Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Rhodia Fan Profile: Earnest Ward


RD: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

EW: I’m an artist, naturalist, traveler, storyteller, and calligrapher. I describe myself as “an inveterate explorer and unrepentant adventurer.” I was born into a family of globe-trotting “gypsies” and, by the time I graduated from high school I had already lived in England (twice), Germany, and Taiwan (and Kansas, Virginia, Arizona, and California).

My dad believed that travel, and the firsthand experience of other places and interaction with other cultures was both the best gift and the best education he could offer his children. Family holidays were spent camping across Europe and Asia, alternating between great cultural treasures and breathtaking natural wonders. And, when my dad returned from business trips he would captivate my siblings and me with tales of Alaska, Japan, Turkey, Pakistan and other exotic locales that matched those of John Muir, Jack London, Lewis and Clark, or even Marco Polo.

I hold a BFA from California College of Arts & Crafts, and an MFA from The University of Texas at San Antonio. I taught for 20 years at the secondary and college/university levels before becoming a full-time artist and writer. More recently, I spent 2 months “slow traveling” with my family across Europe, 10 weeks as a wilderness artist-in-residence with the National Park Service in Stehekin, WA (“50 miles from the nearest grocery store”), 12 months observing and recording the seasonal life-cycles of flora and fauna on a stretch of the Trinity River that runs through our back yard, and am now preparing to spend 4 weeks as artist-in-residence at Zion National Park in southern Utah.

When I’m not enjoying one of my travel adventures with my family I split my time between producing my art (large and small), and sharing my passion for place-based sketching and journaling with educators and the general public through exhibitions, workshops, and my personal website ( In 2013 I collaborated with author Danny Gregory on the creation of the book An Illustrated Journey, and a video conversation entitled Earnest Ward: An Illustrated Journey. I also write my own weekly series of blog articles on art, nature and travel adventure ( And in 2014 I published four media-rich, interactive ebooks: The Clear Fork (an illustrated journal of the year of discovery I spent studying the magic of nature on the Clear Fork of the Trinity River with my two children); Inspiritus ( a calligraphic collection of the inspirational quotations that begun each of my journals — each illustrated with a pen & ink portrait of the quotation’s “author”); Drawn to Adventure (Ireland) (the first of a four-volume series on slow travel in Europe); and The North Cascades: A Tale of Two Seasons (Spring) (about the first of two wilderness adventures in the mountains of northern Washington state).

field sketching on G. Lalo Verge de France paper
field sketching on G. Lalo Verge de France paper

RD: How and when did you first discover Rhodia products?

EW: I discovered the Rhodia and Clairefontaine product lines just after I completed my Clear Fork project. I had used a journal for that project that was very popular but, as it turned out, had real issues with feathering and bleed-through. (In fact, I actually had to paste pairs of pages together to hide the bleed-through!)

Before I began my next travel/adventure journal I had to find a paper that was pen (preferably fountain pen) friendly, that could handle light watercolor washes, and that was light enough to pack every day in my field bag. Rhodia/Clairefontaine papers met my needs perfectly.

field journal page

Then around 2012 or 2013 I was introduced to two papers I didn’t even know I was looking for — Bloc Rhodia graph paper and Clairefontaine Life.unplugged lined paper — by Karen Doherty. Since I was not using lined or graph papers at all at that time it took some creative thinking to determine how these could benefit my work. Now, however, they are an essential part of my “everyday carry.”

RD: Which are your favorite Rhodia products?

EW: Rhodia graph paper and the pocket-sized Life. unplugged notebook are always on hand. My Clairefontaine 9540C Douceur de l’ecriture is always in my everyday carry kit bag. A Rhodiarama notebook is handy for those times when I require something even more robust for field work. And I always carry a few 3 1/2” x 5 1/4” G. Lalo Verge de France cards in my kit.

field sketches (watercolor over pen & ink) on Verge de France laid paper mushroom
field sketches (watercolor over pen & ink) on Verge de France laid paper

field sketches (watercolor over pen & ink) on Verge de France laid paper pepper

RD: Do you use them in any way that is specific to your job?

EW: Definitely. When I’m plein air painting I only have an hour and a half to two hours to capture the landscape before the lights and shadows shift too much. I’ve learned to speed up the painting process (and to observe my subject more accurately) by doing a thumbnail sketch of the primary shapes and tonal patterns on Rhodia graph paper before beginning the painting process.

comp study on Rhodia graph paper

My Life.unplugged notebook fits perfectly in a pants cargo pocket and is ideal for recording notes about subjects I intend to paint, film or photograph later (usually when the lighting is more dramatic) and for recording my place-based thoughts and experiences “in the moment.”

The Clairefontaine Douceur de l’ecriture is ideal for those times when I want to create detailed images of landscapes, plants, and insect specimens on location. The paper is robust enough for pen & ink and will easily handle light watercolor washes but is far lighter than a traditional watercolor block.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar field notes on Clairefontaine paper

And the G. Lalo paper, with its laid surface texture and deckled edges, is perfect for creating visual gems on a personal (i.e., hand-held) scale.

RD: Does using Rhodia products in any way make your job easier?

EW: My line of work frequently takes me away from home and studio, sometimes into wilderness areas that are off the internet, miles from the nearest road, and days from the nearest stationary or art supply store. Under these conditions quality and reliability not only make my job easier; they are essential to getting the job done. Rhodia/Clairefontaine provides tools that I can count on every time.

A6 pad in bag

RD: Pencil, pen, or other? Favorites?

EW: My favorite media when working on paper are pencils (graphite and color), pens (micron and fountain), and watercolor (oh, and my favorite fountain pen ink — J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche.)

A6 pad

RD: Where do you regularly purchase Rhodia products?

EW: The Goulet Pen Company (great service, wonderful mom & pop company), Dick Blick, Amazon

RD: Is there any way we could improve on your favorite product?

EW: I would like to see Rhodia graph paper pads and notebooks offered with a “sans-perforation” option for those of us who wish to keep our pages permanently bound.

I would love to see Rhodia offer a notebook bound in a Japanese-style accordion structure. The only widely available structure of this type currently available (that I know of) uses a paper with uneven/unreliable sizing: sometimes repelling media and sometimes suffering from both ink feathering and bleed-through.

I would like to see the Rhodiarama line offered with a white paper option (in addition to the ivory).

I would be delighted to see a different adhesive used in the binding of the Clairefontaine 9540C Douceur de l’ecriture. In the warm Southwest the adhesive liquifies when the spine is cradled in the hand for extended periods of time (half an hour or more) and then re-hardens when the notebook is set down. Over time this might prove problematic as the binding gradually repeatedly slips, shifts position, or releases altogether.

Finally, I think a hardbound/softbound notebook line filled with G. Lalo laid paper (with deckled edges) in both portrait and landscape formats might make a beautiful addition to the Exaclair product lines.

Many thanks to Earnest for today’s Fan Profile. If you would like to be featured in a Rhodia Drive Fan Profile, please email

One thought on “Rhodia Fan Profile: Earnest Ward

  1. Very interesting feed back regarding glue, perforation, and especially that G. Lalo paper. I recently did a watercolor illustration on an envelop from them as a test, and it was a real surprise to see how it behaves well under water.

    Nice work as a naturalist, too.

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