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.


Journal Fest Joy

October is a month of change, and one of the best changes you can indulge in is Journalfest, an art retreat put on by Teesha and Tracy Moore. This was my second year, and it was wonderful. You won’t see any photos of the art I did–I shipped a package home and the artwork was in it. The package will arrive at the end of this week.

Journaling at the Blue Moose Cafe in Port Townsend

Journalfest takes place in Fort Worden, just North of  Port Townsend, an interesting town about two hours North-Northwest of Seattle, on the Quimper Peninsula.

The beauty of Journalfest is that it lets you be as much with your thoughts as you like. You can stay in a dorm-like barracks, in small individual rooms with a lot of common place to journal with friends. You can stay in the officer housing, in which case you will have more space.  It depends on how rustic you want your stay to be. You can also stay in Port Townsend, in a hotel. I chose that option this year.

Journalfest runs for three days, and you take three classes from a long list of choices. Each class runs a full day, giving you real depth of learning.

Each evening there is a different activity so you are kept busy. One night there’s a bonfire (complete with s’mores!), another night is a demo- and vendor night, and one night, there is a Halloween party–complete with band and costumes, if you want to make or bring one.

Hadn't seen fall leaves in a while.

This year, staying in a hotel gave me the opportunity to explore the town. I discovered there is a downtown–with restaurants, antique stores, a fabulous coffee house called the Undertown, and The Writer’s Workshoppe, a  store just for writers. It offers classes, books on writing, T-shirts, and pens.

There is also an uptown–up on the bluff overlooking the bay are magnificent Victorian houses, a bakery, and a charming restaurant called Sweet Laurette.

Hannah Viano has an amazing exhibition of her papercuts, Shared is the Sea, at the Maritime Museum through November 5, 2011. When she says she is the daughter of a mermaid and a waterman, I can believe her.

I saw the notice of her exhibition pinned to a bulletin board at the Blue Moose Cafe. I love the cafe for their breakfast of eggs and hashbrowns made with both sweet potatoes and red-skinned potatoes. It’s on the waterfront tucked into the working area around the marinas. They don’t take credit cards and the space is small, but it’s wonderfully homey and comfortable. And you can journal there and feel at home.

The town has a wonderful history, and an ancient geography and emotional force. Bring a raincoat, it’s rainy. You won’t care, because you will be looking at the bright changing leaves against the backdrop of the smokey pines and foggy, low clouds.

On the way there and back, if you are crossing on the Bainbridge Island Ferry, be sure to stop at the small town right after the crossing to Bainbridge Island. Turn left at the first traffic light and enjoy the Blackbird Bakery’s excellent sweet and savory baked goods and coffee. Bring cash, they don’t take credit cards. If you are a knitter or crocheter, you must stop at Churchmouse Yarns and Tea. Stepping through the door is like stepping into the past where handwork is honored. Fabulous yarns of every kind and color, many of them knitted up so you can see what it looks like in a garment.

When my classwork arrives, I’ll do another post on the classes, but meanwhile, start saving to go to Journalfest in October of 2012. You’ll enjoy every minute.

The Rescue Journal: Diana Trout Class

At Journalfest last week,  (Oct. 28-30, 2010) I took a journal-making class from Diana Trout. If you know her book, Journal Spilling, you’ll want to take a class from her. She loves books. She loves journaling. She loves painting, and it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes–in fact, in our class, she said there were no mistakes, just things to change. Her easy manner and depth of knowledge made exploring possibilities wonderful. There were many possibilities–new book spines, endpapers, bookmarks, ways of closing the book.

Old embossed book cover spruced up with Sakura metallic gel pens.

We made rescue journals–using the covers from old abandoned books and putting new pages in them. Each person created an entirely different book.The book I brought was in German with a very tired cover. Using a gold Sakura gel pen, I gave the worn-out embossing on the cover a new look.

Monsoon paper page with circle cut outs. Notice cut on edge.

We used pages of various papers and sizes. Here, monsoon papers make a return into the journal. I could use the papers even though I had cut two circles out of them because I could fold the paper, creating a surprise.

Washi paper tape, original pages from the book, wallpaper strips are all fair game in the book

Diana had brought washi paper tape for us to use. Here I combined the original end paper from the book with similarly-colored washi tape. The paper closest to the spine of the book is lifted up to show the space for private journaling.

Wallpaper on the left, monsoon papers on the right add variety.

I loved the soft neutral tones of wallpaper on the left, contrasting with brighter monsoon papers on the right. The middle page will be great for journaling and maybe a watercolor sketch.

Thanks, Diana, for a great class!

-Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach and artist. She’s just beginning to get a start on making more journals!

Journalfest Explored

For the last three days, I have been in classes at Journalfest in Port Townsend, WA. It was a memorable experience for many reasons, but the one I wanted to point to, before I collapse into bed, exhausted, is the benefit of risking. It’s hard to stay open and curious in a class full of talented artists. The normal inclination is to compete and do the “right” thing–to use the talent you have to create what you know how to do. In all of my classes, I chose instead to risk making mistakes, to risk people laughing at my work, to risk not liking what I created. It’s hard.

Gesso, watercolor, collage, conte crayon, charcoal risk. Result? Truth.

In one class, I was asked to use a conté crayon to sketch a frog puppet. On the paper I was using, the stick felt scratchy and dry, unpleasant. But I risked and sketched the frog. I didn’t like the result, either. It was the wrong proportion, the wrong shape, just wrong.I could have torn out the page and started over. Nope, I pressed ahead. Risking.

In the next section of the class, we learned how to work with an unsuccessful image. I obliterated all but the eyes of the frog. The technique was good, but I didn’t like the result. I rotated the page, and the image shifted dramatically. I continued working on the technique, feeling ahead blindly, not knowing what would happen. Big risk.

Three techniques later, I had created an imaginary creature–part koi, part salamander, part dragon and part . . .fun. In the process I had made choices, abandoned dead-end paths, made peace with bad decisions, accepted the simple force of putting hand to paper. In the end,  I liked the creature. Not for its realism (there is none) but because I could like a figment of my imagination that was neither perfect nor real. Most of us fail at drawing because we put an object in front of us and draw it. Ahhh, certain failure. The two-dimensional rendering will never look just like the three-dimensional object. So we hate ourselves, then say we can’t draw, then quit doing art.

Instead, I started from a place of not knowing, reached into what appeared on the page, and imagination, created the unknown. In that case, the result could not be wrong or imperfect. The drawing defines itself. I like the result, not because I think it’s beautiful, but because I think it is true. I recognize my own truth revealed in it. And that is the heart and soul of art.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach.