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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Roz Stendahl's workshop!

Don't forget, Roz's free Strathmore journaling workshop starts May 1!  I think you need to go here first, to register:  http://www.strathmoreartist.com/vjworkshop2011.html

As noted, she has a workshop blog, HERE, and it's going to be a lot of fun.

See you there!.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Journaling at a Favorite Golf Tournament

Golf courses are one of my favorite places to sketch. Every year that we can, my husband and I attend The Heritage, a PGA tournament that takes place at the Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island, SC.

On practice days, I will make a quick watercolor sketch and then have the tour players autograph the page. The most 'artsy' signatures that decorated my pages this year were Jesper Parnevik's and Ian Poulter's. They really got into it :)

Once the tournament officially begins, I park myself in one spot and pick a view that sparks my interest.  Most of the time, Rob and I like to sit at the intersections of holes 2,3,6 and 7. It gives Rob two green and two tee boxes to watch close up action.  Day one and two sketches are here.

Day three, we set up our chairs near the green of #14. The view between holes 13 and 14 is one of the prettiest around. The landscape is lush and every year I fall in love with the three Live Oaks that separate the golf holes.

After about an hour at this location we decided it would be better if we moved back to our favorite spot on the front nine so we could see the last half of the players come through.  One very large challenge..... I only had the basics of this scene laid in.  Luckily, I had my iPod with me. In between groups of players, I photographed my piece and took a shot of the view.  I so love that with a flick of your fingers you can enlarge the image on the screen.  Between this image and my memory, I was able to almost finish this piece.  I had to wait to get home to add the people on the bleachers.... I got a bit carried away with the green paint and forgot to leave white paper at the top of the bleachers. Thank goodness for gouache :) Nothing like opaque paint to save the day!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Enrique Flores!

Hi all!  Our good friend and blog correspondent Enrique Flores, whom you read all about in Interview #9, HERE, has started a wonderful new group blog called Cuadernistas.  It's a group of friends who do marvelous sketches, on the spot.

Enrique says he's encouraging art without words, since language can be a barrier on an international blog like this...don't miss it!  I've bookmarked it, and I know you'll want to, too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Free Online Journaling Workshop Is Almost Here!

If you haven't already heard, I've got a 4-part visual journaling workshop coming up over at Strathmore (using their new line of journals). It's free. I did this little video for fun last night to promote it.

If the embedded video doesn't play you can see the promo here. I hope you'll join me in May.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Watch for Interview #10--Nina Johansson!

Next up is our good friend Nina Johansson, from Stockholm, Sweden!

Nina does beautiful work in her journals and explores watercolors, landscapes and complex textures in her paintings; she had a highly successful show recently. Wish I could have gone to Sweden to see it!

We were delighted to have her work as part of the Artist's Journal Workshop--I know you'll enjoy the interview.

Nina works in ink and watercolor, mostly, seeing beauty in everything--and helping us to see it too.  Always stretching and growing, she graciously shares her explorations with new tools, mediums and approaches.  Most recently, Nina created a stir about Noodler's new Flex pen--so much so that they're out of stock and many of us are waiting anxiously for a new shipment!

A correspondent on the international Urban Sketchers blog, Nina will be teaching at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Lisbon this summer.  Check out the link for more information.

A recent trip to Barcelona is documented on her blog with such charm and detail we feel as if we'd been there with her.

As she says on her website/blog, "I draw. I also teach art, design, computer graphics, web design and a few other things. Life is good."

Watch for interview #10, coming soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blast from the Past...

You know what they say about "If you remember the 70s you must not have been there?"  Well, I THOUGHT I remembered pretty well, but recently I came across my old farm journal, from our "back to the land" days...and reread it all over the course of a week or so.

I'd mis-remembered some things, glossed over others I'm pretty sure I remember all too well, and had forgotten how hard I worked at painting and trying to find a good gallery; I had forgotten how many shows I'd entered, and how many ups and downs there were, including having the one painting that sold in a one-woman show, stolen.  (I DO remember I'm still wary of the gallery scene!)

There are people whose faces I can't put with their names, and those whom I will never forget, including my dear friend Alice Monnig, and Paul Unger, one of the finest men I ever met--an old farmer with more natural culture and goodness than many far more educated.

I recorded friends and family, and our disastrous proliferation of cats and dogs--good times and bad.

It was a difficult, exhausting, beautiful, satisfying, frustrating, magical, frightening, wonderful time...I recorded garden triumphs and disasters, the mountains of work, our disastrous finances, the dozens and dozens of paintings, our chickens, geese, goats and rabbits, the droughts and blizzards and floods, tender springs and bountiful harvests.  I wrote out garden plans and expenses.  The birth of two of my godchildren is in the book, and the death of my father.  

The journal goes from 1971 through 1975--I don't know why I didn't keep it up, because we didn't leave till 1977--I wish I had that record, too.

I did very little art in the farm journal...this was still when I kept a separate sketchbook, a ledger, and a lines yellow pad with notes for articles...here you can see sketches on the back pages of designs for doors and shutters for our old log cabin farm house.  There are a few other small marginal sketches, but that's all...

And as you can see, I've been journaling a very long time.  I'm glad I kept this old journal and those that followed--our move to town, gardens here, my time as a church secretary and seeker...though I still am the latter.  I'm glad I re-read it, too.

Monday, April 18, 2011

For My Eye Doctor

After going through a "rough bit" along the road of life my vision is still improving. I've been trying to visually document my progress for my opthaneurologist as I go along. It's one thing to tell someone how I see things and another to show them an illustration. So. . . I did two illustrations --both views of my bedroom, the first how I think it would look with normal vision, and the second one trying to show how the graininess that I see actually looks when I see things. Please note that, joyously, the view out my window into the natural light is almost normal. I can see the branches against the sky and the bark on the trees. I'm wrestling with artificial light, but, slowly, that is improving also. It's been three years since I went nearly blind from bilateral optic nerve atrophy, and I'm grateful every day for the progress I've made. I hope somehow my illustrations will help someone or their families or doctors through a nightmarish time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More Sanity from the Journal

Loved Kate's last post about the sanity journaling can bring. I, also, cannot imagine traveling without a journal (especially when visiting family!)--it's also my unconditional companion and my solace in any situation. If I am unsettled, or my mind is whirling with thoughts, just opening my journal and putting my pen to the page (even using text as the page design in the absence of anything inspiring to sketch) will ground me and allow me to relax. On a 2-week trip to Florida this winter to visit a relative, I went to bed every night and entered the day's activities in a "calendar"-style approach, so I would have memories of the trip and also be able to process the sometimes difficult differences in our lifestyles. In the seclusion of the guestroom, I could write whatever I wished in small, compact letters and words that would be difficult to decipher by day to anyone looking through my journal. In the dim lamplight, I added simple splashes of color that captured the "feeling" of the day with my waterbrush and travel watercolor palette, and added symbolic objects from memory. By the time I was finished with each entry, I was content, sane, and ready for sleep.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

LaBrea and the Beach

LaBrea and the Beach by Cathy (Kate) Johnson
Our trips to California are largely stressful and demanding; because of various factors we didn't get much sleep, and the tension level is often high at J's dad's house. We're pulled in a dozen directions at once.

I'll admit I'm used to a quieter environment and slower pace, so I tend to get more worn out than I should (came back with a chest cold I can't seem to kick.)

What keeps me relatively sane on these trips is my journal--and my husband's insistence on taking at least one night just for us. He tries to see that I have some time at the beach--endlessly restorative for me--and for the second time, took me to LaBrea tar pits, which I love.

Of COURSE I sketched both of those and journaled about them.

Lifeguard shack at Santa Monica

J. and his dad...

But on these trips I draw almost constantly, anything and everything...it helps me focus, and takes me out of the moment at the same time. Too many conflicting stories make my head feel like it's going to explode...

So my journal helps keep me what passes for sane...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fast Sketching My Way Around a Wildlife Center

Back in March, Rob and I spent a lovely afternoon walking along the manicured trails of the Oatland Island Wildlife Center of Savannah, GA.

The second feature along the trail was an area where two Sandhill Cranes reside. I didn't want to leave!

They walked over from the far side of their area to right below the bridge we stood on. A few more people came a long and the cranes let out a sound that made all of us jump!  Goodness, they are loud!

I sketched and painted for a bit then we made our way to see the Bobcat..... very well hidden.

On to the Red Foxes.  Yes! From there we walked to the Birds of Prey area. By then. the no-seeums were having they're way with us!
We saw the Center's herd of White-tailed Deer and then moved on to see the pack of Gray Wolves.

You can observe the wolves from a bridge that overlooks their area or you can go into a building with one-way glass. Both vantage points were exciting as it was feeding time.  Nothing like seeing the pecking order of a wolf pack first hand. I'm hoping the addition of color will help the wolf head sketches....

Our last stop... the American Bison.  Wow! Pappa is one big dude!!

We were on our way back to the parking lot and I just couldn't stand it... I had to go back to see the cranes again :)

So, a few more crane sketches to surround the Bison :)

I've been hoping to finish these pages with color using the reference photographs we took... hopefully soon.  Then I'll add some more words. The first crane page is begging for a calligraphic touch :)

What a great place to practice fast sketching! I can't wait to go back :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011


...was only one result of our recent trip to California. Still hacking and coughing, still tired...but I've documented everything from cat bites to injured knees to allergic reactions, why not a garden-variety sunburn?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Interview #9--Enrique Flores

Hi all!  I'd delighted to finally get the interview with Enrique Flores promised in this post up for your enjoyment!  First Enrique was out of town, then I was, then I got sick...so we're finally back on track.  Believe me, it was worth waiting for!

This photo shows not only Enrique's technique, but a representative collection of his gear.

You're probably familiar with Enrique's marvelously bold, fresh sketches on Flickr, as 4ojos, HERE, or on his blog, HERE, or as a correspondent on our Sketching in Nature blog.  I was delighted when he agreed to be part of the upcoming book, and of this blog.

Here's a quick intro from Enrique himself:

I´m an illustrator working in Madrid, Spain mainly for publishing houses but also for newspaper EL PAIS, where I do political illustration. I publish books I write and also illustrate words of others. I´ve been doing that for about 15 years. In a previous life I was an advertising man not far from the stupid style of life of MadMen.  

(Funny how many of us have left that life far behind...I owned a small ad agency in the early 70's, myself!)


But now, let's  jump right into the interveiw! 

Q. Have you always journaled, or is this relatively new?  (When did you start?) 

A. I´ve been drawing since I was a kid, not stopping even when most children do (at about 12). I started journalling in sketchbooks in 1989 when I did my first long trip (to Cuba). I bought a squared Cahier at the airport and did quite a few biro sketches in the month I spent there. I´ve been keeping sketchbooks ever since and I guess I have a good bunch of them by now, around 300 or 400, I´m not sure. Never counted them as they´re not all together but in three different houses.
Q. What have been your inspirations? 
A. Great illustrators from the sixties like Paul Hogarth or Ronald Searle (and their artistic father Ardizzone and Ben Shahn) have been a quite important inspiration. The freshness of their strokes it´s something I try to keep on mind when I work. Loustal was kind of a shock when I first saw what he was doing in the eighties. Also Spanish illustrators like Alfredo and Ballesta but I´m afraid they´re unknown to US audience.

Q. Watercolor seems to be your favorite medium, can you tell me why? 

A. It´s fairly easy to carry, dries quick and can transmit the light of what I have in front of me. I also love the speed of the medium and also the dizziness of working with no safety net. Correcting mistakes in watercolour is always difficult specially as I never use previous pencil lines!

Q. This is a very exciting and bold effect…your work looks very sure.  Do you visualize it all first, or just GO with it?
A. I just GO with it. I´ve learned over the years to overcome my fears and now I don't care If something goes wrong on a sketch as I always can do a new, better one. I try to think of the freedom of jazz musicians when I work and prefer to make ten quick, spontaneous sketches to a single "finished" one. A lot of time, insisting with new washes and lines, can spoil a sketch that began well.

Q. You’ve said you use waterbrushes a lot…can you tell us why, and expand on your technique a bit?  
I remember your saying that sometimes you put paint in your waterbrushes.  Tell us why?
A. I use to put liquid watercolour in NIJI waterbrushes. They´re Vallejo, a quite good Spanish brand. That allows me to use bright colours. Years ago I travelled with colour little bottles but I got sick of them opening in the backpack and spoiling the clothes. Carrying them inside the waterbrushes is safer. I carry also a small box of solid watercolours. They´re not as bright as the liquid ones, as you know and I mix the two depending of the area of the sketch I´m working in

Q. You use fairly small waterbrushes, but get big, juicy washes.  How do you do that!?

A. I carry a big brush beside the waterbrushes. I make the colour first but not in the watercolour box tiny mixing area. I use instead any other recipient. When the colour is OK I apply it in quick washes  with lots of water. I use to work on a different sketch from the same spot while the first paper drys.

Q. Does your journal keeping impact or enhance your work, or the other way around? 

A. I try to draw every day as I think by doing so my hand and eye will be "trained" somehow. Compositional skills need to be exercised. 

Q. You obviously travel a lot; do you go alone?  If not, how do you find time to sketch when other people need to do things elsewhere?  [See more of Enrique's travel sketches here.]

A. I´m lucky to travel with another sketcher so taking my time has never been a problem. When travelling in groups one can´t stop them any time to make a sketch even if they´re 10 minutes long. It´s not like I don´t like travelling in group but I´ve noticed I draw less when I do it.

Q. How much to you take with you when you travel?  What are your supplies like?  Do you try to travel light?
A. I travel very light and depending of the length of the trip I carry a A4 or A5 hardbound sketchbook. A couple of brushes, eight waterbrushes, a Sailor Calligraphy pen and a small plastic 12 pans W&N watercolour box filled with high quality colours. Sometimes I carry loose sheets of watercolour paper whenever I think I might do an exhibition afterwards. That was the case of my 3 trips in Algeria.

Here's Enrique at work with a bit more equipment!
Q. How do you decide to design a page? 

A. I dunno... Sometimes I can foresee clearly the scene (landscape, architecture...) I want to fix. Depending of the composition chosen I use a double or a single page. Sometimes I draw a tiny detail and leave some white space around for writing later on. I try not to work back at the hotel as I feel the drawings lack freshness. I´m not a cerebral (do you say that in English?) type of guy.

Q. Other thoughts? Whatever else you feel is more important, personally, to YOU...

A. I´ve been growing a bit obsessive, Kate.  Just to mention some examples: I try to draw the airplane in which I will travel as kind of exorcism, I always draw the shoes I use, I never rip off a page no matter the quality of the drawing,  I try to follow a chronological order, I keep a calendar on the last two pages... 

Sometimes Enrique works on  loose sheets of watercolor paper, besides keeping a thick journal, just to try a different approach--he writes that he discovered later than "carrying all day long sheets of paper makes moving harder and slows down my usually fast pace."  But we all experiment and grow, don't we!?  Journals ARE more portable. 

For more of Enrique's work, check this direct link: http://www.4ojos.com/blog/?tag=cuadernos

Thank you for joining us, Enrique, it was most enjoyable!

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