Calico crab

Sanibel Beach is known for an abundance of shells, but when I walk in the morning, especially if it’s low tide, I come upon other things that are of interest for sketching. Today it was starfish. Yesterday it was spotted Calico crabs. They were all over the place, both live and dead specimens. We directed the live ones back into the waves, but the deceased one came back to my spot on the beach with me and got added to my beach still life. Sketched in a Handbook watercolour journal, 8″ x 8″.


Two days of sketches

As promised, I did create some swatches with my Quinacridone Coral. Not a very scientific method, I’ll admit, because I was sitting on the beach and using a container of dirty water to clean my brush. But this did help to show me that this is a great colour for a tropical scene. I also used it to create some warmth in the shadows on the little vignette of the house and palms.

The beach is my favourite place for people sketching. I sketch them as they stand near the shore watching the pelicans dive. I also try to capture them as they walk down the beach. Sometimes I sketch the same person in several positions, like the woman reading her book in a recliner — sitting up and then turning over and leaning on her elbows. My go-to flesh colour for light skin is Burnt Sienna, diluted to match how sunburned the models are.

I also had a chance to sketch another Fort Myers home this morning. I never get tired of the shapes of palm trees and how they add a vertical contrast to the sprawling houses in the area.


Yellow house, Fort Myers

Quinacridone Coral is a colour I’ve started experimenting with lately. Usually when I try a new colour, I use it on its own first to get to know it, but that hasn’t happened yet. So far, all I’ve done is added it to a spot in my palette and dipped into it for sketching flowers. But I have a feeling it will be beautiful as a colour to use in mixes. That means I’ll need to paint out some swatches and combine it with some of the other favourite colours on my palette. For now I can say that it makes a beautiful dark for foliage when I add it to Deep Sap Green, as well as a gorgeous glowing orange when I add a bit of yellow to it. And since there’s yellow in almost all of the scenes I’ve been painting in Florida, I have a feeling it will soon become a new favourite. More to come soon about Quin Coral.


Late afternoon

From my low chair on the beach, the view I see is mostly sky, which suits me fine since it’s a great day for painting clouds. The beach is pretty crowded because it’s American Thanksgiving, so entire families are set up on the beach. From my spot I can eavesdrop on a long discussion about all the dishes that need to be prepared for the holiday meal — shrimp needs deveining, sweet potatoes need peeling and cans of cranberry sauce need opening. There are probably countless turkeys roasting in ovens as I sketch. If you are celebrating the holiday today, I hope it is a wonderful one with family and friends!

The scene I painted today is the very same one I painted in my online course, “Sketching Skies in Gouache“. Many of my most popular courses are 30% off for Black Friday week. Just use the coupon code LUNARBLACK30 at checkout for Luminous Colours, Victorian Vignettes, Sketching Winter, Sketching Fresh Flowers, Sketching Boats, Sketching Structure in the Garden, Still, Rushing, Falling Water, The Broken Mill, Mexican Street Scene and Light, Colour Shadow. And of course Sketching Skies in Gouache. The sale is on until Monday, November 29 at midnight ET.


The front yard

Even the most ordinary scene can become a subject to sketch if the sun hits it in the right away. A couple of dull grey pots in the front yard, hidden in the shade of the some trees, caught my eye when the sun lit them up. And since I had to stay close to home instead of getting out to sketch today, they were a perfect subject. Of course almost any vegetation is interesting here on Sanibel because it’s invariably different from what grows outdoors in Montreal.

With a closeup scene like this I try to limit myself to just a few colours, in this case Hansa Yellow, Cobalt, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and of course a touch of Alizarin Crimson for the spiky foliage in the pot.


Canal view

The sky was turbulent over Sanibel Island today, but that always makes for a wonderful dark background against the terracotta-tiled roofs. These are often my favourite views to paint here, looking across the narrow canal at the houses and trees across the way. I often have company while I sketch. One year there was a little Blue Heron that spent some time on the dock next to me. I’ve also been in the company of dolphins darting in between the dock supports below me. And today I noticed a rounded shiny shape in the canal which turned out to be a manatee.

It’s a busy week in Sanibel. Today I spent a bit of time in Fort Myers doing a live radio interview with the very funny Ed Ryan of Beach Talk Radio. And tomorrow I’ll be doing a demo at 1 pm for the Fort Myers Beach Art Association. If you are in the area, stop in to say hi.


Between two palms

Last time I was on Sanibel Island, there was no connection between the two palms in the yard. This time, I was delighted to find that there’s a hammock that joins them. Although I will probably never spend any time actually relaxing in it, I love it as a painting subject, and will likely tackle it from several different viewing angles during my stay here. For my first sketch, I probably didn’t pick the best angle to sketch it from (hidden behind the tree) but the sun was out and I sat in the shadiest spot I could find. Painted on a block of Hahnemuehle The Collection CP watercolour paper.


Something like a fountain pen

Recently a fellow sketcher wrote to me about a pen he thought I might like, so I ordered a few to try. He was right. I gave the pen a try last evening, and I like it a lot. The Pentel Fountain pen has a plastic nib which allows for thick or thin lines, depending on how you angle the pen, plus the ink is water-soluble, so it’s great for quick sketches that need a little tone, like my paint tubes. And the best thing is that the ink dries really black, not purplish like other pens I have used.

Something else to note from my sketcher friend: the ink washes out black but then does not wash out a second time so ideal if you want to add a wash of watercolour. I have not tried that yet but I will soon, and I’ll report back.


Dual-purpose dollar store drawing pen

Isn’t it great when you feel you can accomplish a lot with just a little? My day started off with voting in the municipal election. The voter card said we should bring our own blue or black pen, to save on single-use pencils, so grabbed a dollar store black ballpoint pen. After voting, I decided to draw my favourite tree, with the same pen. I haven’t drawn much with a ballpoint pen, but it is SO great for building up dark areas and values very slowly. I loved using it. Smooth paper is ideal for pen work, so I drew on a block of Fabriano Hot Press paper, instead of my usual rougher textured sketchbooks.

This is the ninth year I draw this tree. If you know this maple from previous drawings of it, you may notice that this is the first time I try it in monochrome. That’s because my drawing inspiration today is France Van Stone, who you may know on Instagram as @wagonized. I’ve been following (and loving!) France’s work for a long time, and I had the chance to meet her for coffee yesterday in Montreal. We didn’t draw together because we ended up talking the whole time, but I decided to give my ballpoint pen a try today. If you don’t know France’s work, be sure to check it out, and have a look at her courses too!


The north side

When the thermometer goes down to 3°C, it’s car studio time for me. And I’ve come to realize that I am very comfortable painting from my car. I’ve been doing for so many years that I don’t really think about where anything goes anymore. Water container in the cup holder, palette on the passenger’s seat, sketchpad leaning on the steering wheel. Everything has its place.

In Pointe Claire Village, there’s a perfectly good parking spot with a no-parking sign ahead. That means I will have a clear view of the storefronts and the sidewalk, which is starting to buzz with shoppers, dog walkers and coffee drinkers. Some might find this view uninteresting, but I like the overlapping signs and shapes that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The light is soft so I choose a limited palette of Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Hansa Yellow, and try to include a bit of foliage, knowing that in a week or so the autumn colours will be gone.