On the day of the lesson, my students and I parked ourselves in a shady pine grove with views of the surrounding countryside and began to narrow our focus by sketching small sections of the endless view, limiting our thumbnail sketches to simple pencil drawings of the main shapes of the scene. Details were not necessary.
|Outdoor class at Fattoria Bacio|
I snapped some photos of the scenes I sketched, so I could refer to them later, then we all chose one of our thumbnail sketches on which to base a larger drawing, and went to work on that in our sketchbooks.
This week at home, using my photo references, I turned each of my rough thumbnail pencil sketches into a miniature painting. All together, they bring back a week's worth of wonderful memories.
Here's the process:
First I tidied up the messy grid I had drawn onsite by using 1/4" painter's tape to mask off borders around my sketches, being sure to "de-sticky" it before using so it wouldn't damage my paper. (I probably should have done this in the beginning, onsite, but I was in a rush at the time and just dove into working on my thumbnails.) I then added more drawn details to each scene and inked them with my Platinum Carbon fountain pen (extra fine tip). I filled in some empty spots in my grid with new scenes drawn from my reference photos. Two of the gridded boxes were allotted to lettering.
|Step 1 - Taped grid, line drawings, first washes|
I laid down my light to medium base washes (plus a few darks here and there), as shown above, and let them dry fully.
Next it was time to make those sketches come alive with the addition of darker tones and shadows.
|Step 2 - Darker washes|
Then, the big reveal....
|Step 3 - Lots of white space|
Peeling off the tape revealed the pristine white borders around my sketches. I loved the look of the page, and I probably should have just left it at this stage, but I felt like the titles got a litte bit lost among all the paintings, so I added a dotted outline around the title boxes...
|Step 4 - Dot border on title boxes|
Hmmm, it looked good, but the two boxes felt disconnected, so I made a dotted line to connect them.
|Step 5 - Connecting dots|
I thought it might look nice to carry over the dotted motif to the outside edge, so I added a simple dot border around the entire page.
|Step 6 - Dotted line border|
Lastly, I masked off inside the dotted border...
|Step 7 - Masking tape|
and painted a variegated wash around the outside edge of the page to echo the colors of the title boxes.
|Step 8 - Painted border|
10" x 7", ink & watercolor in a Stillman and Birn Beta series sketchbook
Was that an improvement? Or did it look better with the white space around it? I think maybe I should have stopped at Step 4 or 5. What do you think?
I tend to like to push the limits in my sketchbook and keep adding elements to my pages until I feel they're finally complete. There's an element of risk in that approach, because I may overdo it and wish I had stopped earlier in the process, as in this case. But what I do then is to simply turn the page and move on. After all, it's just a piece of paper, and I have plenty more of them.
Sketchbook journaling is about the process, not the end result. The tests of a successful page are:
- Did I have fun?
- Did I record a memory or experience?
- Did I learn something?