Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Casa Romantica Gridded Sketch

Earlier this month I taught a two-day plein air sketching class called "Sketch Your World" in San Clemente, CA, and on the second day we visited Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens. The Casa was closed for the day, but they allowed our group to come and paint, so we had the place all to ourselves except for a few gardeners working here and there to keep everything tidy.

Ink & watercolor in a 10" x 7" Handbook Field Watercolor Journal

It was peaceful and quiet as we wandered around the courtyard and grounds, selecting subjects for our morning project, a gridded page featuring scenes from Casa Romantica. I also encouraged the students to try using cross-hatching on their sketches.

In between helping students, I worked on a gridded page of my own. The 10" x 7" Handbook Field Watercolor Journal I was using is one of my favorites. After dividing the page into a 7-section gridded layout, the sketch boxes were fairly small, but that didn't stop me from drawing a border of tiny decorative tiles around the center space on my page and filling it with a the view from the Casa's oceanside terrace. The drawing was easy, but the painting of the tile border later drove me crazy. Much too fussy and time-consuming!

Tile design from the stair risers at the Casa

The gardens were filled with everything from lowly impatiens to towering cacti, and I wanted to feature plants prominently in my sketch, so I looked around for a plant that really caught my eye. I settled on this large succulent in the inner courtyard and drew a zoomed-in view of its waxy yellow-green leaves on the lower left corner of my page.

When I painted it later, I added touches of Cobalt Teal Blue to the dominant yellow-green color of the leaves to make it more interesting.

Since I used hatched lines on the ink drawing to indicate cast shadows on the leaves, the painting process went faster than usual. I didn't have to do as much layering and glazing as I usually do to get a range of values.

To balance out the green and yellow in the lower left corner of the page, I next decided to draw a big-leaf philodendron leaf in the upper right corner. I liked the interesting pattern of veins and open spaces in the leaf. Notice that I didn't edge the box with a black line, like I did with all the other boxes on the page. Instead, the spaces along the edge were left open.

HINT: Wait until the end of your drawing session to ink the grid lines, rather than doing it in the beginning. This gives you the option of having parts of the sketches extend past the grid lines, which makes things more interesting and adds depth and dimension to the page.

I debated long and hard about what to put in the long, narrow boxes on the page. I almost sketched in an antique wrought iron standing candelabra but finally made the decision to have each box contain something organic, since the gardens are what I enjoy most at the Casa. This vase filled with corkscrew willow branches seemed like a perfect fit for the box, and I loved the shadows they were casting on the wall.

The keyhole entrance to Casa Romantica is a distinguishing feature of the property, so I decided to include it on my page. I thought the scene would fit well in the horizontal box at the bottom of the page, so I went ahead and drew it in. It wasn't until I had finished it that I realized it looks way too busy situated next to the box above it (in the center of the page) with its intricate tile border, flowers, and landscape. 

I should have done something simple instead in the lower box, but it was too late to change it. Next time I'll take a moment to consider the busyness factor when planning what subjects to feature in a grid box. The relationships between the individual sketches in a grid are important. I should have considered color, scale, and complexity instead of just thinking, "Oh, I like the keyhole door! I think I'll draw that."

It was late in the day when I got around to filling the last box in my grid. A tall, gangly cactus seemed like a good choice since it spoke to me of southern California. It also had interesting prickly dots along the spines of the trunk and branches, and it was casting lovely shadows on the wall behind it.

I sketched it quickly, then it was time for the final sharing time with the group. It had been a long four days of teaching, and I think the students were a little tuckered out, too. It was fun to see how varied everyone's sketches were, and we all agreed that it had been a wonderful, relaxing day that gave us all a little soul food.

Later, when I finished the sketch in the studio, I penciled in a title then inked it with a Pitt Artist's Pen, size S. Watercolor was added to give it some color and coordinate with the rest of the sketch.

Add caption

The finished sketch...

Click to enlarge

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Oops! Revised Pricing on "Sketching in Spain" Workshop

Oops! There was an error in the pricing of the Spain workshop in my last blog post. The pricing is actually $200 lower for the single supplement than what was originally stated. So, if you were debating about coming, let these lower prices convince you. :) And I just found out that you can book a room with a sea view!

Here are the correct prices for all the possible room choices:

Rates through November 30, 2018:
$3190 per person for a standard double occupancy room
$3540 per person for a double occupancy room with a sea view
$3540 per person for a standard single room
$3890 per person for a single room with a sea view

Regular prices after November 30, 2018:
$3390 per person for a standard double occupancy room
$3740 per person for a double occupancy room with a sea view
$3740 per person for a standard single room
$4090 per person for a single room with a sea view

Spots are filling fast, and the discount period ends on November 30, so reserve your spot now. A deposit of only $600 will hold your place. 

Stretch your mind on the Costa Brava!

Come along and join the fun - it's the best way to travel if you're a sketcher, because painting time is built into the schedule. No more hurrying to finish a line drawing while your companions impatiently stamp their feet. On my sketching tours, your companions will all be sketching along with you! 

And don't worry if you're not a super-experienced, sketch-everyday, been-to-Europe-twenty-times kind of artist. I'll be there to guide you every step of the way, beginning with advice on preparing for your trip and specific instructions on what supplies to bring. And during the tour, my step-by-step painting lessons and individual assistance ensure that you'll grow as an artist and take home a sketchbook filled with wonderful memories. 

I hope to meet you in Barcelona!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Let's Sketch Together in Spain!

Watercolor Sketching in Spain
May 6-13, 2019 

(Click here for complete information & to register)

Next May I'll be sketching, teaching, and touring in one of the most beautiful regions of Spain, and I'd LOVE for you to come along!

If you've been thinking about signing up for this trip, now's the time to jump on board. You can save $200 on the total cost of the tour by registering before November 30. (We have to reserve rooms far in advance of the trip, so early registrations are important to guarantee that the trip will be a go.)

Our tour will begin in Barcelona where we’ll meet our guides and be whisked away to our home base in a little village by the sea on the Costa Brava.

We’ll spend seven days exploring this region of extraordinary natural beauty that has a deep artistic and historical heritage.

Whitewashed cottages, craggy cliffs, secluded coves, and sparkling aquamarine water will have you scrambling for your paints the moment you arrive.

Our hotel sits right on the beach, and many guest rooms have balconies overlooking the sea (book early for the best selection). The village itself is a gem, with narrow, winding streets...

quaint fishermen’s cottages, inviting cafes, and the ever-present views of the Mediterranean...

After we’re settled in, we’ll have a delicious welcome dinner and a chance to get to know our fellow travelers. The friendships that are made during a tour like this are one of the best reasons to come along!

The next day we’ll be painting at a picturesque nearby village, and I’ll share a lesson on how to paint the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean.

In addition, I’ll give you plenty of ideas for interesting page layouts in your travel journal and help you learn techniques for adding beautiful lettering like this to your sketchbook pages.

Our walk through the village will take us to the center of town where there’s a pretty white church just begging to be sketched…

Tree sketch from my Provence travel journal

The next day we’ll visit one of the finest botanical gardens in the Mediterranean. May is the best time to be there; all the spring and early-summer flowers will be in bloom. Can you imagine the colors? The fragrances? It will be a feast for the senses!

On day 5, we’ll venture out for a day of sketching in the charming medieval village of Pals with its cobblestone streets, stone buildings, and wrought iron balconies covered with flowering vines.

There are sketchable scenes everywhere you look!

And remember, on a French Escapade workshop tour, there is always a perfect balance of instructional time…

independent painting time…

and free time to roam, explore, relax, and shop!

For a change of pace, day 6 will include a visit to the incredible Salvador Dali Museum. I can promise you’ve never seen anything like it!

It’s a fitting representation of the surrealistic art that is Dali’s legacy.

The tour will wrap up with a leisurely day in our village by the sea, with time to fill those last few pages in our journals. We’ll finish with a final Show and Tell time while sipping sangria before heading out to our farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 8 is departure day, when we’ll be driven back to Barcelona to catch a flight home. Or, as long as you're in the area, why not spend a few extra days exploring this uniquely beautiful city.

Barcelona offers a wide range of sights to see, including Gothic cathedrals…

tranquil parks…

bustling markets…

beautiful city avenues…

and architectural masterpieces by Antoni Gaudi…

You might take a tour of the Medieval and Gothic quarter to learn about the history and traditions of the people of Barcelona. Or enjoy a dinner of paella or tapas (small, savory Spanish dishes often served with drinks)…

You could even see a flamenco show!

Whether you extend your trip or not, I hope you’ll come along and join the fun on this week-long art workshop tour that showcases the highlights of the Costa Brava. Traveling with a group of artists guarantees that you’ll have time to stop, linger, sketch awhile, and really see what makes a place special.

Traveling with French Escapade, you know you’ll be safe and secure, and all the logistics will be taken care of. All you have to do is enjoy your time in this amazing place.

This workshop is being arranged through Jackie Grandchamps, co-owner of French Escapade, who will handle all booking arrangements. Visit their website for complete information about the itinerary, lodging, pricing, and class description.

Rates through November 30, 2018: 
$3190 per person for a standard double occupancy room
$3540 per person for a double occupancy room with a sea view
$3540 per person for a standard single room
$3890 per person for a single room with sea view
($600 deposit required to hold your place)

Regular prices after November 30, 2018:
$3390 per person for a standard double occupancy room
$3740 per person for a double occupancy room with a sea view
$3740 per person for a standard single room
$4090 per person for a single room with a sea view
($600 deposit required to hold your place)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Step-by-Step Sketch - Mission San Juan Capistrano

My how time flies! It's been almost a month since I returned from gallivanting around Sicily and England, and I've been longing to share some pictures with you and work on finishing up my travel journal, but I've had to put all that on hold while I put the finishing touches on the two classes I'll be teaching in San Clemente, California, in a few days.

I wanted to get back in touch though, so I thought I'd give you a preview of one of the projects I'll be doing with the students in my two-day "Sketch Your World" plein air sketching workshop. We'll be visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano the first day, and our warm-up project will be an elongated sketch that captures a slice of a scene at the mission. I've dubbed this a "Stacked Layers" sketch.

Ink & watercolor in a 10 x 7 Handbook Field Watercolor Journal. Each sketch measures 1-3/4" x 3-3/4".

For this example, I did three line drawings on a page in my 10" x 7" Handbook Field Watercolor Journal using reference photos. Each box measures only 1-3/4" x 3-3/4", but the students in class will draw a single larger rectangular sketch. The idea is to draw the layers of the scene, starting with the foreground and gradually moving back through the mid-ground and background to the sky, stacking one layer above and behind another.

If you look at the full view of the completed sketch at the top of this post, you'll notice that I kept the layout simple and left plenty of white space around the boxes. This helped to focus attention on the miniature sketches.

After the ink drawing was completed, I painted the sky wet-in-wet using American Journey's Sky Blue. I kept the look of the sky consistent across the three sketches to unify them.

Next, I began painting the sunny base washes on the architectural elements using mixtures of Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, and Getz Gray (American Journey).

Then I painted the lightest values on the flowers. These blocks of color act as placeholders, reminding me where not to put green in the next step. I also painted a violet shadow on the brick arch and masked out some poppies in the mid-ground of the sketch on the right.

Time for the green! Light values were brushed onto dry paper first, then darker values were dropped in here and there and allowed to blend a bit.

Next, I added texture to the buildings by brushing on tans, browns, and grays to suggest stone, brick and a stucco/brick combination. I also added color to the bells and fountain in the center sketch.

To give depth to the foliage, medium and dark values were added.

The deeper greens were mixed using Sap Green as a base, modified by adding Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, or Payne's Gray.

Varying the hues of the greens helped to distinguish one mass of foliage from another.

After I finished painting the green foliage, I removed the masking from the middle-ground flowers in the sketch shown above and gave them a base wash of muted salmon pink.

The final step was to give the flowers form and depth by adding medium and dark values.

I'm always amazed at how those darks make a sketch come alive.

To paint these darker values, I mixed concentrated color using the same pigments I had used for the base washes. To deepen the color even further, I sometimes added Ultramarine Blue (for the purples) and Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Magenta, or a bit of Payne's Gray (for the reds).

One final touch was needed - some bubbling water in the fountain! For that I brushed on white gouache straight from the tube and tinted it with a few strokes of blue-gray watercolor.

Here's my little sketch, all finished...

...or is it? I still may add some color to the lettering, or maybe a simple stroke of paint above and/or below the lettering. I think I'll discuss the possibilities with my students at the mission. Will sixteen heads be better than one? We'll see. :)

Why not give a "stacked layers" sketch a try? Pick a scene and capture just a slice of it, like you're peering through a keyhole. A single sketch would be perfect in a vertical format sketchbook. It's a great way to capture the essentials of a scene in a dynamic and efficient way.

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