Yosemite backcountry sketchbook 2017

Once again, this year I had the opportunity to go to Yosemite National Park in July for twelve days (see here for my 2016 trip stories and sketches). Four nights, five days of wilderness backpacking followed by seven days six nights of volunteering for Yosemite Conservancy. Below are the images from my backpacking trip.

I used a small, handmade sketchbook using landscape shaped scraps of watercolor paper, painted cardboard box covers, and nylon yarn as binding. My tools were a Pigma Micron 01 pen, a Pigma Sensei 06 pen, Aquash large and medium size water brushes, and my own mini palettes of Daniel Smith watercolors (sixteen total colors). The last three pages I finished coloring when I got to Yosemite Valley on the afternoon of Day Five. The rest I completed on site, in the backcountry. All except the rout map were painted from memory or en plein air, not from photographs.

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I also returned to an old favorite format: 6-inch by 6-inch squares, which I brought on my 2014 trip to Yosemite while I was completing work for the 50|50 show, a 50-day process of creating fifty works, all measuring six inches by six inches. I love the small square format, and Fluid Watercolor paper from Global Art Materials, Inc., comes in a great portable block that fits in my front pack in the backcountry. I love the Fluid “Easy Block” because it’s easy to remove finished paintings in the field (a key feature for backcountry sketching). Also, the paper is acid-free and archival, meaning the finished pieces are ready to be mounted or framed.

Stay tuned for images from my Yosemite Valley week…to be posted after I get back from Gettysburg!

Thoughts on the power of our stories


If you’ve followed me on Instagram (@drlisachu), you’ve seen pages from my daily illustrated journal practice called “Before 10am”, which I’ve kept since July 2016…that’s over 150 consecutive days so far! I have kept a written journal for many years of my life, but only recently, in 2013, did I start playing with blank pages of a sketchbook, permitting not only words and sentences to appear on the page, but also colors, lines, shapes, scribbles, collage, and other experimental images. This liberating practice has led me and followed me through the daily routine of home life, to wilderness adventures in several national parks, and everything in between. This one new habit has changed my life by deepening my observations of the world around me, and slowing me down each day to reflect on what I have experienced. It has also given me an object to share with others, and a way of connecting with people around the world via social media.

I just returned from a road trip to Death Valley National Park, where I celebrated my birthday. While there, I learned that “Timbisha” is the Shoshone name for their home (which we call “Death Valley”). The word “Timbisha” refers to the sacred red color of the rocks in the area, and symbolizes the future, or the way forward. As Park Ranger Alexandra, a geographer who led a brief program in one of the colorful canyons in Death Valley, shared various theories on the formation of the canyons, she also said that many of the Shoshone stories of this place are stories she is not allowed to tell. Continue reading

Sneak preview of Gettysburg journal pages!

I am BACK from my trip to Gettysburg! I added on a week in Richmond, Virginia, visiting three museums of the Confederacy, Appomattox National Park, and Monticello.

I made a LOT of artwork, and continued my “Before 10am” illustrated journal series every day (which you can always see on Instagram!).

I am busily pulling together all the artwork, scanning, setting up an exhibition and talk schedule, first in Half Moon Bay in November.

In the meantime, here are some previews of my favorite journal pages from the month:

I’m going to Gettysburg!

Before 10 am - 8.30.16

Today, before 10am.

Last day at home for awhile. Took a longer than usual walk on the beach…with sand dollars and terns and oceans of open sand, washed clean from last night’s tide. Enjoyed a cup of tea and some toast while I looked at more photos of artifacts and stories from Gettysburg. [Note: I am still not packing for my trip, which is mildly concerning.]

Yes, I am headed to Gettysburg National Park TOMORROW. I was twice a finalist for the National Parks Arts Foundation artist residency, so I decided to create my own. I found a cute little lower-level apartment for rent from a kiwi farmer and her husband. When she heard I am an artist and saw my work, she began sending me all kinds of resources on local artists, and offered to introduce me to many of her contacts who are involved in arts patronage in Gettysburg. Patronage starts with these small acts of kindness, nurturing connections by going above and beyond the transaction.

I will be setting up a Patreon page to invite you to contemplate becoming a patron of my art. Right now, my contributions to the world remain largely outside the formal economy. My most deeply interesting and gratifying work has happened by showing up and saying “Yes”, trusting in what will come from my enthusiasm, care, and attention.

Patreon is crowd-sourced arts patronage. It’s like a virtual tip jar, allowing you to “high five”, encourage, and cheer me on in my work, as I make and share with you what I discover. It’s a form of arts patronage that is unique to the internet age. I hope you’ll join me in this exciting venture. Stay tuned for a url where you can get involved!

P.S. This “Today, before 10am” project started back in July on Instagram, where every day I have created a one-page illustrated journal of something I noticed or experienced that day before 10am. I continued it in Yosemite and I will continue it at Gettysburg in expanded form!