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).

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Our New Normal

I mentioned in my last post that I had started a pandemic journal to document this weird and wild coronavirus roller coaster we're on. The overriding theme that seems to be emerging as I complete one page after another in this quarantine sketchbook is change and the way our lives today differ from what's normal.

I decided this week to put together a two-page spread (which quickly turned into four pages) with written notes about our new normal and all the changes we've adjusted to over the past few weeks as we've withdrawn from the world and begun sheltering at home, all day, every day.

I wrote down each idea as it came to me, working on the pages over the course of a few days. It wasn't until I finished it and went back to read over everything that I realized how this pandemic has touched every facet of our lives. It was shocking to see it all laid out in one place: the loss of the freedoms we usually take for granted, the changes to society, the product shortages, the lack of physical contact, and the many illnesses and deaths. 

There are moments when it's all seems horrifying, and I can't stand to read another article about it or watch the news, but in the next moment I read a story that illustrates how loving and generous and creative people can be, and my spirits rise again.

The full four-page spread (click to enlarge)

I guess this roller coaster ride is here to stay for awhile, and I'll continue to document it in my journal, because I don't ever want to forget what we lived through and how we survived. And it will be a reminder forever of how precious a normal day and regular life is.

The pens that I used for the text on these pages are Chameleon Fineliners. They're a unique type of felt-tip pen that enables you to seamlessly blend colors as you write. I used this set of bright colors, but because the paper color in this journal is a warm creamy yellow, it changed and muted the ink color to what you see here.

The journal I'm using is a 3-1/2" x 5-1/2" Moleskine Japanese Album. It has smooth 90 lb. paper that's intended for use with markers, pencil, and ink. It's not ideal for the wet media that I prefer, but I wanted to use this sketchbook because of the accordion-fold format.

I can choose to work on a single page or spread my sketch across as many panels as I want. The pages featured in this post fill four single pages.

The paper is slick and my Micron pens and fountain pens glide across it nicely, but I don't love it for watercolor. Paints don't blend and combine the way they do on watercolor paper. The pages stay nice and flat, though, even when adding watercolor washes to a page.

I really dislike cream-colored paper because it's impossible to get clean, bright colors on it. Everything looks a bit dull to me. Challenging as it may be to use this journal for watercolors, I'm not unhappy with it. I'm learning how to deal with its idiosyncrasies.

And it's really fun to unfold the pages and see my sketches all lined up side by side! Being able to see all those different facets of the pandemic experience at a glance is an advantage to using a Japanese album sketchbook for this journal.

Let's hope this is a once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated opportunity to chronicle something this far-reaching and life-changing.

Stay well, my friends!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Everyday Pandemic Days

Sketchbook journaling is all about capturing our everyday lives in visual form, so I've decided to start a pandemic journal to chronicle the strange times we're living in. Here are the pages I've been working on the past few days...

Ink & watercolor in a 3-1/2" x 5-1/2" Moleskine Japanese Album journal

In my pandemic journal I'll write about and sketch what's different these days, what's the same, what's happening, and how I'm feeling about all the changes we're experiencing.

These days of being isolated at home don't really feel that different to me than my normal everyday life. I still feed the dog, drink my coffee, work in my studio, go for a walk, etc. What's missing are the extras: time with friends, a visit from my grandchildren, dinner at a restaurant, or a trip to the store for groceries.

My classes have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, so there are no deadlines looming and my days are my own to do as I please. Here is how they tend to go...

Click to enlarge

Most mornings I wake up earlier than my husband, so I have the house to myself for awhile.

Cappuccino Freddo is an iced coffee drink that I first had in Greece. Now it's my morning treat every day.

I head downstairs in my pajamas, let Buckley out, make my coffee, then settle in to paint .

Sketching makes me happy and takes me away to another world where I'm not thinking about the latest pandemic statistics or terrifying world news. Inside my head it's peaceful, calm, pretty, and quiet.

After a couple of hours in the studio, breakfast time rolls around...

My kitchen sink is NOT this tiny. What was I thinking when I drew this? :)

then it's time to clean up the kitchen and maybe do some laundry.

Then I work on the computer for most of the morning. I'm formatting many of my step-by-step watercolor lessons to sell online as PDF downloads later this year. (Watch for a new website coming soon!)

I hop in the shower at some point.
Watch out! This next little sketch is (almost) X-rated!

Aaaah! It's finally time for lunch. Do you find yourself looking forward to meals as much as I do these days?

Our mail delivery comes around 11:00, so I often walk out our long driveway with Buckley to pick it up either before or after lunch, whenever I'm craving some fresh air and sunshine.

Afternoons are filled with the stuff of life, all those little chores that need to be done to keep the family and household running smoothly...

Lately I've been getting ready for spring: pruning trees and bushes, cleaning out the flower beds, and planting seeds for the garden.

More computer time gets mixed in here and there...

And finally, we get to eat again!

We usually take Buckley for a long walk after supper, but that didn't make it into the picture - I was running out of room - so I finished up the sketchbook page with Fred and me watching a show together and finally heading to bed.

These are good days, even if they're not normal ones. Just a few short weeks ago, we were wishing for more hours in the day, running around trying to cram as much as we could into each 24 hours. Now we've been given a respite, a gift of time, and it's up to us to use it wisely. Although there's an underlying fear that lurks in the back of my mind, warning me that my life could all come crashing down around me at any time, I'm choosing to stay positive, do what I can to help, and focus on the good. I'm grateful for this quiet time to reflect, paint, putter in my garden, walk in the sunshine, and connect with people all over the world who are sharing in the challenges and rewards of these pandemic days.
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