Twenty-five years of traveling for business with a sketchbook in my bag taught me a few things about travel and sketching, I am passing some of them along. My hope is that you are motivated to sketch and travel more.
I cover packing, some considerations for when you are onsite, supplies and tips on technique.
Thanks to Shirley, Lori, and Mandy for reading some early drafts and giving feedback.
This is an eBook, PDF format, so easily read on most devices. Check out the Shop Consignment Page to order, only $4.99
Getting ready for next week’s workshops while trying out a new watercolor set-up. Usually I use acrylic paint for plien air painting, but I wanted to see how my pochade box worked for watercolor. Here is the result, with a bit of the good and the not so good.
Yesterday I filled my watercolor pallet with all fresh paints, it looked great. Shut the lid, then placed it in my pochade box, figuring the paints would dry overnight. Packing up this morning I loved how much lighter my backpack was for watercolor, a positive.
When I opened the pallet after getting set up at Rosehill Community Center in Mukilteo. Oh, my! What a mess. The paint for the most part had dried, except for the Indian Red, and the yellow, they ran all over everything; instead of painting I spent time cleaning up, and succeeded in getting paint all over my arm.
Not to be daunted I pressed on.
I begin with a pencil sketch, not too much detail, just guidelines for an ink sketch.
Next, the ink. It is important to keep the ink loose, otherwise it looks like you are drawing a coloring book; broken lines, imperfect lines, along with squiggles here and there all work. You want a degree of spontaneity. In the finished sketch the ink should just suggest shapes, and add texture.
Ready for the paint, notice the mess on the pallet. I will have to give this another go after I get the pallet set correctly. It did affect the final outcome, but I’ll show it anyway.
First a light wash with the basic colors. Note that the building to the left is quite vague, I just wanted to suggest that something was there, but not show much detail. I also tried out a new diagonal shader brush, it worked well for the straight parts, not so well for foliage.
Here is the final. Like so many sketches we do it is a learning experience. Remember it is practice not perfection; next week’s will be better. Not sure I like using my pochade box for watercolor, but glad I tried. It made for some uncomfortable body positions, so I think my watercolor plein-air set-up is still in the development stage.
Workshop next week is full. Let me know about your interest in future workshops.
Hopefully my book will be out by next week, just a few tweaks left.
The highlight of the week was the workshop we did on Wednesday. Ana graciously invited us to her beautiful yard with an amazing view of the sound. A couple of folks were sketching for the first time, I hope they are hooked, while a few others worked on improving. Thanks to Ana and everyone who came.
There was consensus that we need to do another workshop in August, so I will get to work planing. The area that seems to be a challenge for many is getting the dark and lights right, so we may focus on that. If you have any topic suggestions pass them along. Watch here and on Instagram for the announcement.
Personally, I have been doing more acrylic painting of late, with a few sketches thrown in, along with a new consignment project to work on.
This painting of poppy fields in France sold in one day, to a lady who already has a few of my paintings, I am so grateful it is going to a place where it will be appreciated. It is a 10×14 acrylic on canvas panel.
Here are a few other paintings and sketches from the week.
This is a 14×18 acrylic of a France inspired park. It could use a home, so if you know of anyone pass my info along to them.
Here are a couple of smaller paintings, 4×6 inches.
No week would be complete without some ink and watercolor.
I hope you are doing well, staying safe, wearing masks, and sketching. As always send an email for ideas, and keep on sketching and traveling, even if the trip is just around the house.
Thankfully we have art to keep us sane in a world of crazy. This last week I have continued to work on my new book “theTravelsketchers Guide to Travel and Sketching, getting ready for the “Shapes, Darks, and Color” Workshop on July 15 (Still a couple of openings), doing acrylic paintings, and sketching. Here are some of the results.
This is a village in Provence, from a photo taken a few years ago. It is an 4×6 inch acrylic on a panel. I like the small formats a lot.
Mt Baker is always an inspiration for a painting, a friend sent a photo of the mountain which motivated me to dig up some images of the mountain and do this 9×12 inch acrylic. It is available for sale $300
This plein air painting in Old Town Mukilteo sold to a passerby as I was painting it, what a treat.
A few sketches of course – it was a busy week.
Hope you have a great holiday weekend, stay safe. And keep sketching.
Shapes, darks, and colors are the building blocks of any art, be it a painting, a sketch, or a photograph. Of the three, color is the least critical, however, shapes and the relationship between dark and light are the most important – black and white photographs use only shapes and darks often with striking results.
Shapes are the foundation for sketching as our mind quickly recognizes shapes, even with little detail. We can suggest shapes with lines or with paint.
Though there is little detail in either of these sketches …our mind identifies the shapes and both would qualify as a genuine sketch. Frequently when traveling with little time to stop and sketch you can capture a moment in five minutes or less. Our mind has a catalogue of images, we think in pictures, that is why it works.
Getting the shapes right does not mean precise. Loose approximations are often the best sketches, a style favored by many. There just has to be enough clarity to trigger the mind to fill in the blanks.
We also interpret the shapes based on their relationships to each other. In the line drawing the people are larger than the house, yet, because of the placement of each, our mind knows that the house is further away. In reality the Eiffel Tower is 180 times taller than a person, yet in the blue painting it all makes sense.
Here is a five minute sketch I did of Yosemite Falls, standing, with little time to sketch. The color was added later, but it was an identifiable sketch without the color because of the shapes.
Darks, for our purposes include shade, shadows, and dark vs. light colors. The rule is this – Get the darks right and the rest is easy. More on this later, when we get to discussing color.
Just a bit of shadow and shading makes a big difference to our simple sketch. Notice that the color I used for the shading does not matter, most any color would have worked, though blues or grays work best.
Before you begin to draw or paint take a moment to identify the major shapes, ignore the details. In this scene we have mountains, a house, hills, a tree, and people.
Next pick out the darkest areas. One trick that artists have used for many years is to squint, the dark areas will stand out, remember them. Some look at the scene through a red filter, it takes out all of the color and makes the darks easy to see.
After identifying the darkest areas next find the lightest areas, squinting or a red filter works for this as well. What is left after the lights and the darks are the mid-tones.
Another way is to take a photo then turn it into a black and white.
Notice how the dark areas stand out. The lightest areas are the sky, the edges of the buildings, the side of the building on the left. The rest are the mid-tones. If you get the darks and the lights right, the mid-tones can be off, yet the sketch will be quite impressive.
With summer here and things opening up a bit, a workshop in the great outdoors seems like what we all need. If you were at the Barn Workshop then you know the venue, and the wonderful vistas.
Over the last few months of Le Confinement I have developed a process to make the sketching of most anything easier – I formulated some of the techniques I have used and taught over the years.
We will look at capturing recognizable shapes, not precision – the importance of composition, proportion, perspective. Then the importance of the dark areas, “Get the darks right and the rest is easy.” With colors we will explore why it is good to break the rule of “light to dark” as well as some concepts to make the colors work.
Announcement I am working on an e-book, “theTravelsketchers Guide to Travel and Sketching.” With a bit of luck it might be done by the workshop, or shortly after.
Everyone who registers for this workshop will get a copy for free when it is done, as well as a copy of my first book, “Let it be Hot!”
Hope you can make it, register soon as we only have room for 8.
So glad to be sketching outside again! Thankfully things are beginning to open up a bit. The conundrum is the balance between possibility and probability. There is a possibility of becoming infected anytime I have contact with the world outside my condo, however the probability of infection is the more critical factor. So I have been quite comfortable going out sketching while alert to keeping the probability of infection low. Here is some art from the week – sketches and studio.
Workshop update – so far two people have expressed interest. The Cafe and Wine location is not working out, so I am exploring some other options. Let me know your interest between the topics of Cafe Sketching, or Sketching the Sound.
Some of my best travelsketching memories are from cafes and pubs. After four months of staying in I am ready to get out for a bit of la culture du café; it seems like the perfect excuse for a workshop along with a bit of celebrating. So here is the plan, rough as it is at this point.
Target dates are the second or third week of July, most likely on a week day afternoon.
Cafes and pubs are so often the source of travel memories so that will be our topic: Sketching in the cafe. We will try our hand at sketching food and drink, as well as the ambience of the place.
I am working out the details with a local cafe here in Mukilteo that has an outside deck, for easy social distancing, one person to a table, yet configured well for a workshop. Here is the good part, as part of the workshop registration you will get an appetizer plate and a glass of wine, second glass is on you.
There will be a limit of eight due to space, both logistical and social. So let me know of your interest, even before I post it on my blog, so I can reserve a spot for you.
Here is a gallery of a few cafe sketches I have done over the years.
Travelsketching often means sketching while sitting or standing in odd places and positions, thus making it a challenge to juggle a sketchpad, pallet, water, etc.
When sketching at a cafe or a pub your setup it is pretty easy – you have a table in front of you. So the only real decisions are which sketchbook, and do you use a waterbrush or get a container for water and a natural brush. Most often I just ask for a small glass of water with no ice. I do carry a collapsible metal container that reduces down to about 2” in diameter and ¾” thick.
When in the field it helps to have a system, trying to balance a pallet on my knee has resulted in many dropped pallets and a lot of frustration. Here are my two basic travelsketching setups.
Here is the setup I use most often
This is the reason I prefer hard sketchbooks, though the same set up does work fine on soft covers.
Most often I end up sketching on my lap, even when there is a table in front of me, must be a habit from all the times I have sketched sitting on rocks or logs. With the pallet clipped to the pad it does not slide and fall. So this is pretty easy and quick. The other clips hold down the pages
If I am using loose sheets this is the setup
I used the cardboard backing from a pad of watercolor paper, they are about ¼” thick and quite rigid. White duct-tape covers the edges, and creates a hing so it folds in half. The two clips on either side hold the paper in place, and they are on the fold, holding the board in place; it is quite sturdy.
The water cup is collapsible and held in place by another clip, as is the pallet. Of course if I am using a water brush no cup is needed.
This folding board also works with a sketchbook if you are painting on double pages, or it is a wire bound sketchpad.
Though I use both, the first is the most easy to carry, all it takes is a couple of clips. Most all of my sketchbooks have a clip clipped to the cover so I always have one ready to go.
Hope this gives you some ideas. I would love to see how you set things up as I am always open to new tricks.
Hope you are well, traveling (real or virtualle), and most of all hope you are sketching. Always love it when you share your work.
Ma grande aventure virtualle with sketching was a bit like planning for a trip. Travel agents, tours, and cruises have their place, but it is a limited one in my mind because the planning is an integral part of the journey. We always spend many wonderful hours researching the itinerary, checking out places to stay, trains and planes, restaurants, and the rest. I would not want to give that up to someone else, nor be limited by a group’s schedule – unless there was no other way to visit a place, Antarctica for example.
As I looked for places to visit I spent much time on Google Maps, checking out villages I had never heard of, using Street View to travel down streets, looking for interesting sights; I discovered a couple of places that are now on my list of places I want to visit one day, I also revisited memories from past trips.
Here are the final sketches, and one painting, from this grandeaventure. I hope they motivate you to explore the world, even from the confines of your own home.
I hung out in Najac for a bit, that of course required finding a Patisserie as croissants and baguettes are a basic necessity.
Windows in France are always attractive to an artist, so I did this painting. It is gouache on 6×8 watercolor paper. The souvenirs you make yourself from a trip are far more dear than the trinkets sold at “Souvenir Shops.”
Many years ago we made a brief foray near the French Alps, so on this virtual journey I wanted to go in a bit deeper, found the village of Breil-sur-Roya. The restaurant Le Biancheriright off the main road was a perfect place to sit in the sun while sipping vin blanc and eating escargots.
From the Alps it was easy to head for Nice, a city we visited two-and-a-half years ago – made for a pleasant ending of ma grande aventure.
With things opening up a bit I hope we all get to take some actual journeys, even if they are only a few hours from home. In the meantime I will be thinking of places to travel by car, not too far away. Hmmm, Eastern Washington Wine country and lunch at Wine O’clock in Prosser sounds enticing.
Where will you go? Don’t forget your sketchpad.
AND, just a teaser, no details yet, but there is a possibility of a Travelsketcher workshop in early July. Stay tuned.