Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sketches from Maine!

Maine was WONDERFUL! The lupines were in bloom, the weather was close to perfect, Primrose Cottage was as cute as ever, and the students who joined me for the painting retreats were an absolute joy to be with. Getting to spend two weeks there this year was the icing on the cake. I fell in love with Maine all over again. It was so hard to leave on the last day - the whole way home I was conjuring up plans that would allow me to spend more time there next year.

(See photos from the trip on my Facebook page.)

Pencil & watercolor in a 9 x 6 Stillman and Birn Alpha series sketchbook

I did a lot of sketching while I was there, in between teaching, driving, cooking, and porch sitting. I decided to play around with some new materials on this trip, some of which I really liked. Others turned out to be an exercise in frustration for me. I think it was a good thing, though, for me to take a lighthearted approach to the sketching I did and give myself permission to experiment and play. It felt very freeing. I'll be sharing some of what I learned in upcoming posts.

One of the new supplies I tried is the Sailor Fude bent-nib fountain pen. (It's pronounced foo-day.)

You might wonder why anyone would want a pen with a bent nib. Well, it gives you lots of options for varying line widths when you sketch with it. It all depends on the angle at which you hold the pen.

Hold it in a vertical position and only a little bit of the nib comes in contact with the paper, resulting in a fairly fine line. Tilt it down and let the bent part rest flat on the page and you'll get a wide, bold line. Flip the nib over and use it upside down for a very fine line.

Varying line widths drawn with a Sailor Fude pen

I was always intimidated by the pen because it's so different from what I'm used to, but, after using it for two weeks, I've come to enjoy the consistent ink flow and the variety of strokes I can make with it, like the ones in this sketch of the beach at Owls Head Light, drawn and mostly painted on location.

Ink & watercolor in a 9x6 Strathmore sketchbook w/140lb. watercolor paper


I used the Sailor Fude for several landscapes during my time in Maine and also tried it on a floral sketch the day we went to Merryspring Nature Center in Camden. Normally I would use a pen with a fine line when drawing flowers, something like a Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with extra fine nib, so that the lines of my sketch would almost disappear under the watercolor. But the day we went to Merryspring I was feeling adventurous, so I grabbed the Sailor Fude pen and drew a mass of flamboyant red poppies with strong, bold strokes, then pulled out my size 8 round travel brush and splashed on watercolor with abandon, letting paint flow into the background and splatters fall where they may.

Ink & watercolor in a Strathmore sketchbook with 140 lb. watercolor paper

I tend to paint much looser and faster when I'm sketching on location than when I'm in the studio. Having a time limit and contending with the sun and wind drying my paint all too quickly makes me just dive in and go for it. There's no time to fuss and fret - I'm in the zone!

Here's another sketch done with the Sailor on an outing to Birch Point State Park, where I painted my friend Connie doing some sketching.

With the Sailor Fude, I enjoy doing more line work, adding cross-hatching in some of the shadow areas where I would normally have just drawn a single line. I like the different look this gives a sketch.

The border was drawn with a Pitt Artist's Pen, size S, then painted with the same colors used in the sketch: Sap Green, Marine Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and Permanent Rose (mixed with blue to make purple). I started in one corner and worked my way around the page, blending one color into the next as I went.

Here are the simple steps to drawing this hatched border. Just start with two parallel lines, then divide the space between them into squares. Draw diagonal lines as shown below to divide the squares into triangles, then fill them with closely spaced parallel lines.

Adding the watercolor toned down the busyness factor of all those little lines, and the colors really set off the central image nicely. FYI - I almost always work on my borders back home rather than on location. It's so much easier working at a table than in my lap!

I'll be back with more sketches in a few days, plus I'm working on a tutorial for you on how to paint a collection of beach rocks. See you soon!


  1. Dear Leslie it is always such a treat to visit your blog and see your lovely journal sketches. Maine looks like it inspired you well. Hope you have a delightful July.

  2. Welcome home, Leslie! I hope this comment comes through on your end. I tried twice to leave a comment on your last post, but neither ever showed up. Fingers crossed...

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a summer house in Maine like Primrose Cottage? I sure could use some of that perfect weather right about now. Ours has been brutal so far. We’ve had August weather since May!

    Your experiences in Maine sound so wonderful, and your sketches are beautiful. Did you use a pen to do the lettering and swirls on your lupine sketch? The lines are so fluid.

    The Fude (thanks for the pronunciation!) really does create a different look for you. I think the poppies are my favorite. I can feel your happy abandon in the flowers, and I like how you chose not to use a heavy line for the lettering. It creates a nice balance with the bolder lines of the poppies. I look forward to seeing more from all your trips this year!

    1. Wish you could have been with us in Maine. It was heavenly!
      Yes, I used a calligraphy pen loaded with watercolor to do the lettering and scroll work.
      It's so nice to hear from you - I hope your summer weather improves. It's been scorching hot here in PA this week, too.

  3. What a wonderful setting. These are lovely, Leslie.

    1. Thanks, Jeanie. Just being in Maine brings me great joy. Capturing it in my sketchbook helps to lock in the memories of my time there.

  4. Maine sounds lovely, and a bit like the west coast (Vancouver Island) where I live, with the rocky banks and heavy forests.

    1. I'd like to visit your part of the country sometime. It looks beautiful.

  5. Maine sounds wonderful and the sketches are great! Love the lighthouse.
    Am glad to have found your blog.
    Can't wait to try the house tutorial.

  6. I love the way you "design" and border and print with your sketches. This truly adds to the beauty of presentation. Thanks for inspiration.

  7. Leslie - your sketches from Maine are wonderful. Thanks very much for sharing all your “how-to” techniques. They are extremely helpful. I’d like to try out the Sailor Fude pen but am not sure whether to buy the converter or if there are perm black ink cartridges available. Would you mind giving me more info on your ink recommendation for the Sailor Fude pen?

    1. I usually use cartridges because they're so convenient. I buy the Platinum Carbon black ink cartridges. The ink is permanent and waterproof. Be sure you get the Platinum CARBON ink, not the plain Platinum, which is not waterproof. The cartridges are available through Goulet pens and on Amazon.


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