Gone West

I’ve just returned from a week in the Pacific Northwest—land of big trees, mountains, skies, water, and wilderness. I had the privilege of teaching a four day watercolor sketching workshop with an enthusiastic and talented group of artists from Anacortes, Washington. I’ll share a few lessons from the workshop here soon…but first, let’s start where so many of my travels begin: with a map. It has been 30 years since my last trip to the Northwest, so this painting helped me to get a good sense of the lay of the land.

click to view larger

click to view larger

I had hoped to see some western bird species and was delighted that Anna’s hummingbirds were near daily visitors to the backyard where I stayed. I mainly saw the female, which is less colorful than the male, but no less interesting.


click to view larger


click to view larger

Before the workshop began, I took two days to explore and hike. I painted this octopus from a video in anticipation (i.e. wishful thinking) of seeing one in a west coast tide pool.  No luck; but I did see nearly a dozen egg yolk jellyfish, a fairly common west coast species, as well as other fascinating denizens of rocky tide pools in the Puget Sound.

30 Comments on “Gone West

  1. It looks so wonderful… and I’m a bit sad I didn’t know about it! I live just five or ten minutes from where you were, have wanted so much to take a class from you but not been able to travel to the East Coast!

    I know you are probably not wanting to seem pushy, but can you please mention your upcoming classes a little more often? I would so have loved to taken your class. If only I’d known! Maybe you will be back some day.

    Your work is stellar and the class looks amazing. I know everyone must have loved being in your workshop in Anacortes, as they do every time. What fun!

    • Sharyn– so sorry to miss you! The organizers wanted to advertise privately and the workshop filled quickly. I would have gone out of my way to meet you had I known! Any other time, I would have absolutely put the workshop on the blog.

    • Sharyn, We are the Anacortes Sketchers. Come and join us anytime. Look us up. We sketch on Mondays.
      Missy Walsh-Smith

    • Hi Sharyn. We are the Anacortes Sketchers. Look us up. We’d love to have you join us anytime. We sketch on Mondays.
      Missy Walsh-Smith

  2. I love personal travel maps! That is a wonderful octopus, too. I sounds like a great class.

  3. I really enjoy your sketches, I connect with them, the style, creativity. And so cool you came to the Northwest! Would have loved to attend! So appreciate your gift!

    • Thanks Brad. I thought of you when I saw the Seattle Space Needle (is that what it’s called?) …but I only passed through Seattle. Great to be back in the PNW.

      • Thank you! Yes, the Space Needle–I appreciate that, you were in some beautiful land up there near Anacortes. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but do I remember you using a Stillman & Birn journal? Zeta Series? Any thoughts, dislikes or likes? I’m trying one out for first time. Thank you much.

      • Yes- I use S&B – both Beta and Zeta. I find the Zeta trickier for watercolor, but great for ink. I used Beta for this map and for the workshop because I think the Zeta needs some getting used to. I’ve gotten good results with both…it just depends on preference and ink to watercolor ratio. I’m just trying the soft cover, so may do a review here in the coming weeks. Enjoy your beautiful part of the world.

  4. How great to wake up to your Anacortes sketches this morning:) I especially love the Egg Yoke Jelly with all those mixed greens and saved whites
    We feel so fortunate to have had you as our fearless and wonderfully talented teacher! I learned a ton! Can’t wait to see your next batch of sketches!

    • Hi Missy- thanks much, and again thanks for your hospitality. If you go back to Rosario be sure to look under the dock for a garden of anemones! I’ve still got to figure out how to paint those.

  5. How beautiful! I live in the Pacific Northwest – would have been happy to make the drive for your watercolor class. If you come back out this way, let me know 🙂

    • Will do! You live in a beautiful part of the world. But you have some challenging subjects to paint– water, skies, boats, soaring trees. You might connect with some of the sketching groups there– it seems like there are several active groups that meet regularly.

  6. I love all your paintings from our neck of the woods….and loved your class/workshop. Someday maybe you’ll return and try that ferry trip to the San Juan Islands. 💕😍. Your hummingbird is gorgeous….right next to your map. I’ve never tried a map, but will do so sometime! ( colors for hummer? I’m guessing Sap green, a yellow, burnt umber and ultramarine blue? The last two for a brown??? And I see a few nice touches of blue). I’m going out sketching today!! 🎨🎨🎨

  7. I loved the class/workshop we just shared with you. Journaling is new to me, and you shared so many fun ways to enjoy it! Your hummingbird with the map is gorgeous. I’ve never done a map before…and it seems fitting for journaling. (Also…your quiz…maybe sap green and a yellow along with burnt umber and Ultramarine blue??….for the browns in the hummer?? Tis soooo pretty!!…..if I win, do I get a free ticket back to Conneticut for a class?? Ha Ha Ha!)
    Thx again, Jean…so very much!

    • Hi Kathy- Congratulations on a fine eye for color mixing; “the yellow” is quin gold. So glad you enjoyed the workshop and you are welcome in CT anytime (though you would have had to get “quin gold” specifically for the free ticket). Happy painting in the beautiful PNW!

  8. Jeanmackayart: I received your email inviting me to join you for a sketch outing while you were spending time in Anacortes. I did not recognize your email until I returned home from a two week trailer trail in Idaho. I would not have been able to sketch with you due to being in Idaho during that time.

    I am trilled that you had invited me to join you plus would have if I had been at home on Whidbey. There are several lovely areas and objects to sketch and photograph; I hope you were able to find several spots for your sketching. I am looking forward to your posts with sketches of your visit in Anacortes. It’s a lovely town where my husband and I visit at least once a month to enjoy some hiking and eating lunch at the Gere Deli in town.

    Lois Mathews Sketching on Whidbey Island.


    • Hi Lois- Sorry we didn’t connect– it would have been fun to meet you and perhaps explore places you especially like. I explored Deception Pass and Rosario Beach, as well as Anacortes. Enjoyed lunch at Gere Deli. Perhaps I’ll be back someday. Best regards, J

      • Deception Pass is breath taking and great for photos plus very busy with visitors viewing from the bridge. Let me know when you are visiting PNW in the future. Have a great painting day.

  9. I had the opportunity to see one at the Seattle aquarium. Magnificent creatures! Would love to take one of your workshops in the future. Keep us posted. I love in N Michigan

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