Observing Nature: Pat Beaubien at the MCBA Visual Journal Collective

March 28, 2012

See the complete post for details and more images of Pat Beaubien’s work (she doesn’t have a website).


Above: St. Paul artist Pat Beaubien discusses her nature/travel journals at the March 2012 MCBA Visual Journal Collective. Here she shows a watercolor of a meadow near Grand Marais, MN where she rents a cabin as frequently as possible.

First, before we go any further, Pat Beaubien doesn't currently have a website so what I was able to snap photos of is what you'll be able to see until she develops a website. You might encourage Pat to do that, she's tired of hearing me say it. If you would like to contact Pat with questions about her artwork you can reach her at

On March 19, St. Paul artist Pat Beaubien came to the MCBA Visual Journal Collective to show her nature/travel journals to the members.

Pat is a watercolor artist who also uses pens and pencils of different sorts, "Give me one and I'll try it out," she said laughing, when someone asked if she ever used watersoluble colored pencils. In her hands ordinary tools are given a new life and direction.

PatKitBooks3925Left: a stack of Pat's journals ready for discussion, along with her small leather pencil case which holds all of her supplies—several sizes of Niji Waterbrushes (including a flat), a Staedtler Pigment Liner, a Pentel Pocket Brush pen, and her mini palette filled with Daniel Smith Watercolors.

Pat's idea of travel is to go to one destination and spend 2 or three weeks there sketching—not moving about trying to see a travel guide's highlight points. It is more satisfying to get to know one place, and Pat does this through her painting. 

Until her recent retirement Pat taught art to elementary school children. She would use her vacations to travel and paint. She would sell her paintings, made on site, to fund her trips. (When you view the stunning beauty of Pat's work you can understand how this was possible.)

During the school year, however her painting side was dormant. Teaching took her focus and energy. "Then in 2007 I took Roz's nature journaling class in Grand Marais," said Pat, "and took to heart her comment about doing a little sketching and painting everyday. It's amazing how quickly you can improve when you work everyday."

(Note: Pat was already more "improved" than most artists I see when I had her in class. I'm glad I had an effect on her practice.)

PatAsters3971Left: Cone flowers and other blooms in a Grand Marais garden, share space with a local artist's garden sculpture. Grand Marais may have more artists per capita than any other town in the U.S. There are things to look at and purchase everywhere. This watercolor sketch is in one of her 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia journals.

Pat still uses the same mini kid's palette she got in class (refilled many times), Niji waterbrushes (also replaced over time), and Staedtler Pigment Liners. She'll experiment with new pens as people suggest them and she has become quite fond of the Pentel Pocket Brush pen. 

The palette contains the following Daniel Smith watercolors: Quin Gold, Azo Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Quin Pink. Napth. Maroon, Cobalt Teal, Phthalo. Turquoise, Indanthrone Blue, and Zinc White. The set originally contained Buff Titanium but Pat says she hasn't replaced that. Also she is thinking about replacing the Cobalt Teal to get a different range in her mixes.

Pat will sometimes do a light pencil sketch before moving to watercolor. Other times Pat will sketch directly with pen and then apply watercolor. Her method, she explained, is just what happens when she is seated and ready to paint.

While she initially continued making books of the type she learned to make in Grand Marais (8 x 10 inch sewn-on the spine journals), the urge to just paint was great, so she moved on to the Fabriano Venezia 9 x 12 inch journals. (Pat loves the large page size in both these books, and you only have to look at the results to see that's a great size for her work.)

PatBirch3967Left: Pat sketches lakeside in the North Woods. Often one of her artist friends Nanette Lee will join her—you can see Nan in the bottom left of the image.

As she spends more time up north exploring, revisiting painting sites she has previously discovered, Pat has considered returning to flat paintings but she was unsure how to store them. The Collective threw out a variety of portfolio options she could use to house the final paintings in "journal" form.

After her presentation and a round of questions the 25 attendees gathered around the table to get a personal look through Pat's journals, and continue the conversation. We all left inspired and ready to jump back into our own journals after our trip into nature with Pat.

Below: A view of a stone bridge on Lake Superior, using Daniel Smith Watercolors.


If you would like to know a little bit more about Grand Marais and some of the artists living and visiting there you can check out this short film on the yearly "Plein Air Brush Off." Tom Winterstein supplied this link after the topic came up in discussion. 

UPDATE 4.13.12: Want to see more photos of Pat's work and the event? Go to Briana Goetzen's blog post at Courageously Creating. (Thank you Briana for capturing so much with your camera.)

  1. Reply

    Wow. Great pages. Very inspiring.

    • Louise
    • March 28, 2012

    What a treat to begin my day with this brief glimpse into Pat’s nature journals. Thank you, Roz, for such a thorough introdution to Pat and her work. As Melly said, Wow! Do you think you could talk Pat into posting a Flicker slide show? It’s encouraging and uplifting to know there are people like Pat out there doing work like this. The world needs to see more of it.

    • Miss T
    • March 28, 2012

    Beautiful work! So nice of Pat to share it.

    The video is also terrific, well worth watching. Thanks for the link!

  2. Reply

    Melly, Louise, and Miss T, I’m glad that you all enjoyed this very brief glimpse into Pat’s journals. Believe me Louise, this is not thorough, there is so much that is fascinating, whether she is jus working in pen, brush pen, or with color. She has a particular affinity with birch trees and there are many, many stunning paintings of them in her journals. I’d be thrilled to get one on my wall to remind me of the lovely times I’ve spent up north.

    And as someone who loves to paint rocks myself I can tell you Pat also totally understands rocks! But she moved every time I was shooting photos of those.

    I will keep after Pat to get a website, but most important (and she knows she has me there) is that she keeps painting.

    She knows that I want to video tape her sketching some day. That is also great fun to see.

    I remember being at the zoo for some small sketch out thing a couple years back and Pat came along. Everyone broke up into small groups or went off singly. I of course went off to sketch Puffins, and had an hour of sketching Puffin bits and pieces all fun for me, so I was quite happy. But it was dazzling then to walk by Pat, seated at an outdoor table near the seal moat and see that she had an entire panoramic scene underway.

    I love seeing the big picture that many artists choose to capture. Pat does this so well.

  3. Reply

    I loved this post, Roz. I sure hope Pat does get a website or blog up and running. Glimpses of her journals are amazing!

    • April 2, 2012

    Beautiful pages. So, Pat mixes all her greens, with the mentioned palette?

  4. Reply

    You bet Liz. That’s what she carries. What I always enjoy is how the same palette can be used so completely differently by different artists.

  5. Reply

    Hey Roz, could I ask why you and the students you teach use Quinacridone pink instead of rose? Does it offer any advantages? And have you ever had a problem with mold growing inside water brushes?

  6. Reply

    Michelle, I use quin pink because of the mixes it provides with my other pigment choices on my limited palette. It’s just a tad brighter and crisper and cooler than quin rose to my eye and it makes the mixes I want and need work best. Every choice on the palette should support the other pigments selected and this is even more important when you’ve got a limited palette. That’s the advantage, it supports the other pigment choices here.

    If you already use Quin Rose in your palette I suggest you get Quin Pink and test it with the rest of your palette, then make the same tests with Quin Rose and look at the results side by side. Which will take you where you want to go?

    My students in the Nature journaling class mentioned above were given a small palette to use for the week (if they so chose; some had other colors they wanted to work with) so that we could also discuss some color theory, but mostly because I wanted them to have a palette that I knew would be successful for what they were going to have for subject matter up in Grand Marais. (I want the students to be successful.)

    When I teach a class dedicated to color theory my color theory students start with a more traditional palette to do their testing and discovery. As we move through the class (typically 6 weeks, but I have also done 4-day workshops) they are encouraged to change the palette to suit their needs and likes. What happens then is that in color theory classes students end up with different customized palettes that aren’t the traditional one we all started with and which aren’t my palette (which they are exposed to) but are another “animal” altogether which suits them. They leave class understanding how to evolve their palette and make choices in color that support their art. That’s my goal for all my students, not to have them use what I use, but to understand what I use, what they use, and evolve what they need to be using.

    Pat was already a highly accomplished artist when she took my Grand Marais class. She elected to use the palette I provided because like most confident artists she already knew what she knew, and for the week she was with me she wanted to use what I suggested so she could ask me questions about it and see what it was like. She made the most incredible art. And for the most part she liked the palette.

    Like me Pat really likes purples and lavenders and this palette lends itself to that. She could make fabulous art with a 3-primary set, or any odd random selection of pigments.

    As for mold growing inside waterbrushes, yes I’ve had that happen. If you are an SBS student you’ll see me discuss this in my final demo video. If you aren’t—this has only happened when I have kept the brushes closed over a couple week period of time. I recommend that each day after use (whether in the studio or after a day travel journaling) you dissemble the brush pen by taking off the cap and unscrewing the top. You now have 3 pieces: cap, brush tip section, water barrel. Set them horizontally on a table or shelf until you use them the next day (or if less frequently, whenever). In this way the parts all breathe and the cap and the bristles dry out. (Leave the black “cap” on the barrel, it won’t leak if left sitting horizontally with no pressure on the barrel.)

    If I do that I never have any “science projects” growing in my waterbrush pens.

    I use tap water. At home the tap water is filtered because of our tap system, but when I’m out and about traveling it’s whatever water comes out of the tap. Hope that helps.

    Have fun with your palette explorations.

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