Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sketches from Maine: Heart-Shaped Rocks and Sparkling Water

I've just about finished my Maine sketchbook. There's one more page I want to add at the end to wrap it all up. Meanwhile, here are a few I thought you might like to see...

(All sketches were done in a 9" x 6" Stillman and Birn Alpha series sketchbook)

I've collected heart-shaped rocks for years. I have them from such far flung places as Alaska, Ireland, the Virgin Islands and Italy. Some of the best ones have come from the rocky coast of Maine, and this year I found plenty to add to my collection.

To paint them, I put down a variegated base wash using earth tones: yellow ochre, burnt umber, burnt sienna, and quinacridone gold along with ultramarine blue and cobalt. After that dried I began adding texture with more layers of paint.   

Layers of glazing

Spattering is a perfect way to get the grainy texture of some rocks, but when I spatter, it tends to go everywhere. I wanted my background on this page to stay clean, so I used frisket film to mask out the stones and protect the background. I simply peeled off the adhesive backing, laid it on my sketch and, with an Xacto blade, cut around the rocks, then peeled off the film. My background was covered with the clear frisket and I could spatter to my heart's content.



I used a natural sea sponge to add texture to a few of the stones.


On others, I dropped table salt into the first wash and allowed it to dry, creating interesting patterns.

Salt texture

On this next page, I tried out a different way of handling a text page...

It's kind of wild and crazy-looking, but lots of fun to do.

The most wonderful thing about our cottage in Maine was the panoramic view, particularly in the morning when the sun was low in the sky and the water shimmered and sparkled like diamonds.

To get the sparkly look in this sketch, I spattered on clear water, then dabbed in touches of blue, allowing it to spread randomly. Where the paper remained dry, I had shimmering highlights. Where I ended up with less white than I wanted, I went back in at the end, when everything had dried, and scratched out some highlights with a sharp blade.

Looking at this sketch brings back all the happy feelings I had on that June morning sitting on the porch with my pals, looking out through the geraniums to the sparkling waters of Penobscot Bay. Good times!


  1. Thank you for these mini tutorials, Leslie! I didn't know there was such a thing as frisket film, but it worked great for your stones. Love all the fun detail and tiny sketches you fit into your June 11 text page. My favorite, though, is the view from the porch of your cottage. So beautiful. And I really appreciate when you share technique. My husband and I are at the beach this week, only in South Carolina, so I'm going to give your tip for creating shimmering water a try!

  2. You're welcome, Susan. I'm glad to know that you're finding my comments on technique useful. I always hope they might be of some help to my readers.

  3. Amazing, you'd think after 60 years of being your sister I'd be used to it, but I just love these pages!

  4. I love your rocks! Fellow artist and art enthusiast too here. Have you tried rubbing different colors of shoe polish in any of them? When I do a red terra-cotta sculpture I always finish it out in a dark gray or black shoe polish. Since it's so porous it'll absorb most of the black polish leaving soft lines and adding dimension. It's also great for sealing. So, if you have some porous rocks that's one thing I'd try out with them. Enjoy your next creation!


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