Journalfest Classes

Journalfest runs three days, and each day comprises one class. This year, I signed up for:

I’m always happy if I learn one thing per class, but this year was a bonus year–all three topics were rich in learning for me.

Watercolor is intriguing and elusive. I’ve never taken a formal class, so I thought

Watercolor and watercolor pencils on Farbriano 140-lb watercolor paper.

Tiphoni’s class would be a good start. There were many levels of experience in class, and my first job was to quiet my inner critic–I’m there to learn and practice, not compete and compare.

The main idea in this class was to accomplish color by creating many layers of soft colors. We had been told to bring just six tubes of watercolors–a warm and a cool red, yellow and blue. No other colors. By layering different shades of red, yellow, and blue, you create depth and vibrancy. My first surprise was that this was Port Townsend, not Phoenix, so nothing dried fast. Or even moderately slowly. The heat in the classroom was elusive that morning, so putting the papers on the radiators was a triumph, as George Bernard Shaw once said, of hope over experience.

My second big surprise was seeing that starting with a pale blue layer, then adding a wash of red and later, yellow, created a skin tone. That was the skill–choosing the warmth and hue of the color in the wash to create the desired effect. Looking around, I was astonished at the variety of successful skin tones.

Many people chose self-portraits. I don’t photograph people, much less draw them, so I worked on several views of a yellow pepper. Surprisingly, there is a good deal of blue in a yellow pepper. I did about six different peppers, and the one on here was my favorite. Once it dried fully–two days later–I added some shadows with Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils. The effect was useful. addition. I have not yet learned to control shadow intensity with three colors. The bottom shadow is made with Daniel Smith’s new Quinadricone Purple, a purple perfect to use with Payne’s Gray. One of the women who helped me at Daniel Smith gave me a squeeze-drop sample and I shared it with the table.

Friday’s class with Orly was one of those classes you just sink into and let it take you wherever it wants. Orly is intense and charming, and has something I look for in an instructor–she works deeply. Searching for meaning in her work with every shred of her soul. We created two spreads–one dark, one light.

The dark spread contained so many layers, I quit counting after six. We were building layers of meaning, an ancient wall or architectural meaning. We first rubbed on color and matte medium with our hands. Yep, our hands. There was a lot of choice and self-expression, and I appreciated the layers we built. Inks, paints, even varnish and Sharpies went onto the first page. Orly talked about Aztec glyphs and their meanings, and we created a glyph of our own.

Journal spreads made in Orly Avineri's class at Journalfest 2011 (Mine is the pale one at the bottom, center)

In the afternoon, we worked on a light-colored page, making it our own by creating a handprint that we then plundered for meaning and symbols. I loved this part of the class–creating new alphabets is a long-standing joy of mine, and I loved this exploration. We were then asked to create our own alphabets and stories intuitively, working with what we felt. There were so many very different approaches it was amazing to see what everyone created when we shared our work at the end of the day.

Lisa Engelbrecht has enough energy for six Letteristas. She crammed laughter, learning, and lettering instruction into every hour and still had energy left over for making each of us a beautifully lettered name tag. We started out with a few fun exercises, and then dived into Black Lettering–Gothic–and I quailed. I resist fussy, formal calligraphy instruction and I was afraid this would mean lots of tedious practice that brought back nightmares of failed calligraphy letters and angry nuns. I need not have worried.

We learned what we needed to cheerfully break rules and expand our own repertoire. After each new hand, we walked around and looked at the classes work. Lisa was tireless in demonstrating many different style, variations, and embellishments. She handed out exemplars so we could copy at our own pace.

The entire quote will read, "You do not have to complete the task, neither can you put it down." --The Talmud. Walnut ink and India ink on Bristol board.© Quinn McDonald

I experimented and found two styles I particularly enjoyed. I ate lunch in a hurry and raced back to the classroom to practice. After class that day, I practiced more in my hotel room. I’ve never been a calligrapher, but this was a great learning experience in mixing individual style with traditional techniques.

Thanks to all the instructors who brought themselves and their talents fully to class. Journalfest is a feast for the heart, soul and hands. I highly recommend saving pennies now to come to the 2012 retreat.

Quinn McDonald loved her time at Journalfest and exploring Port Townsend. She appreciated all the instructors who also spend a day in class, soaking up art from a different spring.