Category Archives: Creative Inspiration

Artist Journal Chronicles is Here!

ajccovershotblogI wish I were you for a couple hours.

That’s weird, because I have rarely wanted to be in someone else’s shoes. I like my crazy life.

Actually, I don’t even want to be in my “SHOES”, but you know what I mean.

I wish this book had been written by someone else, because then, I could be like you, and have the pleasure of opening and exploring a WONDERFUL adventure in my favorite subject – art journaling.

Since that can’t be true, I do appreciate the joy I had in putting this together for other journal lovers.

Artist Journal Chronicles, Volume One, is a PDF book that you download on checkout. It has 90+ pages about the What, Why, When, and How of visual journal pages. It has story, maps of creative process, tips and art lessons, reviews, tool talk, and page projects for every level of complexity.

In this age of boutique publishing, I don’t know whether to call this a series of books or a magazine. So I decided it is a periodical.

Then I looked up the meaning of “periodical” and was a little worried about the “Regular Interval” part of the definition, because you all know about my unpredictable art life, But I enjoyed this so much that I plan to start the next volume as soon as I see whether you support this project by purchasing this one.

One person should not go purchase this volume because she won the free copy. That’s you, Rhee. I have sent you an email with the download link.

The way I did this was to yell out to Mark to pick a number between 1 and 68. He picked 28. I then went and counted to the 28th comment from the beginning – leaving out myself and one duplicate. Random enough I figure.

Anyway, without further ado (I will be back with more ado later), here is your link to this most amazing publication (in my humble opinion, of course, since I am thus far the only one to have seen it).


Please let me know if you enjoy it. I would say “and if you don’t” but I just don’t think that’s possible (grin).

When You Wish Upon a Star . . .

wishingstarsMany of you will remember that, during a studio tour last Fall, I fell in love – with glass. It was a grand passion and I went nuts, bought a kiln two weeks later, and jumped in with both feet (not into the kiln), but into the creation of beautiful sparkly things.

The thing about me is that, no matter the medium, my monkey mind starts swinging from idea trees, and I come up with new and unusual “product” ideas. It’s what I do. I think this comes from all my years in marketing and retailing, but who really knows where ideas come from? Not me. Continue reading

Prints Charming . . .

Casita-Studio “Santa Fe Studio with Picture Window” © 2014 Jessica Wesolek

I didn’t quite meet my challenge to create six paintings this week. I only made it to four so far, but so many good things have come of the effort, that I’m not even disappointed about it.

I have gotten my garden room cleaned up and set up as a working watercolor studio.

I have unearthed all the wonderful tubes of paint that have been waiting such a long time for me to come back to them, and I have spent a LOT of time painting.

Because of a puppy dog tummy ache, we got up at 5am yesterday, and I painted for 4 hours before going down to the gallery.

Found out that early morning is a wonderful time to make art – putting it first before anything else but coffee (and dog walking, of course).

I love the studio in the painting above and wish mine was that pristine.

One of the really fun things is incorporating some of the style details that are so unique to Santa Fe, like saltilllo (sal-tee-o) tile floors and vigas (vee-ga) and latillas (la-tee-ya).

The vigas are the large telephone pole-like beams that go through the walls and hold up the ceiling.

Latillas are the smaller sapling logs that cover the ceiling on top of the vigas.

When I have my Santa Fe Retreats, this is the stuff that charms the chile (yes – spelled with an “e”) out of my students because it is so “arty” and fun to sketch. I can still fit a couple people into the September Retreat if anybody else wants to come see for themselves.

Here is a little “reading room” I painted with a Kiva (kee-va) fireplace in it . . .

Casita-Kiva-Fireplace“Casita with Kiva Fireplace” © 2014 Jessica Wesolek

Kiva fireplaces are patterned after horno ovens (orno) which are adobe brick ovens, usually outside, in which the Pueblo people bake bread. They look something like this . . .hornooven

First, you build a fire in the oven in the early morning. When the kindling burns away, you clean out the ashes, put your loaves of bread inside on pieces of stone (so they don’t get sooty) and the retained heat in the adobe bricks bakes the bread. Makes you appreciate our oven’s pre-heat feature, doesn’t it?

I have eaten bread freshly baked in an horno when visiting a friend at one of the local pueblos. It was really delicious and different.

I have never seen a fireplace like this in any kiva (ceremonial room), so who knows how that name came about.

And my fourth painting this week was an outside view . . .

The-Note“The Note” © 2014 Jessica Wesolek

Many exterior patios and porches are flagstone or brick. This time, you see the ends of the vigas sticking out through the adobe wall.

And we also have a chile ristra (ree-stra). Fresh picked chiles are bound together and hung on an outside wall or portal (porch) to dry. The cook then grabs one from the ristra whenever needed.

Blue doors and gates are considered good luck and they are thought to ward off evil.

This morning, I built a web page for my prints, and put them in the Shopping Cart . . .

You can see all four paintings together, and you can purchase the prints.

Thank you so much to those who purchased the first print last time.

It is really fun to share the style and culture of Santa Fe with you – and it’s REALLY fun to be painting again!

I Want to Make You Jealous . . .

paintflowersBecause I want you to feel this happy.

This was in my lap as I sat on my swing last evening. I am doing new illustrations for my Cre8it Home page (again!)

If I looked down to my right . . .

skysleepMy girl Sky, who is feeling great again after hurting her back last week. She had a bad landing from one of her amazing leaps into the sky (from which she got her name).

Huskies are not normally jumpers. But, since she was a puppy, this one leaps about three feet straight up when she is excited. I would make a video, but I discourage her from doing it. Someday, she might land wrong and pull something.

Well, she did that last Monday, and we babied her all week until she felt normal again. I’m still not taking my eyes off her. which is easy since she is velcro-ed to me, it seems.

And if I looked left . . .

sidetableTwo of the beautiful Begonias from AJ’s Nursery in Durango – and my favorite Chardonnay (Woodbridge by Mondavi). Not expensive, just light and delicious.

And if I looked straight ahead . . .

garden6-9I am so filled with gratitude because who could ask for more?

This little piece of paradise does so many things – it soothes my soul, makes me feel the spirit in Nature, overwhelms me with beauty, and totally inspires my art.

I work myself to pieces reestablishing this space every year, but it occurs to me, when I see and ponder the elements, that anyone could make themselves a little space like this – a tiny piece of heaven.

Here’s a little story.

A few years back, my brother lived in a high rise in Houston called Bayou Bend. It was a pretty ritzy place with doormen and all that (they always got a kick out of me and my flip flops), and very beautiful.

But, each condo had only a postage stamp size balcony. My brother never went out there, but there was a small chair and table set and a dead plant.

As beautiful as the building and the condo were, it lacked something essential to anyone with a soul because there was zero connection to Nature.

I couldn’t stand it and I sat out there with my coffee each morning. Eventually, he joined me. The view was beautiful – overlooking Memorial Park and the green of the bayou.

“We need to do something with this,” we both agreed.

It only took a day, some beautiful plants in two containers, cushions to make the chairs comfy, and a small fountain.

Combined with the beautiful view, we had turned a concrete ledge into a little piece of heaven where he could meditate and soothe the stresses of his high powered executive days.

This soon convinced him to sell the condo, by the way, and move to a beautiful home on the bayou with a BIG yard.

The point of this story is that no matter what your circumstances, there is probably some small spot that you can turn into your sacred nature space.

It does not cost much and you do not have to be a gardener.

Here’s all you need:

A comfy outdoor chair, and a little side table for your wine, tea, or art supplies.

As many containers as you can fit, filled with annuals from the nursery, or from Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Your pots do not have to be expensive or large. Plain terra cotta pots are beautiful with greenery and flowers.

Gardening skills needed:

Pour in some potting soil, dampen with water, and set the plants in it.

Pour water from a pitcher or pretty watering can into your containers as often as necessary. This is part of the lovely ritual of being in your Nature sanctuary.

Cut off dead flowers, so your plants will keep on flowering. Use some cute little scissors that you keep right there with your pretty watering can.

Your water feature:

I know of an instant fountain that sounds great and looks great.

All you need is a bowl big enough to hold 1-1/2 inches of water and the pump below. A birdbath works perfectly, but any container will do.

You don;t need to go hunt up the right pump and rocks, because they come all in one, and look like this . . .


This is how it looks out of the box.

Here’s a shot of one of mine with a little patina from use. I have this one in one of those plastic pot saucers.

rockwaterfallThe sound is wonderful and attracts birds.

You do need an electric outlet, but it uses only about 4 watts of electricity. There is a solar version available, but it is three times as expensive. Figure out some extension cord trick instead. I even put one out a window once.

Amazon has this fountain for $38 and change with Prime free shipping.

However, when searching for the best price online, I discovered a Lowes company I had never heard of – which carries *everything* at great prices and with free shipping. Their cost is only $32 and change.

Layered Rock Waterfall at ATG

You could also add a Hummingbird feeder and/or use Hummingbird-friendly flowers. (Remember, never use commercial red dye Hummingbird food – make your own instead – 1 part sugar to 4 parts very warm water. Stir to dissolve and allow to cool.)

So, for very little money and time, you could have a magical outdoor space that calms you, inspires you (draw some of your flowers – and their leaves and buds etc.) and connects you to the nurturing power of Nature.

Try it. It’s the kind of thing that grows on you (so to speak) and you may find yourself expanding your sanctuary as the Summer goes on.

Sorry I can’t figure out how to share my view of the Rockies or my dog. I would if I could.

A Garden Collage – Tubac

gardencollageThis page was done 2/3 from memory, and 1/3 from a reference photo (the Red Yucca).

On my last afternoon at the Tubac Country Inn, I sat on the veranda and quickly sketched a couple of little scenes along the adobe wall of the garden. I didn’t have time to finish and for some reason, I forgot to shoot reference photos to work from later.

This past Saturday, I sat down with that journal again to finish the page. It had been a week and already, my memory was forgetting a lot of detail. I almost made that Red Yucca upper right into a green leafed plant!

Some details are very different, but the feeling is there.

I call this style of journal page a “collage” even though there is nothing glued on it.

The elements of the collage in this case are the separate little paintings that are combined on the page, but not in their real spatial relationship to each other. Notice the blue sky appears again through the nicho below the tiled area – not so real.

But the elements work well in this new relationship because they have a harmony of color palette, theme, and style.

I did work from a reference photo for the flower detail . . .

redyuccaWhen working from a reference photo, it is not only ok to simplify things, it is desirable. I dropped the background for a simple green wash, and moved some buds completely to a new location.

I love Red Yucca and am hoping for the success of two new plants I put in last Fall.

I promised last time to show you some photos from the Tumacacori Mission site near Tubac, that you can sketch from.

When making a sketch from a photo, the most important thing is to simplify the photo right down to the basics. At that point, you can “see the forest for the trees” and draw the subject more easily.

I have simplified these photos for you, and I give you permission to draw and paint them to your heart’s content.

Pretend you are sitting on a camp stool or park bench at Tumacacori and one of these beautiful, Southwestern scenes is right in front of you. The sun is shining and the weather is balmy. Your journal is open in your lap, and your pencil is in your hand . . .

tucbell tucstair tucdoor tucnicho tucpotsGo for it . . . and have fun.

P.S. Because our Tubac Retreat was SOOOOOOO amazing, I am working on setting up two more – one in the third week of October this year, and one the third week of March in 2015.

Because it’s the most fun to stay at the Tubac Country Inn, and because there are only 4 rooms available there besides mine (3 of those can accommodate 2 people), these retreats fill really quickly. If you think you would be interested in either date, please email me ( and I will put your name on a “first notify” list. This last Tubac Retreat filled by rumor (word of mouth) and I never even had time to get a details page up!

Also, the Santa Fe Art Journaling Retreat in September is close to full, but there are still a few spaces left. Tubac is absolutely wonderful, but there is no place like Santa Fe!

Postcard from Tubac, Arizona

room2It went so slowly – and it went so quickly. And it was the best of times.

We have just wrapped up our Tubac Art Journaling Retreat and NOBODY wanted to leave.

It is Sunday morning in Room 2 here at the Tubac Country Inn and strangers inhabit the other rooms, something which feels, well . . . strange, after a whole week of “family” filling this place with art and laughter and just plain joy.

The retreat in Santa Fe last September was such a wonderful experience that you think such a thing can’t be as good again. But it can.

We all arrived last week-end and were so excited to see each other again. For those who arrived on Saturday, Sunday was a relaxing time to “come down” from our daily lives and enjoy the weather and the garden while we waited for the others to arrive.

Tubac is a small village jam-packed with great shopping and great restaurants, and it is amazing how much there is to do within about six square blocks. You can easily walk anywhere.

Our workshop ran from Monday through Friday, and we headquartered in the Gallery building at the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park – a block from the Inn. The Gallery building is open and light, and full of fresh air – a perfect place to learn to “dance” with watercolors.

otero otero2We learned some tricks to draw even the most complicated lettering by copying the Presidio sign itself . . .

presidiosign1 presidiosign2My sample is not perfect but it’s pretty darn close.

The grounds of the State Park and museum are bursting with interesting little scenes to draw and paint like these . . .


gourdsAnd one of our first assignments was to capture a minimum of five little scenes on a single page.

Here’s my example . . .

presidioWe spent the first two days learning everything we could jam into our heads about using watercolor, and practicing by painting scenes from the Presidio grounds.

There was much more to be painted, but Wednesday, we went out into the village of Tubac with a “scavenger hunt” list of things to put in our journals. We met up on the covered porch of Vesta’s gallery to share the challenges and see what everyone had found.

On Thursday, we went on a field trip to the Tumacacori Mission, which is a National HIstoric Site, with a beautiful old church and several adobe ruins.


Again, the grounds are so rich in history and beautiful things to sketch and paint, that it is hard to know where to start . . .

lynn tumacacori1 carolkayAnd everywhere, there are wildflowers . . .

wildflowerI am out of time this morning because Vesta and I are going to an art show up in Tucson. Thank heavens my friends Vesta and April are here or I think I would be feeling pretty lonely!

I have more photos to share – and some may even move you to pick up a pencil or paintbrush. I’ll show you some of those next post.

The next retreat will be in Santa Fe in September, and I wonder if I dare hope that we can have this much fun and wonder yet again!

Random Thoughts and Images . . .


Last week, I put away the Windex in the refrigerator.

I think this may be a sign.

I didn’t put the roll of paper towels in there, but still.

Is anyone else feeling unplugged so far this year?

I am always operating in overdrive, I am always overwhelmed (recent ponder: is anybody ever just plain “whelmed”?), but I usually have a grip, ever so tenuous, on the steering wheel.

This year so far, I think my grip has slipped.

So, I’m just going to float along on the tides of all that I cannot control, or organize, and hope for the best outcome.

When I am in this mood, I tend to really notice details (ok, except for the Windex thing).

I was checking that my iPhone was not stuck on one of those new filters, when I noticed the scene above through the Camera app. (No, I can’t see my iPhone screen without my glasses either, but I was wearing a stronger pair.)

I shot the picture to make sure there was no filter, and because it seemed to say a lot about overwhelm. If that is just 5 square inches of my desk, what hope is there?

Anyway, many friends have that Filter problem with newer iPhones running the newest system (iOS7). You take what you think is a normal photo, and it turns out all yellow, vintage looking, or worse.

Here’s the solution to the problem.

When the Camera app is active on your phone, you will see a set of three overlapping circles in the bottom corner of the screen.

iphone1If they are shades of gray, you are ok – no filter is activated.

If they are red, blue, and green, it means a Filter is turned on.

iphone2Tap the circles icon to access the Filters control page . . .

iphone3Tap the Filter you want to be set – in most cases, “None” which is in the center. Interestingly, System iOS7 on the iPad does not add filters to the camera app.


Suddenly, it’s Spring in my mind. Or maybe my mind is just sprung. It all feels the same.

I am watching the birds starting to look for nesting materials in the garden. There are lots of them because the word has gotten around that Husky fur is what the upscale nest needs, and daylight savings time is nesting time AND Husky shedding time.

I pulled into the parking lot downtown the other day, and spotted this bird in a tree . . .

amgrybirdIt wasn’t in my New Mexico Bird Identification Guide. Hmmm.

It’s one of the Angry Birds, isn’t it?

I love that somebody did this.

How can it not bring a smile – (once you figure out you are not hallucinating).

Then, I started thinking about how cool photographs are everywhere.

So when I later parked at Target, I noticed that this was in front of me . . .

targetbark© jessica wesolek, 2014

What an awesome example of texture and color harmony and wonderful, random, accidental art.

It’s out there . . . keep your eyes open.