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!
100 Days in Europe
"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.
It's Almost Storytelling Time (in which I discover my work on a billboard on I-15)
Last September a friend invited me to participate in a plein-air painting event during the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. The festival takes place in Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point, a most picturesque location.
I showed up with my palette, paints, paper and easel and set up shop in the shade (a must). I spent three hours there from start to finish, and this was the result. My painting has been selected to advertise the event this year. It's on their brochure/mailings, the program cover. And last week, when we were driving home from Salt Lake one night, I happened to glance at it on a billboard. "Hey, that's my painting!" I exclaimed.
Once, years ago, I had my painting of a French dancing girl projected larger than life on a ballroom-size scrim at one of Paul Newman's charity events. That took my breath away. But this is the first time I've seen my work on a billboard. Such a fantastic surprise!
A Sense of Place
This was a commission from my brother, who was just made bishop (leader of his local congregation at church). He wanted something special to gift to the outgoing bishop to thank him for his service. And since that outgoing bishop had recently sold their lovely home, in anticipation of an overseas move, Cort thought that a "house portrait" would be the perfect gift. I love creating these house portraits, because of the lovely sense of place they inspire. Whether it's an old ancestral home, or a more recent dwelling, these places are important receptacles of our memories, even sacred spaces.
Just as the focal point of a face is the eyes—often referred to as the windows to our soul, the focal point of a house portrait is the entrance itself. The front door and porch, along with any walkway leading up, make us feel welcome and make the home feel more approachable. I love the way the sidewalk leads to the porch and the door, and even the "Logan Ave" stamped into the concrete give a beautiful sense of time and place.
July 24 is a day when, here in Utah, we celebrate those who walked a thousand miles or more, braving hardships of weather, disease and famine to settle this place. There leader, the great colonizer Brigham Young, upon entering the Salt Lake Valley, declared, "This is the right place." I have felt that same sense of certainty in every home where we have lived, sensing that this is the right place for us at this time.
Lyon, France -- Another commission, where my friend's father-in-law lived and served for three years.
Final ink drawing followed by finished painting (Vignette).
St. Phillips of the Highlands — beautiful old churchyard and cemetery in the Hudson River Valley
Question: What places give you a sense of identity, connection and purpose?
We spent most of our adult life in Southern California, starting when I ventured off to Otis Art Institute, later as missionaries, and finally as young newlyweds we spent our honeymoon making the trek down I-15 to become permanent residents in Los Angeles County...or so we thought. All of our children are California natives. We owned two homes there, and two businesses. We also buried one baby there -- something no parent should ever have to do.
At the end of May we returned for a brief visit. Our kids invited us to spend a few days with them in L. A., and the clincher was when our son-in-law asked us to "show me the Los Angeles you guys love." That journey begins and ends with the people, of course. We have so many wonderful friends there, friends who feel more like family. We also love the surprisingly great hiking in SoCal, and because we ministered to la gente hispana while we served there as missionaries, we also love the strong Latino component of the culture. Each of these paintings captured a moment from that brief trip where we returned to our California roots. And there are so many more! Next Stop: Downtown Los Angeles.
QUESTION: What do you love about Southern California? What faraway place might you still think of as home?
"Sunrise Over Bear Lake," (June 30) 11 x 14 and "Fireworks on the Ridge Trail," (July 4) 12 x 16
Nearly every summer I spend 3-5 days at a cabin in Bear Lake with a group of dear friends for a Writing Retreat. It is the safest of havens and they are the most refreshing people. Early mornings and late evenings we often go for long walks on the gravel trails. This particular morning, right at dawn, completely took my breath away. Something about the sun rising behind the distant mountains, reflecting off the lake and blurring the edge of the mountains in front just begged to be captured.
Another favorite tradition (spring, summer, and fall, but especially during July) is hiking the Ridge Trail at the summit between Provo Canyon and American Fork Canyon. This trail boasts amazing vistas, reaching clear into the Heber Valley, way up to the tip of Timpanogos, and deep in the recesses of American Fork Canyon. This particular July 4 morning waist-high wildflowers flanked both sides of the trail in spots. I couldn't help but notice that the Delphinium leaves were shaped like fireworks, a little celebration of their own!
The Utah Watercolor Society's Cache Valley chapter is hosting a show called "Midsummer Moments." I love participating in these shows because the people are wonderful and the drive up there is refreshing. I chose two very specific moments with particularly vivid memories to enter in this show. (I think they make a handsome pair, so I matted and framed them identically, just in case some lucky person wants to take them both home as a matched set!)
2018 UWS-CVC Exhibition
July 13-August 3
Fuhrimans Framing and Fine Art
75 South Main Street
Logan, UT 84321
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite midsummer moments?
UPDATE: "Sunrise Over Bear Lake" received an Honorable Mention award in this show.
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.