Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Evolution of a Time-Lapse Sketch

I've been experimenting a little this summer with using toned paper, in preparation for a new class I'll be teaching in San Clemente, CA, in November, and Keeton's Art Supply in Bradenton, FL, in February 2019. I've tried Caran d'Ache colored paper, Strathmore toned paper, and Stillman and Birn Nova sketchbooks. My most recent attempt on toned paper is a "time-lapse" sketch done in a 5.5" x 8.5" tan Nova softcover sketchbook...

Click here for larger, more detailed image

I started the page first thing in the morning...

The page design was begun by penciling in a curvy 1/4" wide band across the page about a fourth of the way down. This would be the "time-stamp" band, the space where I would write the time and title for each mini-sketch.

I sketched three additional bands with pencil, dividing the page vertically into fourths and giving me a framework for the sketches to follow throughout the day. 

For the drawings and lettering, I chose a Platinum Preppy fountain pen filled with water-soluble black Platinum ink.

This $5.00 fountain pen does a great job!

First things first - coffee!

Next, I headed to my studio, but ever since I unpacked from my trip to Cheap Joe's a few days ago, the room has been a mess, so, fortified by a cappuccino freddo, I made a half-hearted attempt to begin the clean-up process.

While I was sorting, straightening and purging non-essentials, I began thinking about what I'll need to pack for my upcoming trip to Sicily and the Cotswolds in September. That led me to Amazon, where I ordered a couple of books for the trip, plus a Christmas gift for my granddaughter. (So much for purging!)

Then it was time for breakfast and vitamins...

More chores followed. (Of course, I didn't have room for sketches of all the other various things I tended to, like putting dishes away, cleaning the kitty litter, sweeping out the mudroom, watering plants, and on and on and on...)

Next I put in some time answering emails...

Then I decided to tackle a project I've been putting off for weeks. I'm redecorating a guest bedroom in shabby chic style, and I had bought some quirky old end tables to use as nightstands, plus a vintage dresser. My hubbie had fixed up the furniture, now it was time for some white paint.

After sitting on the floor and painting for 2-1/2 hours, I straightened my sore back and knees and headed for the kitchen. All that work made me hungry - it was time for lunch!

Of course, I sketched throughout the day, adding more little vignettes to the page as the hours passed. There's a lot of uncertainty when I'm working on a page like this, or any sort of composite sketch. I'm not sure where I'm going or how I'll get there, but I just keep plugging away at it, making decisions on the fly and keeping my fingers crossed that it will all turn out okay in the end. And, if it doesn't, who cares? It's only a piece of paper, after all!

Next, I went back to painting (and I don't mean the fun kind in a sketchbook)....

Then it was time to work on the lessons for my class handout for Sicily...

Burritos for dinner plus a slice of leftover key lime pie. (Honestly, my piece was barely a sliver. This generous portion is Fred's. Really!)

After supper, I finished up a humongous follow-up email to my Cheap Joe's students...

Buckley and Buddy the cat were begging for their evening walk. They look forward to it all day. Buckley runs out ahead, frequently looking back to make sure Fred and I are still following, while Buddy walks a good distance behind us. Slow and steady, he plods along, resting periodically and never trotting or running. He may be slow, but he's managed to trim off half of his very pudgy belly since he came to live with us two years ago.

Finally, I took time to sit on the couch and relax for awhile.

Then it was time for bed.

(I love to read in bed, but my reading sessions usually don't last long. I'm just too tired!)

The drawings (and my day) were done!

The next morning, I approached the sketch with fresh eyes and considered whether I wanted to modify the pages in any way. I was having trouble deciding whether to leave it as is or push it further. I posted about that challenge on the closed Facebook group that I have for my students. I thought it would be interesting to see what ideas they had, whether they would leave it as a pure line drawing or go all out and add color.

I received lots of responses and helpful suggestions and, after mulling things over for a day, I decided to take it one step at a time and decide whether I wanted to proceed further after each step was complete.

Since I was using a Stillman and Birn Nova sketchbook, I knew it would handle water without wrinkling and buckling, so, using a brush dampened with water, I touched some of the lines and dragged the ink to form soft gray shadows on the mini sketches and the dividers between the images.

The toned paper was crying out for some highlights, so next I used a white Prismacolor watercolor pencil to sketch in some highlights.

The sketch looked good at this point, and it would have been perfectly fine to close the book and call it finished, but I love color, and I had a niggling suspicion that these pages could benefit from just a touch of contrasting color. I hoped it would focus the eye on what was within the border frame and help to contain all the busyness. I picked up a dark pink Faber-Castell Art Grip Aquarelle pencil and colored in the title lettering, then filled in the scalloped border.

Next, I added some highlights to the title to make it pop.

Would you have called it finished at this point? I almost did. The sketch looked really good, but it bothered me that there wasn't any pink in the entire center of the sketch. I didn't want to start adding pink all over the page, because that would only make everything look even busier. I also wished that there were a little more separation between the curvy "time-stamp" rows and the drawings. So I opted to highlight the curved rows with pink outlines above and below. (I didn't want to cover up the text by coloring over top of it, so a single line was the way to go.)

I'm finally calling this sketch finished. Ta-da!

Oh, sure, there are many more ways that I could add to it, but, really, it's time to move on!

To summarize, here are the steps I took in building this sketch from start to finish:
     Step 1 - *Idea*
     Step 2 - Sketch layout in pencil
     Step 3 - Draw sketches with pencil, then pen
     Step 4 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 5 - Add shadows by dragging water-soluble ink with wet brush
     Step 6 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 7 - Add white highlights
     Step 8 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 9 - Add color and white highlights to title lettering
     Step 10 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 11 - Add color to border
     Step 12 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 13 - Outline time-stamp rows with color
     Step 14 - *Think* - Consider further options
     Step 15 - STOP!

I think the lesson to be learned here is to stop and think at each step in the sketching process. And don't worry too much about your decisions. Just play around and try things. That's the fun of sketching!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Summerhill Sketching: What Really Goes on at the House on the Hill?

Would you like to see what it's like to take a painting class at Summerhill? I snapped some photos during the "Sketching at Summerhill" workshop I taught yesterday to give you an idea of why so many people make the trip out to my house in Prosperity, Pennsylvania, just to paint for a few hours. (Of course, there's really good food and wine and great company, too, but aren't they really coming for my spectacular lessons? I like to think so.)

My guests had a surprise when they pulled in the driveway yesterday. Our house had magically changed color since the last time they were here!

The house had been yellow with green and white trim for the past 18 years, but I thought it was time for a change, so we had it painted a nice fresh pale blue-grey with bright white trim. What do you think of the new color scheme?  My sketching friends all seemed to like the new look when they saw it yesterday.

The previous paint colors. The hydrangeas were much prettier the year this picture was taken!

I weeded the gardens in preparation for workshop day - I wanted Summerhill to look its best! The deer have been doing a number on my flowers this year, munching roses and hydrangeas like crazy, but we still have quite a few blooming around the back patio...

along with masses of gloriosa daisies...


and a few hydrangea blooms that have survived the onslaught from the deer...

I like to pick flowers from the gardens to make arrangements for the tables when I'm hosting a class. Fresh flowers just add a little something special to an occasion (or to an everyday kind of day).

For the dining room, I chose hydrangeas in a range of colors that coordinated with my mother's old lilac china.

In the breakfast room, I opted for cheery gloriosa daisies and white hydrangeas...

My favorite arrangement, though, was this pretty bouquet on the sun porch - a hand-painted vase filled with a single blue hydrangea surrounded by white hydrangeas and zinnias...

I picked the flowers early, while morning fog filled the valley below the house and the dew was still on the grass. The tables were set early in the day in preparation for the arrival of my guests.

My mother and I had started cooking the night before, preparing what we could ahead of time, but there's always so much to do on the day of the workshop! I did the final vacuuming of the main floor of the house (Buckley territory!) while she prepped food for the happy hour to come.

"What, me shed?"

People began to arrive around 1:30 and soon the driveway was lined with cars, and the kitchen was filled with happy voices. It's a reunion every month here at Summerhill, when we reconnect with friends from past classes, painting retreats, or European workshop tours. Everyone grabs a glass of iced tea or water then heads down to the classroom on the lower level of the house.

I'm so excited to have a brand new set-up for doing demos now here in my home classroom, thanks to my helpful husband, Fred. There's seating for up to 20 people in the viewing area where they can watch live demonstrations of the lesson I'm teaching.

I film with my iPad which connects wirelessly to a wall-mounted TV using Apple TV. It's really slick!

Photo by Colleen Nelson

The students love being able to see my painting demonstrations on the monitor. No more peering over people's heads trying to see what I'm doing at the demo table!

Photo by Colleen Nelson

I had a special guest at yesterday's class. My granddaughter, Callista Rose, joined us for the class (and an overnight stay at Grandma and Grandpa's). She LOVES to paint, and when I told her about how we all get together to learn about painting, her eyes lit up and she jumped up and down, exclaiming, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" How could I say no?

Photo by Colleen Nelson

She watched the demo carefully, then marched right over to her seat and started painting (with artist's quality paints, no less!)

I think she may have been the most confident painter in the class.

After my demonstration, everyone got to work on their sketches.

Jenny's sketch just needs a few finishing touches

Our lesson was on painting masses of trees and foliage in the mid-ground of a sketch. The reference photo was of a scene just down the hill from my house.

Angela really got the hang of the lesson!

As everyone worked, I walked around the classroom, helping where needed and admiring the work everyone was doing. My step-by-step approach breaks down the painting process into manageable steps, and the full-color handout ensures no one forgets those steps the minute the demo is over.

Everyone is free to take a break, walk around the room, and grab a cup of coffee or a bottle of water during the class. I like to keep my students' energy up, so there's always a supply of chocolate available.

Yesterday, the candy dish was filled with Godiva dark chocolate truffles, but it looks like they were a popular item during the afternoon slump. Now all that's left is Reese's peanut butter cups. :(

After class, it was time for show and tell!

Callista put her painting front and center with the grown-ups' sketches

Everyone was pretty happy with their work, and I reminded them that, if they redid the lesson at home, they'd probably do even better with it. It all just takes practice.

The menu for Sketching at Summerhill varies with the seasons, and I have fun planning special dishes to surprise everyone. Here's what I served this time:

Prosciutto, Fig, and Pear Pizza

Artichoke Dip with Crackers

Stuffed Mushrooms (oops, forgot to take a picture)

Cucumber Cups with Smoked Salmon Salad

Mojito Watermelon  

Amaretti (Italian Almond Cookies) & Chocolate Cookies

and last, but definitely not least, Wine Floats!
Candy, ready for her first sip of a rosé wine float with strawberry ice cream & fresh strawberries

Oh yes, we do have fun together! The wine floats were a big hit. I offered bubbly Prosecco and a yummy rosé plus a choice of vanilla ice cream, raspberry sherbet, or strawberry ice cream and fresh strawberries. You could choose your own combination. Everyone thought they were surprisingly good. And the light cookies I served with them were the perfect finishing touch.

After dinner, it was sharing time. We gathered in the living room, and when I asked who wanted to go first, five-year-old Callista popped up and said, "Me!" 

Callista's tree house sketch

She would have shown every page of her sketchbook if I had let her. She wants to be "an artist like grandma" when she grows up. My protégée!

Larry shared his beautiful floral painting...

Carol brought a vacation sketch with a nice page design and lots of depth...

Jeannie's piece was a hand-lettered spiral quote, where you start reading in the center and gradually spiral around until you finish on the outside edge. I had never seen anything like it before. Can you find the beginning and end? Hint: the quote is a verse from Ecclesiastes which begins "To everything there is a season..."

Colleen carries her sketchbook everywhere and fills it with pen and ink drawings done in her inimitable style.

Teresa recently completed this beautifully detailed iris painting....

Donah traveled three hours from Ohio just to be here, and she shared the accordion-fold calendar sketchbook she started for the month of August. I can't wait to see it completed!

She also showed us this wonderful illustrated recipe she did for a friend...

And I shared this sketch from my Maine travel journal. It's a scene from the gardens at Vesper Hill Children's Chapel in Camden...

Before everyone left, we took a picture of the gang on the front porch.

I feel so lucky to have this place where we can gather together to learn, share, and grow. We support and encourage each other, and over time, we've become friends. Newcomers are welcomed with open arms and they tend to blend seamlessly into the mix of women and men, young and old, country folks and city dwellers. We all enjoy a painting getaway, and even though this one only lasts a few hours, it nourishes our spirits and leaves us feeling renewed. (Okay, I have to admit I'm a little tired at the end of it, too, but all the work is so worth it!)

Everyone leaves Summerhill happy, and that makes me happy, too.

I'd love to welcome you to Summerhill one day, too. I have two more classes planned for 2018. The next one will be October 18, and the last one, just before the holidays, will be on November 15. Let me know if you'll be in the area and would like to join us.

If you can't make it to PA, check out my other workshops by clicking on the US Workshops tab and the European Workshops tab above.

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