Friday, October 4, 2019

Sketches from Croatia - Part 2 - Čilipi & Dubrovnik

When I teach in Europe, I always fly over a few days early so I have time to get over jet lag and relax a little before the workshop begins. This time, I booked a beautiful villa with a group of friends and we spent three blissful days relaxing and touring Dubrovnik and the surrounding area before our tour began.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

Villa Joe, located in the tiny town of Čilipi, was built in 1856 and completely renovated and modernized two years ago. It's beautiful inside and out, with a wonderful poolside terrace where we painted and ate our meals. We felt completely spoiled by our luxurious surroundings. I sketched the house one evening, sitting at the far end of the pool, as the sun sank low in the sky, listening to conversation and laughter as two of my pals lolled in the pool and others sat nearby enjoying a glass of wine. I felt so contented and happy!

Would you like to know how I painted the rugged texture of the stone villa in this sketch? Well, let's talk about drawing them first.

When I drew the building, I indicated the stone texture with "skippy" lines, drawing some, but not all, of the lines that defined the large rectangular stones. I used a Sailor Fude fountain pen for this sketch and almost all of the sketches I did in Croatia. I love the line variation that I can get with the bent nib.

The bent nib gives you lots of options for varying line widths when you sketch with it. It all depends on the angle at which you hold the pen.

Hold it in a vertical position and only a little bit of the nib comes in contact with the paper, resulting in a fairly fine line. Tilt it down and let the bent part rest flat on the page, and you'll get a wide, bold line. Flip the nib over and use it upside down for a very fine line.

Varying line widths drawn with a Sailor Fude pen

Ink flow with this pen is very consistent, and I've never had it clog or leak. It's become my favorite sketching tool.

Now, back to painting the stone walls of the villa...

I started by painting a base wash with pale Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, and a gray mixture of Burnt Sienna + Cobalt Blue. Using a large size 10 round brush, I laid down strokes of individual colors and allowed the paint to flow and blend, resulting in a variegated wash that indicated the colors of the stone.

After the paint dried, I added medium-value paint to individual stones here and there with irregular strokes, touching some of the edges with a damp brush to soften and blend the paint and give me lost and found edges. The final step was to add some spattering for texture. I spattered with a paintbrush and with a spatter screen, smudging some of the dots of paint with my fingers to vary the look.

The resulting sketch shows stone walls with rugged texture and color variation, just what I wanted!

We took a trip to Dubrovnik one day, taking the boat taxi from Cavtat and traveling along the coast, enjoying spectacular views of villages and mountains from the water.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink, watercolor, and collage on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

I picked up a postcard that day to use in my sketchbook and came up with the idea to incorporate it into a page that showed the route I walked as we wandered through the narrow streets. After I got home, I printed out the street map on matte photo paper, cut it out, and used a fine point pen to mark my meanderings. A watercolor base wash was applied to the page prior to the collage elements. It helps to give the page a more cohesive look. Gel pens were used for the date and title since they are opaque and stand out on the painted background. Notations with callouts help to personalize the page.

It was very hot in Dubrovnik that day, and I was feeling a little out of sorts, with tourists clogging the streets and jostling us at every turn. But I found a cool spot on a side street where I could sit and sketch one of the narrow alleys that was criss-crossed with drying laundry. Sitting and sketching for awhile soothed my frazzled nerves and put me in a much better frame of mind. It made me feel connected to the old city in a way I hadn't before.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

I kept things simple for this plein air sketch. A pencil, pen, water brush, and a tiny palette were all I needed to get the job done in about 30-40 minutes.

My mom and I decided to treat ourselves to some ice cream in the afternoon at an outdoor cafe that overlooked the city walls. Our sundaes tasted as good as they looked!

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

When I posted this picture of my mother, Saundra, about to dig into her banana split, it garnered more comments than any other picture I posted on Facebook during my two-week trip!

Saundra enjoying the first banana split of her life

We enjoyed seeing Dubrovnik, but it sure was nice to retreat to Villa Joe that evening and just chill out around the pool. Sigh...just looking at this picture takes me back there.....

Next up: Lunch under a bridge + drinks in Cavtat! Coming soon. :)

For information about my September 2020 workshop in Croatia, click here. To register early and be assured of a great room, click here. Don't miss out - it's filling already!


  1. Wow! Was she actually able to eat the whole thing???
    Lovely sketches. I come here to get ideas for sketching while traveling. What to do and how to get it all in. In another life I would be going along with you. You never disappoint.

    1. Yep, she ate the whole thing, and I ate the gigantic chocolate sundae I drew and painted. Needless to say, we didn't eat dinner that night!
      Wish you could come along on a trip - we have so much fun together. Squeezing in sketching time is so much easier when the trip is planned around it, but even on family vacations, I manage a few sketches. We just bought a camper trailer, so we can go with the grandkids, and I want to start a special sketchbook for our trailer travels. Next weekend will be our first camping trip - can't wait!

  2. Leslie, your talent and style makes me so very happy!

    1. I think that's because sketching makes so happy, and it shows in my work.

  3. I could have sworn I commented on this but I guess not. All I can say is that you make me think about a place I've never thought of before. Love the sketching photo -- you on the sidewalk -- and all the journal pages, but especially the laundry!

  4. Thanks, Jeanie. I took so many pictures of laundry!


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