Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Sense of Place, Part 5 (The Clear Fork)

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it."
                                            -- Norman Maclean

we soon discovered an abundant variety of bird life

Have you ever returned home from an extensive road trip or far-flung vacation and discovered that, along with all the souvenirs and travel-related memories, you've also gained a keener awareness of, and appreciation for, your own "back yard"?

the birds, it turned out, thrived on our diverse insect population

Well, that was my family's experience after our two-month adventure in Europe; we loved every breathtaking, awe-inspiring moment we had spent abroad and we were ever so much more appreciative of all the marvelous things (both big and small) that made our little corner of the world unique.

and the variety of insects was made possible by a plethora of colorful wildflowers

So, after we settled into our new home, we decided to take some time to explore and discover the wonders to be found in our back yard. Well, as it turned out, there was a stretch of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River running through our back yard: a stretch that the Army Corps of Engineers hadn't channelized and deforested when that was the popular method of flood control in the mid-20th century. And "some time" turned into a 12-month voyage of discovery as we studied everything from native flora, fauna, geological formations, fossilized remains, and local history.

everywhere we looked we found artifacts of earlier inhabitants

The result was a greater awareness of our wonderful little corner of the world we live in, a greater appreciation for this Place and its history, a curio cabinet full of "treasures", and a journal that captured a sense the sublime variety and diversity (and our firsthand experience) of it all.

and, as we learned which insects our local fish thrived on, 

we also learned to imitate their appearance with our hand-tied fishing flies


A Tools of the Trade Update --

On September 18th -- five months to the day after I last topped off my TWSBI Mini clear demo fountain pen -- I finally had to refill it: not because it was skipping or because the nib was drying out, but simply because I was running out of ink! I rinsed the Mini with clear water (only because I had decided to rotate colors) and refilled the pen with (as TWSBI fans have come to expect) no difficulties of any kind. What a pen! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Sense of Place, Part 4 (Installing the Show)

Central Library in Fort Worth, Texas, has the most amazing exhibition display case I've ever come across. I spent a few hours on Monday of this week installing the exhibition for A Sense of Place. And the Central Library case is the first one that has allowed me to display an entire Moleskine Japanese accordion structure opened from first page to last (with enough space left over for a partially opened accordion on either end).

the library's glass cases are massive!

my journals come in all sizes (and I frequently carry a variety of sizes at any given time)

positioning one of the partially-opened Japanese accordions

place-based sketching need not be limited to a sketchbook (my trusty little pochade sketch box with an "WIP" panel)

selecting nature studies in a handmade journal

The exhibition consists of 28 journals and a number of panels and other "loose pieces". If you'll be in the area please drop by and take a look. (And I'll be in every two weeks to turn the pages, rotate the Japanese journals, and switch out the panels. So, you might even want to visit two or three times to take it all in.

And be sure to join us for the first of four journaling workshop (this one at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens) on Friday. (You can phone 817.392.7323 for free registration and additional information.)


a quick flip through the first volume from our European adventure (you can 
drop by the exhibit to see it opened end-to-end)

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Sense of Place, Part 3 (Off to See the Wizard!)

"We're off to see the Wizard!"

That line from a famous 1939 movie (about travel and adventure on the road to an Emerald City) is how I began my daily blog during my own family's 2009 two-month "Magical Mystery Adventure" across Europe. And this week I thought I'd share with you a few pages from Volume 1: Week 1+ of our exciting voyage of discovery.

Our first week involved our departure from Dallas and a one-night stay over in Frankfurt am Main. (To get the best deal on airline tickets we had opted to fly Lufthansa to Dublin via Frankfurt with one significant drawback: a mind-numbing 12 hour layover at Frankfurt International with a midnight arrival in Dublin. Yikes!) Fortunately, a check with the folks at Lufthansa revealed that we could spend the night in Frankfurt (where we got to enjoy a refreshing walk in the countryside and a mouth-watering outdoor dinner at a Naturfreund gasthaus) and arrive in Dublin/Swords (fresh and invigorated) early the next day (celebrating our arrival in the Emerald Isle with a feast of fish and chips).

Unfortunately, public transportation in Ireland is still a bit patchy. So we had to opt to drive from Dublin (on the east coast) to Kenmare (on the Kerry Peninsula of the southwest coast).

From our picturesque wee cottage just outside Kenmare we could venture out (sometimes on foot, sometimes in the car): to explore the rugged beauty of the Atlantic coast; to visit a ferry fort and let the kids play with some local sheep dogs; to relax before a peat-fed fire and enjoy a good book; or to listen as my son and his fiddle sat in on his first "session" at a local pub.

After we returned our car to the airport in Swords (and a good night's sleep) we took the double-decker into Dublin. We took in a few of the sights on our brief walk from the General Post Office (of Easter Rising fame) to O'Connell Station. And, after lunch, boarded our train for the coast-hugging ride to Rosslare. (Along the way we encountered our first bit of foul weather - a steady rain that tried, but failed, to soak us through as we trudged up the hill from the station to our hotel).

PS, Not wishing to close on an overly negative note, I would note that Volume 2 begins with us awaking the next morning to a clear blue sky and a crossing to Wales on a smooth-as-glass Irish Sea. (Yet again, a delightful time was had by all!)


NOTE: Watch for a special post tomorrow about the installation and opening of the exhibition at the Central Library in Fort Worth, TX... and details about how you might win a complete Sakura Pigma Micron sketching kit!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Sense of Place, Part 2 (Here There Be Magic)

I let my children pick their favorite places in San Antonio, and we went about documenting them

Journals have been part of my daily carry for decades. I carry them when I go to work, when I go shopping, and when I travel. But it's only been in the last 10 years or so that I've committed to creating journals dedicated in their entirety to a single trip or locale.

recording my son's last lesson with his favorite teacher (and the music he was playing)

This week's article focuses on one of the earliest dedicated journals (and one of the most ambitious) -- a record of our move from San Antonio, TX, to Annapolis, MD, in June 2004. At the time I was under the spell of the Book of Kells, calligraphy, and medieval scripting, and thought that the move would be a perfect opportunity to work on my own calligraphy skills while documenting a bit of our family's history. Well, (not knowing if we would ever be returning to Texas, and wanting to experiment a little with pen & ink, and watercolor) my first decision was to document some of our favorite haunts in San Antonio. I purchased a large Punjab journal filled with very rustic-looking sheets of handmade watercolor paper and we set out to document the town. (This was also an excellent excuse for a break from all the packing at home.)

no travel journal is complete without maps (I'm addicted to maps)

Next we set down a few operating "rules" for the trip itself: my son (who was just tall enough now) would ride in the cab of the truck with me while our daughter would ride in the car with my wife; in addition to lunch, we would make a minimum of two stops each day to visit points of local interest along the way and to stretch our legs; and we would stop around three each day to allow plenty of time for a dip in the pool, some family game time, and a bit of relaxation before bedtime. (This kept everyone happy and sane, and was worth its weight in gold.)

I like to think that my son enjoyed spending quality time with his "Poppy" as much as I enjoyed spending it with him

On our first day out (in fact, as we were leaving the San Antonio city limits) my son made a request that was to have wonderful ramifications on the rest of our road adventure; he asked if we could leave the radio off and just talk. So, for almost the entire trip we talked -- about the whether, what we saw, where we were going, and what we did at each stop along the way. It was sublime! (The only exception was a history lesson about the Civil War -- a radio broadcast by the National Park Service we listened to as we drove up the Shenandoah Valley. And my son, the budding history buff, just loved that too.)

another map, one of our culture breaks, and our daughter's studio-on-wheels

For those who may be interested in technical issues I include the following notes:
  • A pocket notebook and small sketchbook were utilized during the day to record details on and along the road (and my son supplemented my notes with his camera) and the journal itself was written and illustrated in the evenings. (I hate driving trucks, so the evening journaling was also a great way to "wind down".) 
  • The white rough-textured Punjab watercolor paper was "tempered" by dabbing over a Japanese "stencil" with a sponge lightly loaded with green watercolor. 
  • The layout of each page (or facing pairs of pages) was initially blocked out in pencil. Text was added using an assortment of steel dip pens with watercolor for ink. (I wanted to make certain that my materials were archival and this also gave me total control over color combinations.)
  • Maps and line drawings were produced with Sakura Micron pens and then colored with watercolor.  

state flowers graced a two-page spread, and my son's "Dutch oblique" 
of a Virginia farm added a nice compositional touch

This is part of a series of articles on travel journaling that I'll be posting through the end of October. The  series is running concurrent with an exhibition of travel and nature journals I'm doing for Central Library in Fort Worth, TX. During the exhibition I'll also be doing a series of four workshops on various types of journaling at venues around the city. So, if you find yourself in the area, please join us.

And if you'd like to create your own Punjab journal, but your local art supply shop doesn't have it in stock, you can find them on my "Art Supplies & Provisions Online" page.

Correction: Last week I inadvertently posted the wrong date for one of the journalling workshops. The correct date for the first (Botanical Gardens) workshop is Friday, September 20.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Sense of Place (The Exhibit): Part 1

"What is this life if, full of care, 
We have no time to stand and stare."
                               -- W. H. Davies

Beginning on the 17th this month and running till October 31st, I've been invited to exhibit some of my nature and travel journals at the Central Library in Fort Worth, Texas, and to teach a series of four journaling workshops (three beginning and one advanced) for the general public.

just a few of the journals and journaling-related items that will be on public display

  • The first workshop (entitles Sketching from Nature) will be held at the Fort Worth Botanical Garden from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (with a one-hour break for lunch) on Friday, September 20. 
  • The second workshop is entitled Sketching on Location: Place-based Journaling and will run from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, October 5, at the Log Cabin Village historical park. 
  • A 3-hour workshop on Urban Sketching will be held at the Central Library from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, October 13 (following which interested participants can opt to join me for some sketching in nearby Sundance Square). 
  • And a workshop entitled Advanced Sketching: Toned Paper will meet from 9-11 a.m. on Tuesday, October 29.

All workshops are free and all required materials and supplies will be provided. (Take them home with you afterward to continue your journaling adventure!) Enrollment in each workshop is limited to 10 participants each (to maximize one-on-one instruction time), so early enrollment is highly recommended. Participation by all ages and experience levels is most welcome, but please note that under-aged children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Over the next several weeks I'll be posting a series of articles, each focusing on a specific travel adventure, journal type, or sketching technique, that you can expect to experience in person at the exhibition and during the workshops.

For additional information you can drop me an email, visit the library's activities site online (http://fortworthtexas.gov/library/WorthReading/event/?id=114616), or phone 817.392.7323 to register.
If you happen to live in the greater DFW area (or will be visiting the area), please consider joining us.

"The real voyage of discovery consists
not in seeking new landscapes but in
having new eyes."
                                   -- Marcel Proust