Encaustic Flashing Brush How-To

Tired of spending tons of money on traditional encaustic brushes? Learn how to make your own alternative encaustic brushes using flashing with this simple how-to.

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Last week I posted on Instagram an encaustic ‘brush’ I made out of flashing. Well, I got so many questions and comments on both Insta and Facebook, I decided to postpone my original plan for this blog article and write a Flashing Brush How-To instead.

I first began using alternative brushes about 2 years ago and have gradually almost given up traditional brushes altogether, although they still serve a purpose for now. With the alternative brushes the paint is scooped off of the palette and applied like frosting a cake. The painting process is much more free, fast and FUN! I’ve even renamed my paint process, ‘Smashing Paint’ or ‘Paint Smash’…stay tuned for my next post when I’ll discuss this process in detail. Since using these brushes, I don’t stress over painting like I used to and I uncover the most fascinating forms and patterns when I scrape away the layers after the wax is applied this way. It’s amazingly fun!

I’m always looking for new and innovative ways of working and I first experimented with alternative encaustic brushes using flexible paint scrapers, but soon found them clunky and difficult to handle. I then moved on to Venetian plaster applicators, which I still use, but I find them a bit stiff and I really only like the medium and small size ones. Many years before this, I had purchased flexible clay scrapers-the real thin ones. I had originally purchased them to use as scrapers, but they were way to flimsy so I just threw them in my tool drawer and there they sat for years until I was looking for some flexible metal. To protect my fingers from the heat, I created a thick padding of duct tape and Viola! I finally found a use for those scrapers! They are perfect brushes in that the application is direct-there is no handle, no separation between your hand and the brush itself, which gives you both more and less control….more because its direct and less because the brush doesn’t hold the paint the way a traditional brush does. This may be frustrating for some, but it is kind of the reason for using alternative brushes.

After using the clay scrapers for a while, I became frustrated with their limited size and shape so that’s when I started making my flashing brushes. I can make any size or shape with some tin snips and a little duct tape, which averages less than a dollar per brush. Just a warning, that these brushes are crude and rude. I haven’t been making them for very long and I’m open to improvement suggestions. But…I’m saving tons of money and making cooler work! Now you can, too, by following the simple instructions below. Scroll down below the instructions to see some brush images, works in progress and finished work made with these brushes. Have fun making and please share images of the brushes you’ve made!

What You Need

IMG_2271

 

  • A small sheet of flashing material available at any home improvement store
  • Sharpie
  • Thick work gloves
  • A metal file
  • Tin snips
  • Duct tape


How To Do

  1. Work on a clean surface so you can keep an eye on any tiny metal shards.
  2. Draw out your brush shape on the flashing with the Sharpie. You could also cut freehand, but the tin snips are clunky so it’s best to have a guide. Start simple, you can get more complex as you make more brushes. Also, make sure to leave an inch or two at the bottom of the brush for a ‘handle’.
  3. Put your work gloves on to protect yourself from sharp edges
  4. Use the tin snips to cut the brush along your drawn lines. Watch those scraps, they are sharp!!
  5. File the edges of your brush down a bit so they aren’t so sharp and you’re ready to make your handle.
  6. Wrap the bottom of the brush several times with duct tape-at least 3-4 layers and you’re ready to paint!
  7. Make sure you clean up those tiny metal shards with a dustbuster or something that picks up teeny things, they really hurt if they get into your skin.

Exploring Landscape Through Encaustic & The Mark: A Hawaiian Artist Retreat

Jeff Juhlin & Lorraine Glessner take their collaborative teaching venture to Maui! Register now for this exciting opportunity!

Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me the balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surfbeat is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud wrack; I can feel the spirit of its wildland solitudes, I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.

Mark Twain, (Written after his stay in Maui)

What
Exploring Landscape Through Encaustic & The Mark: A Hawaiian Artist Retreat
Limited to 12 participants!
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
$1200 includes most materials (see below)
For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorraineglessnerstudio@gmail.com

Payment Payment of 50% of the workshop fee + materials ($600) is due at the time of registration with the remaining 50% ($600) due on the first day of the workshop. Please contact Lorraine for payment details.

When
October 21-25, 2019, 10am-4pm each day

Workshop Description
The mark of nature combined with encaustic painting creates timeless works which reference memory, change and time. Utilizing the natural luminosity, textural and layering possibilities of encaustic, participants will experiment with innovative materials, drawing and marks to depict the spirit and essence of the land. Easy to moderate hikes exploring the lush, verdant coastal areas of the North Shore, Maui are led by Jeff and Lorraine. Along with daily journaling, meditation, readings and expressive mark-making exercises, these immersive hikes will provide the inspiration for which to develop ideas and provide areas of focus for series based work while also developing your personal artistic voice. Considerations of our body’s connection and it’s direct relationship to landscape will also be discussed. Optional individual critiques with both instructors will be offered to all participants.

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE images of student work and fun scenes from hikes and studio time during Lorraine and Jeff’s 2016 and 2017 Artist Retreats in Torrey, Utah. Additional blog posts related to other artist retreats co-taught by Jeff and Lorraine are here, here and here..

Where  The Uaoa Art Barn located on Carla and Steve Thistle’s lush, rugged paradise on Maui’s North Shore. (pictured above: Uaoa Art Barn and surrounding property)

What Else?

  • Color relationships, composition, application, content, proportion, scale as an effective foundation for other painterly information.
  • Learn how to use encaustic’s strengths (layering, transparency, luminosity) to tell your story.
  • Mark-making exercises geared toward making simple or complex marks to generate a personal language.
  • The option of an Individual Consultation/Critique discussion with each instructor. Bring a piece of work, a question, a concern, a problem and discuss it with Jeff and Lorraine.
  • Some guided meditation time, planned hiking and beach walks will relax and open your mind and spirit to the ocean and land, helping to support and nurture your unique creative voice.
  • A slide talk with examples of contemporary artists whose work applies the ideas and concepts discussed in the workshop is offered for inspiration.
  • Lots of open studio time to explore and interpret the inspiration gained from the meditations and hikes.
Images of the Maui, North Shore and areas near The Uaoa Art Barn

Who A collaborative teaching venture with Jeff Juhlin & Lorraine Glessner

Jeffjuhlin.com
Jeff Juhlin’s work references his experience of time and place. He explores the horizontal line and the layers and strata of things substantive and imagined. HIs work alludes to the vast space and geology of the western landscape where he lives. There, time makes itself present in horizontal layers evidencing the past, both building up and wearing away in a continuous process. Jeff’s methodology typically includes many layers of translucent strata composed of pigmented wax, oil, paper and other media, that are built up and worn away similarly in a compressed period of creative time. He accumulates layers of material, images and color that make up the whole of a painting, then goes back in to explore, excavate, expose and obscure. The end result is a non-literal visual form, a translation of that experience and process.
Jeff uses various materials and mediums to create these works however encaustic incorporated with mixed media including paper, ink and oil paint are most often the primary mediums. Encaustic’s luscious luminosity; physical presence and translucent quality seem the ideal medium to explore this process.
Jeff has completed Residency/Fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Arts and VCCA, Moulin Au Neuf, Auvillar France. He has been Artist in Residence 2010-2017 at the Hui Art Center in Maui, Hawaii. His work can be found in numerous private, corporate and public collections as well several public art commissions. Jeff holds a BFA degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. He maintains studios in Salt Lake City and Torrey Utah. He teaches Regularly at the Hui Art Center in Maui, Hawaii, the Kimball Art Center in Park City Utah and at his Studio in Salt Lake City.

lorraineglessner.net
Lorraine Glessner’s love of surface, pattern, markmaking, image and landscape has led her to combine disparate materials and processes such as silk, wood, wax, pyrography, rust, paper and more in her work. Lorraine is a former Assistant Professor at Tyler School of Art, Temple University, a workshop instructor and an award-winning artist. She holds an MFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, a BS from Philadelphia University, and an AAS in Computer Graphics from Moore College of Art & Design. She has a diverse art background with skills that include painting, sculpture, graphic design, interior design, textile design, photography, digital imaging and much more. Among her most recent professional achievements is a Second Place award in Sculpture from Art of the State at the State Museum in Harrisburg, PA, a recently completed artist residency at Jentel Foundation and an acquisition by Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Lorraine’s work is included in the recently released Encaustic Art in the 21st Century by Ashley Rooney and Nuance, a curated book by artist, Michelle Stuart. Lorraine frequently lectures and participates on academic panels at various Conferences including The International Encaustic Conference, SECAC and The College Art Association Annual Conference. Her work is exhibited locally and nationally in galleries, museums, craft centers, schools, libraries, universities, and more. Like her work, Lorraine brings to her teaching a strong interdisciplinary approach, mixed with a balance of concept, process, history, experimentation, problem solving and discovery.

 

Student work and other fun stuff from Torrey Retreat, 2016-2017

Materials Included: the following list of materials is provided for the student

  • All encaustic paints, encaustic medium, tools and equipment
  • a variety of pigment sticks
  • Sumi ink & other misc. drawing media
  • Misc. drawing papers
  • Paper towels/rags
  • Extra encaustic brushes
  • 8×8 & 10×10 1″ cradle birch painting panels for sale

What to bring: the following is a list of materials for the student to bring to the workshop

  • Sketchbook/notebook, pencil or pen for note taking
  • 1-2 drawing media of your choice (pencil, pastel, conte charcoal, oil pastel, Crayon, graphite, felt pen, etc.)
  • Closed toe shoes for safety in the studio
  • Lunch and beverage each day
  • 6-10 wooden painting panels (your preference of 8×8 or 10×10, but no larger or smaller, please) Other suggested substrates are: masonite (coated with encaustic gesso), Ampersand Encausticbord, 3-ply matt board, whatever you bring, it must be rigid, but nothing coated in acrylic or acrylic gesso!! NOTE: There will be 8×8 and 10×10 1″ cradled panels for sale in the studio, so it is not necessary to bring panels if this presents a hardship due to travel.
  • 2-4 actual OR images of your work, digital prints or phone/iPad sharing is fine
  • 5-10 hake or hog’s bristle natural hair brushes in 1-2 inch sizes for encaustic painting (1 brush will be designated your medium brush, so it must be free of color if you are bringing used brushes)
  • Optional Materials Smock, any encaustic paint color or pigment stick color you favor, iwatani torch with extra butane, any tool or material for any technique that you normally employ while working with encaustic, textured objects and/or sharp ended tool for pressing into/incising/writing/drawing into wax, 1-2 inspiring books to share with the class.
  • For a helpful list of portable art materials for traveling and hiking, read this recent blog post. 

 Hiking Equipment Recommendations

  • Sturdy hiking shoes/boots
  • butt pack or small backpack
  • comfortable clothing
  • light rainwear
  • Hat
  • water bottle
  • Digital Camera or smart phone or point and shoot camera or DSLR
  • bag for collecting found materials

Cancellation In the event that you need to cancel your workshop, please notify Lorraine at least 45 days prior to the start of the workshop and your deposit will be refunded. No refunds will be available for cancellations occurring less than 45 days from the start of the workshop.

Accommodations  This web site offers a full list of air B&B’s along the North Shore in Haiku. Book early, they fill up quickly!

Two Within walking distance…

  1. Holomakai   Look at images on the Airbnb site, but email Carla Thistle for discount info-DO NOT USE THE AIRBNB SITE.
  2. Queen bed, small kitchen, bathroom, beautiful ocean view, clean and safe:
    100.00 cash a nite, 7 day minimum, 2 persons only. Email Jen Shannon for details and mention Carla Thistle.


Food
Filtered water will be available for drinking and tea, however, you may want to bring other preferred beverages. There will be no food served during the workshop, you must bring lunch and snacks each day. There are a number of eateries, cafes, restaurants and markets nearby. A full list will be provided to registrants a few weeks before the start of the workshop.

For Registration, Please Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorraineglessnerstudio@gmail.com

Essential Encaustic Paint Colors for the Beginner

Going to the encaustic Conference this week? Before you enter the wonder of the vendor room, be sure to read this post. This list is a great start for the beginning encaustic painter as well as advanced to find the color combination of your dreams.

Last year, I wrote a popular post listing the Encaustic Paint Colors I Can’t Do Without and as a result a reader requested I write a post listing some colors for the beginner. The International Encaustic Conference is starting this week with it’s overwhelmingly wonderful vendor room, so now is a perfect time for this post.

There are only a handful of colors one really needs in order to mix all colors; magenta, yellow, cyan, black and white or the primary colors Red, Yellow, Blue, Black and White…actually, you don’t even need black, you can mix that by mixing all the colors in equal proportions. But who has time for that, it’s just easier to have some colors at the ready and I developed this list with that thought in mind. I also thought about some colors that are just so luscious you might want them all the time without having to mix them. I started with a varied color wheel and branched off with a few oddballs you might find interesting. As a beginner, it’s important to start small and purchase some, rather than all. Buy the small sizes instead of the mega size, find what’s right for you and go from there. When I first started painting with encaustic, I only used 4 colors and slowly added more. This list is a good place to start for the beginner as well as advanced and I hope it helps you find the color combination of your dreams.

Other things I mentioned in the first post that I would like to reiterate. I never use colors ‘straight out of the tube’, all of my colors are mixed with 2-5 colors and yours should be as well. It creates a more personalized palette when you do this as well as a more interesting painting. Once again, this list is in no particular order and I photographed the paints on top of an in progress painting just as they are…messy, mushy, splashed with other colors, alluding a little to my process and looking like colorful little sculptures. If you’d like to see the paints pretty and clean, just click on the links to the paint distributor’s sites. If you’d like to learn more about encaustic color mixing, take a workshop with me, I discuss paint mixing in a all of my workshops.

If this post was helpful to you, please let me know, I invite your comments questions and suggestions in the comments section now located in the upper left sidebar of this post.

Stay tuned for my next post, Part Two of my Evolution of a Mark series of posts in which I trace back to my beginnings as an artist to where I am today. If you haven’t done so, make sure you read Part One so it all makes sense.

Enjoy the lovely flowers blooming everywhere.

R&F Paints

  • Alizarin Orange I LOVE this color, it will be on any list I make regarding paint colors. Bright and versatile, it can go from a light gold to a rich rusty orange in one swipe. When mixed with white or any other color, it retains it’s richness.
  • Payne’s Grey  Like Alizarin Orange, this color will be on any encaustic paint color list I make. I use this instead of black to darken any color. For me, black tends to deaden the color as it darkens, while this one allows the original color to retain it’s voice.
  • Warm Pink Like neutral white, I have used this color since I started painting in encaustic. It brightens any color and when mixed with a little and painted next to or on top of earthy blues, grays or greens, the eyes vibrate!
  • Brilliant Yellow Extra Pale I love to use this color instead of white as it not only lightens, it adds just a touch of yellow and whimsy as it brightens as well. 
  • Cobalt Blue A bright, clear blue, I use it more than any other blue.
  • Malachite Green I use this color way too much. It’s one of those colors that changes as it’s painted next to different colors. It makes any color and any painting sing.
  • Phthalo Turquoise Another color that looks dead in the package and like black when it’s melted, it is actually one of the brightest and most versatile colors. Add just a touch of any white and watch the magic happen.
  • Phthalo Blue Embarrassingly I just read what Phthalo colors actually are a few years ago and now buy anything described as such because of its unmatched intensity. There is a clarity to this blue that you will find in no other for water, skies, anytime you need blue. It mixes beautifully and always retains its voice.
  • Alizarin Crimson I do not have a Cadmium Red on this list, which may be odd to some, but quite honestly I have rarely ever used it because it always reads slightly orange to me. To be clear, Cadmium Red is the purest red and I would be remiss to tell you not to have it in your collection. However, I always find myself reaching for the Alizarin Crimson instead. It’s a cross between magenta and red and leans on the darker side of both. However, when it’s mixed with only a slight amount of white, it comes alive and is quite bright. It also makes a wide range of lovely pinks when mixed any light or white color.
  • Cadmium Green Pale  Not really true green, not really yellow, its a good mix of both, but I wouldn’t call it yellow-green. This is my go-to green, it can be lightened beautifully as well as darkened.
  • Zinc White Not having Titanium White on this list may also be a color faux pas but again, I rarely ever use it because it’s so uncomfortably white and a bit too pure for my taste-kind of like a bridal gown that almost looks blue it’s so white. Zinc white is a cross between Titanium and cream. Zinc is very white, but it’s just a degree off and lightens colors just as well as Titanium, yet keeps them just a degree to the left.
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium & Light We have to have yellow, it’s the indispensable color, which is why I have two on this list. I almost always go for the Medium yellow, but sometimes I just want less and pick up the Light. R&F also offers a Deep Yellow, but I wouldn’t advise going for it just yet, it’s a bit orange and may not be needed for your palette if you have the other two.
  • Cobalt Violet Light  I don’t use purple much and frankly, when I need it I mix it myself. However, this color is unusual, is difficult to mix and works well to add just a hint of pinkish-purple-violet to any other color.

Enkaustikos I can’t link directly to each color, so this link goes to all of the colors listed below, just scroll the list to see the color.

  • Opal Aquamarine I love this color so much I buy it in huge bulk and for all of my workshops. It makes any blue or green bluer and richer, like the most amazing, clear glacier water. 
  • Indian Yellow Bright, clear, not quite yellow, not quite orange. I reach for it time and again in place of yellow and mixing it with R&F’s Alizarin Orange is magical.

Evans Encaustics

  • Manganese Black The only black you’ll ever need, I was instantly smitten when I first used it. So creamy rich, so deep and consistent. It’s a true black, no blue or brown or gray cast. You only need a teeny tiny bit to darken any color. If you use black by itself, you’ll never find grayish spots or be a bit dissatisfied with this color.

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Kama Pigments I can’t link directly to each color, so this link goes to all their colors , just scroll the list to see the color I listed.

  • Rose Hornyak/Hornyak’s Pink Again, me and pink-I’ll buy any pink. This one is so Pepto Bismol its almost gross, but it does so many things that the average pink doesn’t do! It adds just that tiny bit of purple that makes other colors vibrate. Try mixing this with Alizarin Orange and/or Warm Pink and/or Brown Pink for a pink magic fest.

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3 Essential Art Evaluation Questions

In this article, I introduce three simple questions that encourage artists to delve deeper and therefore allow for the exchange of new ideas regarding how and why we look at, respond to and appreciate art. Once I began introducing these questions to my group critiques, participants were also able to apply them to their personal work. I’m happy to share them with you so that you can do the same.

How do you evaluate your art or the art of others’? What makes a good work of art? Do you only know you ‘like’ or dislike something about it? What is that something? Certainly there are many other questions that come to mind when looking at art and those answers will always include some measure of subjectivity, which is always welcome and makes for a lively discussion. Its the usual questions regarding design fundamentals and what is ‘liked’ about the work that usually does not make for interesting discourse. Please note, I’m not bashing the consideration of design fundamentals-they should, and always enter the conversation. However, it’s the discussion of ONLY these things that makes for a very technical conversation and one that really doesn’t cut to core regarding what makes us RESPOND to a work of art. When I was teaching at Tyler, I found critique questions that attempt to push beyond design fundamentals to be too esoteric and often led to discussions that were not helpful in actually growing the work. To begin the discussion and to simplify things a bit I came up with three simple questions that would allow each student to delve deeper and therefore allow for the exchange of new ideas regarding how and why we look at, respond to and appreciate art. Once I began proposing these questions in my critiques, students were also able to apply them to their own work and I’m happy to share them with you so that you can do the same. After each question listed below, I have included a list of characteristics that I notice I consistently respond to in a work. I have also included a few examples below of my answers to these questions in reference to specific works from my recent art travels.

  1. What attracts you to this work? What makes you cross the room to take a closer look? Detail, use of color, drama, movement, materials, pattern, ornament, gesture, visual poetry, repetition, raw emotion, deconstruction, drawing and line.
  2. Once you cross the room to view it, does it hold you there? What is it about the work that keeps you looking? Mystery, poetry, finding hidden treasures, a puzzle, a story, innovative use of materials or structure, surfaces, layers, not necessarily having all of the information slapping me in the face, good design, process, skillful craftsmanship and execution, immersive-ness, hauntingly dark, strange anomolies.
  3. Does the work introduce a thought, concept, idea and/or make you think on a higher level? Anything that speaks to dreams, time, memory, connection, open-endedness, explanations of personal struggle, redemption, vindication, love, loss, good/evil, hope, life lessons, experience, transcendence, inspiration, imagination.

Examples

  1. Ryoko Aoki Installation at the Armory, NYC

I was attracted to this installation because of my love of anything textile and embroidery, the placement of the pieces with lots of white space around them and the geometries of the forms having a conversation that invited me to listen. Getting in close,  I was loving the pattern, exquisite craftsmanship and detail, references to drawing and home, handwork, domesticity. Despite the crowd, there was a calm, delicate, quietness that hovered over the whole installation and as I continued to study each grouping, the room slowed and got quieter. I walked around the table a number of times and fell deeper in love with where this piece took me each time.

2. Patrick Jacobs, Pink Forest at the Armory, NYC

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I love me some pink! So of course, I was attracted to this loveliness as well as the combination of interesting materials. Similar to displays at a natural history museum, the installation was inset so the viewer could stand close enough to touch it and almost feel a part of it. I spent a lot of time getting to know this world, I was transfixed by the details and kept finding hidden treasures within this strange forest. It was interesting to discover that the piece is composed primarily of man-made materials made to look natural, which brought ideas of our fading environment to the surface. My mind started to drift as I stared into the seemingly distant center and then the questions….It looks like a landscape I would see everyday, but what is that strange landform in the center? What made this world turn this strange color? Is it toxic? Will it make me sick to stand in front of it? Because of its friendly pink color and serene forest scene, it would appear calming but the longer I stood there and the more questions that came to mind about it, the more off putting it became. I loved that I couldn’t solve this mystery and that it took hold of my imagination.

3. Gustavo Diaz, cut paper sculpture at the Armory, NYC

I was delighted to discover these wonderful cut paper pieces, the tiny details and the unique nature of the work beckoned me to take a closer look. The pieces are interesting from every angle so that keeps the viewer interested in looking-enjoying the many layered details, trying to figure out how these pieces were constructed and how they are staying together being so ridiculously delicate as they are. These piece brought to life a few of the cities described in one of my favorite books, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and just like the cities in the book, I wondered what it would be like to live in one of these cut paper pieces. I began to imagine tiny people, vehicles, trees, grass, etc. populating the cities. Even so, there is something about these cities that is unfathomable, uninhabitable, peculiar, not quite right..and that’s what kept me looking even longer.

4. Tomas Saraceno, Entangled Orbits at the Baltimore Museum of Art

Probably my most favorite work of the year so far, this piece attracted me because of its drama. Set in an extremely dark room that forced me to immediately turn a corner upon entering, I was a bit disoriented and it took my eyes a moment to adjust-there is no hint to what one is going to see here. Within a vitrine in the middle of the room, the only lights were highlighting these amazing spider webs!! I ran over and stared, were they real? I’m a bit squeamish of spiders and for a second I wondered if there were a number of them in there, but I looked a little closer to realize that the webs were made from wire. Again, thoughts of man replicating nature and doing it quite well made me both sad and intrigued. I stayed in the dark, quiet room checking it from every angle, immersed in the craftsmanship, process and patience it must have taken to create this amazing spectacle.

I hope this article was helpful to you. As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. Please let me know if you’ve applied these questions when out gallery or museum hopping this week or if you’ve developed your own series of evaluation questions. I’m also interested in what characteristics you can add to the lists above. What characteristics most make you respond to a work? I’m most interested to hear whether or not these questions have helped you in your own studio or teaching practice. Let me know, I love hearing from you!

Stay tuned for my next post which was suggested to me by a reader. This post pares down my list of favorite encaustic colors to those I recommend for the beginner. It’s a helpful list whether you are a professional artist or a beginner-you might just be surprised at what few paint colors you actually need in the studio.

 

 

 

 

7 Essential Portable Art Materials

Are you an artist who loves to travel? In this post, I share with you 7 Essential Art Materials so you can be Art Prepared for your next trip. Whether you’re a hiker, a teacher, a commuter or a tourist, like to sketch indoors or out, if you’re planning a trip and don’t want to lose your creative mojo, this list will be a help to you.

Spring seems to be struggling to get here in the Northeast, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about summer teaching trips, hiking and painting in the great outdoors. I love to travel and fortunately for me, I do a lot of it as a result of teaching workshops. As you have learned from many previous posts, especially the last two on artists hikes, my favorite way to experience new places is to hike them and paint as I go. It’s important to me to not only record what I’ve seen via photographs, but to also record the essence of the place through my own marks. Please understand that these are just sketches, not masterpieces, they help me to keep my artist brain in tune when I’m not in the studio and they serve as memorable references for larger paintings. While I’m teaching a workshop, it’s sometimes difficult for me to get out and hike, so my favorite thing to do to wind down is sit in my hotel room and sketch. All of the materials I’ve listed in this post are inexpensive, lightweight, and fit neatly into my backpack, carry on bag or suitcase with plenty of room to spare. They are also TSA friendly so you can take take them with you when flying. Whether you’re a hiker, a teacher, a commuter or a tourist, like to sketch indoors or out, if you’re planning a trip and don’t want to lose your creative mojo, this list will be a help to you. Additional product images, examples of my sketches and how I use these materials are below each product description. Again, my sketches are not masterpieces. Be kind. ; )

  1. Piccadilly Open Bound Sketchbookz-craft
    An essential for any traveling artist to take along on a trip is the sketchbook, of course. I was introduced to this wonderful book through a workshop student last summer. There are so many good qualities I love about this book, the most important being that it’s compact, lightweight and can accept a variety of media, including water. Also important to me is that due to it’s open-bound binding and with a little breaking in, it lays flat without that distracting spiral between the pages most sketchbooks have. It also has a handy pocket to hold postcards, plants or anything else I collect on my travels. It doesn’t have a closure like other field sketchbooks, but that is easily remedied by a homemade tie, mine being a lovely piece of raffia. I don’t really like the word ‘SKETCH’ on the front, but that is also easily remedied by a little camouflage. Unfortunately, this book has been discontinued by Barnes and Noble, where I purchased it, but you can still get copies of it through Marketplace sellers here.


     
  2. Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel
    00381-1001-3ww-l

    I love watercolor for quick sketches and have purchased a few portable watercolor sets over the years, but this stackable set of 24 colors by Koh-I-Noor is definitely my favorite. I found it in a museum gift shop near the children’s art supplies so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of quality, but I was totally blown away by the color intensity when I did my first tests. If you’d like to see a more comprehensive comparison to better quality watercolor sets, watch this short video. I’m no watercolor expert and I’m sure I don’t need a whole 24 colors, but I love having them at my disposal if I want them. I’m used to working with gouache, so I’m always searching for white when working with watercolors and this set has white! It really doesn’t work the way gouache works, but I like having it there for that little bit of opacity I always seem to need. It also comes with a handy mixing tray that screws right on top. This set fits perfectly in my pack, but it might be a bit bulky for some, so just unscrew the stack and only bring the colors you need. The set is very inexpensive compared to most portable 24 color sets, so if you’re daring you can go for the mega 36 color set available here or the colossal 48 color set here. The 24 color set is sold by many online stores and you can compare prices if you Google, but if you’re in a hurry just click here.

  3. ArtGraf Water Soluble Graphite Disc
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    ArtGraf is simply brilliant for all that it offers in the way of water soluble products. I was first introduced to their products by way of their water soluble graphite pencils and sticks that I love. When I was in the art supply store purchasing more, I found that they also make water soluble graphite products that they call ‘discs’. The disc is more like a block, it’s shape inspired by tailor’s chalk and comes in many colors. I first purchased the Carbon Black disc, it’s rich velvety black almost simulates sketching in straight Sumi ink. I loved it so much, I bought the earth tone set and just love it for sketching the desert landscapes I gravitate toward when searching for hikes. The colors are so rich and complex, I can achieve a wide value range just by changing the amount of water I use. Although I would love to, I can’t take all of the colors with me, so I always have the dark brown disc in my pack. Its as rich as the black, but not as harsh and simulates the earth tones a bit better. Just like the black I can achieve a wide range of values and it’s great for simple sketches when I don’t have the time to break out my watercolor set. The discs are sold individually or in sets through many art supply stores, but for online convenience most of the products are sold by Amazon here.

  4. General’s Sketch and Wash Pencil
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    When I work in any medium, I’m always about adding the line, the mark and in my case, lines and marks add up to many tangled swirls. For me, working in watercolor is not about painting in detail, it’s broad, blended swaths of color that yearn for a little detail-and swirls, of course. This pencil allows me to add those details in lines ranging from very crisp to a thin wash. The pencil works like any other watercolor pencil by either adding water after drawing or dipping the pencil in water first, the latter being what I prefer. What sets this pencil apart from most other watercolor pencils is the rich black line I get when it’s wet. Most black watercolor pencils seem to start strong and then fade out when wet-this one does the exact opposite, starting out a lighter gray when dry and then getting more black when wet. Its the perfect tie together finish for a bright watercolor sketch. It’s available at most art supply stores, but I purchase mine here.

  5. Pentel Aquash Water Brush
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    What to do with all of these watercolor art supplies, you ask? The answer is, purchase a good water brush! I’m embarrassed to say that I purchased my first water brush in 2016 when yet another workshop student introduced me to these wonderful things. At the time, I had never heard of them and also had a difficult time finding them even online. Fortunately, they are pretty much everywhere now and come in a few brands which I have tried. My favorite is the Pentel brand because of it’s quality tip that I can’t kill no matter how hard I use it and I don’t have to hurt myself to get the water out of the brush. I purchased this set (not from this merchant), being wooed by a bigger pen with a variety of tips. Unfortunately, the tips soon fell apart, the water either came out in a waterfall or not at all and I had to squeeze the pen so hard to get the water out, it would break my painting rhythm. Although the Pentel brand is a bit pricier and looks smaller, the brushes last, they’re easy to use with an even water flow per squeeze and surprisingly hold more water than the larger brushes. My favorite, most versatile tip is the medium round, it gives me a broad stroke down to a fine line. I can’t do without this brush and carry one everywhere, even in my everyday purse. Just a side note-if you’re flying and taking this pen with you, make sure you have emptied it of all water or TSA will confiscate! Purchase both Pentel individual brushes and sets here.
  6. Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen
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    There are no limits to the love I have for this pen. It’s super black, versatile, comes in a variety of sizes and writes beautifully on any drawing or painting surface. When I’m out hiking, I use it to make quick sketches, write field notes, add depth to my pencil sketches and details to my watercolor sketches. I have the extra small, small and fine point pens and use them all in the studio, but always have the small size in my pack. Read this post for more about this pen and to see a series of drawings I did with it. These pens are sold individually at most art and craft stores and online, but I found a nice assorted nib 4 pen set here and a mega set with all kinds of interesting nibs here.
  7. Eberhard Faber Design Ebony Pencil 6325
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    I love drawing with pencil, I could do it for days. The problem is that it takes me about that long to draw anything because I use so many different kinds of pencils and leads, constantly switching around to get the right value. Unfortunately, I can’t bring them all with me in my pack, so this pencil is a great substitute for many of those pencils. It’s hard enough at the tip for fine line and soft enough to achieve a variety of values, from very dark to very light. The best part about it is it’s ultra velvety smoothness, I’ve never seen or felt anything quite like it. The smoothness enables me to draw in many smooth layers without annoying skips and dark spots. It must be kept sharp to achieve fine line, so instead of ruining my pack with a messy sharpener that takes up space, I use my trusty pink pocket knife every hiker girl should have and the pencil elements go back to the earth from whence they came. Unfortunately, these pencils have been discontinued but they are available from a variety of Marketplace and Ebay sellers if you’re patient and search. I found a good article that mentions other alternatives to this awesome pencil-I haven’t used any of the pencils mentioned in the article but there are substantial reviews to read for most of them.

I hope that this article was helpful and introduced you to some products you may not have been aware of before reading. As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. Please let me know what your favorite portable materials are, I’m always looking for new products to try.

Stay tuned for my next post which offers 3 Essential Questions to ask yourself when critiquing art, either your own or another artist’s work. When I was a professor at Tyler, these three questions helped simplify critique and went beyond the typical critique discussions to analyzing the overall impact of the work and what compels the viewer to respond to one work over another. Whether you are a professional artist or a beginner, this article will help you determine what makes an interesting work of art. See you soon.

Hikes for Artists, Part Deux

If you’re like me, you don’t plan vacations, you plan Inspir-cations and mini self-made residencies to inspire your work. This list of 10 amazing hikes from me and some of my amazing artist friends will give you some ideas for places to go and things to do this summer.

If Part 1 of this Hikes For Artists series brought you some inspiration, this week is sure to do the same with amazing art and images of inspiring hikes hand picked just for artists. If you’re like me, you don’t plan vacations, you plan Inspir-cations and mini self-made residencies to inspire your work. This list of 10 amazing hikes from me and some of my amazing artist friends will give you some ideas for places to go and things to do this summer.

  1. Lorraine GlessnerHike Location: Cohab Canyon in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
  2. You can probably sense a theme that Utah is likely my favorite hiking destination and you would be right! This hike was also introduced to me by artist friend Jeff Juhlin in my favorite National Park of Capitol Reef. Its only about 3 miles out and back and you really don’t have to do the whole thing to experience it’s wonderfulness, but those who do will have the pleasure of a dramatic overlook (pictured above). I should mention that this hike and the park itself is not just for painters-photographers, writers, musicians and especially sculptors will all find inspiration here-I have a suspicion that Richard Serra must visit this park often.
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  4. The park itself is unusual, the terrain and land forms are literally like nowhere else on earth, but this hike is a stand-out even here-it’s like an abridged version of many areas of the part all in one place. Jeff and I took our Desert Artist Retreat here last year and even though it was a drizzly day, there was so much to see and sketch, one could do this hike a thousand times and not see it the same way twice. I have literally taken thousands of photos here, these photos being the ones I reach for most often when making my photo montages and digital drawings for painting inspiration-one of these is pictured above. Unusual colors in the earth, lichen and foliage from green-gold to salmon-peach-orange to rich creamy gold, textures, swirls, pocks, painted and sculpted rock faces and many layered surfaces abound on this hike. Being in the canyon offers a hushed, almost eery quiet while you’re surrounded by windswept trees, black lava rock and otherworldly scenes around every corner. Wind, water, time, wildlife and humans have sculpted this unusual place. The history of the canyon is quite interesting and you can almost feel the energy of the spirits of the Mormon settlers who resided here. Unlike my favorite hike I described in Part 1, this hike is well traveled, but there are many hideaways carved into the rocks where you can sit and draw, meditate or just look around for hours undisturbed.

2. Linda Celestian

Hike Location: Graffiti Pier, Philadelphia, PA

I live 30 minutes outside Philadelphia in North Wilmington. My husband maps out a new adventure for our hiking group every Sunday. On a recent hike we parked for free at the Sugarhouse Casino hiked to Graffiti Pier and then down Frankford Avenue to form a loop of around 4-5 miles.

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There’s something exciting about going slightly off the beaten path and exploring a place that’s a little gritty and edgy. I love the exuberant colors and layering of different styles that cover every surface at Graffiti Pier-even the trees-you feel like you’re inhabiting an abstract painting. It’s like a museum of street art that is free to the public and constantly evolving as new artists leave their marks. From the end of the pier there’s a great view of the city. We ended the hike strolling through burgeoning Fishtown sampling coffee, beer, bagels and more street art at every turn.

3. Laura Moriarty

Hike Location: Baer Art Center, a beautiful seaside horse farm in Northwestern Iceland

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My favorite walk followed well-worn tractor trails around the farm that eventually came to a black sand beach. From the beach I somehow made my way into these vast, deep bands of loosely piled, moss and lichen covered stones that go on for as far as the eye can see. Walking into them was not easy on the ankles. An immense, otherworldly-looking Cape jutting out of the sea was the punctuation point at the end of my trail.

 

4. Rebecca Siemering

Hike Location: Morro Bay, CA. Black Hill is the end of a string of mountains and trails of extinct volcanoes. Fleming Loop from Las Tunas Road, to the Powerline Trial and then the Carmel Loops to the top.

When I was living in Morro Bay, I was living with my Aunt Joanne Hand, a weaver, for an internship. I worked on various looms then, however,  I do not weave as much today.  I am a fiber artist partly because I could see making a life and living pursuing art. I worked in the bookstore with my aunt by day, wove on my days off and at night.

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This hike can be taken off of Las Tunas Road in Morro Bay, CA or many other roads on the edge of town. In the late afternoon, I would hike up this small mountain or take a long walk down to the bay by Morro Rock. You can walk through the dunes full of jackrabbits and sand dollars. When walking up, the trail is filled with brush, scraggy pines, sometimes you see evidence of Chumash Indian caches. At the very top is such a treat. Looking one way, you see all of the ocean and the bird estuary below with cranes. Looking the other way, you can see back to the whole mountain range. If you are lucky, sometimes there is fog and it looks like it is just you in the clouds with the sun. Dress for all types of weather and in layers, the Bay is cold. However, ten miles inland in San Luis Obispo you are wearing shorts.

Photo Credit: Jenn Moore, Jenn Moore, Henry Hamm, Joey Gonzalez

5. Teri Bevelacqua

Hike Location: Olympic National Park, Hike to Toleak Point from Third Beach, just west of Forks Washington. Best done mid-week to avoid a crowd.

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It’s the kind of place you run away to. Part of the hike is on the beach and part is through the forest on the headlands-it’s beautiful and peaceful. The forest is old and has wonderful sight lines not common inland. The beaches are wild and remote with spectacular views- tide pools abound at low tide chock full of sea life and the ocean in many moods. Haystacks, private coves and much wild life on this hike. I’ve had many “Wild Kingdom” moments out there with orcas, hunting seals, eagles and hunting seals.  

Many, many thanks to Arden Bendler-Browning, Bridgette Guerzon-Mills, Dietlind Vander Schaaf, Jeffrey Hirst, Laura Moriarty, Linda Celestian, Rebecca Siemering and Teri Bevelacqua for taking the time to share with us their favorite hikes. I’m so grateful to all of them and to you for reading.

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. I would like to make artist hikes/inspiring vacations a regular part of this blog, so please email me or leave a comment if you would like to share your favorite inspiring places in a future post.

Stay tuned for my next post still focused on summer and Inspir-cations, in which I will share with you my favorite portable art materials. I break down what is really necessary for me to take on the trail and in my suitcase when I travel. Even if you don’t hike or carry a backpack, anyone who travels away from home or even just commutes to work will find this post helpful. In the meantime, enjoy the lovely spring air!!

Hikes For Artists, Part 1

Looking for some painting inspiration this summer? Some of my artist friends and I share some of our most inspiring places along with the art inspired from having been there.

According to the calendar, spring has sprung, although one would never know it here in the Northeast. With this interminable winter we’ve been having here in Philly, I’m just itching to get out and do some hiking. I feel absolutely stifled when I can’t get out and immerse myself in nature’s inspiration and it shows in my work when I haven’t been outside for a while. One of my favorite quotes by Matisse suggests that no matter what kind of work one makes, nature is always filtered somehow through the artists mind…An artist must possess nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.

The main source of inspiration for my paintings is from photographing and/or plein air sketching while on long hikes. I always like to explore at least one new place per year and usually plan extra days around my summer workshop teaching schedule to hike the area I’m teaching or I plan vacations around an inspiration hike. I was curious if other artists did this and apparently many of you do, so I decided to gather a few willing participants to write about their favorite inspiring places. Even if you don’t enjoy hiking, many of these places are drivable or just looking at the photos in this article, the art inspired by it and the artist’s web sites is inspiration decadence.

  1. Lorraine GlessnerHike Location: ‘The Knolls’ Teasdale, Utah

    I have so many favorite hikes, it was difficult to narrow it down. I chose ‘The Knolls’ (pictured the top of this article), the name granted by artist friend, Jeff Juhlin, who introduced it to me a couple of years ago and inspired by the odd earth forms that surround the area. It’s located just outside of the Dixie National Forest entry in Teasdale, Utah. Jeff and I have taken Our Desert Artist Retreat to The Knolls, but other than that, I have never seen another soul on the trail-all you hear is the wind and your own breathing.

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    The images I’ve shared below were taken on a cloudy day and even so, the earth shone a brilliant rust/red/orange/pink. To say the terrain is other worldly is an understatement, I have literally never seen anything like this place except in a Star Trek episode. The colors, earth, rock, trees, brush, flora all wind whipped into fascinating twisted, sculpted forms that keep me interested for hours. I hiked there alone on a stormy day last August and for many hours I climbed, photographed, sketched and wrote. I then went home and made some digital drawings from some of my photographs (one pictured above). Here is an excerpt from my journal that day…Rocks that grow out of the ground, trees growing out of rocks, rocks that seem to have teeth and fallen branches that look like bones. I keep trying to find a sound, but there is absolutely nothing to hear. This place defies all logic, but I never want to leave its magic.


2. Arden Bendler Browning

Hike Location: Drive-By’s in Australia

As I write this, I am traveling by motorhome with my partner and three daughters all around Australia.  As we drive, I paint while observing the landscape morphing through the windshield and out my side windows.  I have also revisited drawings made while outside and from window views of Sydney, hikes in Maui, and riding through the Sydney highways – I add layers from different locations and combine them together into one image.

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My previous road trip out west from Philadelphia resulted in numerous sketches made in this way (primarily watercolor and gouache on Yupo), and then large paintings were made back in my studio as I looked at the thousands of photographs from my trip, held in my hand as I made marks on my panels.
The drives, moreso than the hikes, tend to be my inspiration.  I am interested in conveying the yearning to take everything in, to be everywhere all at once, yet also considering the awareness that it is an absurd impossibility promoted by our own constructs.  To see everything means to miss something else – be that the slower paced time spent in one place,  the elimination of another route altogether, or simply existing more on the physical present moment This seems to echo the prevalent pace of contemporary life in the digital age… We are convinced that anything and everything is possible, if we just decide to do it.  Things are rarely the way we envision them, and real time of quite a different thing than a digital feed.  Additionally, I’m shutting out other aspects of my ordinary daily reality in order to move around the world.
During my current road trip, we drove the infamous Eyre highway across the barren Nullarbor plain.  The Nullarbor contains the longest straightest section of road in the world and is a vast flat terrain with zero trees.  There are very few settlements – just a few roadhouses and tiny towns many miles apart.  I have imagined this landscape while looking at maps for years, and was surprised by its beauty and drama.  It never
I painted this watercolor and gouache painting on a round sheet of handmade watercolor paper during the three days it took us to drive the main sections of the highway, from Port Augusta in South Australia to Norseman in Western Australia.  I layered and layered marks in response to the changes in the roadway and the surrounding terrain… Far more changes and detail than I could have imagined.  I kept thinking it was done, only to see that it wasn’t, and became entranced with the changes in what I was noticing along the way: the shadows of clouds moving over the road ahead, the random patches of red earth, the range of color in the immensely vast horizon.  I worked on this painting for hours throughout each of the three days we traveled on this lonely, intense road.
I’m excited to experiment with printmaking and animation when I get back to my studio, along with large paintings.

 

3. Bridgette Guerzon Mills

Hike Location: Ruby Beach and Second Beach, along the northwest Pacific coast of Washington on the Olympic Peninsula

As a naturalist and outdoor enthusiast, I have hiked in many different areas around the United States. My most favorite hikes are these two hikes through the forest down to the wild beaches of the Pacific Northwest.

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Ruby Beach trail is very easy, not really a hike as it is only .25 miles through the woods, but it can give you a taste of the wild Olympic coast. The more rigorous hike, but also a very do-able day hike, Second Beach is further south and is a 4 mile round trip from the trailhead. The Second Beach hike was my first hike to the Pacific Ocean and was eye-opening for me- someone who grew up on the east coast and spent childhood summers playing games and getting funnel cake on the boardwalks by the Atlantic Ocean among throngs of bikini clad people. The trail took me by tall Sitka spruce and a descent down to the log-strewn beach. As I got closer to the beach, the trees thinned out and I caught sight of the iconic offshore sea stacks. When I emerged from the forest and was hit by the blustery wind, I just stood in awe of such wild beauty and the gray on gray of the seascape and sky. I had never been in such a place and it was an encounter that I will never forget and has inspired my art over and over again- not just the actual physical beauty, but the feeling of wild, of longing, and of a very strong sense of place.

 

4. Dietlind Vander Schaaf

Hike Location: Tomales Point Trail, located at the northern end of Point Reyes National Seashore in California

Tomales Point is a beautiful space to see tule elk, birds of all kinds, and wildflowers. The hike is just shy of 10 miles roundtrip and follows the ridge crest of a narrow peninsula, offering panoramic views of Tomales Bay and Bolinas Ridge to the east, Bodega Bay to the north, and the coastline of the Point Reyes Peninsula, which stretches to the south. The parking lot is located at the historic Pierce Point Ranch, a remnant of the area’s early dairy ranching days. I have walked this trail a dozen times or so, but only made it to the end and back twice, both times with my friend Paul–once before I left San Francisco to move back to Maine, and then again last year. 

dietlindIn Winter I Found Quiet

It’s a bit of a drive to get to the remote trailhead at the northern-most end of the Point Reyes peninsula, past working dairy farms and long stretches of national seashore. Sometimes when I’ve been on the trail, the fog was thick, obscuring views of the sea, but mostly it’s clear and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see tule elk, a subspecies of elk found only in California. Conservation measures in the 70s have brought a dwindling population of wild tule elk back up to nearly 4,000.
Because there are few to no trees on this hike, it reminds me of the years I worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club in the huts, specifically the times I found myself hiking above the tree line between peaks. The eye can travel far on this trail–you get what I think of as the long view and I appreciate the sense of perspective this affords me.
When we reached the tip last February, Paul and I could see immediately that a large part of the cliff we had followed years before had fallen steeply to the sea below. There was no longer an easy scramble down rocks to the water’s edge. For some reason that felt appropriate, though it also made me a bit nostalgic, to think that where I had walked prior literally no longer existed.
It feels like something significant to complete this hike. I think of this trail as a place of pilgrimage, something sacred and infinitely beautiful, probably even more so now that I live in Maine and it is no longer a few hours drive from my apartment in San Francisco.

 

5. Jeffrey Hirst

Hike Location: Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin, Chimney Rock with elk reserve

I love to hike near water and when living in the Bay Area enjoyed visiting Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin for hiking and just to soak in the beauty.

Hirst.Red Aperture

The trail winds back and forth over the peninsula with spectacular views of Marin and the Pacific. There also is an elk reserve on the peninsula and it always seemed odd to me seeing the elk in that location. The terrain on Point Reyes is grassy with rocks and it’s a fairly easy hike and quite an adventure as you head out on the peninsula. While I don’t use the imagery in my work, it’s a great place to vacate and recharge your senses. Interestingly, I get a similar meditative feeling when hiking along Lake Michigan in Chicago, where I now live.

 

I hope you enjoyed this article and I am so grateful to my artist friends who participated in writing it, thanks so much! As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. I would like to make artist hikes/inspiring vacations a regular part of this blog, so please email me or leave a comment if you would like to share your favorite inspiring places in a future post.

Stay tuned for more amazing artist hike ideas in part two of this series. In the meantime, get out and breath the air.