Monday, December 9, 2013

MCBA Visual Journal Collective December Meeting

Join us at MCBA, DECEMBER 16, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. 
To view the completed Not-So-Blank Page Group Project
Whether or not you participated (and whether or not you are done) in the nine-month long collaborative project to fill our custom Smash journals "The Not-So-Blank-Page-Project"— you are cordially invited to meet with us tonight for a fun simultaneous viewing party of all the pages. 

We'll see what a page was like originally (my background empty below on the left) and then we'll see what each member of the project did to that page (my completed journal page below on the right). 
It will be a fun evening filled with journaling surprises! 

End the year by being inspired by creative responses to the not so blank page. You'll be all set to jump into your 2014 journal and maybe just a little relieved that this journal is complete.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Accordion Sketchbook Class at MCBA

Accordion-Bound Sketchbook
with Suzanne Hughes
Wednesday, December 11; 6-9pm
Great for beginners

Create an accordion structure from a single piece of high quality art paper (Rives BFK), perfect for sketching, for journaling, or for a photo album. Learn to fold and tab paper sections together to create a long accordion. Wrap boards with decorative paper all created and supplied by the instructor (an assortment of marbled, painted, and paste papers). Use the covered boards to construct a hard cover to house the accordion pages. Then finish off your book assembly with a handy elastic closure.

We will bind this book from prepped materials but the class will include a discussion on other suitable papers for this structure and identifying them, breaking down paper for future books made outside of class, and creating your own decorative papers.
You will leave class with a finished book and the knowledge needed to create more.

Register BY PHONE: 612-215-2520
Register IN PERSON
: visit The Shop at MCBA
Register ONLINE:  at MCBA's website 

Monday, November 11, 2013

MCBA Visual Journal Collective November 18, 2013 Meeting Reminder

Monday, November 18, 2013, 7 to 9 p.m. 

STAMP CARVING NIGHT at the MCBA Visual Journal Collective, at MCBA

We're going to be watching a how-to stamp carving demonstration by me, Suzanne Hughes. Participants will then be given a small block (2x3 inches) of their own to carve into their very own mini-block print.  We will then create super easy multi-color prints by using watercolors. 
Come to the meeting prepared to create your own stamp!  
You will need an image or two to create a stamp from;  any small (2x3 inch) image will do.  It can be from a photo that you are going to draw from or from a journal image that you would like to replicate, for that matter it can be more of a pattern than an image and be used for backgrounds.  I will talk about multiple ways of moving the image you bring from its starting place onto your stamp block for carving.  
Bring a small set of watercolors and a brush - waterbrush or regular.
Bring a small cash donation ($2 max) for MCBA to thank them for supplying our paper.
After we all carve our image we will make a stack of stamped images (think edition) to trade with everyone on hand!
It's pretty cool when you get to both make and trade art on the same evening!
If you're interested in stamp techniques because you want to incorporate them in your journal you'll come away inspired and armed with your very own stamp. If you have always seen stamped images and been curious about the process come and give it a try.  Stamp carving really is very addictive and you only need a few very basic tools at home to repeat our activity any time the fancy strikes.
There may be some time to share current journal work after all the stamping and trading, so bring what you are currently working on.
If you're an adult visual journal keeper come and join in. It's free, usually, although a small $2 donation to MCBA will be collected on Monday as they are supplying our paper for the stamped image trades. We'd love to meet you, or see you again. And of course peek into your journal!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Not-So-Easy-to-Fill Journal and it's Reclaiming

For the last six months a journal has sat on my studio table.  From time to time I have paged through this journal and added a thing here or there, completing some pages along the way.  On those page throughs however this journal has often stopped me, stumped me, and other wise frustrated me like no other journal has.  This journal has a looming deadline and must be conquered before time is up and my frustrations were quickly turning to a panicky feeling every time I was near this nearly empty, needed to be filled, monster on my studio table.
What journal is this you ask?  How is it possible that someone who writes grocery lists on fine art paper and will splash watercolor with near abandon on a thirty dollar sheet of Arches can be stopped by a collection of color copied sheets bound into a book?  Those are the exact questions I asked myself this week.  Why?  Why is this a stopping place instead of a jumping in place?
This week I finally had an answer to that question - I have been trying too hard.  Trying for perfect.  Waiting for the right idea for every page.  Desiring that each and every background would shine and be the star it was meant to be.  As an artist I recognized that desire, the elusive quest for perfect and as an artist, I also was seeing the same results, nothing; a not-so-blank-sheet as it turns out.  When perfect is the goal, nothing is the result, because nothing is perfect, particularly when making art.  We all see the flaws we create so clearly that the resulting work will never be perfect.  It will be so completely un-perfect that we will be stopped in our tracks.
Thankfully, I also remembered our goal and original starting place for this idea.  The Smash Journal and the desire to make our own custom version to use as a collaborative project because it was fun.
Let's get reacquainted with the original idea:
Watch the Smash Journal video.
If you type Smash Journal into Google images.
If you have followed my links you should see a common thread of delicious non-perfection.  A mash-up of lives, ideas, images, drawings, and day to day stuff that is glued down and penned in with abandon. Books bursting with extra papers and lovely unique liveliness.  No thought was given to the background other than that it was a vehicle for the stuff contained on the page.  Not perfect and in its non-perfect state we reach wonderful, fabulous page turning journal goodness.
In my focus on the not-so-blank part of the project I was forgetting the most important part of the project title - journal.  A journal is a personal record of experiences, thoughts, events, and observations.  A record of a daily life on paper.  This week my focus came off the project as a vehicle for perfect pages and went to a focus on the project for MY pages, it is a journal after all.
With the pressure to create perfect pages off my back I have been creating my pages all week with complete and utter abandon.  Oh, I am still going out of order and not quite taking the sheets as they come but I am not letting sheets stop me anymore.  It's my journal and the pages need to be mine, whatever that means for the background.  Suddenly, I am having fun with this journal.  Knocking out multiple pages a day, not because of a looming deadline but instead because I am enjoying myself.
If you too are a part of this project and have been stopped by the pages, the project, the pressure of perfect, let it go.  Perfect will never happen and the idea of perfect only gets in the way of making the pages yours.  Remember it is meant as a journal, not the fancy Art Journal where the pages must be beautiful works of art, but as a record of your thoughts, observations, and experiences.  
A journal journal that's real and a reflection of you and your life.  Go!  Smash some of your life today into those pages:  receipts, recipes, drawings, photos, thoughts and all.  It will be beautiful because it will be uniquely you.  I know that's what I cannot wait to see in December, the completely unique approaches, the beauty that we each placed on the pages that reflects who we are and where we are at that day the page came to be smashed together.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Art from my classroom.

My sixth grade students are working on watercolor koi fish and while they painted today I drew and painted a few more koi myself. In only about ten minutes of course before I had to answer a question and settle a disagreement.
I am working on Stonehenge paper here that was left over from another class making accordion books, so it was folded before I drew on it (causing my washes to settle in the creases). I used a Uniball Vision Elite pen, which I assumed would be waterproof like a regular Uniball, but it is not it turns out, at all. My lines bled and blurred into my painting the longer I painted, or the longer they were wet really.  When I realized the pen wasn't waterproof and that the longer the sheet was wet the more paint that pulled out from the line, I started to try and play with the effect a bit as a way of adding value. As you can see from the photo, I am painting with classic Crayola watercolors. I have my regular Daniel Smith colors with me but I was curious what I could do with the sets in my room and they were out from my demonstration on my counter so it was easy to go from what I was doing to a little bit of play in a peaceful moment.
What I do know is that I am putting these in my bag to take home and add to a Not-So-Blank-Journal page when I get home.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dead Robin

This robin hit my dining room window and died in the yard below.  I happened to be standing nearby when it hit the window and a dead bird is sad but a perfect sketching opportunity.  My family thought I was a little strange sitting with a dead bird on the porch but I am sure they will get over it and I have to say if it happens again I will repeat my actions and draw the victim.
Handmade journal with Rives BFK, Faber-Castell PITT pen size F, Daniel Smith watercolors.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sketching at the Minnesota Zoo

I have been so behind on scanning and posting my work this fall.  It is not because I haven't been out sketching but mostly because I have been busy and would rather spend my time making art than scanning art.  To try and remedy this situation I am going to be doing a couple of quick posts this week and next with simply a few images and minimal text, showing some of my sketching out adventures from this fall.
Hornbill sketch in handmade book on Rives BFK,
PITT pen size F, Daniel Smith watercolors.
Sketched from life a the MN Zoo.
These sketches are from the end of September at the Minnesota Zoo where I spent an afternoon sketching and enjoying beautiful fall weather outdoors with a good friend and her young daughter.  We had a great day sketching, enjoying the animals and each other's company.

Oaks on the grounds of the MN Zoo in Apple Valley.
Handmade book with Rives BFK paper, Faber-Castell PITT calligraphy
pen, Daniel Smith watercolor

Sunday, November 3, 2013

October MCBA Visual Journal Collective Meeting Recap

For the October meeting of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective, local artist and creativity coach Briana Goetzen came and gave a presentation on the Gelli Arts Printing plate.  Let me just say, her demonstration was fantastic!  
Briana brought along her Gelli plate and set it up right in the flexi space at MCBA.  It is small (8x10) and portable, coming in a plastic shell type box that works for storage and transportation.  It needs no special set-up, you simply take it out of the case and apply paint.  The Gelli plate is really quite magic for making monoprints in the quickest possible fashion using any acrylic paint, texture tools , stencils, or stamps.  Results are instant, dry really quickly, and it turns out you don't even need to wash the plate between prints (bonus).  

Briana showed a number of different techniques for the printing plate highlighting it's versatility and ease of use.  One of her first recommendations was to use multiple colors of paint in the same print, blobbing them on the plate, allowing them to blend with a brayer.  Textures and shapes are then applied to the wet paint layer by simply pressing them into the paint on the plate.  Prints are lifted from the plate by rubbing the back of the sheet and pulling it up.  The process is seamless and enjoyable.  Once the plate is set up and your paints are out it really is quite addictive.

She also showed how easy it was to layer prints on top of each other creating new interesting layered effects.  Sheets that have been printed dry fast, and with no need to wipe or clean the late between images, a quick rhythm of making image after image, experimenting as you go becomes apparent. 
Participants on hand got to try the plate themselves, we had two Gelli Plates on hand and plenty of paper and paints.  Nearly everyone who tried was instantly in love with the plate and its potential.  It was so easy to use and the options for different ways to create prints are nearly endless, allowing for each artist to put their own spin on how and what they create on the plate.
If you enjoy mono printing, pastepaper, or gelatin prints, you will love the Gelli plate.  That it is durable (real gelatin is not) and easy to use makes it all the more enjoyable.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

MCBA Visual Journal Collective October Meeting Reminder

Our regular monthly meeting of the Visual Journal Collective is coming up on  
Monday, October 21st from 7-9 pm. at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

As our special guest speaker we will have local Twin Cities artist and creativity coach Briana Goetzen on hand to show us the magic of the Gelli Arts gel printing plate.  Briana's artwork is vibrant and joyful and she is a mirror of that work.  Our meeting is sure to be exciting as Briana will talk with us about using the gel plate in her personal work and demonstrate some techniques for using the plate to create mono-prints and backgrounds (you can watch a brief video that Briana created about using the plate here).
Meeting attendees will then have the opportunity to try the plate for themselves, with some available paints and paper.  It is sure to be a blast!
As usual, we will also have time at the end of the meeting for sharing our current journals.
I hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Contour Line Practice

In my classroom, we began the school year with a unit on contour line drawing. My students struggle with the idea that everyone can learn to draw and complain for days while we draw cans and shoes. Of course any of them who are honestly trying and taking each day as further practice are awe struck by the fact that they are seeing improvement in their drawings. They also complain about me making them use pen. Relax, draw, stress less about mistakes and be confident in your line, I repeat in my room like a mantra to the young teenagers that are now positive that I am some sort of art monster sent to torture them with shoes and a uniball pen.
Through the days I also tried to draw with them at their tables as much as possible, sometimes just to calm my mind and other times to talk them through tough spots in their own work. As a result, I made this lovely line drawing of my husband's oldest pair of combat boots.  It feels to me like a portrait and is my favorite of the many shoes I drew those first two weeks of school.
I highly recommend a week or two of focused contour line drawing with only a pen and simple subjects like pop cans or shoes. It is like boot camp and after a bout of it with my students I always feel like my skills feel less rusty and more ready to draw anything I may feel the need to tackle.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

MCBA Visual Journal Collective August Meeting ~ A Sketch Out!

Sketch from a recent outing to Gold Medal Park.
Faber-Castell PITT calligraphy pen and watercolor wash

Join us for a practice sketchout at Gold Medal Park in Minneapolis just a couple blocks from MCBA, on Monday, August 19th from 7-9 p.m.. We will meet at the corner of  South 2nd Street and 10th Ave., right at the base of the spiral path. There is street and ramp parking available in this area or you may arrive early and walk over from MCBA.

We will gather as a group at the park at 7p.m. rather than walk over from MCBA (although it is a quick walk) to allow as much time to sketch as possible.  I will give new sketchers some tips, I will pair up experienced sketchers with new sketchers as needed and we will draw whatever is in the park that evening.  
Gold Medal Park is right along the river, with great landscape and river views, as well as city sights, including walkers, bikers, picnics, dogs, birds, trees, etc.  This is the perfect opportunity to gain confidence and build your skills for sketching in public.  This is also a great warm up for the Fifth Annual Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out on August 27th.
Bring your journal, a favorite pen or pencil, travel palette and water brush, a folding chair if you like to sit when you sketch, a sun hat or sun glasses, some drinking water, and bug spray (in case the mosquitos are out).  Remember to travel light, you will be hauling whatever you bring along with you while you are drawing.  

We will stop drawing at about 8:30 and meet back at our starting place to share images created and discuss any "ah-ha" moments from the sketch out experience.

Roz Stendahl will be putting up signs at MCBA as a reminder of our location change for the evening and will walk over with late-comers, leaving MCBA at 7:10 p.m.

If it is raining around 7 p.m. we will meet at MCBA and have an indoor sketchout for practice instead.
Google map showing MCBA (marked with flag) and it's relationship to Gold Medal Park.
We will meet at the beginning of the spiral path, near the park sign at 7 p.m.
MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.—Gold Medal Park, Minneapolis—Practice Sketch Out 

The spot we are meeting for the August Journal Collective Sketch-Out via a Google Street View image.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hand•Book Journal Company's Handmade Watercolor Book ~ A Review

 In early May I found myself waiting for a friend and wandered into an art supply store to pass the time. Of course this activity is problematic, wandering in a store full of tantalizing goods leads to unplanned purchases.  My unplanned purchase of the day was a watercolor sketchbook, that lured me with a beautiful orange-brown cover, a hint of rough, deckle edged paper, and a square shape to seal the deal. I have been working in this book and have covered it's seemingly lovely pages with all manor of watercolor paintings and journaling.  Over the course of this exploration I have stumbled upon a few things not quite to my liking and a few things really wrong with this book.  The details of my findings follow.
The Basics:

Made by Global Art Materials/Hand•Book Journal Co. according to the label on the book when purchased, although their webpage does not show this product.
The book contains 48 handmade watercolor paper pages, complete with slightly irregular sheet size and deckle edges.  The sheets are white, rough, 140 lbs/300 gsm, both internally and externally sized, acid-free and archival, and made from 100% recycled material.
The version I purchased is 8x8 inches but the line of books comes in a range of seven different sizes.
The book is hardcover bound with sewn signatures and made in India.
All of the above information comes from the label on the band that came on the book itself.
I paid $30, which seems to be the price that I find it being offered for online as well.


At left the full book open on the table.  Center image shows the minimal connection between cover and book block, along with the shift of loosen thread.  At right a view of the spine when closed, showing the three signatures.

The Construction:

This is a hardbound, sewn signature binding.  The book has three signatures that are sewn together with thread.  Those signatures are glued to the cover and are only being held in place by about an inch of glue at the base of the end-sheet and first signature (see photo on the right, showing this small attachment at the back of the book).

The signatures in this book are sewn together but they are unsupported, meaning that they are being held together by just the thread, there is no mull/super, tapes, or glue involved.  Typically this type of book would have some form of support along the spine and the signatures would be fully glued into the case using the full first and last pages of the book block or by using fully glued end-sheets, creating a structure that is fully supported and stable, spreading the weight and wear of the book across a system.

This means that the thread that was used to stitch the book together is the only thing supporting the book at the spine, making for a weak structure.  The thread that was used in this book is stretching (see photos, at left - I shouldn't be able to slide my finger under the thread inside a well sewn signature and there should be no large gap like the one shown), causing the book to begin to loosen up, meaning that with any further use this book will fall apart into separate pieces of paper that used to be a book.

This loosening can be seen in the book now, pages are beginning to slide away from each other by as much as a half an inch.The signatures don't even line up with each other anymore unless you wiggle the book a bit. You can see this in the photo at the right, where the folds of the two signatures are completely shifted from the pages that are open.


In the series of three images above, you can see the further impact of the poor construction on the book as  a whole.  On the next to last spread, which is shown in the first image, as I opened the page to work on it gaps open by nearly half an inch to a previous image several pages back.  This makes the new page a little hard to work on without impacting the painting on the other spread.  Any wash will leak back and ruin the already complete page.  This has caused me to leave the last two spreads blank, which is a shame, until you consider how I feel about the paper (keep reading, I explain).
In the center image you can see this shifting as the page opens with a gap in the image that was painted across the spread originally in the first signature of the book.
This same gap effect can also been seen in the image on the right, which was painted across the spread in the book's third signature.  I have to say at this point the book shifts and slides every time it is opened.  Luckily I recognized the signs of a book on it's way to unbinding itself and have been very careful while I finished the last signature, or I fear it would already be in pieces being held together in a ziploc bag in my studio.

The Paper:

The paper in this journal is a heavily textured watercolor paper, sheets are handmade, about 140 lb./300 gsm, with full deckle edges.  According to the label the sheets are internally and externally sized, made from recycled material, and are archival.  I was attracted to the deckle edges and the idea of working on rough watercolor paper when I purchased this book.  I very often work on printmaking paper of some sort or on a smooth mixed media surface, so the idea of a change to watercolor paper was exciting in it's possibility.
The first challenge of this paper was all mine ~ the texture, because I am used to a smooth paper transitioning to this very rough surface was a bit of a shock.  I quickly discovered that the fine pens that I tend to use were very difficult to draw with on this sheet as they skipped over the texture and left a spotty line.  I have rediscovered the joy of working with my heavier brush and calligraphy pens which deliver a nice bold line over and between all the texture.  Since managing my reaction to the texture and getting used to drawing on the sheet, I am really liking the textured surface and may continue to work on paper with more texture in the future.
The remaining challenge of this paper is all in manufacturing ~ inconsistency.

Some of the sheets in the book are incredibly heavily sized, so sized that they have an unpleasant, plastic surface.  The sheets that are oversized are hard to work on because the paint pools and sits on top of the surface of the sheet.  Paint that sits on the size takes a long time to dry and does not always stay where you want it to be, often lifting or bleeding (see image below left, the orange paint has created a halo outside the line of the drawing as the paint sits and dries in the size layer, you can also notice the dramatic color brightness difference between this super sized sheet and the under sized sheet the rooster image is on at the right).  This is especially noticeable if you go back over an area to glaze or add color, very common in watercolor painting, even if the area has dried a long time, the color underneath can lift completely when a new layer is added.  Ink also lifts on these heavily sized sheets, causing lines, words, and dates to blur, lighten and disappear altogether when paint is added over the top (see image above left where the date has lifted when a light wash was applied over the top).  I had this ink lift happen even after the pen had dried for as long as 20 minutes or even the next day.  These sheets also do not take glue stick or tape.  The only method of attaching items to the page that worked was to use PVA, heavy burnishing, and drying under weight, which is a lot of time and mess for attaching small things to a page.  (see the image above right, where Washi tape is not stuck to the sheet but it is to the envelope glued to the page)
Contrastingly, some of the sheets seem to have no size at all.  These under or unsized sheets have a napkin like feeling on the sheet surface versus the plastic like surface of the super sized sheets.  When paint is added to the unsized sheets it is instantly sucked into the sheet, dulling the color, and not allowing for any movement of the wash on the page (see close up of the rooster face at right, where the colors are dulled and a shadow of red has clearly spread into the green around the head.  This image was so muddied after paint was applied that I redrew over the top of the paint with a heavier black pen when it was dry to save the image).  These unsized sheets also let the color that is placed on the page bleed well past where you think the color should go as soon as you add it to the page.  These sheets do not perform like watercolor paper at all and are highly frustrating to paint on when watercolor paper is what you are expecting and paid for.  They are also doubly frustrating considering that the sheets previous were so completely different to work on that the shift is stunning and a completely different skill set is needed to manage the page.  There is no pattern to the sheets in the book, it isn't a back of one sheet is unsized versus the front being over sized it is random, some are sized, some are not.
As if this wasn't bad enough there is a third type of sheet ~ the mixed sheet.  These sheets have areas that are super sized and areas that are unsized creating a changing paint environment as the page is worked on from one area to the next.  I have to say that these sheets were the most demanding as a painting changed part way across the image, creating an irritating shift in paint application depending on the area being worked on.

In Summary:

Although I did manage to tough this book out and get a few pages that I am quite happy with (see this peony spread for example) overall, it has been an extremely frustrating experience.  I understand that it is my years of painting and drawing that allowed me to even continue to move forward in the journal and I constantly had to remind myself that to be challenged can be healthy.  I fear for anyone who is new to painting or journaling purchasing this book, as I think they could become discouraged and give up thinking that it was them and not having the experience with materials to understand that it is the paper.  
I am now looking back on the experience of forcing myself through rather than giving up, setting this book on the shelf and saying oh well and asking  - Why'd I do it?  What did I learn? 
One of the reasons why is that I paid $30.  Considering the major issues this book has, this book is not worth $30 especially considering that the same money can buy a really beautifully made book with lovely paper.  But I felt I owed myself an honest attempt after spending that much on the book, rather than just setting it aside.
As far as what I learned, that takes some thought.  I learned that I like textured paper and I am looking forward to using a book on my shelf that has toned, textured paper now rather than being nervous about using it.  I learned that I enjoy a bolder line than I usually use in my work and I will try to keep using my brush pens moving forward rather than going back to my smaller pens immediately.
Mostly, I learned the hard way why I have gone back to making my own books, I control the paper and the construction knowing what will happen with both.  Even if I experiment with a new paper in a structure, I know it will not be as bad as this paper was and at least the book will be made well.
I also confirmed that I can push myself passed something that isn't quite right and continue to work. Some of the pages turned out well because I was never thinking it would be perfect because I knew that the paper wasn't going to allow for that level.
That is what  really want to hang onto - no need for perfect - just the need to keep pushing the pen and the paint around on the sheet.  No matter how it turns out, it is where I am that matters, and the journey will continue one page at a time.

PS ~ You can see "every page" (pages with only writing omitted) from this book here in a Flickr set.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Playing with Color

I have been playing around with bold color in my sketchbook the last few days. Partiality because it's fun and partially because I need to use up the last few spreads in a book I don't like that much.  Of course there are things I do like about the the book, one of which is the texture of the paper. It has been along time since I painted on rough textured paper and I like the change. Mostly I do not like the book's inconsistencies and poor construction, both of which make working in it more frustrating than fun, which is never what you want from a sketchbook.
I should also mention that I am playing with a mobile post for the first time. So this is a bit of an experiment the same as my colorful pages.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Last Year's Sketch, This Year's Button

A pile of buttons for this year's sketch out at the fair.
For this year's Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out, Roz Stendahl asked me to design the button!  It was fun to look back through my four years of sketching at the fair and thinking about which images would stand out best on a button.  I have to say that I ended up making three designs and that this sheep from last year's book was the most striking and my third button attempt.

A section of my 2012 Minnesota State Fair Journal, showing the sheep
drawing used for this year's button design.
Strathmore 500 Mixed Media paper, Sharpie pen, Daniel Smith watercolor
In the image above you can see the page where the sheep sketch came from.  I scanned the sheep at a higher resolution and cropped out the green tea slushy before importing my image to PhotoShop.  In PhotoShop I further cropped the image to conform with the button template constraints and began adding text.
When I started with my first button idea, I realized that my PhotoShop skills had gotten a little rusty and I had a few false starts before regaining the hang of the program.  By the time I got to this guy I had pretty much figured it all out again and I was having fun creating the design for the button.
After cropping and resizing the image, I added the text that needed to go on the button, playing of course with fonts, sizes, location, and colors.  The button still seemed boring and bland (mostly white & black) so I decided that it needed a color pop and I used PhotoShop to color in the background area orange.  This created a great graphic feel and caused me to change the 5 in the design to a nice complementary blue.  Tada! We had a winner.

My collection of State Fair Sketch Out buttons. 
So, how do you get a button of your own?  Join us at the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday, August 27th and sketch, paint, draw, or journal.  We will meet as a group at 4:30 p.m. near one of the Ag-Hort and Food buildings (more specific info posted later) to share our work and fair stories.  For some of the folks at the fair sketching, this will be the end of their day and for others it will be the beginning.  If you can't make the fair that day but do get there to sketch in the two weeks it's open, let me know and I can work on getting you a button.
You can also check out Roz's post over at the Artists' Journal Workshop about the upcoming sketch out and watch for more details here later in August including details about a pre-fair sketch-out in Gold Medal Park for practice on August 19th at 7 p.m..
Roz's post about the buttons.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Virtual Paintout July 2013 - 84 Smith Street

84 Smith Street
Faber-Castell PITT pen in black size S, Daniel Smith watercolor,
Hand•book handmade watercolor journal, full spread 8x16 inches
This month's Virtual Paintout location is Charleston, SC.  I found this view of Charleston the very first drop of the orange peg man in Streetview and fell in love with it because of the large imposing tree.  I always find sunny scenes to be difficult to paint as it feels wrong as you are painting to add in the extremely dark darks you need to make the view look truly sunny.  This view was very sunny but nearly all of the image is encompassed by the shadow of the tree.  I do not feel like I was extremely successful in getting it to look very sunny or very shady but I had fussed around enough with this page and decided to call it finished whether it was right or not.  At least after finishing I can recognize that in order for the scene to look more brightly sunny I need to increase my dark range and push the shadows deeper and darker.  Hopefully, that helps me learn and next time I paint a sunny scene I have the courage to get those darks on the paper and do not chicken out because it feels wrong.

The Virtual Paintout is an online virtual sketch-out where a new location is posted each month and artists use Google Streetview to locate a scene or view that they would like to paint or draw in that location.  Work is then emailed in and posted on blog and a Facebook page run by Bill Guffy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Creekside Chickens ~ year two

Sketched using a Faber-Castell PITT artist pen in cool grey with a brush tip,
Daniel Smith watercolors, in an India Handmade Hand•Book watercolor journal,  8x16 full spread size
 On Sunday, July 7th the MetroSketchers group met in the backyard of Sophie and Chris near Minnehaha Park to draw their small flock of chickens for a second year.  This year they have new chickens, a flock of six that they got as one day old chicks back in April, one of which was a rooster by mistake, which was being relocated to a small farm after we sketched that afternoon.  It was a typically hot July afternoon and the chickens were not very social, in terms of mingling with sketchers in the yard.  For most of the afternoon they huddled together in a small corner at the back, forcing us to all be grouped in and around said corner at the back to better see the chickens.
Sketched using a Faber-Castell PITT artist pen in cool grey with a brush tip,
Daniel Smith watercolors, drawn over the top with a Faber-Castell calligraphy pen in black,
in an India Handmade Hand•Book watercolor journal,  8x16 full spread size
 I got to the event about a half hour late, after a few quick chicken gestures and seeing that the chickens were staying put in terms of location, I decided to sit on the back steps and sketch a portion of my view.  Chris and Sophie really have a lovely backyard, with hanging baskets, lights, small sculptures, and flower beds.  They also had about twenty or so people in lawn chairs quietly sketching, so even not drawing chickens, there was plenty to draw.
By about two-fifteen most of the sketchers were starting to be hot and restless and Sophie was bringing out some refreshments and the chickens saw this as the perfect time to begin moving through the yard.  I guess after seeing us sit quietly in chairs for over two hours they decided we were safe to mingle with after all.  From my perch at the back steps I was able to finally sketch a trio of the chickens.  I was also able to snap a couple of photos for use as reference later.  It was one of those reference photos that I used to finish the part of a sketch that I got of Horatio, the rooster, later that afternoon at home to finish the spread in my journal.
I am currently working my way through a journal that I impulse bought while waiting for a friend in an art supply store.  I am nearly finished and will post my thoughts on the book, because I have many, in a later post.  For now let's just say that this book has been a frustrating learning experience and just when I thought I had made peace with it and its paper, I turned the page and drew chickens and began to paint and discovered that these next few sheets are completely different from the rest of the book that I am just over halfway through using.
Right now let me just say that two important lessons are already becoming evident as I use this book.  Lesson one: don't ever impulse buy a book because it looks interesting while waiting for a friend.  Lesson two: I make my own books for a very real reason.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Peony from my garden-
Handbook brand journal, PITT Brush pen in cool grey, Daniel Smith watercolors
7.5x16 inches
After looking at this peony, that I cut from my garden specifically to draw, for three days I finally sat down and just made myself do it.  I have been thinking it was too complex and that I could never get it right and that it would take forever.... Basically whining to myself that I am not good enough or that I do not have the time and letting that little voice win.
Well today, after reading Danny Gregory's post about that voice, the one we all have that keeps us from doing whatever it is we truly love to do, I just did rather than talk myself out of it.  And as always it feels good.  Feels good to have a finished page, good to have spent an hour painting, and good to not have listened to that nasty little voice in my head telling me I am no good.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sketching Makes Anything Better

Uncomfortable situation one: Catholic Mass on a Saturday afternoon; had to be there to hear the hubby and his quartet sing.
Uncomfortable situation two: Front row - enough said.
How to deal with this dilemma?  Draw.
Now I create uncomfortable number three:  I usually draw in pen with watercolor for shadows/finish work, a little cumbersome considering #2, so I grab a nub of a water-soluble graphite from the bottom of my bag and proceed to draw the Mary statue above the alter, on the paper they so nicely gave me on my way in.  Small pencil, same paper we all are holding, perfect.
With the strong light and my close angle her face is all deep shadows and I loved that she looked a bit creepy.
Perfect remedy to #1 on the list.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Winter Continues

Daniel Smith watercolor, white gouache,
and Faber Castell PITT pen in a handmade
journal with fawn colored Stonehenge paper
Winter wants to hang on here in Minnesota.  This was the scene outside of the Minnetonka Center for the Arts on April 12th and I needed to use white gouache to show the drifts of new snow we had gotten the day before.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Quick Everyday Objects

A couple of recent quick sketches from my journal.  I have been using the Faber-Castell PITT calligraphy pen to draw a quick contour line drawing and then filling in with a quick wash of Daniel Smith watercolor; each sketch took about fifteen minutes start to finish.  My current journal is hand made with fawn colored Stonehenge paper, which I haven't used in a while and had forgotten how much I like it.
The fun thing about this pen is that it gives a great line that is variable and I find that drawing with it fast forces me to distill the visual information down to it's basic shapes without getting hung up on fussy details. A quick splash of some watercolor, in both sketches I only used Indanthrone Blue and Burnt Sienna, and the page is full in about fifteen minutes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Upcoming Not-So-Blank-Page Project

My crow (watercolor on added in paper) on
Roz's Squiggle background (see original below)
On Monday February 18th Roz Stendahl and I unveiled the new collaborative project for the MCBA Visual Journal Collective.  The project is called "The-Not-So-Blank-Page" and involves the group creating a collaborative custom "smash" journal.  Participants in the project will create two unique, original backgrounds that will be photocopied and become a part of the spiral bound journal that each person will fill between the April meeting (when we deliver the books) and the December meeting when we will have a simultaneous viewing party.

Examples of pages from the project prototype. . .

Roz's Squiggle background made
as an example for our upcoming
collaborative journal project
As preparation for this project Roz and I exchanged a couple of backgrounds via computer and I ran and had example copies made into a small prototype journal to experiment in with different art materials and to test the nature of the pages when they came in contact with water based products like paint.
I discovered that the copies took watercolor and a wide range of other art supplies fairly well.
My watercolor pear on Roz's photocopied background.
I was testing the paper and the copy to be sure both
stood up to water based journal work.
The photocopied image is very waterproof, none of the pages I worked on bled or changed due to the water in my paint and sheets only buckled somewhat after having paint applied; the image above has paint on both sides and some buckle is evident.  As you can see in the image above, the copy does resist the color, which makes very heavily imaged sheets a bit more challenging to work on than sheets that are more open or white.  I dealt with that problem by either letting the paint sit and soak in (interesting effects as can be seen in my heron page posted on Roz's blog post about the project) or by adding my journal elements on via collage (crow above, and both of the following examples).

On the left: my background made as an example for the project
On the right: my art work and collage element on the page

On the left: Roz's background made as an example for the project
On the right: my art work and collage elements on the page

Interested?  Keep reading.
How to be involved . . .

The Details:

Each person will create two separate 8 1/2 x 11 (portrait orientation) original backgrounds - 
        Work only on one side of the paper you use, do not sign your work.  Label the back of each page with your name, neatly printed and either "page A" for right handed page or "page B" for left handed page.  See the example diagram below which includes two pages front view, showing how they will be bound and a back view of each page, labeled correctly.  Because of printing limitations each sheet will lose about an 1/8 inch around all sides - be sure to keep any key elements away from the very edge of your pages.
All artwork will be photocopied for use in this project, with that in mind please keep all artwork flat and do not use anything that you do not have the copyright for in your background.  
Keep in mind that other artists will be using your page as a backdrop for their journal page at some point in the project, any element that you include can or will be covered, distorted, altered, or changed to suit the needs or desires of the new owner of the page.  All art work created on pages become the copyright of the artist who worked on the page, your background will only be your background when it is empty of another artist's work.
No pages can be removed!  We will view these together and want to see what each person does to each page, it would be no fun at all if we get to your page and it is missing!  If you make a "mistake" or really struggle with a background challenge yourself to work around it by adding a collage sheet over the problem area or using gesso to lighten a problem spot, etc.  There are lots of ways to continue to work and change a page for the better without resorting to its removal.

Backgrounds need to be complete and turned in at the March 18, 2013 Collective meeting along with a check to cover photocopying and binding costs associated with the project.  We are not making any profit on these books, we are only charging each person exactly what it costs to create the journal.  Costs are to be figured based on the number of participants x $.50 photocopy costs +$2.75 binding. (if 30 people participate the cost will be $18)
Payment is due when you turn in your artwork at the March 18th meeting, we will know at that point how many people are joining in on the fun and can give a price to all involved.  Please be prepared to pay with cash or check, made out to me, Suzanne Hughes, as I am the one who will be dealing with the copies and book production.
If you can not make the meeting but want to participate, please send your art work to: Roz Stendahl, P.O. Box 141434, Minneapolis, MN 55414. (Roz doesn't get mail delivery before the Collective on Monday so she needs to have your artwork in hand on Saturday to ensure you're in the count.) 
Mail in participants will be notified of the final cost, contacted (include email when mailing work), and will need to respond by March 19th that they are still participating and mail a check to the same address by March 25.
If you are unable to pick up your journal at the April meeting you will need to let either Roz or me know so alternate arrangements can be made for delivery of your book (potential fee for postage, pick up on Open Studio night at MCBA, or the May meeting as a last resort).

Additional information, examples, and details can be found at Roz's blog post about the project.