Once in a while, I take time to do a small oil painting. And once in a great while, I find a pomegranate in a bin of them where the pomegranate has a full crown. This one was a beauty, so I decided to paint its portrait:
Years ago I did several jobs for a client whose life story unfolded by way of a series of calligraphic pieces he commissioned me to do. First: a written song with which to woo a love interest. Then, a poem to honor their marriage. Then, a poem commemorating their firstborn child, his daughter. Some years later, a poem to help him through the pain of their divorce. A few years later, I gave the daughter a private calligraphy lesson at my dining room table. Following this came another poem to woo another love interest! The most recent assignment from him: a row of musical notes that would be tattooed on his arm. This last project was in 2008, I believe. You can see how the work of calligraphers can take on significance in the lives of our clients.
Fast forward: I have another tattoo design assignment, but not from my longtime client. A woman who has been working her way through numerous life (and death) challenges within her extended family is once again calling upon my skills as a calligrapher to bring power to the word. Her chosen word will be tattooed on her wrist so that at any moment from now to the time she is in her last moments of life on earth, she can look at the word and draw strength and solace from it. And, when she can no longer speak, she plans to raise her wrist in farewell to those who may be present! Below are the choices I wrote out for her last week. They haven't been polished yet; she will select one, and I will do some retouching of the calligraphy to suit the tattoo artist's requirements:
This is the version my client is leaning toward.
As a nod to the Gothic tradition in tattoo art, I offered this.
At first look, this is the version that was preferred by my client. She liked the bird, and as she is not a "swirly" person (the O in the first version), this one spoke to her. But, after further review and after collecting opinions from her family, she will probably go with the top version.
All I have to do is look at the date of my last post to confirm what I knew already: it's been a very full 6 weeks since I have posted anything new! Summer activities are coming to an end, signaling a return to the studio. There are design projects coming up, workshops being discussed, and new technology to learn here.
While I rarely do the bread and butter calligraphy projects that once kept me busy, I do still love to do them for special events for friends or family members. Below you can see some of the namebadges I made for a birthday party held on August 25. The guests were such good sports; all but one of the 105 wore either a bow tie or tiara!
After arriving at the Bay, I took a walk through the uplands of the Reserve to design specific journaling exercises for the following day.
Nothing is rich but the inexhaustible wealth of nature. She shows us only surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep. EMERSON
This quote is especially appropriate for the tranquil location of theNational Estuarine Research Reserve, of my July 13-14 workshop in quiet Bay View, Washington. 16 students and I gathered there to spend two days recording on journal pages some of the natural features surrounding us. Perfect summer weather, a fine classroom facility, earnest learners and plenty of delicious food (the Skagit Valley, where the Reserve is located, is Berry Central right now) combined to make a successful weekend.
Creating a beautiful pattern of inklines across the page, these drawings by Jude Middleton are good examples of contour drawings. Color added only to the hips, with a final spatter of watercolor overall, add richness. Journal notes finish the job; this is a perfect nature journal page!
Saturday's warm-up exercises began with a page of drawings. Blind contour drawings of the hips of Rosa rugosa (collected from a mound of them on the property) were followed by left-handed drawings of the same on the same page. Following these, the students then moved right onto fine watercolor paper with a detailed drawing of a rose hip and its clusters of leaves.
Brooke Randall's delicate pen work is enhanced by her way of applying watercolor. Using a variety of greens and yellow in foliage makes it come alive on the page. Journal pages are 6"x10" of Fabriano Artistico cold press watercolor paper.
Elle Romick's composition shows the landscape where the mound of Rosa rugosa lives. Careful placement on the page allows each design element to have significance and to enhance the others. Above the rose hip page is Jude's collage. Many of the students made these to decorate the cover of their finished journals.
After a brief lunch break, the group walked up the path to a point where we were allowed a landscape overview that included the mound of roses from which came our specimens. The rest of the day was spent developing both the hip painting and the small landscape study that joined it on the page. Lettering skills were practiced, too, with emphasis placed on overall page design.
On Sunday, the assignment for the day's work was given early on: five specific journal items were to be added to the journal on one or two pages. The examples below show the variety of choices: something from the aquarium, a detail drawing of a chosen specimen, a decorated versal letter, a small landscape, and a small map. But prior to starting our artwork for the day, most of us moved through the plentiful array of breakfast foods (shouldn't all serious work days begin with such a repast?) arranged on the buffet table:
Berries, nuts, home-baked items and deviled eggs courtesy of Anne's hens were among the generous spread.
Claire Russell selected beach specimens for her detail studies. Adding shadows consistently to each item enhances this collection.
Mary Heath rose to the challenge of designing a map that tells the story of our unique location. On the left side of the page is a view of the Bay overlook, and the eel grass rendering above the map creates the ideal top border for the map while honoring this important Padilla Bay aquatic plant.
Mary Siple also created a map of the Reserve and Bay, opting to feature a rockfish from the aquarium in the outstanding Brazeale Interpretive Center.
Mary's lugubrious rockfish becomes the humorous fellow featured in the fenestration on the cover of her journal. We all laughed!
Brenda Boardman's lively watercolor landscape was ideal for framing with a fenestration on her cover. Students chose between four colors of paper for their journal covers.
Kay Reinhardt rendered Barn Swallows in flight as a nod to the nesting swallows in the outdoor corridor of the Center.
Anne Middleton's delicate watercolor and fine ink lines are used here to depict studies of native plants. L to R: Salal, Elderberry, and Red Alder.
Our group used viewfinders to help isolate a section of the landscape that featured the distant mound of Rosa rugosa.
To all who participated in this weekend of learning, sharing, and the expanding of perception, I thank you for the chance to spend two days together and I applaud the excellent work you did. Continue to practice, practice. Special thanks go to the Padilla Bay Foundation administrator Kay Reinhardt. Thank you Libby, Anne, Mary, Nancy and Marilyn for your positive support and help in set-up, take-down, and seeing that all of our needs were met.
The Artful Map workshop I taught last weekend at the North Cascades Institute's Environmental Learning Center began simply enough. Each participant received a packet of papers and reference materials plus two different pens to use. Many of the 14 did not consider themselves to be artists or designers, which made all the more bold their trust in the focused creative process into which they were entering. (Please click on an images for larger views.)
A few of the students arrived with an idea of a place of personal significance they wanted to map and brought some materials to refer to. All the students needed to arrive at a starting place for their maps after just 4 hours in the classroom. Then, the designing began. With most maps carrying a lot of detail including images and text, icons and roadways and paths, time was of the essence in the design and execution process. When you look at the work that was done in this class (and during evening hours for some), It's hard to believe that some of the map designers literally had never made anything like this before. Below you can see the early stages of two maps that illustrate the design process, and the finished pieces are below those.
To all of my students: You went above and beyond, and it was a pleasure to join you on your mapmaking journeys.
Regina Wandler's desk displays pencil work-ups assembled on a trial sheet, tracing paper, and the first phase of inking in of basic map elements.
Patricia Resseguie had an idea for a map, so she collected materials at home to use in class. Even with this forethought, the actual design process brought surprises. Her map turned into a stained glass window (Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired)on her final map.
Regina's completed map. She used graphite, colored pencil, and ink.
Patricia's map. She may eventually color the figure on the right. Ink and watercolor were used in the image, with the trompe l-oeuil effect in the border done with graphite.
Kathy Brackett was inspired by the views and the natural objects seen from the Peninsula Trail on campus. Her unique approach of floating detailed images over her background painting worked well.
Karen Bakke's richly illustrated map of the Peninsula Trail includes a breathtaking wealth of detail and full color. The drawing was done in ink, followed by water-soluble colored pencils.
Ruth Knepper created a "map of my life" depicting her birthplace, the 17 moves she has made, and her current home. A lifetime, on one page! Ink and watercolor were used.
Rebecca Demaree commemorated her honeymoon trip to Baja California in this colorful map. Stylistic unity and a storytelling feel make this a fun map to look at.
Scott Kirkwood drew a map of the section of Washington, DC where he lives, works, and plays. A sense of humor comes through with Scott's drawing style and his witty captions.
Linda Chauvin merged two layers by superimposing her illustrations of Muir Woods, CA, over a map of the area. The result, one classmate said, was "like a fairy tale." Linda burned a lot of midnight oil doing her final map.
Marian Jones created a life's journey map based on her birth, schooling, marriages, and her ongoing quest for knowledge. Humor and Marian's joie de vivre permeate her map.
Stephanie Bennett honors one of her favorite peaks with a watercolor and the routes she has hiked to the summit. In the boxes she will ink in various views of the mountain.
Sally Soest used a watercolor wash on paper as the bottom layer to a translucent mylar map. Graphite, watercolor, and careful lettering tell the story of the cabin.
Renee Fredrickson commemorated many adventures within one geographical region: The Continental Divide. Trips dating from 1976 are recorded in drawings, insets, and notes.
Shelley Spalding worked intensively on her map, the inked beginnings of which you see on the left. Shelley had to leave before class on the last day, so I didn't have a chance to take a photo of her nearly-finished map. I hope to receive a photo of it from her.
Perhaps you have arrived here by searching for The North Cascades Institute, or it's superb Environmental Learning Center up at Diablo Lake in the North Cascades mountains of Washington State. Before deciding never to go there because of the story told in the map below, I hasten to assure you that in all the years I've taught at that magnificent place, I've never received a single mosquito bite. Further, I was told that it's highly unusual for there to be mosquitos there at all in September (the winds through the gorge sweep them away), so the incident commemmorated in my map is not likely to happen again in September, at least. Insect repellent is always on the list of things to pack because the ELC is, after all, at the edge of a thriving wilderness, and those are places that serve all manner of living beings. On that note:
An ill-fated walking tour intended to give an inspiring overview of the natural features of the area ended in well-tolerated failure. For this map, a crowquill pen with India ink was used for the line work. Watercolor was added after the ink work was done. This map is intended to be humorous, so I used a casual script with no guidelines for the text. Just for fun and a bit of real science, I profiled our dubious friend the mosquito.
When I was 12 years old and living in Casablanca, Morocco, I was invited to go to our French neighbors' summer home near Carcasonne, France. Prone to homesickness to begin with, I soon turned to a small, lined notebook* I had brought to make notes about the long drive as a way to keep my mind off my trepidation about leaving home.Thus began a lifelong habit of creating travel journals. Here is my most recent page from a fun weekend exploration of an historic area just a few hours from Seattle:
Every aspect of this trip was a pleasure. The drive, the historic buildings in The Dalles, the stunning presence of Mt. Hood against the blue sky, and the wealth of cultural significance of the area. I tried to include them all. The page is 6"x10".
*Since I posted this piece on The Dalles, I have written a memoir of the trip I took when I was twelve. To read it, please click here.
What could provide better material for a nature journal page than a botanical garden? I created this page on my recent trip to Florida. I have already used it as a teaching sampler for a short class I taught in March because it incorporates elements that contribute to a designed page as opposed to a random page of entries. Both approaches are fine when it comes to journaling.
This page includes: a title, a divided layout with one half being a larger sketch, and the other being a group of smaller sketches, a combination of plants, animal, and structures, and a variety of scales. The drawings and the lettering were all done with the same two items: black ink and watercolor. This assures a textural and color harmony throughout the page.
If you would like to study nature journaling with me and a small group of enthusiastic nature-lovers, please consider coming to the small community of Bay View, Washington, for a July 13 & 14 nature journaling workshop. There are 3 spots left. Please click here for more information.
One of my recent commissions was a wedding memento artwork for the niece of my client. After being provided with plenty of information about the ceremony held on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I filled an 8"x10" page with handwritten texts and illustrations. This piece will be framed. Followers of my work will recognize the pair of seahorses, designed for my own niece's wedding. Paired seahorses were also a motif in this young woman's wedding. I used a tech drawing pen with India ink, and watercolor on 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper.
While searching through file folders last week, my eye landed on one that is 20 years old. I pulled it out and opened it. As always, seeing work I did long ago stirs up various emotions. In this case, I time-traveled to the days before we all had the Adobe Creative Suite on our computers; it was a time for most graphic artists (but not all) to use French curves, technical pens, and white-out to create crisp logos by hand. I looked at the original artwork for the logo below, and had to admire how steady my hand was, back in 1993! Also, I was pleased to realize that I still like my design. This logo was done for a designer/carpenter whose business name was Creative Interiors. Nowadays, this design would not be difficult to create in Illustrator, a design program utilizing vectors.