Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Silverton Oregon Sublimity

On a recent trip to Silverton to see my workshop partner Barbara Bassett I was compelled to take some side roads into the lovely surrounding countryside. Newly harvested hay fields and the hint of fall color took me down a lane with this stunning view at the end.

I pulled over and sketched the line work of the tree trunks, the subtle light values in the curves of the field and the reddish purple in the trees. The sky held a light robin egg blue.  

I stood for a long time, taking in the visual feast as I caught the scent of the rich Willamette valley soil I grew up with in nearby Corvallis. 

The simplicity and elegance of this scene is what draws me in. That, and the knowledge that my great, great grandparents homesteaded in this landscape so very long ago. 

I’ll post the final painting next week!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Camera or "en plein air"?

The click of my camera is fast. It captures and stores the image for me. But slowing down and spending time studying the color, shapes, texture, values and line work of the scene before me, so I can render it in my sketchbook, is a very different experience.

When I’m outside “en plein air”, sitting at an outdoor café, on a hillside sketching, or focusing on a beautiful still life, all my senses wake up.

In Southern France, near St. Remy, the gentle Alpilles Mountains rise above the Provencal countryside. I love to sit and draw their playful shapes. As I’m focusing on their angles and colors, I’m also aware of the French words spoken around me, the sunlight casting shadows, the scent of lavender when the breeze 
blows, and the taste of the local wine. 
My eyes follow the form and connect to my right hand as my pen and brush move across the paper. And with all my senses fully awake I sink into the place in a completely different way.  

It is more than a quick click of my camera. The place becomes indelibly etched upon my soul.

When I return home to my art studio with my sketchbook, the time I took to “be” in that place allows all my senses to take me there again. My experience returns as I look at my sketch or watercolor and re-experience being there, without the hassle of airports or jet lag - just by opening my sketchbook. 


Just outside the Silverton city limits last spring I drove by this rolling farm land.  I pulled over, sketched a few different design ideas and took photographs for later use. I'm working on a series from this image using watercolor out of the tube with limited water...similar to acrylic, but with the lightness and transparency of watercolor. 

Five generations ago my ancestors homesteaded in this area so I have a strong pull to this landscape.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

10 Essentials for your Travel Art Kit

Traveling with watercolor is much easier than traveling with other mediums and it is beautiful when paired with pen and ink!

Here is that list I promised. (I fit all of this, except my sketchbook, in a waterproof case.)


I create my own books by tearing an assortment of Arches 140 and 300 lb watercolor paper and adding writing paper. 

Then I create some art for the front and back covers and take this to a print shop. The front and back covers are laminated and the book spiral bound.

There is also an assortment of watercolor books you can choose from: Cheap Joes, Daniel Smith or Dick Blick.


  Ultra-fine Sharpie is great!


Seven tubes of the small 5 ml Winsor Newton watercolor paints. Choose ones you like.
  •  Ultramarine Blue
  • Winsor Red
  • Aureolin
  • Cereulean
  • Quinacridone Gold
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Burnt Sienna

 4.  BRUSH:   

I love my DaVinci size 8 brush that screws into the holder so the brush doesn’t become damaged. I typically work small when traveling, so this is a good size.


For clouds and dabbing.


To send to friends along the way.

7.  PENCIL:  

 #2 Ticonderoga is just fine.


The gray one.


REI has some nice ones.


To create a nice white border.

Do you have any suggestions for art supplies to bring when traveling?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Cafe Plein Air" Style

Roussillon, Southern France
Over the past 25 years I’ve had the opportunity to travel and paint in a wide variety of locations.  On my first painting trip I was heavily laden with my art easel, a large portfolio of watercolor paper, a palette, paints and brushes. I hadn’t learned the trick of packing black clothing with a different scarf for each day so I also carried way too many clothes. It wasn’t fun.

With each trip I gradually scaled down my art kit so it could easily fit in a small bag.  I call my style  “café plein air” because I can easily pull out my small sketchbook and watercolor set at any café or on any hike. One glorious day, while sketching on the hilltop of ancient Les Baux in Provence, I began to feel the earth move beneath me and discovered I’d picked a colony of snails to sit upon. They must have been quite nervous about becoming escargot!

Photographs will document your trip but a personal sketchbook will allow you to slow down and really see. My sketchbooks are very precious to me because they have recorded my soul’s experience in the moment – feeling the sun on my face, smelling the air, seeing the shapes and colors, textures and line dance in front of me - all within my little sketchbook of treasures.

Next Post: My travel kit list