Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sketching on Location at Casa Romantica

The second day of my "Sketching on Location" workshop took us to Casa Romantica in San Clemente. This beautiful place was built in 1927 as the home of the founder of San Clemente, Ole Hanson. It's now a public garden and cultural center, and we were lucky enough to spend the day there painting together.

The inner courtyard was peaceful and serene...

The view from the terrace was amazing!

There were quiet spots to sit and relax...

 and plenty of inspiring patterns to use as decorative motifs in our sketchbooks...

The gardens were a feast for the eyes...

At first, we all wandered around in a daze  overwhelmed by how many subjects there were for sketching. We could have spent a week there and still not run out of things to paint. But we finally gathered together to have a little show-and-tell of our sketches from the day before and talk about some ideas I had for how to approach our sketching on day 2.

Then we settled in and got to work!

Jayne used the viewfinder you never have to hunt for in your sketch kit :)

Tracy and Lindsey, who traveled all the way from PA for the class, perched on the edge of the terrace to enjoy the view of San Clemente pier, while Pat focused her attention on the Casa itself.

Here are a few of their sketches...

There were many more that I didn't manage to get a shot of that day, but I have to say we were pretty proud of ourselves for accomplishing so much in such a short time.

My "Sketching on Location" class

I painted the inner courtyard at Casa Romantica in the afternoon while the class looked on, eager to see exactly how I do what I do. Being watched while I sketch or do a demo is nerve-wracking for me - I'm so used to painting alone - but I think it's helpful to the students to see how I approach the white page and what the process is for adding color. Here's the sketch I painted that afternoon:

Everyone was asking me why I decided to use the arched line above the sketch. My answer is.... I have no idea! It just popped into my mind and I thought it would look kind of cool to have that shape arcing up over the peaked roof of the Casa, with the palms framing the urn and the sunlit part of the building.

I started off by painting the sky. I wet the page first, then dropped in cerulean mixed with a little cobalt blue and let it flow on the paper, dabbing with a tissue where needed to control the flow. I wanted to leave plenty of white clouds.

While that was drying I started on the urn and the plants in the flower beds, laying down the first light washes. Subsequent washes were added later to darken and increase value contrast.

The building appeared bright white while I was sitting there painting, but it looked very flat and uninteresting in my sketch when I left it as plain white paper, so I added some subtle texture to indicate the unevenness of the stucco surface. I mixed up puddles of light tan and gray on my palette, then brushed on individual strokes here and there and smudged them with my thumb or finger. Spattering would have worked, too, but the key is to smudge it quickly before it dries, to give it a mottled appearance.

After the sky had dried, I began painting the trees on the left using a round brush. Strokes of varying colors were used including a dull green, raw sienna, tan, and maroon.

Earthen Green (American Journey watercolors) was the base color for the large palm tree on the right. As I was painting the palm fronds, I dropped in touches of cobalt blue, and added strokes of lavender and yellow ochre. I also began building up layers of color on the plantings at the base of the trees using progressively darker values.

The shadowed corridors were painted during my demo with a wash of shadow color (American Journey Shadow + something to vary the color, like burnt umber, Payne's gray or cobalt blue). Details were added later when I finished up the sketch in my studio.

(Maybe I shouldn't mention this, but I noticed after I scanned the sketch that the corridors on the left and right side aren't the same size. A little boo-boo that I missed when I was doing my initial drawing. But does it matter? Nope, not a bit.)

The toughest part about the page was figuring out what to do with the blank space I had above the arch at the top of the page. After much rumination, I decided to mark off an area for some journaling about the location then paint a wash of color above that. The color would coordinate with the beautiful aqua green of the oversized pot in the center of my sketch. To get a sharp edge above the text, I masked along that edge with masking fluid. After painting the wash, letting it dry, then painting the brown stripes, I removed the masking and added the text.

The lettering was the last thing to go on the page. I penciled it in then inked it with an 01 Sakura Pigma Micron pen with sepia ink.

So there you have it! It's almost as if you were there looking over my shoulder, isn't it? Wish you could have been. :)

My husband and I are dashing off today for an impromptu trip to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, but when I get home I'll write up a post about the last of my sketches from San Clemente. It will have step-by-step photos of the process I used to paint this pretty scene...

If you would like to sketch on location with me in some of the most gorgeous spots on the planet, think about coming along on a trip to Tuscany or the Greek Isles with me this fall! You'll meet wonderful people, eat incredible food, see 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. Happy Anniversary, Leslie! Thanks for another tip-filled post! I'd love to hear more about your process for choosing a subject to sketch when you're surrounded by such an overwhelming array of possibilities. Do you focus on something that gives you an emotional response or a technical challenge or...? That could probably be a topic for a whole class, huh? ;-)

    1. I always look for the WOW factor, something that speaks to me or impresses me in some way. In this case, I liked the symmetry and the big vase framed by the white backdrop, and the way the corridors led my eye into the center of attention. Other times I find a lot of smaller things that I like and I combine them into a composite page. I usually don't look for a technical challenge - why make it hard on myself? ;) At the Casa, it really was overwhelming. There was so much that I loved, so I chose to go for more of the big picture.

    2. Good question SusanA. There were so many lovely sights in Leslie's pictures that I too wondered how she chose what to capture in her sketchbook.

  2. nice to see all the painting of this wonderfull place !

  3. Leslie I love your work and have followed you for quite some time. I am always pointing painting friends to your blog. I am determined to get to one of your home workshops!!!
    I have a question about this painting. Did you use the pen afterwards or had you drawn with the pen some right at the start?
    Thanks again for another wonderful demonstration.

    1. I always draw with ink first, then add watercolor. I think the pen lines are less obtrusive that way.

    2. Thanks I'm just trying some pen lines with my watercolor.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...