Earlier this month, we managed to catch up with Don Getz at the Kanuga Watermedia Workshops in Hendersonville, NC. On this stop of his US Journaling Tour, he was making his last appearance in the South, and would head west as soon as the workshop was over. Don was teaching a week long workshop at the Kanuga Conference Center and we talked him into allowing us to tag along for the day.
I asked Don what his workshop was all about. He sat down and showed me by completing a page or two in his journal. As I watched him work, I picked up several tips that would help me to become a more confident watercolor journalist.
Don’s materials are simple and they are completely stored in his backpack making it always easy to find time for sketching.
DON’S BASIC SUPPLY LIST-
NEW KILIMANJARO 12X9 PAINTBOOK - with 300lb cover!- The KM paintbook was a great idea even before we added the 300lb. custom cover! With 20 sheets of 140lb. cold pressed Professional Kilimanjaro watercolor paper and 20 sheets of 70lb. sketch paper in between, you have everything you need in a spiral bound journal. Now, the extra 300lb. cover sheet allows you to create a custom cover for every trip location or journal subject you might have! Travel journaling has never been easier! Three great sizes to choose from!12×9 landscape (Don’s Favorite!), 10x 5.5 landscape (very portable), and 9×12 portrait.
AMERICAN JOURNEY WATERCOLOR SKETCHBOOK- This is Don’s Go To Sketchbook. He has been using this watercolor sketchbook for years with great results.
AMERICAN JOURNEY WATERCOLORS- Burnt Sienna, Olive Green, Alizarin Crimson, Sour Lemon, Cadmium Orange, Apricot, Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Violet, Getz Gray (Don’s Own Color!), Quin Gold, Perm Magenta, Passionate Purple, French Gray, Green Gold, Mint Julep, Naples Yellow, Sky Blue, Permanent Rose, Earthen Green, Quin Burnt Orange, Quin Violet, Viridian, Ultramarine Blue,Skip’s Green, Titanium white, Periwinkle, and Cadmium Red Medium.
ALVIN HERITAGE 24 WELL TRAVEL PALETTE- Don loves this palette for travel because it has a rubber gasket around the edge to seal the paint inside. This prevents leakage and keeps the wet paint moist longer. This palette has removable mixing trays for easy cleaning. Closed, it measures 12 1/2″ x 6″ x 1″, Open it measures 12 1/2 by 12″ with 24 wells for carrying lots of great pigments to all of those great journaling locations!
CHEAP JOE’S FANNY PACK or a standard backpack- Everything has a home somewhere in the roomy and practical Cheap Joe’s Fanny Pack!
AMERICAN JOURNEY TRAVEL BRUSHES/ GOLDEN FLEECE TRAVEL BRUSHES- Either of these travel brush sets will be sufficient for all of your journaling needs. Taking up very little space in your kit. The American Journey brushes do have an advantage over the Golden Fleece as they are designed to mimic natural hair more closely giving you more carrying power for bigger washes.
VIEWFINDER- Make your own, or purchase one like the Guerilla Painter Composition Finder to keep in your kit. This handy tool helps you to more easily identify your scene by blocking out surrounding distractions, also, aids in plotting and composing your sketch.
CHEAP JOE’S VALUE FINDER- Although, not a complete necessity, this tool helps you to identify values that aid in creating a stronger composition and a more accurate value study. The value finder will neutralize color into values and also allow you to see the overall basic shapes of your scene before you create your contour drawing.
WATER BOTTLE- Cheap Joe’s water bottle is great for carrying clean water for watercolor journaling. So inexpensive you can afford to keep several with you so you won’t run out of clean water!
WATER CONTAINER- for rinsing
PAPER TOWELS/ CLEAN RAG
SAKURA MICRON PENS- Don uses these pens to get the much needed fine detail in his sketches. He prefers the .01 pen tip for the finest lines possible. The waterproof, permanent and archival ink will provide long lasting performance! This 3 pen set includes the .01,.03, and .05 sizes all in one package, giving you a variety of tip sizes to choose from at a really great price!
SKETCH PENCILS-While you can use any number of choices for sketch pencils, Don recommends the full set of Cheap Joe’s Sketching Pencils. Providing a wide range of sketching leads, you always have a variety on hand!
POCKET CAMERA- Great idea for preserving scenes and light conditions for later reference for completing sketches.
LARGE BRIMMED HAT- A necessity to keep the sun off of your face and out of your eyes!
SMALL CAMPING STOOL and TABLE- Relaxing while journaling makes the experience that much more enjoyable, that is why the GCI Quik-E-Seat is the perfect choice. It has a sturdy back support, is compact and feather light and great for journaling! Makes you feel you are on vacation all of the time!
Other useful items- a water bottle, sunscreen, snacks, an umbrella, and lightweight travel easel, when convenient.
***(The current supply list has been revised to reflect the materials that Don is using as of April 2, 2013)
Don’s supply list changes from time to time. He may try a new pen, find a new palette, or revert back to something he has been using years ago. Even still, the materials he is using, currently, are what works best for him at this time.
I noticed some key things while watching Don, mainly that you have to be completely comfortable while journaling. Don relaxes in a camp chair, he prefers to be in the shade with no glare on his page, he makes sure to wear sunglasses and a wide brim hat, and keeps his essentials just an arm length away.
When picking out his subject, Don tries to incorporate the natural with the man made. This would include buildings and signs, and sometimes even cars. I noticed Don will elaborate on his subject if it seemed a bit boring. He generally changes colors of objects, like roofs, and streets, to make them more interesting and appealing. He explains that the color of a roof isn’t very exciting in all of the several shades of gray and black. So he chooses to make them blue, or green, or a nice shade of red. No matter what color he chooses, chances are, it is better than black.
Don often adds people to his paintings, to bring a human factor to the story. And I noticed, quite frequently, Don never forgets the birds. Oh, you really can’t tell what kind they are, but they always seem to brighten up any painting and make it more cheerful. Don says everyone should have a bird or two in their sketch.
Don’s workshops are full of great advice and techniques, all very helpful for the beginner or even a seasoned artist who is still developing their journaling skills. Don has developed a process of journaling all of his own. He has spent years practicing, traveling, and telling his story, all from the pages of his sketchbooks.
He usually starts with a basic contour sketch, always in pen, this ensures that he is more careful about making decisions since you only get one chance. He is also aware not to include every detail. He will deliberately leave some key things out, only to add them in with the details. Decisions, decisions, decisions, you constantly have choices to make.
Once the basic sketch is in place, Don will begin to add color. Don uses the squinting method of identifying values. Almost closing his eyes to blur the details and pick out the most prominent lights and darks. He will start with the focal point and add his lightest lights and darkest darks to establish his value pattern. Then, continue outward lessening the detail toward the edges. He will adjust the values as he fills in the basic shapes of his painting. Being mindful of the shapes, he will allow for shadows and hi-lights while he works. After finishing the color, Don will come back into his sketch with the pen and add the final details. He often titles the work and writes notes about the subject before signing it and moving on to another.
One particularly exciting technique he shared with me was how he captures the complicated angles and details of the buildings that he has sketched. I’ve admired his renditions of the cathedrals and architecture in the old towns of Charleston and Savannah, and wondered just how long it would take to sketch so complicated a subject. Well, Don let me in on his secret.
Don picked out the most complicated building at Kanuga, The Lodge. It had a sloped roof, lots of windows, covered walkways, stairs, and many other challenging aspects. I would have hardly picked this as my subject, because it was such an intimidating scene. And to make things more difficult, he decided to sketch it at an angle. This was a perspective nightmare!
OK, listen close, because here’s the secret!
Don settled into his easy chair, and pulled out a small piece of plexi glass and a dry erase marker. He explained that if you hold the plexi up close to your face and draw the most important angles and roof lines, you could easily transfer the image anywhere by holding it over the page and sketching the image from underneath. You could make it bigger by raising it, or close to the same size by lowering it. You could place the sketch anywhere on the page! How wonderful!
What an amazing tip! Don says he uses this trick quite frequently while journaling. Then he simply erases the sketch and puts the plexi away.
By using this technique, Don completed the sketch in a matter of minutes and reduced the overall painting time by at least 15-20 minutes. When journaling on sight, painting quickly is a necessity, as you will continue to lose your light the longer you take to complete it. This technique also keeps your sketch from being to busy and complicated. Don’s final painting was loose, exciting, fresh, and spontaneous!
Well, I was so totally amazed and intrigued by this trick! I will definitely have to try out the next time I go journaling!
Here is an excerpt of Don’s current Journaling Tour Blog post.
Week of April 7: Getz at Kanuga.. This was my 17th year to teach at the Kanuga Workshops… 4 days of intensive sessions with 12 instructors on a variety of water media classes, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern North Carolina.
Well, the day passed quickly, and our visit was over. But not before Joe and Don had time to share some stories from the road! Don is now on his way west. He is currently passing through Texas and has a stop over in New Mexico in a week or so. Don will travel on to the great state of California by the end of the month, but not before seeing the bright lights of Las Vegas, NV. I’m sure Don will have a “wealth” of subject matter to choose from in Las Vegas. I just can’t wait to see what he paints!
SANTA FE, NM May 1-2-3 (Wednesday – Friday) 505-428-1000 / Gordon
TUBAC, AZ May 6-7-8 Personal Journal Time
SEDONA, AZ May 11-12-13 Personal Journal Time
GRAND CANYON, AZ May 15-16-17 Personal Journal Time
LAS VEGAS, NV May 20-21-22 (Monday – Wednesday) 702-257-0766 / 702-463-2454 / Sharon
I really enjoyed the time I was able to spend with Don. He has a true passion for art and journaling to be on this quest around the U.S. You have to admire someone who will dedicate a year of their life to experience different people and places just to be able to share them with all of us.
And so goes Don and the “Odyssey” Van, back on the road again and moving on to more new places, meeting more new people, and seeing more great things to paint. We are proud to be riding along with him in thought and spirit as the “Official Art Stuff Sponsor” for his trip.
Art should be an adventure, an odyssey, a vacation, a private escape, every time you create. It is vital to truly appreciate the time you have available. When you have a passion for art, it seems to be what you think about most. It seems to be what you want to share with the people you care about and love. I do. Hey, that reminds me of that Coke commercial from the 70′s!
“Id like to teach the world to paint, in perfect harmony. I’d like to buy the world a brush and keep them company!
That’s the Real Thing! Art Is!
Art. To me it’s the Real Thing. And what I enjoy doing the most!
Ok, now I’m going to have that song in my head all day! ( I bet you will, too! Sorry!)
Well, anyway, here’s wishing you a World of Art Day!