Sunday, December 8, 2019

California Road Trip - Part 1 + Creating a Flow Sketch

My workshop in Santa Barbara last month was a huge success, and the road trip that followed, although not quite what I had expected, was a lot of fun, too, and showed me a part of California that I had always wanted to see. I took hundreds of pictures along the way, so I have plenty of digital memories safely stored on my computer, but I think the moments that will really stay with me are the ones I captured in my sketchbook. 

Ink & watercolor in a Khadi 6-1/2" x 5" hardcover sketchbook with 140 lb. watercolor paper

I did a few larger sketches during the workshop in Santa Barbara and I'll post those eventually, but the page I want to share with you today is this "flow sketch" that shows some of the highlights of our first few days in California.

Click to enlarge

On a fast-paced trip like this one, I don't always draw the sketches on location. Rather, at the end of each day, I pencil in the image after looking back through photos I took that day. I think of a flow sketch like this as a sort of  "Table of Contents" for the trip, an overview of where we went and what we did. I block everything in during the time we're traveling, then finalize the page with ink and paint when I get home.

When creating a page like this, I have to distill down all that I experience in a day and choose only a few elements to sketch. I ask myself:

  • What really stands out about the day? 
  • What did I enjoy the most? 
  • What was the most beautiful, unusual, or interesting thing I did or saw? 
  • What was funny or disappointing or surprising?

These are the things that I tend to draw. There's no right or wrong choice, but what I choose to sketch does end up being important. It's what I'll remember most about that time, years in the future.

The first thing I did for this two-page spread was to pencil in the title. I knew that my ten-day trip would take up more than these two pages, but I didn't have any kind of preconceived page design in mind. I only knew that I wanted to do a flow sketch, where one image flows into the next, showing a timeline of images. I decided to make the title fairly bold and prominent. I used two contrasting lettering styles, and when I painted it later at home, I used an ombré treatment on the block letters.

Our first day in Santa Barbara was spent doing touristy things like visiting the beach, the Santa Barbara pier, the Mission, the downtown area, and the county courthouse, a beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival style masterpiece built in the early 20th century.

I had two reference photos for the courthouse, and I decided to draw a modified front view since it was easier to draw and showed more of the actual look of the building. I use photos as a tool, but I don't feel obligated to make my drawing match a photo. And remember, these sketches are tiny, so it's not necessary to include all the details.

My workshop began the next day in the expansive upper story of a cute barn on the coast in Carpinteria, about 20 minutes south of Santa Barbara. In the morning we sketched in and around the barn then moved to Rincon Point Beach in the afternoon for some plein air sketching.

Rincon Point State Beach

I had good reference photos for both Day 2 images, but I felt a little silly trying to reduce a 1/2 mile long beach into a sketch just an inch and a half wide. Oh, well, all I needed was an impression, not a faithful rendering of all the details. The curved line of the lettering helped to separate the two sketches.

The next day we took a field trip to Mission Santa Barbara where we spent a few hours painting on location.

Mission Santa Barbara

The rose gardens in front of the mission were my favorite part of our visit, so I included them in my sketch.

I used a plastic ellipse template to make all the "Day --" shapes on the page. Adding a shadow to the lower left side of each pale Phthalo Blue ellipse helped to make the dates more prominent. The arrows that direct the viewer's eye from one day to the next were all painted with a deeper value of the same color. Painting them a rich, bold color was a good choice to keep this busy page from becoming completely unreadable.

We spent the final day of the workshop back at the barn. In the afternoon, the students designed a composite sketch filled with items they had picked up at Rincon Point...

and I demonstrated techniques for adding texture to beach pebbles.

After hugs and goodbyes for all my new-found friends, my mom, my friend, Candy, and I packed up and headed up the coast the next day. We stopped for breakfast in Buellton, "The Split-Pea Soup Capital of the World".

Reference photos for this sketch were everywhere - on billboards, buildings, souvenirs, and menus. I thought the whole idea of being the "Split-Pea Soup Capital of the World" was really funny, so I felt compelled to include it in my flow sketch.

It was sunny all day as we traveled up Route 1, so we had beautiful views of Morro Bay, where we stopped for an hour or so. We visited the nature center to learn about all the wildlife that flocks to this area, so I included some birds on my sketch as a reminder.

We watched sea otters lolling on their backs, munching on oysters near Morro Rock...

but my reference photo left a lot to be desired...

Add caption

so I simply drew a circle frame to be filled in later after consulting my good friend, Google images, and finding some good reference photos of adorable sea otters.

We arrived at our hotel in Cambria in the afternoon, just in time for a walk to Moonstone Beach.

It was late in the day and and a ferocious wind was blowing.

Moonstone Beach in Cambria, CA

My mom and I layered on all the warm clothes we had and were still cold - not at all what I was expecting for California!
My cute mother and favorite traveling companion, Saundra

We covered a lot of territory on Day 5 as we traveled north from Santa Barbara to Cambria, so instead of including just one or two sketches that day, I drew five. More sites + more time for sketching = more vignettes on my flow sketch.

Drawing the rough sketches for a flow sketch in pencil gives me a lot of flexibility when it comes time to ink everything back at home. I can change the size or position of a sketch, move the lettering, change the size or style of it, fine-tune shapes, and add elements that might help to round out the page design.

Sure, this all takes time, but while I'm working on the sketch, I'm reliving each one of those experiences and remembering the people, the laughter, the weather, the animals, the gorgeous scenery, and the feeling of joy that I felt to be exploring a place that I've always longed to see. Sketching for me is a journey, not a race to the finish. I love the whole process, so why hurry?

Up next: California Road Trip - Part 2

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Autumn Sketches from Here and There

I've been trying out a new sketchbook lately, the Khadi 6-1/2" x 5" hardback with 140 lb. rough paper. I'm enjoying the highly textured surface and the way it handles multiple washes with ease. Pencil lines erase easily, and all of the pens I've used in it glide across the handmade paper easily.

The modest size of this sketchbook encourages me to open it on a whim and jot down a sketch, like I did the day I joined some of my sketching buddies for a visit to our friend Jeannie's house. It was a beautiful fall day, and she had tables set up in her back yard for an outdoor luncheon. Seasonal decorations here and there begged to be sketched, so I pulled out my brand-new Khadi sketchbook, opened to page 2 (I always save the first page to add a title page later on), and did this cute little painting of a bench in Jeannie's yard.

This next sketch was done at the Greene County Historical Society Museum in Waynesburg, PA, during my October "Sketching Retreat at Summerhill". The museum has a general store which was transported from its original location and reassembled onsite at the historical society. I could sketch there for a month and still not draw it all, but I made a good start during the time I was there, drawing and painting a colorful wall full of canned goods, medicine bottles, cigars, teas, and all the essentials that a 19th century general store patron needed.

It doesn't show up in the scan, but I added touches of metallic paint to highlight the gold on the scale and some of the boxes. It gives this sketch a little bling!

Another day during the sketching retreat, we drove through the countryside to Scenery Hill and the historic Century Inn, where we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch in a cozy private dining room. I had snapped a picture of the building on our way in, so, while we waited for lunch, I started sketching the inn, while others drew the cornucopia centerpiece on our table.

Click to enlarge

This place has quite a history. It has stood on the National Road (Route 40) for over 200 years, and I enjoyed sharing it with my guests who had traveled to Summerhill from as far away as northern California and Washington state.

A fire two years ago did considerable damage to the inn, but it has been restored and looks as good as ever. The ladies room was so classy I snapped some pictures of the wallpaper design and floral arrangement and added them to my sketchbook page. This isn't the first time I've been inspired by a bathroom. I used a tile design from a ladies room wall in my Spain sketchbook, too. Inspiration is everywhere, if you open you eyes and see!

A day out with a friend is one of life's greatest pleasures, and when you throw a little sketching into the mix, it doubles the fun! My friend Wendy and I took a day trip to Ohiopyle State Park one fine fall day and were treated to an amazing display of autumn foliage along the way. We drove up into the Laurel Highlands and stopped for lunch at the Bittersweet Cafe, a restaurant whose food was as yummy as their autumn displays were beautiful.

We had planned to head on down the road after we finished eating, but decided to linger awhile and sketch.

Sitting there chatting and painting together with my friend, without a place we had to be or anyone to answer to, felt like such luxury to both of us.

We still managed to fit in our Ohiopyle visit to see the waterfalls that afternoon, and as we drove home late in day, the setting sun glowed through the blazing maples and oaks that lined the road. What a perfect day! And I have this fun sketch to ensure that I'll never forget it.

This last fall sketch was done for my Sketching at Summerhill painting class last month. I had a lot of fun painting in this looser style that uses plenty of spattering and wet-in-wet watercolor, and it was good for my regular students to try something a little different.

7" x 7" pencil and watercolor on 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper

I'm glad I had a chance to get out and enjoy those fleeting October days with their dancing leaves and brilliant colors while we still had them. After a strong windstorm last week, the trees around here have lost most of their leaves, and with the changeover to standard time, the days seem so much shorter than just a week ago. Fall is beating a hasty retreat, and there's a November chill in the air. It's time to get cozy and settle in for winter.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Come along to Croatia in 2020!

 Watercolor Sketching in Croatia
with Leslie Fehling
 10 days on the Island of Korcula
September 22 - October 1, 2020

For the tour website, click here.
Register for the workshop here.
Korcula town, with mainland Croatia in the distance across the water

Azure blue water, majestic mountains, and charming seaside villages all await you on this sketching trip to Croatia, a country of stunning beauty and rich cultural history. For ten long, relaxing days, we’ll visit pristine natural areas, beautiful sandy beaches, and medieval towns, recording it all on the pages of your own illustrated travel journal.

The color of the water in Croatia is AMAZING!

Croatia is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in Europe, and it’s easy to see why: the people are friendly, the food is fresh and local, the wine is world-class, and the architecture and scenery are spectacular, offering limitless subject matter for artists.

The water is so clear, it almost looks like the boats are floating in the air!

When you travel as an artist, rather than just a tourist, it changes what you see and how you experience a place. You’ll begin to notice details, marvel at light and shadows, and see possibilities for compositions everywhere.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2" sketch of a scene in Orebic by Leslie Fehling

Instead of snapping a photo and quickly moving on, you’ll take the time to soak up your surroundings as you sketch what resonates with you. And when you return home, you’ll open up that sketchbook, and the memories will come flooding in. 

7-1/2" x 7-1/2" sketch by Leslie Fehling

You’ll remember the warm sun on your shoulders, the vivid colors of boats bobbing in the water, the fresh smell of sea air...

Sketchers on the tiny island of Vrnik

the quiet murmurs of your painting companions and a red geranium on a whitewashed windowsill.

From the time we step off the plane, we’ll be in the best of hands with our tour guide, Lynda Milina, whose family has lived in Croatia for generations. All the details will be taken care of for us, leaving us free to focus on painting and relaxing. It’s the best way to travel!

Student sketching in Racisce

We’ll be picked up at the airport in Dubrovnik on September 21 (the day before the tour begins) and taken to our lodging, then we’ll share a welcome dinner, giving us a chance to get acquainted and learn more about what to expect in the coming days.


The next morning, we’ll enjoy a tour of Dubrovnik and learn about the complex history of this stunning city, know as “The Pearl of the Adriatic”.

After the tour, we’ll have lunch then drive along the Dalmation Coast to Orebic, where we’ll board a car ferry to the Island of Korcula. We’ll be staying at the Lovric Pension in Lumbarda where many of the rooms have balconies and sea views (book early for the best selection!)

Lovric Pension in Lumbarda on Korcula island

The hotel is a mere 50 yards from the sea, and it’s just a short walk to the downtown area. The rooms at the family-run Lovric are bright, clean, and comfortable, and there’s even a winery on site!

Balcony at the Lovric

Lumbarda is a small port on the eastern part of the island of Korcula. 

15" x 7-1/2" sketch of Lumbarda by Leslie Fehling

It’s known for its local wine called Grk, so you can expect to see picturesque vineyards, as well as beautiful shorelines, a bustling harbor, hiking trails, cafes, and wineries. (A wine tasting is included in the tour package.) There will be plenty to do during our down time there! We've even included one day during the tour that's completely unscheduled, to give all of us a chance to do whatever our hearts desire. Go for a hike, take an island tour on the boat taxi, sit in a cafe and sip a cappuccino, or paint for hours in a location that's been calling to you. You'll have the luxury of time to do what you please...or do nothing at all!

Boat in Lumbarda harbor

During our nine days on Korcula, we’ll start each morning with breakfast at the Lovric, then head out to explore different parts of the island. This part of Croatia is unique in its beauty, and the opportunities for artistic subject matter are everywhere - in old stone buildings...

A cool wall in Korcula town

15" x 7-1/2" sketch of the frame wall in Korcula by Leslie Fehling

and sturdy city walls, 

in shady streets filled with flowers...

and in quiet coves with aquamarine water.

Mornings will find us visiting scenic areas such as Racisce, Zrnovo, Vrnik, the city of Korcula, Orebic and the Peliesac Peninsula. We’ll draw and paint for a few hours in these beautiful locations then take a break for a picnic lunch.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2" sketch by Leslie Fehling

Afternoons will be spent in a variety of ways: sketching, watching a painting demo on location, going on a walking tour of a village, visiting a monastery, watching a jewelry-making demonstration, and enjoying wine-tasting at a local winery.

When we return to our lodging later in the afternoon, there will be time to relax before the evening meal.
Chilling out on the island of Vrnik

These will be full days, but not frantically busy ones. We won’t be rushing from one place to the next, trying to squeeze in everything in the guidebook. 

Sketching boats in Racisce

This tour offers a slower pace of travel, with plenty of plein air sketching time, making this a trip where you actually will have time to create that travel journal you’ve been dreaming of for years.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2" sketch by Leslie Fehling

All meals are included on this tour. Breakfasts and dinners will be served in the restaurant which is attached to the Lovric, while most of our lunches will be on location when we’re out and about. The food will be fresh, local, and absolutely delicious! (For a few of the lunches, you'll have the option to eat on your own in a restaurant, but a bag lunch will always be provided, if you prefer.)

Evenings are yours to do whatever you like. You might want to take a walk along the beach with a friend…

go for a swim…

Some of the participants swam daily during my 2019 Croatia tour

or have a glass of wine and get to know your fellow artists.

Wine tasting in Lumbarda

7-1/2" x 7-1/2" sketch by Leslie Fehling

One evening during our stay, you'll have the opportunity to see a traditional sword dance performed in Old Town Korcula. (This is an optional activity.)

Sword dance

At the end of the tour, on day 10, we'll head back to the Dubrovnik area, with a stop for lunch on the way in the little village of Ston, famous for its amazing 14th century stone city walls. We’ll have time to explore the town for a while (and maybe squeeze in one last sketch) before driving to the quaint coastal town of Cavtat, where we will enjoy our last dinner together before flying home the next day.

The gorgeous harbor in Cavtat


Now, let’s talk about the art portion of the trip…

2019 participant with her sketch from the village of Zrnovo

My teaching will focus on illustrated watercolor journaling and how to create a colorful, varied, and personal record of your experiences on the trip.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2" sketch of a scene on the island of Vrnik by Leslie Fehling

You'll learn how to design dynamic pages with unique layouts, borders, and hand-lettering styles, and I’ll offer daily demonstrations of techniques for painting the subject matter you’ll encounter each day, everything from a village street scene to an easy technique for painting sparkling water.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2" sketch of a street on Dubrovnik by Leslie Fehling

Each day I’ll suggest new ideas for filling the pages of your travel journal…one day you’ll give a theme page a try, while the next you might pre-paint a page with a layer of color then draw a sketch over it. And have you ever heard of a flow sketch? It’s a great way to condense an entire day onto one sketchbook page. We’ll try all these ideas and more during our time together.

8" x 6" sketch by Leslie Fehling

Each painter will receive a spiral-bound handbook containing all of the information covered in the workshop. It’s filled with great ideas for designing beautiful journal pages, and it includes a section of helpful step-by-step painting instructions showing you how to paint the textures, colors, and beauty of Croatia.

The handout ensures that you can relax during the workshop, knowing that even if you can’t absorb everything during the week, you’ll have complete information that you can refer to later on and use to paint subjects closer to home, too.
With my enthusiastic support, encouragement, and assistance, even if you're a beginning watercolorist, you'll surprise yourself with what you can do! 

Sketchers from my 2019 trip to Korcula

Note: We won't have a painting studio on this tour, so most of our sketching will be on location outdoors. My classes and demos will primarily be onsite, but I will also offer a few teaching sessions in my apartment. You can spend extra time in your accommodations working on finishing up sketches you began on location, and I am always available for consultation. In the event of bad weather, we have the option of using a covered patio at the Lovric Pension for our classroom.

To read about how I handle the art portion of the tour during a typical day, click here.

This fun sketch was done prior to my 2019 trip to learn a little bit about the country

We're going to have an amazing time together as we immerse ourselves in all that Korcula has to offer. Painting, touring, shopping, eating, relaxing --- we'll have time for it all with this perfectly organized 10-day small-group tour. 

A morning walk by the Adriatic is a great way to start your day on this tour

So, if you'd like to improve your painting skills, learn more about keeping a travel sketchbook, and have more fun than you can imagine exploring the unspoiled island of Korcula, I hope you'll join me for this “Watercolor Sketching in Croatia” workshop. 


Register today to reserve your place:
A $300 deposit is all that’s required. Register here. 

Cost for the 10-day all-inclusive program:
Tour Cost: $3100 + single supplement fee (most people will pay this if you are not traveling with a spouse/partner)
Non-painting partners: $2900
Single Supplement Fee: $200 Full payment due: July 8, 2019
Deposit to reserve your spot: $300 (non-refundable unless tour is cancelled by Slikamilina)
*Painters have priority, but non-artist partners (shared accommodations only)
are welcome to come and enjoy the island at their own pace.
This workshop is being arranged through Slikamilina Painting Tours, who will handle all booking arrangements. (Please read the GeneralConditions.)

Lynda Milina, tour operator. Email

Tour price includes:
• Transfer from airport to Cavtat on arrival
• Accommodation the night before the tour starts
• Dinner the night before the tour starts
• Transportation to/from Dubrovnik
• Transportation to/from daily excursions
• All meals, gratuities associated with restaurant meals, accommodations and instruction

Not included:
• Travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia, from home country
• Transfer to Dubrovnik airport on your departure date.
• Any airport arrival/departure tax
• Travel and/or medical insurance
• Painting materials and equipment
• Gratuities for service
• Any other cost incurred outside the workshop itinerary

More information:
Read an overview of my 2019 Croatia workshop here

Read about Leslie here.
Read about the tour operator, Lynda Milina, here.
Why choose to travel abroad with Slikamilina? Here.
Register here.
Email Leslie or Lynda Milina, tour director

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