Thursday, April 16, 2015

We made it!

It's hard to blog on a camping trip! Even though we brought our own portable wifi with us, it doesn't always work as well as advertised and the circumstances of traveling and painting make opportunities for blogging very difficult to find.
I'm happy to report that we've driven without incident (except for that one day when I bent the trailer jack driving into a dip in the pavement. Sorry, Joanna!) over 3,000 miles from Jacksonville to the coast of California. It's been fun and exhilarating and exhausting and educational. Joanna and I haven't yet come to blows or even irritated each other. We are extremely compatible.
We crossed the lower states and painted in LA, TX, NM and AZ before we arrived in the Promised Land and the Plein Air Convention in Monterey. Here we are enjoying the most astounding landscapes - the beauty of this state is almost intimidating. How can we paint well enough to do it justice? But we keep trying!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Travel Advice from Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe

One of the most significant artists of the 20th century, Georgia O’Keeffe,the  "Mother of American Modernism"(1887-1986) was devoted to creating imagery that expressed what she called “the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.” 

O'Keeffe lived and painted in her own way and on her own terms. She did every single thing she wanted to do, yet admits, not just to being afraid, but absolutely terrified every moment of her life, and she lived to be 99 years old!

I appreciate that she shared her feeling of terror with us. This is strangely comforting, since although I can't seem to be content without adventure, fear seems to be inherent in every new adventure.

But...I have learned something in my life, just as Georgia O'Keeffe did:

Anything worth doing is bound to create a little fear.

Joanne and I have carefully planned each mile of our cross-country trek, we researched every campground between Jacksonville and California. We've made long packing lists of every item essential to our happiness and comfort. We've discussed the difficulties we might run into and how we will handle them.

Though we've planned so carefully, we aren't without anxiety. Let's not kid ourselves - it's a loooong way to California from Jacksonville, Florida and we'll be far from home for over a month. Despite the most careful planning, we're bound to encounter some surprises and misadventures.

Everything I've done that I consider to be a worthy endeavor was scary as hell at some point. Have you found this to be true too?

So we decided to re-label our feelings of fear and anxiety; we decided to call what we are feeling excitement and anticipation. 

One of our stops will be O'Keefe's studio and home in Obiquiui, New Mexico as well as the only museum dedicated to a woman artist, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. We hope that she would have been proud of us.

We'll keep you posted on our adventures and misadventures. Let us hear about some of your anxiety-producing adventures.

 We leave in two weeks and we are so...EXCITED!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Getting Ready for Adventure

Jaime Howard and Joanne Middlebrooks, feeling adventurous
Once upon a time, two painters decided to have a big adventure in a small trailer.
 Monterey, California and  the Plein Air Convention, "the Woodstock of plein air painting." We're off to join the largest collection of plein air painters on the planet for a week of classes, demos and on-site painting with world class artists along the rocky coast of California.

This is a road trip of epic proportions - almost 6,000 miles round trip from Jacksonville, Florida. It will take a lot of planning and about five weeks to complete the trip.
 The goal is to paint our way across the USA, at every location and in every state from here to Monterey and back. We represent our local group of artists, the First Coast Plein Air Painters, and everyone who hankers after an adventure of their own making.
Bubba Jane
Bubba Jane, the 14 foot long 1965 Zipper vintage camper, will be our home away from home, so our first task is to make her as comfy as we can.

With an end of March departure date coming up, we'll be taking a short shakedown cruise to make sure we both fit in this little tin can comfortably and happily. We'll be posting our preparations and adjustments as we go - and we'll try to answer some of your burning questions:
  • What will they take with them in the way of art supplies? Food? Camping equipment?
  • Where will they be camping and will they end up spending the night in any WalMart parking lots
  • How many paintings will actually be painted on this trip? 
  • How will these friends get along sharing this tiny space for over a month?
  • Does anyone snore?
  • Will they still be friends when they get home?
We'll try to answer all these questions and more, so stay tuned to this channel and please feel free to share with your friends who are interested in adventure, camping, painting or venturing into the unknown toward an uncertain but exciting outcome.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vintage Trailer Transformation - Bubba Jane becomes the Blue Bird

Have Brush, Will Travel
goes on the road!

The restoration of a vintage 1965 model Zipper 10' travel trailer, came at the end of a very busy school year and before the trip to my painting workshop in Maine. 

My capable and creative daughter, Janna, just back from two years of la dolce vita in Italy, got right on board to make sure this trailer was transformed into a beautiful, practical portable painting studio and living space, as cute as we could possibly make her.

Her name used to be Bubba Jane

She was adorable when I bought her and I had my doubts whether we should even attempt to give her a new paint job. But being artists, Janna and I had to make our mark, so...
...we took a deep breath and took on the challenge. We painted her inside and out, gave her a retro zig-zag and a pair of wings to help her fly down the road. We dubbed her Blue Bird and we flew down the highway.

Now we call her Blue Bird

Blue Bird followed obediently along behind our car over 3,000 miles - from Florida to Maine and back again. She provided us a with almost all the comforts of home: a comfy place to sleep, shelter from the rain, and a tiny kitchen to cook in. What else do you need?

Did you see us on the road?

Chalk paint, inside cabinet door

 Stay tuned to this blog for more photos from the inside of the camper. See you soon!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Come Paint with Me in Maine


Nubble Light, York, Maine

Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine
New! I'm so excited and happy to be able to offer my 2014 Plein Air Painting Workshop! This summer, we'll be painting in the beautiful state of Maine. 
LOBSTER SHACK, Ogunquit, Maine
Home base will be Drake's Island and the charming little town of Ogunquit. We'll be eating fresh "lobsta" and painting in the fresh air. Contact me for details.
July 5-11, 2014

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

and now for...Something a Little Different

To the Sun and Back/ 12x12"/Oil on cradled hardboard

What do plein air painters do when the weather is forbidding and we can't go outdoors?

For me the answer is to paint something else, from another series, and from another part of my brain.

The latest painting betrays my former life as an illustrator for children's textbooks. I took advantage of a rainy day to paint something for the kid in all of us.

To the Sun and Back was a labor of joy, inspired by a special boy in my life. 

I have to paint what's on my mind and in my heart, you know. So do you. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


When Jeff suggested this getaway, I started choosing art supplies.
 I didn't pack much - an old watercolor box, 2 brushes, 3 micron pens and a smallish sketchbook.
This outfit was portable and light. It could be toted anywhere.
Handy-dandy little art kit

When traveling with another person you don't have all day to create a painting. Better to travel light and work fast.

Watercolor and ink were my choice of mediums, since they require no prep or drying time.

Our trip involved lots of driving, so time to paint was sandwiched in between visits with friends and a lot of sightseeing.

Teresa's Million-dollar View
The first morning, after a long climb up the mountain above Jaco Beach, the million dollar view from our friend Teresa's home beckoned me. 
It was heavenly to sit on a folding chair overlooking the valley, the rain forest and mountains beyond.
I was careful not to dip my paintbrush in my coffee cup while chatting with an old friend and painting as the sun came up and the fog rolled away. 

Under the Almond Tree, Jaco Beach 
A few days later we found ourselves in a beachfront resort, keeping cool in the shade of an almond tree while Salsa music wafted through the air.

Each time I sit down to paint, the act of concentrating embeds the scene in my memory forever.

Each time I flip through my sketch books, I will remember the beautiful country of Costa Rica in vivid detail. I will feel the soft breeze, smell the flowers, taste the coffee and remember Teresa's voice as she watched me paint. 

This is the best kind of journal keeping.

Do you want to record some memories with me? Join me in Italy at my Workshop this June for some rich learning experiences and adventures in art.

Let's make some memories that you will remember forever.

Friday, June 29, 2012


Cummer Gardens. ink and watercolor pencils by student, Carrie Adamiak
Keeping a sketchbook has been a tradition of artists for centuries. Through the years, painters and artists have kept sketchbooks to collect ideas, record their surroundings, plan major work, experiment, take notes, doodle, make color notes, work out compositions and make value studies.

In recent years, sketching as a daily habit has taken a back seat to the creation of finished work.

Learning to draw from comic books, age 6
As a very young artist, sketching was the way that I taught myself to draw. It was natural to draw as much as possible - it was my favorite thing to do.

I have thousands of drawings that were saved by my doting dad, done between the ages of six and twenty years of age. 

The photo to the left is from my very first drawing lesson with my first drawing teacher,  my sister, Karen.

The natural inclination to sketch incessantly was stifled as responsibilities of adulthood set in. I fell away from sketching on a daily basis and guess what happened? My skill level went down.

It wasn't until I felt the need to maintain my drawing skills as an adult artist that I began again the daily habit of keeping a sketch book.

The wonderful thing about a daily sketching habit is the effort vs. results ratio. For very little expenditure of time, you get a lot of results: skill level is maintained, self-confidence increases, ideas start to flow and one idea begets another - the momentum that a sketchbook generates is a wonderful thing!

My students are required to keep a sketchpad and work in it daily. I ask only 10-15 minutes per day. Keeping the sketchbook is part of their grade. Students who make sketching a daily habit learn to draw much more easily and quickly than those who choose not to do so.
FSCJ drawing students in the Cummer Gallery garden
Field trips to lovely places refresh the art spirit and encourage the habit of drawing on the go. 

Do you keep a sketch book? In what ways do you use it? 
What is your favorite location or subject?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Steal Like an Artist

This week, I'm allowing Arthur Kleon, artist and writer, to hold court on my blog.

Austin Kleon is a writer, artist, speaker, and New York Times best-selling author. He’s written two books: Steal Like An Artist, an illustrated manifesto for creativity in the digital age, and Newspaper Blackout, a collection of poetry made by redacting newspaper articles with a permanent marker. 

I came across Austin just this week, after one of my subscribers commented that my current obsession, The Sunrise Project, reminded her of a photographer she knows who takes a photo of the sunrise for clients celebrating a special day. I began considering how artists share ideas.

Arthur's video sparked a lively discussion in my Drawing I class at Florida State College. My students were excited to be given permission to reach for the things that they're passionate about and link them to the work of other artists in a way that honors both the passion and the artist.

The students brainstormed the things that they love - music and dance -  beginning to see how they could incorporate those passions into their artwork. For artists just starting out, this is heady stuff!

"Bad artists copy. Good artists steal"

Stealing ideas from one other is a great way to
learn and grow. We are inspired and allow that spark of inspiration to ignite a new way of thinking and creating our own work.

We transform what we appropriated with our personality and point of view and we are transformed in the process.

 Perhaps our work will then inspire someone to steal from us.

This is why I take students to visit museums and galleries to study the art and artists that came before us. We don't learn in a vacuum, people. (Oops, that was my art teacher voice coming out.)

How amazing is this? 
We have the opportunity to pick only the best from all the things offered to us in this magnificent life. We are free to select the world's greatest artists, writers, musicians and thinkers as our teachers.

Who have you stolen from lately? How have you transformed what you took? How has it transformed you?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Perfectionism: The Lowest Standard

 Learning to Fly, from 1970's sketch pad


“Perfection is a ridiculously low standard because you can never achieve it.”

Tony Robbins, well-known personal development guru




Perfectionism: noun: a tendency to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; especially: the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a tendency to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.

Are you a victim of Perfectionism?

Perfectionism can be the cause of cluttered houses, messy desks and artwork that is left unfinished or never started. We can't get started because we're afraid we can't do it just right.


If perfectionism is our standard, we cause ourselves a lot of misery. We find reasons to put things off "until I have time" or "until things are different" or "until some day when the stars are lined up just right."


My friend, Marla Cilley, aka The Flylady, adviser to slobs everywhere, says that when perfectionism rears its ugly head, no progress can be made in the effort to get control of the chaos in our lives. She advises that any little bit of effort we make towards cleaning up our homes blesses our families.


What does housekeeping have to do with your artistic practice? I'll tell you a story:

Once upon a time, when I was a younger artist, I met a woman I admired, an artist of greater skill than my own. We had a great time chatting about art. She showed me her sketch pad and it was just chock-full of stuff.  Ideas, drawings, scribbles, dreams, cartoons - it was a delight to see. 

Then she asked to see my sketch pad. Yes, I had one. Brand new, spanking clean, and not a thing between its covers. 

It was embarrassing. I explained, "You see, I don't have a lot of money and this paper is pretty expensive. I don't want to ruin the pages by drawing on them something that isn't good enough."

She just shook her head and replied, "What do you think a sketch pad is for anyway?"

The next day she brought me a brand-new sketch pad and handed it to me with this remark:

  "Here you go, use it up. It's just paper."

What a gift! A pad of "just paper" and a whole new way of thinking! No one had ever explained it quite so simply. She had given me the freedom to make progress and to let go of perfectionism. I filled up that sketch pad.


I still have it. The drawings in it remind me that we don't have to be perfect, we just have to do something.

Unfinished, From 1970's Sketch Pad


In the same way that making the bed or clearing the coffee table makes the whole room look better, a little time spent creating makes a big difference too. 




The practice of Just a Little increases your skill levels. You create momentum and good habits. Suddenly, you're on a roll!


The wonderful thing about painting and drawing is that you can improve your skills for your entire lifetime. To have a lifelong quest is a wonderful thing.


The alternative is paralysis. 

So, if you sometimes have trouble getting started, I will generously loan you the mantra that I use to this day when I feel Perfectionism trying to rear its ugly head: 

 Repeat after me, "Go ahead. It's just paper."




Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Sunrise of Your Own

As my readers know, The Sunrise Project is my current obsession. Since early February, I've been rising before dawn to paint the sky as the sun rises. The current sunrise count is 55.   

People ask me as they observe the paintings piling up around my studio, "So, Jaime, what are you going to do with all these paintings?" 

My answer: "When I get enough of them, I'd like to display them all together. I'll need a massive amount - 365 is a good number to shoot for, one for every day of the year."

Then two friends of mine had birthdays this week. What could I give them?

           Their very own sunrise, painted on the morning of their birthday!

Cheryl's Sunrise, June 1

It was so much fun to paint for a purpose other than just piling up paintings for some future date.

Tatyana's Sunrise, June 2

After a quick framing job on a still-wet painting, I presented Tatyana's Sunrise to her yesterday at her celebration dinner. I must say, she was delighted to have her very own sunrise, a remembrance of how her special day began. Who wouldn't be?

Every day is a special day for someone somewhere. It's someone's birthday, anniversary, wedding day, graduation day, or the day-of-their-first-something.

I'd love to paint the sunrise for your special day. Or how about a gift for someone you love?

Who do you know with an upcoming milestone just crying out to be commemorated? Wouldn't they be delighted with a painting of their very own sunrise on that special day? 

Let me know and I'll be happy to make arrangements to be on the beach at the crack of dawn to capture the very beginning of that special day.

When you think of that special person, email me - we can make it happen! (For a very reasonable price.)

I won't see Cheryl until next week, so mum's the word, don't tell her what her present is!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Inside the Process: an Interview with Lyn Asselta

Watercolor under-painting

Last week we discovered the expressive pastel paintings of 
Lyn Asselta.

Lyn is the president and founder of 
First Coast Pastel Society and was the featured artist of A Brush with Nature at the Jacksonville Arboretum.

Arboretum Path, pastel on paper, ©2012 Lynn Asselta

Lyn's pastel painting workshop at the Jacksonville Arboretum was fun for all the participants. Lyn was so busy encouraging her students that her own painting waited to be completed until after the event. 

Today, we'll look at her finished painting and ask Lyn some questions about her motivations, her background, and her process.

Hello Lyn!
Since you are one of my favorite painters and a master of plein air painting in pastel, I'd love to find out more about you and your work. Thanks for answering some
questions for us.

What was the catalyst for becoming an artist and a teacher? 
Lyn: I think I've always wanted to be an artist, but I also wanted to share that with other people. So, I started out as an elementary school art teacher and then gradually transitioned into teaching workshops for adults.  I love being able to watch someone get excited about learning to paint or draw.

Has pastel always been your medium of choice? 
Lyn: I've worked with a lot of different mediums in the past.  I started out as a calligrapher, then did a little residential drafting, I created large, intricately-designed gourd vessels with pine-needle basketry for about 10 years, and then finally pulled my old pastel box out of the studio closet and discovered sanded paper...that was the beginning of it for me!

Why do you work outdoors?  
Lyn: Honestly, I work outdoors because I love it there.  There is nothing quite like standing next to my easel, hearing the birds and the wind in the trees or the water swooshing up against the shore.  It's peaceful, and I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be when I'm out there.

What location has been your favorite and why? 
Lyn: As for a favorite place, it's hard to say.  I recently took a trip to Zion National Park and fell in love with those enormous mountains, but every time I see a new place I tend to fall in love with it, so maybe the answer is wherever I happen to be!

What do you hope your students learn from you? 
Lyn: I hope my students learn to be excited about pastels and painting.  To me, it's the excitement that is the most important thing.  Whenever I teach, the very best thing for me is the look of excitement on a student's face when they've done something they thought they couldn't do, or when they love what they've painted.

Are you ever fully satisfied with your work? How do you know when you're finished? 
Lyn: Every so often I finish a painting and I'm totally happy with it.  But, more often than not, I continue to wonder if there is anything else I need to do to really make it special.  As a painter, I'm ridiculously critical of my own work. Sometimes I will go back and work on a painting after I think it's "finished". Other times I will stack it against the wall and hope that I feel differently about it a few months later.  I'm pretty particular about what I feel is good enough to go into a frame.

Knowing when to finish a painting is tricky.  With every single painting, there is a time that I realize I've begun to work more slowly and deliberately.  The marks aren't as spontaneous anymore and I realize I'm starting to evaluate every stroke.  I've learned to pay attention at this point.  When I start to slow down, I know that I'm quickly coming to the point where one more mark could disturb the integrity of the whole painting.  So, I try to stop before I make that one final mark.   

Thank you so much for this peek into the mind of an artist.

Note: In comparing the watercolor under-painting (done in complementary colors) with the finished painting, notice that Lyn allows the under-painting to show, not fully covering it. This makes the colors sparkle next to one another.
Using watercolors for the under-painting simplifies the process and dries almost immediately, so the pastel layer can be added.