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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Noodler's Flex Pens

These were done with a Noodler's Creaper flex pen, the smallest one they make; I love the varied lines, and the fact that you can tweak the pens--literally take them apart to clean and service them yourself if you wish.  (LOTS of good videos on that at http://gouletpens.com!)

I own 6 Creapers now, for use with different inks (and two I've played with replacing the factory nib with different nibs--one a Hero M-86 bent nib for calligraphy and one an antique gold Waterman--they just fit the small pen.)

At $14, I find these a fantastic bargain for a flexible-nib fountain pen!

I also own 2 Konrads and a big old Ahab--it's lovely but a bit large for my small hands.  Holds a LOT of ink, though.

Here's my review on that pen: http://artistsjournalworkshop.blogspot.com/2011/12/noodlers-new-ahab-pen.html

These are nice writing pens, too--I use them almost exclusively to write letters and to work in my written journal/daybook, though I do own other pens.  The nibs on mine are exceptionally smooth for a steel nib pen.

On the minus side, for some unknown reason ink DOES evaporate in the pens--something to do with the type of plastic-like material they're made from.  Sometimes they need a kickstart, either spraying the nib with water or giving it a quick dip. Sometimes I need to tap them on the paper to get them started.  And sometimes I just need to adjust the nib.

Of course any pen is sensitive to both the type of ink you're using and the paper you're working on. Some are a better "fit" than others.

What's been your experience?

Spam spam spam spam...?!?!

Hi all...

I have no idea what's been going on lately, but I've deleted nearly 20 spam posts to the blog in the past two days, all of them from that very-busy "Anonymous" guy.  I've disabled the setting for "anyone can post including anonymous" because I'm tired of dealing with it.

I hope that doesn't keep YOU from commenting, we do want to hear from you!

Friday, September 19, 2014

I love working on toned paper!

I just had to see if I could copy one of my art tips to share, here!  It appears to have worked...sort of!

You can see all my original art tips on my blog, here: http://cathyjohnson.info/tips.html --we're up to 133 now.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A creativity giveaway on my blog

I just put a Creativity Giveaway on my other blog, the re-imagined Art, Life, and Other Oddities, here: http://cathyjohnsonart.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-creativity-giveaway-for-you.html

Just leave a comment (on that blog, not here, sorry!) and we'll pick the winner next Wednesday!

Monday, September 1, 2014

On Nurturing Creativity

I have recently re-imagined my blog, Art, Life, and Other Oddities, and decided to share a couple of posts that you might find useful. Please feel free to join me there on a regular basis! I'll share this post and the one on what kills creativity, for me, but I don't want to take over AJW!

Playing with carving my own print blocks

I suppose we all have the occasional dry period when nothing seems exciting, when we just don't feel like picking up a brush, when we're tired or overwhelmed.  And in fact I have a whole post in the pipeline that will be a follow-up to this one, addressing those things that kill creativity--or at least inhibit it to the point of entropy.

And honestly, when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, what inspires us--what nurtures that mischievous and elusive muse--is as individual as we are.

Often, what works for me is to make a list--well, two of them really.  One list of those things that feed my soul, and one of the things that definitely do NOT.  I have done this little exercise time and again through the years...it helps me take compass readings and make sure I'm still on course, as well as where I need to jettison some cargo or turn the wheel a bit to starboard.

Who wouldn't wish to see a few more of those stars like silvery eyes in a velvet sky, eh? (And yes, of course my sailor husband would remind me that starboard isn't up--work with me here, all right? I'm sailing this imaginary sloop...)

I've been doing a lot of jettisoning, lately.  Simplifying, getting rid of excess Stuff--belongings, ideas, occupations, imaginary or outworn obligations.

Making room for Creativity.  For life.

For we ARE creative beings.  That's what we do. Whether we create a piece of art, a symphony, a happy child, a balanced budget, a good meal or order out of chaos, we are fulfilling that urge. I once wrote an article suggesting that that is what we have most in common with the Creator; I still believe that, and I'm more grateful than ever, 25 years later.

Dip pens cut from feathers or sticks

So.  What nurtures creativity?  What inspires me?

Here's my list--this week.  Make your own.  They may be quite similar, they may be entirely different, but they must be honest, straight from the heart. 

  • An open mind
  • Paying attention
  • Meditation
  • Listening to what really matters to me
  • The light on my sleeping husband's face
  • Quiet
  • Time
  • Books
  • Textures
  • Joseph's hands
  • Flavors
  • Play
  • New places
  • Old ones...heart homes, near and far--places that have touched me
  • Music
  • Rest
  • A new tool--a new pigment, a fountain pen that's smooth of nib, a vegetable peeler, whatever!
  • Paper I love to work on
  • Beauty
  • Nature
  • Light
  • Color
  • Learning
  • New ideas
  • Reviving old ones that work 
  • Taking time for me (if I give it all away, I have nothing left for any of us)
  • Honesty
  • Friends who "get it"  (Get what, you say?  Well, that's as individual as we are, as well.)
  • Art--seeing what others have done or are doing can spark a conflagration
  • Rembrandt sketches, Vermeer's chiaroscuro, Winslow Homer's watercolors...
  • A new direction (the stamps above were my balance from too many weeks of the same kind of thing)
  • A different medium--almost but not quite the same as above
  • The grace and antics of cats
  • A quiet chat with an old friend
  • A new discipline
  • Old photos
  • Time for memory
  • Interaction with others...for me, sparingly, but still...
  • A quote that speaks to me
  • That One Perfect Word--you know, the one that strikes the ear and makes everything different  
  • The sure and certain knowledge that there is no one right way when it comes to creativity

A friend's recent art on used teabags inspired these two...thank you, Palma.
My own technique was different...but her work let me take off from there!

And once I have my list?  I do more of that.  Whatever it is, whatever I have time for.  What bubbles to the top, what serendipity throws my way.  What insists I pay attention.




Friday, August 22, 2014

Journaling as a Healing Tool

For all of you with furry friends..... Life with them is great, but as they age... well, the ending is always gut wrenching.

This is how it has been at our house for the last few months: vet trips, new meds, different food, pee trips in the wee hours of the morning.... I'm sure you've been there.

I've been sketching a lot of our two dogs over the last year.  Some with traditional tools, some on my iPad using Paper by 53.

This past weekend the serious 'Goodbye' page started taking shape. One thing about our Dudley, he was all about showing you things you'd not have seen without him.  Sunday morning as he and I walked down the street at 5:15 a.m. was one of those instances.  This was the last Sunday we'd be together, and the early morning sky was just beautiful.  Later that day, I did the above memory sketch as a tribute to all those wee hour pee trip walks we've taken over the last several months.

Yesterday was our 'goodbye' day.  I came home and immediately went into my studio and studied the right blank side if the page.  I had decided on tribute phrase... but what else?  I knew I'd just have to take my time and the right things would come.  Later, we sat on the sofa and looked at old photos of our pups.  Oh that was fun and heart warming.  I found one portrait of Dudley that I wanted to put underneath the phrase.  Then, during a discussion with my husband, I said the words that are now on the bottom right corner.

You just never know what will find it's way to you for your page..... The journey of journaling - can't beat it!

As for our Sweet Dudley.... he's in a much better place, free of his earthly troubles.  Now all our loving is surrounding our Grizz to help her through the grief.... 15.5 years is a long time!
Main page: Stillman & Birn Alpha journal • watercolors • micron pen

Monday, July 21, 2014

Life's Little Mysteries, Part 2

I had two more short videos in the pipeline, both that had to be cut from my Sketchbook Skool class for reasons of length...this one agreed to be processed and uploaded, the other one didn't.  NO idea why!  Ah well, I like this one best anyway...

This is my old cabin book--I built my own cabin in the woods with the help of a young carpenter back in the late 80s or early 90s, and worked out there almost every day.  (In those days I had a computer out there and even a phone, neither of which is true today!)

And every day, I would do a sketch in my big brown-paper journal.  It's a time capsule, looking back through the pages and seeing the everyday miracles that caught my eye.

I got to write a book about the process, too...A Naturalist's Cabin; Constructing a Dream, long out of print, of course.

Yep, life is good...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Life's little mysteries...another video!

I have no idea why, but this little video was hiding, marked Private in my YouTube set...I appear to have dropped the ball somewhere. I originally made it for one of my Quick Sketching classes, but didn't get the link OUT there!  It was from March of 2013...I spaced...

Since I made it to be shared, here it is...test drive your tools so you know what they'll do and which one to grab to get the effect you want!

Friday, July 11, 2014

And a longer video, a study of a wren, in my journal

Whew!  My newest video is up on YouTube, and it almost didn't make it!  It disappeared, then the media files were missing...but here it is, a longer video on doing a study of a bird, in my journal.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Another little video...this one on sketching birds!

As usual, I overproduced for my class, so I've made several new videos I'll be sharing on YouTube!  This one was cut from a longer one on sketching from nature.

I'll be editing one on doing a more complete study of a wren, soon!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A look at our own Liz Steel's current sketching tools!

Liz has branched out into teaching a range of workshops in her home country of Australia and abroad...and continues to sketch virtually every day, inspiring and delighting hundreds of us!

Check her blog for this post on her current sketching tools...

Thanks, Liz, for letting us share here, too!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Another Simple Journal, Double-Pamphlet Style--from Shirley Levine!


Our dear friend Shirley Levine of the Paper and Threads blog has give permission to share her terrific blog post on making a simple, fast, lightweight journal--thank you, Shirley!


As always, her instructions and visuals are clear and easy to follow...now I'm wanting to make one like this!  You can find the full post here: 

And lots more from Shirley on bookbinding here: http://www.paperandthreads.com/2012/02/watercolor_sketchbook_tutorial.php

What a treasure she is!

Monday, June 16, 2014

...And this is why I need to carry more tools...

I used a new Metropolitan pen in the people, but went back to my beloved ancient Sheaffer for the plane...I love the line variety...

It seemed fitting to use a Chinese bent-nib pen on the gorgeous waterfall at the Las Vegas Zen Center; I added text with my 1960s Sheaffer pen, and a touch of watercolor back at our room.

My pens leaked on the plane, so I picked up a few disposables at Desert Art Supply in Henderson Nevada...ooops, this one wasn't waterproof, and lifted somewhat.  I always like to sketch in the early morning in the courtyard where we stay--Hawthorn Inn & Suites in Henderson.

I LOVE the subtlety of graphite--sometimes the emphatic lines of ink just don't cut it for me.  This was one of the bouquets from my sister's memorial bash--we rescued it and took it back to our hotel.  So...needed that Pentel Forte pencil, too.  And of course my watercolors, and a big brush...

Yep, more subtle pencil lines...and used a calligraphy pen on the lettering on the right, but I've decided it can stay home next time...

This was one of the disposable pens I picked up in Henderson...I figured I could sketch on the plane without leakage, if need be.  And I DO like brown ink--so far I haven't found one that works well in a fountain pen for very long (that's also water-resistant.)

Mostly used my new non-leaky Micron Pigma here--I'd meant to pack one at home but forgot.  The bit of the kitty was a colored pencil...I used it on another cat sketch I haven't scanned, too.  This is my sister and brother-in-law's beloved cat, Bohdi.

and I used the colored pencil again here--they're wax-based, don't smear, don't lift when you wash over them.  Plenty of time at the Denver airport to work, so I added color, then a few touches of ink, then a tiny graphite Joseph checking out our plane...
...so actually, there was nothing I'd taken with me that I didn't use, either in sketching or writing...and as usual, a few things I hadn't packed and bought in the art supply store!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Everyday Journaling Supplies

It's always interesting to see what other artists consider necessary for their everyday journal work, so I thought I'd share mine...this is what survived after a recent trip to Nevada, and granted, I didn't jettison MUCH!  

This is what goes in my purse...which really ISN'T much of a purse, it's my field bag/traveling studio!  My usual retrofitted Prang box at the bottom, an old pencil case with a few tools, a sprayer that doubles as my water supply and the little collapsing bucket above it if I need more (I've never been able to find another one this small!)  Then in upper center the new Sharpie EF white, a couple of Micron Pigmas that don't mind changes in air pressure, a couple of colored pencils for sketching, and two waterbrushes.  (The flat one didn't actually go on the trip but I wished it had...)  A small vial of ink in the tiny bag and a pocket protector full of pens and one mechanical pencil...it all weighs in less than 2 lbs.

My old retrofitted Prang box makes me feel like a kid!  I've replaced the round brush with a better one from Black Gold, and that's a bamboo skewer for drawing with, like a pen.  These are my usual colors, except I've taken out the green: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cathy-johnson/8126242177/in/set-72157604173444404

Here's what goes in the pencil box, from the top...a 1" flat with the end sharpened, a #8 travel brush, a small bristle brush (also sharpened) I use for painting, spatter, or lifting; a toothpick and another skewer, a piece of credit card for scraping and the lightest possible pencil sharpener for those colored pencils, a piece of sharpened dowel rod and a small dip pen we found on eBay.  It's an antique!  (Sometimes a little piece of white vinyl eraser, too...)

Pocket protectors work great to corral my pens and a pencil!

A lovely array of pens and points...from left, my ancient Sheaffer, a Noodler's Creaper, a Creaper body with a Hero bent nib in it, another old Sheaffer for smoooooth writing (ok, I could leave it home), my Platinum Carbon Desk Pen cut short so it will cap, and my favorite Pentel Forte mechanical pencil.  (Here's the post in which I tell how I cut the Carbon Desk Pen: http://artistsjournalworkshop.blogspot.com/2011/06/yet-another-new-pen.html)

Yum.  Even if they DID leak in the plane...

It all fits in here...

And the front zipper pocket is all that actually acts as a purse!  Drivers' license and credit cards (and our wedding picture!), pills, salt and pepper, cell phone, mirror, comb, nail clipper...and when I'm not flying, a TINY Swiss Army knife...
Could I do with less?  Of course.  Am I likely to?  Um...not till the arthritis gets worse!  I might leave out that one pen...

I'll share some of my sketches in another post!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Is the Artist's Journal the Artist's Art?

When Cathy asked the question "How do you use YOUR Journal?" in her last post, I was right in the middle of asking myself that very questions because I had been witnessing changes in the answer - for me - and for so many other art journalers.

I first came to art journaling in 2005.

It had been three years since we closed our first series of art galleries in Santa Fe due to 9/11 and other wounds to our tourism at that time.

I kept painting for awhile and then one day, I just stalled.

I read the wonderful book, Art and Fear, and figured out that I lacked a destination for my art. I did not want to paint for other galleries, online was not a good option at that time, and I surely did not want to fill my home closets with watercolors no one would share.

I had been keeping written journals sporadically for several years, but I never liked revisiting them. They just reminded me that I had never found answers to the things I would whine about in those journals. Blah!

I had sketchbooks, of course, like any practicing artist does, but they were very haphazard and I didn't like revisiting them because they just reminded me of all the painting ideas that I had not acted upon. Blah!

I had also been collecting a stack of blank books and mulling over the idea of visual journaling, and one day, that whole thing hit.

I could make my art in my journals - THEY would be my destination.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and my love of art journaling is legend. I have not only continued with illustrated journaling, I have taught a few thousand other folks to love it too.

When I discovered the Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbooks, I found my perfect journal - paper second only to my true love, Arches 300lb coldpress.

Then, while hosting an art jourrnaling retreat in Tubac, Arizona in March of this year, another love affair hit.

There is only one small art supply store in the village of Tubac, and they carry only one brand of paints - M. Graham.

After 40+ years as a watercolorist, I had never encountered this brand. Strange, but true.

Having forgotten my yellow ochre tube - critical for painting adobe things, I bought a tube of the M. Graham.

I could not have imagined that any watercolor could be so different! Smooth and creamy and so pigment-loaded, I was surprised my brush could move!

That tube has grown to 33 tubes and I am more in love every day with this duo - S&B Beta and M. Graham.

One day, I found myself looking at a finished "painting" right there in my Beta book . .

and another

These are from a series called "Strange Neighborhoods". The first is titled "Gatherings" and the second "Mending Fences".

I showed my husband because I am supposed to be creating paintings for our current gallery in Santa Fe (we can't quit, it seems).

"How are we going to frame those?" he asked? "Tear the pages out?"

"Over my dead body," I said. "We would have to tear my arm off to get them."

So, we sell signed giclées.

The surprise to me was that the art in my journals can be the "serious" stuff if I want it to be. Well . . . ok, as a whimsical Surrealist, my work is seldom serious, but it can be considered "finished" anyway.

I recently took the first session of "Sketchbook Skool" to see what it would be like and to see LOTS of other people's journal and sketchbook pages.

I really enjoyed it, and it reinforced the fact that sketchbooks and journals are now being considered an art form in their own right. I hope this is an idea that continues to grow!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reposting this longish essay about the uses of an artist's journal.

Hello everyone,

Back three years ago when I posted this, there were many fewer people following this blog. Since the question comes up again and again, I thought I'd repost this. It's still my answer to the question about the uses of an artist's journal. My uses. My journal. Maybe yours, too?
Back then I mischaracterized/misunderstood Kate's journals... they ARE pretty and they do have lots of finished sketches, but, as she has often pointed out since then, they are way more than pretty and often NOT polished and arty. ;D.

I hope this is helpful. I could TRY to say this all again in a different way, but I decided not to ;D.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My big fat black journal

I’ve long been a fan of the kind of beautiful illustrated journal that Kate Johnson and others, like Roz Stendahl, Pam Johnson Brickell, and Danny Gregory, to give a few examples, produce.

Theirs are visually arresting books---almost art objects in themselves. They feature well-designed pages and handsome lettering. Often the books themselves are handmade, the paper of good quality.

While there may be entries of a personal nature, they are not so private that no thought is given to the appearance of the page for possible public sharing, even if the sharing is of a limited nature. In general, text and image are both important. The pages themselves may not be pristine. In Roz’s, Kate’s and Danny’s books, there’s lots of experimentation going on and many quick, quick sketches, but the overall effect seems to be of a well-made, nicely designed artifact. (I say ‘seems,’ because I have only seen these journals on line.)

My own illustrated journals, until recently, were different from these. They were more sketchbook than conventional journal, without a strong textual presence.

In those pages, I’ve practiced drawing because I LOVE it and so that I could become better at it. I’ve taught myself how to use watercolor, and, in more conventional journal-writing fashion, I’ve tried to get down on paper, in images, the important events and people in my life.

From the time I was about 8, though, I’ve written in diaries and journals. My sketchbooks were a thing apart from those written records of my life. For the past 6 years, my concentration on drawing and producing my blog Laurelinesput an end to my journal keeping.

A few months ago, I turned to writing in a journal again. In taking up journaling once more, I remembered the lessons I learned years ago from the powerful, transformative book, The New Diary by Tristine Rainer. Rainer advocates journaling as a means to communicate with oneself, to develop creativity, to solve problems, to enrich the inner life.

Emphasis is on freedom of expression, expanding consciousness, finding a state of flow ---and getting all of this down on paper any way you can. Well-designed pages? Good paper? Nice lettering? Well, unless you operate that way instinctively, intuitively, with your eyes closed, without censors or brakes... no.

When I restarted my journaling life, I had not planned to include imagery. Or not planned NOT to.
I just bought a big blank book (big enough to allow me to scrawl across a page) with mediocre paper (something that the sketching me would not have been happy about) and started writing.

And images appeared, there, along with the words!

Not as illustrations, but more the rough lineaments of daydreams or nightmares, the quick capturing of something my eye fell on as I paused in my writing, time outs from hard thinking, notes for paintings and projects, sometimes plain old documentation, too. The images are more fleshed out than doodles, yet only rarely are they anything close to polished art pieces!

The more the images appeared, the more I gave way to their flow. Now, I can hardly wait to see what will happen next!
Why I don’t KNOW what will happen next is because this new journal of mine is about process and not product. It’s about communication with the self, not with others.
And it’s about pulling together the various aspects of myself---myself the artist, myself the writer, myself the mother, wife, friend and all the rest... all in one place, between two covers of a regular old, big, black, blank book.

It’s an illustrated journal, but it doesn’t look like Kate’s, or Roz’s, or Danny’s, or Pat’s. It’s rough-hewn, private, with buckled and splattered pages, loaded with crossed-out words and wiggly arrows. It works for me. I write about it here as a way to show there are many ways to make this thing we call an illustrated journal and to say that maybe something LIKE this may work for you, too.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meaningful Journaling

A peaceful day in the backyard, spring green and our baby dragon smiling at us.

Recording a celebration--family birthdays and Easter, all rolled into one!

My presence necklace, a slow, contemplative sketch to help center me...

A sketch from my husband's hospital room, after his cancer surgery...my journal helped keep me calm.  (And he is fine, now, thank you! This was from a few years ago.)

Keeping an artist's journal can be life-changing...at any age.  Far beyond making art, creating a pretty page, trying a new technique or exploring a medium like watercolor or pen and ink, it can help us to cope, learn, experience, and honor our lives.  It can help us rejoice, process, calm.

We can discover the myriad of small things that we are grateful for--just those gratitude lists alone can be life-changing.  Yes, I repeat a lot, as I return again and again to these lists--I AM grateful for the things large and small that make up my days.  Fresh coffee.  Cats.  Memories.  Books, art supplies, watercolors, a pen with a butter-smooth nib.  Music.  Mindfulness.  Meditation.  Flowers.  Laughter.  Friends.  Options.  Nature.  My walker, when I need it.  Leftovers!

My husband's love and support.

Journaling itself. 

How do you use YOUR journal?  What are you grateful for today?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

More on Bookbinding from our friend Shirley!


Former student Shirley Hememd got the bookbinding bug and has sone some amazing work!  Check her blog post for tons of inspiration, and let her know in a comment if you'd like to see more like this.  She's done some adventurous work!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Quick Sketching in Color

This is a little video I did for my Quick Sketching in Color mini-class...it's been private for just my students until now, but I decided to share it with you!

It's my quick and easy accordion journal I carry in my vehicle for sketching wherever I am.  I'm not much on shopping, so I do a LOT of "parking lot sketches" while Joseph does our business.

Sometimes I can add color on the spot, sometimes I exercise my color memory and do it later...that's what I did for this demo!  Either way works, it's your journal!

Check out the class info, here: http://cathyjohnson.info/sketchingincolor.html 

(By the way there are TWELVE videos in that class!  Not bad for 4 lessons...)

More on a different kind of quick and easy journal here on YouTube, or see my CD, here.  It includes both these types, plus ring-bound, book cloth, making covers and more!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Exploring unusual tools

I like to explore different techniques and materials in my journal--and might as well choose a fun subject!  This is Bearlie, a sister-bear to the one I sent my older sis for her birthday recently.  This time, I didn't do any preliminary drawing before jumping in with watercolor.  At lower left, I used a flexible nib Noodler's pen and their Lexington Gray ink.  At right, an old brown Micron Pigma with a black one for Bearlie's features.  The paper is WN watercolor paper, a bit lighter weight than what I normally use--you can tell it buckled a little.
Sometimes it's fun to paint with a raggedly little oil-painter's bristle brush--I often use this for spatter, but since this teddy is SO fuzzy I thought I'd try it for her fur!  These are the new QoR watercolors I've been testing--mostly, here, the Naples Yellow, Burnt Sienna, and Cobalt.

I sharpened the end of the brush with an X-acto knife to use as another tool--almost like an ink pen.

Here it is in action...

I did use a brush for the eyes, nose, and mouth, as well as the pads on her feet and hands--I have a bit more control.

The new Sharpie EF white waterproof marker worked well for eye-sparkles and light-struck fur...it's got acrylic paint in it, so once it dries you can paint over it. (I tried the oil base one but didn't like it--it soaked into the paper!)

Remember, your journal is a great place to PLAY and try out different tools, mediums, and approaches.  Mine gets a lot of use like that...
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