Sketching Yosemite ~ a watercolor sketchbook



WATERCOLOR SKETCHBOOK JOURNALING Workshop in Yosemite            National Park,  Sept. 21-26, 2015.

Sketch, Write, Observe, Slow down,  Record your journey.  Light watercolor notes and lettering will be included. Your sketchbook journal will become an artful record of your journey in Yosemite.

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Playing Card – Creative Challenge

6 of Clubs Playing Card

6 of Clubs Playing Card

A collaborative Deck of Cards Project headed by amazing artist, Susan Longerot with 26 Artists.  She dealt two cards per hand to interpret artistically.  Final design size 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″.  Susan’s article appears in Bound & Lettered magazine, January 2015 issue.

6 of CLUBS (black card), a pen and ink illustration.   I thought about “club shapes,” hence 6 club-like clover florets churned by a red dressed mousie.  What could be better than having a midnight harvest and making ink!  My other card, the 10 of Diamonds.

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Pen & Ink and Writing Bliss

Pen & Ink go together like bread and butter, You can’t have one without the other! Sounds like a familiar tune, but so true. Which pen and which ink will dance together on the page tonight? It depends.
Pen nib:  needlepoint hairline, broad, wide, flexible, fixed?                                                           Ink:  juicy wet, dry, ink viscosity, color, opaque, waterproof, oak gall, sumi, acrylic?               Paper:  slick, smooth, rough, recycled, toothed?                                                                               Throw in other factors, such as writing speed, writing pressure, and then there’s the calligrapher!
And then, when all is said and done, when the right ink is paired with a writing tool to deposit an inked line that sits up on exquisite paper, glistening – it is as if all the stars are aligned in the night sky.  It is writing bliss!


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A few of my all time favorite pens for sketching are:

1.  Fountain Pens are the best!!! Watersoluble ink makes a nice wash with a water brush.  The line can also be varied with pressure and release.

2.  Pigma Micron, size 01, by Sakura.  Waterproof.  Black and other colors 3. Tombow Zoom Pen.  waterproof!    I love this one.   4.Pentel Slicci.   5.  Pilot Hi-Tec C for a fine line.





Airport waiting holds one of the best opportunities for sketching people and of course, planes.

Waterproof Tombo zoom pen, light watercolor wash of color.

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Poinsettia December

IT MUST BE DECEMBER . . . Poinsettia4webcombined+2-copyPotted bouquets line the walkway like velvet jewels, a crimson forest to a Christmas mouse. Welcome to this Winter.
Summer trees take an extra season to remove their coats allowing Artists and Naturalists to appreciate the beauty of their framework. As winter solstice nears, daylight is traded for candlelight and the atmosphere chills and fills with moisture. I am writing in my journal and reflecting on the year. Wishing you all a happy, warm holiday season filled with lots of hot chocolate and love!
My watercolor painting of poinsettias on 140 lb. Arches watercolor paper, “saving the white paper”, 11″ x 15″.

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draw, draw, draw. . . peonies


Quick sketchy line drawing of peonies at my friend Eva’s house. She received these gorgeous peonies and with my ball point pen as a drawing tool into the sketchbook they were captured.

Sketchbook size 16 cm square. Fabriano toned paper.

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My Thank You Note to my Calligraphy Students

To my dear students,
There are not enough “letters” in a bottle of ink to pen the words to thank you all. As students of the craft, we are always seeking to better our techniques, acquire more ideas, learn about new tools all while strengthening friendships with kindred spirits. I have learned and have been inspired by you most of all.
Time is one of the most precious things in this life; who you spend it with and what you do with it is really what life is all about. Thank you for making a commitment of your time to come to class and be a participant. Your weekly questions keep the class fresh and always provide me with new challenges. You have endured the lesson plans and weekly homework assignments with hours of work and it shows. It shows up in the cards you make and give each other, and work that you put out into this world. The creativity you put into your projects is an inspiration.
Thank you for making me a better teacher. You challenge me each week to come up with another way to help you see the “forms” that letters make and I love it. I love it when I show you one thing and the following week you share with the class a multitude of ideas. It has been the sharing that I hope you will always remember about our class. Class time is not always about trying to “get” something, but giving as well. Each time you have shared something of yourself you have enriched us all, and I thank you for that. Also, you have been kind to share your mistakes, for how not to do something has been an equal lesson as well. You have stepped outside your veil of shyness to show up. [applaud]. Thank you.
You have taught me about patience and focus.
As calligraphers, we strive for excellence hoping to make marks that leave us breathless. It may seem like an elusive endeavor much like a rainbow mirage on a moving highway that jumps farther away as you drive closer. Time passes. Never give up, for one day, you notice a uniformity, a rhythm, a natural lilt to the glistening wet ink as it sets up on the pristine paper. A single letter of brilliance made by your human hand. Bravo. Remember, that with continued practice, you are raising your own bar and requiring the rainbow to move ahead.
Notice the things that surround you can spark your imagination and be a source of inspiration. Sharing is better in this short life than metering your knowledge with clenched fists. Stretch yourselves this next year and continue to grow. Love this mark-making journey you are on.
And so, I celebrate you, my dear students, you have been my teacher. [arms outstretched]
May your days be filled with beauty, good health and much love,
Janet Takahashi

Christmas bouquet, watercolor, 4″ x 9″ Arches hot press.

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Giving Thanks

. Watercolor sketches to document Thanksgiving dinner.
Author unknown.
The best pecan pie recipe from Houston, Texas! Also French apple pie, pumpkin pie and pumpkin cream cheese pie. All homemade, of course.

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Eat, Pray, Love. NOTES

“Eat, Pray, Love” author, Elizabeth Gilbert was being interviewed for her notable book, a New York Times Bestseller. Its her account of her year long journey and the lessons she learned on her spiritual odyssey, written with humor, insight and charm. She spoke unhesitatingly with passion and with a richness of content that I had to record.
I reached for my journal quickly AND BEGAN TO TAKE NOTES:
ENTRANCES are everywhere. Everyday–a sacred space. MEDITATION. Ten minutes of SILENCE is enough. STILLNESS. seeking. journey. Your Inner Voice will tell you the TRUTH. SAY NO to things you don’t want to do or can’t do. A JOLT is a call to ACTION. You don’t have to travel across the world to find yourself. As Dorothy (Wizard of Oz) would say– you always had it in you. I am my best person when I have LESS on my PLATE.

NOTE TAKING: This sketchbook 4″ x 6″. Non-linear layout, here. Emphasis on key words. Watercolors, at the ready, making color notes, quickly melting colors into each other and sometimes catching the wet ink writing (using a Niji waterbrush and small watercolor travel set). Rotating the page at each new note. The page is done like a sketch, all done in the moment, on the spot, not retouching or re-writing later. Because, “later” there are other things to do!

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ALWAYS WITH ME. . . A few of my favorite writing tools.
FOUNTAIN PENS. Not just one. A pointed flexible nib for drawing. A fine calligraphic chisel nib –in different millimeter widths. The fountain pen is always ready to go, ink filled. Great for drawing, sketching and writing. The immediacy of writing with wet ink is a treat. I carry them in a leather pen roll for 5 pens. The leather is soft and supple from lots of use, and has a top flap that folds over the pen caps.
THE WATERBRUSH. A plastic barrel that is filled with water with a nylon brush on the end. Made by several brands; Niji, Pentel, and Koi. It’s great for pulling out some color from watercolor pencils or dabbing into a paintbox. And a slight dilution to an inked line is all that is needed to add dimension to a sketch. It’s the most perfect solution for travel sketching — instant water!
PEN HOLDER, PEN NIBS, INK. More time to write? Then individual pen nibs ready to insert into a pen holder, at the ready. Small 2 oz. Nalgene round leakproof plastic containers make the most secure of inkwells for traveling.
WATERCOLOR PENCILS, a definite must. Can be used dry for a spot of color or can be wet with a brush and voilá.

This watercolor of some tools are featured in my book, “Artful Journals” and is a partial representation of a giclée print available for sale.
10″ x 10″, US$55.00 (plus shipping)

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow. . .

MOVING DAYS. . . Packing up a studio full of “stuff” (17 years worth of stuff) and movin’ onwards and up. Editing. Evaluating. Sorting. Sifting. What do I need? What will I keep? What will I donate and share? Toss behind, let go, and move on to make room in my life for new adventures and creations of art. As they say, “you have to take your foot off 1st base to get to 2nd, and so forth.” Clear the tables, “Leap and the net will appear”(another saying scribbled in my journal). This has been my summer; more light, longer days and knowing that “somewhere over the rainbow” I know that by getting rid of these things, I will have more room in my life for more _______ (fill in the blank).
We are always moving somewhere, this is life’s journey.

Pen and Ink drawing done with a Namiki fountain pen, extra-fine needlepoint, super-flex nib, black ink.
Fountain pen nib re-ground by Greg at (the best!)

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Come join me in Northern California, near Mount Shasta, for an Exciting, new Workshop

McCLOUD, MT. SHASTA, CALIFORNIA. June 24, 25 and 26, 2010.
A SKETCHBOOK JOURNALING WORKSHOP. You will learn techniques with pen and ink sketches, watercolors used creatively, and building textural layers for journal pages. Learn to incorporate your own writings onto your sketchbook compositions. Lots of tricks with old tools, based on examples, step-by-step exercises.
For more info. contact Claudia Ellis at 307 Pine Street, McCloud, CA
. McCloud, California. elev. 3,291 ft. An historic logging town from the turn of the century, at the skirt of Mt. Shasta, northern California. Always draped with a cascade of glaciers, this mountain (elev.14,161 ft.) provides a most spectacular sight at each minute of nature’s light and forever moving cloud formations. Claudia & Jim Ellis own Brown Dog Gallery in the center of the town’s historic district which displays the art of Claudia and other renown artists. Art and Gifts beautifully handmade and created with such craftsmanship in an interior setting that transforms you to loose all sense of time. Gorgeous old plank floors in a two-story clapboard, tall Victorian windows with a view of the mountain (of course). Workshop upstairs in an refined eclectic art haven that looks down upon a full flower-field garden. Whew!.
The Shasta Sunset Dinner Train. In my sketchbook from the summer before.
You know, I always like to paint my food. One must paint quickly while the food remains hot! The night moon makes the mountain “glow”.
p.s. the train is for sale.

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watercolor paint diary

SOMETIMES I CARRY MY BRUSHES IN A ROLL like this with the brush handles woven thru a grosgrain ribbon that ties the bundle.
The watercolor brushes stay neat and the roll can be tucked upright in the pocket of a tote bag.
PINK-Y COLOR SWATCH NOTES in a 4″ x 6″ Aquabee Sketch Book. Artists’ quality watercolor names, brands and transparency notes. Beautiful yummy colors, glowing.

GREEN-Y Artists’ grade quality WATERCOLOR SWATCH notes. When they’re side by side, you can compare the nuances; a little more yellow, a little more blue? Swatch notes for a smaller travel paintbox. Portable mini watercolor pans from Daniel Smith can be filled with fresh tube colors and inserted into a travel box. Some colors are irresistible.

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A Japanese Happy New Year!

For Japanese, NEW YEAR is one of the most important celebrations of the year, a festive occasion. Traditionally the house must be cleaned of the clutter and dust of the past year to start the New Year afresh. Preparation of food for New Year’s occupies much of the time with traditional dishes symbolic of good health and wealth and giving thanks for the past and expressing hope for a greater, happier new year.
My mother starts the preparations right after Christmas, getting the house ready for New Year’s day. Relatives and friends drop by all day on New Year’s day and feast on all the traditional Japanese foods and an eclectic assortment of other cuisines. Football games on tv play in the background, the fireplace full-on blazing and the house fills with laughter and voices.
MOCHI is a special kind of steamed rice, pounded and shaped into small, round buns. KAGAMI MOCHI, a symbolic Japanese presentation in every home displays a leaf-stemmed mandarin orange atop double stacked mochi rice cakes. It’s overall meaning is one of hope for a brighter and happier New Year. The kelp embellishment is a symbol of joy because the word is found in “yorokobu” (to be glad). The mandarin orange means “generation to generation” and its color symbolizes a prosperous future.

My mother makes a couple of different kinds of sushi as well. MAKI-SUSHI shown here. I paint while she works on the table in front of me. First she puts a beautiful shiny blue-black sheet of seaweed onto a bamboo mat. (I use these kind of mats for storing my paintbrushes). Next hot fluffy rice with a mixture of vinegar & rice wine is spread with a large wooden flat spoon. Then 5 or 7 cooked items of: carrots, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, cooked egg, “kampio”-dried squash, eel, and dried shrimp are layered like a multi-colored ribbon onto the rice. She then rolls the whole kaboodle with the aid of the bamboo mat. Somehow the “food ribbon” is perfectly centered in the rice roll.
Now, the best part is about to happen. Sometimes the sushi logs are wrapped in waxed paper and ready themselves to be cut neatly with a very sharp knife into these perfect “tires”. When one is standing nearby, the “end cuts” don’t make it on to beautiful vintage Japanese china platters. They’re delicious!!!
Back to the story of the “kagami mochi” (shown above). The origin of the kagami mochi offering is based on Amerasu-omikami’s (sun-goddess) hiding in the cave of Ama-no-Iwato. With the sun-goddess in hiding, the world became dark and prayers for her reappearance were made to a mirror, which symbolized the goddess. The kagami mochi represents the mirror and is a symbol of hope for a bright and happy New Year. So, TO MY DEAR FRIENDS IN ALL THE WORLD, HAPPY NEW YEAR, and loads of PROSPERITY as well.

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Winter Jackalopes

Jackalopes from the Southwest Desert pose with winter banner as the brisk north wind whips tumbleweed like giant popcorn balls through the desertscape. I capture the scene with pen and ink. Banner with pinecone motif.

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