Exactly ten years ago we we went to the Carl Bloch exhibit at the BYU Museum of art, and had a transcendent experience seeing these well-known depictions of the Savior as the original, larger-than-life paintings. They were breathtaking.
Around the same time, I was offered an opportunity to stay with my family at a friend's vacation home near St. George in exchange for my painting a "house portrait" of the home when we returned. We were excited about the opportunity to spend Spring Break together as a family in the desert, to hike and explore. But we were unprepared for how stunningly beautiful the homes and the development was, all designed to complement rather than detract from the desert setting.
The combination of having been so deeply moved by the Bloch paintings, followed immediately by these four or five days in the desert made me a whole new kind of alive. All of my senses were heightened, and for days on end I experienced what I now call "mindfulness on steroids," an intense but active meditative state where you experience your surroundings as never before. In this case, what I saw literally everywhere I turned in the desert was a metaphor for the Savior and his atonement. Although we were vacationing as a family, I spent that year's Holy Week in a state of relative holiness, contemplating moment by moment aspects of the savior's life, sacrifice, death, and rebirth.
I since planned a series of paintings called Desert Metaphors, in an attempt to share my experience with others. For people who are not religious, they are simply a collection of rare glimpses of the Utah desert at springtime. But for believers, there are layers of additional and deeper meaning to be found in every image.
Ten years later this series still is not complete, but I am ready to present some of these pieces. Yesterday was Palm Sunday, a day Christians celebrate Jesus's triumphant return to Jerusalem, where his followers honored him by waving palm leaves, and shouting Hosanna, which means "Save us now." They laid palm branches, along with articles of clothing, by some accounts, to line his pathway to the holy city...and ancient attempt to roll out the red carpet, if you will.
I absolutely love what President Russell M. Nelson said about palm branches and Palm Sunday, in a video yesterday. He asks the world to “make this coming week truly holy by remembering — not just the palms that were waved to honor the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem — but by remembering the palms of His hands.” He then quotes one of my favorite scriptures, Isaiah 49:16: “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” — a promise, President Nelson says, that “[Christ] will never forget you.”
And so for today's image, in commemoration of Palm Sunday, I present the first in this year's Desert Metaphors series: "His Palms." This is done in a technique I learned from a Florida artist, Jean Grastorf, based on her book, "Pouring Light." The goal is to capture the illusion of light. Perfect for a goal, #StartingToday, to see and choose light in our lives. #Iwillseethelight
"His Palms" 15 x 11 original watercolor.
Gifts From the Sea, a new online course at Jana's Departures Watercolor School
Places where I've walked along the sand, collecting seashells: The white-sand beaches off the coast of Sarasota, Florida; up and down the California Coastline; small beach towns dotting the central coast; all the towns and beaches circling Monterey Bay; the rocky coast of the Oregon shoreline; the four main islands of Hawaii.
I love the meditative act of beach combing. There is a mindfulness, movement and rhythm, a letting-go of worries and stress, and a feeling of freedom, and oneness with the ocean and the shore. No matter where your favorite or closest beach is, there is something soothing and rewarding about walking the edge of the water and waiting to see what the tide brings in and leaves behind. Shells are Mother Nature's gift to the patient beachcomber. Treasures.
This series of six beautiful projects offers a similar reward to the patient artist: Treasures. You too can enter the relaxed, meditative zone as you work with water, pigment and light to create your own hand-painted shell collection! This course contains instruction on creating textures, understanding color theory (and why certain combinations work better than others) and tried and true techniques.
Watch, then follow along as I paint a variety of seashells from my own collection, including a starfish, a clamshell, a whelk, and a scallop. The instructions are easy, narrated every step of the way, including the colors I'm using with every dip of the brush.
Techniques: Learn new techniques such as the color-flow technique for soft, watery edge; negative painting, for creating depth and bringing out lighter areas; double and triple-loading your brush for fresh combinations without stirring, and combining colors wet-on-wet for soft, natural blends.
Textures: Learn how to use salt, spattering, scraping, dotted lines and more to achieve a variety of textures. The course includes a quiz at the end of every section, leading you through a self-evaluation of your work so you can grow and improve. (Don't worry -- it's not graded!)
The course is yours to keep. You can rewatch the videos and practice again and again. I also created a generous dot card with 10 must-have colors for painting natural, lifelike shells. Once you're finished you can frame them as a set to hang on your wall, or give as gifts. Make summer last just a little while longer!
The best news of all, this course -- and all my e-courses -- are 25% off for the month of September. For less than the cost of a single private lesson, you can create five beautiful paintings! Simply use the coupon code SCHOOL here at janaparkin.com, or on my sister site at teachable.com. (Discount appears at checkout.) The dot card is sold separately, right here. Materials associated with courses are also 15% off this month. Use coupon code SCHOOLSUPPLIES.
Chateau Marouatte, original watercolor with pen and ink, $250.00 unframed
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, but it was a wintry afternoon. I was invited to teach a plein air watercolor workshop at a castle in France, called Chateau Marouatte. It’s situated on 270 acres of woodlands, within the Dordogne region. And has its own chef.
I was quickly able to fill not just one, but two weeks of workshops with participants ranging from college students to senior citizens, with varying degrees of experience. This was guaranteed to be amazing!
Today marks the first day I would have been teaching at the castle in France. But, thanks to a global pandemic I am mostly working from home these days, like most of you. France is happening next year. But for now...a part of me is still yearning to paint castles. So this week and next, during Plein Air Fridays, I am venturing out to local places that look and feel like castles. Watch for that email.
I'm also offering a 25% discount on any and all paintings I already have of castles, including Chillon in Switzerland, and Dover and Eynsford in England. And the one of Chateau Marouatte pictured above. I'm also including any of my France paintings on this discount. For the first time ever, that also includes commissions -- Have a favorite castle or a favorite spot in France you'd love to see captured in watercolor? I'm your gal. Watch for an email for this as well.
Don't worry -- We’re still going to stay and paint at the Castle in France…in late June and early July of 2021. You can sign up here -- I have two spaces left. And I'm remaining flexible, knowing the world is an unpredictable place...with lots of happy endings.
Jana plein air painting at Thanksgiving point during the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.
Our first plein air session of the summer starts Friday, June 5th!
Here are some questions that often come up that can (hopefully)
put your mind at ease:
Is it really only $25? Yes, no matter how many people end up coming it is always just $25....unless you don't reserve a spot in advance. The price goes up to $30 the day of the event (starting at 12:00 a.m.) I'll send out a "last call" reminder on Thursdays.
Do I have to commit to all the sessions? No, that's the beauty of Plein Air Fridays. Flexibility reigns supreme. Come as many times as you like, of course, but there is no obligation to attend other sessions, and spots are reserved week by week.
What materials do I need? For starters, just bring whatever you have. If you don't have any materials, I am happy to help you get set up with some brushes and paper and a beginner's palette, or even just a fan of colors and a water brush. The most important thing is to come and participate.
Do I need an easel? Not at all. I prefer to paint standing up for these sessions. (It also helps the rest of you see what I'm doing.) But it is perfectly acceptable to sit on the ground, or on a portable chair and hold your paper in your lap. I often do it myself.
Is there a place to sit? I often look for locations with comfortable seating, and sometimes even tables. But that's not always possible. I will let you know what kind of seating is available at each location.
What about restrooms? I also look for locations with a good water source and nearby restrooms, but again that's not always possible. I'll let you know if you need to bring extra water, or if the restroom is a long way from where we're painting.
What time does it start? Plan on 9 a.m. in general. Our start time is often based on the weather. Traffic can impact us as well. We usually begin sometime between 8 and 10 a.m. My goal is for us to be as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. Sometimes in shady areas near water we can start a little later. On extra hot days it helps to start a little earlier. And of course we want to avoid rain. I'll keep a close eye on the weather and let you know the night before exactly what time we'll be starting.
How do I get there and where do I park? I will send out detailed driving and parking instructions and any other information you might need the night before.
How long does it last? Plan on 1.5 to 2 hours. I usually finish my demo in that amount of time. But you are welcome to leave earlier if you need to, or stay a little later to finish up.
What if I haven't taken lessons before? Not a problem. It does help if you've painted a little before, but no worries if you haven't. I narrate everything I'm doing while I'm painting, to help you understand the process. And you will learn a lot just by watching me paint. But it's the most fun when you dive in and try it yourself! One friend has even brought her 11-year-old son, who has done great.
Will I be embarrassed if I'm not good at it? Only you can control your own emotions, but it is not a competition and there is no pressure to succeed. One of the first pieces of advice I give everyone when we're getting started is to toss perfectionism aside. Take the pressure off yourself and focus on the experience: The beauty of what we're painting, the gentle breeze, the smell of nature in the air, and the joy of painting outdoors. If your painting turns out great, that's the cherry on top! But the painting is always secondary to the experience of creating in the great outdoors.
—I also have had some participants arrange a private lesson with me to get some pointers on how to improve their painting as a follow-up before the next session. That extra input and practice can be invaluable. (This can also be arranged via FaceTime or zoom.)
Can I bring a friend? Of course! Anyone is welcome to join our little group. Just be sure to check with me so we don't go over our max of ten people.
Will there be lunch afterward? I'm working on finding a way to cater lunches this summer, but haven't quite nailed down the details yet. No lunch this week. But possibly in the future if there is enough interest. I'l keep you posted.
I hope you'll be joining us soon!
My students often ask me, "How do you see all those colors?" Then they usually follow up with, "All I see is a _______ (fill in the blank: white flower, grey wall, brown mountain, blue sky, green tree, etc.) The truth is the world is made up of mixtures of color.
Students especially seem to struggle with whites. What colors do you use to paint something white? The answer is both simple and complex. Whites have all three of the primary colors in their shadow areas. Look at the peonies above. Can you see areas that are more yellow, more red (pink), and more blue?
What if I do this?
This is the same photo, just with the contrast and saturation levels raised. Now you can see all that color, right? It was there all the time. You just have to look for it. Scroll back up to the first photo and see if you can see the reds, yellows, and blues now.
Artists train their eyes to see color in places other people miss. I don't need to saturate my photos to see the color--it's almost like my eyes have a built-in saturation filter.
Below is my finished painting. You can see that what I paint is somewhere in between the regular image and the saturated one. Nature is masterful at blending and creating complex colors. It's an artist's job to bring out and emulate that complexity so others don't miss it.
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!
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.