Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Sketch Your Life!" Workshop at Summerhill

Last weekend I hosted my first three-day "Sketch Your Life!" workshop here at my home, and we all had a great time exploring the possibilities of sketchbook journaling.

I injured my toe when I was rearranging furniture for the workshop. Ouch!! I ended up with a nasty infection, but it's healing nicely now, thank goodness!

Everything went fairly smoothly (except for that trip to Urgent Care on Friday evening!) and by the end of the weekend, we all felt like friends. The students came from all over - some were local, a few drove in from across the state of Pennsylvania, and others came all the way from Maryland, Mississippi, and Kentucky. They all had one thing in common, a desire to try a new approach to being creative.

Or did they only come for the great food? :)

Yes, my mother and I fed them well!

Mocha Sundae Pie with Oreo Cookie Crust

Our lunches included Corn and Basil Tart, Wild Rice Artichoke Chicken Salad, and Pizza Pizzazz Salad, plus lots of yummy side dishes like Cantaloupe-Peach Soup with Blueberries...

and desserts that that were to-die-for, like Mocha Sundae Pie, Bourbon-Pecan Tart, and my famous Chocolate Pavlova.

Bourbon-Pecan Tart

The ladies worked hard each morning, sketching and learning and trying new things. They deserved to be rewarded at lunchtime!

Most of them were new to sketchbook journaling, so I started them off with an introduction to drawing and watercolor. I think it was a big help to those who were complete beginners.

Angela doing a contour drawing of her hand

They learned how to design interesting lettering styles and simple border designs, then they put their new-found skills to use on their first sketches...

Next they did a page using a color block or box to make their subject pop off the page...

Later, they sketched fruits and vegetables from varying angles or in different stages to make an interesting "Multiples" page...

It's always so much fun to see each person's style begin to emerge as they work through the projects.

One afternoon, I had them do a speed-sketching challenge where they drew a gridded page filled with candy in a very limited time. Choosing just six pieces from the candy box may have been the toughest part of this exercise!

The candy bin had lots of cute, colorful penny candy, but we reserved our calories for the good stuff...

Thanks, Carol, for bringing us these yummy temptations all the way from Maryland!

A little chocolate makes the sketching so much more fun!

Carol designed some beautiful borders...

and don't you love this sketch? Those complementary colors just sing! And how about that plaid background? She got the idea for the pattern from my laundry room wallpaper. Inspiration is everywhere.

I decided to mix things up a bit on Saturday afternoon, so I gave everyone a break from their watercolors. I had them find a spot somewhere in the house or outside in the yard or on the porch, and try doing a sketch directly in ink without any preliminary pencil drawing first. The twist was that the ink in the pens was water-soluble, so, when they touched the lines with water, they dissolved into soft grays, resulting in nice mid-tone shadows. My sketch at the top of the page is an example, drawn with a Platinum Preppy pen with Platinum ink. And here's Bobbie's sketch of my porch swing...

Charlotte and Lu sketched the view from the classroom...

Carol, Sara and Lory drew in the living room...

The sketches were done in nothing flat, and everyone really enjoyed playing around with the shadow washes.

Another fun project we did was to illustrate one of our favorite quotes. There were some really good ones - here's one by Angela...

Sunday afternoon, after three days of me standing up front talking about sketchbook journaling and showing pages from my sketchbooks, it was finally time for everyone else to have a turn. Each person shared their sketches with the group and talked about what they had created.

It was touching and funny and heartwarming to hear them talk about their work. And the encouragement that flowed back to them from their new-found friends made it even more special.

Charlotte had us all laughing!

It's amazing how much they accomplished in just three short days! And seeing their confidence grow over the course of the workshop was a wonderful thing. They're excited about sketching now and are making plans to do a September challenge. They'll learn so much if they stick with it.

All of my preparations - the writing, printing, emailing, meal planning, grocery shopping, house cleaning, cooking, and studio prep - were worth it, to see the happiness on their faces as they said goodbye. This kind of teaching is a lot of work, but the rewards are priceless.

I hope to offer another "Sketch Your Life!" workshop here at Summerhill in 2017, but haven't settled on the dates yet. I still need to firm up some travel commitments first. Stay tuned...


  1. breaking out as a lurker! I read the blog in a feed, so I never miss a post, but I love seeing all the work by the participants! So cool, each one of them have a unique perspective and style, which one is the best? Like trying to say which chocolate is the best! Well done ladies!

    1. Glad you decided to "come out"! And thanks for being a loyal reader. Love your comments.

  2. All this in just three days!? AND your students actually finished their work! I'm impressed. ;-) They created some wonderful sketches.

    Your home is perfection, Leslie!

    1. Well, it's not perfect, but I love sharing it with people. Our house seems to have a calming influence on people, and it makes them happy just being there. And yes, the students did get a lot accomplished in just three days - they were hard workers! And I had to sit with my foot propped up a lot, so that gave them plenty of time to paint. Sort of like my "vertigo break" at Cheap Joe's. :)

  3. I'm glad your foot is better, and I hope your "vertigo break" doesn't happen again anytime soon. We all felt terrible for you!

    I think one reason your visitors are happy in your home is because it so graciously reflects your personality and the loving care you've put into designing it, which shows in every detail. And who wouldn't feel the peace of those beautiful views outside your windows!

  4. These are NOT beginners!! They are totally impressive. Please, Leslie, help the real beginners out here!!

    Hey Carol, What was your process in doing that wallpaper and peppers. As a beginner sketcher ( just since spring) I would have no idea where to start!! Seriously I need a step by step!! :))))

    1. Some of them were absolute beginners who had never painted before; others were more experienced. The key is just to dive in and give it a try. And work at things step by step. For Carol's sketch of the pepper, she painted the wallpaper first, and the blue border, then the peppers. The lines in the plaid were painted freehand so they would have an uneven look, but I think she penciled in a few guidelines first, just to keep things from getting too far off vertical and horizontal. Then she painted the peppers, starting with the lightest colors and gradually building up layers of darker color on top of the dried underlayers.

      If you check under the "Labels" heading on the right of this page and click on "step-by-step", you'll find lots of posts where I show the process I use to paint my sketches. Or look under the "Tutorials" heading above. Lots of great information there. I even have a few speed painting videos you might want to watch. Click on "Videos" above. I hope this is helpful!

  5. Wow! It sounds like everyone accomplished a ton in just three days! I love the sketches they created. Too bad there aren't two of you Leslie--one of you to teach art and the other to open a restaurant! 😉 That food looks delicious!

    1. Know of a good source for a clone? :) I could really use one!


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