Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sketches from Croatia - Part 4 - The Island of Korcula

Most of our time during my Croatia workshop was spent on the island of Korcula, which lies just off the mainland, about a two hour drive from Dubrovnik. Our home base was the small town of Lumbarda, and it was nice to be able to settle in for eight days without having to change locations. The first morning, we took a walk through town to a spot where we had a beautiful view of the bay.

14" x 7", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

I often gravitate toward painting the big picture when I'm on a trip (there's just so much I want to remember!) and this time was no exception. I decided to sketch the whole panorama spread out before me, complete with a beach, sailboat masts, and the peninsula of land where my apartment in the Lovric guest house sat on top of the hill.

The people I drew were teeny tiny, so it was nearly impossible to be accurate or include any detail, but at least they add some life to the sketch and help to tell the story of my first day on the island. I love the sparkling water and bright colors in this sketch. They hardly begin to describe the actual color of that water, though - it was amazing!!!

The next day we took an excursion to Korcula town where I taught a lesson in front of St. Mark's cathedral, encouraging my students to incorporate motifs from the stonework on the church and other nearby buildings into their sketches. I chose to draw the Marco Polo Tower, which is part of a house rumored to be the birthplace of the famous explorer. The borders on the page were inspired by stone columns and medallions on St. Mark's, combining two interesting Korcula sites into one sketch.

7" x 7", ink and watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

We returned to Korcula again later in the week and I found myself with some free time in the afternooon, so, rather than shop or sit with friends at a sidewalk cafe, I wandered back to one of my favorite spots....

and settled in to sketch. There was a comfy cushioned chair just waiting for me in the perfect spot, where I had a view of this quirky wall of frames filled with random objects. I felt happy and carefree as I sketched, dashing lines onto the page quickly, intentionally making things casual and crooked, not worrying about perfection, just having FUN!

14" x 7", ink and watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

As I sketched, I wondered about the person who created this wall. What was their motivation for expending so much time and effort on it, purely for the enjoyment of people passing by? I wish I could thank them for the pleasure it gave me that day.

The painting was almost finished by the time I packed up my kit an hour and a half later and headed off to meet the group for our ride back to Lumbarda. All it needed was some additional spattering on the stone wall behind the frames.

With all these sketches, I felt free to change elements of the scene to suit me, rather than painting exactly what was in front of me. When I was a beginning sketcher, I always tried to faithfully copy exactly what I saw in front of me. It took years of sketching for me to realize that, as the artist, I could move things around, change or exaggerate colors, eliminate objects from a scene, or add whatever I felt the sketch needed to make it successful. Now, I try to retain the essence of a place while putting my own spin on it. Without the spin, I might as well just print out the photograph I took that day. A sketch can bring out the best in a place and speak volumes about the artist who created it.

For more information about my Croatia workshops, check out the following links:
     Click here to read about my 2019 Croatia workshop.
     Click here for information about my 2020 Croatia workshop tour.
     Click here to register for Croatia 2020.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sketches from Croatia - Part 3 - Konavle & Cavtat

One of the most memorable meals of my Croatia trip was at an out-of-the-way place about an hour from Dubrovnik. Our villa host had recommended the restaurant, but she didn't prepare us for the very different experience that awaited us at Konoba Vinica Monkovic.

A 20-minute Uber ride took us south from Cilipi, through fertile valleys bordered by soaring mountains.

When we arrived at the restaurant, located out in the country off-the-beaten-track, our handsome young waiter led us across the road and through the woods to a shallow creek where our table was set up on a wooden platform under an arched bridge. To reach it we had to "walk the plank" across a slow-moving stream where fish swam lazily in the clear, cool water.

We were welcomed with a complimentary liqueur tasting - my favorite was the sherry.

We spent hours wining and dining, chatting, and enjoying the peaceful ambience of that special place. We were all so tickled about the whole experience of eating outside in a secluded place, over a stream, under a bridge. My friend Teresa spoke for all of us when she said, "This is a peak life experience!" These are the best kinds of memories to take home from a trip, those serendipitous events that turn out to be better than you could have ever imagined.

Our lunchtime view

Our happy days at the villa came to an end the next day when we moved to nearby Cavtat to meet the rest of the tour group and begin the workshop. We had some free time in the afternoon before our welcome dinner that evening, so we meandered around town, did a little shopping, and had a yummy gelato. The day had started out sunny, but a storm blew in late that afternoon and we took refuge at the apartment where two of our group were staying. We sat on their balcony overlooking the harbor, watching the sky darken and the water get choppy, then soon the rains came. But not before I had drawn the scene, complete with drinks that we had ordered from the restaurant below.

Sketching hint: Use a wide border to decrease the size of your sketch and make it more easily finished in a limited time. One of my goals on this trip was to come home with completed sketches, not just drawings waiting to be painted. So I kept this sketch small and manageable, enabling me to finish all but the blue border while I sipped my gin and tonic on the balcony that day in Cavtat. I added the painted border during a free afternoon later in the trip. (This post has a description of the technique I used.) Check one sketch off my to-do list!

We got to meet the rest of the workshop group at dinner that night, then we all headed to bed, anxious to set off for the island of Korcula the next day.

Coming up next: Sketches from Korcula island

For information about my September 2020 workshop in Croatia, click here. To register early and be assured of a great room, click here. Don't miss out - it's filling already!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Sketches from Croatia - Part 2 - Čilipi & Dubrovnik

When I teach in Europe, I always fly over a few days early so I have time to get over jet lag and relax a little before the workshop begins. This time, I booked a beautiful villa with a group of friends and we spent three blissful days relaxing and touring Dubrovnik and the surrounding area before our tour began.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

Villa Joe, located in the tiny town of Čilipi, was built in 1856 and completely renovated and modernized two years ago. It's beautiful inside and out, with a wonderful poolside terrace where we painted and ate our meals. We felt completely spoiled by our luxurious surroundings. I sketched the house one evening, sitting at the far end of the pool, as the sun sank low in the sky, listening to conversation and laughter as two of my pals lolled in the pool and others sat nearby enjoying a glass of wine. I felt so contented and happy!

Would you like to know how I painted the rugged texture of the stone villa in this sketch? Well, let's talk about drawing them first.

When I drew the building, I indicated the stone texture with "skippy" lines, drawing some, but not all, of the lines that defined the large rectangular stones. I used a Sailor Fude fountain pen for this sketch and almost all of the sketches I did in Croatia. I love the line variation that I can get with the bent nib.

The bent nib 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

Ink flow with this pen is very consistent, and I've never had it clog or leak. It's become my favorite sketching tool.

Now, back to painting the stone walls of the villa...

I started by painting a base wash with pale Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, and a gray mixture of Burnt Sienna + Cobalt Blue. Using a large size 10 round brush, I laid down strokes of individual colors and allowed the paint to flow and blend, resulting in a variegated wash that indicated the colors of the stone.

After the paint dried, I added medium-value paint to individual stones here and there with irregular strokes, touching some of the edges with a damp brush to soften and blend the paint and give me lost and found edges. The final step was to add some spattering for texture. I spattered with a paintbrush and with a spatter screen, smudging some of the dots of paint with my fingers to vary the look.

The resulting sketch shows stone walls with rugged texture and color variation, just what I wanted!

We took a trip to Dubrovnik one day, taking the boat taxi from Cavtat and traveling along the coast, enjoying spectacular views of villages and mountains from the water.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink, watercolor, and collage on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

I picked up a postcard that day to use in my sketchbook and came up with the idea to incorporate it into a page that showed the route I walked as we wandered through the narrow streets. After I got home, I printed out the street map on matte photo paper, cut it out, and used a fine point pen to mark my meanderings. A watercolor base wash was applied to the page prior to the collage elements. It helps to give the page a more cohesive look. Gel pens were used for the date and title since they are opaque and stand out on the painted background. Notations with callouts help to personalize the page.

It was very hot in Dubrovnik that day, and I was feeling a little out of sorts, with tourists clogging the streets and jostling us at every turn. But I found a cool spot on a side street where I could sit and sketch one of the narrow alleys that was criss-crossed with drying laundry. Sitting and sketching for awhile soothed my frazzled nerves and put me in a much better frame of mind. It made me feel connected to the old city in a way I hadn't before.

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

I kept things simple for this plein air sketch. A pencil, pen, water brush, and a tiny palette were all I needed to get the job done in about 30-40 minutes.

My mom and I decided to treat ourselves to some ice cream in the afternoon at an outdoor cafe that overlooked the city walls. Our sundaes tasted as good as they looked!

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

When I posted this picture of my mother, Saundra, about to dig into her banana split, it garnered more comments than any other picture I posted on Facebook during my two-week trip!

Saundra enjoying the first banana split of her life

We enjoyed seeing Dubrovnik, but it sure was nice to retreat to Villa Joe that evening and just chill out around the pool. Sigh...just looking at this picture takes me back there.....

Next up: Lunch under a bridge + drinks in Cavtat! Coming soon. :)

For information about my September 2020 workshop in Croatia, click here. To register early and be assured of a great room, click here. Don't miss out - it's filling already!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Sketches from Croatia - Part 1 - Pre-trip Sketches

Where in the world is Croatia?

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink & watercolor sketch on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

That was the question that popped into my mind when I received an invitation from Slikamilina Painting Tours to teach a workshop on the island of Korcula in Croatia. A little bit of Googling showed me pictures of sparkling turquoise water, soaring mountains, and pretty coastal villages, so I jumped on board. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made!

This trip was structured to allow lots of uninterrupted time for sketching (both drawing and painting) on location, so I came home with plenty of finished pages in my travel journal, but I had started my trip sketches weeks before I landed in Croatia. The page shown above was done at home in preparation for the tour. It helped me place Croatia's geography in my mind in relation to other places I've been in Europe. It also gives needed information to anyone reading my journal in the future.

To lay out the page, I printed out a map of Europe and traced it onto my sketchbook page, then inked and painted it. Adding the enlarged image of Croatia enabled me to show the main places I'd be staying during the trip. For the border, I took the quick and easy way out and used washi tape. It coordinates with the colors on the map and has a hand-drawn look. Perfect!

Another fun page that I did prior to the workshop was this one...

7-1/2" x 7-1/2", ink & watercolor sketch on 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

I did a little reading about Croatia and picked some of the more interesting facts to record in my sketchbook. I first did a variegated wash over the entire page with blue and yellow watercolor. I let it dry, then sketched everything in with pencil. After I had my layout figured out, I inked it all with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner pens. I like the Stabilo pens, but they are not waterproof, so I always apply them after any watercolor work is done. In this case, I used their water-soluble properties to my advantage, though. After the little sketches were drawn, I used a damp brush to drag some of the color from the lines and create shadows.

I have a tradition of starting each of my travel journals with a quote, and this simple one was my choice this time....

You might wonder how I painted the beautiful swirly pattern that surrounds the framed quote. Well, I started by painting a variegated wash, wet-in-wet, allowing the colors of deep Ultramarine Blue, Marine Blue, and Cobalt Teal to combine on the paper. I concentrated the dark blue in the corners and faded out to the lighter aqua color toward the center of the page. I kept the center very light in value, so my quote would show up when I painted it.

After the paint was completely dry, I laid a plastic stencil (similar to this one) over the page and held it firmly in place while I swiped across the surface with a damp Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove the paint that was exposed in the open spaces of the stencil. I then lifted the stencil and blotted the paper with a tissue to remove any excess wet paint or water that had run under the stencil.

While the painted page dried thoroughly, I designed the decorative frame on a piece of tracing paper using an HB pencil. I only had to draw one-fourth of the design, then I flipped the tracing paper over, positioned it on my dried page and rubbed the back of the tracing paper to transfer the graphite lines to the paper. The other three corners were transferred in the same manner using the original pencil pattern, then I painted the design using a small round brush.

Lastly, I added the lettering using a pointed calligraphy pen loaded with watercolor.

With three pages completed before I left for the trip, I felt like I had a good start on my travel journal. Next stop: CROATIA!

(To read a recap of my Croatia tour, check out this post. I'll have more information coming soon about my 2020 workshop on Korcula island, but you can register here now to lock in your place and reserve one of the best rooms.)

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Croatia LOVE!

I'm in love....

with Croatia!

From the moment I touched down in Dubrovnik I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the country...

the colorful tile roofs,

the harbors,

the villages with their narrow streets filled with flowers,

the stone buildings,

the people,

the food and wine,

the mountains,

the gorgeous views,

and the pretty little details everywhere I looked.

I loved it all!

I felt changed by my time in Croatia. Long, slow days of painting by the sea gave me a sense of peace that I haven't felt in a long time, and I fell totally in love with plein air painting.

I had a wonderful group of students, and they produced some truly creative sketches during our time together. We inspired each other every day.


And when we weren't sketching, we had fun just hanging out together...

We laughed...

made new friends...

sat by the water...

went for a swim...

and some of us even managed to squeeze in a nap.

(One of the participants wore a Fitbit during the tour and was surprised to see that her resting heart rate dropped every day that she was in Croatia. I guess an art tour is good for your health!)

But the sketching was the best part for me. Every place we visited was unique. We sketched seaside vistas...

historic towns and architecture...

and secluded harbors.

In groups...

or alone...

we each drew and painted what spoke to our hearts.

As special as this trip was, it was made even better by having my mother, Saundra, along. She always managed to find a shady corner to read during our long hours of painting and kept us all entertained with her wit and wisdom during dinners. She never seems to tire of listening to my ramblings, and all the ladies love her like she was their own mom.

She's my favorite traveling companion!

To make this remarkable tour even more AWESOME, we got to enjoy a full moon while we were on the island of Korcula. It popped up over over the horizon during dinner, and we all stumbled over ourselves, running to the balcony railing to get a shot of it.

I walked down the street after dinner to see the moon and the lights of the village of Lumbarda reflected in the water. So pretty!

The sunrises made each morning a study in orange and blue...

and the sunsets took my breath away.

I loved this workshop tour so much that I've decided to offer it again next September. I want to share this amazing place with another group of students, so they too can feel the change that comes when you relax and settle into a place, leaving all your cares behind to focus on joy and beauty for a little while. 

Click here for information about the workshop. Click here to register.

In my next post, I'll share some of the sketches I did on location in Dubrovnik and on the island of Korcula. Stay tuned!

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