Category Archives: Art Journaling

Blanket Flowers and Flip-Flops

gallardiaphoto© Jessica Wesolek 2014

It certainly is time for some catching up, isn’t it?

I thought I would do that, and share a little garden beauty with you.

I love and hate this time of year. Love because the garden is at its peak of glory after a season of pampering, and hate because that season is coming to an end in another month or so. Continue reading

Art Journal, Sheer Heaven Transfer, Inktense, and Toilet Paper!

canvastransfersIn all of my art journal workshops and retreats, I stress the idea that you don’t have to finish any page before moving on and starting another one. Same with finishing one book before starting another. I currently have SIX volumes in action. I like it that way.

I find this permission valuable because you have to be able to be spontaneous to enjoy art journaling in the first place, and because I personally find unfinished pages to be the best creative kick-starters there are.

You may be feeling like working in your journal, but nothing interesting seems to be going on at the moment – or something VERY interesting is going on but you can’t think of how you could possibly portray it (see my amazing toilet paper caper below).

ANYWAY, if you sit down and page through one or two of your journals, you are bound to come up with some page that still needs color or some lettering added, or some inking and erasing to finish up.

Easy to start on because it’s already started and waiting for you.

I always find that once I start finishing up an older page, the ideas start coming, and who knows where I might go from there. Might not finish that page this time either. But that’s ok.

Unfinished pages – the key that unlocks journaling blocks.

This time, I found a spread I did over a year ago. It was about a couple of things, and I hadn’t finished lettering the title.

The illustrations were done on raw canvas with Inktense pencils and they were samples for my Inktense Soup-to-Nuts Workshop.

This started me thinking about Inktense because it was the third “reminder” in two days. Do you ever have that happen? Something reminds you of something you have not been thinking about – like Inktense Pencils for example. And then someone emails you a question about that same thing. And then you run into a YouTube video or magazine article about that same thing.

Makes you think that thing wants some attention.

I have a list I have been thinking about – The Five Most Incredible Art Supplies of the 21st Century. I intend to post this list and explain what I put on it.

AHA – Inktense Pencils need to be on it – for lots of reasons.

Then, I started thinking how everybody I know has Inktense pencils.

But not everyone is using them because they don’t know all the wonderful things they can do.

And that led to the thought that my Inktense Workshop was really popular and got a lot of people going.

To celebrate that and because I had to SOMETHING about Inktense popping up all the time lately), I put that workshop on sale for the month of June. Lowered the tuition by $20, so now’s the time if you have been wanting to take those pencils for a spin.

Inktense Workshop Sale

Now, look more closely at this journal spread . . .



I had discovered that Sheer Heaven transfers don’t work very well in my Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook. Pages have a cold press surface and the transfer is difficult. Can be done, but difficult. We don’t like difficult.

So I ordered the Zeta sketchbook because it has paper with a hot press surface – very smooth.

The transfers were amazing as you can see. I took photos close up with my iPad, printed them in reverse on Sheer Heaven and transferred them into the new Zeta book. Both the excellent detail of the iPad photo AND the quality of the transfer blew me away. . .


Isn’t that incredible? You can see every stitch and every pencil mark. You are looking at the transferred image – NOT the original!

So, Inktense was talking to me off that unfinished page, but so was something else – this tree. . .

canvastreeIt was saying “I look famiiar. Can you tell where I came from?”

When this happens, I have to go on a wild search until I find the answer. Like a hyped-up dog trying to find the bone she knows she buried somewhere around here.

One time I found that an enameled light switch cover had inspired a whole series of paintings. You don’t know these things when they are happening, of course. You are only allowed to find out later – through obscure clues and mysterious whispers. Makes it all more interesting.

Where WAS this tree??

I finally found it hiding in my studio . . .


I picked this up at a flea market  2 or 3 years ago because it spoke to me at that time too. I loved the lines. I don’t know if it’s bronze, but it is certainly heavy enough.

And now it was speaking to me again – this time saying “I am the perfect display for those new wrap bracelets you are making!”

And the tree is right. It IS perfect.

Now, how about THAT winding path?!?

You see why I’m crazy and confused, right?

And now for . . .

The Amazing Toilet Paper Caper

We have a group of artist friends who meet at a local coffee shop/bakery on Friday afternoons to sketch and chat and show and tell (and eat delicious, fattening things).

And we try to come up with the most interesting thing that happened in our lives the past week.

Sometimes, my interesting things get those cross-eyed looks that DH is so fond of bestowing – like when I microwaved the ant. (By ACCIDENT!! You know I am not like that! Anyway, he walked away just fine, but probably won’t hide on my coffee cup again.)

So, about the toilet paper. I just don’t know if this kind of stuff happens to everybody, but this is my most interesting thing for next Friday.

It is VERY windy today. And breeze cools things off, so I opened a lot of windows, and went outside to trim my Butterfly Bush.

The other thing the wind does is carry pollen, so when I came in, I went into the guest bath to sneeze and de-pollinate.

Reached for a piece of toilet paper from the roll I had just put on this morning – and there was just a cardboard tube. Huh?

Yes, I have cats, so I looked on the floor. Not there. (Plus, if you remember, I told you my cats roll the toilet paper back UP after they unroll it – not neatly, mind you, but they roll it back up).

Besides, they were both sitting there looking as puzzled as I was.

The toilet is white, and the toilet paper is white, so at first, the three of us did not see the tail end of the roll hanging over the seat – or the rest of the roll lying neatly stacked and soaked in the toilet bowl.


The wind – yes, the WIND – had unfurled a WHOLE roll of toilet paper into the toilet bowl.

“We shouldn’t flush this, right?” I asked the cats.

“No,” said I.

“Meow.” said Angel.

“Quack!”, said Bunnie. That’s what Bunnie always says instead of Meow. She thinks it makes her more interesting, She’s a Cat who looks like a Rabbit and sounds like a Duck. It does make her more interesting.

An ingenious solution was needed for this toilet paper thing, and I did come up with one which involved some plastic bags and a garden claw, and I would share except that this kind of thing will never happen to you.


I Want to Be An Artist When I Grow Up . . .

yardwork I said that to Mark this morning before he left for the gallery.

He gave me one of “those” looks, but I think he really does know what I mean by that.

I have not been “being an artist” because I have been mostly “being” a business woman and teacher of art. My focus has been on your art, not mine. That’s a weird thing, but it’s true.

During this time of soul searching, I am also searching other people’s blogs, and finding that many of the most widely followed artist’s blogs concentrate on the artist’s own work, and story, and progress and process.

I am not talking about craft and DIY blogs here – they are full of teaching, and they are directed at hobby artists for the most part.

I am talking about the blogs written by practicing artists who are creating and showing and selling their artwork.

That term “practicing” artist is one that I will want to explore sometime soon. It’s a very interesting term when you think about it.

I honestly don’t think that I would be any less interesting of a blogger if I talked about my own story. In fact, statistics show that my tutorial posts get fewer comments than the ones that are about “story”.

There are two things that get said to me all the time.

One is a question: Where do you get your ideas?

The other is a statement: I wish I could follow you around for a day to see how you do what you do.

And maybe that is what this blog should be about.

So, here’s my interesting story for today . . .

Something has happened to my art journaling process.

I have always embraced a couple of ideas about art journaling that play into this change.

My journals are “illustrated” journals based on drawing and watercolor.

I can take as long as it takes to finish a page. I have given myself permission to do that because it’s the only thing in my life these days that is not in a hurry. There is no hurry in my journals, and if I want something perfect, I will take the time to make it perfect.

To that end, I thank my iPad for its help. I ALWAYS shoot a reference photo, even when painting from life, because, by the time I finish the page, the subject will likely be changed or gone altogether – Orchids in the studio for example.

I recently ran into a new brand of watercolor (new to me), and I will share all about that in another post. I fell in love so hard that I went from owning 1 tube, to 33 tubes in one month.

And these watercolors used in the Stillman & Birn Beta and Zeta sketchbooks is something like heaven.

So, what I realized is that I have been creating some of my “real” art in my journals – instead of just preliminary studies.

This creates a big question – how do I sell them?

The originals are not going anywhere because they are in my journal and you would have to tear my arm off to get me to tear a page out.

I am going to have to sell reproductions of these paintings.

That’s ok.

I am a big fan of prints, actually. I think it allows art to be owned by people who can’t afford to own originals, and that’s a good thing.

But, in my opinion, the reproductions can’t be mass produced if they are going to hold their value as art. The artist must produce the reproduction and even sign the prints – the signature should not be printed.

Making a good reproduction is not an easy thing as those of you who have tried it know. You need archival ink and archival paper and you have to get that paper to go through the printer. And there is sizing and trimming and a bunch of other concerns.

But the end result is still a product of the artist’s hands and it’s worth the trouble.

My latest paintings are of strange neighborhoods.

I live in a strange neighborhood to begin with.

And I LOVE houses in art. Not the fancy detailed ones, but the ones that look like a grown-up version of the ones we drew in first grade.

European artists depict houses that have a mystery to them, and I love that. It keeps the houses from being too “cute”. I have been fighting my “cute” gene all my life.

In the ’80s, I was registered with the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) as a Surrealist, which is definitely what I still am for the most part – even though I love painting realistic flowers.

So, painting “strange” neighborhoods is right up my alley.

My true love is narrative art. There is a story in the painting, and I love to figure out what it is. Even in my own paintings, I have to figure out what it is, because I don’t know what’s going on either.

Also, like Rene Magritte, I think titles are an important part of the work. His titles didn’t necessarily make sense, but mine usually do – and give you a clue to the story. The titles just show up at some point while I am creating the painting.

It’s like a voice says: “Here is the title. Figure this one out.”

I am showing you my two latest paintings today. Both were done in watercolor in my Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook, so both will be sold as reproductions and I will share that process with you too, as I go through it.

Both paintings are part of a series called “Strange Neighborhoods”. That’s another thing I often do – paint in series.

The painting at the top of the post is called “Gathering” and your guess is as good as mine what that means. Whatever it means to you is what it means.

This one is called “Mending Fences” . . .

mendingfencesAgain, you can make up your own story.

I think that is the weirdest fence I’ve ever seen anyone put up, and somebody is sending somebody a message. And, it’s not like they won’t be running into each other. But, I’m not sure whats going on exactly.

I have to admit I love this series, and may even try to make those houses in glass one of these days.!

Painting Orchids . . .

orchid2You may remember my excitement about buying and trying my first Orchids from Trader Joes back in December of 2012 (See this post).

I took good care of them – all five that I ended up buying. I repotted them in Orchid mix fed them, and kept them in the garden room all year.

This Spring, I have been rewarded by three of the five re-blooming.

All this time, I thought they were three different types of orchids even though they all had the same leaf (I can be pretty dense sometimes). The flowers were different colors, so they were different, right?


That is the really great thing about drawing – you really SEE something. So, I finally realized that the structure of the flowers was identical, and these are actually the same type orchid - phalaenopsis orchids – the easiest kind to care for.

Above is the page I painted in my Stillman & Birn Beta journal.

The Orchids posed for me and were stellar models . . . compare this one to the top orchid on the page . . .

orchidmodel0The painting is a little less white than it should be, but that is because I hadn’t figured something out yet. This one is on the right of the middle group . . .

orchidmodel1And it turned out much more true to the actual color, and so did its pal on the left . . .



Because I discovered how the use of white watercolor could help.

This was not a DUH! moment. It was an AHA! moment. Here’s why:

You just don’t use white paint in watercolor. You use the paper color to keep whites. You add small bits of shadow colors to model the white flower or whatever.

But, when you work in a small journal format, it is very difficult to blend your subtle shading with water and keep it from tinting the white paper. It just flows too easily.

HOWEVER . . . if you paint the flower petal first with an opaque white – like Titanium white, the added color around the edges etc. does not flow easily, but rather, blends softly into the still wet white. It’s a wet into wet technique just like the other method, but the Titanium white is thicker and creamier, so it slows everything down and makes blending so easy.

This was a lovely discovery and will really help with my flower painting from now on.

Finally, my third model was a greenish color – which was challenging to match. . .

orchidmodel3I used my newly discovered technique on it as well. The painted version is the bottom one on the page above.

I seem to be attracted to botanical realism lately. I know I won’t give up my goofy art or my surrealism, but there is a lot of pleasure in trying to duplicate shapes and colors as they are.

It’s a beautiful Spring Sunday, and I have promised myself that my garden clean-up will be greatly advanced by the end of it. So, off I go . . .

Have a great Sunday.


The Leaf Test . . .

leaftestI had seen Cathy Johnson use a water soluble pencil line in her watercolor sketching a few times, and Jane LaFazio using a water soluble marker in her recent Sketchbook Skool lesson.

The idea is to outline your drawing with the soluble lines, and then paint inside the shape with a wet brush or water brush to dissolve some of the line into a sort of automatic shading.

I had tried this a few times before, but had not given the idea a real workout.

No time like the present . . .

I like the look in black & white, but I was more interested in how this trick would work as an underpainting for watercolor.

The tricky part would be to add a wash or glaze over the shading without moving it around too much or polluting the glaze color.

So, I thought of Inktense pencils, because once wet and dried, they are supposed to be permanent. This is a relative thing of course, because if you haven’t actually wet the Inktense thoroughly, it is still soluble.

(I learned more than I ever even wanted to know about Inktense when writing my Inktense Soup to Nuts Workshop, and you can too. If you are intrigued by these pencils, check it out.)

It turned out that in a smaller space, if the whole area got wet, the Inktense would dry into a flat wash, but if you left a white area in the middle of a larger space, you could get nice modeling.

inktenseleaf1And it turned out that my favorite result came from painting a watercolor glaze over the dried Inktense shading . . .

inktenseleaf2But, I did make some other interesting discoveries, and I will give you a close look at them here.

My least favorite leaf resulted from outlining with a Koi Brush marker. They are rich and juicy, and very hard to control once you wet them. Over painting then made a real mess . . .

koileafThis isn’t horrible or anything, but not subtle either!

Because graphite is somewhat water soluble, I tried a #2 pencil with this technique and then overpainted with a watercolor wash.

Subtle, but I think a little too subtle . . .

no2leafFinally, I discovered something really interesting about some inexpensive markers I had been using to paint some wildflower illustrations last summer.

They are called Fibracolor, come from Italy and cost only about $22 for 100 at Amazon.

I think I like them the best of any water soluble marker for this painting technique.

Anyway, we all know black is made up of many colors (all colors if you’re talking pigment).

This shading technique brought out the colors in the black marker and made things very interesting . . .

fibracolorLook even closer . . .

fibradetailI just love that!

This test was done in my Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook.

I hope you have learned something useful from my little leaf test. I certainly did!

Spring Cleaning – YIKES!

manitouchairsThese chairs have nothing to do with Spring Cleaning except that I found this cool photo while cleaning and sorting my shots from Manitou Springs, CO. I took this in the yard of a cabin we stayed at back in 2011. Those chairs are sitting along the river bank, and they spoke to me. More about Manitou Springs in a minute.

All things change – and things go right ahead and change without you if you are not looking. Somehow, my website just grew all these parts until even I couldn’t tell what was going on there. This is not the nicely organized home page I  had a couple years ago. In fact, it’s a mess . . . cre8itsiteoldSo . . . I had to clean it. The idea is to be SIMPLE and make it easy to find things. So, I did this . . . cre8itnewPlease tell me if you think this home page makes it easier to know what is there – at a glance?

Also, please tell me if you think anything is awfully wrong with it.

It is not totally functional, but I am showing you anyway.

I am also cleaning out my mind, and you will hear plenty about that as we go along.

I’m changing lots of things that I do. One of those things is that I think something has to be all perfect and finished before I share it. Things never get all finished, so I don’t post as much as I want to.

So, I am showing you my new home page before it’s perfect. I, personally, am really interested in artist’s processes – the way they slog through whatever they have to do, to do what they do.

I even like to hear about failures – lessons learned by doing things the wrong way. If we all weren’t pretending to be perfect, we would all learn a lot more.

But, I digress.

What about Manitou Springs?

Well, as I think I have mentioned before (like in this post), Manitou Springs, Colorado is one of my favorite places on earth. And I like to take my art journal and my art-journaling friends to my favorite places on earth. I have therefore added a new art and travel journaling retreat to the roster . . . Retreat CO I found some lovely affordable lodging, and ALL the details (plus pictures) are on the description page here:

Mindful Moments in the Mountains

I am very excited, and know this will be one more of those magic times like the other retreats have been.

In all my life-cleaning, I am dropping lots of things, so the things I love can have my time. I LOVE these retreats – because they are so much fun for me, and because of what they do for other people as well.

Art Journaling can change your life, and that’s no joke.

I am playing with the idea of blogging a lot for the next month.

Do you think you could stand it?

Begin Again. . .

beginagainThere is so much to say.

As you know, the change to Daylight Savings Time lights up my life in so many ways.

And the first warmth of Spring causes my Corona clippers (a really good brand) to leap into my hands, which are now protected by Rose gardening gloves, and pushes me (quite literally) into the yard.

Those of you who take my workshops know that I consistently show up in the videos with cuts and bruises EVERY Spring. Well, this Spring, I am going to try to skip the bloody part.

Rose gloves are great and if you don’t know about them, listen up.

They reach all the way to your elbows. This means total protection from cuts and scratches unless you are prone to wearing sleeveless shirts or your Russian Sage is a lot taller than mine.

Anyway, here is a link where you can see these gloves, and even get you some.

Rose Gardening Gloves

Sketchbook Skool

Huh? How did I make THAT segue?

(I love that word because who would think it would be pronounced “seg-way”? It’s like, if somebody doesn’t clue you in, you are certainly going to make a fool of yourself by saying it. But more than that, I love that it means to jump to another subject without interruption, because I do that all the time. You are supposed to do it with some finesse, however. I haven’t caught on to that part yet.)

Anyway, I am taking the Sketchbook Skool workshop.

If you haven’t heard of it, you need to come up for s breath.

Danny Gregory (Everyday Matters), has hooked up with Koosje Koene (a sketchbook artist from the Netherlands) and some other hyper-famous sketchbookers to offer an online workshop on sketchbooking.

At our recent art journaling retreat in Tubac, I was asked whether I had heard of Sketchbook Skool.

I had, but I took a closer look. To be honest, since I have kept sketchbooks throughout my career (since I was 12 actually), I did not think I would find much of interest.

But then, I thought three thoughts . . .

Thought 1: I LOVE to look at other peoples’ sketchbook or art journal pages. Where would I ever find more of those?

Thought 2: I LOVE to get a peak at other artists’ processes. How do they do what they do, why do they do it, and what are they thinking when they are doing it?

There is hardly a more fascinating topic on earth to me, unless it would be how they make Aquafresh toothpaste come out of the tube with perfect, colored stripes. Don’t get me started on that one.

Thought 3: I would LOVE to see some new ways of running an online workshop and they were using a venue I had never heard of. I wanted to see how it worked.

So, I paid my $99 and signed up with about 1200 other people. (Hyper fame is a good thing financially, I guess.)

One week later, I have had the pleasure of seeing bijillions of art journal pages posted to Facebook, gained some wonderful insight into what makes people shy about sketching. learned about Bower Birds (worth the $99 right there), enjoyed Danny Gregory’s sense of humor, registered a visual protest about the idea of not using a pencil and eraser, actually done my homework, and even an extra credit page.

The page at the beginning of this post is one that I would have done anyway, but the assignment was to sketch about our week – once each day – and post one of the sketches.

The day I “begin again” with the garden each year is a sacred day for me – and well worth a journal page.

And the other page I will share is my extra credit page – paint your breakfast – which turned out to be a less than relaxing experience for me.

We were not supposed to use pencil – and we ALL know how I feel about that. I just didn’t know how strongly my 3H pencils felt about that.

They rebelled. They stabbed my eggs. punctured my toast, poisoned my coffee, and kidnapped my fork . . .


I had to give in!