Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Sketches from Croatia - Part 7 - Žrnovo

More armchair travel from my Croatia trip last fall...

Most of our day trips on the island of Korcula had been to seaside towns, but one day we traveled a few kilometers inland to the lost-in-time village of Žrnovo.

Sketch of buildings in Žrnovo by Leslie Fehling
Ink & watercolor, 7.5" x 7.5", in a handmade sketchbook filled with 140 lb. Kilimanjaro paper

Žrnovo, one of the oldest villages on the island, was all but abandoned years ago when the Croatian government offered incentives for people to move to coastal areas in an effort to jumpstart tourism.

Years later, as tourism flourished and property prices rose along the coast, inland villages like Žrnovo started to look more appealing again.

Now, people are returning, buildings are being renovated, and signs of life are everywhere.

My favorite stop on our stroll through Žrnovo was the Eko Škoj organic food shop, where we tasted homemade liqueurs, olive oils, and jams made from produce grown in the garden and fields next to the store.

It doesn't get any more local than that!

There were so many great spots to sketch, both inside the store...

and outside.

It was hard to choose just one, but I couldn't resist this row of pumpkins on an old stone bench.

I had already finished the sketch of the buildings (at the top of this page), so time was short when I settled in to sketch this garden scene.

Of course, there's always someone looking over your shoulder when you sketch on location....

First, I blocked in the stone bench, then drew all the fun shapes of the pumpkins and squash.

The vines came next. I love drawing free-flowing organic shapes.

The peach tree and potted coleus were drawn with minimal lines. When it comes to sketching masses of foliage like this, I usually let my watercolors do most of the work rather than painstakingly drawing every detail with pencil or pen.

I found that it was surprisingly difficult to make an arrangement of bamboo poles look random!

To paint the rough texture on the stones, I first applied a base wash using several different colors, like Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, and gray (Burnt Umber + Ultramarine Blue). I allowed the colors to mingle on the paper, then, when it was dry, I added texture by dabbing on random strokes of paint then softening the edges here and there with a damp brush. Sometimes, I smudged the paint with my fingers or used a drybrush technique. Together, these techniques give the impression of rough-hewn stone.

I really liked the abstract design of the shop's logo, so I wanted to include it in the sketch. I roughed it in onsite, then refined it later at home before I inked it. To get the rusty look, I painted it with mixtures of Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, and Ultramarine Blue (to darken the browns).

The journaling was the last element to be added, after the sketch was painted. I left an open space for it early in the sketching process but didn't finalize the text and lettering style until all the painting was finished. That allowed me to judge what color would best complement the rest of the page.

I loved our quiet day of meandering and sketching in Žrnovo. I'm looking forward to returning some day to paint some of the views I didn't get to last time.

(Click to enlarge)

With the pandemic in full swing as I write this, it looks like I'll have to wait awhile. My 2020 workshop tour to Croatia has been rescheduled for May 22-31, 2022.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Sketches from Croatia - Part 6 - Sketching in Orebic

We pulled away from Korcula one morning on a ferry bound for the mainland where we would be sketching in the seaside resort of Orebic. That day, everyone chose their own view to sketch, and I picked this pretty iron gate. The flowers drew me in. I loved the way the pink flowers played off the deep red of the ironwork. The dramatic shadows on the stone were an added bonus.

Ink & watercolor in a 7" x 7" handmade sketchbook filled with 140 lb. Kilimanjaro watercolor paper

This is my favorite kind of sketching - being on location, absorbing the sights and sounds around me while drawing and painting quickly and loosely.

To paint the flowering shrub, I first spattered masking fluid to create random-sized spots that could later be filled with color. I also painted on masking fluid with a brush where I wanted larger masses of flowers. 

After the masking fluid had dried, a wet-in-wet wash of yellow-green was applied to the dry paper. I softened some of the edges to blend out the color. While the paint was still wet, I touched in darker blue-green in shadow areas and added spots of permanent rose.

I like to amp up the color of drab gray stones when I'm painting. For the stonework in this sketch, I prettied up the colors by adding touches of blue and pink to a wet wash of yellow ochre.

For the shadows, I used lavender mixed from cobalt blue and  permanent rose with a touch of Payne's gray to tone it down a bit.

In Orebic that day, I took breaks periodically to check on my students who were scattered up and down the waterfront so I could offer help with drawing, page layouts and painting. I always enjoy seeing what caught their eye and how they chose to express it. We all met up for lunch later at an outdoor cafe by the sea.

One of the assignments I gave my students during the Croatia workshop was to create a "flow sketch" to document one of our touring days. A flow sketch features images which are connected to form a chain of events. They may be connected with lines, arrows, dashes, dots, etc.

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

My flow sketch features our day trip to Orebic. The layout was inspired by the colorful string of flags that greeted us each time we arrived back at the Lovric Pension after a fun day of touring and painting. The individual sketches were interspersed with the international flags that we saw fluttering overhead each day. The cord they were suspended from was my timeline connector.

I had pre-painted this two-page spread earlier with a variegated wash of watercolor, giving me a foundation of color that would serve as the lightest values throughout the painting process.

Our morning bus ride from the Lovric to the harbor was sketched in first...

then I added the ferry ride across the channel. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we got a great view of the historic walled city of Korcula as we headed for Orebic.

My morning of sketching was chronicled next.

And I was pretty excited about the delicious gluten-free roasted veggie pizza I had for lunch!

Everyone was quiet on the ferry ride back to Korcula - a day in the fresh air (and a drink or two at lunch!) will do that to you.

Dinner that evening wasn't pretty - it was something similar to meatballs, plus a flavorful pureed soup, and peas - but it tasted good, and I dutifully recorded it on my timeline.

That evening a group of us attended the Moreška Sword Dance in Korcula Town, where we sat under a clear starlit sky watching costumed dancers perform what has been a Croatian tradition since the 16th century.

The flags from various European countries added liveliness and color to the page. 

A flow sketch is a great way to capture the highlights of a day in your sketchbook. There are an endless number of ways to lay out the page and connect your images. I've used this style of sketch for travel days...

a day in Maine...

and even a recipe sketch, where the connectors were watermelon seeds!

Think about what you could illustrate using a flow sketch, then give it a try!

If you missed my earlier posts of Croatia sketches and would like to catch up, here are the links:

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sketches from Croatia - Part 5 - The Peaceful Village of Račišće

Are you ready for a getaway? Let's escape to the island of Korcula in the Adriatic Sea, a place I visited last fall that seems like a dream now. Those days spent painting old stone buildings and aquamarine seas were among the happiest I can remember, and, over the past few months, I've been reliving them as I finish up sketches from that trip.

I posted the first sketches from my teaching trip to Croatia last fall, right after I returned home. If you missed my posts then and would like to catch up, here are the links to those sketches:

Now, let's look back at those sunny September days when the worst health issue I had to worry about was a nasty cold that I caught on the flight to Dubrovnik....

The sleepy fishing village of Račišće was a great place to spend a morning painting. I taught a lesson on painting reflections that day and tried a different sort of layout for my sketchbook page. It reminds me of a nautical flag.

A stroll around the village showed what a pretty place it is... 

This was a niche filled with findings from the sea...

The harbor was so peaceful and quiet. We were almost the only people there. Some of us took a break from painting to hunt for sea glass on the pebbly beach. First we found one piece, then two...soon we realized there was sea glass everywhere we looked! No wonder my suitcase was near the weight limit on the way home.

Can you find a heart-shaped rock in this pebble-covered wall?

What a spot to paint!

Wish I were sitting here sipping a cappuccino right about now.

The sketchbook I used for this Croatia travel journal is a handmade 7-1/4" square one with batik covers.

The stitching I used for it is a combination of coptic and French link.

It's filled with 140 lb. Kilimanjaro cold-press watercolor paper, which is wonderful to work on.

My 2020 Croatia workshop is still on the schedule for September. We plan to make a final decision about it next month. COVID numbers for Croatia have been extremely low, but the international travel is still an issue. It may be wishful thinking to imagine myself back in this quiet fishing village this fall, but I like having one little glimmer of hope to hang onto. It's helping to sustain me through all the disappointment and cancellations.

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