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

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Oops! Revised Pricing on "Sketching in Spain" Workshop

Oops! There was an error in the pricing of the Spain workshop in my last blog post. The pricing is actually $200 lower for the single supplement than what was originally stated. So, if you were debating about coming, let these lower prices convince you. :) And I just found out that you can book a room with a sea view!

Here are the correct prices for all the possible room choices:

Rates through November 30, 2018:
$3190 per person for a standard double occupancy room
$3540 per person for a double occupancy room with a sea view
$3540 per person for a standard single room
$3890 per person for a single room with a sea view

Regular prices after November 30, 2018:
$3390 per person for a standard double occupancy room
$3740 per person for a double occupancy room with a sea view
$3740 per person for a standard single room
$4090 per person for a single room with a sea view

Spots are filling fast, and the discount period ends on November 30, so reserve your spot now. A deposit of only $600 will hold your place. 

Stretch your mind on the Costa Brava!

Come along and join the fun - it's the best way to travel if you're a sketcher, because painting time is built into the schedule. No more hurrying to finish a line drawing while your companions impatiently stamp their feet. On my sketching tours, your companions will all be sketching along with you! 

And don't worry if you're not a super-experienced, sketch-everyday, been-to-Europe-twenty-times kind of artist. I'll be there to guide you every step of the way, beginning with advice on preparing for your trip and specific instructions on what supplies to bring. And during the tour, my step-by-step painting lessons and individual assistance ensure that you'll grow as an artist and take home a sketchbook filled with wonderful memories. 

I hope to meet you in Barcelona!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Let's Sketch Together in Spain!

Watercolor Sketching in Spain
May 6-13, 2019 

(Click here for complete information & to register)

Next May I'll be sketching, teaching, and touring in one of the most beautiful regions of Spain, and I'd LOVE for you to come along!

If you've been thinking about signing up for this trip, now's the time to jump on board. You can save $200 on the total cost of the tour by registering before November 30. (We have to reserve rooms far in advance of the trip, so early registrations are important to guarantee that the trip will be a go.)

Our tour will begin in Barcelona where we’ll meet our guides and be whisked away to our home base in a little village by the sea on the Costa Brava.

We’ll spend seven days exploring this region of extraordinary natural beauty that has a deep artistic and historical heritage.

Whitewashed cottages, craggy cliffs, secluded coves, and sparkling aquamarine water will have you scrambling for your paints the moment you arrive.

Our hotel sits right on the beach, and many guest rooms have balconies overlooking the sea (book early for the best selection). The village itself is a gem, with narrow, winding streets...

quaint fishermen’s cottages, inviting cafes, and the ever-present views of the Mediterranean...

After we’re settled in, we’ll have a delicious welcome dinner and a chance to get to know our fellow travelers. The friendships that are made during a tour like this are one of the best reasons to come along!

The next day we’ll be painting at a picturesque nearby village, and I’ll share a lesson on how to paint the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean.

In addition, I’ll give you plenty of ideas for interesting page layouts in your travel journal and help you learn techniques for adding beautiful lettering like this to your sketchbook pages.

Our walk through the village will take us to the center of town where there’s a pretty white church just begging to be sketched…

Tree sketch from my Provence travel journal

The next day we’ll visit one of the finest botanical gardens in the Mediterranean. May is the best time to be there; all the spring and early-summer flowers will be in bloom. Can you imagine the colors? The fragrances? It will be a feast for the senses!

On day 5, we’ll venture out for a day of sketching in the charming medieval village of Pals with its cobblestone streets, stone buildings, and wrought iron balconies covered with flowering vines.

There are sketchable scenes everywhere you look!

And remember, on a French Escapade workshop tour, there is always a perfect balance of instructional time…

independent painting time…

and free time to roam, explore, relax, and shop!

For a change of pace, day 6 will include a visit to the incredible Salvador Dali Museum. I can promise you’ve never seen anything like it!

It’s a fitting representation of the surrealistic art that is Dali’s legacy.

The tour will wrap up with a leisurely day in our village by the sea, with time to fill those last few pages in our journals. We’ll finish with a final Show and Tell time while sipping sangria before heading out to our farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 8 is departure day, when we’ll be driven back to Barcelona to catch a flight home. Or, as long as you're in the area, why not spend a few extra days exploring this uniquely beautiful city.

Barcelona offers a wide range of sights to see, including Gothic cathedrals…

tranquil parks…

bustling markets…

beautiful city avenues…

and architectural masterpieces by Antoni Gaudi…

You might take a tour of the Medieval and Gothic quarter to learn about the history and traditions of the people of Barcelona. Or enjoy a dinner of paella or tapas (small, savory Spanish dishes often served with drinks)…

You could even see a flamenco show!

Whether you extend your trip or not, I hope you’ll come along and join the fun on this week-long art workshop tour that showcases the highlights of the Costa Brava. Traveling with a group of artists guarantees that you’ll have time to stop, linger, sketch awhile, and really see what makes a place special.

Traveling with French Escapade, you know you’ll be safe and secure, and all the logistics will be taken care of. All you have to do is enjoy your time in this amazing place.

This workshop is being arranged through Jackie Grandchamps, co-owner of French Escapade, who will handle all booking arrangements. Visit their website for complete information about the itinerary, lodging, pricing, and class description.

Rates through November 30, 2018: 
$3190 per person for a standard double occupancy room
$3540 per person for a double occupancy room with a sea view
$3540 per person for a standard single room
$3890 per person for a single room with sea view
($600 deposit required to hold your place)

Regular prices after November 30, 2018:
$3390 per person for a standard double occupancy room
$3740 per person for a double occupancy room with a sea view
$3740 per person for a standard single room
$4090 per person for a single room with a sea view
($600 deposit required to hold your place)

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