Wednesday, September 2, 2020

 Sketching Fall from your Window

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Nature Journaling & New online classes in July/August 2020

We should not expect to 
make perfect art in our journals, instead
we should expect some
great journeys. (me)

Nature Journaling: Drawing from you window

Since March, I've been teaching Zoom classes on sketching and drawing. In particular,we've been exploring the nature journal. Up to a few weeks ago, we were under orders to be inside, so we did a lot of work from our windows--both in the house and the car. While things have loosened up a bit, we're still continuing the same journey. Fortunately, we can get out more and take pictures or spend some time observing the real, natural beauty around us.

This type of journaling seems endless with possibilities. Nature itself is filled with a plethora of subjects: flowers, birds, squirrels, fruits, vegetables, trees, herbs, grasses, weeds, rocks, butterflies, bees and so on. In fact, what I've learned so far, is that nature is usually all around us in one way or the other. Even living in a high rise, you'll see insects, plants on your deck (or someone else's) and birds.

Why from the window? Well, during these times when we're supposed to keep our distance and wear masks, it seems prudent to begin from your window. I began this journey back in 2011. It was a dreary winter. Gray, gray skies, seemingly blue mood. I picked up my journal and began drawing what I saw outside my studio window--dating it, commenting on the weather, even going to the Internet to learn more about what I was seeing.

Look above,that's my first journal page back in February of 2011. (You should be able to enlarge the drawing by clicking on it.) You'll notice it's not fancy, just some simple drawings and comments. Although it may not seem like much, when you are stuck inside on a cold winter's day, the journal fills you with a connection otherwise lost.

The next day, I went to my window again and created another page. This one talked about all the birds in the yard and also how much I was wishing for spring.

Then, my curiosity was nudged, well, more like pushed. I wanted to learn more about the birds I was seeing that day. So I went online and found four of them: scrub jay, dark-eyed junco, nut hatch and house sparrow. Except for my art journaling where I use collage, painting and words, I seldom used pictures in my other journals. I was so excited about what I learned. I printed out the photos of each bird from Wikipedia (for personal use only), pasted them inside my journal and then wrote what I learned about each bird. 

This may seem silly, but suddenly my journal was more than sketches, thoughts, paint, words. It became a study for me. I went from subject to subject learning more about what I was observing as well as what I was translating in my journal through art and words.

What's more, I didn't care what my artwork looked like. This was MINE. I wasn't going to exhibit it, try to sell it or even submit it in a contest. This was my journey with my journal. It changed over the years. Depending on my mood, I would go real tight with the illustrations or go simply wild. It just doesn't matter. 

That first year, in April the sun finally came out. It was so gloomy. But to be honest nine years later, I really don't remember the gloom. That's another reason this type of journaling is great because you have a record of what was happening outside your window.
Going through my journals to prepare for this article was fun. I'm amazed how much I experimented and tried different techniques. In a way, my nature journals seem to have been my laboratory. A place to learn, to grow and to relax. 

A few years later around the same time, I wrote about daffodils and how I painted the flower in the journal.

That same year I started to do more detailed studies.

So what is a nature journal? It's really what you make it. You write, paint, draw, cut and paste and just be you.

From start in March, we have studied all sorts of subjects online from amphibians to vegetables. Since my classes are in the middle of the week and during the day, it's hard for folks to take them. So I'm going to give you a list again the may help you get through the next 30 days. Even though we are able to get out and about more, most of us are still being careful by staying inside, so maybe this nature journal challenge will help.

  1. Tomatoes on the vine
  2. Corn stalks, corn on the cob
  3. Watermelon, inside and out
  4. Cherries
  5. Pears
  6. Calla lilies
  7. Tiger lilies
  8. Rose
  9. Backyard tree (or in front)
  10. Tree bark
  11. Leaves
  12. Twig
  13. Fern
  14. Lavender bush
  15. Beans
  16. Peas
  17. Rocks
  18. Pebbles
  19. Water in a glass
  20. Tea
  21. Sandwich
  22. BBQ
  23. Lawn chair
  24. Lounge chair
  25. Ivy
  26. Melon cut open
  27. Bird Bath
  28. Robin
  29. Scrub jay
  30. Bird feeder
Some photo resources
Don't have some of the stuff on this list in your front or back yards, then go up to the following places to get free photos to use:

These are the sites I use to capture the subjects I want to work on. In fact, even if I have the object on hand, I'll go up and find a photo just for details.

Coming Soon!
Want to learn more about nature journaling? Join us on Zoom. It really is easier than we all thought, and you get to see all my demonstrations up close and personal!

Tuesdays and Wednesdays
10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
$90 per class, per five-week session

Creating a Nature Journal from Your Window
Subject: Flowers

Media: Pencil, pen, colored pencils,  
watercolor (paint and pencil) and gouache
Supply list provided upon registration

Tuesday mornings: July 28--August 25
Wednesday mornings: July 29--August 26 (full)
To register, email:

Monday, June 8, 2020

Choosing the right papers/Openings in online drawing classes

Drawing and Painting Papers
There is a lot of confusion regarding what papers are good for drawing and what are good for painting. Plus, it doesn’t help when you go to the art store or look online and see so many choices. When preparing for this article, I went up to Dick Blick and found 97 different papers. Geez. That’s a lot of paper. Hopefully, this article will give you the basic generalities that may help you make some informed choices.

Paper has several different surfaces that accommodate several different media and tools. To choose wisely, you first have to consider the medium you are using and then match it to the appropriate paper.
If you are drawing with a #2 pencil and taking illustrative notes for later, you can use simple bond paper. Most of today’s copy paper is good enough to withstand pencil, several types of pens, light coloring with crayons and  colored pencil and ball point pens. But by no means do you add water to these pages because they will buckle.

Why? It’s all about weight and texture. While this is probably not the best place to write a treatise on this subject, it’s enough to say that not all papers are the same. Some papers are super thin, like vellum and tracing paper. Then there are drawing papers that can be textured, smooth and weigh anything from 20# (usually bond paper) to 300# (watercolor). There are newsprint papers that are rough, absorbent and fade in time (don’t use if you want to keep the drawings) and even sanded papers (good for pastels).

Weight lb vs gsm
Let us cover weight of the paper, as this causes the most confusion. Paper is classified by its weight, thickness based on a ream of paper (500 sheets). So if you were going to be buying the standard 140# watercolor paper, that is telling you that it’s heavier than 20# bond paper,

Now to really add more to the mix:  have you noticed papers are listed in lbs, gsm or both? What’s that?  In the United States, we use pounds to weigh paper, while the rest of the world using grams per square meters (GSM).

Knowing the difference is really important, especially when you want to use wet materials on paper. If it’s not heavy enough, the paper will buckle. Below you will find a list of papers at watercolor weights.
  • 90 lb (190 gsm),
  • 140 lb (300 gsm),
  • 260 lb (356 gsm),
  • 300 lb (638 gsm)

The general rule is:  paper that weighs less than 90# (190 gsm) shouldn’t be used with a wet medium. Having said that though, you should still tack down your 90# and 140# because the paper will most likely buckle without securing the edges. Three hundred pound paper is sturdy enough to withstand everything.
Below you will find a chart I found on the inside of the Canson XL recycled papers. It’s very informative and something you can use. Click on it to make it larger.

Cotton vs. wood pulp
As we know, especially if you live in Oregon, most papers are made out of wood pulp. That’s fine for copiers, office printers, books, stationary, and such. But when it comes to art, the distinction is big.  Although I do a lot of my sketching and quick-draw art on wood pulp paper, I set aside my important work for 100% cotton (or what’s called rag).

I recommend using 100% cotton (with a few exceptions) for both drawing and painting. Back in the early 2000s, I took a watercolor painting class. I was a novice so I bought all my supplies straight from the instructor’s material list, which included Strathmore watercolor paper. I really struggled in the class because I never was able to achieve that soft, blended watercolor look. It always seemed to come out splotchy.
Then I took a workshop at PCC, and the instructor introduced me to cotton paper. What a difference, the paint just flowed lovely over the paper. The reason the other paper didn’t work was that the paint was sitting on the paper instead of soaking into the fibers.

In time, I learned that I got better results when working on cotton paper even when drawing (pencil, pen, pastels, colored pencil, etc.). I usually use Stonehenge, Canson Edition, and Pentalic Nature Sketch. As for watercolor paper, I use 100% cotton hot press for drawing and cold press for painting, manufactured by Arches, Fabriano and Saunders-Waterford. Of course there are other brands that I can use, but the most important thing to look for is paper weight and what type of paper you are using.

Next month
I’ll cover types of art paper, smooth and textured, including some manufacturers and why I like them.

What coming up?

All classes are now online via Zoom
Tuesdays and Wednesdays
10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
$90 per five-week session

Creating a Nature Journal from Your Window
Trees from crown to roots

Media: Pencil, pen, watercolor and gouache
Supply list provided upon registration

Tuesday mornings: June 16--July 14
Wednesday mornings: June 17-July 15 Full

To register, email:

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Creativity While at Home--Online Classes: Nature Journaling from Your Window

Well, we're in the midst of "stay-at-home" orders. For those of us who don't have an essential job or who can work from home, we've been patiently following orders. That's good; it does save lives. As time goes by however, you may wonder how much longer can you manage to get through another day. I've read depression creeps in because we're stressed, grieving or just bored. Our American work ethic tells us to be productive, and if we can't, we're sort of at a loss.

This isn't new. There have been many plagues and quarantines before. In fact, my mother’s family was quarantined for a month because of scarlet fever in 1930s.  We have a history of people surviving quarantines and have had to face the same we are facing today (or even worse). With that in mind, some of us have even accomplished some rather powerful masterpieces because of it.

Take Shakespeare, it's claimed he wrote King Lear during isolation as well as Isaac Newton, who developed the laws of gravity and invented calculus all because of the plague. During the 1918 Flu, Edvard Munch painted Self Portrait with the Spanish Flu. He contracted the disease, but survived for another 25 years.

Isolation happens in life. Most of us have been rather lucky not to have done it often.  Mary Shelley, the author of the first science fiction work, Frankenstein, lived during “The Year without a Summer “ (also known as  "Poverty Year” and ”Eighteen Hundred & Frozen to Death”). While being confined in Switzerland with others, she wrote her masterpiece. By the way, if you want to take a few moments to learn how bad things were for everyone back  in 1815-16, go to this link. It makes me realize how awful life could get.

While in exile on Guernsey island, Victor Hugo completed his Les Miserables and Freda Kahlo did her first portrait while lying in bed recuperating from an accident. My point is when we are isolated, either through quarantine, exile or sickness, good things can happen.

So of course, as a drawing and painting teacher, I thought I could help with 30 days’ worth of projects. Let's draw or paint:
  1. An orange, apple, lemon
  2. A coffee cup
  3. A toaster
  4. A chair
  5. Your bedroom
  6. Your hand
  7. Your foot
  8. Jewelry
  9. Lamps
  10. Paint brushes, pencils in a cup holder
  11. Windows
  12. Stairs
  13. Pillows on a sofa
  14. A fried egg—sunny side-up or poached
  15. Comb (s)
  16. Stacks of books, using perspective technique
  17. Still life set-up created by you
  18. A hair brush/hair dryer
  19. Your pet (s)
  20. A kitchen mixer
  21. Lots of different breads
  22. A garden flower
  23. Bars of soap
  24. Landscape (cityscape) from  your window
  25. Your food pantry
  26. A bookcase
  27. Draped cloth over a stool or chair
  28. Water running from faucet (hint: take a photo)
  29. A finger nail
  30. A hat
Share with me your pieces if you like. Have a great month of May. Hang in there; we WILL get through this!

What coming up?

All classes are now online via Zoom
Tuesdays and Wednesdays
10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
$90 per five-week session

Creating a Nature Journal from Your Window

Media: Pencil, pen, watercolor and gouache
Supply list provided upon registration

Tuesday mornings: May 5-June 2
Wednesday mornings: May 6-June 3 Full

To register, email:

One more thought...
Interesting article from Reader’s  Digest:

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Online classes begin in May

Classes to migrate to online in May

Hope all of you are feeling okay and taking every precaution to stay well. I even made my own face mask (with felt liner) when they flew off the shelves.

Since we had our house up for sale (not anymore though) with plans to move out of the area, I was going to go online to teach my classes and workshops.  During the past month, I’ve been working with a core group of students who volunteered to help me toward this effort. Because of the virus, we decided to stop meeting in person and use Zoom to hold our classes. We had our first this Wednesday and it worked seamlessly. In fact, there seemed to be no difference in our social interaction and it became a nice break for everyone.

The plan
Right now we are up and running in the Wednesday class. I will be re-opening the Tuesday class in May. We will meet (via Zoom)  from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., study all forms of drawing (except charcoal) for $90 per five-week session or $18 a class. There is a minimum of four students and a max of 10, a limit to the US (International can come later) and eventually an offer for more drawing and painting classes on different days of the week. Workshops will follow.I want the classes to be smaller at first and then increase in size later.

·        The classes
All the classes and workshops will be taught in real time, totally live, no recordings. Here is my tentative format:
  •  Everyone joins the meeting via Zoom (it doesn’t cost you to use Zoom)
  • Meeting and  greeting--waiting for the whole group 
  • Class is called to order
  • Review of last week’s assignment
  • Introduction of the drawing technique and subject
  • Demonstration of both if necessary
  • About two hours of drawing with my help. Questions and advice can be asked here.
  • Show your work  with possible critique (if you want).
  • Next week’s subject will be discussed 
  • Photos are uploaded on my cloud for you to download—but you are encouraged to do the project in class. Most people don’t finish all their work in class anyway, so that’s usually the homework.
Why not start the online classes immediately? Maybe?
I still have some things to accomplish and don’t want to offer something to my students that hasn’t been totally thought out. However, if I have enough people interested, I can always be persuaded to try it earlier than May. Let me know:

Here’s a sample.Along with me seeing you and you seeing me, I am able to give you a very good demonstration(s) in class. Here’s one I have recorded.

Want to learn more? 
Contact me through email: