Sunday, December 9, 2018

Come Along to Croatia in 2019!

 Watercolor Sketching in Croatia
with Leslie Fehling
 10 days on the Island of Korcula
September 8-17, 2019

Azure blue water, majestic mountains, and charming seaside villages all await you on this sketching trip to Croatia, a country of stunning beauty and rich cultural history. For ten long, relaxing days, we’ll visit pristine natural areas, beautiful sandy beaches, and medieval towns, recording it all on the pages of your own illustrated travel journal.

Croatia is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in Europe, and it’s easy to see why: the people are friendly, the food is fresh and local, the wine is world-class, and the architecture and scenery are spectacular, offering limitless subject matter for artists.

When you travel as an artist, rather than just a tourist, it changes what you see and how you experience a place. You’ll begin to notice details, marvel at light and shadows, and see possibilities for compositions everywhere. Instead of snapping a photo and quickly moving on, you’ll take the time to soak up your surroundings as you sketch what resonates with you. And when you return home, you’ll open up that sketchbook, and the memories will come flooding in. 

You’ll remember the warm sun on your shoulders, the vivid colors of boats bobbing in the water, and the fresh smell of sea air...

the quiet murmurs of your painting companions and a red geranium on a whitewashed windowsill.

From the time we step off the plane, we’ll be in the best of hands with our tour guide, Lynda Milina, whose family has lived in Croatia for generations. All the details will be taken care of for us, leaving us free to focus on painting and relaxing. It’s the best way to travel!

We’ll be picked up at the airport in Dubrovnik on September 7 (the day before the tour begins) and taken to our hotel where we’ll share a welcome dinner, giving us a chance to get acquainted and learn more about what to expect in the coming days.

The next morning, we’ll enjoy a tour of Dubrovnik and learn about the complex history of this stunning city, know as “The Pearl of the Adriatic”.

After the tour, we’ll have lunch then drive along the Dalmation Coast to Orebic, where we’ll board a car ferry to the Island of Korcula. We’ll be staying at the Lovric Pension in Lumbarda where many of the rooms have balconies and sea views (book early for the best selection!)

The hotel is a mere 50 yards from the sea, and it’s just a short walk to the downtown area. The rooms at the family-run Lovric are bright, clean, and comfortable, and there’s even a winery on site!

Lumbarda is a small port on the eastern part of the island of Korcula. It’s known for its local wine called Grk, so you can expect to see picturesque vineyards, as well as beautiful beaches, hiking trails, an art gallery, and wineries. There will be plenty to do during our down time there!

During our nine days on Korcula, we’ll start each morning with breakfast at the Lovric, then head out to explore different parts of the island. This part of Croatia is unique in its beauty, and the opportunities for artistic subject matter are everywhere - in old stone buildings and sturdy city walls, in quiet coves with aquamarine water...

and in craggy, gnarled olive trees that have stood for generations.

Mornings will find us visiting scenic areas such as Racisce, Zrnovo, Vrnik, the city of Korcula, Orebic and the Peliesac Peninsula.
We’ll draw and paint for a few hours in these beautiful locations then take a break for a picnic lunch.

Afternoons will be spent in a variety of ways: sketching, watching a painting demo on location, going on a walking tour of a village, visiting a monastery, watching a jewelry-making demonstration, and enjoying wine-tasting at a local winery.

When we return to our lodging later in the afternoon, there will be time to relax before the evening meal.
These will be full days, but not frantically busy ones. We won’t be rushing from one place to the next, trying to squeeze in everything in the guidebook. This tour offers a slower pace of travel, with plenty of plein air sketching time, making this a trip where you actually will have time to create that travel journal you’ve been dreaming of for years.

All meals are included on this tour. Breakfasts and dinners will be served in the restaurant which is attached to the Lovric Pension, while most of our lunches will be on location when we’re out and about. The food will be fresh, local, and absolutely delicious!

Evenings are yours to do whatever you like. You might want to take a walk along the beach with a friend…

look for sea glass to add to your collection…

or have a glass of wine and get to know your fellow artists.

At the end of the tour, on day 10, we'll head back to Dubrovnik, with a stop for lunch on the way in the little village of Ston, famous for its amazing 14th century stone city walls. We’ll have time to explore the town for a while (and maybe squeeze in one last sketch) before driving to the quaint village of Cavtat, where we will enjoy our last dinner together before flying home the next day.

Now, let’s talk about the art portion of the trip…

My teaching will focus on illustrated watercolor journaling and how to create a colorful, varied, and personal record of your experiences on the trip.

You'll learn how to design dynamic pages with unique layouts, borders, and hand-lettering styles, and I’ll offer daily demonstrations of techniques for painting the subject matter you’ll encounter each day, everything from a village street scene to a mass of climbing bougainvillea.

Each day I’ll suggest new ideas for filling the pages of your travel journal…one day you’ll give a theme page a try, while the next you might pre-paint a page with a layer of color then draw a sketch over it. And have you ever heard of a flow sketch? It’s a great way to condense an entire day onto one sketchbook page. We’ll try all these ideas and more during our time together.

Each painter will receive a spiral-bound handbook containing all of the information covered in the workshop. It’s filled with great ideas for designing beautiful journal pages, and it includes a section of helpful step-by-step painting instructions showing you how to paint the textures, colors, and beauty of Croatia.

The handout ensures that you can relax during the workshop, knowing that even if you can’t absorb everything during the week, you’ll have complete information that you can refer to later on and use to paint subjects closer to home, too.
With my enthusiastic support, encouragement, and assistance, even if you're a beginning watercolorist, you'll surprise yourself with what you can do! 

We're going to have an amazing time together as we immerse ourselves in all that Korcula has to offer. Painting, touring, shopping, eating, relaxing --- we'll have time for it all with this perfectly organized 10-day small-group tour. 

So, if you'd like to improve your painting skills, learn more about keeping a travel sketchbook, and have more fun than you can imagine exploring the unspoiled island of Korcula, I hope you'll join me for this “Watercolor Sketching in Croatia” workshop. 

Register today to reserve your place:
A $300 deposit is all that’s required. Register here. 

Cost for the 10-day all-inclusive program:
Tour Cost: $3100 + single supplement fee (most people will pay this if you are not traveling with a spouse/partner)
Non-painting partners: $2900
Single Supplement Fee: $200 Full payment due: July 8, 2019
Deposit to reserve your spot: $300 (non-refundable unless tour is cancelled by Slikamilina)
*Painters have priority, but non-artist partners (shared accommodations only)
are welcome to come and enjoy the island a their own pace.
This workshop is being arranged through Slikamilina Painting Tours, who will handle all booking arrangements. (Please read the GeneralConditions.)

Lynda Milina, tour operator. Email

Tour price includes:
• Transfer from airport to Cavtat on arrival
• Accommodation the night before the tour starts
• Dinner the night before the tour starts
• Transportation to/from Dubrovnik
• Transportation to/from daily excursions
• All meals, gratuities associated with restaurant meals, accommodations and instruction

Not included:
• Travel to Dubrovnik, Croatia, from home country
• Transfer to Dubrovnik airport on your departure date.
• Any airport arrival/departure tax
• Travel and/or medical insurance
• Painting materials and equipment
• Gratuities for service
• Any other cost incurred outside the workshop itinerary

More information:
Read about Leslie here.
Read about the tour operator, Lynda Milina, here.
Why choose to travel abroad with Slikamilina? Here.
Tour itinerary
Register here.

Email Leslie at Leslie or Lynda Milina, tour director

Monday, December 3, 2018

Sketching at Cabrillo National Monument

When I was in San Diego last month, my friend Karen and I enjoyed an afternoon of sketching at Cabrillo National Monument on the Point Loma Peninsula. I've sketched a lot of East Coast lighthouses and was excited to finally have a chance to paint a West Coast one!

I decided to do a two-page spread that would include multiple images, starting with the Point Loma Lighthouse. I began by drawing a circle with a compass and sketching a portion of the lighthouse in the space. The sky that day was a pure solid blue, but I decided to give mine more movement and color, painting it with saturated hues of Cobalt Blue and Permanent Rose.

The sun and wind made the paint dry very quickly, so it was a struggle to get the paint to flow on the sky area, but I kind of like the wild and crazy look that resulted.

Warm tones of Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, and Permanent Rose were used to paint the building. The dome roof color was mixed using Cerulean Blue and Sap Green with a touch of Burnt Sienna added to mute it a bit.

After finishing our lighthouse sketches, we walked over to the monument to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Spanish explorer who claimed the area in the name of Spain back in 1542.

I did a quick ink sketch on site, then painted it later at home using Buff Titanium and light, medium, and dark values of Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, and Burnt Umber. Saving the white highlights at the beginning made the statue appear sunlit.

We stopped in at the visitor center before we left, to get a print of the official park stamp to collage into our sketchbooks. That evening I carefully cut out my copy and put it in a safe place to glue onto the page when I got home, but I guess it wasn't so safe after all, because I never saw that piece of paper again! All my searching turned up nothing. But I had saved a spot on my page for the image, and I still wanted to include it. What to do?

I did a Google search and found a photo with a crooked, washed out image of the stamp. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough for me to see the design and draw it on my sketchbook page. I painted it with the same colors I had used for the statue and lighthouse.

I had penciled in the lettering early in the process, and after all the painting was finished, I decided on the colors for the title and date. The warm golden color, edged with Cobalt Blue gel pen, coordinates with the sketches.

A composite page is one of the best layouts for travel journaling, since you can pack a lot of information about a place on one page (or a two-page spread). When working on a composite page like this, here are some guidelines for making it interesting and visually pleasing:
(I've noted in italics how each point applies to this sketch)

  • Vary the size of the images (small stamp, medium-size lighthouse, large monument and background landscape)
  • Include a vertical element (the statue) and a horizontal element (the background landscape and the title)
  • Include something organic (plants at the base of the monument)
  • Include signage (the stamp qualifies, in this case)
  • Add depth by overlapping or connecting some images (the statue comes up in front of the title)
  • Set off an image with a box or border (wave border around the lighthouse)
  • Repeat colors throughout the page (the warm golden color is repeated throughout the page)
  • Balance the "weight" on the page (small & medium images on the left balance out the larger image and title on the right)
  • Add journaling to make it personal, tell a story, or learn more about a place (reading and writing about the history of the lighthouse and Cabrillo gave me more insight into what I had seen)

Why not give it a try? You don't need to travel farther than your own hometown to find great subject matter.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Last Day for Spain Discount!

Just wanted to remind you that tomorrow is the final day to receive $200.00 off the price of my Costa Brava sketching workshop tour. Register before December 1st to receive the discount.

There are only a few spaces left, so, if you've been thinking about treating yourself to a European trip in 2019, take a look and come along! You'll find complete information in this blog post, and you can register online at Email me if you have any questions. I hope you'll join us!

I'll also be teaching in Croatia and Tuscany in the fall of 2019. Click on the "European Workshops" tab above for information about those trips. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Plein Air Sketching with Friends

I love sketching with friends on location. It's always so much fun to see what everyone chooses to sketch, what materials they use, and how they lay out their pages. We encourage and inspire each other, and it's just plain fun sharing something I enjoy with people that I love and admire.

During my recent trip to California, my friend Karen and I met another friend, Linda, for lunch and an afternoon sketching session in the cute downtown area of Del Mar. This is the sketch I did that day...

Ink & watercolor in a 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" Stillman and Birn Zeta series softcover sketchbook

We sat in the afternoon sunshine by a bubbling fountain, chatting now and then but mostly focused on our sketching.

After blocking in the sketch on the page with pencil, I drew quickly with my Sailor Fude fountain pen, adding cross-hatching for shadows. I like the line width variation that's possible with the fude pens. (Read a review here.)

Painting was done with a #8 Joe Miller Signature Series 50/50 Travel Round Brush. It's my go-to brush when I'm sketching plein air. It holds plenty of paint, comes to a nice point, and has just the right amount of spring to it.

Working on Stillman and Birn Zeta paper makes me paint differently than when I use something like a cold-press watercolor paper with more texture. I find that the watercolor tends to slide around on the slick paper, and I tend to paint looser, with little layering of paint. I try to get as much value contrast as I can in my first wash. After it dries, the darkest values are added. Having the cross-hatching in place in this sketch helped to give me rich darks without spending so much time adding layers of darker value color.

We spent a little over an hour sketching that day in Del Mar. I was excited about how much I managed to accomplish in a limited time and was happy with the fresh bright colors on my sketch and the overall looseness of it.

Sketches by me, Karen Colson, and Linda Daniels

Later at home I added the page title and decided to give the umbrellas some color, like those I had seen in another location.

I think it's interesting to compare the photo of the place with the finished sketch:

Which is more appealing? I know which one I'd choose.

This is a great example of how travel sketching can capture rich, multi-dimensional memories so much better than a photo can. The photo shows a place. But this little sketch speaks volumes about my emotions that day: how happy I was to be there, how free and open I felt, how immersed I was in the experience. Looking at it, I remember the feeling of the sun on my back, the sound of the fountain, the feel of the brush in my hand, the swirl of colors on my palette, the people walking by, the conversations we had, and the enveloping warmth of friendship.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Tropical harvest

When I stayed with my friend Karen in southern California for a few days earlier this month, I was amazed that we could go out into her yard and pick all sorts of tropical fruit right off the trees that grew on the slope below her house. Every morning I had fresh grapefruit for breakfast and most afternoons we made use of the limes to mix up a yummy gin and tonic. (I needed some refreshment after all the sketching I was doing!) Here's the happy sketch I did of Karen's harvest one afternoon...

Ink & watercolor, 10" x 7" Handbook Field Watercolor Journal

I used a dip pen and DeAtramentis Document Brown ink for this sketch. It's been decades since I used a dip pen to sketch with, and I found it easy to get some nice variation in the width of my lines just by gently pressing on the nib as I drew. I was really enjoying the whole process until I inadvertently knocked over the full-to-the-brim bottle of ink, spilling half its contents in a dark brown puddle that spread under and around the fruit as I frantically grabbed paper towels and prayed that I hadn't ruined Karen's antique wooden table.

Luckily, she had had the foresight to put down brown kraft paper before we started painting (wise woman!) and the ink didn't even bleed through the paper. Whew! What a close call! I will NEVER use a dip pen again with a large open bottle of ink unless I sit it in a heavy flat-bottomed bowl to keep it from spilling.

At home I always use a set of  Dinky Dips from John Neal Bookseller for any dip pen work I'm doing (usually calligraphy). I fill them with ink, then set them in the wooden block that keeps them stable and un-spillable. Dinky Dips also come in handy for carrying small quantities of ink, masking fluid, and dish detergent in my travel sketch kit.

So take my advice and remember:
Open bottles of ink being used by a klutz...BAD
Dinky Dips...GOOD!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Casa Romantica Gridded Sketch

Earlier this month I taught a two-day plein air sketching class called "Sketch Your World" in San Clemente, CA, and on the second day we visited Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens. The Casa was closed for the day, but they allowed our group to come and paint, so we had the place all to ourselves except for a few gardeners working here and there to keep everything tidy.

Ink & watercolor in a 10" x 7" Handbook Field Watercolor Journal

It was peaceful and quiet as we wandered around the courtyard and grounds, selecting subjects for our morning project, a gridded page featuring scenes from Casa Romantica. I also encouraged the students to try using cross-hatching on their sketches.

In between helping students, I worked on a gridded page of my own. The 10" x 7" Handbook Field Watercolor Journal I was using is one of my favorites. After dividing the page into a 7-section gridded layout, the sketch boxes were fairly small, but that didn't stop me from drawing a border of tiny decorative tiles around the center space on my page and filling it with a the view from the Casa's oceanside terrace. The drawing was easy, but the painting of the tile border later drove me crazy. Much too fussy and time-consuming!

Tile design from the stair risers at the Casa

The gardens were filled with everything from lowly impatiens to towering cacti, and I wanted to feature plants prominently in my sketch, so I looked around for a plant that really caught my eye. I settled on this large succulent in the inner courtyard and drew a zoomed-in view of its waxy yellow-green leaves on the lower left corner of my page.

When I painted it later, I added touches of Cobalt Teal Blue to the dominant yellow-green color of the leaves to make it more interesting.

Since I used hatched lines on the ink drawing to indicate cast shadows on the leaves, the painting process went faster than usual. I didn't have to do as much layering and glazing as I usually do to get a range of values.

To balance out the green and yellow in the lower left corner of the page, I next decided to draw a big-leaf philodendron leaf in the upper right corner. I liked the interesting pattern of veins and open spaces in the leaf. Notice that I didn't edge the box with a black line, like I did with all the other boxes on the page. Instead, the spaces along the edge were left open.

HINT: Wait until the end of your drawing session to ink the grid lines, rather than doing it in the beginning. This gives you the option of having parts of the sketches extend past the grid lines, which makes things more interesting and adds depth and dimension to the page.

I debated long and hard about what to put in the long, narrow boxes on the page. I almost sketched in an antique wrought iron standing candelabra but finally made the decision to have each box contain something organic, since the gardens are what I enjoy most at the Casa. This vase filled with corkscrew willow branches seemed like a perfect fit for the box, and I loved the shadows they were casting on the wall.

The keyhole entrance to Casa Romantica is a distinguishing feature of the property, so I decided to include it on my page. I thought the scene would fit well in the horizontal box at the bottom of the page, so I went ahead and drew it in. It wasn't until I had finished it that I realized it looks way too busy situated next to the box above it (in the center of the page) with its intricate tile border, flowers, and landscape.

I should have done something simple instead in the lower box, but it was too late to change it. Next time I'll take a moment to consider the busyness factor when planning what subjects to feature in a grid box. The relationships between the individual sketches in a grid are important. I should have considered color, scale, and complexity instead of just thinking, "Oh, I like the keyhole door! I think I'll draw that."

It was late in the day when I got around to filling the last box in my grid. A tall, gangly cactus seemed like a good choice since it spoke to me of southern California. It also had interesting prickly dots along the spines of the trunk and branches, and it was casting lovely shadows on the wall behind it.

I sketched it quickly, then it was time for the final sharing time with the group. It had been a long four days of teaching, and I think the students were a little tuckered out, too. It was fun to see how varied everyone's sketches were, and we all agreed that it had been a wonderful, relaxing day that gave us all a little soul food.

Later, when I finished the sketch in the studio, I penciled in a title then inked it with a Pitt Artist's Pen, size S. Watercolor was added to give it some color and coordinate with the rest of the sketch.

The finished sketch...

Click to enlarge

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