Thursday, July 11, 2013

Travel Journaling

It's summer, finally, and for me that means it's Travel Journal time. I put away the multitude of supplies that I use for the Art journaling, and simplify, simplify, simplify. I also move the studio outside and work in the sun as well as the shade of the back deck and trees.

The summer term for Travel Journaling at Linn-Benton Community College, Benton Center has begun! We meet on Wednesday evenings to sketch. I line up students willing to open their backyards and gardens to the class and we gather at a different yard every week to work-I mean play! If you've ever wanted to learn simple techniques for sketching when on the road, this is a great class to take.

Week #1 and #2 we learned about supplies to travel with, the ins and outs of journals, learning how to sketch on the fly, and colored pencils. Whew, that was a lot of information in only 2 classes. But hang in there, we get the rest of the summer to make it all work together.

This was week #3 and we worked with watercolors, the last of the 3 basic supplies used for traveling (the others being good pens and colored pencils-and a journal of course).  I'm posting photos of an exercise we did to explore the relationship between the brush, the pigment, the paper, ink pens and colored pencils. The end goal was to have 4 variations of one picture; pen and ink on white, pen/ink w/watercolor, pen/ink over wash with watercolor, and finally, pen/ink, wash, watercolor and colored pencil.
Using a piece of watercolor paper (this is Fabriano, #140 lb hot press-It's smooooth to the touch and lovely to sketch on), I sketched 2 similar images side by side using semi-blind contour method. Be sure each sketch has some overlapping images. My goal is to have multiple sections to paint in. And yes, you see a sewing stitch down the middle. I attached two pieces left over from tearing up a larger 20"x30" sheet of paper. It's a thing I do... 
Leave the image on the left side as a black and white pen ink drawing. There is power in simplicity and sometimes a sketch looks the best leaving it just as is. In the sketch on the right side I'm using Caran d'Ache water color crayons.  I start applying pigment to each section. The brush I'm using has a water reservoir (wow, say that 10 times quickly). Great for traveling. I don't take the crayons out of the box, I just load up the brush directly. 
Layer color in lightly, allow to dry, then reapply with other colors to create depth and contrast.  My basic rule: Change colors at every line. Depending on the pen, the paper, drying time and the position of the planets, you may find that the ink line bleeds. Let it. Embrace it. Or change the pen you're using. I love mine (Pilot Precise, 1, .07, .05). Sometimes they bleed, sometimes they don't. It's the only pen that can keep up with the speed in which I sketch and not 'skip'.

Turn the paper over. I'm now using a large Sumi brush and my travel watercolor kit. With plenty of water on the brush and only 2-3 colors, quickly brush on a light layer of  color. This should be done quickly with LOTS of water as the paper is absorbing it almost faster than you can apply it and you don't want to have unsightly, over-worked brush marks. It should look loose, varied and light. Splatter it with remaining pigment in your brush by hitting it on the back of your knuckles for a bit of texture. Allow to dry completely. 

Now, again, sketch 2 designs side by side. Go ahead and add another leaf or flower  to add complexity to the  composition. Careful not to have too many tiny little sections (You're going to need to get your paint brush in them) I had students draw their images much bigger if they were new at painting. My drawings are a bit small-but that's how I sketch. 

Starting with the image on the left side of your paper, fill in the sections with color. Treat every section as a separate form to paint. Try arbitrary colors. The undercoat is the magical effect, blending and mixing with the colors painted over them. It integrates the picture. Don't overwork the sections. Practice laying down a line of color. USE the brush as how it's intended. Ask if you have questions!

Now the image on the right. Paint it. Try new color combinations. Try to lay down the color with one stroke. Find the balance of water and pigment. The pigment sits on the tip of the brush, the top 1/4 of it.  Use the side of the brush to draw the water out and disperse the pigment. It's such a lovely process. If you're struggling with it, take another sheet of watercolor paper and just practice 'laying down a line' of color. Know your supplies and how to use them.

On that last quadrant, after it is dried, apply colored pencil. Play with a variety of  colors. Find ones that make the picture 'pop'. Often it will be a complementary color. Or use dark areas to help shade and darken certain areas. More on that next week...
now stop reading and get out and PLAY!


  1. Thanks Lauren for the great instructions and of course your inspirational encouragement! Second time around for this class and I wish I hadn't had to skip a year. So glad to be back :))

  2. I love that you're blogging this; it really helps since I had to miss class last week. Thanks!


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