Monday, November 17, 2014


Anyone up for a little High Adventure?

Sunrise, South Zion NP 5-14a
sunrise in Zion National Park (to say that the light in Zion is "dynamic" would be an understatement)

The National Parks Service folks at Zion National Park have made their selection for the 2015 season and I've been invited to participate! ( In fact, not only am I going to spend a month drawing, painting, and video taping in this awesome natural wonderland... I'm going to be doing it during what is arguably the park's most colorful season -- autumn! (

Zion National Park - Grotto Building - First Visitor Center
during my stay I'll be living in the Museum-Grotto House (built circa 1927) -- 
just sets away from the Virgin River, hiking trails, and awesome canyon views

Early Fall, Zion National Park
my residency period will begin with the onset of fall color and run through the full (spectacular) range of color change

The current plan is to spend one week driving to Zion (with a couple of "painting breaks" en route -- at Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley) and four weeks in the park itself. Watch for the launch of my new Kickstarters! crowd funding venture soon. (I'm planning some really interesting "thank you" gifts for my supporters this year -- including artwork, DVDs, and much, much more.)

Zion Canyon view from Angel's Landing - Zion National Park, Utah
you can expect some really spectacular views from the canyon floor (and maybe a few from the rim)

I even plan to try painting by headlamp (mine, not the car's)

I'll be posting regular (well, as regular as internet availability permits) updates here on the blog -- during the lead-up prep, en route, while in the park, and during my return). And I hope you'll join me here when we launch this exciting voyage of discovery. In fact, if you find yourself in the southern Utah area during my residency, I hope you'll consider joining me for the FREE public workshop I'll be offering (date TBA); I can pretty much guarantee a good time (and door prizes) for all!

Once a Home, Grafton Ghost Town, 4-30-14s
my residency at Zion will even allow a sketching & painting excursion to the ghost town of Grafton 
(setting for the "bicycle scene" from the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)

Stay tune for updates and additional details soon.


Image credits: All images in this article are used with permission under Creative Commons licensing agreement ( Copyright belongs solely to the original artists. My thanks to (from top to bottom) Don Graham, Alan English, Carl Berger, Jono Hey, Eric Ward (no relation), and Don Graham again. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Intrepid Sketch Hunters: Strathmore Softbound Toned (or "Here There Be Monsters!")

I generally begin each new sketchbook/journal with an inspiring quotation.

The neat thing about sketching in nature (well, one of the many neat things) is that you always encounter surprises... if you're observant.

This week I'm continuing my exploration and evaluation of papers for journaling. And, whenever possible I'm doing it outdoors. (I know, it's a tough job. But, hey! somebody's got to do it.) The selected papers/sketchbooks will be joining me on a new series of field adventures in 2015.

Strathmore - Softbound

Strathmore is a name artists have been depending on for fine papers for 115 years. Earlier this year the company unveiled their new Softbound series. I have my eye on 3 journals in the series for use in in the 2015 project and am testing the 2 toned paper journals this week. (Watch for a separate field test and evaluation of the landscape-formatted Softbound Watercolor journal, and Strathmore's Series 500 Imperial watercolor paper in a future posting here.)

While artists still choose to create most of their drawings on white paper, it is also true that working on a mid-toned paper is the quickest way to produce a tonal/volumetric study of a subject. It's also true that, because works on toned paper aren't as common as those on white paper, toned paper has a visual impact, or "novelty", that white paper doesn't.

rendering volumes on toned paper is a breeze (if you simply 
remember to let the paper represent the middle tone)

Strathmore's Series 400 Toned Gray has a subtle vibrancy due to the inclusion of fine red and blue fibers scattered throughout its surface. The paper will work flawlessly with graphite or pen & ink. But, personally, I find a white and dark (either black or Indigo blue) color pencil particularly appealing for fast, bold renderings in the field or in the studio. Add to this the fact that the surface can easily stands up to repeated erasures without smudging or fraying and you have both a versatile and dependable tool.

toned paper is far more gentle on the eye when working with harsh reflected light 

toned paper can be invaluable for capturing unexpected or fleeting discoveries
(like this fossil I found at my feet while sketching on the fractured limestone above) 

tip - putting down a light wash first will increase the "tooth" of the paper's 
surface and make it even more receptive for color pencils

As with the gray, the surface and sizing of the Toned Tan paper is ideal for graphite, color pencil, and/or pen & ink. The 118gm weight of the papers also means both are quite tolerant of repeated light washes, experience minimal surface buckling, and show no sign of fiber lift.

a drawing on toned paper can offer a visual experience that white paper may lack


And remember, when sketch hunting it always pays to be alert -- even when not actually sketching (otherwise you're likely to overlook "monsters").

here there be monsters! 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cabin Fever and the Call of the Wild (Tools of the Trade #13)

Well, it certainly has been fun turning my hand to creating and publishing enhanced iBooks (and, with 2 new books already in the works and one very special project in the planning stages, I'm definitely not done with this "new" medium). But, after four books in as many months, I'm feeling a bit of the artistic "cabin fever" and am longing to answer the call of my favorite muse -- Nature.

On top of that I have a new adventure set for the new year (more on that in next week's post) and it's time for me to begin my annual reevaluation of my "kit" (to make certain that old favorites are still the best choices for the field work ahead, and to see what new materials may have come out since my last round of field tests).

So, for the next few weeks I'm going to be taking advantage of the mild autumn weather to pack up my day bag, stretch my legs, renew my relationship with nature, reawaken my observational eye, and test some papers/journals/pens/pencils/etc. And, with your permission, I'll share my findings and observations with you here.

Lanaquarelle 300gm HP 10,5x14,8cm Watercolor Block

Rather than do a superficial treatment of an overwhelming number of papers I thought I'd do an in-depth write up, replete with illustrations and the odd demo, of 2 or 3 papers each week and give readers an opportunity to savor each.

We begin with my go-to paper for postal art from the field -- Lanaquarelle's 300gm 4"x6" (that's 10,5x14,8cm to the rest of the world) HP watercolor blocks! The French Lana company has been making artists' papers since 1590 and this paper reflects all the knowledge and expertise the company has accumulated over that time. It is heavily sized both internally and on the surface, has a texture that is a delight to the touch, and handles mark making (and repeated corrections) without complaint. And, due to its size, the block fits perfectly into jacket or cargo pants pocket.

with a Lanaquarelle block in one pants pocket and pencil box or small w/c set in 
another I'm always prepared for every sketching opportunity

While this is technically not a sketchbook/journal (and that's perfect for me since these very stiff sheets usually head out individually via the postal system to friends and family) the paper takes marvelously to being bound as an accordion structure -- should you end up creating an interesting series during your next travel adventure, or should your spouse wish to put a collection of postcards together as a keepsake. (If this sounds appealing to you but you're not familiar with this simple bookbinding technique leave a comment and I'll see about doing a future post on accordions and cover options.)

Clairefontaine 90gm 14,8x21cm Journal ("Douceur de l'écriture", "Papier Velouté")

I'm not sure that this paper by the famous French stationary maker is technically intended as a drawing paper, but I am so in love with its silky touch, how pencil and pen glide across it effortlessly, and how it handles fountain pen without feathering or bleeding through.

even vintage flex nibs glide across this paper without scratching or feathering

This is probably the thinnest paper I use but is absolutely perfect for longer hikes afield (when your back and legs are going to feel every gram by the end of the day) and you want to be certain that you won't run out of paper while you're still miles from base camp. (This soft-bound volume is just 1cm thick yet contains 96 sheets/192 pages!)

red arrows splint out the location of faint show-through from the next page

This paper is also the brightest white of any paper I use, providing both a delicate foundation for pencil studies and dramatic contrast for pen and ink. And, for such a thin paper, it handles light watercolor washes particularly well (all-in-all a marvelous choice for my finely detailed botanical and entomological field studies).

show-through (but not bleed-through) is most evident when looking at the back of a page

Note: show-through is not necessarily a bad quality (unless you wish to work on both sides of every sheet). In fact, I find it useful as it allows a line guide to show through and facilitates my writing in straight lines. (And, of course, I can simply dispense with the guide when I want my writing to follow a more serpentine course.)

Next week I'll add two or three new illustrated paper tests. (I hope you'll join me then.)

the papers in this test series (minus 2 specialty papers I couldn't squeeze into the photo) -- 
upper row: Stillman & Birn (Epsilon and Zeta Series), Exacompta Sketch Book, Strathmore (400 Series Softbound Watercolor - Landscape & Imperial 300gm)
lower row: Strathmore Softbound Toned (Gray & Tan), TWSBI Journal, Clairefontaine Douceur de l'écriture, Lanaquarelle

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

iBook Bonus(es) Anyone?

The new book is up and running smoothly now. And I'm getting some very nice feedback from those of you who have had a chance to look inside. But I've been thinking that it would be really nice if I could offer a bonus for everyone who pre-orders The North Cascades: A Tale of Two Seasons (Spring). So, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to mail a print of one of my pen & ink with watercolor studies* from the Stehekin series (plus a hand-written note signed with my Chinese seal) to each person who pre-orders my new book from one of the 51 iBooks Stores worldwide between September 15 and October 14! (*My plan is to have 4 images to select from. I'll post the first 2 here today; watch for the other 2 options to be posted here soon.)

the first bonus print option

To receive your signed print in the mail just PM me (or post in the Comments section here) after you place your order any time between now and Oct. 14. Then, once you've downloaded the iBook, email me a copy of your purchase confirmation from Apple (Be sure and redact any personal info, account numbers, etc.), a mailing address I can send the print to, and your choice of print(s). And the watch the mail for your "Thank You" bonus!

Not enough? You want more? Well -- if (either after you've had a chance to look over the free sample excerpt available at the iBooks Store, of after you've downloaded the entire book) you visit the iBooks Store, rank the book, and post a brief note -- I'll send you a second print. (Please note this offer will expire Monday, November 6.)

the second bonus print option (2 more to come)

Well, that's it for this week. I'm busy working on the next book, and am looking forward to the final Zion National Park A-i-R interview next Monday. (Very exciting!) And next week I'll have something completely new and different to share with you.



Todays country links for The North Cascades --

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Houston, We Are Cleared for Launch!"

"Houston, we are cleared for launch. T minus 30 and counting."

To maximize the multi-media experience for readers unfamiliar with the Multi-Touch 
format a 3-page user's guide to the book's "bells and whistles" has been included

Well, OK, I don't live in Houston and publishing a media-rich, interactive ebook isn't exactly rocket science. (Although, for someone who usually makes his living with technologies that harken back to the Rennaisance and beyond, it can sometimes "feel" rather Buck Rogers.)

Hi-res panoramas, oils sketches, and (on the following page) finished paintings abound

Everything has been checked -- images are all in place, the text has been proofread (thrice) for typos, all the videos run, and all scrolling sidebars scroll. Apple has approved the final manuscript (all 155 pages). Sales begin in 51 markets* world-wide on October 15. (That's where the "T minus 30" came from.) And pre-orders begin TODAY!!!

Pages from my journals are reproduced throughout the book

If you like the images in this post (All are screenshots from the book.) please visit the iBookstore ( to see more. Be sure and download the FREE sample excerpt. And, if you find it interesting, I hope you'll buy the book... and tell your friends. (Please note that 100% of my royalties go to support future adventures and the books they generate.

Text from my adventure blog is combined with excerpts from my field 
notebooks and all-new notes and observations

Thanks, as always, for your support. 

* NOTE: To make navigating to the Apple iBookstore easier for readers living outside the U.S. I'll be posting hyperlinks (2 each day) to stores in each of the 51 countries currently served in the Comments section below. (If you don't see yours please check back or PM me.) Cheers!

Monday, September 1, 2014

North Cascades - The Final Progress Report!

early blocking in of what I thought would be the last painting

Yep, it's finally complete. All the text. All the images. All the neat interactive bells and whistles. This week the final manuscript is with the proof readers and (barring any typos and/or omissions) it should be off to Apple for final approval by week's end. So, you can expect the next "North Cascades" posting to be the announcement of the release date... and the rolling out of the free excerpt!

and blocking in the foreground

Oh, I know I said in my last progress report that I only had one oil painting to complete. Well, I didn't allow for how much fun I have with Gamblin oils and Ampersand Gessobord panels.... And one painting became three. (I can't tell you just how hard it was to stop myself at three!) So, the final count looks like it'll be 83 works on paper, 23 oil panels, 13 videos, and 152 photos.

early stages of the first "bonus" panel

To all of you who have waited so patiently while I worked on this project (and especially those of you who offered words of support and encouragement over the past couple of months) I offer my most heart-felt thanks!

and the W-i-P phase of the final panel

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

North Cascades - The Penultimate Progress Report

adding a 1951 Chevy DeLuxe to the "cultural artifacts" journal 

I've selected the final 83 works on paper, 20 oil paintings, 156 photos, and 13 videos for the new book. I have one more panel painting (OK, maybe two) to prepare while I do the final proof reading. And then North Cascades can be sent off to the publisher. (Yea!)

completing a study of balsamroot (this time sans bears)

I thank you all for your patience and support while I've been working away at this project over the past few weeks.

And, if all goes well, my next post will be to announce the release date for North Cascades: A Tale of Two Seasons (Spring). Cheers!