Friday, March 18, 2016

Bunnies and Daffodils - Spring is Here!

As I was working on the third lesson for my Intro to Watercolor class this week, I decided to do a step-by-step tutorial for the students to show them how to paint a still life from start to finish. As I cast about looking for subject matter, my eyes lit upon the cute little bunny salt and pepper shakers that I have on our kitchen table. With the addition of a couple of farm eggs from the refrigerator and a freshly picked daffodil, I had a simple still life with a spring/Easter theme.

7-1/4" x 5-1/4", watercolor, Strathmore Windpower sketchbook

I scanned this little painting after every step of the painting process to show my students how to logically approach a still life and what to tackle first. In this case, the order was as follows:
  • Pencil drawing
  • Background wash
  • Base wash on daffodil
  • Wet-in-wet base wash on eggs, dropping in darker shadow colors
  • Form shadows on bunnies
  • Cast shadows
  • Darker values on eggs and daffodil
  • Soften and correct highlights
  • Spatter on eggs and foreground
Would you have done it differently?

After the painting was finished and the lesson instructions were written, it was time to personalize this page in my sketchbook. I had saved room on the left side for some journaling. Because I'm so used to sketchbook journaling, a painting without lettering and a border just somehow feels incomplete to me, especially when it's done in a sketchbook. So, I did some watercolor lettering for the word "Spring", then added some text using a metallic gold gel pen (which gave me a lot of problems!) I'm still tempted to add some curlicues in the right-hand corners, but I think I'll leave it for now.

So, I had some fun with this lesson, and I hope my students will, too, tomorrow. They'll be learning all about painting shadows and how to handle highlights, plus we'll have fun with some extra techniques like spattering, lifting and scraping.

Teaching this series of classes has reminded me how challenging watercolor can be for someone just starting out, but I've seen my students already discovering the special joy that comes of watching colors combine and work their magic on paper. There's just nothing else like it. I hope they, and you, will persevere and believe that all it takes is time and practice to get to a point where you feel comfortable with the medium. Enjoy the process and try to appreciate the parts of your paintings that are successful, rather than focusing on what you don't like. It's worth the effort.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Upcoming Classes

This Saturday is the start of a 4-week "Introduction to Watercolor Painting" class here at my home studio in Waynesburg, PA. If you've always wanted to give watercolor a try but just weren't sure how to start, this introductory class might be just the thing for you.

I'll be teaching all the basic watercolor techniques plus you'll learn how to mix colors, paint shadows, and incorporate a wide range of values in your paintings. It's all the basics wrapped up in one short series of classes. Come on out and give it a try! A beginner's supply kit is available if you don't already have paints and brushes. Email me to register.

I also wanted to let you know that one spot has opened up in my September 24 - October 1 workshop at Fattoria Bacio in Tuscany. And there are a few additional spots left the following week, October 1-8. So, it's not too late to sign up for the trip of a lifetime!

We'll have the entire villa at Fattoria Bacio to ourselves during our time there. It's like having your own private estate in the Tuscan hills, with all of your needs taken care of. All you have to do is relax and enjoy.

The villa and grounds are just amazing! There are so many beautiful things to draw and paint that you won't know where to begin! But one of the lessons I'll be teaching is all about how to narrow down your focus, so you aren't overwhelmed by the sheer amount of visual stimulation.

The well-rounded workshop content includes lessons on designing the sketchbook page, creating borders, easy perspective techniques, and step-by-step watercolor lessons to help you paint the subjects you'll encounter every day.

Our studio at the villa is bright, spacious, and conveniently located just down the hall from the bedrooms. It's a great place to gather after dinner to work on finishing up the day's sketches.

Our studio classroom at Fattoria Bacio

Our day trips to the surrounding villages and the city of Siena offer the perfect blend of instructional time, sketching on your own, and free time for touring, eating, and shopping.

Students enjoying a cappuccino in the medieval village of Certaldo

Siena cathedral

When I was telling my class last week in California about the upcoming Tuscany workshop, my friend Linda, one of last year's participants, piped up and said, "Our trip last year with Leslie wasn't a great trip. It was one of the BEST trips my husband and I have ever taken!"

So, if you'd like to experience Tuscany at a relaxed pace with just the right amount of organized activities and instructional time, visit my "Italy Workshops" page for all the details.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Highs and Lows

My teaching trip to San Clemente was made up of a series of highs and lows. The highs were:

the flowers...


the beaches...

and my wonderful students at San Clemente Art Supply...

The low point was this...

Yep, I got the flu while I was in California. I had to cancel my one-day "Sketching on Location" class to lie in bed all day. What a disappointment! At least I was able to finish my three-day step-by-step watercolor class before I got sick.

The students were such an enthusiastic bunch, and they worked so hard on their exercises.

They painted skies...


choppy water, sparkling water...

rocks, bushes, deciduous trees, evergreen trees...

and crashing waves...

It was a jam-packed three days, and everyone learned alot. I kept them hopping, but we had a great time.

After a few days on the Tamiflu I was well enough to go on a planned visit to my friend Linda's place, just down the coast in Del Mar. Linda and her husband were on my Italy trip last fall and I was looking forward to seeing them again, but nothing could have prepared me for the view from their home - it was spectacular!

Linda had something new for me to try - linoleum block printing. I had done some printmaking way back in my college days, but hadn't touched a carving tool in decades. We sat in the warm sunshine on the deck, looking out at that gorgeous view, and I contentedly carved away on my block for hours. Now, that's the best way I can think of to recover from the flu!

I started out with a simple drawing of some nearby flowers...

then I began carving out the lines that would be white in my final print using a lino cutting tool.

Here's how it turned out...

We used a stamp pad with permanent ink for the printing, making it possible to add watercolor to the print after it had dried. I turned it into a cute sketchbook page to remind me of a happy afternoon with my friend.

On my next linocut, I think I'll leave more of the background uncut. I like the way it adds some texture to the negative space around the flowers.

The next day we did some sketching in the morning...

then headed into La Jolla for lunch. The waves were huge that day...

I could have stood and watched them for hours. I just never get tired of it.

Can you see the sunbathing seals in this picture?

What a beautiful place!

Every time I visit southern California I think to myself, "Oh, now I get why people live here despite the traffic, wind storms, mud slides and earthquakes. It's AMAZING!"

Flowers, palm trees, endless sunshine, and the ocean just down the road. Pretty perfect!

I'll be back next year!
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