My First Real Journaling Pages

When I got the invitation to a mushroom hunt in the Shediac area (Cocagne, actually), not only was I excited because I'm crazy about wild mushrooms, I also saw it as an opportunity to create my first "real" journaling pages -- real as opposed to the assignments that I carried out last month in Montreal in the sketchbook class, and the ones that are part of Laure Ferlita's excellent online Artful Journaling class that I'm taking right now.

I didn't have any illusions about being able to sketch mushrooms in the woods: I was sure that was out of the question due to the large number of participants. But when our guide began his presentation, I realized that instead of just taking notes, I could make little sketches of the mushrooms in his slide presentation.

Here's a page from that project:

Click to enlarge.
I drew the little mushrooms in permanent ink, then filled in the colours back at the motel, using my guidebook as well as sites I found with my iPad.

Too bad I didn't plan to do this in advance. I could have allowed a bit more space for the drawings, and set each one in its own little frame maybe. Next time I will.

Click to enlarge.

I had brought back some of the enormous mushrooms that had been picked by the group, so I could paint them.

As soon as I got home, I painted this one quickly in my other sketchbook. It was just going to be a draft, but I never got around to doing it again, so I cut it out and pasted it in my Moleskine.

The camera rendered the yellow a bit too yellowy, and I shouldn't have put the red on top, dry-into-dry like this, especially since I used Brown Madder, which is sort of a shiny pigment -- but like I said it was going to be a draft, and if you don't enlarge it it doesn't look too bad.

* * * * *

I had booked the motel room for two days so I could spend the next day at the main pier in Pointe-du-Chêne, and maybe at Parlee Beach as well, filling pages and pages of my Moleskine sketchbook.

That was overly optimistic! I forgot that I had to allow time to drive back home during the daylight hours (I have night blindness), and how long sketching actually takes when you're new at the game.

I never made it to Parlee Beach, but I am thrilled at having produced this page of small sketches.

I was kind of sorry that I hadn't worked more neatly, but then I looked at the journals of some famous artists, and many of them are not neat at all.

I concluded that if you're a neat person, your journals are going to be neat, and if you're more like me, then your journals are going to be neat one day, and sloppy the next!

Anyway, I was looking at a way of unifying this page, and I checked books and websites, and one idea I found was to paint the background, like this:

Watercolour on Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook, 5" x 9". Click to enlarge.
 I like it much better with the Prussian Blue background around the sketches, and the pale yellow on the sign.

I find that this does unify the whole page, and makes the sketches stand out even more.

It also hides some of the flaws.

I'm glad I tried this because it was sort of the ultimate test for the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook. It's amazing how well this rather thin paper withstands just about any amount of water you put on it. It buckles very slightly at first, then it recovers.

At around $25, it seems expensive, but since the paint doesn't bleed through, you can use both sides of the pages -- giving you a total of 72 pages, costing a mere 35 cents each. It's cheaper than making your own, really.

* * * *

Years from now, when I look at this page, I know that I will remember that weekend so much better than if I had taken photos, including how I was so busy trying not to trip in the forest that I never spotted a single mushroom.

On the nicer side, I will remember getting excited at the colourful buoys hanging from that pyramid of lobster traps. I will remember chatting with the lady in the fake pirate ship souvenir shop with the plastic palm trees; she happens to be an "expatriate" from Montreal, like me, so we had a lot to talk about.

Best of all, I will remember watching the fishermen on the pier, and their strange pivoting movement, their bodies gyrating from left to right and right to left, again and again, in an attempt to lure the fish to bite, as I sat there on one of the benches, eating my lunch, and then sketching and painting using my new Cotman watercolour travel set, feeling awfully lucky to have found someone willing to move so little for so long!

Next time, I will try to work more neatly, draw some lines and stay inside them, and leave more space between the sketches! Fortunately, I had drawn in a frame for the title of the Shediac page. I added the lettering when I got home -- I wanted the title to be done with care, and if you see the influence of Cathy Johnson there, it's no coincidence -- I just got her new book, Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures, and have found it a great resource for a beginner like myself.

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