Friday, April 8, 2016

Sketching at Summerhill

Yesterday I hosted the April "Sketching at Summerhill" event here at my house in Ruff Creek, PA. When I began these sketching get-togethers two years ago, the idea was to offer a way for like-minded artists to gather for a time of learning, drawing, and painting together in a relaxed environment. I wanted everyone to feel comfortable socializing and sharing what they've been working on lately.

It's been successful beyond my wildest dreams! It's become so popular that I've had to limit the number of participants due to space limitations, and I usually have a waiting list each month.

I've made so many new friends through these monthly sessions, and I've watched many of the beginners grow and blossom into confident artists over the course of the past two years. Sketchbook journaling has offered a way for them to enjoy being creative without any pressure or expectations.

There are people who just don't get sketchbook journaling. They wonder why anyone would waste so much time painting a picture that might never see the light of day. They think that if it's not going into a frame, there's not much point in painting.

But my sketching buddies do get it. They understand the delight and joy that I feel when a sketch turns out better than I dared hope it would. They get excited over new border styles, and they ooh and aah over a colorful sketch of my breakfast or my dog. They laugh at the funny sketches and get choked up over the touching ones. They're the kind of sketching friends everyone longs for.

I know they would say that I give them a lot during these Sketching at Summerhill events - a substantial step-by-step lesson, individual painting assistance, and wonderful food - but they may not realize how much I get back.

They inspire me with their varied styles and approaches. They make me feel good about my teaching and my cooking. But best of all, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I've helped them grow artistically and that, for a few hours, I've given them a welcoming place where they can escape their commitments and daily troubles and just have fun. Seeing them happy makes me happy.

Anyway...........I started out wanting to show you some photos from Thursday's session, and I'm afraid I got a little sidetracked. Back to the subject at hand.

Our lesson this week was on three different ways to paint reflections in water...

Afterward, we had a yummy lunch of Calcutta Salad, three different kinds of quiche, and warm yeast rolls....

My mother is my indispensable kitchen helper.

The dessert made everyone swoon!

Then it was sharing time. Almost everyone had a sketch or two to share. Aileen showed us a painting she's been working on...

and Carol shared her awesome travel journal from a recent trip to Germany. Love those borders!

Click to enlarge

My friend Franny even brought some of her "snow-dyed" fabric to show us....

Then it was time to say goodbye until next month when we're hoping it will be warm enough to get out of the classroom and do some outdoor sketching.

I wish you could all share the fun times with us (and the good food), but since that's impossible, I thought you might enjoy having some of the recipes that I make for the Summerhill events. Here are a few to start you off...

Spinach Quiche
1 9” or 10” pie crust, unbaked
½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
6 slices bacon, chopped (or ¾ cup chopped ham)
8 eggs
½ cup dairy sour cream
½ cup half-and-half, light cream, or milk
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Dash ground  nutmeg
3 cups lightly packed chopped fresh spinach
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¾ cup shredded Swiss cheese

Line the pastry shell with a double thickness of foil. Bake in a 450° oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 4-5 minutes more or till pastry is set and dry. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook onion and bacon until onion is tender and bacon is crisp. Drain on paper towels. (If using ham, there’s no need to cook it.)

In a medium mixing bowl beat eggs slightly with a fork. Stir in sour cream, half-and-half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in onion, bacon or ham, spinach and cheeses.

Pour egg mixture into the hot baked pastry shell. Bake in the 325° oven about 45-60 minutes or till a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If necessary, cover the edge of crust with foil to prevent overbrowning.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Vegetarian Quiche
1 9”or 10" pie crust, unbaked
¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
¾ cup cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup sliced green onions
¼ cup chopped roasted red peppers
½ can of artichoke hearts, chopped
2 T. flour
4 slightly beaten eggs
1 ½ cups half-and-half
¼ - ½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Line the unpricked pastry shell with a double thickness of foil. Bake in a 450° oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 4-5 minutes more or until pastry is set and dry. Remove from oven. Reduce over temperature to 325°.

Toss together Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, vegetables and flour. Sprinnkle mixture over the bottom of the pastry shell. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together eggs, hal-and-half, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Pour egg mixture into the hot baked pastry shell. Bake in the 325° oven for 40-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If necessary, cover edge of crust with foil to prevent overbrowning. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Calcutta Salad
4 oz. fresh spinach, torn (3 cups)
½ head romaine, torn (3 cups)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 T. cashews
1 small red apple. cored and thinly sliced

3 T. apple juice
2 T. oil
2 T. low-fat plain or pineapple yogurt
1 T. white wine vinegar or white vinegar
1 T. chutney
1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp salt
½ of a small apple, cored, peeled, and finely grated

In a large salad bowl, combine salad ingredients.
Separately, combine dressing ingredients.
Pour half the dressing over the salad; toss to coat. Cover and chill remaining dressing for up to 4 days.

Chocolate Pavlova
Meringue crust:
6 egg whites
1 c. sugar
3 T. cocoa powder
1 tsp balsamic or red wine vinegar (I use balsamic)
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I like Ghiradelli bittersweet baking chocolate – buy a 4 oz bar so you’ll have some to shave chocolate on top)

1 – 2 c. heavy cream, whipped (add about 3 T. sugar and 1 tsp vanilla to give
it flavor)
Raspberries or strawberries, washed and dried
2-3 T. coarsely grated chocolate curls or chocolate syrup

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, or use a reusable silicone sheet.

Beat egg whites until satiny peaks form. Beat in sugar gradually until stiff and shiny. Do not underbeat. Gently fold in next 3 ingredients.

Mound on baking sheet in fat circle about 9” in diameter. (It will expand quite a bit as it bakes.) Smooth sides and top. 

Place in oven and immediately decrease oven temperature to 300º. Bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours. It may require less time, depending on your oven. It is ready when it looks crisp around the edges and top and sides are dry. 

When done, turn off oven and open door slightly and allow to cool in oven. Invert onto plate when ready to serve. (Or leave it right side up - I like seeing the crackly top.)

Top with whipped cream, berries, and chocolate curls or chocolate syrup.


  1. I always enjoy seeing your students' work and how, even though they're all painting the same thing, they each have their own style. And I love your mom and all the "mom" things she does! Does she sketch too?

    Can't wait for Boone! It's hard to believe it's only a month away!

    1. My mom has made a few tentative attempts to learn to draw on her own lately. She's having fun with it, and I'm hoping she'll one day be sketching with the rest of us.


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