Monthly Archives: March 2013

Moving My Art Around . . . Part 2, How


A few years back, when I was developing what was to become my Creative Drawing Workbook, I did this very loose sketch as a demonstration of how much of a nature scene can be created with just one shape – a simple arc like we “draw” when we add parentheses to our writing.

Take a careful look at this sketch. There is nothing else in it except four little circles. And, technically, a circle is a collection of arcs. This just shows you how simple drawing can be if you look at it in a certain way.

While sorting through some sketchbooks the other day, I came across this flower sketch, and remembered that I just loved the “bounciness” of it. I can feel a breeze when I look at it.

I wanted it in my art journal – to illustrate a poem I had just recently written about being in the moment.

Of course, I could draw a simple sketch like this again in the journal, but it would not be the *same* sketch. I have a thing about preserving my drawing and sketching “moments” too.

So, the Sheer Heaven transfer was the perfect solution.

And my new favorite journal, the Stilman & Birn Beta Sketchbook, takes those transfers wonderfully.

Note: This perfect art  journal is now available from my website. Just click Stilman & Birn Beta Sketchbook,

Tutorial Step-by-Step

So the first step was to trace the sketch onto Sheer Heaven with my 3H pencil. Of course, I could scan and print instead, but with these simple lines, tracing is faster.

Yes, Sheer Heaven will transfer graphite too – a fact which I only recently discovered.

I have to make a disclosure here. My students will realize I am not using a 3H pencil here because the lines are too dark. These shots are from a video and I had to use a darker pencil to show well on camera.

I use my 3H pencil for sketchbook transfers everyday – it works great and is much more subtle.

Step 1. Tape a piece of Sheer Heaven over your sketch with artists or drafting tape, which will not damage the paper. The rougher side of the  Sheer Heaven should face up.

This will reverse your sketch in the transfer. To avoid that, trace on the slick side of Sheer Heaven first, then flip it over on some scrap paper and retrace on the front.

I am going to use a reverse sketch in my journal spread as well, so I am just tracing on the front.

Step 2. To transfer the sketch, you mist it with 70% rubbing alcohol. Your spray bottle must produce a fine mist. They sell that type of spray bottle at fine art supply stores, but I prefer an empty pump style hair spray bottle. They make a fine mist and never send out surprise droplets.


Misting will first produce a really light coating of alcohol, then start to look like orange peel, and finally smooth out to a glassy finish like that shown below. Do not wet past this stage.


Step 3. Hold the misted Sheer Heaven by the very edge and turn it over onto the journal page. Burnish gently with the side of your hand. The Beta series sketchbooks have a slight cold press texture, so a gentle burnishing with a bone folder is also a good idea to make sure every part of the tracing makes contact with the page.


Step 4. Carefully and slowly, peel up the Sheer Heaven and the pencil sketch will now be on your journal page. If there are any missing spots as you peel, lay the Sheer Heaven back down and gently burnish that area. If you missed a spot while misting, it will be missing from the transfer. Those little jags at the bottom of the grass are my fault. I accidentally moved the Sheer Heaven when laying it down.

trans6For my spread, I want to flip and repeat this transfer t the other page. When I trace this transferred version, I will end up with a right-reading transfer for me left page.

Step 5. When the transfers are dry, which does not take long because this is alcohol we’re talking about, I use watercolors to paint them:


Step 6. The next thing is to apply a wash for the sky area. If you weight the Stilman & Birn pages, they do not warp or curl while drying. I just used my paintbox. With a heavy moisture application, you will get gentle curving of the page when dry, but that will flatten again if you close the book and set something on it for awhile.


Step 7. My final step is to add the poem. I do not love my own lettering enough to use it here.

So, I turned to my Mac where I have lots of fonts that are perfect for the job. I used the Pages software because it is so simple. Guides were placed on the page to indicate the exact measurements of my journal spread and where the bottom illustration began. I placed the type centered on each page, then flipped it so it would transfer right reading.


After printing the page on Sheer Heaven, I cut it into two pieces which matched my journal page size exactly, so I could align the transfers by matching up with the corners of the journal pages. The type for each page was transferred separately.

And the result was a spread which combined a very old sketch, some fresh watercolor painting, and a new poem into one saved experience in my art journal . . .



Art Journaling in Paradise Workshop . . .

We got a great response so far, Sandy has agreed to spend her birthday here in Santa Fe at this event, I got the classroom reserved and I will be publishing the highly detailed sign-up page this coming week.

We do know the exact retreat days will be Saturday, September 14 through Thursday, September 19, 2013.

Plan to come in on Friday, as we will gather early Saturday morning (9 am) in the hotel courtyard to start our adventure.

Thursday, the last day of the retreat will be a full studio day. No formal instruction, but both Sandy and I will spend the day with everyone in the studio. If you must skip that day to get back to work, we will understand. We plan a relaxing catch-up day of art journaling for Thursday the 19th.

Cost for the Workshop will be $650 for the six days. This does not include lodging costs.

Suite style rooms with kitchenettes will be available at a rate of $55.50/night (plus tax). You will make your own reservations – dealing directly with the hotel. You do not have to stay at our hotel – we just happened to find the best deal in town for you!

Meals are not included, but you will have a kitchen and a supermarket a few steps away. Santa Fe is a dining mecca and has great restaurants at every price level if you want to eat out. Bag lunches are a good idea, but there will be plenty of time to wander out and find something delicious if that is your preference. We may surprise you with a meal out on us.

NO skill level is required. All we ask is creative enthusiasm and willingness to try.

We will have a payment plan (for the workshop) so you can hold your spot while saving your money. Your hotel will not have to be paid until you get here, although you will probably have to guarantee your reservation with a credit card (standard procedure).

This is all the info that is solid until I publish the sign-up page.

While I appreciate everyone’s input on when and where we should hold this retreat (I loved the suggestions from a few people that we should have the Santa Fe Art Journal Retreat on the East coast), we have reasons for our timing. Santa Fe is full of tourists and twice as expensive during the Summer months. By mid September, all is quiet and beautiful.

Any questions on what we know so far, pleas email me:

Think it through, because once we open the registration, we can only accept 24 students and we have a lot more emails of interest than that already.

I will let you know here when the final details are posted (and Sandy will do so on her blog as well).

Happy Easter! Hug a Bunny of you see one.

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!

Talented Students Meet Great Art Pencils . . .

Cherryl Moote Botanicals


Given that this Friday, March 15, is the start date for the second session of my Inktense, Soup to Nuts Workshop, I thought it would be good to show off some of what students in the current session are creating – because I am so pleased and amazed.

So this is sort of a “gallery” post. I wish I could show you all the art, but a sampling will have to do.

This gorgeous accordian book at the top of the post, by Cherryl Moote, pops off the page in more ways than one, because of the brilliance of Inktense color.

And this Snowman by Susan Jeffers has a whole lot of personality.

Susan Jeffers

This has nothing to do with snowmen or Inktense, but the carrot nose reminds me. You know how you learn something everyday? Well, yesterday, reading an article on heirloom seeds, I learned that carrots were originally purple! Just thought you might like to know.

Seeing a Winter scene, and maybe being sick of the season, one might turn to thoughts of running off to Florida beaches, or conjure up some Spring Tulips or Butterflies . . .

Daniela Mellon Sea Life

Underwater scene by Daniela Mellon.

Jan Ruhnow Tulips

Tulips by Jan Ruhnow

Tyanne Agle butterfly+small

Butterfly by Tyanne Agle

Here’s a very clever idea using dry Inktense techniques, by Christine Anderson – “Cliff Notes”

cliff notes Christine Anderson

Elaine Golt Gongora painted these really lovely ink bottles using Inktense wash techniques . . .

Elaine Golt Gongora Ink Bottles

And Jeanne Minnich used some of the same techniques on this boot . . .

Jeanne Minnich Child Boot

Jerrie Hall found it relaxing to create what we call Zen Flowers . . .

Jerrie Hall Flowers

Inktense can be used on dark papers if you know some tricks – as demonstrated by Jaffra Masad’s Heart . . .

Jaffra Masad Heart

And you saw some of Sandy Steen’s stuff last post, but I had to share these characters – done on gray paper with a hand carved stamp . . . Those hens are very cute! I wonder which one that rooster will date?

Sandy Hens

So, lots of creative fun is being had by all, and a brand new session starts tomorrow.

Join us if you can. No skill level is necessary and no inner critics are allowed.

Inktense – Soup to Nuts