Growing up on a farm on a dirt road in Mississippi I dreamed of travel, of one day living someplace far away and glamourous. Like Swansea. Okay, maybe not glamourous in the sexy sense of the word but in the sense that it is unfamiliar and offers endless opportunities for discovery. This is in itself a kind of enchantment.
For me, a trip to Swansea Market is a strange delight. Fishmongers! Of course you can get fresh fish in America but until I moved here I had never seen honest-to-gosh stalls devoted to nothing but fresh, shiny seafood. Pig’s trotters! You know what you just do not see in America? Severed pig’s feet piled in a cardboard box and skinned porcine carcasses on a pallet. Gruesome, yes, but fascinating and a deeply important reminder that our food comes from a living source, not some sterile styrofoam factory. Oops, my proofreader (otherwise known as my husband) says that we say “polystyrene” here.
Well, there you go. Hubby is a nice boy from Manchester. We’ve been together for ten years and after all this time we still find differences in our so-called common language. For instance, did you know that in [read more]
I love to travel and I love to keep journals, so whether it is Paris or Mississippi, Italy or North Carolina, I always keep an illustrated travel diary. Well, none of us are going anywhere for awhile but we can still use this time to explore other places and work in our sketchbook travel diaries, which is why I am delighted that Sketching Spain has asked to me to help get out the word about their virtual travel adventure art courses.
Normally, Sketching Spain hosts in-person tours but there’s nothing normal about now so they came up with two online courses to fuel your imagination and wanderlust as well as really up your travel and journal game. Your instructors are Danny, who introduces you to the culture, food, wine, and history of Barcelona while Judith shows a wide variety of techniques for filling your art journal even if you are an absolute beginner.
They also offer All About Vino, a crash course on Spanish wines and art classes that guide you in creating a hybrid illustrated travel/wine sketchbook.
To find out more, click on this link to go to Sketching Spain: Barcelona. Or [read more]
This video is the first in a series on keeping a stay at home travel journal because just because we are not traveling these days doesn’t mean that we can’t keep a creative, cool record of our days, especially these crazy days. I want to start by talking about supplies, the tools that I carry with me to work on my illustrated journals, on the road and at home.
When I first discovered illustrated journal keeping I was told that the first, number one rule was – never go anywhere without your portable art kit on you. If you do this, if you are ready to work at any time. I am rarely without my supplies which means I can make pages in coffee shops, dr’s offices, parks, wherever I find myself. So let me introduce you to my portable art studio.
- Waterbrushes (I use Pentel)
- Variety of fineliner pens
- White gel pen
- Bamboo dip pen
- Scissors (mine are Cutter Bee)
- Pencil sharpener
- Portable watercolour kit
- Bag with pockets
Here are the links to some of the items I rely on. Note, I am not paid by any of these companies.
LIHIT Lab bags
Gallo Watercolour kit
Derwent Inktense Sticks
Recently I visited La Maison du Pastel. I was toting handmade paper and ink and a journal or two that I had bought on the other side of the Marais and had trudged miles to find it tucked away on the rue Rambuteau and I guess it all showed because as I walked in, the lady behind the counter looked at me and said quietly, “Le Graal.” She wasn’t wrong. I don’t even work in pastels and this room was the holy grail.
These pastels have been made since 1722 and has been in the Marais district of France since 1766. In 1878, M. Henri Roché took over the concern and it is in his family still. Currently they have 1540 tints and counting of pastels that are world famous for their intense colour and quality. (They were the pastel of choice for Degas.)
I bought a small box of half sticks. They were (understandably) expensive and as I say, pastel is not my medium of choice but how could I walk away without something, some touchstone and connection to hundreds of years of artisans committed to creating the finest tools for creating. A spell. A part of the grail.
To visit La [read more]
These are some recent illustrated journal pages from last Fall’s trip through Burgundy in France. Santé ! (Click on photo for larger image.)
And below is a flipthrough with commentary about how I made some of the [read more]
The funny thing is, some of us enjoy being isolated. I do. It gives me time to do what I already love doing: drawing, sketching, reading, making. But for others, it is a source of stress and anxiety, so without further ado, here is a list of fun, creative, and FREE things you can do to keep your mind from feeding on itself while we isolate ourselves.
Get in shape without the gym. Come out on the other side of this in better shape than when you went in.
Few things can help you now more than self-care, so when you are finished with your stress eating (and drinking!), consider doing something simple that will improve your mental well being as well as how you feel. The variety of free workout videos on YouTube is staggering. Yoga, pilates, zumba, HIIT, chair aerobics (for those who are disabled), light stretching, bootcamp – you name it. Scared to begin? Search for work outs of five or ten minutes or that are labelled “easy” or “beginner.” See if you can get your kids or your cat to join you. NO EXCUSES.
There are a variety of sites online that offer what is effectively [read more]
Last May I bought several volumes of French fashion magazine La Mode Illustrée. This was the fashion magazine of its day. A woman would buy her weekly edition that might include engravings of hairstyles, dresses, embroidery patterns, home decorating, and hats – lots of hats. When she had a year’s worth, she would have them bound in a hardcovered volume that she could then use for inspiration or to share with friends over tea.
To see a larger version, click on the photo in the gallery.
So here’s the deal. Sadly, most of the bindings of the hardbound volumes was in too poor of shape to salvage but that just gave me permission to take out the individual signatures/editions without feeling guilty. (Whew.) I am selling them like this: three (four pages – eight sides) editions per shipment. While all of the editions of this magazine are good, some are very good and I have gone through them one at a time, making packages of three numbers that include two very good ones and one okay, still pretty darn good one. The way I see it is you can cut that one up (permission!) and either cut up and/or [read more]
These are some pages that I made while in Burgundy last April. (Ha. Just finished editing and photographing them.) You can see that while I enjoy sketching and painting, I am not great at it. I sketch and draw anyway. I also rely heavily on found items from brochures, menus, maps, and whatnot. My point is, if you are hesitating to work in a journal because you think you can’t draw – NO EXCUSES. (Ahem.) Now here we [read more]
Here are recent pages, including churches and notes from Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, as well as French churches in Perpignan, the Priory at Serrabone, Elne Cathedral.
To see more sketchbook journal pages of churches, go to:
For more information on some of these lovely Romanesque churches, try:
These sketches are from my illustrated journal is a recent trip to the Burgundy region of France. There are many hundreds of Romanesque churches, built between the 10th and 12th centuries. Before then, the area had been occupied and ruled over by Romans. Then they were gone but their architecture and design influence remained and were powerful influences in the creation of these churches. It was a time of crusades and pilgrimages, both of which brought travelers into tiny villages needing accommodation, food, and other practical provisions: these churches attracted these pilgrims and profited from their donations, as did the towns around them.
Hilaire Belloc, writing about his pilgrimage from France to Rome wrote of such places that: “In such shrines Mass is to be said but rarely, sometimes but once a year in a special commemoration. The rest of the time they stand empty, and some of the older or simpler, one might take for ruins. They mark everywhere some strong emotion of supplication, thanks, or reverence, and they anchor these wild places to their own past, making up in memories what they lack in multitudinous life.”
Click on an image to see a larger [read more]