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SKETCHBOOK: a creative tool and a way of life that celebrates design and drawing as vital ways to see and value culture, to discover ideas, and to envision a better world.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Jim's Drawing Resurfaces in National Geographic Film

This powerful film is only 8 minutes long.  Bamberger's narration using Jim's drawing is at 4:20.

This is one of the most inspiring short films you'll see, telling the story of rebirth of Texas Hill Country wasteland into verdant grasslands and springs. I worked with and was inspired by Texas rancher and renowned conservationist David Bamberger in the early 1990s, working as a landscape architect and land planning consultant for JJR/inc. The team included non-profit education innovator Julia Jarrell, my JJR partner Dale Sass, and architecture critic David Dillon. By that time many of Bamberger's ideas had already transformed his 5,500-acre Selah ranch into a model for land conservation. At 4:20 of this short film, David uses one of the many drawings I created during our extended conversations to illustrate his foundational idea for using environmental processes to bring the land back to life. When I was shown this film in 2020, I hadn't seen that drawing in 25 years. I'm beyond delighted that it continues to inform and inspire.

Here's the link:

Selah: Stone to Water. A National Geographic Film

Bamberger explains how his childhood experiences and values shaped the philosophies that led to the restoration of Selah.

Screen shot of Bamberger using Jim's drawing--now used as an interpretive exhibit at the ranch--to explain how his conservation strategies work with environmental processes to bring the land back to life.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sketchbook Makes the Highlight Reel!

My sketchbook and I made the "highlights reel" from the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in Dyess, Arkansas a few weeks ago.  I'm still in awe of what a special, moving weekend it was.  See my October 21 post for a full report.  In the meantime, enjoy the video, produced by Arkansas State University.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Wear Jim's Sketches from Around the World

  This on-location sketch captures one of my favorite spots in Tuscany, and now it’s jumped from my sketchbook onto some great wearables and collectibles.  Studio 56 is carrying a great collection of t-shirts, high quality prints, zipper pouches, coffee mugs and more with some of my favorite sketches, as well as those from some of my wildly talented travel artist friends.  The holidays are coming up!  Follow the link to start exploring...


Monday, October 21, 2019

Art and Soul: The Johnny Cash Heritage Festival

My painting of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, commissioned by Rosanne Cash and her siblings for Dr. Ruth Hawkins.

Dyess, Arkansas.
It was, indeed, a glorious weekend, part academic symposium, part concert festival, part therapy group, part church service, part family reunion.  And somehow, through a circle of relationships Patti and I have been lucky enough to connect with over several years, it was an opportunity to share a gift in a deeply meaningful way.

A few months ago, I received an email from Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, asking if I’d consider a commission to create a painting of her father Johnny Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas—a New Deal resettlement colony where her dad was raised. 

Dr. Ruth Hawkins
The house and surrounding land had recently been restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Sites, and now served as a tribute to the family’s musical legacy and a living heritage laboratory, largely through the long and persistent efforts of Dr. Ruth Hawkins, Director of the Heritage Sites Program at Arkansas State University.   Ruth is also a special friend of ours,  a Hemingway scholar and author who Patti and I had traveled to Cuba with in 2014. The painting was to be a secret retirement gift for Ruth from Rosanne Cash and her siblings, and would be presented to her at the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in Dyess in the fall.

A few weeks later, the painting was completed and sent to Rosanne’s manager, and Patti and I were invited to attend the presentation at the festival as special guests. At the festival, accompanied by friends and serious music fans Keith and Leta Jones of Little Rock, we heard fascinating and sometimes deeply moving presentations by cultural researchers, artists and filmmakers, all while keeping a very low profile so as not to ruin Ruth’s surprise.  Early on day one, I met Rosanne Cash face-to-face for the first time:

RC, looking incredulous: "I thought you were a kid!"
JR: "Excuse me?"
RC: "From your emails--I thought you were a kid!"
JR: "Rosanne, we're the same age."
RC: "Yes, I can see that..."
Patti: "Oh no, Rosanne, you look much better."

The 5-hour concert on Saturday, headlining Rosanne and Marty Stuart, was the climax of the festival, held in the cotton field next to the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home.  The mood was more like a family reunion than a festival concert--we all felt a deep sense of connection to the place and to each other.  After words and presentations by state and university dignitaries, Rosanne stood alone at the mic and called Ruth to the stage.  

Completely surprised, Ruth was momentarily speechless amid the applause as Rosanne praised her many years work in making the Boyhood Home and the Festival what they are today.  Then Rosanne called me to the stage to present Dr. Hawkins with the painting as the Cash family’s token of gratitude to her—another surprise.  It was a very beautiful, very emotional moment that I’ll never forget as Ruth took in the love from her friends and the crowd. 
JR, Dr. Ruth Carter and Rosanne Cash.

The ensuing 5 hours of joyful music, which included performances by multiple generations of the Cash family, sent hearts and spirits soaring.  For the final song, all the extended Cash family joined Rosanne and Marty Stuart on stage.  Aunt Joanne Cash Yates, Johnny’s sister, sang the opening line and verse of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” then the ensemble joined in.  I’ve never witnessed a more perfect tribute to family, legacy, connection to the land and common roots.

You can see a video of Rosanne's presentation of the painting here.

My deepest thanks to Rosanne Cash, Dr. Ruth Hawkins, Dr. Adam Long, Paula Miles and to Patti. Let’s do it again...

My on-location sketch of Rosanne Cash and her band on stage in a former cotton field, with her father's boyhood home at right.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Jim's New Video Class!

Hi everyone!  I’m very happy and excited to let you know that my first new video class in 4 years will go live this Monday, September 30!  It’s on the Skillshare.com platform, and it’s called “Urban Sketching Essentials: Drawing People and Crowds Made Simple.”  It’s the first in an “Urban Sketching Essentials” series I’ll be rolling out over the next few months.  The idea is to video record the workshop lessons I’ve developed over the last few years, and to make them widely available to former workshop participants, potential workshop attendees, and to those who—for any number of reasons—can’t travel to a workshop. 

I’m wildly enthusiastic about this project, in part because Skillshare’s values align very well with mine.  They are a very reasonable subscription service, making these classes very affordable. They are a tribe of creatives, helping other creatives share their knowledge and expertise with the world.  The class lengths are designed for busy people, so that you can work through a lesson any time you have a few minutes.  And they have been tremendously helpful in encouraging and helping me through the process of learning to shoot and edit my own high quality videos, giving me another tool for teaching and creative expression.

This is a series of classes for all skill levels, veterans to beginners. It’s intended to diffuse any fears you may have about sketching, making it less intimidating, more accessible and more fun!

You can see the class introduction video (2 minutes) on YouTube here. Then head over to my Skillshare page and hit “Follow.”  You’ll be notified when the class goes live on Monday. If you're not already a member of Skillshare, your first two months are free while you check it out.
Thanks to you all!  I'm truly grateful for your support and encouragement. And a special shout out to my buddy Peggy Dean for her coaching and wisdom through this process. I hope to be seeing you on Skillshare soon!

Fantastic workshop day in San Gimignano, Italy!

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Video Tribute to our 2019 Tuscany Workshop

Click here for Dawid Lenart's beautiful video tribute to our 2019 workshop with Follow Your Senses in Tuscany--amazing landscapes, towns, food, culture, and capturing it all in lively travel sketches with our own styles and points of view!   Several of our travelers told us this was not just the best workshop experience they'd had, but the best travel experience, period.  I'd have to agree.  Karolina and Dawid Lenart have perfected a mix of offerings that mesh perfectly with my relaxed travel sketching curriculum; the result is transformative for mind, body and creative spirit.    Our 2020 Tuscany workshop is full, but our 2020 workshop in Provence still has a couple of spots open.  And we'll be announcing the 2021 dates for Tuscany and France in the coming weeks.  We'd love to have you join us.

Friday, August 9, 2019


Please check out this rare workshop opportunity in the U.S. for July 2020! The Madeline Island School of the Arts in Wisconsin is offering a 5-day Urban Sketching Summer Retreat that will feature Shari Blaukopf, Paul Heaston, Uma Kelkar and myself as faculty. Each participant will spend a full day with each instructor, all on a beautiful island setting, making this a very unique offering. Space is limited, please check it out and join us! Click here for details and registration!