Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sketching on Location at Casa Romantica

The second day of my "Sketching on Location" workshop took us to Casa Romantica in San Clemente. This beautiful place was built in 1927 as the home of the founder of San Clemente, Ole Hanson. It's now a public garden and cultural center, and we were lucky enough to spend the day there painting together.

The inner courtyard was peaceful and serene...

The view from the terrace was amazing!

There were quiet spots to sit and relax...

 and plenty of inspiring patterns to use as decorative motifs in our sketchbooks...

The gardens were a feast for the eyes...

At first, we all wandered around in a daze  overwhelmed by how many subjects there were for sketching. We could have spent a week there and still not run out of things to paint. But we finally gathered together to have a little show-and-tell of our sketches from the day before and talk about some ideas I had for how to approach our sketching on day 2.

Then we settled in and got to work!

Jayne used the viewfinder you never have to hunt for in your sketch kit :)

Tracy and Lindsey, who traveled all the way from PA for the class, perched on the edge of the terrace to enjoy the view of San Clemente pier, while Pat focused her attention on the Casa itself.

Here are a few of their sketches...

There were many more that I didn't manage to get a shot of that day, but I have to say we were pretty proud of ourselves for accomplishing so much in such a short time.

My "Sketching on Location" class

I painted the inner courtyard at Casa Romantica in the afternoon while the class looked on, eager to see exactly how I do what I do. Being watched while I sketch or do a demo is nerve-wracking for me - I'm so used to painting alone - but I think it's helpful to the students to see how I approach the white page and what the process is for adding color. Here's the sketch I painted that afternoon:

Everyone was asking me why I decided to use the arched line above the sketch. My answer is.... I have no idea! It just popped into my mind and I thought it would look kind of cool to have that shape arcing up over the peaked roof of the Casa, with the palms framing the urn and the sunlit part of the building.

I started off by painting the sky. I wet the page first, then dropped in cerulean mixed with a little cobalt blue and let it flow on the paper, dabbing with a tissue where needed to control the flow. I wanted to leave plenty of white clouds.

While that was drying I started on the urn and the plants in the flower beds, laying down the first light washes. Subsequent washes were added later to darken and increase value contrast.

The building appeared bright white while I was sitting there painting, but it looked very flat and uninteresting in my sketch when I left it as plain white paper, so I added some subtle texture to indicate the unevenness of the stucco surface. I mixed up puddles of light tan and gray on my palette, then brushed on individual strokes here and there and smudged them with my thumb or finger. Spattering would have worked, too, but the key is to smudge it quickly before it dries, to give it a mottled appearance.

After the sky had dried, I began painting the trees on the left using a round brush. Strokes of varying colors were used including a dull green, raw sienna, tan, and maroon.

Earthen Green (American Journey watercolors) was the base color for the large palm tree on the right. As I was painting the palm fronds, I dropped in touches of cobalt blue, and added strokes of lavender and yellow ochre. I also began building up layers of color on the plantings at the base of the trees using progressively darker values.

The shadowed corridors were painted during my demo with a wash of shadow color (American Journey Shadow + something to vary the color, like burnt umber, Payne's gray or cobalt blue). Details were added later when I finished up the sketch in my studio.

(Maybe I shouldn't mention this, but I noticed after I scanned the sketch that the corridors on the left and right side aren't the same size. A little boo-boo that I missed when I was doing my initial drawing. But does it matter? Nope, not a bit.)

The toughest part about the page was figuring out what to do with the blank space I had above the arch at the top of the page. After much rumination, I decided to mark off an area for some journaling about the location then paint a wash of color above that. The color would coordinate with the beautiful aqua green of the oversized pot in the center of my sketch. To get a sharp edge above the text, I masked along that edge with masking fluid. After painting the wash, letting it dry, then painting the brown stripes, I removed the masking and added the text.

The lettering was the last thing to go on the page. I penciled it in then inked it with an 01 Sakura Pigma Micron pen with sepia ink.

So there you have it! It's almost as if you were there looking over my shoulder, isn't it? Wish you could have been. :)

My husband and I are dashing off today for an impromptu trip to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, but when I get home I'll write up a post about the last of my sketches from San Clemente. It will have step-by-step photos of the process I used to paint this pretty scene...

If you would like to sketch on location with me in some of the most gorgeous spots on the planet, think about coming along on a trip to Tuscany or the Greek Isles with me this fall! You'll meet wonderful people, eat incredible food, see amazing sites and have the time of your life. Spaces are filling fast, so act now to reserve your space. Email me if you have any questions.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sketching on Location at the Casino - Part II

As promised, here's the last sketch I did during our day of sketching on location at Casino San Clemente...
Ink & watercolor, 10x7 Handbook Field Watercolor Journal

I used a composite page layout. This is a great way to squeeze in a lot of information about a place on one page, so it's perfect for a travel journal. I sketched the main elements of the page onsite using my Platinum Carbon fountain pen. I like the nice fine line I get with the extra-fine nib. I use the Platinum Carbon permanent black ink cartridges with it. It's so easy to pack a couple of them when I travel, and I don't have to worry about leakage.  If I already have a partially used cartridge in the pen, I wrap the pen in a paper towel and store it in a Ziploc bag, in case it leaks. I pack it in my carry-on bag, because I never know when the impulse to sketch will strike!

When I started painting this sketch, I tackled the plants in the center box first, starting with a light-to-medium initial wash. After that had dried, I built up layers of darker tones to give the plants a sunlit look. It's the contrast between light highlights and deep shadows that gives the feeling of intense sunlight.

I thought you might like to see how I changed things from the scene I saw, below. I darkened the pots to make them look older and more weathered, and I conjured up a pot of pink flowers for the foreground, just to add a touch of color.

After the plants were fairly complete, I started on the palm tree. I added interest to the palm fronds by using a variety of colors like Yellow Ochre, Earthen Green (American Journey), Burnt Sienna, and Perylene Red (Daniel Smith). The trunk was painted a warm tannish gray using Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, and Cobalt Blue. Darker values were added to the entire tree after the first layer had dried.

The beautiful old building with its deep front porch and Mission style architecture came next. The front part of the building had a terra cotta roof which required several passes with paint, but the round ballroom had a smooth roof that made a nice background for the tree growing up in front of it. How convenient for me!

Before painting the ballroom roof, I masked the twigs and branches of the tree with masking fluid, making it a simple matter to go back at the end, remove the masking, and add some color to the branches. (I love that cupola, don't you? So cute!)

(Oops! I just noticed that I forgot to finish painting the little palm tree on the right. I'd better take care of that! It needs some darker values. This happens all the time - I don't see the mistakes or omissions on a sketch until I scan it and go to use it in a post. Sheesh!)

Finally it was time to finish off the border. I almost always leave the page border till the end. Even if I draw the border design in the initial stages of laying out my page, which I did in this case, I always wait until the end to paint it, so I can coordinate the colors with the sketches on the page. It's often a tough decision, deciding what colors to use on the border. It can affect the whole look of the page. In this instance, I think I made the right decision. The Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre tie in to the terra cotta pots, brick steps, and roof on The Casino.

The design for the border was inspired by a stenciled wall border in the West Wing of the building, just off the Patio of the Stars, where we were sketching. You can see that I enlarged the curlicues to make it a little more interesting.

The corner stars on my border came from the star tiles embedded in the floor of the Patio of the Stars...

A lot goes into planning and painting a page like this, but it's so satisfying when it all comes together.

Quick sketching seems to be the goal of a lot of sketchers nowadays, but that's never really been a priority for me. I draw fairly quickly, but I like to take my time when painting my sketches. What's the rush anyway? I don't care if it takes fifteen minutes, an hour, or even a day or two to complete a page. All that matters is that I'm doing my own thing and enjoying it. There's no right or wrong way to do this - we each have to find what works best for us.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sketching on Location at the Casino - Part 1

After I finished up my "Sketch It Now" workshop in San Clemente, I launched right into "Sketching on Location" the next day. I started out the first morning with a little pep talk in the classroom. Or maybe I should call it a "prep talk" since the idea was to give everyone some practical ways to handle the challenges of sketching on location. We talked about how to narrow down your focus when confronted with a big overwhelming scene to sketch, and I shared some techniques for handling perspective challenges by using sighting techniques and an angle finder. I gave them handouts filled with great ideas for page layouts, lettering styles, and border designs, then we walked a few blocks down the street to a cool place called The Casino

The historic building and grounds gave us lots of options for subject matter both outdoors...

and in...

It was fun to think that all the Hollywood stars that I grew up watching in movies or on TV had come here to dance to the sounds of the big bands or act in plays when The Casino was a dinner theater.

After a look around, we settled in to sketch on the Patio of the Stars. It was a beautiful sunny day, just perfect for sitting outdoors and sketching. I chose this view of a wrought iron gate and vine-covered arch.

Ink & watercolor, 7x10 Handbook Field Watercolor Journal

Many of my students looked on as I painted the sketch, and I managed to finish it in about an hour, but the border was something I added later at home. The lettering style was taken from the Casino's logo, and the star design was copied from a tile that was part of the patio floor.

I like using a partial border with a vignette sketch. It sets off the sketch nicely without overwhelming it. This border design was inspired by the tin ceiling in the building.

I painted the vine-covered arch in just two steps. First I put down strokes of yellow ochre and Earthen Green (American Journey watercolors), then dropped in cobalt or ultramarine blue while the paint was still wet and allowed the colors to mingle as they dried. After the first layer had dried, I went back in with a #6 or 8 round brush and darker paint and added strokes here and there to suggest leaves. It's all very random and unplanned but gives the impression of foliage.

The windows in the door were painted to suggest reflections of the sky and foliage across the courtyard. It's always important to look for shadows when painting windows. The cast shadows on the glass give depth to the door and make the scene appear to be brightly lit by the sun.

One problem I encountered was figuring out how to indicate the texture of white painted brick in bright sunlight. It was all white! I opted to paint some grey brick shapes despite the departure from reality.  

I didn't ink the tower in the background. I wanted it to have softer edges so it would recede into the distance a bit. And notice how the shadow on the tower gently curves down rather than being a straight line. That's the key to making it look round instead of flat. 

My students worked on their own sketches throughout the morning and afternoon...

Sandy sketched the same scene I did

Linda found a comfy spot to settle in and sketch
with a little break for lunch under a pretty striped umbrella...

Here are some of their wonderful sketches...

Aren't they inspiring?

I drew one more sketch that day at The Casino, but I think I'll wait to share it with you tomorrow. Till then, why not try sketching on location in your own backyard? It's so much fun to get outside and just relax into the day, to listen to the birds and feel a breeze on your face. It's what sketchbook journaling is all about.
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