Saturday, July 9, 2016

Summerhill Sketching Hits the Road! (+ Corn & Basil Tart Recipe)

Every month I host "Sketching at Summerhill" here at my house. It offers an opportunity for my creative friends to get together, learn a little something, paint a bit, and enjoy some fun and fellowship away from the daily grind. I love having everyone come to my home in the summertime when the flowers are in bloom, but this month I took my show on the road to a beautiful garden just a few miles away.

My friend, Jan, is the creator of this wonderland. She designed it, planted it, and cares for it daily. It's a big job, but she loves it, and, best of all, she loves to share it with others!


She graciously offered to host our monthly sketching get-together for July, and the sketchers were really excited about the prospect of getting to see this amazing space.

We had such a great time, from the moment we walked through the wrought iron gates into the backyard. There was so much to see!

A Japanese-style garden complete with waterfalls and a goldfish pond...

beautiful flowers and bushes...

garden sculptures...



bottle trees and borders...

wine cork mulch...

a river made of glass pebbles...

a window that Jan rescued from the trash when a local church was being remodeled...

a HUGE wind chime...

and over 100 varieties of daylilies!

I think this one may be my favorite

We tried to see everything, but there was just too much! We kept discovering fun surprises, like a collection of glass suncatchers on a fence or an antique washtub overflowing with petunias. Jan's sense of humor and eye for design have made her garden a treasure.

After wandering around the yard for awhile, we headed for our temporary classroom, a.k.a. Jan's garage.

Click to enlarge

I taught a step-by-step lesson on painting daylilies, and showed everyone how to get from this...

to this!

6" x 8" watercolor on 140 lb. paper

After I explained the painting process, some of the students went out to the garden to sketch, some picked a daylily blossom and brought it into our "studio" to paint, and others painted from photos they had taken with their phone or tablet. 

We worked up a hearty appetite with all that sketching, so everyone was happy to set aside their paints for awhile to enjoy an al fresco lunch.

How idyllic is that?

Lunch was really yummy. I made Corn and Basil Tarts...

California Coleslaw...

Mint and Lime Fresh Fruit Salad...

No, that's not pepper on the fruit! It's little bits of chopped mint and lime zest. :)

and Lemon-Pecan Muffins...

A few daring women even tried nibbling on daylily blossoms after our host told us that they are edible!

Jan treated us to berry buckle with vanilla ice cream for dessert. The buckle was made with a combination of blueberries, blackberries, and red raspberries, plus black raspberries she picked on her property.

After lunch, we painted some more. The pace was relaxed. A nice breeze drifted through the studio while classical music played in the background. I walked around and helped anyone who needed it. What a blissful way to spend an afternoon!

Then it was sharing time. Several of my Summerhill Sketchers did an alphabet challenge during the month of June, and they brought their completed (or nearly complete) sketches to share. It was amazing to see how much they accomplished in such a short time. They all spoke about how they could see a huge amount of progress in their drawing and painting skills as a result of the time invested. Practice is the key!

Teresa did a flower for every letter of the alphabet...

I loved the water and reflections on this "F"lamingo sketch of Cathy's.

And Colleen takes her sketchbook everywhere with her now, including when she volunteered at an arts festival in Pittsburgh. She's fearless!

Next month we'll be back at Summerhill for sketching on August 4, and this interlude in Jan's garden will be a happy memory for all of us. If you'd like to experience a little bit of our summer garden party, why not try making this delicious Corn and Basil Tart? Here's the recipe, just for you!

Corn and Basil Tart

Crust ingredients:
1/3 c. butter, softened
2 T. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 egg
2/3 c. cornmeal
2/3 c. flour

Filling ingredients:
2 eggs
1 c. half-and-half or light cream
1-1/2 c. fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
¾ c. cheddar cheese
½ c. coarsely snipped fresh basil
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper

Optional add-ins:
1 small can black olives
¼-1/3 cup green chiles
Pimento, chopped
Artichoke hearts, chopped

Optional toppings:
Chopped tomato and basil
Or salsa

1. Make the cornmeal crust: In a medium bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add sugar and ½ tsp. salt. Beat until combined. Beat in 1 egg until combined. Add in cornmeal and flour. Mix until ingredients form moist clumps or a ball.
2. Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Pat the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Line the pastry with a double thickness of foil and bake 10 minutes; remove foil. Bake 5-6 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and half-and-half. Stir in the corn, cheese, basil, ½ tsp. salt, and pepper. Add any additional optional ingredients. 
4. Pour into prebaked pastry shell. Bake 35-40 minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove sides of pan to serve. 
5. Sprinkle with tomato and additional basil, or with salsa.


  1. Looks like it was a fantastic day! Gorgeous gardens! Wish I was there! :)

  2. Wow! It looks like you had a perfectly lovely day: beautiful surroundings, delicious food, classical music, painting and fellowship--sounds like my kind of fun! By the way I love your Daylily Painting Leslie!

  3. Jan's garden is a marvel! What a glorious place to have your Summerhill sketching session! And the food you prepared looks fabulous! No wonder your students were inspired to create such beautiful paintings.

  4. What an amazing garden and such a beautiful painting!


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