Saturday, July 11, 2020

Camping, Sketching, and Some Really Big Fish!

We went camping for a few days last week at Pymatuning State Park in northwestern Pennsylvania, and I managed to squeeze in one quick sketch before our grandkids arrived.

Two-page spread in a Khadi 5" x 6-1/2" sketchbook (Click to enlarge)

And I do mean quick! I spent about an hour on it, start to finish, except for the lettering which I added after we returned home. 

This was (sorta kinda) the view from our campsite. I was inspired by the morning light shining through the towels hung on the clothesline across the road from us. 

The sky and trees were painted first. I worked my way across the two-page spread, alternating between the blue of the sky (a mix of Phthalo and Ultramarine) and the yellows and greens of the trees (Sap Green, Nickel Azo Yellow, Ultramarine, and Phthalo Blue). I wanted some soft blending of the foliage with the sky background. 

I used a Sailor Fude fountain pen with Platinum Carbon black ink, a fun little set of QoR watercolors and a new travel brush set by Raphael. The brush set includes a mini mop brush that was perfect for painting the sky and trees. It holds a generous amount of paint, so I could cover the paper quickly before the paint started to dry.

I kept things loose and indistinct on the left side of the sketch, since I wanted most of the focus to be on the laundry, but I like how the splash of color from the wild orange daylilies brightens up that side of the page. The undulating curve of the blooms adds some movement to the image and repeats the curve of the clothesline.

The arrival of my grandchildren was a blessing, because it forced me to stop before I overworked the sketch. Later, at home, I added a touch of spattering in the trees...

and dug out my old Speedball calligraphy nibs to add the title lettering. I like being able to load the nib with watercolor, so I can perfectly coordinate the color of my lettering with the painting.

A Staedtler Triplus Fineliner was used for the green lettering. I love having the set of 48 colors on hand. It makes it easy to find the perfect color to use with any sketch, and the fine nib enables me to write small, if needed. The ink is not waterproof, however, so I always use the pens after all the painting has been completed.

Completed sketch

Our stay at Pymatuning was a nice break from months of being cooped up at home. Our whole family has been isolating for so long that we felt we didn't pose any risk to each other, and while we were camping, we were a world unto ourselves.

It was a great way to have a vacation while staying away from other people and avoiding the risks that might be associated with staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.

We kayaked, biked, and sat around the campfire. (One or two s'mores may have passed my lips, but I have it on good authority that calories consumed while camping don't count.)

The kids caught fireflies in the evening.

We played games like Life, Dominos, Quick Cups, and Rummikub. And we made an excursion to the spillway that Pymatuning is famous for.

Years ago, people started feeding bread to the carp that gather there, and the park service still allows it because it's a "cultural tradition". Canada geese and ducks compete for the bread people throw...

and the huge carp, with their gaping mouths, are so thick that the birds walk on top of them.

I'd heard about Pymatuning ever since we moved to western PA forty years ago, and I finally got to see what everyone was talking about. Those slow-moving fish with their big round mouths opening and closing - it was so creepy and weird!

We saw bald eagles every day. If you zoom in on this photo, you'll see that there's one sitting right in the tippy top of the tall pine tree on the left. We watched him for awhile from our kayaks, then held our breath as he soared off across the lake. It was thrilling!

(Click to enlarge)

Wild daylilies bloomed in clumps all around the lake. I'm so glad we were there at peak bloom.

The last day, we rented a pontoon boat and motored around the lake, stopping to swim once in awhile and just enjoying the scenery.

One-on-one time with the grandchildren is one of the best things about camping. Conversations come naturally and you have all the time in the world to just be together.

Mini vacations like this are helping me get through these challenging times. Being in nature is a soothing balm for the frustration I've been feeling.

It may not be Provence or Tuscany, but a state park in Pennsylvania offers a pretty good way to make lemonade out of lemons.


  1. I loved this, Leslie - the details about your painting, as well as the photos and descriptions of the family nature getaway!

  2. Looks like a very fun and relaxing trip. Thanks for sharing your holiday! Sure miss traveling and visiting with you - but am hopeful travel next year will happen!

    1. I'm just trying not to think about everything we're missing, but it keeps creeping into my thoughts. I've been going a little stir crazy. We're going to appreciate traveling SO MUCH when we get to do it again.

  3. I just felt like I was on the trip with you from your descriptions and loved how you explained your watercoloring. You are so lucky to have taken this trip with your family as I still have not been with mine since March. Looks like awhile longer since I'm in California.

    1. I'm glad the painting explanations were helpful, Bonnie. I'm so sorry you haven't been able to see your family. It's almost a physical ache, isn't it? Like someone removed a part of you. I hope you don't have to wait much longer.

  4. I love your sketches with the clothes pegged on the line. Such a lovely family getaway time!

    1. Thanks, Brenda. It was really nice to have a change of scenery for a few days. And the kids loved all the new experiences. They've been stuck at home even more than I have, poor things. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces.

  5. Looks like a wonderful vacation with your family. AND thanks for sharing the painting and description of how you painted it, it makes me feel like old times with the clothes on the line.

    1. I find that I always take pictures of clothes hanging out to dry when I'm traveling. I guess it reminds me of my childhood. I remember my mother hanging clothes out to dry, even in the dead of winter. When she brought them in, they were frozen stiff!


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