Granny would have loved Google Earth

When I was young I had a book of black and white photographs from around the world. It was about two inches thick, and no more than A5 in size. Granny and I would spend hours sitting on the couch slowly turning the pages, dreaming of places we wished we could see in person. She never saw much more than Portland, Oregon, thankfully I have been to many of the places we once looked at in that picture book. Granny would have loved Google Earth and Street View, without leaving her couch we could have taken virtual journeys all over the world.

Thanks to Street View I have spent time these last couple of weeks exploring Normandy, still fixed on the idea of living there once this Pandemic eases up a bit, of course sketching as I went.

La Thebaudière is near the town of Domfront in Normandy, it is where we would like to begin our time of living in France. These are sketches of old farms in the area.

This part of Normandy is farm country, wonderful pastures along every road.

I thought that Mont Dol was in Normandy, but a kind follower on Instagram corrected my geography, it is in Brittany, the demarcation between Normandy and Brittany has been a source of debate for many years, yet she lives there so I acquiess to her help. Either way, I can’t wait to visit it.

This park and gardens are on our must see list, Lassay-les-chateaux. How can you go wrong with a chateaux, water, and gardens?

Two more farms and buildings in the area – it is a beautiful place. Even more alluring these days when we have renewed our efforts to stay-in and stay-away. But I never give up hope, one day we will wander these narrow roads, sketching and, in Tricia’s case, taking photos. BTW if you have never visited her site and seen her travel photos you should check it out, Travels Through My Lens.

Reminder, my ebook is available from the Shop Page, or at Apple books. It is a collection of tips I have learned over the years, when you get your copy send me an email and I will send you a free copy of my first book, Let it be Hot.

Posted in France, Travel journal | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sketch and send a postcard – to yourself

Before Instagram there were postcards – “Don’t forget to send me a postcard.” We still send postcards, shopping for them, in my case sketching them, and then mailing them, is a way to interact with the culture, usually a pleasurable experience. Our friend Mary did have a challenge in Paris, but I chock that up to a rogue event, and not the norm. Of course there is also the observation made by the receptionist at a hotel in Provence, “Parisians do not know how to smile.” Still over the years our experiences have be pleasurable. 

How about a new way for postcards to enhance capturing the moment? This idea was planted by Sky Sherman – Travel writer & Editor. Here is the article: Why You Should Always Mail Yourself a Postcard from Food & Wine Magazine.

First a bit of background. Post cards are a product of the 1870’s with photo postcards first introduced in the 1890’s. They became a worldwide sensation; thirty-seven million purchased in Germany in 1875, in 1876 England it was seventy-nine million. In France, after much resistance, postcards were introduced on 15 January 1873, in the first week 7,412,700 were sold.  Postcard albums were ubiquitous in most homes, treasured along with the family Bible. They were criticized and demonized much like Instagram and Texting; people would forget how to write.  Today postcards still have an allure different than selfies or snapshots, if you don’t send them I encourage you to start.

We travelsketchers can make our own postcards, a truly special missive to send to a friend; an actual work of art. Blank postcards on heavy watercolor paper are available from multiple sources. They are blank on one side for sketching, and pre printed for address and message on the reverse. I often just use the pads for sketches I never intend to send as the 4” x 6” size is quite convenient. 

Here is the link for watercolor postcards at Amazon

Sky Sherman sparked an idea. She says that when they travel they always send a postcard to themselves, not just friends and family. She describes the benefits of learning about the postal system, meeting locals, and even ending up with a bit of a stamp collection. 

My new idea is to start sending a postcard sketch to myself. It will be a different memory than a sketchbook since it will have a local stamp, postmark and a bit of the wear that comes from mail-handling. I envision an album, or framed collection in the future. We have found that we usually get home before many of our friends have received the cards we sent them while on the trip, if that holds true for the ones we send ourselves then we will get a souvenir in the mail a few days after we are home.

I think a sketch like this would be a nice memento of a wonderful meal.

Now, if we can just start traveling again… in the meantime I am thinking that some folks who are tired of all this crazy 2020 might appreciate a postcard from Mukilteo, I know I would if someone sent me a sketch, so I might give it a go.

Keep traveling as you can, and always keep sketching.

Reminder that my book is available on the Shop page here.

Or from Apple Books, here is the link

Posted in Tips for the Travel Sketcher | 4 Comments

Tackling a challenging subject – a lizard in a tree

I love it when folks send a challenging subject to sketch. This one comes from my friend Lori. It is a small lizard in a tree, a lot of gray makes it hard to get the lizard to stand out. Here is the photo I worked from.

From the lizard’s perspective she must be glad that we have trouble making her stand out, her camouflage is her protection. To sketch we have to observe closely and use what we can. Two key tools will be the textures and the dark areas, specifically where the body of the lizard is next to the tree.

First I did a light pencil sketch to get the shape of the lizard right, not too detailed and not too fussy, just basic shapes.

Next I used my fountain pen to turn it into an ink sketch. It is important to emphasize the texture of the bark, and not add too much texture to the lizard, the contrast will make her stand out. For my style I kept it loose.

You can see that the lizard is already starting to stand out. For the rest we will use watercolors. Traditional watercolor is to go from light to dark, but in this situation the darks are so important that I painted them in first, not as dark as they would be in the final sketch but I wanted to know where they were.

Next I added the lighter gray for the bark, which from the photo looks quite bleached, so a mixture of Ultramarine Blue, and Sepia worked well. I was careful to leave small white areas as highlights.

The lizard has a bit of green in its coloring, Perylene Green is a favorite gray-green, perfect for this. If you are using sap green gray it down with some Ultramarine Blue

The last thing was to intensify the darks, and shade the tail of the lizard. For this I used the darkest gray I have, being sure it is black along the edge of the lizard and then blended up to the ridge down the back of the lizard. A bit of shading on the tail kept it from being flat.

Thanks Lori for the challenge, I love doing these. If you run into a challenge send it along and I will see what I can do with ide

Posted in Tips for the Travel Sketcher | 8 Comments

Tackle your fears – art and life

In any discipline we have strengths and weaknesses. We also have comfort zones and challenges. Much of life is dealing with both.

The best advice I ever received about strengths and weakness came from a psychologist friend of mine. He said that we are all dealt a hand of cards in life, and as in any hand of cards, there are strong cards and weak cards. He said that what we tend to do is try to turn our weaknesses into strengths, when what we should do is use our strengths to keep our weaknesses from messing us up. If we put all of our energy into trying to turn our weaknesses into strengths will will most likely fail, and mess up our strengths in the process.

That is good advice for artists as well. We have strengths and weaknesses, it is good to challenge those weaknesses for sure, but not to the extent of frustration. Recently I read a long biography of Van Gogh, many have pointed out that he was not good at painting people, yet he was obsessed with painting from live models, spending his limited money just to have them. He never did become known as a portrait painter, now his other works, oh my.

I can relate, portraits are not my strength. Now and then I dabble, just as a challenge, yet people buy my landscapes and sketches, not sure that would happen with a portrait.

As far as comfort and challenges. As artists we all have subject matter that we find extra challenging, even frustrating. For me it is cats and boats. My poor cat Neville has many roundish-looking-blob sketches of him in my past, glad he does not notice. Boats always ended up being to long, too short, odd shapes.

A few weeks ago I decided it was nuts that I could not do boats. I love boats and live in an area with plenty of boats. So I went on line where I picked up a couple of tips – though the whole figure-eight thing (look it up) eludes me still. Then I had a bit of self-talk and realized that the problem I was having is the problem we all have, I was thinking and defining instead of drawing what was there – “Terry, take the advice you give everyone else!” Draw what you see, not what you think you see.

The only way to get good at anything is to do it, you never improve at music, sports, or art without practice. So I decided to sketch boats.

The pandemic has loosened up a bit, Tricia as an essential employee, spends a few hours at her office each week, which conveniently is at South Lake Union in Seattle; lots of boats. So I offered to drive her in, then spent time at the Seattle Center for Wooden Boats, sketching boats.

The good news is that I am no longer afraid of them, and making good progress. The sketches that follow are in chronological order, and I am comfortable with the progress. As far as Neville the cat goes, wellllll… maybe one day it will get better. All I can offer as advice is that you take a shot at sketching the scenes that challenge you, you just might find you enjoy it. As always let me know how it goes.

Posted in Tips for the Travel Sketcher | 2 Comments

Capturing the moment – Dubai and Genoa

When I look back at my sketches from the past a few evoke more vivid memories than others. The sketch triggers a sense of the moment almost as if I was right there. Here is an excerpt from my new book of one such time on a whirlwind trip to Dubai and Genoa.

Early one September Saturday morning I boarded Emirates at SeaTac airport for a fourteen hour flight, arriving in Dubai on Sunday. Monday I did a seminar in Dubai, on Tuesday I flew to Genoa, did another seminar on Thursday, then back to Seattle on Friday. This was one of the most memorable trips from my 25 years as a seminar speaker.

In my bag I carried a 3.5” x 5.5” Moleskin sketchpad, Windsor & Newton Cotman Travel Pallet, a water-brush, and a couple of Micron pens – my kit. it was rare for me to go anyplace without my kit, sketching was, and still is, a critical component of my travel.

Dubai was quite a surprise. Photos prepared me for the ultramodern buildings, they are dazzling to see in person. I expected to see men dressed in thobes and ghutras, women in hajibs. I figured that my western attire would stand out, but no. Dubai is 80% foreigners who dress western. Men in business suits and women dressed like they just stepped out of Nordstrom. It is a bit overwhelming there.

That evening, after bangers and mash at an Irish pub, I took my sketchpad up to the rooftop swimming-pool-bar of the Raddison. Dubai is actually prettier after dark with the lights of the buildings and the stars in the sky.  I ordered a beer and sketched; a night I will always remember.

Tuesday afternoon I landed in Milan, rented a car and drove 118 miles to Genoa. After finally finding parking and my hotel it was already dark; I was hungry so I headed out in search of a restaurant. 

The Osteria Marinara A Lanterna da Don Gallo was just a few blocks down the way. I sat at a table on the sidewalk, al fresco is always best, ordered wine and food, then got out my sketchpad.

The next day there was no seminar, just a free day to wander into town. Italy is famous for the squares in the city, and of course coffee. 

This trip was one of the most memorable of the hundreds of trips I have taken, I savored the moments by lingering over a sketchpad instead of snapping a selfie. And today as I write and look at these sketches I sense just a bit of what it was like those days five years ago.

The book is available on the Shop page, or at Apple Books

Posted in Tips for the Travel Sketcher | 1 Comment

It’s done! theTravelsketchers Guide to Travel & Sketching

Thanks to editing help from Tricia, Travels Through My Lens, my book is done.

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 $5.99

Posted in Tips for the Travel Sketcher | 2 Comments

A morning plein-air at Rosehill

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.

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Workshop and acrylics – a good week

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.

Posted in Acrylic, sketch, Workshops | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Happy 4th – this last week

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.

Posted in Painting, sketch | 4 Comments

Shapes and Darks First

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.

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