So what is shinrin yoku? It’s a Japanese term that means forest bathing. No, not skinny dipping in the woods. It’s taking time to immerse all of your sense into nature. That’s forest bathing. A gentle breeze on your skin, the scent of the plants, shafts of sunlight and birdsong. Ah! Your being is so full of natural goodness that there’s no room for stress.

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When I visited Japan, I had a very urban experience: visiting schools, companies like Mitzubishi and Sony, riding the trains, and staying in cities. I can see why a nature experience would be so refreshing to people who live there.

Researchers are documenting the positive effects nature can have on our health. Studies point to both psychological and physiological effects on our immune, cardio vascular, and respiratory systems.That’s what I enjoy about plein air painting – a full immersion into the natural world. Peace. Absorption. Chores and cares are gone. There’s just the plants and the paint.

Painting at Sycamore Park in Pickerington, Ohio

When you look at one of my paintings I want to give you a little piece of the experience. Calm, serenity, a sense of place. The warmth of the sun and the scent of wild flowers. The texture of foliage. Enjoy!

Garden Art with Copic Markers

A happy little thank-you card for some hard-working nurses!

I’m back after a hiatus triggered by a family health situation. Now that we’re back to a more normal schedule, I plan to post more regularly.

Have you ever tried alcohol markers? Curious about how they’re different than your average marker? When you look at the price you’ve got to wonder. I was interested but I’m also frugal so it took me a while to decide that I really need to own some. I did some online research and settled on a set of Copic Ciao markers. Buying them by the set doesn’t save much money and some experts recommend getting a few colors to try but this was my Christmas treat, so I went for a full set.

I watched a You Tube demo by Jazza from Australia which was very helpful. The trick is to start with the lightest value of a color you plan to use in an area and then move to the next darker value, then back to the lighter one for blending. You repeat this step-by-step until you get to your darkest value. You’ve got to do this rather quickly while the ink stays wet.

The blending on the bear’s face starts with the lightest color.

You also need to work on a substrate that won’t absorb the color. I’ve worked on photo paper to make cards and on Bristol board. You get different effects with each.

This circle of flowers was done on Bristol board. It absorbs more of the color than slicker papers.

The markers were loads of fun to play with. After using them several times a week for four or five months the lightest shades of each color are drying out. One of the selling points for Copic is that you can refill the markers so I tried to order the refill ink. Unfortunately, that became impossible. The manufacturer’s web site in Japan showed a new style of refilling cartridge to be available in spring 2020 after supplies of the old ones were gone. Most major online retailers seem to have a few odd colors of the old ones, but not the new style. So… my love affair with Copic markers is on hold as are so many other things in this pandemic.

Oil or Water?

Painter’s Choice

Gloucester Harbor 9×12 oil

So we were going to Cape Ann for a ladies’ painting trip. After last spring’s trip to Brown County, Indiana, it was time for another pilgrimage to an art colony.

What to take? The online photos of rocky shorelines and fishing shacks shouted, ” Bring your oil paints!” But when you’re flying, that’s a royal pain. You have to check a bag and buy thinner when you get there. I knew if I didn’t take the oils I’d be so envious of my Marianne, who was definitely taking oils. (I’m always envious of her talent so adding envy of painting supplies would be just too much.)

My practical friends, Nancy and Wendy, were packing light with just some paper, pens and watercolors and maybe a few pastels. I’ve done that on our winter get-aways to Florida before and it does make life easy.

Indecisive as always, I took both a little watercolor sketch kit and a new Strada easel with a backpack tripod for my oils. All materials were chosen with the valued advice of Nancy, our painting gear expert.

I used the sketch gear and painting hear in about equal measures. Some locations were windy or involved too much effort for the easel. I sat on the ground with the Strada at Wingaersheek Beach. That was a huge mistake! Gritty sand in and on everything.)

Wingaersheek Beach (includes authentic sand) 9×12 oil

I sat on the ground again to paint the tulips. I wanted to get that low angle with the sun shining through.

Tulips Along the Annisquam River 9×12 oil

Our day at the old paint manufactory, (now The Ocean Alliance), was so windy that we used my backpack to weigh down Marianne’s easel! I didn’t even bother getting out the oils. I sat on a rock wearing all the layers I brought along my knit headband and sunhat.

Historic Tar and Wanson Paint Manufactory – 5×7 watercolor
Water soluble graphite 5×7

Most of the oil paintings needed touch-ups after the plein air sessions but I left the watercolors and pencil sketches “as is”.

Old Fishing Boats in Rockport 5×7 watercolor and ink

I pasted the sketches in a little travel journal that Nancy gave me. I included a few notes about our trip, mostly about the food I ate (especially the popovers at Passports in Gloucester). Sketching is more relaxing and I like having memory books of trips but I rarely go back and make a painting out of the little sketches. So in the end I’m glad I lugged the oils and paid for the checked bag.

Boats in Smith’s Cove on Rocky Neck in Gloucester 9×12 oil