Tag: books

Preparing for Inktober: thoughts on some pen and ink instructional books

pen and ink mountain sketch

Explorers’ Sketchbooks

Although I have taken some memorable trips in the past, I am more of a homebody and prefer the comfort of my familiar environment. I do love to read travelogues and travel vicariously through other people’s photos though.

I recently found the book Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure by husband and wife Huw Lewis-Jones and Kari Hebert. It is a thick book (320 pages) and features photos of artists and sketchbook spreads from 70 different explorers’ sketchbooks, logs, and nature journals.

I haven’t had a chance to read all of the profiles yet, but I’ve been enjoying myself by reading one or two essays at a time in spare moments. I really like how there is a mix or photographs showing the book in its entirety (tattered pages, crumbling spine, etc.) as well as details of individual drawings and photos/drawings of the artists themselves. Another thing I appreciate is that the featured sketchbooks are from modern day explorers as well as those from the more distant past. Although many of the sketchbook pages shown are beautifully illustrated, there are also some utilitarian pages included with lists of figures, diagrams and penciled in comments.

I think my favorite sketchbook so far is from Edward Norton. He had some majestic mountain landscapes featured, as well as closeup studies of plants. His quote below reminds me of something that a modern day plein air sketcher would say.

“I sketched feverishly, my water freezing as fast as I put it on the paper, as also my fingers.” -Edward Norton (1884-1954)

Clearly this book was on my mind when I came across some of my late great uncle’s photographs while organizing through my reference photos on the computer recently. I couldn’t resist making an ink and watercolor interpretation of this mountain scene as if I were on location. Unfortunately, my uncle didn’t label or organize any of his photos so it is a mystery as to where he was when he took the photo.

If you can recognize this scene, or can suggest any similar books featuring the inside of sketchbooks, please leave me a comment below.

pen and ink mountain sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Exploring (4/6/2018). Noodler’s Luxury Blue and Lexington Gray ink and watercolor wash in large moleskine.
Mini Pen and Ink Book by Carolyn A Pappas

Mini Pen and Ink Picture Book

Mini Pen and Ink Book by Carolyn A Pappas
©2015 Carolyn A Pappas, Mini Pen & Ink Picture Book. Mini book made with manila tag and white paper, 2 3⁄8″ square (closed size).
Sometimes I get little projects in my head that stay there for years and never manage to get out into the real world. This year I have actually finished some of my small projects, like this mini book made with a manila tag. It is filled with small nature vignettes from around my neighborhood. There are a lot of interesting things going on outside right now – things usually look more interesting to me when they are in a state of decay.

I'll Run Till the Sun Goes Down

I’ll Run Till the Sun Goes Down

I'll Run Till the Sun Goes DownThis past weekend I’ve been reading this book nonstop (instead of studying microbiology). I have been online friends with David Sandum for a few years now, but I really feel like I know him so much better after reading his new memoir about overcoming depression and anxiety through art. I pre-ordered it months ago and it showed up in my mailbox last week and I was so excited.

Every chapter starts off with an excerpt from David’s journal from that particular time in his life. I love that the chapters are short and sweet, making the book easy to pick up and put down. Also, David tells his story in such an easy, conversational way that it really feels like you are sitting down and having a little chat.

I could really relate to David’s struggle with finding traditional corporate jobs unmanageable, and struggling with the pressure of supporting a family when he couldn’t seem to “get his act together.” After years of battling crippling depression and anxiety, David finally found his place in the world when he discovered art and it gave him an outlet and a sense of purpose. Unlike so many biographies of artists which can have sad endings, I really found it inspiring to know that today David is a successful, full time artist with a loving family.

The biggest takeaways I had after reading this book are the value of maintaining strong friendships and the importance of sheer determination when facing obstacles. I really found it inspiring to see someone with so many struggles make something of his life. Also, I found it interesting to read about Scandinavia in a realistic way (i.e., not being portrayed as some kind of utopia).

Licorice plant drawing by Carolyn A Pappas

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Licorice plant drawing by Carolyn A Pappas
©2015 Carolyn A Pappas, Licorice Plant. Ink in 7×10 inch Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series sketchbook.
I read this book a few months back and it has really stuck with me, which is rare for a nonfiction book. I am someone who has struggled for years with what Marie Kondo calls “rebound.” My relationship with organization is similar to what some people deal with when yo-yo dieting. I go on a massive cleaning spree and have things under control for about one week, but things quickly fall apart again. Over the past four years or so I have really improved, due to drastically reducing my living space and possessions accordingly. Even still, I continue to struggle, as I have not been able to stick to a long term solution. When my summer term is over, I am going to do a purge and fully implement her method. I will report back on my findings.

This is one of my favorite passages of the book:

If you have read this far, you have probably noticed that in my method your feelings are the standard for decision making. Many people may be puzzled by such vague criteria as “things that give you a thrill of pleasure” or “click point.” The majority of methods give clearly defined numerical goals, such as “Discard anything you haven’t used for two years,” “Seven jackets and ten blouses is the perfect amount,” “Get rid of one thing every time you buy something new.” But I believe this is one reason these methods result in rebound.


Even if these methods temporarily result in a tidy space, automatically following criteria proposed by others and based on their “know-how” will have no lasting effect – unless their criteria happens to match your own standards of what feels right. Only you can know what kind of environment makes you feel happy. The act of picking up and choosing objects is extremely personal. To avoid rebound, you need to create your own tidying method with your own standards. This is precisely why it is so important to identify how you feel about each item you own.


Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, pg 125-126.