Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sketchbook Journeys - Arizona: Day 2

On the second day of my short visit to Arizona, we spent most of our time at the beautiful Mission San Xavier where I did this composite page in my sketchbook.

(Click to enlarge)
9" x 6", ink & watercolor

I enjoy designing gridded pages, because you can include so many facets of a subject in one page. I usually do them in a large 9" x 12" sketchbook, but for this trip, I took a Strathmore 6" x 9"  watercolor sketchbook, and its smaller size made doing a gridded page pretty challenging, especially when attempting to include some of the details on the mission's facade.

For my first sketch of the day, I tackled the full front view of the mission and experimented with making colorful shadows. I like how they turned out. It's so much more interesting than the blue-grey I normally tend to rely on.

Facade detail, 4" x 2-3/4"

As the morning sun rose higher in the sky, the temperature soared, and we began to feel a little scorched, so we found a shady spot for sketch #2 near the cactus garden.

Garden detail, 3-1/2" x 2-1/2"

The cement walls of the mission enclosure stayed remarkably cool in spite of the 90 degree temperatures. It gave me a comfy place to sit and kept people from constantly peering over my shoulder.

That's me working on sketch #3 at Mission San Xavier.

Sketch #3 is a rendering of one of the saint statues on the facade. It was fun working in a color scheme that was close to monochromatic, something a little different for me.

The interior walls of the sanctuary were covered with incredibly ornate decorative painting. I would never attempt to duplicate it in my sketchbook, so I settled on something simpler, the view looking out from the dark, cool interior of the church to the courtyard with its wrought iron gate, and the mission bells beyond.

Interior and gate detail, 3-3/4" x 2-1/2"

We packed up and headed for home before I had a chance to fill the upper right section on my sketchbook page, but I had planned early on to paint the mission bells as they looked when we first arrived that morning. I liked the strong cast shadows on the bright white of the bell tower. (I ended up doing this sketch in the airport on the way home while waiting for a flight.)

Detail of mission bells, 3-1/2" x 2-1/2"

At the end of the day I only had one page to show for several hours of work, but it was fun experimenting with a different layout format and capturing a variety of views of that gorgeous old mission church. And just having the luxury of hours to spend painting was reward enough for me.

Just look at the blue of that sky!


  1. Your trip was well worth it, to have those great sketches in your sketch book. You captured the mission in a wonderful way, & I just loved the way you did the shadows, they seemed to emit the heat of the day.
    Enjoy your thanksgiving. Barbara Lilian

    1. It seems counter intuitive to put yellow in a shadow, but you're right, it suggests the reflection of warmth from the adjacent white walls. I'm glad I tried it!

  2. Actually that's a lot of detail in those little paintings... so I can see where the time went. Its wonderful. Painting smaller seems to take more time with me. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

    1. Isn't that odd that the smaller paintings take more time? When I started the mission page, I just thought it would be fun to do a composite, so I drew the layout and inked it. It wasn't until I started to draw the center sketch of the mission that I realized how tiny it was going to be. That darn thing took me at least an hour - trying to get the proportions right, and suggesting enough details to "tell the story." I used a fairly large brush for most of the painting, just so I wouldn't get too fussy, but the sketches still were too small for my taste.


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