us on our tables. We received divided water buckets, brush holders, watercolor markers, pens, brushes, magazines, artsy bumper stickers, a mini-palette of American Journey watercolors, and more.

We were treated like royalty the entire time we were there. I'd like to go back to take a workshop myself. The whole experience was fun from start to finish.

Holding a workshop in the same building as an art supply store definitely has its advantages. It's easy to pop over to the store and pick up something you forgot, or something you need, or something you saw on your neighbor's table and decided you just couldn't live without! And the Cheap Joe's Outlet Store has just about anything you could possibly want. And, if it's not in the store, they can bring it over from the adjoining warehouse.

This made it, oh, so easy to splurge on new stuff. When I saw how many trips my students were making each day through the magical doors into the wonderful world of all things art-y, I considered giving a prize at the end of the week to the one who spent the most money! But I decided that just having all those beautiful new art supplies to play with is probably reward enough.

"I think I need just one more Gelly Roll pen...or maybe two....or, what the heck, I might as well buy one of each. If I don't, I know I'll just keep coming back for more!"

Class was held each day from 9 to 4, and some people stayed even later if they were involved in a project and couldn't bear to stop, but I looked forward each day to having a chance to get out and explore the area around Boone and eat in one of the fantastic restaurants in town. We had the BEST food! Every meal was exceptional. Boone is a cute little town with lots of great shops and restaurants, plus there are loads of outdoor activities in the area and great parks to visit. Many of my students extended their trips to spend more time there after the workshop was over.

One evening, we went to Blowing Rock to visit a friend, and she gave us a driving tour of the area. The views looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains were spectacular.

We visited Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, an estate that was the home of Moses Cone, a prosperous textile entrepreneur, conservationist, and philanthropist. 

Its centerpiece is Flat Top Manor, a 13,000 square foot Colonial Revival-style mansion built in 1901.

I didn't have time to sketch that evening, but would have loved to sit for an hour or two and record some of those beautiful scenes with pen and paint.

I'm glad the days are long this time of year. It felt so good to be outside in the warm spring weather, expecially after the chilly temps we've had at home lately.

Thursday morning, I did an interview with Terry Henry for Cheap Joe's blog. We talked a little about how to get started in sketchbook journaling. Read it here.

During our class time, I really kept everyone hopping. They drew and painted, designed sketchbook page borders, used bold new page layouts, and practiced lots of new hand-lettering styles. They created beautiful sketchbook pages using the tools I had given them, and I think they felt energized by all they were learning.

Throughout the course of the week, we all got to know each other. Sharing our sketches gave us a glimpse into each other's lives. Sketchbook journaling is personal, and it's telling. What we choose to paint and how we do it say a lot about us. I love that about it - no one else can do it like you do. There are so many amazing women out there, and I feel very fortunate to have a chance to connect with so many of them through my classes.

Tomorrow, in a separate post, I'm going to show you some of my students' sketches. You'll love seeing how they took the information I shared with them and came up with some wonderfully creative sketchbook pages of their own.


  1. What a lovely post, Leslie. I couldn’t agree more! The fun, the food, the workshop space, the store, the staff, the students, the art, the instructor—every bit of it was amazing! And getting to look through your delicious sketchbooks in person was a real highlight! You and your work are so inspiring. Thank you!

    1. You're welcome, and I loved having a chance to get to know you finally. Keep up the good work - you have a beautiful style.

  2. What a great blog Leslie! I'm so happy you had a great experience with your Mom at Boone and Cheap Joe's. One day I hope to be able to take a class there....preferably one of yours!!

  3. Hi Leslie! It is so fun to read about our week and remember every single detail! Joe Miller is a delight and you topped off the week with a wealth of instruction and JOY! Thanks so much for all you did to make the week the success it was!! As you said, "we never know when what we do will encourage someone" and you did that for 20+ students last week!!

    1. What a sweet comment, Julene! Thanks for making the extra effort to come all the way from Oregon for the workshop. I'm glad it was worth it for you and your pals.

  4. We are now spoiled for any future workshops!

  5. Leslie, what a wonderful blog about our time in class at Cheap Joe's. It was such a beautiful week and the classroom was amazing along with the delicious foods. The staff were so helpful and accommodating to some of us newbies. Love your teaching style, so happy I was able to make it, it was doubtful for awhile. Thanks again for another memory.

    1. It was an amazing week. I almost titled this blog post "My Amazing, Awesome, Incredible, Fabulous Week at Cheap Joe's", but I thought it might be a tad over the top. You had to be there to understand how much fun we all had.

  6. Leslie,
    Thank you for the reminder of how great the entire week was. You are a very encouraging and approachable instructor. Your enthusiasm for sketchbook journaling is so contagious. I loved taking the time to look through all of your beautiful journals. They are such an inspiration and something for all of us to aspire to. Yes, Cheap Joe's is the best place to take a workshop! They go out of their way to make sure everyone has a great workshop experience! Congratulations on being the "Featured Artist" for the week. That is quite the accomplishment!

    1. Thanks, Annie. Don't let that enthusiasm fade away. Keep on sketching!

  7. We stayed in Blowing Rock once, on our way back to Ohio from Chincoteague, to see the scenes Jan Karon depicts in her Mitford books. It is a magical place.

    1. It was so much fun to see the little church that is Father Tim's church in the book. I just wish we could have been in town earlier to walk around when the shops were open. And that park in the middle of the town is wonderful. What a lovely little community!


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