Friday, March 28, 2014

Finishing Touches to My Italy Travel Journal

I always wait to do the title page for a travel journal until after I've completed all the sketches. I like to get a feel for what the content of the journal is before deciding on the style and subject matter for the title page.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in Stillman &  Birn Beta series sketchbook

For my Italy sketchbook, I knew I wanted to paint an Italian landscape, complete with vineyards, olive groves, cypress trees, and villas. I also needed a stylish font, a nice border, and a place to include the dates of the trip.

The filigree border was inspired by a drawing I saw in an old cookbook. I adapted it to fit my theme by adding grapes, leaves, and birds.

The landscape is a composite of elements from photos I took while over there.

I planned the sketchbook cover long before the paintings were finished. In fact, the whole time I was in Italy, I was on the lookout for some sort of fabric that I could use for a cover. Finally, in San Gimignano, I found a beautiful linen tea towel with woven scenes of Tuscany. Perfect!

A few doodads from Michaels' scrapbooking and jewelry departments fancied things up a bit.

Metal brads were hot-glued on grosgrain ribbon

The heart was from a make-your-own-bracelet display

The end papers were painted on 140-lb watercolor paper, then cut and fitted in place on the inside of the covers.

I took two Stillman and Birn Beta series sketchbooks with me to Italy. After I filled the first one, I went on to use eleven pages in the second, giving me a total of thirty-seven sheets. When I began to finish up the sketches at home, I realized it would be much easier if I disassembled the two sketchbooks and pulled out the pages, so I could work on several of them at once. That way, I could paint one while another dried.

There was just one problem...if I put all thirty-seven pages back together as one finished sketchbook, the original binding was not going to fit. I thought I could just go to an office supply store and get a larger diameter binding, but I soon found out that they're not available in that style of wire binding. Hmmm...what to do now?

I came up with a pretty neat solution - I reassembled everything so that the binding opened on the outside spine of the sketchbook instead of inside the back cover. I bent it apart as much as I needed to allow for the extra pages I had added. Now I just needed something to connect the binding to itself and hold my pages in place.

I had some dark brown satin rattail cord left over from a craft project, so I threaded it through the wire binding and began tying a series of square knots down along the spine. It worked!

It encased the pages securely and added a pretty decorative finish to my sketchbook. Isn't it cool how problems can force us to be more creative?

My Italy sketchbook is finally complete - I love it!

Now on to the next project...and the next trip. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day16 (Home at last!)

Well, here I am, almost a year after I flew off for my Italian adventure, and I'm finally posting the final pages of my travel journal - I'm nothing if not persistent!

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

It's been fun reliving the journey as I finished up my pages, and, I'll admit it, a lot of work, too. You've hung in there with me through sixty-seven pages of writing and sketches. Thank you.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

It was a wonderful, amazing, incredible trip and keeping a sketchbook added immeasurably to the experience. I hope that reading about my adventures and seeing Italy through my sketches has inspired you to take a sketchbook along the next time you travel.

Home at last!

One final post to come tomorrow - I'll show you some of the finishing touches I added to complete my Italy travel journal. You've never seen a spiral binding like the one on this sketchbook!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 15 (Pisa)

After seeing pictures of the Leaning Tower all my life and reading about it in guidebooks, I was expecting it to be nothing more than a gaudy tourist trap. Suzie and I felt obligated to see it. After all, we were in Pisa, and our hotel was only two blocks away from it. So in the early evening, after a long, hot afternoon of train and bus travel, we dragged ourselves from our room and set out to see "The Famous Leaning Tower of PISA!"

10" x 7", ink and watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

The sun was sinking low in the sky as we walked out into the cool evening air. When we rounded a corner and saw the tower before us, I was surprised at how beautiful the whole scene was. Long, slanting shadows fell across the spring green grass, and the white marble buildings glowed against a deep blue sky.

The tilting bell tower sits on a wide, grassy piazza next to an extraordinary cathedral with incredible mosaics and ornate sculpted bronze doors. Beyond the cathedral is the baptistery and off to one side sits the camposanto ("walled cemetery"), and cloister building. Medieval walls built in the twelfth century surround the grounds and set the piazza apart from the bustling city outside.

Oh, of course there were tourists - lots of people doing silly things, posing for pictures of themselves holding up (or pushing over) the tower. Everyone was happy, laughing, and having fun.

But amidst all that, there was a peacefulness and serenity to the place that I hadn't expected at all. I walked around for awhile, admiring the mosaics, the carvings, the architecture. It was absolutely beautiful. What a shame it would have been to miss all this!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 15 (From Cinque Terre to Pisa)

I squeezed in one last sketch of the harbor at Manarola on our last morning in Cinque Terre...

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

I used the angled fence of the pedestrian walkway to create a unique lower border on the sketch, and extended the fishing boats out into the white space to make things even more interesting.

Love those striped boat covers - so much fun to paint!

The shadows from the boats and the color of the water were what drew me to this scene. It was a beautiful day and the colors were bright and clear. I spent quite a bit of time drawing and painting this page on location, but eventually had to pack it in and head for the train. Our time in Cinque Terre was coming to an end.

As we rode the slow, lumbering regional train back to Pisa, I drew the little houses on this next page. Just a little something fun to remember all the colors of Italy.

I had two solid pages of journaling text on the next two pages, and I couldn't bear to leave them as boring black and white, so I masked off the edges and painted diagonal stripes across them.

After everything dried, I realized the paint was a little too intense, so I rewet the pages and sponged off some of the color to make it easier to read the text.

Read all about our silly adventures with the Italian train system :)

I peeled away the masking tape and stamped a simple border around the edges.

These pages went from ho-hum to happy and bright - much better! 

Tomorrow: My last day in Italy...and the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Some Things I Learned...

I had saved a blank page in my travel journal to add another sketch of Cinque Terre after I returned home, but later changed my mind and decided to do a page about all the things I learned about Italy during my trip. I had read lots of guidebooks before the trip and watched videos about the places I was planning to see, but nothing can really prepare you for the reality of a place. You just have to go and immerse yourself in the culture and muddle your way through. So here are some of the things I learned during 16 days in Italy...

Gel pen, ink, and watercolor in 10" x 7" Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook
I still need a few more lines to fill in the bottom of the page. You could help jog my memory - have you traveled in Italy? What did you learn when you were there? What surprised you?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 15 (Scenes from Manarola)

We were only in Cinque Terre for about 24 hours, but it felt like much more, since we spent most of our time relaxing and pursuing the fine arts of ambling, meandering and wandering. The major sites to see there aren't museums and cathedrals, but rather sparkling water, rugged cliffs, colorful houses, and terraced hillsides.

10" x 7" ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook, sketched on location in Manarola, Italy

When I went out exploring early in the morning on our last day in Manarola, I followed a set of winding stone steps up toward the terraced gardens and vineyards above the town. I was curious to see what kinds of plants were growing there. But as I climbed higher, the steps became narrower and steeper, and I began to grab hold of anything I could to steady myself. 

The path went straight up the hillside, and I continued to inch my way higher and higher, feeling more wobbly by the moment. I finally had to give in to a growing case of vertigo and slowly make my way back down the trail, breathing a huge sigh of relief when I was back at street level.

The rest of the time, I contented myself with looking at the stone walls, orchards and vineyards from below. This old stone garden hut caught my attention, and I sketched it while sitting safely on solid ground in town.

Colors from the sketches are echoed in the painted lettering.

I spied this beautiful vine-covered doorway just opposite the church of San Lorenzo...

10" x 7", Noodler's Lexington Gray ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

The two elderly women sitting next to me chattered in Italian the entire time I was sketching. They probably sit there every day doing the exact same thing. And why not?

The interior of the church is not as fancy as some, but the light streaming in through the windows was gorgeous.

I snapped a photo of this pretty little brook as I walked back to our hotel to pack up and check out. The sketch was added later to the pre-drawn box on this page.

It was our last full day in Italy, and I felt a heightened awareness of how little time I had remaining. Every shuttered window and line of laundry hanging in the sun made me smile. Every old Italian man slowly making his way up the street looked so adorable! The deep blue sky, the craggy cliffs, the turquoise water - I soaked it all up, took it all in, and appreciated every moment.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 14 (Sunset in Cinque Terre)

Sunset in Cinque of the most amazing scenes of the entire trip.

10" x 7" ink & watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. Sketched on location with Pigma Micron pen, black, and painted later at home.

It seemed almost too beautiful and perfect to be real. The picture postcard village of Manarola sat perched on the rugged cliffs above a sparkling sea. Houses nestled into each other, and terraced gardens marched up the surrounding hills.

The setting sun warmed the buildings with a golden glow and deep purple shadows hinted at the coming night. Experiences like this are what make travel worth the hassles and frustrations and expense. They change you.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 14 (Cinque Terre)

Our stay in Lucca was much too short. I'd love to go back there some day and have more time to explore the town. It's always a challenge choosing where to go and what to see when vacation time is limited. I want to go everywhere and see everything! But you have to pick and choose: cities or countryside? museums or shopping? sketch or walk? linger or hurry?

10" x 7" ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

We had been waffling between visiting Florence or Cinque Terre ("the five villages".) Florence would have been ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL, without a doubt, but we were running out of time, and, with only one day to spend there, it seemed like it might be more of an exercise in frustration than fun. I didn't want to be one of those tourists who rushes around the city, nose in a guidebook, checking things off a list of "The Top 20 Things to See and Do in Florence."

And I really longed to see Cinque Terre. Those cute little villages with their colorful houses perched on cliffs overlooking the ocean were pulling me that way. Finally, Suzie and I decided we should follow our hearts and take the train to Cinque Terre. Florence would have to wait for another time.

10" x 7" ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

We never regretted our decision, not for a moment.

It was the perfect way to wind down our trip - relaxing, exploring, eating wonderful food, and sketching.  We definitely made the right decision this time.

I only have a few more pages to finish in my Italy travel journal. (You probably wondered if it would go on forever!) It's been a big project, but it has really helped me to get through this seemingly endless winter. Thanks for hanging in there with me. :)

Coming up tomorrow...the quintessential Cinque Terre sketch...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sketchbook Journaling 101 at Summerhill Studio

Have you always wanted to learn how to sketch, but didn't know where to begin? 
Have you longed to try painting with watercolors? 
Well, here's your chance to get started...

Sketchbook Journaling 101
8-week class
Saturdays, April 5 through May 24, 2014
2:00 pm - 4:30 pm
at Summerhill Studio
Ruff Creek, PA
Cost: $90.00

This fun-filled, no-pressure workshop will start you off with simple materials and easy techniques to begin drawing the world around you. Then we'll jump into the wonderful world of watercolor and play around with mixing, glazing, and spattering. To add some pizzazz to your sketchbook pages, I'll give you lots of great ideas for page layouts, borders, and lettering styles.
Sketchbook journaling is all about recording a slice of life, not painting a masterpiece. It's about being creative and noticing the little things that we too often pass by. This class will give you the tools you need to confidently express yourself and record slices of your life on the pages of your sketchbook journal. Even if you haven't drawn or painted since grade school, my hints and tips will help you to conquer your insecurities and start having fun with art again. 

We'll be meeting in my spacious studio in Ruff Creek, PA
just minutes from I-79 and Waynesburg, PA

 I hope you can join us - space is limited, so sign up soon!

Email me for more information
and to register

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