I have always loved postcards. Antique ones in plastic sleeves in gift shops. Fancy reproductions of favorite paintings in museums. Glossy photos in tourist traps. I love them all.
But I especially love painting my own postcards. Often when I go out of town I'll paint a postcard to send to a friend, or to my dad, someone I know will appreciate the effort and the artwork. I have painted postcards on a street corner in Tijuana, with a circle of kids looking over my shoulder, in San Francisco and Monterey Bay with tourists passing by and the wind whipping. In Jackson Hole, Wyoming when I was there for a watercolor workshop. In Hawaii last fall. At Bear Lake with friends. In faraway England, when I was studying at Cambridge, and more recently when my husband and I were overseeing a group of study abroad students ourselves.
A few weeks ago (BC = Before the Corona Virus) I was at my dad's house in his study, and he pulled something out of a frame on his desk so I could see what it was -- a postcard I had sent him from London four years ago. I was so touched that he had not only kept it, but framed it. Has kept it on his desk all these years. That is the magic of a painted postcard!
Here's why I love painting postcards:
That's one reason I created this Creative Connections Watercolor Workshop/Kit Creative Connections greeting card workshop/kit. To give you the joy of creation, without all the fear of getting started.
St. Paul's and the north bank of the Thames. 4 x 10, framed in grey wood. $175.00
I recently completed a series of 24 mini landscapes, 21 of which are from our recent travels through England and Europe. (The other 3 are of Bear Lake and Mt. Timpanogos from the Ridge Trail.) This series of 4" x 10" paintings was a major departure from the commission I completed a couple of weeks earlier, which was a whopping 53" x 34". (Look for more on that in a future post.) Together, they comprise #16-35 of my Europe series.
I have loved creating these small panoramas, which capture the very essence of the landscape in their long, narrow format. I was often working on 4-6 at a time, as you can see in these photos:
With each painting I was amazed at how much of the experience a small image—barely more than a sliver—could convey. You have to see it to believe it. There is truly something for everyone: Bright, vivid florals, detailed line work, simple studies of a lavender horizon, the muted tones of the London skyline, rugged stone ruins and fresh herbs, lakes, rivers, bridges, buses, taxis, and figures. All are designed to give the viewer a taste of the landscapes I love, both here and across the ocean.
Art Access, a gallery I've grown very fond of, is exhibiting all 24 paintings in its "Small Treasures" holiday show, opening Thursday evening with a VIP reception. This show allows collectors to purchase and walk away with their small treasures, so I can't guarantee my paintings will be there when the show closes, on December 15. But I can guarantee they'll be there when it opens!
Don't miss this opportunity to see — and snag — one of these little gems...small enough to fit in the tiniest corner of your home or office, with an equally small price tag. (The smallest is a 3 x 3 original, unframed, for just $40!). They also make perfect gifts!
Richmond Dock on the Thames, 4 x 10, unframed, $130.
Rock Canyon Stream—Plein Air—10 x 14 SOLD
It's halfway through the summer, and time for an update on our fabulous Plein Air Fridays!
We started May 31, and painted at beautiful Bridal Veil Falls. Next, on June 7 we painted on the Provo River Parkway down by Utah Lake. Wonderful shaded location, with both pastoral and river views. June 14 we traveled north to the Jordan River Parkway and painted marshy wetlands, in literally 50 shades of green, backed by Mt. Olympus. June 21 we painted the river at Rock Canyon, which was in full, white-water splendor! (A rare sight for Rock Canyon!). Best of all, a mother passing by with her kids on a hike asked to purchase my demo painting (pictured above)!
The following weekend while I was in San Francisco, I also led a Plein Air excursion there. We painted "The Painted Ladies," a row of adorable Victorian houses painted in a variety of colors. I demonstrated wax resist technique for the trim on the houses, and brush-ink outlines for a fast way to render so much detail. Once again, a passer-by in the park purchased my demo painting. She was a tourist visiting from Minnesota, and was so excited to own this beautiful souvenir she watched being created! Another passer-by asked to join our next plein air group there! Yay!
Today we painted gushing streams in American Fork Canyon, backed by tall pines and flanked with emerald green foliage and white wildflowers. It was mostly shady and the water provided some natural air conditioning, perfect for a hot July day! We had our biggest group so far and everybody had a wonderful time! A woman driving by stopped her car when she saw us working and asked if she could join our group! (Of course she's welcome!)
The most gratifying thing about Plein Air Fridays has been not just spending a couple of hours in the great outdoors, but watching new friendships form, seeing everybody's work improve, and participating in the joy of creation!
Anyone who wants to come along, and watch and paint with us is welcome! Sign up (click here) on the website. Or Venmo me and ask to be added to the Plein Air Fridays email list. Also? Feel free to show up and purchase my demo. I love when that happens!
"Ode to a pair of Green Doors," 9 x 12,original watercolor.
I fell in love with these quaint cottages in Bibury, the second town we visited in the Cotswolds. They're built from the traditional honey-colored stones the Cotswolds are famous for. And I especially love the green doors. It's a paint color that's authentic to the time period and the town—you see it throughout Bibury, and it's this perfect, cozy, inviting green—not quite mint, and not quite sage, and not quite celadon, but a "come sit down and have tea with me" green. These row houses date back to the 14th Century, when they were used for monastic stores. and in the 17th Century they were converted into housing for the mill workers. They're part of Arlington Row, named after the person who established them and the mill, who just happens to be the very same Arlington who later founded Arlington, Virginia, and who also has Arlington Cemetery named after him.
These cottages face a lovely, shaded pond in the center of Bibury. They also famously appear on the inside cover of every British passport.
This is #5 in my series "100 Days in Europe," (#100daysinEurope). Just 95 to go! (haha) See them all by following me on Facebook and Instagram, as well as my blogs.
For those who are interested in my palette and process, I used a traditional watercolor palette for this painting, and added my perennial favorite Holbein Lavender, plus two signature Daniel Smith Primatek pigments: Sugilite Genuine, and Hematite Genuine. Both are ground straight from pure minerals. Sugilite is a sparkly purplish grey, the perfect complement to French Ochre for creating the honey-colored stone. I started with a light wash alternating French Ochre and Lavender for the overall lightest stone base. Hematite was used for the rich darks, along with Shadow Violet.
Jana painting en plein air at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in 2018. Her painting was chosen to market the Festival in 2019. (Photo by Tom Thurston).
Today was our second Plein Air Friday of the summer! We painted on the Provo River Parkway, just above Utah Lake, and it was a perfect morning, on a shady pathway, with a delightful breeze! We all had a wonderful time! I couldn't resist taking this quick snapshot of Lori, who looked so great all set up with her apron and easel and folding stool!
I am somewhat of an art materials junkie, continually on the lookout for the best that's available. Several people asked about the equipment and materials I had there, so here is a list of what I use, plus what I recommend for those joining us on location:
1. Easel (Not required by any means). I use the En Plein Air Pro Traveler for Watercolor with Sunpak 2001 Tripod. This is the exact easel I will be taking to France next summer. The whole amazing kit is super lightweight and compact and comes with its own backpack for easy transport. It includes a tray for holding your palette and water and brushes, and has the easiest setup of any easel I've used. (This is my third plein air easel I've purchased, and is far and away the best of its kind.) My friend and plein air painting genius Brienne Brown sold me on this system a few years ago, and I have never looked back.
2. Palette (Highly recommended). I love my Mijello 18-well Palette (same as Heritage 18-well Palette). This is a total win! I ordered these for the plein air classes I taught in Capitol Reef a few years ago, and now I use them for practically everything. They are perfectly transportable, including a leakproof rubber seal, hold 18 colors, with plenty of mixing areas, including an additional pop-out tray, and are insanely affordable if you know where to look, and what to look for!
3. Collapsible Cup (Not essential, but I am in love.) I first discovered this Faber-Castell Clic-and-Go Collapsible Cup in London, shopping for a quick plein-air travel kit. Now I order them for my UVU class, and recommend them to everyone. It is completely leak-proof (which I can NOT say for other collapsibles I've used!). It opens up to the size of a small flower pot, then collapses to 1" flat. Also, it fits perfectly in the try on my easel. And the grooves around the rim are perfect for setting your brushes on, so you don't ruin them soaking in the water!
4. Paper (Somewhat expensive, but totally worth it.) I prefer to paint on Arches Watercolor Blocks most of the time. They are pre-stretched and sealed on all four sides so your paper doesn't buckle, and each block holds 20 sheets. 140# Cold-Press is the industry standard. Sometimes I prefer Rough finish for larger works. And 300# is especially nice if you're painting plein air and not sure you'll finish at the location, because the paper is stiff enough that it still won't curl up even after you remove it from the block, eliminating the need to re-stretch. I usually work on a 10" x 14" or 12" x 16" size block when I'm teaching, so it's large enough for the students to see. For beginners to the plein air experience, I recommend working smaller rather than larger. Arches blocks now come in a myriad of shapes and sizes to meet every artist's need. 4 x 10 and 6 x 12 panoramas are great for capturing the landscape. 7 x 10 is also great, because it's a common proportion, and exactly matches the 6 x 9 sketchbook proportions. Amazon carries Arches blocks, but the best place to buy them is through online art retailers, such as Blick, Jerry's Artarama, and Cheap Joe's, where they are usually available at 50% off. (Stay away from lesser brands, such as Strathmore and Canson, as their papers are not 100% cotton, and the synthetic fibers will cause you grief—especially with puddling and edges.)
5. Support (You'll need this if you're not painting on a block). Gatorboard is the best of the best. Masonite is totally old school and weighs a ton. I have several pieces of 12 x 16 gator board (perfect for quarter-sheets), plus 24 x 32 and other sizes. They are extremely light weight, and take both staples and tape easily. I use them frequently in my studio work as well, which helps me to work on multiple paintings at once.
6. Sketchbook and Markers (because if you know me you know I love value studies!) I use the Aquabee Super Deluxe All-Media Sketchbook almost exclusively, (size 6 x 9) and have been for nearly 20 years. True to its name, it accepts all media well--including watercolor, which is pretty rare. I used to use a flat pencil for my value studies, but I've recently switched to markers, for both boldness and speed. I used a regular black Sharpie, and a simple mid-range grey. (It helps to have one with both a bold tip and a fine point.)
7. Paints (The love of my life! --after Jeff, of course!) I use primarily Daniel Smith pigments, with some other brands as well. I love the extensive color range of Daniel Smith paints, as well as the creamy consistency. If you want a list of the paints I require for my UVU Watermedia 1 class (the perfect starter set and all-around palette), or any of my other kits/palettes, feel free to contact me using the contact link above. I may start selling some palettes and kits here on my website as well.
Most important: Supplies can be a big help in the process, and significantly shorten the learning curve, but the most important thing is just to show up and paint! Practice makes a world of difference! I hope to see you outside at one of my upcoming Plein Air Fridays soon!
"Charterhouse Rules," pen and ink and watercolor, 15 x 11
I was saying to a friend the other day, "Artists may have limited resources, but we have amazing opportunities." One of these opportunities is travel. In the past 5 years my husband and I have had the extraordinary opportunity of spending over 100 days in Europe (split over two separate trips). The great thing about extended trips is you get to experience the culture as more of a resident than a tourist. In addition to the plein air paintings I created while we were there, I have over 5000 photos from each of these trips, photos of grand vistas, lifestyle moments and voluptuous gardens, all just waiting to be painted.
This very Harry Potteresque building is Charterhouse. Like Harry's alma mater Hogwarts, it is a boarding school for elite British youth. It's located in Godalming, Surrey, about half an hour southeast of London. Some dear friends of ours live nearby and took us to see the campus, whose alumni are still referred to as Old Carthusians. Among the diverse famous folks who were educated there include Peter Gabriel of Genesis fame, along with his cohorts Chris Stewart, Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford, (the band was founded there), John Wesley, founder of Methodism, novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, and leader of the scouting movement, Robert Baden-Powell. Its rolls have also boasted several earls, barons, baronets, viscounts, and multiple members of Parliament.
Next summer (June 2020) I'll be enjoying yet another set of weeks in Europe, teaching watercolor workshops at Marouatte Castle in France. To celebrate and prepare for my upcoming adventure, as well as the great time we've already spent in Europe, I'm creating a series of paintings based on these travels called (you guessed it) 100 Days in Europe. My goal is to create and post 100 paintings from our travels in France, England, and Italy before I leave again for France a year from now. It's a massive undertaking, but I'm super motivated! I really want to share all this beauty with you!
Some of the paintings will be posted along with stories and/or process and technique descriptions here on my art blog. Others will appear on my two instagram feeds (@janawparkin and @janaparkinart) and on my coordinating facebook feeds (Jana Winters Parkin, and Jana Parkin Art). I will even post a few longer stories and paintings on my personal essay blog, Divergent Pathways. Be sure to follow me in all of these places if you don't want to miss any of the stories and paintings from our extensive travels. Look for the hashtag #100daysineurope. I hope you'll feel like you've been there with me!
Stewart Falls, 20 x 30
One of the best things about our time here in Utah is the proximity to the mountains! Two great canyons are just five minutes from our house. Within an hour? I can get to one of a dozen or so. There is no end of potential hiking trails!
Stewart Falls is the first hike my dad took me on after we moved here. I remember he just showed up at my house on a random Tuesday afternoon, walking stick in hand, and asked, "Are you free for a couple of hours?" It ended up being more than a couple of hours, but arriving at this dramatic waterfall was worth every step! That was the beginning of a long string of hikes we took together, even cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing in the winter.
My favorite way to approach the falls is from Sundance, the way my dad first took me years ago. But one of the more beautiful and shaded trails is above Aspen Grove, from the opposite direction. The trail takes you through quaking aspen and giant ferns, until you wind your way to a rocky descent with this dramatic view.
This began as an experimental piece, painted on plate-finish illustration board rather than my usual textured watercolor paper. I began by creating the rhythm of the water invisibly, with a wax crayon. Then, as I added layers of paint, the paint resisted where the wax was, creating the lightest parts of the flow of the waterfall. I literally couldn't see it at all until I painted over it!
The plate-finish (slick) surface also created an interesting texture in the rocks, where the watercolors pooled and ran. I loved this natural approach to the details, letting nature take her course, rather than fussing over every crack and crevice. As I added more layers to the piece, the paint began to adhere and I had a little more control. The painting dances on the border between abstract and realistic, but if you know Stewart Falls, this captures not only the geography but also the energy.
Between my upcoming watercolor workshop in France and the cookbook exhibit and launch, not to mention private lessons and teaching at UVU, life has been pretty crazy here in my little corner of the art world. Last week was a much-needed spring break.
Ironically, one of my favorite ways to relax is to work. There is something so soothing about being able to spread out a series paintings, sink deep into the vivid color and expression, and delve into painting mode full time. One of the most relaxing and refreshing techniques I teach (I often present it for youth groups and women's retreats) is called "Negative Painting". The results are entirely positive, with a very high rate of success. The word negative has nothing to do with attitude, but rather with approach—painting around shapes rather than inside them. These paintings glow with a rare beauty and depth achieved only through multiple layers of transparent glazes. (This one painting involves hundreds of layers, all of which are transparent and give back light to the viewer.)
I spent a countless hours immersed in the negative painting process, finishing up this beauty, which has just been accepted into the Utah Watercolor Society Spring Exhibition. This is #4 in a series inspired by the hydrangeas growing in the courtyard of the Victoria & Albert museum in London. The hydrangeas there are the biggest and lushest of any I have ever seen! I took dozens of photos, and have painted them multiple times over the past 2.5 years. The previous hydrangea paintings in this series have all sold! In this one I added Lantana, a multiple petal flower that also grows in clusters, for complementary contrast and added texture. I love the way it turned out.
Come see it in person when the show opens in May:
Utah Watercolor Society Spring Exhibition
Eccles Community Art Center
2580 Jefferson Ave, Ogden, UT 84401
May 3-25, 2019
I have the first copy of the cookbook, hot off the press! I loved just holding it in my hands and turning the pages and seeing the art come to life in a new form.
Amazingly, Erika Hill at the Provo Library has graciously offered to exhibit all 36 of the paintings from the cookbook—even the wild-and-crazy self-portrait I'm using as my author photo! I have been frantically framing and labeling, and am so excited that it's finally coming together! Just to round out the show, there will be an Artist's Proof copy of the cookbook on display. (The rest of the books are scheduled to arrive next week.)
The show is called Labor + Love, which is perfect, because this cookbook is nothing but a labor of love, carefully nurtured and cultivated over two years. I almost abandoned the project mid-stream, but our daughter has been begging me to complete it. She wants all the recipes! I'm completely in love with the concept.
It started a decade or so, when I was whipping up the ingredients for Celery Seed Dressing and noticed what a gorgeous combination of colors the dry ingredients were: rich, earthy paprika; pungent dry mustard, and the greenish-grey celery seeds. It gets even better when you add honey and red wine vinegar. I created a small abstract painting just to appease my artistic nature.
Then a couple of years ago I was hosting a dinner party and found this amazing recipe on Once Upon A Chef for an Asian Kale Salad. Her description was amazing. I made it for the dinner party, to rave reviews. But the most intoxicating part of all was when I started combining the ingredients in my salad bowl: bright red peppers, exotic red (purple) cabbage, shredded carrots, dark green curly kale. I was just mesmerized by the colors and proportions, and created several paintings inspired by the colors and textures of that recipe alone.
I searched my recipes for other exciting color combinations and found several more that excited both my palate and my palette. It was awhile later that I decided to create a cookbook. And even that grew over time. So it's part art book, satiated with indulgent color and a smattering of textures. It's part cook book, loaded with recipes chosen for their unique textures and flavors, and primarily colors. One of the happiest secondary wins is that the recipes are full of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, because they yield the most color.
For me, the experience of cooking—flavors, colors, textures, aromas—inspired me to paint. For you, I hope that what you see in the paintings inspires you to cook! The paintings will be on display through March 15 at the Provo Library.
Labor + Love
11 Utah Women Artists
550 E University Ave.
Provo, UT 84601
February 15, 7-9 p.m.
I hope to see you there!
Also, right now while I wait for the full shipment of books to arrive, you can purchase the book at the pre-sale rate of 30% off, right here on my website (janaparkin.com). Just click on the STORE link and it will come right up.
Haven't you always wanted to live in a castle? Announcing my painting retreat to the Dordogne region of France in June 2020! We will be staying and dining at this beautiful 16th-century castle set on 270 acres of lush woodlands and fields. The castle has its own chef who will be preparing our meals. All breakfasts and dinners will be served at the castle. Occasional day trips to surrounding villages and caves will give us the opportunity to dine at local restaurants, also covered in the workshop fee. Each participant can have a private bedroom and bathroom. There's also a swimming pool and tennis courts.
But here's the best part: We get to paint there! I can tell you from personal experience, there is no better way to immerse yourself in the area and cement the experience in your long-term memory than painting on location. I'll be conducting daily demonstrations and evening critiques to help motivate and inspire you. And I have a ton of experience working with students of all levels. Trust me, talent is not required in order to make this a richly rewarding experience.
If you're interested, please click on the contact form and ask to be added to the email list for the Workshop in France. I can't wait! Save the date: June 14-20 and 21-27, 2020.
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.