Save the whites!

Use your sketchbook as a place to make observations. I’m often guilty of overworking my sketches but lately I’ve been trying not to worry so much about getting every line perfect, every person anatomically correct and every colour exact. The sketchbook is a place where you should be experimenting, pushing your limits, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Have one simple goal per sketch. This morning I did two quick sketches at the yacht club. In the first one below, the kids were coming in from sailing class. The white sails made an interesting pattern of triangles against the trees. I drew them quickly and added in a few shapes of kids in the middle ground. Then one more boat came in and I added that too. That foreground boat made a more interesting composition and I’m glad I added it. The one goal I had for this sketch was to keep the white shapes — to paint around them — and add mostly mid-tones and a few darks around them. Even though this is a very simple sketch, I’m happy that I achieved that goal of painting quickly and capturing the essence of the scene (and the whites) in a minimum of strokes.


For the second sketch my goal was to paint some simplified reflections in the water. I kept the boat shapes in the upper section of the sketch so that all the complicated shapes of sails and masts and hulls would not distract me from the goal of painting the reflections.My first pass of blue wash covers everything in the sketch except the white highlights. You can’t get those back if you paint over them! Then all I did was add some details on the boats and try to simplify the reflections. BTW, these two sketches are on one page in my sketchbook but I separated them for this post.


19 Comments on “Save the whites!”

  1. Lee Kline says:

    Thanks, Shari. Everyone needs this reminder many times. These are both and lessons in watercolor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jane Hannah says:

    Hi Shari :: as Lee pointed out, I needed this too! It is true that a sketchbook should be for testing out and experimenting and not for painting a perfection -) This was a good reminder. Also, painting the water is daunting, but you gave me the confidence to try it out — so thank you! Even though you are not giving a workshop in Mtl this summer, I am still learning from you -)))

    Liked by 1 person

  3. monbaum says:

    Thanks for the reminder to keep it simple and loose. I can see those two sketches on a single page in my mind and the wonderful balance their respective color schemes give each other 🙂 Eye candy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Monika. It’s always great to hear from you!


      • monbaum says:

        Thanks Shari! I hope you will be hearing more in the near future 🙂 I quit my job and started a side business in illustration/painting/art. It seemed like the only viable option. So I am still looking for a job, but this time it has to be part time because I’m giving art-making a higher priority in my life.


  4. brooklyn49 says:

    Your words are often more beautiful than your art, which is tough to do. I love your saying to make my sketchbook a place to experiment and push my limits. I will hear your words as I sketch in Santorini mid-month. U R AMAZING mon ami….Jacques

    Liked by 1 person

  5. tmikeporter says:

    Always the teacher…merci

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dean aka Prince Alarming Mollon says:

    Hi 5 Shari, I am taking your Vancouver workshop and I was wondering about the itinerary? Will I need the car throughout the day to go various places or can my sweetheart drop me off and pick me up later? Blah….blah….yada……yada? Ya know what I mean;-)))) Warmest regards Dean Mollon

    Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2014 17:26:41 +0000 To:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Shari, that’s a good lesson… sometimes I forget and just go back to sketching as usual. Maybe I’ll try something new tomorrow at the farmers market! And good luck with the class. Wish I could have made it… way too much travel in the next few months to add another trip. We’re going to have to talk about what it takes to get you down to California for a class!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you like it Suhita. I saw your market sketches and as usual, they are wonderful. Don’t forget that it was your market sketches that inspired me to join Urban Sketchers. They just jumped off the page at me.
      As for California, I have a really good friend who lives in Long Beach. She just reminded me she has lived in her house for 20 years and I haven’t visited once so maybe a California trip is overdue. I would be happy to visit both your area and hers. Hope all your summer trips go well, especially Brazil!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Don McNulty says:

    Always something to learn here Shari, thanks. I like the first/top one. Hey Suhita, do come to Vancouver sometime, I would love to watch you work your magic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Don. I tried to get Suhita to join us this summer but she is just too busy. If you ever get a chance to see her sketch, you will be amazed. She is so fast and spontaneous. I love watching her work.


  9. Ornella Pilatti says:

    Very useful tutorial, thanks a lot!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s