Category Archives: Uncategorized

Plein air painting in autumn

The Big Rock, East Fork White River. These large sandstone rocks line the river and bluffs. The autumn colors set off the scene. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16.

October started out pretty warm with temperatures in the 80s.  However, with November’s arrival, the past week or so, we’ve had some heavy frosts and night temps have dropped to the 20s.  Daytime still warms up to the 50s and 60s.  This is a perfect time to do some plein air painting.  The garden has been cleaned out and outdoor work has slowed.

Last Monday I picked up my friend Bill Whorrall to go out and do some work.  Southern Indiana is so beautiful this time of year with the fall colors and hilly terrain.  We decided to paint along the East Fork of the White River near Shoals.  We checked out several spots but eventually landed at the nature preserve Bluffs at Beaver Bend.  You can only drive a short way in, then hike along the path with the river on your right and the sandstone bluffs on your left.  So many picturesque scenes to paint. 

I decided to paint this big rock with the river behind it.  Bill traveled a little farther up the path to capture the sandstone cliffs in some ink sketches. We saw an eagle traveling along the river but unfortunately didn’t get any photos.

It was so peaceful there but not as isolated as we had thought it would be on a Monday morning.  Several groups of hikers including a few guys from Chicago.  They said they always try to get away together this time of year and go someplace within a day’s drive.

We worked for a few hours and then the wind picked up and we began to get chilled.  I got about 75% of my painting done and then finished it up at home.  I dropped Bill off at his house where his wife Karen had made a vegetable cheese soup, sandwiches and dessert for lunch.  I think we welcomed the warmth of the soup as much as the food.

Afterwards we toured Karen’s extensive garden which was still producing raspberries and some other goodies.

Then for a lovely ride home through the autumn colors.

A walk in the woods. This is the complete plein air painting that I showcased last week. Just some autumn trees and interesting shadows with a path leading up into the big woods. Acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14.
Charles House, Richmond, Indiana. Charles House is actually the building on the left side. This location is actually behind the beautiful rose garden on the edge of Glen Miller park in Richmond. I think the little cottage might have actually been a summer kitchen at one time. A very peaceful autumn scene. Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16.

Commissioned artwork

A recent commission. The customer wanted to feature a bit of the courthouse square, change the season so the weeping cherry tree was in blossom, and tidy up the flowers. It’s still in my style but I didn’t mind making these adjustments. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36.

If you have been an artist for any length of time, you have probably been asked to create something especially for someone.  Maybe a friend or a relative, someone special.  It is always difficult to decide if that is really what you want to do.  Here are some concerns for you to think about.

1.  What is a commission?  This is basically when someone asks you to create something special for them.  Frankly, commissioned artwork was the norm until a few hundred years ago.  Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.  At that time, the artist was primarily a sculptor and didn’t want to do the job but was persuaded  one way or another. That turned out well.

2.  Know your style and what you are comfortable doing.  If you have been an artist for any length of time, eventually someone will ask you to make something for them that just doesn’t fit your comfort zone.  Maybe they want you to copy another artist, or perhaps paint an abstract painting when you paint only in a realistic style.

To be totally honest, I was asked early on in my career to copy another artist’s painting and just was not comfortable with it.  Although I eventually I complied (it was a relative), it never sat well with me and I haven’t done it since.  Be true to yourself.

3.  Don’t compromise.  This hooks in with the paragraph above.  Know your style and stick with it.  If the client wants something different, you may just have to pass on the job. It always helps if you can steer them towards someone else who can help them.

4. Take notes.  I have several notebooks which I have filled over the years with notes for commissions.  Obviously, the client’s contact information, but more details about what they want.  You might even have a list of questions before you meet.  For instance, size, materials, deadlines are obvious.  Less obvious are what they want in the commission and what they don’t. 

5.  Come to an agreement.  If you really want a formal agreement, you may need to draw up a contract.  I don’t usually do this but it is a good way to cover yourself should any misunderstandings occur later.  Are they agreeing to your style?  Will you submit sketches or mockups?  When do they want the final? 

6.  Arriving at a price and getting a down payment.  You should do a little research ahead of your meeting or perhaps you will have to get back with the client later.  Remember to include your materials, time, driving time or shipping.  Condition for submitting the final product.  Don’t forget your overhead. And don’t be afraid to ask what you deserve.  Do some research for your area and medium.  What are other artists charging for similar commissions with a similar level of skills and background?

7.  Ask about a deadline.  Is the commission for a special event or doesn’t the client really care when you complete it?  I really like to get the commissions done and off my plate.  If there is a deadline, do you have time to meet it?  Is it around the holidays when everyone else is clamoring for work that must be done yesterday? 

8.  A commission is work for hire.  Get comfortable with that idea or don’t accept the commission.  Maybe you’ll be excited by the first few commissions you have, but perhaps by the 100th, you’ll be so tired of doing them.  Raise your prices!  I did house portraits for many years until I became annoyed with them interfering with the work I was really interested it.  After awhile, I kept raising my prices until I finally just had to quit doing them. 

9.  Do your best.  If you have agreed to accept a commission, then you owe it to your client to do your best.  Maybe you’re getting a little tired of work for hire, but get this one out of the way.  Then decide if you still want to keep doing them.  But remember that your reputation is on the line and a disgruntled client can be a real pain.  If you can’t make it right, maybe you can refund their money and aim them in the direction of an artist who can better suit their needs.

10.  Ask your client for input.  Most people who commission an artwork are thrilled with the prospect of having something made especially for them.  Ask for their input and a written recommendation. Develop a thick skin in case they have some criticisms.  It might prickle at first, but you can always learn something from a good critique.

To see a step-by-step demonstration of how I created this painting, go to the Artworks tab or click here.

Autumn has arrived

The day started out gloomy and rainy. But after a couple of hours the sun was out and we were ready to make our annual visit to the pumpkin patch. It turned out to be a beautiful day for a drive with the grandkids, plus, it was my husband’s birthday. The kids didn’t know where we were taking them, just that it was somewhere special.

A giant hay bale pumpkin greeted us. Along with a giant spider and a pig.

It is a little drive in the country, about 60 miles, but it was a beautiful day for an outing. We saw some Amish people putting up corn in shocks, the old fashioned way. I remember my grandfather doing it that way. And passed a lake with many water lilies and swans. Farms with donkeys, goats, cows and some big, big fields. Some farmers were already harvesting. The leaves are just starting to turn colors.

These pumpkins have been picked for guests already. A variety of sizes.

We arrived at the pumpkin patch before the big weekend crowds. I expect many people were a bit put off by the weather, or maybe we were visiting earlier than we have in the past. Cornucopia Farms is so well-organized. In addition to their large offerings of pumpkins and squash of every variety, they offer mums, fresh flowers, good things to eat, lots of activities, such as, hay rides, a corn maze, and so much more.

I really love the variety of mini pumpkins and squashes.

But we were on the hunt for that special pumpkin. Of course, we found many, many. They mostly charge by the pound for the special varieties, but flat fees for others. It doesn’t matter. I seem to lose all sense when it comes to this seasonal decoration.

Such a variety of pumpkins and squashes. I can hardly contain myself.

After pulling our wagon (provided) around, it was full within a short time. We got the gnarly ones with warts, the large orange ones, the little white ones, striped, speckled. You name it. Plus some yummy things to eat later.

More varieties inside the sales room.

Last year I painted several paintings from my pumpkin patch adventures but I’m not sure I can do so this year. I’m just so busy with other projects right now. But I’ll try to post some more photos later of our day’s adventure.

Let’s see. What shall we choose?

If you’re looking for a fun fall activity for the family, I highly recommend a drive through the country and a visit to your local pumpkin patch. Enjoyable for all.

Oh, yeah. Loads more things besides pumpkins to get us in the mood. Apple cinnamon donuts, cider, candy apples, and lots of decorating items.

Paint for money…or paint for love?

If you’ve been an artist for any time at all….say more than a minute or two…you will begin to wonder what to do with all your wonderful creations.  Maybe the closet is full, or they’re being stacked in the back room or your studio.  Maybe someone in your house is urging you either subtly or more strenuously to get rid of that stuff!

I’m not really sure where the notion that creating something with the intention to sell it became tainted, particularly for artists.  After all, we have bills to pay, food to put on the table, braces to buy for the kids.  I can’t really think of any other profession where not making any money by your labor is considered a good thing.  So unless you are willing to live rough and sacrifice some of the niceties like flush toilets and a shelter, then you must really give some thought to creating in order to make money.

I painted several of these little pumpkins in watercolor with pen and ink outlines. They were fun to do. I sent them as postcards to some friends and will probably add them to one of my online shops.

This doesn’t mean that you should only consider the financial aspects of your work, but it should be in the equation somewhere. I think the key here is to find balance between doing what you love to do and making some things to sell. 

For instance, I did art fairs around the country for many years.  This can be a rough way to make a living but I knew quite a few artists who made their entire living doing fairs.  Packing up the vans and trucks, carting everything across the miles, setting up in various weather conditions….not easy.  But some of the artists and crafters loved the lifestyle.  Live up north in the summers; move to warmer climates in the winter.  I even knew a couple of jewelry makers who floated around the Gulf of Mexico all winter long, only stopping long enough to catch their mail.  They would then put the push on to hit the art fair circuit from May through September. 

I actually enjoyed talking with patrons.  I had figured that I could sell at least one red painting per show.  (For some reason, people always have room for a red painting.)  And I would have my big showstopper paintings which would entice people into my booth in the first place although they often settled for something more modestly priced. My bread and butter work were the all original line of fruit and vegetable paintings that I did, all 8 x 10, matted and wrapped.  Yes, that felt more like production work but well…

Since the advent of the internet, the world of options has expanded exponentially.  We’ve all become accustomed to shopping from our laptops or phones.  You can set up shops at Etsy or Ebay or your own websites for very low fees.  And guess what?  You don’t have to worry about the weather, either!  There are print on demand sites, and group websites, the list is endless.

But that brings us back.  What to sell? 

A couple of my autumn minis. Themes such as apples and pumpkins are very popular, but I also do small autumn landscapes for variety.

Here is where a little trial and error comes in.  Or just walk around some galleries, gift shops, art fairs, etc.  Do some online research, too.  (You can get ideas but don’t copy!)  What do you like to do?  Make chairs?  Do you really think you can sell those $2,000 masterpieces?  Well, maybe…eventually.  But how about looking at what you do like to do, then trying to scale it back?  You don’t have to give up the big, challenging pieces.  Those are what inspire you to keep going.  Your style may change over time.  That’s OK.  Maybe you’ll look back in ten years and wonder what you were thinking when you made it.  Or maybe it will be a collector’s item and the crowds will be demanding that you make more, and bigger.

I guess the bottom line here is that don’t let anyone tell you that you’re selling out if you decide to devote at least part of your time to creating work that has a ready market.  You’re not.  You’re trying to stay in the game and affording yourself the opportunity to make more, bigger, and better creations.  So, unless you have a large trust fund or a very wealthy sponsor, just keep digging in and keep on keeping on. You only have to answer to yourself. 

These are a few holiday minis that I’ve created over the years. Many times I’ll repeat a theme, or print them on cards. I sell these mini paintings online and in local gift shops. Each one is painted separately so they’re all individual but very similar.

Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes!

It’s that time of year in the garden.  I have been picking tomatoes by the five-gallon bucket load.  The freezer is full and we have just about run out of room. 

We have been growing tomatoes for decades.  We try different varieties.  Some years we like this one, another year we might like another one. This year I decided to make a semi-scientific analysis of the different varieties that we usually gravitate to.

First of all, I don’t start any plants from seed anymore. Been there, done that.  I can usually find a good variety in the local stores and garden centers.  Also, we don’t use any sprays and rarely fertilizer (none this year.)  But I do rotate the crops in the garden so the same thing is not planted in the same place each year. 

This is my schematic for the tomato part of the garden.

This year I planted fifteen tomato plants (not counting the five that I planted in the spring garden).  I have planted as many as sixty-four plants in the past but that is ridiculous.  The varieties that I planted this year are:  Goliath, San Marzano, Roma, Better Boy, Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, and Park Whopper.  Not counting the cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100 and Yellow Pear).  I did all the planting on May 15th because we had a very late freeze and SNOW earlier.  We had plenty of rain earlier but not too much since mid July.  Sometimes we’ll water, especially if the plants are little but usually not.  I planted the seedlings very far apart, about five feet, so they had plenty of room and we could get down the rows with the tiller.  We also put them up in cages with stakes and ties.

I have lost track of how many tomatoes that I’ve picked but in just one day last week, I picked three five-gallon buckets and gave one away.  I have to pick about every three or four days. Our freezer is full.

Tomatoes, tops. L-R bottom: Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, San Marzano. Top: Celebrity, Better Boy, Park Whopper, Goliath, Roma.
Tomato samples, bottoms. L-R bottom: Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, San Marzano. Top: Celebrity, Better Boy, Park Whoppers, Goliath, Romas.

So let’s go down the list.

Goliath.  We’ve liked this tomato in the past and it started off well but slowed down.  I paid a lot for just one plant so will probably not plant it again next year. 

San Marzano.  This is supposedly the king of Italian tomatoes.  VERY prolific.  I can pull the tomatoes off the vine in handfuls, like grapes.  But they seem a little dry and have quite a bit of white/green core which is not tasty. 

Roma.  We’ve grown these before but they really produced this year.  Much larger than the San Marzanos which was a surprise.  Very meaty but sometimes a little black inside which is probably blossom end rot from uneven watering.

Better Boy.  Good but nothing to write home about.  Will probably pass next year.

Pink Brandywine.  These were a real surprise.  The tomatoes are huge, at least six or even seven inches across.  A beautiful pink color and low acid.  Really tasty and very meaty. One slice is enough for a sandwich. 

Red Beefsteak.  Very meaty but knobby. Difficult to use for a slicing tomato but pretty good for canning.  However, not worth the trouble even though they are so large and produce well.

Celebrity.  We’ve grown these before but for not for the past few years.  VERY good producers.  The tomatoes just keep coming.  Great for putting up or eating just plain.

Park Whopper.  We were told by a friend that this is his favorite tomato so we thought we’d give it a try.  Very consistent shape, good taste, but not very large.  And they’re petering out, even in mid-August. 

The final verdict?  We’ll definitely plant the Pink Brandywines, Romas and Celebrities next year.  But….depends upon what other options catch my attention.

Meanwhile, back to the salt mines…er ummm….the garden.  And don’t talk to me about beans and corn.  Ha!

How to improve your art skills

One of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. Many artists explore a subject in a series of paintings of the same subject. Van Gogh did at least twelve paintings of sunflowers.

I’m often asked, “How do I get better at my art?”  Hummmm….well, I have several suggestions.  They aren’t anything new but maybe they’re new to you.  In no particular order.

Make a LOT of art!  Studies have shown that students who create a lot of art eventually get better, especially compared to those who seek to create one perfect painting or poem or story or pot.  Like almost anything else, the more you do, the better you get.  This is the time to explore.  Try new things, new styles, new subjects, new mediums.  Just make a whole lot of it. Don’t worry if it’s any good yet.  Just do it.  The old adage that practice makes perfect applies here. While you are testing new things, your mind will begin to make connections and build on what you have done before.

Make it easy.  Make it easy to make art.  Do you have to clear the children’s homework from the dining table?  Drag out all your equipment and easel every time you want to paint? Find a space where you can keep your materials at hand.  Set up a corner in the bedroom to work.  Use a portable screen if the clutter annoys you.  Keep a sketchbook next to your TV chair.  Or in your purse or pocket.  I’ve often drawn mini-sketches while waiting for dinner or in the theater.  If your materials are nearby, you’ll be more likely to use them.

Don’t worry if it’s any good.  So many people worry about if their work is any good.  Stop that right now!  Refer to the first suggestion.  Just do it.  Do a lot of it.  ALL artists make some really bad paintings.  That’s Okay!  That is what preliminary work is for.  Try it out.  Maybe it will be brilliant. Maybe it won’t.  But you will have learned what works and what doesn’t.

Copy other artists.  Yes, I recommend studying other artists, your favorites perhaps.  Go to the museums or the library or even review their work online.  What do you like about their work?  What don’t you like?  Try making a few copies in the style of the artist. How does that feel to you?  Does it feel natural or awkward?  Look at what attracts you most.  Their subject matter?  Style?  Brushwork?  But do NOT EVER try to pass off someone else’s work as your own.  That is dishonest and plagerism. You won’t feel comfortable about it and you’ll be found out eventually.

Do a series.  A series is a group of artwork of, perhaps, the same subject or style or theme.  This helps you to dig deeper.  Find out what attracts you to this subject.  Van Gogh painted twelve sunflower paintings.  I’ll bet that he got better at them towards the end.  Monet painted thirty haystacks, 250 waterlillies, and over thirty of the Rouen Cathedral. Different angles, different times of day. 

My concluding advice is just keep at it.  Don’t let anyone discourage you. Only you know what you are learning.  If you have tried it before, try it again.  You’re in a different place and time.  Perhaps you have more skills and knowledge now.  Just keep moving forward. Good luck!

The Cultural Center, Part II – The New Library Is Open!

The new Thyen Clark Cultural Center is now open to the public.

Finally, the new library is open at the cultural center.  And, boy, is it magnificent!  Better than anything I could have imagined, even when I was working on the project!

As mentioned earlier, this is a joint project combining the Jasper-Dubois County Public Library and the Jasper Arts Department (excluding the performing arts center).  I posted photos of the new galleries earlier.  I’ll add the classrooms, studio spaces, and the black box theater later.

Cultural Center front, east wing holding the library.

Today’s photos feature the new library.  After nearly two decades of planning, votes, fundraising, the doors were open this week.  I took my granddaughter for our first visit afterschool on Tuesday.  Then went back alone for a more thorough visit on Wednesday.

This is the beautiful atrium which separates the arts side from the library. It has a full catering kitchen for special events and will seat 150 at table. I think this will become very popular for families looking to get out of the house in the winter with the kids…once we’re allowed to get together again.

In speaking with the library director, she said that people have commented on all the new books.  She’s replied, they haven’t added any new volumes; the old library was just that over-crowded.  Now it has plenty of room for technology, including a maker space, a teen zone, genealogy room,  lots of quiet nooks and meeting spaces.  Plus…the books books books. It even has an outdoor balcony for those who like some fresh air while they read.

For now, the entire Cultural Center is open six days a week with plans to expand to seven days a week sometime later.  If you come for a visit, don’t forget to save time to visit the nearby Schaeffer Barn, the old school house, the mill and the train depot, all set along the scenic Patoka River in downtown Jasper.  Admission is free.

The view from the library entrance from the atrium.
Lots of current magazines and newspapers to read and plenty of reading nooks for everybody.
One of many work spaces for patrons. Most of the tables have charger stations, too.
The beautiful wall art by Romy and Clare Designs. The upper level holds offices, the genealogy room and an outdoor patio/balcony.
One of the little reading nooks in the children’s section. Each has its own reading light, too. Of course, I had to try one out.
A view of the children’s section with child-sized furniture, shelves and family-friendly activities.
Another inviting lounge area. The teen zone and maker space are in the glass-walled areas behind. Recorded books and digital media and music to the rear right.
The money shot from the balcony area. Such a beautiful design for all.
Parking at the rear of the center shows our neighbors, Schaeffer barn and a one-room school house which was recently moved in. To the rear of that is the famous Riverwalk. And across the street from the center is the Jasper Train Depot and the old restored mill. This will be a great place to bring kids for field trips.

Uh, oh!

Sorry, folks, I’ve been asked to put a hold on the sneak preview of the new Cultural Center. They’re not quite ready to roll everything out. But be assured, that I’ll post more about the whole shebang later when they are. Probably a few weeks. Anyway, for those of you who caught the sneak preview, keep that in mind. It’s still an awesome new arts venture in Jasper.

Thanks for your kind comments and patience.

Living in the boonies: the downside

I have often posted my favorite things about living in a rural area.  Although I tend to focus on the positive, living in the country is not for everyone. 

A little background.  My husband and I were living in the northern climes where we were faced with nine months of winter and three months of mosquitoes.  Fighting three and a half million people to work every day.  And leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark.  So after many long discussions, we decided to pack it all in and move to southern Indiana.  A milder, four-season climate and definitely away from the rat race. 

This was not a sudden relocation but was accomplished with much planning and research.  Like driving up and down the Ohio River valley, checking out small towns here and there.  We finally settled on our area when we drove into town and realized that it looked prosperous, neat and clean, and there were no boarded up buildings on the main square.

But these are some of the things you need to keep in mind if you are considering moving to a rural area.  It isn’t perfect and there are challenges.

Utilities

I remember asking my grandmother one time what was the greatest modern convenience she had seen in her lifetime.  She didn’t hesitate at all but said, running water!  Carrying water up the hill for a large family was a never-ending task.  So one of the things you need to consider is what is the water source?

We were very fortunate that city water had just been installed along the road where we live about three months before we bought the place.  Will you have city water?  A well or cisterns?  Or will you have to haul water in a big tank on the back of your truck?  (You might get tired of that in a hurry.)

Also under utilities comes electricity.  We’re fortunate to have a rural electric co-op and they’re very diligent about getting out to fix downed powerlines, no matter the weather or time of day. 

Internet, telephone, TV.  No cable out this far but we do have satellite internet and TV.  Can’t really do streaming, though, so there are tradeoffs. 

How will you heat your home?  No natural gas lines out here.  We have propane for the furnace, water heater, and stove.  An alternate wood furnace, the beast in the basement, which provides toasty “free” heat.  Not counting all the labor that goes into it. 

Solar panels would work, too, but they’re probably not on our horizon.  And it’s not consistently windy enough for a wind generator. 

Schools

We didn’t have children at the time we moved but if you have kids, that would be a consideration.   How far to the schools?  Reputation, etc.  Fortunately the schools around here are pretty good but you’re probably not going to get that new class in Japanese that you might want for your kids. And sports are always big everywhere, it seems.

Isolation

Do you enjoy your own company or do you require a lot of contacts with your neighbors?  Frankly, I’m really happy that I can sit outside and not see another house.  But I know they’re there.  Neighbors pull together and you will generally get to know your neighbors for a wide radius. But they’re usually not in your business either.

Shopping

Well, it’s twenty-five miles to the nearest good grocery store, in a couple of directions.  On rural roads, that’s twenty-five miles in twenty-five minutes.  I remember living in the city when it used to take me twenty minutes to go two miles due to traffic.  Of course, there’s the local dollar store for bread, milk, eggs and other items that you may have run out of.  You learn to do better planning when you make the long trek.  And nearly everyone has a deep freezer, too.

Shopping for other items – clothes, household, garden stuff – ensures that you plan better and bundle several errands together.  For even bigger things – malls, department stores, book shops – we go to the city.  That’s about fifty miles in one direction and about seventy-five in another.  Again, you make a day of it.  And you don’t buy as much.

And, of course, you can buy nearly anything over the internet these days and it will be delivered right to your door.  Even an international airport is only about ninety minutes away.

Services

Most services are available out here that you would find in a more urban area and the suppliers are used to the further distances.  One of my particular favorites is the local and regional library system.  If they don’t have it, they’ll get it for you. 

Medical

This is very important to some people.  We are fortunate to have some great doctors and a hospital only a half hour away.  It should be noted, however, that emergency care may be more difficult.  Twice I’ve had to drive with my lights flashing to meet with an ambulance.  They could have found our place but we were just saving time by meeting them.  And there are always the bigger cities for more specialized care.

Security

Frankly, most rural people I know have some kind of personal protection, probably firearms. (It may take a long time for an official to show up if you call.)  This could be for racoons in the sweet corn, coyotes stalking the hens, or one time, a couple of feral hogs that were particularly unpleasant.  A story for another time.

Coyote with pear. Taken in back orchard in summer. About 40 feet from the house.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things.  But I’ve had a tendency to paint a rosy picture of living in the country and that may be a little overblown for some.  It suits me fine but this isn’t the life for everyone.  There’s a lot of work involved in keeping up the garden and property. On the other hand, we can do it at our own pace and inclination.  Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about living in a rural area and I’ll try to answer.

Keeping an art journal

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. 

A day at the lake. Loved the fall colors which were more brilliant than I could capture. Many of the boats are readied for winter but there was still a fair amount of traffic on the lake for a beautiful fall day. This is the elongate sketchbook, about 5 x 7, opened to 5 x 14, perfect for landscapes.

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.

Gare de Lyon. One often has plenty of time to wait in airports and train stations, but this was one of the more beautiful ones that I have been in. What you can’t see are the jillions of people milling about, on their way here and there.

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.

This is a view of Avignon taken from the hill where the Palais des Papes is. I later used this in a large watercolor painting.

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. 

A museum visit in Paris. I wanted to remember the general layout of these paintings and they didn’t allow photographs. So, I made sketches. AND…recorded the artists’ names.

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 loved this small marble bust of a boy with a wreath in his hair. Sketched at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. You have to get used to people leaning over your shoulder when sketching in a crowd, but really, most people are very polite and may not even notice you at all.

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. 

Picasso exhibit at the Guggenheim. It was truly a memorable exhibit, but again, no photographs. I completed several sketches under the watchful eyes of the security guards.

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.

An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration from the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators, and Designers.