Category Archives: Organizing

Magnetic Watercolor Box


I have been a watercolorist for 40+ years.

For many of those years, I used nothing but tube watercolors, painted only in my studio, and only on 300 lb Arches watercolor paper.

Seven years ago, I began painting in art journals and everything changed. Moleskine sketchbook pages were smaller – and did not handle moisture that well. Portability became a big thing  - whether I was painting in the garden or sitting on a knee wall on Canyon Road, or on a rock in some National Park.

So, I switched to half pans.

As is my wont and weakness, I collected and tested every pan watercolor known to woman, and began the quest for the perfect portable paintbox.

If you have followed this blog for a long time, you have been privy to some of that.

Like HERE:

and HERE:

Never satisfied!

So one day, while reading the Artist Journal Workshop blog (where I am a contributor), I came across a post about a wonderful little magnetic paintbox in a business card case, created by expeditionary artist, Maria Coryell-Martin . . .

magnetic palette

These are wonderful, they cost $28 and you can buy them from Maria here:

Maria Coryell-Martin

The bottom of the case is magnetic and the pans can be rtearranged. The inside of the cover serves as a palette of sorts, and you fill the pans yourself from tubes.

I bought two and I love them for carrying along some very esoteric colors that are not part of my everyday palette.

But they are tiny (business card size), and I also have many already filled half pans that are way too expensive to abandon. There just had to be a way to apply this idea to my bigger palette.

I bought a package of those business card size adhesive magnetic sheets at an office supply store, and I cut a piece to fit the bottom of all my half pans. You can see how that looks here . . .


Winsor & Newton and some other pre-filled half pans come with the color name printed on the sides or bottom of the pan. My favorite brand, Schmincke, does not, so I wrote the color on the outside of each pan with permanent marker. Of course, any pans you fill yourself will have to be labeled as well.

Empty half pans are sold at a reasonable price at Daniel Smith.

Half pans in a metal paintbox are usually held in place with metal tabs which are a pain, in my opinion. But that insert lifted right out of the Schmincke box I was using, so I just put the half pans, now magnetic, back in the plain metal bottom of the box.

And, I did a journal page about it . . .


I was able to add more pans than the box had been holding with its tabs, and this worked fine for awhile.

Two things were bothering me, however. The colors were so crowded in the box that I kept slopping some of one onto the next, and I could rearrange the colors, but it was hard to get hold of the edge of the pans – especially when the paint was wet.

Well, three things, actually. I also wanted more room because I wanted to add more colors! There it is again – that color oinky syndrome. We all gotta have a syndrome of some kind, right?

I wanted a metal box that was not aluminum (magnets won’t stick), AND that was very thin so it would slip in my journaling bag (show you later) with my journal and iPad.

Just thick enough for the height of the half pans, but no thicker.

Off to the art supply store I went to look at colored pencil sets that come in tins.

You can get them for about $6 and the 12 pencil set is just the right size.

However, I found that if the bottom of the box had any indents, which many of them do, you can’t move the pans around as easily, nor fit as many.

This Prismacolor box was perfect . . .


It was not inexpensive (about $25), but I used a coupon, and I will put the pencils in a pencil case and sell them in my gallery as a set. So, not as wasteful as it might at first seem. If you don’t have a store and don’t need the colored pencils, they would make a great gift for an artist friend in a decorated pencil cup!

This box is the perfect size and the bottom is absolutely flat.

Here are the same pans that were jammed into that Schmincke box . . .


I can slide them around and group them into any set I might be working with at the moment.

I can get hold of them easily to lift them and read the color if need be, and I can put space between them so I don’t slop one into the other.

AND there’s lots of room to add more colors – as long as I leave plenty of sliding room.

The cover also serves as an easily washable mixing palette.

And, an extra benefit – the palette can sit in its own cover, making a neat little unit. Those hinged covers flopping around drive me nuts. (It’s not a long drive.)

I have been using this for about two weeks now, and I can’t imagine a more perfect solution.

But, who knows. There could be something better to imagine out there some day.

For the moment – I am very happy.

Have a great Sunday.


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Moving My Art Around . . . Part 1, Why and Where


Words and Illustration © jessica wesolek 2013

I’ve been doing a lot of organizing lately. I don’t know why – just feels like what I need to do.

There is a ton of stuff scattered around in my life – and a lot of it is my art. Many, many years of my art.

It’s everywhere! Of course, there are all the paintings in private collections around the world, and all the published stuff, and all the graphic design . . . but that’s not what troubles me. It’s more about the bits and pieces in sketchbooks and on scraps of paper and prep sheets for workshops – and now in my iPad too. And let’s not even mention all the blog stuff.

I was having lunch at Santa Café last week. It’s one of Santa Fe’s posh-posh restaurants, but they have paper tablecloth overlays and small sets of crayons on the tables. They have somewhat snooty waiters to make up for that, so it’s ok.

I drew a flower (my favorite doodle), and even our somewhat snooty waiter commented that it was beautiful. He thought it was a compliment when he said I should tear it out and hang it on my refrigerator. Uh-huh. “Perhaps I’ll hang it in my gallery instead,” was my retort.

But, what I was really thinking was “maybe I’ll put it in my art journal” and I’ll always remember this lunch. Also, the snooty waiter – somewhat.

Anyway, I digress . . .

I’d like to gather at least some of all that loose art together so I can look at it in my old age and get an idea of who I am. Or whatever.

This is another reason that artist journals will most likely comprise my “life’s work”. They are a great place to gather yourself and your life into one place.

I am re-devoting myself to art journaling this year – which may even lead to a live Santa Fe retreat in September, which is a topic for a bit later.

Anyway, this re-devotion also led me back to my quest for the perfect BOOK for art journaling, a quest that started before I started to keep artist journals, and has gotten nothing but more intense as I define what the “perfect” journal has to have going for it.

It has to be smooth enough to write on easily with any type pen or marker.

It must have white pages.

It has to allow sketching and easy, clean erasing with my 3H pencil and soft white eraser.

It has to accept watercolor and watercolor pencils etc. without warping and buckling.

It has to be hardbound and available in a portrait orientation. I prefer a 5.5″x8.5″ size with a black cover..

It has to open flat.

The back and front of a page must be similar enough that a painting might be done across a spread.

It MUST take a Sheer Heaven transfer beautifully – BECAUSE I have to gather all that art together!.

If you have been following me for while, you know that I have tried everything that has come along – and none have been perfect.

I have consistently returned to the large Moleskine Sketchbook because it has many of the things I need – but it is far from perfect.

So, when I started hearing about a new company producing upscale sketchbooks – and really tuning-in to artists’ needs, I had to go see.

I ordered the Stilman & Birn BETA book in hard cover (not easy to find), because it has an incredible 180lb paper inside, and will still lie flat when open.


Stilman & Birn produces several series of sketchbooks with different paper weights and colors. Each series comes in varied sizes and a choice of hardbound or spiral binding, and is named with a Greek letter. At first, this seems confusing, but as soon as you think about it, it is incredibly sensitive to varied artists’ tastes.

First, I will say that I loved this journal so much that I called the company and became a reseller (because the hardbound Beta book is hard to find, and I don’t want to recommend something you can’t find). I will carry this version in my favorite size in my gallery, and also offer it through because the love affair between this sketchbook and Sheer Heaven is BIG – a perfect pairing!

The art journal spread at the top of this post is a result of that pairing. It combines a sketch I did in a cheap sketchbook for an earlier drawing workbook, a poem I wrote last Sunday morning – typeset on the computer, transfers, watercolor wash and watercolor painting. It turned out great, so next post, I will give you a step-by-step of how this was done (and purchasing info for the book.)

But, now, since it’s Sunday, I will share a couple of other interesting bits . . .

Towers of Towels . . .

This photo was floating all around the internet last week. I can’t explain why I found it so entertaining, but I did.

You know those floor to ceiling stacks of fluffy towels you see at Bed Bath & Beyond?


As a retailer, I think this is so clever. As a consumer, I’m sorry towels aren’t quite so abundant as it seemed, but I am glad to let go of the fear of those towers falling on me.

Just Imagine . . . What IF?

There were a retreat n Santa Fe this September called “Art Journaling in Paradise.

The hotel rooms were all Santa Fe style suites with their own kitchens and tables for midnight journaling, conveniently located in Santa Fe proper, and costing only $55.night plus tax (even for two people if you wanted to team up).

The huge classroom is located in a beautiful building tucked into a row of Santa Fe’s best galleries and within walking distance of everything downtown.

There were five full days of instruction, studio time, and journaling forays in and around Santa Fe, and a 6th full day of studio time in the classroom to wrap everything and finish your pages.

The workshop cost was only $650 for the whole 6 days.

I got my pal Sandy Bartholomew to fly out here from New Hampshire to help me get you excited about art journaling.

What if all of that could happen? If we built it, would you come?

If you have serious interest, shoot me an email and let me know. Number of students will be limited and great detail will be provided if we see sufficient interest.

Watch for a great tutorial in the next post!

Interesting Things and Pinterest


She (me) was last heard from somewhere in Texas!

My trip was wonderful, and I plan to share some of the best experiences.

But, as soon as I got back, an unexpected event just knocked me right out of my life routine. My Mom got pneumonia (she is recovering nicely), and I moved in with her to be Nurse Cratchett for the past week and a half.

So nothing has been normal as far as scheduling goes.

But, things are lightening up, my Sis came to town to give me some breaks and a chance to consider some of the interesting things I want to pursue in 2013.

The photo above is an interesting thing.

When I set off for Texas, I knew I would be traveling through some familiar (and uninteresting) territory.

So, I challenged myself to find one interesting thing in each small town I drove through.

Believe it or not, there are small towns where I failed to find anything at all. But, there were some treasures along the way.

The town of Ft. Sumner, NM is a place I have previously found less than interesting even though they have a claim to fame – hosting Billy the Kid’s gravesite.

But, this time, because I was searching, I found several murals on buildings in town that are painted by local artists (although I couldn’t find the names of the local artists).

I loved this dog, who seemed to be sniffing out interesting things in unlikely places – just as I was doing along this lonely highway.

And, I am always doing that on the web highways and byways as well – which are never lonely!

Social Media . . .

Have you ever been more sick of hearing about anything in your life?

Me too.

As a person with an online presence that is important to my livelihood, however, I have had to spend a lot of time figuring out whether I need to to have Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, etc. as a part of my “brand”.

I do have a Twitter account and can see no point to it. From my perspective, it is just another link source, and I care nothing for anything that anyone can say in 140 characters.

Facebook is also a completely foreign concept to me. Although I enjoy seeing family pictures of my nieces, nephews, their kids, etc., and it reminds me of birthdays, I would no more share my daily thoughts in that type of forum than fly to the moon.

I do have a Facebook page and post a link to my blog posts there for the sake of some friends and family who enjoy the blog.

But I rarely check the page, and when I do, I often get information that is sad (old and dear friends passing), or intensely irritating (old, dear friends who have fallen off some political cliff and can’t stop ranting).

I rarely watch television news, and I filter the news I get through my iPad to only my areas of interest (no murder, Hollywood, or politics). When I spend my precious time reading, I want to come away having gained something valuable.

Much of my reading for entertainment used to come from art and crafts magazines and books.

These days, it is very rare to find anything inspirational in those publications because they are all catering to one style.

But, here comes the positive part (I can’t keep whining) . . .

Awhile ago, a good friend turned me on to Pinterest.

Because it had pretty pictures, I joined up, even though I didn’t really understand what was going on.

Some time has passed.


Therein, I have found all that is missing from the art publications.

It’s a treasury of beauty and wonderful ideas on all the subjects that interest me most – art, photography, gardening, home decor, etc. I have even gathered some recipes! And I don’t like to cook!

For those who have spent the last few years under a rock, Pinterest is a place for you to save those inspirations you come across online – in a place where you can easily find them – on your own set of virtual bulletin boards. A bulletin board can be kept all to yourself, or you can share your boards with “friends”. Your boards can have themes.

You can also follow the boards of others – friends or not.

Every time I log in, there are pages of things my “friends” found interesting enough to post to their boards – all the newest additions to the boards I “follow”.

It’s so exciting – like years ago, when I ventured into a Texas Art Supply store and found a whole room of art books I had not seen before! New and different – got to love it!

I learn new things and get new ideas every time I visit Pinterest.

SO . . .

I have decided that Pinterest will be my “social media” place to be. It is there, on my boards that I will share all the things I come across that never make it to my blog because they have to wait until I have time to post.

I will also have boards with links to my blog posts, workshops, workbooks, videos, and everything else I do, so everything will be organized in one place.

So, I invite you, dear friends, to come and join me on Pinterest, and follow the boards that you find interesting.

You do not have to make boards of your own, but I bet you will end up doing that.

You have my permission to pin anything from this blog on your Pinterest Boards as long as the pin links back to my blog post.

And, you have permission to Re-Pin from my boards to yours.

As creative people, you will love the ideas, the inspiration, the learning, and the wonderful, visual environment.

Yes, there is a danger of spending too much time there, but I would never call it “wasting time” because there is no better way to spend your time than learning and feeling the joy of creative inspiration!

Art from the Oven – Blast from the Past


I have a billion old art magazines taking up WAY too much space in my life. Maybe you do too and you will recognize this scenario:

Go through a magazine, see two or three items of interest, turn down the page corners, put the magazine away. Wait years before you pick it up again, look at the marked pages, realize that you forgot about that interesting thing entirely, consider tossing the magazine away, don’t throw it away because now you remember there is something of interest in there. Put the magazine back on the stack.

Sound familiar? Soon the Hoarder Police are knocking on your studio door.

Then, maybe, you go through a few of those magazines, tear out the interesting articles, and recycle or gift what’s left. Stack those articles in a drawer, or maybe even file them – and they are never seen again. But, they’re taking less space at least. Remember what was in that interesting article? Not.

I love my iPad for so many reasons, but here is another way it has changed my life.

Now, I take a photo of that interesting article with my iPad, paste it into a journal called “Snippits” that I keep on my iPad, add a couple keywords so I can find it later, and recycle the paper magazine.

My Snippits Journal becomes one big magazine that has only the things I found noteworthy in a hundred paper magazine.

Space saved – priceless.

And the photos the iPad shoots of the magazine page are amazing – just as good as a scan!

So, the tip about using the oven to melt embossing powder at the beginning of this post is from my Snippits Journal. See how clear and easy to read?

I also started emptying drawers full of clippings and torn out pictures. I just lay them on the desk and snap a photo with the iPad.

And you know how torn out articles have those rough edges and get all crinkled up?

Once I have them on my iPad, those rough edges don’t mean a thing, and they don’t get any more wrinkles either! I bet you recognize the author of this article . . . she is coming to visit for a week!! Tonight!! I am so excited!

And . . . you can zoom in on the photo to read it better.

Now, that first tip about using the oven to melt embossing powder brings me to a question I have.

Have you found melted embossing powder to stand the test of time? I’m talking about the regular stuff, not the Ultra.

I make a lot of cards for the gallery and could do some interesting effects with EP, but I hesitate. Some embossed things from years ago have gone dull and have to be reheated to shine again.

Reheating won’t be an option for a card that gets sold.

Embossing powder came from the process called thermography (poor man’s engraving), with which they would make the business cards with the raised printing years ago. I still have some of those business cards and they are fine, but many pieces I made with the stampers embossing powders, especially the clear, have not fared so well. What has your experience been?

Thank you for your enthusiastic response to my new book.

I hope you are all out there with your pencils looking a flower in the face!!

Here is the link again if you haven’t seen it:

Draw Simple Flowers