their work and words, interviews, blogs, images, hints, tips, websites
and more...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Watch for Interview #17--Scotland's Catriona Andrews!

Catriona does fantastic journal sketches, just cutting LOOSE with color and style.  If this doesn't knock your socks off, nothing will!

In our interview, Catriona will share how she got where she is, and why she does what she does!  It's a great read...and she'll make you look at your world in a whole new way.
You can learn more about her recent project here and catch up with her on our Facebook group, here--just type her name (or any member's!) into the search box.

I should have some new art to flesh out the interview soon, so hold onto your hat and be patient!

Meanwhile, enjoy her blog, here:

Monday, December 26, 2011

December 2011: Evening Apples

December is a wonderful month, but it is also a very stressful and full one. When I am stressed I find it very helpful to draw the most mundane objects, first things that I see in front of me. So this month I have lots of holiday objects and apples among my scribbles here and there.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sandy Williams -- An Announcement!

I've been working feverishly on my new "Painting Animals in Gouache" class, and . . . Ta Da!  It's now available on my web site, www.soundofwings.com, both as a DVD and as an immediate download.  I was so pleased about the positive feedback on my "Botanical Illustration in Gouache" class and I hope this one is as well received.  I do love painting animals and gouache is one of my favorite mediums.  I chose a rabbit, a raccoon and a horse for these demonstrations because they have such different types of coats and shapes.  I've included blending exercises and tips about color and value.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Moleskine Sketchbook Cover

The Moleskine Large Sketchbook is still my favorite art journal - not perfect, but still my favorite. I have lots of volumes after six years, and I can't tell one from another on the shelf.

So, I came up with a slipcover that can be customized for each volume - and which will withstand handling because it will not tear or be bothered by moisture (made of Sheer Heaven).

I have put my Template and a tutorial in my latest blog post, and am gifting it to all art journalers.

Here's the link to the post:

Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Sandy Williams - Sharing my Space

After a couple of sleepless nights I resorted to a semi formal letter of entreaty to form a truce with my new roommate.  Check out my latest journal page, completed with a crowquill pen and Higgins ink, watercolor pencils and hope.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Waxing Moon

Don't you just love seeing a toothy grin up in the sky?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Noodler's new Ahab pen...

For me, it's a winner!  After watching Brian Goulet's videos on how to clean, disassemble, and tweak your Noodler's pens, I LOVE my regular flex pens too, but the only drawback was how quickly I ran out of ink when sketching.  Flex nibs just DO use more ink, that's the nature of the beast...and the smaller Creaper Flex pens don't hold much...

Ahab DOES.  I filled it before I left home, spent 5 days in Nevada sketching, and still have a pen that's over half full (I got the clear demonstrator model so I could keep track of that!)

It has a pump action, and when you fill it, both sections fill up.  You can see I didn't use very much of the main section, only the ink in the pump itself.

Brian Goulet  gives excellent customer service and answers questions promptly...he's made a number of videos that clearly explain all the details.  Check out their site HERE.

I love being able to take these pens apart, tweak them, completely clean them, etc.--I'm delighted not to be afraid of my pen!  They're inexpensive enough that this is a real boon, as well.  (With some of my other pens, the Namiki, for instance, I'm afraid to take it out in the field, and the antique pens I send out to an expert to be serviced.  SO nice to save $40 or so and just be able to do it myself.

I'll admit I wasn't sold on these pens at first...once I learned to clean and adjust them, I couldn't be happier.  And they're $14 and $20 pens!

These are only a few of the sketches I did, by the way!

I test drove it for flex against several of my other pens...the Namiki Falcon at top, my antique-but-temperamental Waterman 52, the original Noodler's Flex, and the Ahab at the bottom...they're all pretty comparable (though the Namiki doesn't go as fine), and I don't have to push too hard to flex.

You DO have to slow down a bit on the Noodler's pens when fully flexed or you bet some railroading (double lines), but they're very versatile and so far very dependable!

Both the paper and the ink you're using make a difference in how these pens perform...or ANY pen, as far as that goes.  I've found Noodler's Lexington Grey to work best for me.  I bought the new brown formula ink, and was disappointed that my Ahab wasn't pleased with it...it didn't want to feed well.  I cleaned the pen thoroughly, loaded it with Lexy Grey and it performs like a champ.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The best way to get your vitamin D that I KNOW of!

...sitting out on the edge of the Red Rock Canyon in the warm winter desert sun and sketching!  We just got back, and Red Rock was amazing...

I was using my new Ahab Noodler's pen and watercolors...perfect for the day...I mostly used "real" brushes rather than waterbrushes, though...

Here's what I was looking at...and the tourists were stopping by to watch me paint!

Joseph got into sketching this time, too...we LOVED our day out there...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sandy Williams - December Dried Weeds

The fields are filled with dried stalks and seed heads of last summer's beautiful wildflowers.  They'll soon be weighed down with the weight of the snow, but for now they're standing straight and tall.

Interview #16--meet Sandy Williams!

I'm delighted to introduce Sandy Williams--FINALLY!  And thank you all for being so patient...we had several technical problems, plus we're both pretty busy, so here, at long last, interview #16!


I've spent most of my life living in the same house in the same little town in Southwest Lower Michigan.  Niles sits on the banks of the St. Joseph River and is called the "City of Four Flags" because the flags of France, Spain, England and the U.S. have flown over it.  Relics from the fort that used to stand here can be seen in the Fort St. Joseph Museum, along with the famous stuffed and mounted two headed lamb.  The museum also houses a dozen pictographs painted by Sitting Bull. 

My house sits next to the acreage my grandparents purchased in 1924 and farmed for many years.  My father grew up there, plowing the fields with horses, and when he married he and my mother built this house in 1954 and raised seven children.  I'm #3.

My Mother is a gardener (I should say GARDENER) and it's from her efforts over more than fifty years that our grounds have been filled with an unbelievable variety of flowers, as I found out when I started to catalog them in one of my journals.  I've worked on it for two summers now, I'm still not done and I've had to start another book.

When I first began drawing and painting seriously, in my early twenties, most of my subjects were horses in every shape and form.

But it wasn't long before I naturally turned to painting realistic botanical and wildlife subjects.  I'd found subjects and a medium that I've worked with for over twenty years now -- Natural Science Illustration using gouache.

My main medium is gouache because of the amount of detail I can achieve.  In Natural Science Illustration accuracy is key and I find gouache to be the perfect medium to show every little detail in a plant, down to the hairs on the stem.
When I started taking Kate's watercolor pencil class in February of 2008 I picked up on some of the threads on line about how satisfying it was to keep an illustrated journal.  I bought my first Moleskine the first week of March, 2008.  On March 8th I began to notice problems with my eyes but was still able to start my first journal pages on March 9th.  I made it part way through the second spread when the bottom fell out of my world and I was unable to finish the little sketch I had started of my brother's dog.  Within a week my vision deteriorated to the point that I could no longer see my computer screen.  For the next few weeks I worsened until I was living in a thick, white fog, unable to recognize people or objects around me . . . no more flowers, reading, writing or creating art.  No more anything, except doing the round of doctors who could find nothing wrong with me. I was in a state of shock and bewilderment.  After being diagnosed with bilateral optic nerve atrophy I was told that I would be fine.  My vision would return, but the problem was with my optic nerves, not my eyes, and the nerves are the slowest part of the body to heal.  There was  no course of treatment, no pills.  Only time would cure it.  It's been 3 1/2 years and the doctors were right.  My vision is returning and I'm well on my way to complete recovery.  I spent the first year totally dependent on my support people, my angels, and on my dog.  She had no idea anything was wrong -- she just knew that we were together 24/7 and that was fine with her.  I'd put her on her leash and go out on to the back porch.  She'd stop at the top of the stairs until I could grab the hand rail and go down the steps safely, although I never taught her.  Then, little by little, my vision began to return.  What a day of celebration it was when, over a year later (in April of 2009), I found I could read a large print book.  Soon after that I reconnected my internet and found the on line community I'd had to leave behind.  So, until November of 2009, when I started taking Kate's on line journaling class, my journal stayed on my drawing table, open to that unfinished page. It still wants to open there even though I've added many journal pages since.

I've found journaling to be extremely helpful in dealing with my challenges.  Every few months I find myself going back to the first page I completed when my vision started to improve to renew my spirit.  On that page I outlined some goals for my life and hopes for my future after a very difficult time.
Most of my journal pages are completed with pen and ink and watercolor pencil.  I find that for my personal journal the "what" I have to say is more important than the "how."  I want to get something down immediately without fussing around or experimenting with a new medium, etc.  I do like to try new things but I just don't generally do it in the journal that my family has come to enjoy passing around at our almost monthly gatherings.  And when I started journaling I was still almost color blind and the watercolor pencils were the easiest to use because their colors were clearly marked.

When I started to journal I had only a personal journal about my experiences and things that happened in my family.

Then I started a "Sketching in Nature" journal to record the landscapes and catalog the flowers around me.

Then a friend gave me a tiny journal I keep in my purse that I use usually when I get stuck waiting somewhere.

And then there's the Re-purposed Children's Book Journal (from Faint Heart Art) that I use to practice drawing and painting the kids in my family.

I have another journal I take to record places of interest -- our museum, street scenes, our Art Association Gift Shop (now closed).

And I recently started a journal just for gouache studies -- botanicals, horses, anything I feel like doing that I spend a little more time on and this journal is one I made myself, with my favorite 140# hp watercolor paper. 

Do you see a pattern developing here?  LOL!  My journals are proliferating like rabbits and each and every one holds memories of  times, places and things that I hold dear.  My life now is going in a dozen different directions at once and that's reflected in my art.   I've added another great joy to my life -- teaching painting in gouache, starting specifically with "Botanical Illustration in Gouache," available on my web site (http://soundofwings.com/Learn_Gouache_Online.html)  either as a DVD or in downloadable form.  I touch on materials, health hazards of our profession and blending techniques.  I've used a very limited palette, since in this economic climate it can be tough to invest in all the art materials we'd like to have.  And then we get right in to the step by demonstrations, learning how to work with gouache while painting Four Colorful Flowers and then a Trillium grandiflora (one of my favorites) and all it's parts. I was thrilled when one of my students won an award at a local show with her first on her own botanical illustration.  I'm currently working on "Painting Animals in Gouache" and should have it up and running and available on my web site in December.  And then it will be on to "Painting Birds in Gouache," probably to be released at the end of January. 

So, with everything going on,  it's been difficult to journal as much as I'd like.  When I get an idea I usually jot it down so it doesn't slip my mind and then, when I have time, usually in the afternoon, I work on my next journal page.  Sometimes there's not a lot of "designing" going on.  I just need to tell a story or record a thought.  When I do a page recording the flowers that are blooming within a two or three day period, I have no idea how the page will look when it's done.  I used to sit outside and draw the flowers on the spot, but now I pick a blossom or two and bring them in to my drawing table.  The page develops as I do a walk about and bring more blossoms in to fill it up..

My journals have become partners in my life.  My personal journal crystallizes feelings, events and memories.  Its become a unifying element in my family -- they love to read it and often say they "didn't know that."  Some of the stories that my brothers and sisters and I have grown up with were never related to the next generation and they now see my journals as record keepers.  My "Sketching in Nature" journal has allowed me to do something I've been wanting to do for over twenty years -- catalog the plants that grow on our property.  When I paint botanical works in gouache it's very time consuming and at times almost painful.  But with my journals I feel free to loosely and quickly sketch my subjects.  The journal has become an indicator of "when" each plant blooms as well as " what it looks like."

At the ripe old age of sixty I've seemed to have developed a kind of mantra, a phrase that keeps popping up in my life quite frequently -- "I can't wait to see what happens next!"  What turn will my life take?  What people will I meet?  What things will I see?  Check back and take a look at my journals because it will all be there!


Sandy, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us...it's inspired me more than once, and I know it will our readers, as well!

Once more, here's Sandy's web page: http://www.soundofwings.com/
and her Flickr account... http://www.flickr.com/photos/11285869@N03/

Take your time, and enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

More personalizing journal covers!

Reader Sandi Hester sent us a terrific image full of inspiration on the subject, and I just had to share it with you!

Just LOOK at all these ideas!  If you want to know more (and I know you will!), check out Sandi's blog at http://paintingtheword.com/2011/02/05/handmade-journals/!  Lots of talented folk out there...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Personalizing Journal Covers

Recently we were talking about ways to personalize journal covers...specifically, commercial journals.  This is an old Pelikan journal I used to use almost exclusively before I started binding my own...I had a whole stack of plain blue books with the deep black cloth spine, but they all looked just the same. 

I decided to make them not only my own, but more useful...I chose some of my favorite images from each book, scanned them, and made a photomontage in Photoshop.  Then, as you can see, I collaged it to the front of the book along with other elements, like ribbon and such, and added color and a bit of text, protecting all with a layer of acrylic floor wax (works great and is non-sticky!)

I added the date as well, so I know at a glance what time period each journal covers.  

I don't like journals that are too thick and chunky, handsome though they may be, so this works great for me.  It opens easily and flat, and doesn't have anything to break off or get in the way.  All the journals slide easily into my bookcase without anything to hang up, too...

Soooo...what do YOU like to do?  If you'd like to share an image, send it to me at kate.cathyjohnson (at) gmail.com and I'll do a composite post soon!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Early Morning Again

Mornings are getting darker and darker and in this semi-darkness I cannot seem to find my sketchbook or pen in the place where I left them the night before. So I grab whatever was on the table - to note first visitors to our home-made bird feeder and neighbor's cat out for a hunt. And later I glue or tape these little notes in my sketchbook - if I can find them of course in a day light ;)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Asilomar, California - by Gay Kraeger

Every November Christina Lopp and I teach a class in watercolor journaling at Asilomar in Monterey, California.

One of our students brought a roll of webbed drywall tape. She shared pieces with the class. I used some on this page. I painted over the tape and then removed it. I really like the texture it gives the page. I am going to search in my basement and find a roll of the stuff, (I know there is some down there) and carry it with me all the time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


As I've noted before, I use my journal in about all circumstances, including dealing with life's ups and downs.  Yesterday we were delighted to get GOOD news, a definite upper, and though my pen ran out of ink before I could sketch either Joseph or his doctor,  I caught the other patients in the waiting room and the distant Kansas City skyline, out the window.

PSA zero, he's cancer-free!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"The End"...

Does anyone else have trouble getting to the end of a journal?  Mine become friends, in the weeks we spend together, and I have trouble facing that last page...

Sometimes I go back in and fill in corners or pages I've inadvertantly skipped...or toned paper I didn't use at the time because I didn't have opaque media with me.  

I've actually tipped in extra pages of lighter weight paper to let me work longer in a particular book. 

But eventually, I get to the back of the book, and that's what this is.  

Quite often I'll use that inside back cover for notes to myself, as you see above.  Something I meant to look up, recommendations for video-shooting aids, observations, phone numbers, measurements, whatever...but eventually, I have to get ready to let go and move on to a new book.

Soooo...I took this one to our local Art Crawl Friday night and entertained myself by sketching the gallery owner, good friend Molly Morgan Roberts, whose shop showed up last month in this image:

I was her featured artist this past Friday night, and it was a GOOD crowd...as you can tell.  But of course I've got bits of four Mollys in there too...can you tell which ones are her in the top image?  

This was a great way to finish up this journal, which I really enjoyed...

And now on to the next one, full of possibilities!  

Funny, I don't have as much trouble STARTING a new journal as I do letting go of one that's become an old friend.  I once set one aside for almost  years before I was able to finish it--it had been a traumatic time for me and I just wasn't ready.  I sketched and journaled, all right, but not in that particular book...

Anyone else have that problem?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Guess Who is Interview #16?? It's Sandy Williams!

...after a bit of a hiatus in which I've been WAY too busy, we'll have Sandy's interview upcoming soon!

One of Sandy's projects is to record in her journal the flowers that bloom near her Niles, Michigan home...the profusion of blooms makes this the project of more than one season, and more than one year, of course, and her Flickr set makes you wish you could hold the book in your hands and luxuriate in those colorful pages.

Her observations on the wildlife around her are lively and interesting, and always seem to tell a story...here are two of the kinds of squirrels that feed nearby.

I often think of Sandy as the poster child for the benefits of journaling, and of courage and perseverance as well.  She developed a serious vision problem a couple of years ago, and she records in her journal the long road back.  The illustration above was done to show her doctor just what it is she sees.

I've known of Sandy's work for some time, originally on Flickr and other online sites, but later as a member artist for my book--you'll love her story there.   

In her journals she mostly works in watercolor pencil and ink, but her gouache work must be seen to be believed...it's wonderful!

Please visit her Sound of Wings Etsy shop to see these and others--what a marvelous Christmas present these would be!

So watch for Interview #16, coming soon!


Meanwhile, be sure to check Sandy's Flickr site, her website and her STORE  there as well as her online classes on using gouache
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...