Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sketching on Location at the Casino - Part 1

After I finished up my "Sketch It Now" workshop in San Clemente, I launched right into "Sketching on Location" the next day. I started out the first morning with a little pep talk in the classroom. Or maybe I should call it a "prep talk" since the idea was to give everyone some practical ways to handle the challenges of sketching on location. We talked about how to narrow down your focus when confronted with a big overwhelming scene to sketch, and I shared some techniques for handling perspective challenges by using sighting techniques and an angle finder. I gave them handouts filled with great ideas for page layouts, lettering styles, and border designs, then we walked a few blocks down the street to a cool place called The Casino

The historic building and grounds gave us lots of options for subject matter both outdoors...

and in...

It was fun to think that all the Hollywood stars that I grew up watching in movies or on TV had come here to dance to the sounds of the big bands or act in plays when The Casino was a dinner theater.

After a look around, we settled in to sketch on the Patio of the Stars. It was a beautiful sunny day, just perfect for sitting outdoors and sketching. I chose this view of a wrought iron gate and vine-covered arch.

Ink & watercolor, 7x10 Handbook Field Watercolor Journal

Many of my students looked on as I painted the sketch, and I managed to finish it in about an hour, but the border was something I added later at home. The lettering style was taken from the Casino's logo, and the star design was copied from a tile that was part of the patio floor.

I like using a partial border with a vignette sketch. It sets off the sketch nicely without overwhelming it. This border design was inspired by the tin ceiling in the building.

I painted the vine-covered arch in just two steps. First I put down strokes of yellow ochre and Earthen Green (American Journey watercolors), then dropped in cobalt or ultramarine blue while the paint was still wet and allowed the colors to mingle as they dried. After the first layer had dried, I went back in with a #6 or 8 round brush and darker paint and added strokes here and there to suggest leaves. It's all very random and unplanned but gives the impression of foliage.

The windows in the door were painted to suggest reflections of the sky and foliage across the courtyard. It's always important to look for shadows when painting windows. The cast shadows on the glass give depth to the door and make the scene appear to be brightly lit by the sun.

One problem I encountered was figuring out how to indicate the texture of white painted brick in bright sunlight. It was all white! I opted to paint some grey brick shapes despite the departure from reality.  

I didn't ink the tower in the background. I wanted it to have softer edges so it would recede into the distance a bit. And notice how the shadow on the tower gently curves down rather than being a straight line. That's the key to making it look round instead of flat. 

My students worked on their own sketches throughout the morning and afternoon...

Sandy sketched the same scene I did

Linda found a comfy spot to settle in and sketch
with a little break for lunch under a pretty striped umbrella...

Here are some of their wonderful sketches...

Aren't they inspiring?

I drew one more sketch that day at The Casino, but I think I'll wait to share it with you tomorrow. Till then, why not try sketching on location in your own backyard? It's so much fun to get outside and just relax into the day, to listen to the birds and feel a breeze on your face. It's what sketchbook journaling is all about.


  1. Wonderful work by all your students, and great painting tips for all of us!

    1. Thanks, Amy, glad you enjoy the pointers. I always hope they'll be helpful.

  2. Wonderful sketches done by all! Leslie, I love how you narrow your focus for your sketches, yet still include elements from the larger picture--like the border design from the tin ceiling, the star from the floor tile, and the lettering style from the logo. I learned a lot from this post. Thanks!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Susan. I always hope the little pointers I include will be helpful to someone.

  3. Love to read it,Waiting For More new Update and I Already Read your Recent Post its Great Thanks. black jack


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