Let Your Light Shine

Category: watercolor

Capturing the Colors of the Mediterranean

I love traveling with friends – painters and non-painters.  When I travel with the painters we gear up and choose locations where we can spend time with our paints or pastels.   I love the way painting helps you enjoy the moment instead of rushing on to the next thing.

When I travel with my friends who don’t paint, I take pictures which are supposed to turn into paintings when I get back home.  Once I’m back to real-life, that magic almost never happens.

So, for a recent Mediterranean cruise, I decided that to take a sketching kit with me and grab any minutes available.   I packed the kit and did a local dry-run.  Then I lightened it up even more.

I took:

  • several black Micron pens*
  • a white Uni-ball pen*
  • three water-soluble graphite pencils in their tin
  • several drawing pencils*
  • a small sharpener*
  • a kneaded eraser*
  • three water brushes
  • a  Koi watercolor kit

Everything fit into a cosmetic bag.  (The asterisked items were the ones I used the most.)

I bought several little sketchbooks, trying to decide which would be the most portable and might tolerate moisture if I wanted to add watercolor. At the last minute I saw a little journal with multi-colored sheets on the clearance table at Barnes and Nobel. I am a sucker for anything with lots of bright colors.  After a little cover decor, that won the spot in the suitcase.











I also took a 4×6 inch watercolor block and blank postcards as well as a 7×10 watercolor block (which turned out to be too large to be useful.)




I started sketching right at the airport.





On the ship’s organized excursions I was usually lucky to make a few pencil sketches on site, many while standing.

I embellished the book and added section titles on the long bus rides.






I also did a few sketches on route.  (Tour bus passengers are really good at holding a pose, especially if they’re asleep!)  I left blank pages for notes and pasting in tickets, maps, etc.


Most days I didn’t take the little watercolor kit because it added more weight to my bag than I thought it would.  On days when we were on our own I was able to do a few watercolor sketches on the watercolor block while sitting at a café or park bench.   I did a few onboard, too.  I pasted those into my sketchbook when I got home.  



By sheer luck I had downloaded “The Urban Sketcher” by Marc Taro Holmes to read on my Kindle.  It was an easy read with good suggestions.  There’s a sketchbook in my purse at this moment so we’ll see if the habit continues on this side of the globe.

Losing Even More


For three days after the watercolor workshop I mentioned in my last post I had to take care of other priorities so I didn’t paint.  I did think about how I could make my painting better.  That’s what the other side of the paper is for, right?

Here’s the old photo that I used as my source:IMG_4245

Here’s the painting I did at the workshop:IMG_2040

I realized that I needed to lose more of the original photo.  I needed less of the foreground and a bigger barn.  The barn was supposed to be the focal point but it got lost in the trees.  So I planned the new painting around the barn.


I wasn’t sure whether to include the bare trees on the left so I tried a trick from another great painting teacher, Jim Glover.  I sketched the trees with a marker on an old transparency (leftover from my overhead projector days).  Then I placed that where I would put the trees in the painting to see if it added anything interesting.  They seemed to lead the eye back across the painting and push the duller trees on the left into the background.



Here’s the second version of the painting including the bare trees:



I definitely like the second version much better. It’s closer to where I aim to be, but not there yet.   A third version?  We’ll see.

Losing It


“Losing it” is not usually a good thing, e.g. losing your keys or your grip (literal or otherwise).  But it turns out that losing a few things can really be good for your paintings.

Today I took a workshop from Charles Rowland that he called, “Express Yourself in Watercolor.”  The ideas that I will take away from the workshop are all about “losing it” – namely hard edges and quite a bit of your source photograph.  This is not new information for art students.  It’s just that we need to hear things multiple times and a good teacher like Charlie can say it in a way that clicks or maybe I’m just ready to hear it.

Charlie didn’t try to teach us every single thing about creating beautiful paintings.  Instead he showed us how a single photo could be a springboard for multiple paintings, if you just focus on the shape or idea that caught your eye in the first place and lose the rest.

The second big idea is the one that I suspect will make the most difference.  I wanted to take a watercolor workshop because my attempts at watercolor usually don’t end well (I’ve got stacks to prove it, but you’re not going to see them.)  Charlie’s style of painting has a sense of drama and I wanted to see how he made that happen.  I’m a low key person but when it comes to painting I’d love to be a drama queen.


Through a demo using simple shapes and later a landscape demo he showed that class what a difference lost edges and soft edges can make in a composition.  They consolidate small shapes into bigger, more interesting shapes.  They lead the eye.  They allow the focus to stay on a few hard edges near the center of interest.  They add mystery.  They rock!


Here’s my humble workshop attempt at “losing it.”








Here’s Charlie’s demo:



I’m not there yet but with a few decades of practice maybe I can become a drama queen after all.

You can see Charlie’s beautiful work at: http://charleswrowland.zenfolio.com/