Thursday, May 17, 2018

Notes from Boone

Last week was a whirlwind of travel and teaching, but I'm back home now and ready to share with you some of the fun that I had teaching a five-day "Sketchbook Journaling Comes to Life" workshop at Cheap Joe's Art Stuff in Boone, North Carolina.

Spring was in full swing as we traveled from western Pennsylvania through West Virginia and into the mountains of Virginia...

past barns and cows...

and fields of wildflowers...

to the cute little town of Boone, North Carolina, nestled in among the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We arrived Sunday evening and checked into our hotel. My mom came along on this trip - she's my favorite traveling companion. My students always love her, too.

During the next few hours I ran into several of my students in the hotel lobby, on the elevator, and at the grocery store down the road. They all recognized me from online photos. (I felt like a movie star with paparazzi!) Everyone was so excited about the class - some had been waiting over a year for it. Oh, the anticipation!

I arrived at Cheap Joe's early Monday morning, so I could set up before the students arrived...

I still get such a kick out of this!

Before long the tables were filled with happy sketchers from all over the country...

I knew they were excited about everything they were going to learn during the week, but I think part of the draw for any Cheap Joe's class is this....

the outlet store that's right next door to the classroom. There was a whole lotta shoppin' goin' on throughout the week (but I refuse to divulge any names or dollar amounts!)

Class ran from 9 to 4 every day, and I packed those hours with so much information that everyone's heads were swimming, but luckily I gave them each a 50-page handbook containing all the information I was sharing, so they could relax, look, and listen without furiously scribbling notes.

This was a hard-working group, and their sketches were proof of that. I was impressed with the way they took what they were learning and put it into practice, creating colorful, personal, beautifully designed sketchbook pages.

Click here to open an album of student sketches. 

I guarantee you'll be inspired!

My friend Wendy came to visit while I was in Boone, and we stayed up way too late talking the two nights she was there. It added something special to my week, having a chance to catch up with her.

My mother Saundra, me, and Wendy

The lunches were catered for us each day right in the classroom, giving us more time to paint, rather than having to run out for food. The meals were delicious - my favorite was the southern barbecue!

The best part of every day was show-and-tell time. I love seeing how each person interprets an assignment, putting a personal spin on it that is uniquely their own. (See their work here.)

They inspire each other (and me!) and their sketches add a richness to the class that would be missing if I were the only person sharing my work.

Thursday after lunch we had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Cheap Joe's art gallery, offices, and distribution center.

Ann and Sue look longingly at shelves and shelves of art supplies

It's a catalogue come to life!

Paints, anyone?

This is where orders are packed and shipped...

Did you know that Cheap Joe's makes their own Kilimanjaro and American Journey watercolor sketchbooks and blocks right there in Boone? The beautiful European-made paper is cut to size on this machine...

then the sheets of paper and cardboard are stacked and compressed before glue is brushed on the sides. After the glue dries, they are cut apart and the covers are applied. It's all done by one woman in Boone.

Before I took the warehouse tour I had assumed that the sketchbooks and watercolor blocks were made in a factory overseas, but Joe likes to keep fabrication in-house when he can. And I like knowing that the Kilimanjaro watercolor sketchbook I'm using was made by a lady in the hills of North Carolina.

The art gallery in the office area at Cheap Joe's is filled with wonderful paintings from many of the instructors who teach there - it's a treat to see the work of these world-famous artists up close.

And I got a kick out of this framed letter from President George W. Bush to Joe Miller.

We all had a fantastic week in Boone. I made plenty of new friends, and I think many of them will continue sketching long after the afterglow from the class wears off. They're hooked!

This sketch of Terry's was one of my favorites - isn't it awesome?

A workshop at Cheap Joe's is an experience you won't forget. The facilities are the best I've found and the staff aims to make each person comfortable and happy while they're there. They even gave us free gifts each day during the week! If you haven't taken a workshop at Cheap Joe's yet, I encourage you to check out their catalogue of 2018 & 2019 classes here.

I'll be returning to Boone to teach a watercolor class in August, but it's already full with a waiting list. In 2020 I'll be repeating both of my 2018 workshops at Cheap Joe's. Registration for them will open the first week of January 2019. Here are the dates:

May 11-15, 2020
Sketchbook Journaling Comes to Life

May 18-22, 2020
Step-by-Step Watercolor

So put them on your calendar and be sure to sign up early, because they fill fast.

Meanwhile, there are still a few spots open on my Italy trips this September. Click on the European Workshops tab for all the details. And I have lots of other workshops scheduled for 2018 and 2019. Read about them the US Workshops page. I hope to see you at one of them!


  1. It was a wonderful experience to be part of a class led by Leslie, and with so many talented and enthusiastic watercolor artists. Everyday was full of helpful instruction, practice, creativity. Cheap Joes was a great opportunity to add to my supplies and they were fantastic hosts for the workshop. I only hope I take another class in the future

    1. We did have a good time, didn’t we? :) I’m so glad I had a chance to get to know you!

  2. It was very interesting to read. Student sketches are great! In every there is an individuality.

    1. That’s what I love about teaching this class. I’m always surprised and delighted by what the students come up with.

  3. Leslie, reading this brings back so many fun memories. I am looking forward to being in class with you again in August.

  4. Yowza! What an amazing group of artists! Their sketches are fantastic! I am forever in awe of those who can create such imaginative and complete sketches in a fast-paced classroom situation—since fast-paced is foreign territory for me! ;-) Their work is truly inspiring. I can’t wait to see you and what you have in store for us in August!

  5. We are traveling to Tuscany, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice with a cruise from Venice to the Greek Islands——-I am looked no forward to your class in San Clemente in November—-enjoyed it so much last year! The travel sketching and painting set looks wonderful!

  6. Your post is wonderful, as usual. Great photos!!


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