JFJ: The Retreat

Dave and I were extremely fortunate to conduct our very own art retreat this week. It was an intimate affair with just five participants, but for four days we explored the visual journal at the Embassy Suites in Ashburn, VA, just 30 minutes from my home.

The group gelled very quickly, and we ended up eating lunch together and hanging out far beyond our scheduled time. Since we had the same room for the entire four days, it didn't take long for the art bomb to drop, and with three big round tables, everyone was able to spread out in order to take full advantage of the small group size. Besides sharing our perspective on the visual journal, we initiated several of the group into the ways of Farkle - a dice game where newbies swear that you're just making up the rules as you go.

With the creative energy and the camaraderie, it was fantastic group, and we felt very lucky to have Kathy, Kristy, Joe, Nicole, and Jackie join us for our inaugural retreat. We are definitely going to have another retreat next year hoping that it will become an annual tradition. We have even tentatively set the dates, June 26 - 29, 2014. We'll confirm up those dates later in the summer or early fall, but if you weren't one of our fortunate five this year, don't miss out next year.

Mark your calendars.

Layer 2

With the second layer for this series, I used Prismacolor watercolor pencil. Along with watercolor paint, watercolor pencil is one of my favorite media. I am particularly fond of using the pencil to define shapes by shading into the negative space and leaving the positive spaces untouched. This pushes the negative spaces into the image making them seem to recede from the surface. The spaces within the shapes seem to stay on level with the surface, thus starting the push and pull that I desire.

Since I worked on several pieces at once, I was able to experiment with a variety of color combinations and a variety of shapes. This watercolor pencil work begins to lay the compositional foundations for the pieces.

Layers - Step 1

I've been working on a series of small 4x6 inch layered pieces, and when I work small, I usually use the same process for each of them while experimenting with color, application, and imagery. So I've decided to share my process as a bit of a tutorial, and to let you in on what goes on inside my head as I work.

Layer 1 - Watercolor

With this series, I cut up a few pieces of Strathmore Mixed Media 400 Series paper and then began experimenting with watercolor. I relish the versatility and the transparency of watercolor paint, and I enjoy playing with brush strokes, stamping, and stenciling. I can quickly add a starting layer without much thought, set the piece aside, grab another piece, and try another color or another technique. With this piece I used mostly vertical brush strokes, and varied the value of the color. I didn't cover all the paper and left some white showing. With other pieces in this series, I stenciled using plastic mesh, stamped with bubble wrap, and painted random lines and shapes. I try to push myself out of my comfort zone and use colors and techniques that I normally don't use.

Stay tuned to see how this piece evolves.

Studio Time

Despite the sheer exhaustion from teaching elementary art, the busyness that springtime entails, and constantly trying to promote the retreat. I have managed to make it into the studio a few times over the last few weeks. Besides working in my journal, I've managed to begin a series of small 4x6 inch layered, mixed media pieces. I enjoy the small size because I can work on several at the same time often following the same basic process but experimenting all the while. Some pieces will grow into finished work, and others will stall and stagnate, but it is all part of the process. I'll reveal more as they develop.

Have You Registered?

June is quickly approaching, and we're hoping to have our very own retreat. But we need your help, and we need people to register ASAP. We're getting to a point where we are going to have to decide if we're going to have it or not because we have yet to meet our minimum. If we don't reach the minimum by May 15th, we're going to have to cancel, and we don't want that.

So many people have said they were coming but haven't registered yet. If you've been waiting to register or simply have been putting it off, don't delay any longer. Even if you can't come, we still ask for your help. Please share this as much as you can. We ask that you please post on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Your friends, family, and readers may be interested, and we would greatly appreciate the help.

Details for Journal Fodder Junkies: the Retreat
Thursday, June 20, 2013 - Sunday, June 23, 2013
Embassy Suites Dulles - North/Loudoun in Ashburn, VA (just minutes from Dulles International Airport)
$450 for 3 full days of journaling madness
Participants are responsible for all lodging, meal, and transportation costs.

Please visit the retreat page for more info and to register. Don't forget to click the Buy Now button just below the registration form to complete the registration and reserve your spot.

We hope to see you in June.

Free Downloads

I've just created a page on the JFJ website full of free PDF downloads. Right now there are 30 downloads available. Most are resources that I use in my elementary art classroom, but some deal directly with the journal. More are planned for the future. Let me know if you want to see something specific or if you have comments, feedback, or questions.

All are protected by copyright, and are for educational purposes only. By downloading, people agree not to reproduce, display, sell, modify or distribute any of the material without written permission.

They are completely free for download, but there is a Donate button for anyone wishing to show their appreciation and support monetarily. I appreciate any support.

Click here to go to the Downloads page.

Art at hypnocoffee, Purcellville

Thanks to Dave, I hung a show at hypnocoffee, a local coffee shop in my town. Hypno has only been open for a few months here in Purcellville, but their shop and roaster has been open in Shepherdstown for a while now. Dave, who visits the Shepherdstown location nearly everyday, talked to the owner, Tony, and got us both shows. Dave's work adorns the walls of the Shepherdstown shop, and mine the Purcellville shop. It's cool to have simultaneous shows.

So if you're in Purcellville, VA or Shepherdstown, WV, make certain to stop by hypnocoffee to take in the art work of the JFJ and have a great cup of coffee. Hours are 7:30 AM to 6 PM everyday.


I love layers, and I love paper. This is an experiment that I did today with cutting layers from plain, white drawing paper. This 9x12 experiment uses a type of image that I have been exploring a lot lately. It has ten layers of the 90 lbs paper and is glued together with Elmer's glue stick, hence the buckling. But it is only an experiment, and I'm hoping to do more in the future. I would love to do this with a thicker paper, a bigger size, and more layers to have the relief effect more apparent. I'll just have to see where it goes.

Showing Up

In an attempt to show up more, I have been documenting the days that I work in the studio, as well as the time I spend working on art or in the journal outside of the studio. By marking this down on my calendar, which is in the back of my journal, I can see just how much I am showing up, and it becomes a great motivator to show up even more.

How do you find ways to show up? How do you stay motivated?

Show Up

I have been having trouble showing up lately. Work, life, and sheer laziness have been keeping me from the studio, my art, my journal, and this blog. Although there is a natural ebb and flow to the creative process, I have been feeling disconnected from myself lately. I am working on finding small ways to reconnect.

What keeps you from showing up? What distracts you from your creative ambitions? What gets in your way? Why do you allow it? What are your priorities? How can you find small, meaningful ways to connect to your art and show up more?