Last year I talked about taking a sketchbook with you wherever you go. (September 2019) But today I’d like to elaborate on that a little.
This week the temperatures were up in the 80s here in southern Indiana. My husband and I decided to take the day off (heh heh) and go to the lake. We took breakfast sandwiches. He fished while I painted. Later, as we were waiting for the paint to dry, I showed him some of my other sketches over the years.
This particular book is an elongated one, perfect for landscapes. I’ve captured scenes from vacations and travels in many places over the years. He asked if I would ever consider selling the book. After a little thought, I replied, no. It has too many memories.
One word of advice. Date your sketch and make a note of where it was done. Our memories get fuzzy over time and this really helps.
The primary difference between a sketchbook and an art journal (in my mind) is that the journal may have much more extensive writing, like a diary, along with sketches, and even things that have been glued inside. One of mine has the label for a special chocolate shop in Paris. I will visit that if I ever go there again. And I sure would not have remembered exactly where it was. Tickets, photos, postcards…even pressed flowers have all ended up in my art journals.
You may wish to keep a running commentary in your various journals. But one thing that I’ve found really enjoyable is to create a dedicated book for a special trip or event.
One of my favorites is a bicycle tour I took through Provence a number of years ago. The journal wasn’t very large, only about 5 x 7, but was easy to slip into a purse or my bike pack. And it really turned out to be more of a diary with sketches than a sketchbook. But it has been so fun to pull it out every once in awhile just to read about my trip and think about where I was when I made the sketches.
I know we are all feeling the angst of staying at home these days, but do you have any ideas for an art journal? Maybe a gardening one or something dedicated to the holidays? What do you see out of your window? Activities at the park? Let your imagination roam.
There are a number of books about art journaling which might give you a few ideas. Here is one of my favorites by Danny Gregory. He has actually written several books on the subject. Check them out here.
Ever since our visit to the pumpkin patch a few weeks ago, I have been obsessed with painting pumpkins. Well, this has gone on long before that visit, but there is just something about the shapes and colors, the many varieties of these humble squashes that appeals to me.
The first pumpkins that I painted were several years ago in a large painting of my granddaughter and son carving pumpkins. I posted the “how to” of that painting here. Pumpkin Head presented many challenges. When my granddaughter wanted a happy face, my son replied, “No, they’re born as pumpkins but they die as scary jack o’ lanterns.” A bit macabre sense of humor, I’d say.
Since then, I’ve painted little white ones and little orange ones, and pumpkin buddies. Pumpkins with flowers and leaves. And some larger pumpkins. I know it’s not “high art”, whatever that is. But it amused me this autumn. But I think I’m done. They’ve sold well in my Etsy shop and some local shops. I guess that I’m not the only person who loves pumpkins.
Normally I stick with a light breakfast – fruit and yogurt, fruit smoothie, oatmeal, etc. But on Sundays we go a bit overboard. My husband loves to cook big breakfasts. Sometimes I even get to put in an order. So today I asked for his out-of-this-world blueberry pancakes. They are so good. One is enough for a normal person but you could eat two if you really want to get stuffed.
He uses fresh blueberries which really makes them special. And cooks them one at a time on the ancient griddle he inherited from his father. Probably at least eighty years old and seasoned just right. Yes, I’ve got another griddle, and yes, this takes a lot of time, but it’s his show so this is what he does.
My husband insists on real maple syrup but I’m a product of my childhood and like the cheap stuff made with all those things we’re not supposed to eat these days. Left over pancakes are frozen on a cookie sheet and then put in a bag for future breakfasts. The recipe below makes about fifteen large pancakes.
By the way, for you bacon lovers out there, if you’re not cooking your bacon in the oven, you are really missing the show. Perfect every time and not greasy at all.
Here’s the recipe (adapted from Pete’s Scratch Pancakes.)
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten separately before adding
¼ cup melted butter
1 ¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
couple of generous shakes cinnamon
1 cup blueberries
Mix the dry items first.
Combine the eggs and melted butter to the milk and slowly stir into the flour mixture.
Add the vanilla, cinnamon and berries.
Heat the griddle to325 F or the pan to medium high let sit at least 10 minutes while heating the griddle or pan.
Preheat oven to about 380.
Arrange bacon strips on rack on cookie sheet with sides. (otherwise the grease will run all over the place. )
Cook until desired crispiness.
When you’re done, there will be a lot of grease in the pan. You can either carefully pour this off into a container or put it in the fridge to harden, then scrape it off.
I don’t write too many book reviews on this blog but that’s mostly because I read A LOT! Two or three books a week, and have several going at the same time. I write tons of reviews for Amazon, probably in excess of 1,000 and that is NOT everything that I read or use either.
But I thought I’d share with you my thoughts about some artist biographies that I’ve read recently. These are not art books but actual biographies or autobiographies. Some I liked; some not so much. I have eclectic tastes.
The first one that I would highly recommend is Norman Rockwell’s autobiography My Adventures as an Illustrator. He actually recorded his thoughts on a Dictaphone in 1960 and then it was pulled together by his son Tom. It is an enjoyable read. Rockwell is so humorous and self-deprecating. I always love to see how people became who they eventually became and this is a great book which follows Rockwell’s life from beginning to end. There are many illustrations and drawings in this tome but that is not the main focus. It’s a huge book at 500+ pages printed on thick paper. Best not to fall asleep in bed with it as you could get hurt if it falls on you.
Another favorite painter of mine is the Swedish painting Carl Larsson. I fell in love with his work when I first encountered his beautifully illustrated books over forty years ago. This autobiography is well-translated making it immensely easy to read. Another artist who came up from difficult circumstances to become a national treasure. The book is illustrated with many of his original sketches.
Edward Hopper in Vermont by Bonnie Toucher Clause. I am a big Hopper fan. Generally I love the feeling of the lonely soul which he seems to be able to impart in many of his paintings. But he is also known for his landscapes and street scenes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. The author basically focuses on a small series of watercolor paintings that Hopper did during his time in Vermont. (I should mention here that many artists escaped the city during the 20s, 30s, and 40s, if not permanently, then at least for the summers.) Frankly, the book reads like a senior thesis. Not necessarily my favorite. It does have some black and white illustrations.
The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals and Breakthroughs in Modern Artby Sebastian Smee. I enjoyed reading this book very much as the author writes about four pairs of artists who were contemporaries. Matisse and Picasso. Manet and Degas. Pollock and de Kooning. Freud and Bacon. Although I was familiar with all of these artists, some more than others, the author delves deeply into their influences, jealousies, rivalries, and the times in which they were making art. Frankly there were a few artists that I didn’t really like so much after I read this book but, hey, that is why we read, isn’t it?
Rosa Bonheur by Anna Klumpke, The Artist’s [auto] Biography. I have always been an admirer or Rosa Bonheur’s paintings, particularly some of her large animal paintings. But, well, this book is a bit dull. Typically, it follow’s Bonheur’s early life and how she got into painting. Then entered her companion Anna Klumpke who writes a good deal about Bonheur’s life. Supposedly it was nearly dictated to her, or Anna had a photographic memory for what Rosa relayed to her. Overall, written in very stilted and flowery language, it takes perseverance to get through the entire book.
Finally, I’m going to recommend two videos/movies about a couple of my favorite artists.
The first one is David Hockney: A Bigger Picture. I first saw this film on TV and then purchased the DVD. I’m a huge Hockney fan. No, I don’t paint anything like him but I’ve always admired how he keeps reinventing himself. He doesn’t seem afraid to follow whatever rabbit trail he is on, from his early California paintings to several years experimenting with copier prints. In this film biography, Hockney returns to England and gets caught up in loads of plein air paintings, including one on a grand scale (the size of a warehouse wall) which he donated to the British National Gallery. The film is worth watching several times just to hear Hockney’s thought processes, his humor and his own challenges.
Finally, if you haven’t seen Willem Defoe’s portrayal of Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate you have really missed something. I’m sure your local library will have a copy or you can probably catch it on one of the on-demand channels. The film depicts Van Gogh’s final years in Provence, his time with Gaugin, and the influence of his brother Theo. So beautifully shot, you will want to watch it more than once.
So, if you’re interested in learning more about your favorite artists, these are a few biographies that I would like to recommend. Please check out an earlier post where I had other recommendations.
Hello everyone! I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!