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!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

North Cascades -- Progress Report, 12 August

Adding a splash of color... 

This week's tally -- 79 works on paper, 20 oil paintings on panels, 130 photos, and 12 videos. I got a little more wrapped up with the works on paper than I had in mind at the time of my last update. So, I have yet to get back to the oil paintings. But I'm getting steadily closer to project completion. (Yea!) some of the botanicals...

Anyway, I should finish up the current round of works on paper this week and be able to return to oil paints ("Yea!" again) by week's end. After that it's just a matter of proof reading (I'll get 2 or 3 other folks to do this with me to gain fresh perspective.) and then it's Submission Time. (Really big "Yea!")

...and one of the "cultural artifacts" I found in the woods

If all goes well you can expect the release of the free excerpt around the end of August. (Stay tuned for more details.)

With more windows (or maybe a hinged roof) this might make a cozy little studio.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

North Cascades -- Progress Report, 24 July

finishing up the inking on a Woods' Rose prior to adding the w/c washes

67 works on paper, 20 oil panels, and 123 photos and videos completed thus far.

adding the final stippling to another wildflower study

For the past two weeks I've been focusing primarily on photos, video, and works on paper -- with a little fine tuning of the text thrown in for good measure.

adding the contour (i.e., elevation)  lines to one of the day maps

Next week I'll return to working with oils and will probably wrap up that medium. I have one panel planned for sure, and may opt to add one more for good measure (and because I'm having fun.)

More updates (and, hopefully, a release date) soon!