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SKETCHBOOK: a creative tool and a way of life that celebrates design and drawing as vital ways to see and value culture, to discover ideas, and to envision a better world.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Join Us for our Tuscany Workshop May 8-18!

This workshop combines 10 days of sketching instruction and on-location drawing with day trips to extraordinary Tuscan towns and landscapes, gourmet regional foods, wine tastings, optional cooking classes, and even a Puccini concert for a full cultural immersion experience!  The workshop is based in a beautiful 400-year-old villa with stunning panoramic views of the Serchio River valley, the historic city of Lucca's medieval towers and, on a clear day, the Tyrrhenian Sea beyond.  Jim will conduct group lessons and personal instruction to take your on-location sketching to the next level, while our sketching field trips offer unforgettable experiences in settings that one participant said, "feel like a dream."  

We're very excited to be returning to Casa Fiori and partnering with Follow Your Senses in Tuscany's Chef Karolina Lenart.  This is an experience not to be missed!  See the details here:


Portovenere is one of the beautiful towns visited during the Tuscany workshop.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The London Layover

One of our options for traveling to our workshop in Oxford was to fly to London, and catch a coach from there.  It had been a few years since visiting London, so Patti and I tacked a few days onto the itinerary to revisit a few of the city's many high points, from storied architecture to thriving people places to pubs full of football fans cheering England into the semi-finals of the World Cup.  Here are a few sketches from our walks through the city.  Almost all were drawn in a Moleskine A4 Watercolor Album with a combination of a PITT Artist Pen (F) with sepia ink for very fine lines, and a fude nib Sailor fountain pen with brown DeAtrimentis Archive ink for shadows and heavier accents.  I'll likely return to add watercolor to a few more in the coming days.  Thanks for checking in...

I'm irresistibly attracted to busy, almost chaotic street scenes anchored by iconic architecture, juxtaposing old with new.

The sculpture atop the dome at left compelled me to draw this scene.

Some of the double-page spreads were filled out with visual notes of whatever caught our interest.

Many details begged to be drawn as we walked through Old London.

I wanted to capture the Tower Bridge in context, with the pedestrian promenade and working boats on the river..

Piccadilly Circus, always crowded with those wishing to see and be seen.  This one had been on my "must draw" list for years.
Had to capture this one quickly, before the scene was gone!

I love how this one turned out, rapidly sketched standing up with the PITT fine line pen as a crowd watched.

Trafalgar Square is massive and not easy to capture; this viewpoint conveyed the energy I felt there.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Loose and Funky: Step-by-Step Watercolor Sketch from Costa Rica

Our Urban Sketchers "Capture the Energy" workshop in Costa Rica was a blast, and resulted in some really nice work by all involved.  On the last day, we participated in an open-invitation sketchcrawl at in downtown San Jose.  I tried to capture the stages of this watercolor sketch, despite shadows from the tree canopy that protected us from the hot sunlight (but not from the pigeons, who graced my drawing with pigeon poop fairly early in the process).  I hope, despite the less than optimum photography, that you're able to benefit from this series.  Cheers!

Here's the final as completed on site.
I created the base sketch with a Faber Castell PITT Artist Pen (sepia ink) for the foreground, and a pencil for the background to help achieve a sense of depth.  The first watercolor washes were for the sky, starting with a clear water wash, then adding wet-in-wet strokes of Naples Yellow, Cobalt Teal Blue and a touch of Cobalt Blue at the top (for a full description of my color palette choices, see the previous blog post).

Next, Naples Yellow on the background building facade (excuse the uneven lighting resulting from shooting under a shady tree canopy as the work progressed).

While still wet, I enlivened the facade by adding a little Mayan Orange, Ultramarine and a tiny tad of Carbazole Violet into the Naples Yellow.  I added some of the mix to the floor of the plaza as well...

Next, some Cobalt Teal Blue on the windows, with some shadows in the upper part of the window made from  mixing Alizarin Crimson and Prussian Blue.

The same Alizarin Crimson/Prussian Blue mix is used to add some shadows, giving the facade some definition...

...and to cast some dramatic shadows across the entire facade.

As part of my foreground frame, the tree canopy needed to be dark!  I started with Deep Sap Green, darkened with some Prussian Blue and Neutral Tint.

Here I'm using the tree trunk and ground shadows to complete the foreground frame.  The shadows on the ground are the same mix as those on the facade; some Burnt Umber was added to the mix for the tree trunk and branches.

Some final details added using my "confetti colors" on clothing, and a white gel pen for some lettering and sparkle.  For this photo I laid the sketchbook in full sun, so the colors are fairly accurate.

Papa loves his work...final marks as local sketchers and plaza patrons look on.  Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

My Latest Watercolor Palette Choices

My watercolor palette went through a major overhaul about a year ago, with more lively colors that I continue to love using.  If you're out to "sketch the energy," these choices are hard to beat.  Frankly, most of the painting I do is accomplished with three--Naples Yellow, Prussian Blue and Alizarin Crimson, I don't think I could live without my beloved Cobalt Teal Blue and Mayan Orange.  The others do come in handy, so I'm posting them all  here.  

You'll note this selection is heavy on Daniel Smith colors; I find them much more vibrant than some previous choices, and I haven't had the issue of them being runny in the palette that some others have written about.  Some of my choices have been informed, with gratitude, by Paul Wang and Alvaro Castagnet.  I hope you find this helpful:

Daniel Smith: Cobalt Teal Blue, Ultramarine, Viridian, Deep Scarlet, Azo Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Deep Sap Green, Mayan Orange, Hansa Yellow Deep, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna Light, Neutral Tint and Carbazole Violet.

Winsor and Newton:  Naples Yellow, Prussian Blue, Alizarin Crimson.

I keep these in a metal travel "Paintbox" made in the UK by Robert Young; it's proven to be a top shelf, road-worthy piece! I also carry a very nice set of Escoda travel brushes in a nifty leather wallet.  This basic setup is ideal for my current ways of working.

That's all kids...keep dreaming...keep drawing!

Monday, March 5, 2018

A New Workshop in Costa Rica!

We are really excited about this one!  Head to the "Workshops" page for all the details.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Alan Moore on Design: Inspiration for a New Year

I stumbled on Alan Moore's thoughtful contribution to the "DO" series of small, inspiring books.  DO/DESIGN: Why Beauty is Key to Everything" had me at the first paragraph:

"I have always been fascinated by beautiful things: architecture, furniture, books.  Beautiful things are prepared with love. The act of creating something of beauty is a way of bringing good into the world.  Infused with optimism, it says simply: Life is worthwhile."

Try following a line like that!  Oh wait, he did:

"The effort to create enduring beauty is not dependent on style but truth...Beauty is life-affirming, it gives back to create more life."

Those of us blessed (or cursed, or both) with a calling to creative work, whatever our discipline or medium,  realize early on that it's a search for truth or it's nothing.  Moore's insights into that search are penetrating, instructive and inspiring.  True to its concept, this little book is also elegant and efficient in its language; it can be read in a single sitting (or two).  I recommend picking it up.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Mike Daikubara's New Book Will Change How You Sketch!

Many of you have heard me say, "Don't aspire to be great.  Aspire to be prolific."  If that statement strikes a chord with you, then Mike Daikubara's "Sketch Now, Think Later" is the right book at the right time.  I received an advance copy, and can't help but grin as I read it.  Mike, a favorite Urban Sketchers instructor and correspondent, has taken his popular "Sketch Now, Think Later" workshop philosophy, ideas and lessons and expanded them into a book you'll want to keep in your sketch bag.  "Sketch Now, Think Later" is an important addition to the current canon of sketching books because it focuses on the issue fundamental to all sketchers--removing all the roadblocks to sketching every day, any time, in any situation.   There's a lot of great reading here on essential attitudes, but it's also rich in great tips, tools, techniques that are rooted in the thousands of hours Mike has devoted to location sketching, always with an eye to being more prolific and having more fun.  That's a hard combination to beat.

Another reason I love this new book is because every page reflects Mike's sense of generosity, good vibes and contagious enthusiasm for sketching.  The guy just can't help himself--he's a powerhouse of positive energy who loves what he does, and the reader reaps the reward.

I believe it always comes back to being prolific, and this book offers a wealth of shortcuts to that goal. I'm headed out for a week of sketching in Los Angeles, and I'm dropping Mike's book in my sketch bag to reread on the plane and for inspiration in the field.  I recommend it to you highly.