Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 8 (Poianella, Lupia, & a time-lapse watercolor video!)

Day 8 of our stay in northern Italy was a hang-out day. It gave me a chance to do laundry and wander around the little village of Poianella on foot, sketchbook in hand. Of course, anytime I venture out to sketch, something interesting is bound to happen...

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. Sketched in Poianella, Italy.

Here's the pretty windowsill that I was sketching when I was visited by the inquisitive young man in the story above...

I liked the contrast between the ancient, weathered grey shutters and the bright, fresh cyclamen and delicate lace curtains.

Throughout northern Italy and Tuscany, we admired the fields full of cheery yellow flowers blooming everywhere. They added so much color to the overcast spring days. Turns out they're weeds which were soon to be plowed under to make way for summer crops. I prefer to think of them as wildflowers!

This ancient bridge, covered with moss and grass, was right across the street from our house. I just couldn't get over what a charming scene it made - that beautiful arch reflected in the clear, slow-moving water and sunshine sparkling all around. Just perfect!

I like to coordinate the colors on a sketchbook page that contains several different sketches, like the one below. It helps to unify things and make the page more visually pleasing.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

I keep that same idea of unity in mind when I'm working on pages which face each other. If I repeat some of the colors from the left-hand page on the right, the whole two-page spread seems more cohesive and feels right to me. 
Sample of a two-page spread

In the afternoon of Day 8, we took a leisurely drive along winding country roads to the town of Nove, which is world-renowned for its ceramics. On the way back we stopped in Lupia to sketch La Colombara, the restaurant I liked so much. (The best gluten-free pizza ever!) I kept the focus on the historic restaurant building in the foreground by using stronger colors and deeper shadows. The beautiful old church behind it looks almost ghostly, with its pale colors and soft lavender shadows.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. Sketched on location in Lupia, Italy.

I set up my iPad to make a time-lapse recording using the iMotion app as I added watercolor to my ink sketch. For a peek into the painting process, click on the video link below.

This is my very first time-lapse video. It was very disconcerting trying to paint while the iPad camera was snapping a picture every 5 seconds, but it made me really focus on what I was doing. With practice, I think I could get used to it. Let me know if you enjoy seeing this sort of thing, and I'll post some more. Although it took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to paint the page in real time, the video shows it magically coming to life in just three minutes! Cool!

Don't you love the way the cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, and ultramarine blue combine in the sky to make soft shades of peach and lavender? That's why watercolor is my favorite medium. It does its own thing so beautifully.

Allowing the sky colors to run down into the church helped to give it that mirage-like look that I wanted. I couldn't have achieved the same effect if I'd left it white. With the sky colors as a base, all it needed was a touch of more saturated color here and there to give it a glow and indicate a few shadows.

Stonework on the restaurant was suggested with multiple washes in shades of yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and rose violet.

If you watch the video, you'll notice that I kept the roof fairly light in tone until the very end to indicate the bright sun shining on it. But I finally decided that it looked too washed out, and wound up flooding it with a deeper glaze of burnt sienna plus some touches of darker burnt umber to indicate the tiles.

The shadows on the main building are a combination of ultramarine blue and rose violet, with some burnt umber thrown in to tone them down a bit.

Well, I'm halfway through my fourteen-day trip...are you ready for a break from all the Italy sketches? I think we'll take a breather for a few weeks so I can share some great summer recipes with you, as well as a fun commissioned piece that I recently completed, and a gorgeous custom drapery job we installed a few weeks ago. And, best of all, I have another great giveaway for you! Watch for it in just a few days.

'Til then, relax and enjoy these last few weeks of summer!


  1. Love, love, love.
    Thank you, I feel like I've gone on this trip.

  2. I loved your first video, please do more!!!

  3. That was amazing! What fun to watch it come to life. Thanks for sharing.

  4. That is just awesome! Beautiful work.

  5. Can't wait to see the drapery job. I miss seeing your sewing projects. You are such an inspiration!

  6. I just keep watching this... A video is worth many pics, esp the layering and mixing. Thanks!

  7. I'm so glad you all enjoyed the video! I'm working on posting more soon.

  8. I love how you set up your sketchbook pages, and the video is great. I never knew how people did those.

  9. I love how you do your sketch books too. They look like a book one would buy. I need to watch the video. somehow I miss this.

  10. Amazing to watch. I too hope you do more. :)

  11. Love watching the video. It's so helpful to see how others achieve their effects. Please post more!!

  12. Leslie, I love your sketches and how you set up your pages so they have unity. The time-lapse videos are great! I like watching them take shape. I'm curious about what kind of sketchbook/journal you use for these travel sketches.

    1. I used a Stillman and Birn Beta series sketchbook. Since they don't make the Beta in the landscape format that I prefer, they were kind enough to provide me with a custom-made 10" x 7" Beta sketchbook for this trip. I've also used Canson Montval 10x7 sketchbooks and Strathmore's in a similar size. A sketchbook with 140 lb. (or more) paper works really well for the ink and watercolor work that I do.

  13. I really enjoy watching the time lapse videos and my favorite video so far is this one. I hope someday I can be as skillful as you to put down the washes boldly without over thinking. Can't wait to see your completed Italy journal!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Debbie, and I'm glad you enjoy the videos. I can't wait to see my completed Italy journal either! I'm so close to finishing - only about 7 more sketches to go!


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