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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

video setup

video setup by Cathy (Kate) Johnson
video setup, a photo by Cathy (Kate) Johnson on Flickr.
This is my mini-setup...someday I hope to have a better camera and find a screw for my intermediate tripod! Still, I love using my dad's old one I've posted before...

That was the video you saw HERE.

This is a wooden TV table that works quite well in a small area, which my studio definitely is!

I used to feel like I had to wait till I had the perfect, professional setup...but people seem to like my casual videos, so I forged on ahead!

My sketchbook from Lisbon

I had grand intentions of doing a special post here of every day at the symposium...but too much going on... but here is the sketchbook in full

My main aim in my travel sketchbooks is NOT to produce perfect sketch after perfect sketch but to tell the story of my adventures and capture 'the moment' which (somewhat tragically!?! )is resulting in me trying to sketch everything I do!

A few thoughts...
- I hardly need to say that the Urban Sketchers Symposium was AMAZING! It was an overwhelming 3 days of inspiration and meeting other wonderful artists, talking non stop (for me!) and trying to sketch non stop... as such I am somewhat amazed at the amount of sketching that I was able to do
- A little ambitious was my intention to make sure that I recorded every days event with a map... non of these for my stay in Lisbon got done at the time so this has generated quite a lot of work since I have got home.
- I wanted to include more collage in my sketchbook and did manage to achieve it this trip. I did find that it was always better to stick down the item before I started sketching - hence I got into some strange habits such as ripping up the placemat before the meal arrived.
- The collage/map/as-many-notes-as-possible approach this year was somewhat experimental and I think that some pages (in particular my opening spread for each day) are too crowded...so my conclusion is that to add maps and collage I should leave MORE white space as I am sketching through the day... leaving an entire spread for the map would have been better.
Trip 2011 Volume 2 Lisbon COMBO
Here is every page in a single image too - if you prefer to look at that- click to go to flickr to view larger.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interview # 14--Meet Nina Khashchina!

Hi all!  This interview's been derailed a couple of times...both Nina and I have been busy, and she traveled in between there!  Believe me, it was worth waiting for...

Let's jump right in and let Nina speak for herself!


I started drawing very early and had a lot of support from my parents - until I stopped. I also kept a diary of sorts since I was a little child - but never consistently. There was a period in my life when I did not draw at all, I became a graphic designer and got completely computerized. Drawings were on little post-it notes, napkins, separate pieces of paper. And then the whole hand-made painting and drawing thing came back and I discovered a pleasure of keeping it all in one place - my sketch book.

Since summer 2005 I filled 57 journals - large and small, some I made myself (my favorite kind of
journal). Some I love for the paper, some for the cover. Some journals were filled in one breath, others took a long time, some became my friends as we went through life together, others I conquered with time :)

Another of Nina's wonderful sketches of her little boy in the park...

I draw in the park while my son unwinds after a day in preschool, while taking a breather when hiking, when chewing my lunch, while cooling down after the jog, in doctor's office, waiting in long line, waking up before everyone else does - the perfect time is right now :)

I seldom have time to finish things to the perfection or even correct mistakes but I enjoy the process – mistakes and all. This way I see time, I feel alive, feel the changes and notice beauty everywhere.
Drawing things helps me understand, slow down and see what's important for me and make choices. I think about sketching as a way of life. Way to travel. Way to think. Way to explain.

The purple ink makes a wonderful, colorful vibration in many of Nina's sketches.
It would be impossible for me to choose one medium as my favorite, mostly because they change a lot. Anything works if I NEED to draw, but I often have cravings for certain things to try. Just like with food - you can stop the hunger with ... WHATEVER but some food combinations work better with each other and a little variety always is an adventure ;) Right now I am a lot into a purple ball point pen and a diluted ink in Niji waterbrush plus some dip pen experiments.

Little watercolor set and brush pen are always in my backpack :)

I just came back from the Roatan island in Honduras. This trip came when I was in the middle of a power struggle with a sketchbook I liked at first sight and hated later. Store purchased 8.5 x 11 soft cover spiral bound book with some glossy paper. Surface very much like illustration board – smooth and slick. Pens and Markers were fine.

Paper was refusing color pencil after just two layers of application.
And working in watercolor was very frustrating since there was no chance for color to flow – only paint with brushstrokes and color was changing dramatically between the moment of application and when dry.

My first thought was to take different sketchbook but after some consideration I took this situation as a sign to try different things and it worked out great! 

First – I decided to take more supplies with me than I usually do (the good thing is I can share it with my son – so it does not look like I took THAT much:)

Here are examples of what I usually take:

This time, I took a nice large palette of watercolors with a couple of real brushes, a tiny set with gouache with 2 waterbrushes, about 20 color and watercolor pencils and 10 Pitt color brush pens, plus my regular pens (purple ballpoint, Pentel Brush Pen, UniBall Vision Micro pen and Niji waterbrush filled with the diluted black ink). Plus tiny spray bottle, scotch tape and an old film container. This all fitted within a small first aid bag :) In retrospect I think I could have done without pencils and markers – but my son used them a lot – so I think this was the right choice!

Second thing I did to conquer this sketchbook was to take some small cold press 100 lb watercolor sheets, place them in an envelope on the back of the book and try to incorporate them whenever I could. This allowed me to work on several pages at once (humidity is very high on Roatan so there was a lot of waiting) and gave me a break when I wanted to enjoy real watercolor washes.

Third thing was that I had a little Moleskine Cahier book with me almost at all times – I was drawing at any opportune moment – while waiting for dinner, waiting for boat to load, sandcastle to be finished… This provided me with sketching time without interrupting activities of other company members. And every night I was tearing filled pages and posting them in my main book with some comments if needed. This way my tiny book was almost always empty and I was free to take it with me even when I knew it might get wet: I’d put one pen, gray waterbrush and my book in zip-lock bag and be ready for anything :)

Many of my pages are scanned and can be found here:

One of the projects I am working on continuously is a Badger Log.

Both the idea and inspiration came from my wonderful family and they support this log from the very first thought till today’s drawings.

Badger Log is about my interactions with a little badger I know, who happens to be related to me - how he is looking at the world and how I look at things because of him. I keep it as a sort-of a diary but only a few drawings so far made it to the scanner – so I am thinking about collecting a whole bunch together and making this log more public - how - I'll tell you later! :)


Nina, thanks much for this wonderful, useful interview!  Can't wait to see more of the badger's adventures--and yours!

My big fat black journal, revisited

Back in March, I posted about my way of keeping an illustrated journal... big, messy, and personal. Now, I'm here with a tale of even messier and more precious (to me) pages! From January to April, I used a large, cheap, black hardbound blank book and loved the fact that it was so NOT special. I could, and did, let go completely in that book. Still, the painter in me longed for sturdier pages and so I took up a Stillman and Birn Alpha Series book and there was no going back. They are expensive, but for someone like me who paints with acrylics in my journal and make lots of layers, they're worth it. My illustrated journal has become my portable art lab and, I guess, my life lab, too. Here are a few of the uses I've put my journal to recently.

I'm on my third journal of the year. I figured I'd go through one a quarter, though I'm almost at the end of my current one, and September's looming! I look back over what I've written, painted, and drawn this year.I see changes in my narrative, my line work, my imagery, my focus, my energy... and it's exhilarating! Not only is this trajectory documented in my journal, it exists largely BECAUSE of my journal! We know who we are by reading what we've written, by looking at the images we've created. In these pages, I see my own signposts and I follow them.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Annual Summer Camping Trip - Utica Reservior

by Gay Kraeger

Every August our neighborhood goes camping in the central Sierra Nevada mountains in California. Years ago a friend of mine found this secluded reservoir in the Stanislaus National Forest. She told me it was like having your own private Sierra lake and I would would never want to leave. We did leave, but I have gone back every year since that first trip.

This year I was a little disorganized with the packing. My youngest daughter had a baby shower the day before we left. I was not the one who couldn't find my sunglasses though...

I love waking up in the morning and sitting on the granite and having a cup of tea

We hiked up to Lake Alpine, six miles up the hill from Utica. The spot where we stopped for lunch has a lovely creek that flows directly over the granite rocks. I have drawn it a couple of times. It is always a hard decision, eat, or draw. I usually draw fast then I have a little time to gulp my food. I color when I get back to the campsite.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Making of a Page

Just because a sketch is made in the spring doesn't mean the page gets finished then :)  I got caught up in some research about May Day...

There was a lot of room left on the paper when I finished my plein air pen and watercolor sketch. And, since it was May Day and the sketch of Sparkleberry... Well you know, just that tree's name on my tongue makes calligraphic notes sing in my head! I decided to settle into a more controlled environment to finish the dressing on this May Day page.

A tissue paper overlay is a great way to experiment with the placement of other elements you want to add to your page. It keeps the paper from being compromised from too much erasing.

The trick is matching the same placement that you like on the overlay. There are transfer papers you can use, or you can flip over the overlay and trace what's on the front side using a very soft pencil. Once finished, flip it back to the original side,lay it over your journal page and retrace your original lines with a sharp pencil. Lift the overlay tissue off of your journal page and your lettering will/should be on the paper beneath.

But, I know from experience that I lose total spontaneity when I use these methods. My lines become stiff as I get caught up in left brain control. I honor my free flowing plein air sketch too much to let that happen. I want all the elements to compliment that freedom. So I guess-ti-mate :)

My version of cooking without a recipe :)

Click on images to enlarge :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lighten up!

We've talked a fair amount about lightweight supplies for journal work, particularly when traveling.  This is about my lightest "practical" kit, in a white plastic Sucrets cough drop box.  That gives me a small white mixing area as well as plenty of colors.

These were left over from my rehab of my ancient Winsor & Newton travel box...I'm not wild about half pans, as I've said, but I didn't want to throw then out, either, so this little kit rides in the glove box of my Jeep.

It weighs 1.6 ounces!

More about it HERE in my Flickr album.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An evolving journal page--insects and friends...

Planning ahead isn't really necessary unless you're planning on publishing your journal pages!  I wasn't, I was just delighted to find such a wide variety of insect life all on the door frame of my shed/studio.  So this is an evolving sketch that I played with over days--I started over a week ago!  I did the rough sketch below with a Prismacolor Verithin black colored pencil--almost little more than quick gesture sketches--then took photos to refine them later.

I worked fast...I was standing up, the butterfly might move at any time, and the katydid, DID!  Sort of a slow-motion sloth effect...and of course added more details and more creatures as I went along!

slow-moving but definitely MOVING bush katydid...the leaf-like designs on his back were much more visible in this macro shot--I couldn't really see them with the naked eye.

My reference photos were really helpful in getting at the details I'd missed, although I never COULD get my camera to focus properly on the walking stick. 

I used my magnifying glass to get the details of the chrysalis--it was thin as tissue paper, delicate and almost translucent.  I thought I was done when I did the version below, with a headline, border, and color...

I waited a few days to add the color, until my new open-stock Verithin pencils arrived from Dick Blick--and then decided to add some watercolor after all! 

A day or so later still, I went back in and strengthened the darks and added a bit of tone to make the chrysalis at upper left stand out...
I couldn't resist adding the daddy longlegs or harvestman, which strolled up later...and before you say "ick, I hate spiders," these aren't spiders at all!  They have their own order, they are non-poisonous, and they eat other small insects.  They're very beautiful, up close, like a jeweled mosaic box.

A wonderful new book really points up the value of field sketches over more mechanical means of nature study.  It's Field Notes on Science and Nature. 

Edited by Michael Canfield and published by Harvard University Press--if you're interested in nature study with your journal, you'll love it too. 

Colored pencil and watercolor.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Watercolor in the Super Deluxe Sketchbook . . .

Still testing media in this very nice sketchbook by Bee Paper Company. Using pan watercolors for this sketch that takes up about a third of the page, I had no warping problems even at the page edge. I am finding some interesting things about using permanent inks in this book, though, and will report when my experimenting is done.

Also want to let everyone know that I have launched a Back to School Sale on all my Whenever Workshops (you download them and do them at your own pace). They are all 25% Off for the rest of August.

This is a season of learning and of a worrisome economy also, so I figure less expensive workshops might be just the key. There are five of them - on Journaling, Macintosh, Photography, Drawing, and Photoshop Elements.

Get lost in art and forget about worrying!

More details here:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A very special sketchbook from the Urban Sketchers symposium

One of the things that I was REALLY looking forward to at the symposium was being able to share it with my great sketching friend Alissa Duke (she is included in the book too and is an organiser of the wonderful sketching group that has been forming in Sydney) We got up at 4am on the day when registration opened so we could book the sessions we wanted together – how keen is that. Sadly Alissa was unable to make it so I thought I would try to collect some sketches from others to bring back for her. The result is this little book...

It is now filled with original works from a variety of artists of different styles and countries - Portugal, USA, Spain, Israel, Germany, Singapore, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Canada, Dominican Republic, UK, Denmark, Sweden etc (and of course Australia) It really gives you an idea of how exciting it was to be at the symposium. Of course it is not a substitute...but as Alissa couldn't make it, I think it is the best way I could bring something back for her. If you don't know about Urban Sketchers the blog is here.

Sadly, I was not able to fill up the book with other peoples sketches- 3 days is not long enough for that...so I filled up the book re-doing some of my sketches when I got home (some of them sketches at 5am when I was awake due to jet lag!)

Here are the pages in full if you would like to view it on flickr (click on image to view larger)

A very special sketchbook from the symposium by borromini bear

A HUGE THANKYOU to everyone that contributed!!! She LOVES it!! (and I do too - what a privilege to be able to carry something so special for a few weeks!)

Finally.... please go over to Alissa’s flickr and say hello and see all the fabulous sketches she has been doing in Sydney lately!

New mini-class on watercolor pencils!

Hi all--I've finally got a new class to offer you!
After lots of roadblocks and technical problems, rain on the studio roof (too loud to record videos) and cloudy days (too dark!), not to mention that cold that just wouldn't go away, I've finally gotten a new class ready to go, at your request. 
You'll find lots of links, videos and extras...I hope you enjoy it!
Here's what you can expect:
Making Your Mark - Exploring Watercolor Pencils
  • Application
  • Basic Techniques
  • How Many Strokes, and How
  • Much Water?
  • Layering
  • Color!
  • Exercises
  • Bonus Pages
  • Videos

  • LESSON 2
    Making Your Mark - Getting Familiar With the Medium
    • Watercolor Sticks and Crayons
    • Opaque Colors
    • Color Wheels
    • Layering/Mixing
    • What WC Pencils will and won't do.
    • Resists
    • Demos
    • Exercises
    • Bonus Page
    • Videos

  • LESSON 3
    Stepping Out!
    • Putting Applications to Work
    • Single Line/Single Color
    • Values
    • Solid Tones
    • Exercises
    • Bonus Page
    • Videos

    LESSON 4
    Mixed Media and Putting It All to Work
    • Finished Paintings
    • Mixed Media
    • Demos
    • Exercises
    • Take Five!
    • Bonus Page
    • Videos
    QUIZ (just to firm up your thinking, there's no grade!)

  • Brushes and Watercolor Pencils

  • Testing Watercolor Pencils
    All this for only $30, as are all my mini-classes!
    You can find all the information and enrollment here:

    (You may need to refresh or reload the page, I did!)
    And of course, you can still find Quick Sketching 1 and 2 there, too.
    Upcoming classes will be on ink and watercolor, keeping at artist's journal, nature sketching and more!  Watch for them...and welcome aboard!

  • Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Sketches from my first day in Lisbon

    Many of you follow my blog/ flickr / facebook and therefore know that I have started to scan and post my sketches from my recent 3 week trip which included the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Lisbon (no need to say how wonderful it was!) However....I am going to post my pages in full here (like on my blog) but with some extra details/ thoughts about the production/ thinking about the pages themselves.

    Most of the other Urban Sketchers fill their sketchbooks predominately with sketches and the occasional note. But that is not enough for me... I want my pages to tell the FULL story of my day!! This is resulting in an obsessive attempt to sketch every event in my day – quite a challenge under normal traveling conditions...but when I am surrounded by people(and wonderful artists at that!!!) and just want to spend the whole day talking to them... it is hard. Thankfully, the more I sketch while talking non stop the easier I am finding it!!! Practice helps a lot!

    Anyway... Here are my pages from the day before the symposium ..... It was a fun filled day, running into sketchers left, right and centre and struggling to decide what to do and ignoring a headache(I only remember this part of the day now because I recorded it at the time)

    07_Wed20 01 The Day before summary

    This year I wanted to include more collage in my sketchbook so prior to my trip I was experimenting with a layout for my opening page for each day. The side of the page is a print out from a book of Portugal tile patterns(I adjusted the colour so that I could write over it) I LOVE maps but do find them a bit tedious to do – so I allocated the left side of this first spread for the map so that the book makes sense even if I never get around to drawing them. This year most of my maps have been (and will be) completed at home!

    07_Wed20 02 Breakfast and coffee
    I wasn’t particularly happy with any of these individual images at the time but the most important thing is the page as a whole (the whole not the parts)... Just keep going, get someone to write on your book, change colour of your pen etc. All games that you can play to make a fun page. Of course I don’t mind those sketches now....

    07_Wed20 03 Arco da Rue Augusta with Omar
    Ok – here is a ‘proper’ urban sketch. Sitting alongside the wonderful artist Omar - http://omar-paint.blogspot.com/
    I love mixing up full page single views with the more random (food) pages. I find page after page of a single sketch in my own book a bit boring... More than 3 pages without a cup of tea and we have a sketchbook crisis on our hands!?!

    07_Wed20 04 Lunch and Tearoom view
    My favourite page for the day... I was definitely in a complusive sketching mood and didn’t really have time to do a proper view sketch before our lunch arrived so just chose a corner of the buidling near us..I am always thinking to myself “what can I sketch – what time do I have to do it” And of course I sketched my lunch as well to record the event. I stuck the docket done and then continued sketching over the top. I should have gone and had a nap but I went to a tearoom(on my own) instead and wanted to devote a whole page to that so filled up the right hand side of this spread with another selective view from my table. While drawing I discovered a sketcher in view so I popped over to see who it was. It was Eduardo from Brazil!
    Last week just before posting this page I decided to add more new gamboge to the building (it wasn’t actually that colour...but no one will ever know!?!) the extra colour which I then added to the top of the trees and the fountain structure really pulled the page together.

    07_Wed20 05 Only Tearoom Visit
    Tearoom sketch was nothing that special as I was keen to have my tea and go over and talk to Eduardo....but nice to have a simpler page. I made the mistake of not getting the tearoom card at the beginning so couldn’t fit it on my page. The sugar packet is a classic!!

    07_Wed20 06 Sketching with others
    Off to talk to Eduardo and Joao who he was meeting. After swapping sketchbooks I realised I didn’t have much time till I was to meet 2 more sketchers, Paul and Orling – to go out for a sketch! So I did another quick sketch of a single doorway...knowing that I would have a blank single page to fill at some stage. While I was sketching the great view below I was thinking about what I would do to fill it....so I bravely attempted to sketch my sketching companions. So you can see that I am thinking about my sketchbook all day... it is a game with me – “can I fit one more sketch in????” Crazy girl – I never stop!

    07_Wed20 07 Escadinhas Do Duque with Paul and Orling
    A great view.... Deserved a nice double page spread!

    07_Wed20 08 Night before Dinner
    Sketching my dinner despite feeling rather unwell with a headache – it was a way of distracting my mind and telling myself that I was ok (if you can sketch your headache can’t be that bad!) Very rushed loose outline of the gang at dinner...not sure I would have attempted this if I was feeling normal as my inner critic would have prevented me!

    What a long post... so much goes into my sketchbook that each page has many stories attached to it... One of the reasons why I am addicted to sketching and recording my life in a little book!

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    New video on sketching with watercolor pencils

    I'm learning to use my new video-editing program (well, not that new, but I'm just giving it a serious try)--this one is for my upcoming mini=class on watercolor pencils, let me know what you think!

    Watch for Interview #14--it's Nina Khashchina!

    Our upcoming interview is with Nina Khashchina, and you are going to LOVE it.  Nina is "an Illustrator and Graphic Designer, Nature and Urban Sketcher, Art Teacher and Guerilla Artist, residing in San Francisco Bay Area"--she sketches on the spot frequently, often including quick, lively gesture sketches of your young son, kids at the playground, and animals that make you feel as if you were right there with her.

    Her clear-eyed, energetic sketches and her dedication to recording things around her with appreciation and curiosity are an inspiration to anyone who keeps a journal or sketchbook!

    Here, Nina's created a page view of one whole sketchbook, as an overview.  What a great idea!

    Nina uses her sketches as a learning tool, and a tool for exploration, as in the page view above.  Her self-portraits are a delight, and I especially enjoy her travel sketches, for inspiration and immediacy.

    And what about that adorable badger!  We'll learn more about him...


    In the meantime, check out Nina's website, at http://www.apple-pine.com/ 

    Her blog...

    And her Flickr albums!

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