"How I Journal" with Kara Valentino Ffield

"How I Journal" with Kara Valentino Ffield

Journaling is not always about writing. Many of our journals are the perfect blank slate for artists to release their creativity. The Big Idea Album is one of our bestselling items that has a wide variety of uses, including painting and sketching.

Meet Kara Valentino Ffield, an adventurous artist living in Florida who appreciates the craftsmanship of our Big Idea Album. Nature is the greatest inspiration in her “wondrous paintings of curious adventures.” Kara’s way of life is very in line with Rustico’s purpose to step outside and reach within; to explore and create.


Tell us a bit about yourself. Family, hometown, hobbies, etc.

San Diego, California is listed on my birth certificate, but I don't really have an official hometown. I grew up in a military family which meant that every few years we were zigging here or zagging there. I was lucky enough to be able to see a lot of the U.S. before I had even graduated high school. I think all of the moving as a kid made me an antsy human; I have to travel to keep myself sane. Now, as an adult, I live with my husband, Kenny Brown, in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida.

When I'm not off exploring, in my home studio, or tending to our "mini ranch," I like to spend my time cooking, gardening, and reading. I'm outside as much as I can be, often looking for new inspiration and observing the small changes that take place every day in nature.


Where does the name Ffield come from? Is it pronounced like “field”?

As far as I know, "Ffield" is derived from the Old English spelling of "Field," which is how it is pronounced. In Old English, there was no capitalization, so to emphasize a word's importance the first letters were repeated. I wish I knew more about the real history behind its origin. For now, all I know is that auto-correct has a "field day" with it.


On your Instagram, it looks like you have lots of pets. How many do you have? Is there room for more? :)

Luckily, Kenny loves animals just as much as I do. We feed each other's habit. As of right now, we currently have a total of 29 animals on our five acres. The breakdown is eight cats, three dogs, two miniature donkeys, two Juliana pigs, twelve chickens, one rabbit, and one turtle.

Right now, Kenny and I have agreed that we are probably at max capacity. There has to be enough quality time with each of them to go around, but you never know what will end up on our doorstep. Almost all of the cats are rescues as well as two of the dogs, my rabbit Beatrix, and turtle Leonardo.


What are some of your favorite places you have traveled?

Maine tops my list for places I've been. I went for the first time last year and fell in love with the rocky shorelines abut lush black woods. The mist, the cold… all of it speaks my language. That being said, I love retreating into the mountains. Walking in places where you experience such solitude, you become a part of the landscape itself. That's what I look for in any travel prospects.


How did you come across Rustico and what is it about the Big Idea Album that you love?

I first learned about Rustico Christmas 2016 when Kenny gave me a gift set of a personalized Big Idea Album, pencil pouch, and a fountain pen. In fact, I still have the wooden crate it came in by my desk now containing my sewing supplies. It's become a bit of a gifting tradition from him to me to add to my collection a little every year.

I'm a bit of a snob for craftsmanship and only like to bring products into my life that are both functional and beautiful. The Big Idea Album checks both of those boxes and, because of that, whenever I go to work on its pages, I feel like a precedent has been set that I too will do beautiful and meaningful things.


How long have you been creating art?

I've been drawing since before I can remember and I think I always knew that I wanted to be an artist. Growing up, I loved making collages. All my school notes had sketches in the corners. I took darkroom photography for three years in high school but, past elementary school, I didn't have any formal "art training." When the time to apply to colleges rolled around, I didn't have much of a portfolio to speak of (I didn't realize that was even necessary). I wound up at Auburn University in their pre-graphic design program for a month before I realized I wanted to be working with my hands—not Adobe. I transferred to the Fine Art department and never looked back. I had some stellar professors (shout out to Joseph Velasquez, Andrew Kozlowski, and Wendy Deschene) who could see I was hungry to learn and were willing to feed the beast.


How do you know when a piece of art is finished?

I think that, no joke, it's easier to take care of my menagerie of animals than it is to complete artwork. It's different for each piece. Often my best indicator that a piece is complete is that I can stare at it daily without the urge to change something or, more likely, feel the need to burn it and, yes, I've had many bonfires. The pieces that make it public are far fewer than those that are ashes. Some people have been horror-struck when I tell them this. I look at it this way: I learn from the mistakes and move on, but I don't want my lesson hanging over someone's mantle.


Who or what inspires you? 

Nature is my biggest inspiration. There's a quote by Teddy Roosevelt that pretty much sums up my love affair with it: "There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm." I have a romantic view of the natural world and my artwork is a fairy-tale version of my own sublime experiences. Collected, my works act as a cabinet of curiosities—all rooted in the real world but with a hint of something a little otherworldly. I like creating art that is a momentary escape.


What are your go-to tools for the art you create?

Right now, I am using mostly Gamblin oil paints on stretched canvas or wood panel. I use cheap brushes for oil painting because I take terrible care of them, but if I am working with gouache on paper or in my Big Idea Album, I favor my set of special edition Mab Graves brushes by Trekell. They are pink, and they are fabulous. I make a lot of notes and studies in my sketchbook before beginning a painting and, in that phase, I flit between writing with a Retro 51 fountain pen, Micron pens, or drawing with whatever pencil I can find.


What is the best thing about being an artist?

Knowing that what I create enriches people's daily lives and makes them daydream.


What advice do you have for someone starting out as an artist?

Never stop practicing. You will create crap and get discouraged. Give yourself time and space to grow. Follow your curiosity and you will be on your way to creating something that is uniquely you.


A huge thanks to Kara for taking the time to discuss life and art with us. To see more of her unique pieces come to life, follow her on Instagram and check out her website. To see our artist's favorite gift set, click here.

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