From my deck there’s a great view of the back of the shops along Bearskin Neck in Rockport, and I think I enjoy sketching this more than I do the facades. There’s not a straight building in the bunch and they seem to be held together by a jumble of wires and electric poles. What a great study in repeating patterns of triangular roofs and rectangular shingles.
Somewhere in a file drawer of my memory there was a pirate ship on the water, a house next to it and a jetty that faded into a thick blanket of fog. I was pretty sure it was a scene from a childhood trip to the Massachusetts coast. When I was in Salem today on a museum visit I had to make my way down to the waterfront to see if Salem was indeed the place, and sure enough it was exactly the picture I have had in my mind all these years, minus the fog. It’s funny how strong those visual memories can be. And in case you are wondering what those bits and pieces from my file drawer are — the jetty is Derby Wharf with the Derby Wharf Light down at the end, the house is the Pedrick Store House and the ship is the Friendship of Salem, a replica of a 1797 East Indiaman.
Now here’s the funny thing. The house was transplanted from Marblehead in 2007, the ship was built in 2000, and my childhood trip to the Massachusetts coast was long before that. So where was that memory from?
I didn’t quite get to finish this sketch. What started off as cloudy turned to mist and then to real rain just as I was getting to the part of the picture that I was most interested in. Those pilings under the clubhouse of the boat club in Rockport are fascinating to paint. Mossy green, deep and dark, full of mystery. The reflection is also study in deep rusts and indigos but just when I was getting to that part, the rain sent me indoors. I hope to get out there tomorrow and have another look. It just might be that the dark will extend right down and off the page on the right side. Sketched on Canson Moulin du Roi hot pressed paper, 9″ x 12″, and photographed with an iPhone camera at dusk, hence the poor colour reproduction.
This red building in Rockport — Motif No. 1 — is supposedly the most painted building in America. If you Google it, you’ll be amazed at how many renditions of it you can find. For that reason, it always has to be in at least one sketch while I’m in Rockport. I found a bench facing the harbour and sketched this in the blazing sun, which is not something I make a habit of. Usually I find some shade or bring an umbrella because if I’m in the sun I can’t see the colours on my palette and the white of my paper is blinding. But I liked the spot where I was sitting and painted it anyway which resulted in some super saturated colour.
It always takes me a little time to adjust to a place when I travel, to figure out the light, the locations, the wind, the temperature, the colours. But sketching in Rockport is like coming home. The first sketch always has to be the one from my window —the repeating motifs of lobster traps, little triangular roofs, buoys, pilings and boats. The light is changing fast at the end of the day but I had to get one in before darkness falls.
I also wanted to announce the winner of the draw for a free subscription to my Craftsy course. I’m sorry I couldn’t announce it sooner but I had no name, only an email address. Now that I have heard from the winner, I can say congratulations, Marie-Ange! I hope you are enjoying the class.
I am thrilled to launch my first online video class “Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink and Watercolor” today (on my birthday!) at Craftsy.com. The course is 2.5 hours long, and in seven lessons we cover all the steps I use when I’m sketching in the field. We start with a peek through my sketchbooks (yes, I carried them all to Denver in my suitcase!) and a glance at the materials I use on location. From there we journey to the Flatirons in Boulder at sunrise to work on composition and value sketches. Back in the studio, I go through the step-by-step painting of different types of skies, and then draw and paint the Flatirons scene, along with other common landscape elements such as trees and foregrounds, adding in texture and darks along the way. I hope that breaking it all down into steps will make it easy enough for any viewer to try out the steps on their own.
It was an interesting and exhilarating experience to create this course, but I couldn’t have done it without the help and guidance of all the talented people at Craftsy. In preparation, I had to really think through the steps of how I work, and this helped immensely during the shoot. You’ll find plenty of great shots of my palette, so you can see how I mix colour for each scene and how different types of pens create texture. If you haven’t seen the Craftsy platform yet, you’ll be impressed by the way it works. You can speed up or slow down the video, make notes, ask me questions, post your projects and see what other students are working on. As an instructor, it’s an interactive experience for me too, since I can answer individual questions and give feedback on projects (it’s almost like being in one of my summer workshops). And once you buy the class, you can watch it as often as you like. If you register through my blog, there’s even a special discount.
Since this is the start of my summer sketching season, I’ll be posting new sketches on the projects page too. I’m thrilled with how my online class turned out and I look forward to seeing your projects. So get out there and do some landscape sketching!