Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Casa Romantica Step-by-Step

One of the assignments I gave the students during my "Sketching on Location" workshop in San Clemente last month was to look for a view that was framed by something, like an arch, columns, or trees. Dutiful teacher that I am, I decided to set an example by sketching the view through the arches on the ocean side of Casa Romantica. I also incorporated several other motifs that I saw that day.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor, Handbook Field Watercolor Sketchbook

The drawing was tricky, but I think I was able to get a fairly accurate rendering of the arches. I was a little concerned about the composition, though. The series of arches were leading the eye off the page to the left, so I decided to put a border of painted tiles on that side. Now the arches lead to the tiles, the tiles lead down to the bracket design, which leads to the title, and finally back to the arches, making a complete circle!

Step 1 - Ink drawing

I completed the drawing of the main scene and the tile border onsite, but didn't have a chance to paint it that day, so I thought you might enjoy peeking over my shoulder as I painted it at home. Here's the step-by-step process....

I played around with some options for the lettering, and finally decided to use the University Roman Normal font. I typed the title on the computer in Microsoft Word and printed it out in varying sizes, then I cut a few of them out and tried them on the sketchbook page. After taping the lettering in place where I wanted it, I slipped a piece of graphite paper underneath the printer paper and traced over the letters with a ball-point pen, transferring the title to my page. (To clarify, the ball-point pen lines were only on the printer paper, not on my sketchbook page.) Then I inked the lines with a Pigma Micron 01 pen.

The ornate wrought iron bracket design was inspired by the decorative brackets I saw in a window at the Casa.

The first paint to go on the page was the sky. I wet the entire sky area with clean water, then brushed on Cerulean Blue and let it feather out to create soft edges on the wispy clouds.

Step 2 - Paint the sky and water

I used a drybrush technique to paint the water. By lightly skimming the side of a flat brush across the paper, I was able to leave sparkling highlights and whitecaps on the water. (I masked off the edges of the columns first with blue painter's tape to keep a nice straight edge.)

Next, a graded wash was applied to the planters, then clear water was brushed on the shaded areas of the arches and a wash of pale lavender was applied.

Step 3 - Paint pots and shadows on arches, columns, and floor.

The lavender was a mixture of Cobalt Blue and Permanent Rose, but I added touches of pure Cobalt and pure Rose in places for variety. Winsor Orange was brushed on to indicate reflected light next to the terra cotta planters and allowed to mingle with the red and blue.

The tiny, detailed tile design was begun....

Next, I painted the first blended washes on the plants and the distant landscape.

Step 4 - Paint base wash on plants & scenery

I like to vary the colors when I paint foliage, so I combined yellows, greens, blues, and reds wet-in-wet as I painted the leaves.

Then it was time to begin refining and finalizing things.

Step 5 - Add darker values, paint patio.

Middle and dark values were added to the plants and background scene, and I darkened the shadows on the planters.

The railing was painted, along with the lamp post, the patio, flower beds, and the San Clemente pier.

Adding a few diagonal lines to the glass on the light made it look more reflective.

To finish up the page, I used a tiny size 0 brush to paint the tile floor.

The same little brush  made short work of the tile border design.

The title was outlined with Raw Sienna to match the tiles...

and the same gold color was added to the corner bracket helped to tie everything together.

A little spattering is almost always a good thing! In this case, I used it to add some texture to the stucco columns and arches.

Even though this page focuses primarily on the view from the porch at Casa Romantica, I found ways to incorporate more of the motifs that I enjoyed that day while sketching on location. The ornate hand-painted tiles and bracket design enhanced the page and helped to tell more of the story of our day at the Casa, a day filled with art and friends, sunshine and flowers, and the sparkling ocean stretching across the horizon.

Step 6 - Finished sketch

If you'd like to try your hand at sketching on location, I'd love to have you join me for a workshop in Tuscany or the Greek Isles this fall. You'll meet wonderful people, eat incredible food, see some amazing sites and have the time of your life! Spaces are filling fast, so act now to reserve your space. Email me if you have any questions.


  1. I love this. It takes me right back to when we were there sketching. Thank you so much for the tutorial!

    1. I'm so glad you could be a part of it, Cindy. Hope to see you at another workshop.

  2. Leslie, your descriptions are so helpful to those of us who sit and wonder "how did she do that". Thank you. Betty Nye

    1. Encouragement like yours is why I spend so much time writing posts like this. Thank you, Betty.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing,,,love your style...I hope one day soon,,I can join your workshop....

  4. Exquisite work Leslie in every way!!


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