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July 2013

Tranquility Recorded: Nature Journaling at Padilla Bay


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.

This quote is especially appropriate for the tranquil location of the National 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.

Design Immersion: The Artful Map 2013


DSCF0565The 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.

DSCF0578Shelley 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.

Thank you for your interest!