Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Summerhill Sketching Retreat Recap - Part 2

The first inaugural Summerhill Sketching Retreat continued with a day-long field trip to Frank Lloyd Wright's famous architectural masterpiece, Fallingwater, which was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

(Click here to catch up and read Part 1 of this two-part post.)

Fallingwater is located in the Laurel Highlands, about an hour east of us, and it would have been a shame for my guests to miss this unique and innovative home that people travel from all over the world to see. They ended up having a wonderful tour guide who made the story of Fallingwater come alive for them.

We didn't have a chance to sketch while we were there, but after three solid days of painting, everyone enjoyed the break. On the way home, we made a quick stop at Ohiopyle State Park to see the waterfalls...

and had lunch at the historic Summit Inn in Farmington, PA. The view from the breezy veranda where we ate lunch is spectacular. You can see for sixty miles on a clear day.

It had been a long day, but my intrepid sketchers weren't ready to quit. When we got back to the house, they felt like doing some painting, so we got started on a lesson that was completely different from anything we had done previously. We painted cheeseburgers!

Pat J. works on her cheeseburger painting

Sketch by Terry Belanger

It was a nice change of pace, and my step-by-step lesson made it easy and fun.

We sat on the front porch that evening and watched the sun go down, chatting about this and that, laughing and telling stories, friends now after living and playing together for five days. Beverlee and I walked out across the lawn toward the hay field, so she could get a closer look at the fireflies. Growing up in LA, she had never seen lightning bugs before. Her joy and excitement over something I take for granted and hardly notice was the high point of my evening. Seeing things through new eyes is always a good thing.

The next morning, everyone added the final touches to their sketches, then we had brunch. These peach streusel muffins were a big hit! Click here for the recipe.

Then it was time for everyone to gather all their paraphernalia and wrap things up. After their bags were packed and all the suitcases brought downstairs, we gathered in the living room for sharing time. It was so much fun to see all that they had accomplished in just a few short days. Here are a few of their sketches:
View of Jan's garden by Terry Belanger

Lilies by Pat Buist

Summerhill flowers by Pat Buist

Stones from my heart rock collection, by Kay Gasser

Elements from Jan's garden, by Kay Gasser

Museum sketches

Sketch from Jan's garden by Pat Spencer

Heart rocks by Beverlee Moreno-Ring

Beverlee was in love with Buddy and painted this portrait of him

More Summerhill sketches

Scene from Jan's garden by Beverlee Moreno-Ring

And here's one I did of the vintage hat collection at the museum:

Then it was time to say goodbye. On the way to the airport, I had to smile as I listened to the animated conversation and laughter all around me. These women who had arrived as strangers were now the best of friends. They promised to meet again (maybe at a Summerhill reunion next year?) and told me over and over again how much they had loved the retreat.

At Summerhill they had a chance to unwind and relax, paint to their heart's content, linger over a delicious meal they didn't have to cook themselves, sit on the porch, and watch a sunset. All the commitments of everyday life would still be waiting for them when they returned home, but this peaceful interlude gave them a chance to slow down, settle in, and take time for themselves for just a little while.

It warms my heart to know that sharing this home that I love with others can make a difference in their lives. Making people happy is no small thing - it's the greatest reward I receive for all the hard work that goes into these retreats.

I plan to offer more Summerhill Sketching Retreats in 2020. If you would like to be placed on a list for early notification of new dates, please send me an email. I hope to see you here at Summerhill in 2020!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Summerhill Sketching Retreat Recap - Part 1

Is this heaven?
No, it's Summerhill.
Beverlee Moreno-Ring (Summerhill Sketching Retreat guest)

That quote from Beverlee sums up the euphoria felt by all of us during the first Summerhill Sketching Retreat that I hosted in July here at my home. It was perfect from start to finish. What a relief! I've been planning for it since last November when I had the nugget of an idea, to host painting getaways here at Summerhill and give women a chance to relax, paint, learn, and bond with each other while being pampered with luxury accommodations, gourmet food, and nurturing love and support. It turned out to be so much more than I had envisioned. Here's a visual scrapbook of all that we did during our six days together....

The first evening, after everyone settled into their rooms,

we had a yummy lasagna dinner then headed to the patio to get acquainted and enjoy some homemade panna cotta with blueberries for dessert.

The participants had flown in from all over the US for the event. Having women from different parts of the country (California, South Carolina, Michigan, and Arizona) really made things interesting. (I knew everyone from other workshops they had taken with me, but they didn't all know each other.)

The next morning, after a scrumptious breakfast, we gathered in the studio. Eager with anticipation, the students were ready to learn and ready to PAINT!


After a lesson on "41 Ways to Sketch a Garden" and a watercolor demonstration about how to paint masses of green foliage, they headed outside to sketch. There was so much to choose from! Flowers, fountains, architecture, scenery...it was probably a little overwhelming, but they each picked their favorite spot and got to work.


Buddy the cat was so happy to have some company (with Kay and Beverlee)

Pat and Kay

After all that fresh air (and heat), it was nice to return to the studio to finish up the morning's sketches...

Pat and Terry

Pat with her garden sketch

Beverlee with her garden sketch

Then it was time for a well-deserved lunch.

Beverlee, Pat B., Terry, and Pat J.

On the menu: broccoli salad, sweet, juicy watermelon, pickled eggs (a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty that I wanted them to try), marinated cucumber salad (with cukes from our garden), and California roll-ups.

A yummy (and beautiful!) chocolate Pavlova with whipped cream and red raspberries rounded out the meal. (It's everybody's favorite dessert here at Summerhill.)

Although they were probably ready for a nap by then, everyone wandered back to the studio in the afternoon for more painting lessons and free painting time. They didn't want to sleep through any of the fun!

After dinner, we all took a relaxing walk.

Buckley came along...

and Buddy the cat, too.

The next morning, we took our breakfast out onto the front porch where it was cool and shady.

Then we were off to Waynesburg for our first field trip, a visit to the Greene County Historical Society Museum.

I taught a lesson on drawing buildings, then we took a tour of the museum to see some of the rare artifacts and quirky collections housed there, like this fancy purple martin house...

We enjoyed a catered tea party luncheon in the parlor, then sketched a little longer before returning to Summerhill.

Here's my sketch of the day:

Ink & watercolor in an 8" x 8" Handbook watercolor sketchbook (I have to admit I finished this after my guests left.)

In the afternoon, I did a quick demo of how to paint brick texture on buildings. It really helped when it came time to add color to the museum sketches.

Student sketches...

That evening, my husband Fred offered scenic rides in his Piper Super Cub. Participation was optional, but almost everyone decided to take to the air.

They took off from our grass airstrip...

and Fred gave them an aerial tour of the countryside for ten minutes or so, then brought them in for a gentle landing. They were all so happy and excited about the experience, and all the California and Arizona folks were surprised at how green everything was here in Pennsylvania.

On day 4, we loaded up the Sketchmobile once again and headed for a little piece of paradise right here in Greene County, PA.

My friend Jan Shipe's garden is a wonder. How one woman can do all this is beyond comprehension!

Goldfish pond and flowers in Jan's garden

It has masses of flowers and unusual trees and shrubs, plus surprising touches like a huge old arched church window, painted purple and suspended from a tree. There's also a Zen garden, goldfish pond, a wine bottle tree, and a river of glass pebbles.

She generously allowed us to spend the morning sketching, then hosted us for lunch.

Pat B.

Pat J.

It was so quiet and peaceful there, with flowers all around, blue sky overhead, and the soft splashing of a waterfall as background music.


I sketched a daylily variety called "Heavenly Pink Fang".

Ink & watercolor in an 8" x 8" Handbook watercolor sketchbook 

Do you like the patterns on the color blocks? Here's how I made them:
I first painted the blue and green blocks of color and let them dry. Then I laid a plastic stencil over top and gently swiped across the stencil with a dampened Mr. Clean Magic Eraser pad. After removing the stencil, I blotted the sketchbook page with a tissue, leaving a subtle decorative pattern in the paint.

Here's a picture of us all having a delicious lunch of pesto spinach pasta salad, coleslaw, garlic breadsticks, and mojito watermelon. Dessert was orange-almond cake with a dollop of whipped cream.

That's Jan the Wonder Woman on the far right in the picture. Thanks, Jan for a fantastic day!!!

Speaking of wonder women...I can't write about the sketching retreat without mentioning my mother, Saundra Conklin.

I couldn't do any of this without her. She's behind the scenes prepping ingredients for meals, making tea, setting the table, and making emergency runs to the grocery store for things that I forgot. And she entertains us at every meal with her quick wit and wise insights. She loves being a part of my workshops, and we all can't imagine Summerhill Sketching or a Summerhill Retreat without her.

Her Lemon Sponge Pie ain't bad either!

Pie on the porch

Fred and I enjoying dessert with the ladies

Well, this post is already l-o-n-g and I have lots more pictures and sketches to share, so I'll close for now. Come back tomorrow to read about our visit to a famous historic site and to see some fantastic student sketches.

Till then, so long from Summerhill!

(View Part 2 of this post here.)
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