DIY Watercolor Sketchbook From a Vintage Book Cover

It's easy to make a book filled with watercolor or other paper of your choice. My friend, Debbie Reid taught a group of us how to bind our papers to the book spine using a phamphlet stitch. 

If you go out to purchase a hard cover book filled with Arches watercolor paper it costs quite a lot. About the price of a small yurt in La Canada. This is one of the reasons I make my own books. The other reason is I like to have several different kinds of paper in one book. Also I love having a vintage book cover on my sketchbook.

Please let me know if you'd like to make a sketchbook and I'll post directions here. 

I made this book with some friends on Saturday. I showed them how and they whipped out their own books quickly! 



I'm bringing this book with me on my May workshop trip to England to fill with watercolors of cottages, teapots and more.  I still have a few spots open if you'd like to come along to paint in North Wales, Bath, Oxford and the Cotswolds.

Have You Ever Heard of Emily Carr?

I had never heard about the painter, Emily Carr until Eileen came home from one of her trips to Seattle and told me a friend took her to see an exhibit of Emily Carr's paintings.

This is a painting by Emily Carr called the Gravel Pit.

This is a painting by Emily Carr called the Gravel Pit.

So I became interested in Emily Carr.  She was an amazing woman! She was born in 1871 and she was a painter, writer and an environmentalist at a time when women were not that independent.  She loved the indigenous culture of British Colombia and struck out on her own to visit and paint the art, totems and landscapes she found in the rustic villages of the native people. You can read about her here  She is quite a talented artist who worked in watercolor as well as oil.  The painted a wide variety of subjects and she didn't become well know until her later years.  She ran a rooming house at one point to support herself.  Many books have been written by her and about her.  

I am really pleased that we will have an opportunity to see some of Emily Carr's artwork and visit her home on my Watercolor Travel Painting Tour to Victoria, B.C. April 3-10, 2018. If you want to know more about the trip, click this link and it will take the Canada Trip page.



Sneaky Sketching Reduces Stress

Yesterday I sketched this while waiting in line at CVS to pick up a prescription they had messed up twice. My stress level zoomed up when I saw the length of the pick up line.   

As I waited I fished out pencil and paper and sketched the wallpaper line drawings. I didn't notice the wait in line once I started drawing and my stress level dropped. I think according to Betty Edwards author of Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain, that you lose track of time when you draw.  This is because when you draw the brain uses the right side which doesn't register time. The left side of our brains is the logical time keeper.  

I had a few minutes later in the day so I recorded an idea I thought of for a purse that would fit my sketchbook and pens and pencils. I decided it would have a label like saying it would be made by Nobody. 


Sneaky Drawing or How to Sneak In Some Daily Drawing Practice

Today I invented Sneaky drawing because I am caught up in a frenzy of pre-Thanksgiving activities and don't have time for artwork.  So I was forced to think up the Sneaky drawing method, which is not difficult and anyone can learn to do it after reading the instructions in this blog post.


Find a pencil, any pencil, it doesn't have to be perfect or a special #, just so it has a tip that writes.

Find a piece of paper to draw on.  I used my shopping list.  Throw your paper and your pencil into your purse, briefcase or pocket if you are going out. You need to be able to grab the paper and pencil when you have 1-5 minutes free.  II was waiting in the check out line at the market, when the realization struck me that I did not need to peak at the tabloid on the rack by the cashier.  It really wasn't crucial to read about Queen Elizabeth's secrets to a happy marriage or the latest movie stars most recent divorce and trauma.  Instead, I could draw!

How to make a sneaky drawing:

Find something in your line of vision. I chose a magazine cover. I looked at the cover for 3 seconds and then moved my pencil to capture some outlines of the dog on the cover. This type of drawing is known in the drawing business as contour drawing. You  move your pencil on the paper as you move your eye over the image you are looking at. When you need to, you can look at your drawing but try to spend most of your time looking at your subject. That's it. You are fully trained. I was able to complete three short drawings until my turn came to check out. I was pleased with my results, because the drawing part of my brain felt activated for the short 5 minutes I spent drawing. I am definitely going to be doing more sneaky drawing anytime I can. What about you?


Domestic Still Life

Today in the art class I teach at Escondido Adult School, We arranged objects on our desk and painted from life. Everyone had a unique selection of objects and did excellent paintings.

Have you ever studied your home looking for random still life set ups? 

I took a few photos of colorful still lifes I found in my kitchen. I wonder if there are any still lifes around your house? Let me know if you find any and go ahead and paint one if you have time. 


Creativity Make-Over To Begin Soon

Its official. The acceptance letters were sent out this morning to 3 qualified people who applied to participate in my increase your creative thinking skills project.  If they accept, their make over process will begin with a questionnaire to  measure their current level of creative thinking. We will use this unofficial assessment as a measurement to determine their progress. Their first question might be, "Would you like an old beagle?" No, just kidding, the questions will be quite scientifically and aesthetic determined....

Of course, I will blog about this mental creativity make-over process, but the identities of the contestants will be disguised. They will be know as Mrs. Marble, Pat and Madame X. 

You may find this in your mailbox (or email inbox) 

You may find this in your mailbox (or email inbox) 

A peak inside the envelope

A peak inside the envelope

Do You Want to Improve Your Creative Thinking Skills?

Have you said to yourself many times, "I wish I could be more creative?" You might want to  be able to think up more ideas, solutions and questions. You could desire to think out of the box.  You want to develop a creative hobby. You may think that the amount of creativity cells in your body is finite and predetermined and you wrongly think you have to accept that you are not creative.  

You can learn to be more creative. Creative thinking is not a  limited resource.It is not only limited to certain individuals that have a large right side of their brain.  It is a way of thinking, and the good news is, creative thinking can be taught!

Who can teach you to think more creatively? Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Wonder Woman or the Tooth Fairy? (this previous sentence was a creative thinking teaser, its called brain storming.)  None of the above.  Just me.  I have been studying and practicing creative thinking for years. At first, my studies in creative thinking for just for myself. I became fascinated with the topic. I read everything there was at the time on the topic. Then unofficially, I started to teach a few creative thinking skills to my students. Guess what happened? They told me their thinking changed and they were thinking more creatively.  

I've decided that I want to do a creative thinking make-over on a willing volunteer.  Hopefully that volunteer will come from one of the readers of my blog.  Is there anyone out there in blog reader land that thinks they are not creative, but would be willing to try to learn and practice improving their creative thinking powers with me?  

English Cottage wc edited.jpg

Welcome to my creativity cottage.  Email me if you want to be considered for a creativity make over by me.  I will be waiting by my computer for your email.

Post France Trip Painting

Now that I have been home almost two weeks after 17 days of workshop teaching and traveling, I am in my work room messing around with paint. Notice I didn't say I 've been in my studio painting? The words "studio" and "painting" scare me, I am hiding under my drafting table. 

If I try to paint official paintings, I don't take risks, try new ideas, make messes and hopefully come up with new painting directions, techniques and increased skill. Compare me to a surfer who only surfs the little waves he knows he can surf successfully and never tries to surf any bigger waves because he might not ride them successfully. 

Get my drift? Have you ever felt like afraid to try out new painting ideas, techniques and directions? Please tell me about how you approach your paintings.  


Nadine and Georges at Relais St. Anne

Nadine and Georges at Relais St. Anne

Learn To Make Watercolor Sketches (Journal Style) This Sunday, Oct. 22 at Artist & Craftsman Supply in San Diego 11am-2pm

I am back from my workshop in France and preparing to teach a workshop that will give you the skills to create watercolor sketches anywhere.

I designed a new cirriculum to get people to step into sketching anywhere with more ease. The students who painted and sketched with me in France produced more drawings in their journals than ever so I can see my new method worked! 

You can attend my Sunday cass by emailing me at: and signing up. The fee is $25 for this 3 hour class and you bring your own art supplies or purchase what you need in the shop before class. I will come 15 minutes early for anyone needing help to find supplies. 

Looking foward to seeing those of you this Sunday if you'd like to learn or improve your anywhere art making skills. 


End of Trip Issues

It is the end of our trip. We are packing up. I just dont't understand why my suitcase won't close.  It couldn't possibly be because I bought too many souvenirs and I didn't even purchase one pair of shoes. Did my suitcase shrink?

Hmmm. 3 meters of French Peovence Style fabric should not take up that much room, should it? Nor should a sweater, French pj's, a fountain pen and ten bars of chocolate, right? 


Memoire from France

Here is a postcard for you so you can remember our trip to France to paint. 

We enjoyed everything and breakfast was always special. 


Visiting Gordes and the Abbaye de Sennaque

Today we explored more of Provence.  

The Abbaye is an extremely calm space. There was no lavender in bloom but there were no crowds either. We all painted the abbaye. 

The Abbaye is an extremely calm space. There was no lavender in bloom but there were no crowds either. We all painted the abbaye. 

 We also visited the hilltop village of Gordes. 


Then we came back to our b& b and finished our paintings on the patio.

Good Day in Provence

Hardworking students, delicious food, fabulous chef and breakfast at SousL'Olivier with 12 types of homemade jam. 


Drawing Treasure Hunt

Yesterday was the drawing treasure hunt for our workshop.  I gave each student directions on how many steps to take and things to draw throughout the small village of Martel.

The results of the treasure hunt were good. Everyone felt it helped them draw and look a lot more.


Oradour Sur Glan

We visited the village of Oradour Sur Glan today.  Every single building in the village was destroyed by the Nazis near the end of WWII. The Nazis also brutally murdered 642 people of the 647 people who lived in the village.  Charles DeGaulle decided the destroyed village needed to be preserved so we would not forget the horrors of WWII. 


A museum was built to explain the timeline, background and history of the war and the massacre. 

This visit was a thought provoking moving experience and definitely gave us all a lot to reflect upon.




Prehistoric Artists

Ever wondered how making art began? No, prehistoric man did not go to Michaels with a supply list and then attend a class.

It's really not known the exact time that man began making art or the reason why.  Today we visited the National Museum of Prehistory which had exhibits of many of the tools used by prehistoric man to make his art. The tools evolved over time because of available materials and experience.  Some of the tools incised or scratched the pictures on the cave walls. Some were made from mesasorus and raindeer antlers. You can see in the photo on the left below, a stick that was made especially for putting paint on the cave wall, like the drawing behind the reindeer on the bottom right. 


We Really Are Painting in France

Despite the amount of dessert photos I've posted on Instagram, I want you to know we are doing some painting. We've been out touring some of the "most beautiful villages of France" and doing some painting. 


Here is a study in my watercolor journal that I did as a demo today in the village of Loubressac. Here is what I am telling my students to keep in mind: 

When you look at the landscape you see too much, so you have to find a small portion of the landscape to paint.  

Pick a subject you are interested in.  

Begin your painting with a pencil outline of the basic shapes you see. 

Study the shadows and paint when you have good shadows.  

Add your shadows quickly before they change. 

Take a photo, make color notes and finish your painting later. Then go eat French desserts. 

Cougnac Cave Inspiration

Today we were able to view a small, prehistoric cave that contained images painted on the smooth portions of the cave walls of animals and what are believed to be human figures. 

This cave is on private property and was filled with mud for thousands of years which helped preserve the paintings.  


This is part of an Ibex. 


The painted black image above is believed to be a human figure being struck by spears.