Monthly Archives: October 2013

Who Am I?


It’s Halloween.

I don’t like Halloween. I don’t like masks and have nightmares about people who take their face off and they’re someone else. I don’t like things dark and scary. I hide from trick-or-treators.

I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t care. My pumpkins go in pies and don’t have faces. So there.

While hiding from trick-or-treators 24 years ago, I met my wonderful husband, and that is the one thing I do like about Halloween. Now, I don’t have to hide from trick-or-treaters alone.

Anyway I did this journal page today because I got thinking about costumes. I don’t like costumes either.

It all started in my bathroom.

I always hang my clothes to dry because they are cotton and I don’t want them to shrink. You can tell when I do my laundry because there are clothes hanging all over the place – on doors and towel racks, on hooks and in crannies.

You know a lot about me when you see this laundry hanging. You know that I am NOT a fashionista. You know that EVERYTHING is either black or blue. You know Steve Jobs wasn’t THAT original with his fashion statement. You know I have multiples of the SAME black and blue things.

OMG, I’m boring.

Let me digest that for just a moment . . .

OK, so, it all started in my bathroom where I inadvertently hung one of my black shirts over one of my pairs of jeans because there happen to be two hooks on the back of that door.


I felt like I ran into myself as I was leaving that room. It was especially unsettling because I had just run into myself in a mirror in that room. Maybe there are more than one of me after all.

I looked at that door and thought “hmmm . . . that’s me, but I’m not in there.”

I hooked my reading glasses on the hanger and put my flip-flops on the floor below.

I brought Mark into the bathroom, and said “Look – it’s a self-portrait without me in it!”

He gave me one of “those” looks (you know the ones where one eyebrow goes up and the other one doesn’t?) and said, “You know, you really should start using the dryer.”

I don’t forget about these “Aha” moments so easily, however. I started thinking about how our “costumes” really do define us, and also how they don’t.

I won’t put you through all that, but think about it. If you hung your clothes on a bathroom door, would people know whose bathroom door it was? A bathroom door that isn’t in your house of course, because then it wouldn’t be much of a contest. Especially if you are the only female in your house, and your husband’s not a cross-dresser. But I digress.

I thought about having a clothesline, but with the wind and dust here, the clothes would just cycle between the washing machine and the clothesline, and there would be no time to wear them.

I needed an imaginary clothesline for all of this, so off to my art journal I went. Because it was imaginary, I got to add my bird to the self portrait and make the poles more interesting than ordinary poles (see above).

One of my friends, who will remain anonymous, is dressing up as Mother Nature tonight. (Let’s see . . . which of my friends is a nature lover? Hopefully, no more birds chase her around.) She doesn’t like costumes either, but she is being forced into this.

She’s off at a spiritual retreat.

“Why on earth would they make you wear costumes at a spiritual retreat?” I asked her.

“Because it’s Halloween maybe?” she asked.

Ahhhhhh. That.

How would I dress up like Nature if somebody made me? . . .


No, I have not been drinking any wine.

Maybe I should.

Yes. I’m going to.

Right now.

Just one more Halloween thing to say.


Art Journaling at Walmart . . .


Lynn Pauly fell in love with Santa Fe during the Art Journaling Retreat last month, and has already come back for a visit!

We had a field trip planned to the little town of Madrid, and a good place to meet up was the Walmart parking lot near the highway.

When we pulled in, Lynn was sitting on her camp stool working in her art journal. Something about this just struck me so funny. You come all the way to Santa Fe to journal because it is such an unusual and exotic paradise for artists, and you end up journaling at Walmart!? What kind of hostess am I?

At least, it’s an adobe version of Walmart – vigas and all. (Vigas are those big logs that stick out at the top of traditional adobe walls.)

I was excited to see some of Lynn’s finished pages from the retreat. They are really great, so I will share a few with you . . .


We drew some of our art supplies at the beginning of the retreat, and Sandy Bartholomew, CZT extraordinaire, did a whole ebook on the common design elements found in Santa Fe, which she gifted to our students. Lynn’s right page is embellished with some of those design elements.

Sandy’s book, The Tangles of Santa Fe is available for purchase and download here:

The Tangles of Santa Fe

It’s a wonderful book – check it out.

Here’s Lynn’s sketch of the Horno at the Pecos Historic Park. An Horno is a traditional oven which is still used by Pueblo people today for baking bread. Lynn loved being quiet and alone with the history of the moment, and what a gorgeous spread!


Here’s a spread of an afternoon on the Santa Fe Plaza, which is the center of downtown. There is always lots going on . . .


I love layouts like this, where so much information is artfully arranged in one space. Here is a detail close-up so you can see how complex this is . . .


And here’s a spread dedicated to an unusual variation of a treat we all love . . .


Yes, they put Chile in chocolate here.

I commend Lynn on creating a fabulous journal that truly captures the moments.

So, we met in the Walmart parking lot and headed off for lunch – at a very amusing place called the San Marcos Cafe. It is located next door to a feed store along what is called the Turquoise Trail, and is as rustically charming as can be.

Part of the charm comes with their big cinnamon rolls, and another part is the fact that Peacocks and Turkeys wander freely on the grounds. Like this guy . . .


Betsy decided to share a bite of her cinnamon roll with a couple of turkeys who happened by . . .


And then another couple came along . . .


OK – some for them too. And then . . .


She better grab a bite for herself before it’s too late!


Lynn figures we ought to document this.


We don’t even have a final count, but when they chased Betsy back to the van . . .


We knew it was time to get out while we could. A couple of these cinnamon-sugar-crazed whackos tried to get IN the van. Shades of Alfred Hitchcock!

More adventures in paradise to come.


Sketch Journal One online workshop starts tomorrow. You can start from the beginning, or join this workshop in progress anytime during the following month. If you want to have a lot of fun learning to draw and paint in your journals, this one’s for you!

Sketch Journal One


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The Last Hurrah . . .


I wore shoes when I walked the dog this morning.

Long time readers know what THAT means. Summer is officially over.

I never pick flowers. I believe in spending time with them in their environment instead of forcing them into mine.

The only time you will find a flower in a vase in my house is when I have a deadheading accident and cut off the wrong stem.

But, when I know the last beautiful blooms will be popsicles by morning, I gather a few to enjoy a little longer.

This gorgeous bloom is a Matchstick Crysanthemum.

I planted it two years ago. Last year, it hardly bloomed and the flowers had none of their personality. But this year, I watered better and it came back with a bang . . .


When I first bought the plant, I painted it in my journal . . .


Here’s a detail of the flower structure in case you want to try painting one.


This was done with watercolor in an American Journey Journaling Sketchbook from Cheap Joe’s. That was my favorite journal before meeting Stillman & Birn sketchbook, and I still adore them.


It’s 9×12 and has great hot pressed watercolor paper (140lb.)

Do You Ever You Call Yourself a Pack Rat?

I often call myself a pack rat without giving it a lot of thought. But no more.

For the last couple of weeks, I have noticed a burning smell intermittently in my van. Since it came and went, I first thought it was coming from other vehicles, but last Thursday, I smelled it strongly (like burned coffee), and there were no other vehicles to blame it on. I tried to open my hood, but couldn’t figure out the lever.

We were meeting our friend, Lynn, for dinner (Lynn is a Santa Fe Journaling Retreat student who is back to visit already!). I drove over to pick up my Mom and Betsy (a BFFL of mine who is very savvy about nature).

She was also savvy about how to open the hood. I popped it from inside the car and she raised it, and the expression on her face made me think the engine was on fire and we were both bound for glory.

You’ve got to see this, she said.

So do you, dear readers . . .


There were no dead animals, thank the stars, but this is what pack rats do. They build an elaborate nest out of EVERYTHING they can find. There were parts of Yucca plants, Juniper trees, Morning Glory vine, pine cones, and every other plant in my garden. They throw in pieces of cactus to discourage predators, and something even more discouraging – dog droppings. We clean up after our three Huskies diligently, but there were temporary supplies available, evidently.

Betsy volunteers at a Wildlife Center. She had gloves in her car that she uses for cleaning out cages. With a broom, a rake, a stick, and those gloves, she was able to clear most of this out of there (she is SUCH a good friend.)

I’m not afraid of dog droppings (how could I be?) but I am afraid of finding dead animals, and I didn’t have any cage cleaning gloves handy, so I acted as cheerleader, and raker of what got swept from the engine compartment – while listening to a great story . . .

Betsy once went up to her mountain cabin to find that pack rats had made a big nest of everything in there. They even used the forks and knives to stand up a fence around the nest they built! You gotta hand it to them for ingenuity.

We did make it to dinner – a bit late – and Lynn found the whole thing quite entertaining. Betsy wanted me to journal it, but when I draw something in my journal, I have to get way too close and personal with it, so I think I’ll just show you the photo instead. I love my dogs but not THAT much.


Sketch Journaling #1 – my brand new online art journal workshop starts next Saturday!

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You Don’t Have To Have an Exciting Life . . .


You don’t have to have an exciting life to have an exciting art journal.

In fact, although travel journals are wonderful things, some of my favorite art journal pages are about nothing at all.

The amazing success of the TV show, Seinfeld, was due to the fact that it was about nothing – just the everyday life moments of the characters.

On Tuesday, October 8, a very ordinary day, I felt the need to point out to myself that I actually had gotten many things accomplished since greeting the dawn.

Enough for a whole journal spread, in fact. (Done with ink and water soluble markers used from a palette, in my Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook).

Let’s take a closer look . . .


The window in my studio is double hung. This means that both sashes move. Every Fall, it is a major, two-person production to shut the window for the Winter, because when you shut the bottom sash, the top one moves down enough in sympathy, that you can’t lock the window. Usually, I have to use a broom handle to hold the top sash up tight while Mark leans over the bench shears in a very dangerous stance to pull the bottom sash down and lock it. So far, no body parts have been cut off, but we still face this task with great trepidation.

JFTHOI (just for the hell of it), I thought I would give it a try by myself last Tuesday. I got on a step ladder, leaned carefully over the bench shears, and snuck up on the bottom sash, slamming it down before the top sash had a chance to notice. The lock could be set!

I danced for joy, but got off the ladder first. This little miracle deserved a journal entry!

Earlier in the day, I had packed a whole box of colorful sponge balls to send to my sister. That was just plain cute enough to go in the journal.


Tax Extensions always seem like such a good idea in April, but the devil comes back to bite me in October! A piece of everyday has been about THAT. I hate THAT.

To escape THAT, I wrote and published a blog post, did a couple greenhouse chores, and went over to the gallery to help Mark move a cabinet. It was heavy and it hurt and I got a sliver. Had we only known a lady would buy it the very next day!

Then, I stopped in the market for some *essential* vittles.

All of that could be easily forgotten in the flotsam of my days. But, now it never will be.

This is the best part of sketch journaling (my name for illustrated art journaling). Everyday moments and everyday things are great subjects for drawing and painting.

Because I know how to draw and paint everyday things, I am able to record my everyday moments.

So, I have created a BRAND NEW art journaling workshop series about just that . . . learning to draw and paint everyday things in your art journal.

I am very excited because I will use a BRAND NEW blog format for the workshop, and I have lots of BRAND NEW tricks and tools to make my teaching even better.

Better still, there is just enough time before the official start of the HOLIDAY SEASON which eats everyone’s life it seems. Not mine, but most people I know.

So, I will run the live session of this BRAND NEW workshop between October 26 and November 23, 2013 (four weeks).

The workshop will be held on a private blog. Conversations will be in the Comments. Lessons will be videos and slideshows and PDF step-by-steps. All lessons can be downloaded so you can keep a copy. At the end of the 4 Weeks, the blog will stay there permanently so you can always access it.

I am currently trying to find the best place for students to upload and share their journal pages. Any suggestions?

Note to all former Love This Journal students: This is all BRAND NEW content, but with the same great FUN content as the Love This Journal workshops had.

We will learn to draw and paint things and then explore ideas for basing journal pages around these illustrations.

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW to see the detailed Workshop description page . . .



Let’s sneak in a fun workshop and a lot of art making before the HOLIDAYS are upon us! Sneaking up on my window worked, so sneaking might be in season!


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Painted Paradise . . . A Garden Journal Page

newguinea1One of the things I love to do in my garden journal is spend a page or a spread – and as much time as it takes to get to really know a plant.

I get fascinated with one or another of my garden delights and then study its parts enough to paint them on a page.

This time, it was my New Guinea Impatiens – an extra beautiful variety called Painted Paradise.

When I was busy with the retreat, I was not deadheading as much as I should have and several stalks that looked like little match sticks caught my attention. I didn’t know if they were coming or going – much like I don’t know if I am, some of the time!

I was afraid to remove them in case they were early buds, so I watched them for awhile, and pretty soon, they got very interesting looking . . .


I searched all five plants in the garden for new flower buds, and finally found a couple. The buds don’t look like this at all – and they even have a curly tail.

So, it was time to start my study page . . . but I needed a prettier leaf.



These gorgeous leaves are the reason for the Painted Paradise name for this variety.

My curiosity got the better of me and I had to cut this seed pod in half to see what it looked like inside.


So, that had to be added to the page . . . and time to add some lettering.


Now, I had to find a blossom and a bud or two to complete the study. This wasn’t easy because we have had our first frost and the plants got a little ragged (they will be moved to the greenhouse now and be protected for the winter).


I added the buds to the page . . .


And then, a blossom . . .


Drawing the flower was super easy. If you want to be convinced that drawing flowers is easy, try my workbook -

Draw Simple Flowers

You could draw this blossom in no time.

Painting it was a little more challenging – mostly because the Coral color is hard to replicate in watercolor. I had to use three different color washes to get close to the right color, and it’s still not perfect.

And finally, my page was finished . . .


I had to laugh because the only thing handy to hold the page down was my pair of reading glasses, but after I took the shot, I realized that it looked like a page from Lori Vliegen at Elvie Studio. She uses her reading glasses as a signature of sorts. (Find her link in my sidebar under “Favorite Blogs”).

I hope you enjoyed getting to know my Painted Paradise plant as much as I did!

This page was created with pencil, Pitt Pen, Daniel Smith Watercolors in a Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook.

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What Is A Kiva Ladder?


“The Blue Door” Watercolor © Jessica Wesolek

One of the great things about making art in Santa Fe, is that the area has SO MANY design icons to work with.

One of the best, in my opinion, is the Kiva Ladder.

What is a Kiva Ladder?

Well, first it helps to know what a Kiva is.

A Kiva is a room used by Pueblo people for religious ceremonies and communal meetings. These rooms are usually dug into the ground, and you enter and exit by means of a Kiva ladder. A portion of the Kiva ladder usually sticks up a ways out of the Kiva opening, as this one is doing at the Pecos National Historic Park, which we visited during our recent retreat . . .


This is so cool looking that folks now lean Kiva Ladders against their courtyard walls to get the look, and the Kiva Ladder has become a widely known symbol of Santa Fe style.

I have them in my courtyard, and even use one in the house as a towel rack!

I also use them in my art whenever the chance arises. The Kiva Ladder in the painting at the top of the post is magic because it does not cast a shadow.

This one is very special . . . all about finding direction.


“The Rainbow Way” Watercolor © Jessica Wesolek

Here’s a “Little Church With Lofty Expectations” done in pastels . . .


And sometimes, I just draw them all by themselves because they fascinate me . . . especially when they are lashed together with leather lacings . . .


This was the sample I used in our Art Journaling in Paradise workshop . . .

classroom 1

One of our more adventurous students, Vivian Aldridge, actually climbed down into the Kiva at the Pecos Ruins and sat and sketched it from inside looking out . . .


Isn’t this a fantastic journal page?

And, of course, there just had to be a bit of fun thrown in. While Vivian was sitting down there, a pair of red boots appeared on the top rung of the ladder. A couple of tourists who were traveling with the red boots and photographing them in interesting settings.

And, speaking of fun – Registration is now open for:

Art Journaling in Paradise 2014!

I was learning some new video software this week, and I thought it would be good practice to make a video to show you how you can draw a Kiva Ladder too. They come in very handy, you know.

The video is 7 minutes long and meant to engage you in its moments, so get the ants out of your pants before watching it!

It is hosted on Dropbox and you have my permission to download a copy for yourself.

I would also love to know what you think of the style, so leave a comment if you have a moment.

How To Draw A Kiva Ladder