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, 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.)


  1. What fun to "peek" in on your wonderful retreat. It sure does look like Heaven to me. ;-)

  2. Your first SH Sketching retreat was a spectacular success. I envy those lucky ladies.

  3. Your first SH sketching retreat was a spectacular success. I envy those lucky ladies.


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