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.)


  1. You inspire me to want to visit this part of the world! Love the "Things I Never Knew" page!

    1. Come along with me next year! I'll be posting all about my 2020 Croatia tour in a week or so.

  2. Ah Croatia is one of the most beautiful countries! Maybe you didn't know it because it was for many years a part of Yugoslavia? I can't wait for more sketches. You inspired me a while ago to add borders to my drawings☺


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