Thursday, October 29, 2015

Step-by-Step Watercolor: Fattoria Bacio

In one of my recent posts, I promised I would show you the step-by-step process I used to paint a sketch of Fattoria Bacio, our workshop location in Tuscany.


The villa is perched on top of a hill, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves.  One pretty fall morning, I walked out along the ridge, about 1/4 mile from the villa, and found a spot that gave me a great view of our temporary home.

I started with a very rough pencil sketch, just to block in the major shapes of the fields and buildings, then I inked it with my Platinum Carbon fountain pen filled with Platinum Carbon ink.

10" x 7" Stillman and Birn Beta series sketchbook

I applied the first washes of color, starting with the sky and painting it wet-in-wet, then I let it dry before starting on the landscape. For the base wash on the landscape, I primarily used olive green and raw sienna. Wetting the page along the lower edge of my drawing allowed the paint to run, giving it a soft, diffused look.


Next, I painted a base color on the olive groves, then began adding medium value tones to everything. I indicated the rows of grapevines by letting my round brush dance across the page, creating irregular lines.


 Next, I filled in the palest shades of color on the buildings.


Spots of darker color were added to window openings, roof overhangs, bushes, and the large tree.


A few more brush strokes were added to the vineyards, and I judged it finished.


Or was it?

After I got back home, I took a look at the page. I liked the sketch but kept debating about whether or not I should add some hand lettering. I liked the vignette effect I had achieved, but I kept thinking the page needed a little something more.

So I added a title...


and then played around with some options for a small decorative element to set off the lettering, finally deciding on this one...


Here's the final result...

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

What do you think? Were my additions a good idea? Or should I have stopped when the vignette was complete?


I hope you enjoyed this peek into the way I work. :)



15 comments:

  1. I always love seeing process photos along with an explanation. Thank you!

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    1. You're welcome, Yukari. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  2. Leslie - I thoroughly enjoyed your step by step process that you shared here. And I LOVE the effect of the added name and design element. Both the lettering and the design add to the essence of the place that you're portraying in your painting. I'm just wondering what paper you use, or is this in a journal?

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    1. It's a 10x7 Stillman and Birn Beta series sketchbook. That size isn't available to the public, though. My friend Michael Kalman at Stillman & Birn made it for me as a favor since I prefer landscape format for my travel journals. It's my go-to paper for journaling. Thanks for reminding me to add the sketchbook info to this post.

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  3. Thank you for showing this...I've been trying to work without my ink line. Love the underpainting process.

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    1. But I LOVE your ink lines! It does give such a different effect when we omit them, though, doesn't it? Everytime I try it, I think, "Wow! I like the way that looks! I need to do it more often." Then I forget about it for 6 months or so! I'll have to make a point to try it again.

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  4. I agree. The additional letters help to frame the painting

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  5. Leslie, I love the finished project. Question, I signed up for your Cheap Joes class in May 2016 and was wondering if you will be covering any of the how to's on brick, stone, painting rocks, etc that you show from other classes? Love your work.

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    1. The class is more about sketchbook journaling than watercolor technique, but I'll be sharing a lot of info about my watercolor process as we go along. Can't wait to meet you in May!

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  6. I love all three finished versions of your layout! But perhaps the third one is the best. Thank you for sharing your process!

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    1. You're welcome, Sharilyn. I agree that the third one is the best - I usually find that adding more improves my pages and makes them richer and more interesting.

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  7. Beautiful Leslie. It really captures the magic of the Tuscan landscape. Thank you for sharing your process. I have been studying it carefully as I am inexperienced in water color and this is very helpful to figure out how you create your beautiful work. And yes. I love all three!!

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    1. I'm glad this post was of some help to you. I'm planning to do some more step-by-step posts and videos as I work on finishing up my Italy sketchbook.

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  8. Leslie, I agree with the consensus here--love your final version the best! The sketch seems more whole with the lettering and decorative element, and the echo of the red you used for the tile roofing drew my eye around the page more. Also, your sky is luscious!

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  9. This post was such a treat...thank you! Love, love the lettering and design.

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