One of the most amazing Santo Domingo workshops that I’m finally getting a chance to write about is “Architecture: Personal Viewpoints,” with Liz Steel and Frank Ching. Liz is one of the people I was most excited to meet because we’ve been corresponding and I’ve been admiring her Australian architecture sketches on her blog for months. Frank Ching is well known to architects around the world for his many books on architectural drawing — but instead of me going on and on about his many accomplishments you can read about him here. It goes without saying that I was in good hands for my baby steps in architectural training.
We sketched at the cathedral of Santa Maria La Menor, the oldest cathedral in the Americas. The building is a mix of Gothic and Baroque styles and our viewpoint was the back of the building (where we could find a bit of shade!). At the start of the three-hour session Frank told the group that he wouldn’t be telling us what to draw but he would be “tweaking our glasses” a little bit. This sketch started out as a pencil drawing on the left hand page of the sketchbook but when it was my turn for Frank to have a look, he told me that by choosing to draw only a section of the building, I hadn’t really expressed the horizontal nature of the low structure. So I added all of the rest on the right. More than a tweak, I would say. The little pencil drawing in the sky is one of his explanations, as he taught me about recording the big solid shapes first and then working towards the details. And the wonderful stamp in the corner was created by John Wright, based on the workshop logo.
I’m back from the Dominican Republic with lots of drawings and paintings that I will continue to post in the next few weeks. I think I have a little bit of post-symposium withdrawal. It was such an intense experience — being surrounded by all those talented people, some who I haven’t even mentioned yet — and I had time to draw and paint all day. What a luxury! Since I have just posted a few days of very colourful and chaotic paintings I thought it might be a good time to scan this drawing, as a little rest for the eyes after all the bright hues.
Let me describe this little moment. I was sitting on a beach chair, surrounded by all the noise of a crowded resort, and when I looked next to me I saw this sleeping baby — covered by her little blanket and hugging her bunny. It was a scene of perfect innocence in stark contrast to all the hedonism on the beach. Her parents must have just gotten up to take a walk down to the water. Having just learned from Veronica Lawlor and Jonathon Schmidt about seizing that decisive moment, I grabbed by pen and sketchbook and hoped the parents wouldn’t reappear too soon. I was lucky. I drew quickly, the baby slept and the parents took their time.
I have been told that when I am sketching I am oblivious to everything around me (including people taking photos and videos) and, in this case, an impending thunderstorm. I did the drawing for this sketch (and had a nice chat with a vendor trying to sell me some jewelry) and when I turned around to make the long trek back along the hot beach I noticed the blackening sky. In the islands the rain comes upon you very quickly so when I felt the first few drops I hid my precious moleskine (the one with all of my symposium work!) under my shirt and ran the rest of the way back.
If you walk beyond the big resorts of Punta Cana (some as vast as city states!), beyond the beach chairs, the volleyball nets, the kids digging holes in the sand, the vendors shouting “Larimar, larimar!”, the banana boats, beyond the pina coladas, the banana mamas, the cervezas and the rum, past the aerobics class, the oiled tans and the pounding beach music, you may be in for a surprise. At first it seems like a mirage in the distance, a mere silhouette of shapes that don’t resemble anything like the artificial village that you have been staying in for the past few days. This is a village of another sort, a type of ramshackle but far more delightful mall on the beach, a series of shacks whose colours become more vibrant as you approach and whose sounds of “hola, hola” become louder and more insistent as you get closer.
Punta Cana, situated on the far eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, is the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean, or so I was told by a proud Dominican. It does look like that as well on my Lonely Planet map. That could be why the wind is so strong and the water quite rough at times. Once again, this was sketched standing on the beach and colour was added in the shade. I usually do both the painting and the drawing on the spot so this is a bit different for me and requires some visual memory for the colour. A good exercise, I think.
Painting in the shade of a big palm certainly has its advantages but I haven’t really been representing the beach scene as it really is. For this sketch I moved out into the sun to practice the quick drawing techniques I learned in the Santo Domingo market. Drawing while standing definitely creates a different kind of energy in the pen line and forces you to capture the scene more quickly although perhaps not as accurately.
Now that the symposium is over in Santo Domingo I have been thinking about upcoming workshops in Portland and Montreal. Today I focused on different ways to compose a picture. This beach scene was way more chaotic but I eliminated the details that would detract from the composition. Like the beach aerobics class going on in the background ( I saved the topless women in the group for my life drawing exercises later!) and the banana boats flying by in the water.