Monday, December 3, 2018

Sketching at Cabrillo National Monument

When I was in San Diego last month, my friend Karen and I enjoyed an afternoon of sketching at Cabrillo National Monument on the Point Loma Peninsula. I've sketched a lot of East Coast lighthouses and was excited to finally have a chance to paint a West Coast one!


I decided to do a two-page spread that would include multiple images, starting with the Point Loma Lighthouse. I began by drawing a circle with a compass and sketching a portion of the lighthouse in the space. The sky that day was a pure solid blue, but I decided to give mine more movement and color, painting it with saturated hues of Cobalt Blue and Permanent Rose.


The sun and wind made the paint dry very quickly, so it was a struggle to get the paint to flow on the sky area, but I kind of like the wild and crazy look that resulted.

Warm tones of Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, and Permanent Rose were used to paint the building. The dome roof color was mixed using Cerulean Blue and Sap Green with a touch of Burnt Sienna added to mute it a bit.

After finishing our lighthouse sketches, we walked over to the monument to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Spanish explorer who claimed the area in the name of Spain back in 1542.


I did a quick ink sketch on site, then painted it later at home using Buff Titanium and light, medium, and dark values of Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, and Burnt Umber. Saving the white highlights at the beginning made the statue appear sunlit.

We stopped in at the visitor center before we left, to get a print of the official park stamp to collage into our sketchbooks. That evening I carefully cut out my copy and put it in a safe place to glue onto the page when I got home, but I guess it wasn't so safe after all, because I never saw that piece of paper again! All my searching turned up nothing. But I had saved a spot on my page for the image, and I still wanted to include it. What to do?


I did a Google search and found a photo with a crooked, washed out image of the stamp. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough for me to see the design and draw it on my sketchbook page. I painted it with the same colors I had used for the statue and lighthouse.

I had penciled in the lettering early in the process, and after all the painting was finished, I decided on the colors for the title and date. The warm golden color, edged with Cobalt Blue gel pen, coordinates with the sketches.


A composite page is one of the best layouts for travel journaling, since you can pack a lot of information about a place on one page (or a two-page spread). When working on a composite page like this, here are some guidelines for making it interesting and visually pleasing:
(I've noted in italics how each point applies to this sketch)

  • Vary the size of the images (small stamp, medium-size lighthouse, large monument and background landscape)
  • Include a vertical element (the statue) and a horizontal element (the background landscape and the title)
  • Include something organic (plants at the base of the monument)
  • Include signage (the stamp qualifies, in this case)
  • Add depth by overlapping or connecting some images (the statue comes up in front of the title)
  • Set off an image with a box or border (wave border around the lighthouse)
  • Repeat colors throughout the page (the warm golden color is repeated throughout the page)
  • Balance the "weight" on the page (small & medium images on the left balance out the larger image and title on the right)
  • Add journaling to make it personal, tell a story, or learn more about a place (reading and writing about the history of the lighthouse and Cabrillo gave me more insight into what I had seen)

Why not give it a try? You don't need to travel farther than your own hometown to find great subject matter.

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