Provence workshop day five: in the footsteps of Van Gogh

We spent the day at the monastery of St. Paul de Mausole in St. Remy. There was something about this special place that made for a very tranquil day, despite all the tourists passing through. Perhaps it was because we were looking out at the very same view that Van Gogh could see from his room at the sanatorium, or else because the heat and windless day left us in a state of lethargy. I’m not sure which it was.

My demo was of the recently planted lavender garden, which called for a bit of artistic license.

On day five the student’s sketches are quite amazing!

We’re spoiled with lunches, and this one included local strawberries and pastries…

To get out of the heat, we spent the afternoon in the cloister…

It’s one of those places where the views and the light are magical.

Provence workshop days three and four: The village of Oppede Le Vieux and market day in L’Ile sur la Sorgue

Between slow wifi and long days it’s been hard to post but here are a few highlights from the past two days. Again, more visuals but few words.

A demo about mixing greys and painting stone in the magnificent hilltop village of Oppede le Vieux…

Market day in L’Ile sur la Sorgue where we had some free time to shop and sketch. I found the produce tables!

And finally a chance to paint a demo of the market scene…

My students produced some amazing work from the shade of the park across the canal.

Provence workshop Day Two: Lavender and red rocks

So happy to hear that yesterday’s post came through! I will continue the week with few words and many visuals.

The day started with a drive to a lavender field where we spent the morning under the shade of a huge tree, painting a view of the rows of flowers. We’re very lucky to be here during the short blooming season.

I started with a demo, simplifying the rows of lavender into loose shapes.

So thrilled with my students work. They also painted in simple shapes and loose washes.

We’re spoiled every day by our amazing French Escapade guide Natalia. Lunch was sandwiches and my favourite: Cavaillon melon.

In the afternoon we headed over to nearby Roussillon for a few free hours of shopping, ice cream eating and sketching. Of course I had to sketch the red town piled on top of the red rocks.

Provence workshop Day One

Testing, testing…

I’d love to post every day from the spectacular French town of Fontaine de Vaucluse where I’m teaching with French Escapade, but the wifi is spotty. So today will be a test to see if photos upload properly.

If this works then there will be more coming tomorrow!

A demo on light and shadows…

A picnic lunch under an olive tree…

My talented and hardworking students…

All in all, a near perfect day. Now let’s see if this works.

Steve’s garden

In Steve’s garden the pink peonies are almost finished, yellow centres now visible within the drooping, curling fuchsia petals. Peonies are easy to grow but one good rain can wash them out, sending them toppling into soggy heaps. I wanted to paint them once before I pack up my paints and brushes for summer travel.

I’ll be leaving soon for workshops in Provence and Porto, so this will likely be my last post for the next few days, until I land and get settled in France. I apologize in advance if I can’t always answer comments during my weeks away. I do travel with an iPad and little keyboard, but sometimes there are just not enough hours in a teaching day to respond! I will still be posting here on the blog and you can also follow my Europe journey on Instagram @sharisketcher. Even when I don’t have time to write, I always find a few moments to upload workshop photos there. Until then, au revoir et à bientôt!



Pascale was one of the best models to draw this session. Not only were her warm-up poses exceptional, but on breaks from the long pose, her vivacious personality lit up the room. I think that makes a difference when you are drawing someone, don’t you? I find I do a better drawing if I understand something about the personality of the model. This was the last session before I take a break for the summer, and it was a great way to end the season.


I drew last night with black and white chalk, on Stillman & Birn Nova Series grey paper. It was the ideal paper to use for someone with dark toned skin, although I didn’t know who our model would be when I packed my supplies. At the end of the evening, Pascale did a tour of the room to look at the drawings, and her comment about mine was that I rendered her tattoo very well. Can you tell what it is?


The office bed

Spoiled Alice has many beds in the house. One of them is in my office, and it’s where she has a nap after our morning walk. I leave a bunch of sketchpads and pens around so that when I need a break from staring at my computer, I can grab whatever is close at hand and do a quick drawing of her. Today I used a Micron pen and a Seawhite of Brighton pad.



What the rain did, part two

Before I left for a family trip to Calgary this past weekend, I loaded my palette with paint, making sure to fill a well with some ancient Cobalt Green paint from the paint drawer of infrequently used colours. It’s a colour I’ve never tried before, but one that I knew might come in handy when painting the turquoise waters of Lake Louise in Banff National Park. I also packed some sheets of watercolour paper, with the intention of attempting a half-sheet painting on site. But as we approached the park entrance big drops started to fall and by the time we unpacked the car, it was a downpour, so I left the paper in the car and set off with only a sketchbook in my painting bag.

Lake Louise is one of Canada’s treasures, there’s no doubt about that. The lake gets its intense colour from the glacier silt in the water, and there’s a reason busloads of tourists flock there daily to gawk and take selfies in front of it. It’s magnificent, even in the rain.

I was pretty determined to sketch, so when the rain slowed down to a drizzle I set up my easel at the edge of the trail about halfway around the lake. The only way I could get some sketching done was to tilt the tray upright, but as I said, after a four hour flight and a two hour drive, I wasn’t planning on going home with an empty sketchbook.



The sketches I managed to get done are pretty loose and wet. What other results can you get in the rain? I tried to use a dryish brush and lots of thick paint, hoping it would somehow adhere to the paper despite the drops.


The first two views are from the same spot, one looking across the lake and one of the hotel. As I turned to do the second sketch of Chateau Lake Louise, the rain was slowing down and I was able to tilt my easel back to the proper angle for painting.


The last sketch was done in front of the hotel, where the view of Victoria Glacier is the best (hence all the selfies). The top of the mountains were shrouded in cloud but even on an overcast day, there’s no shortage of drama in that view.


I still intend to paint a larger watercolour of this scene, based on my sketches and the reference photos I took. That means the Cobalt Green won’t be disappearing from my palette anytime soon.

What the rain did

We’ve had a few turbulent days of rain — roiling clouds and dark horizons across the lake — but the forecast for today said nothing about precipitation. I set out with no destination in mind, but a dramatic sky caught my eye and I parked near the lake to sketch. As I painted, all caught up in blues and masts, I didn’t notice the weather darkening until drops of water plopped onto my palette and my paper. Fortunately I like what the rain did on the paper (and this doesn’t always happen) as it speckled the wet washes on the trees, giving them a little texture that I didn’t have to create with a brush. Sketched in a Handbook Travelogue Journal on a cold day in June.

Shipwright Service

There’s much going on in the boatyard these days, including lots of boat repair. Painting this scene of the Shipwright Service shed was a lesson in painting quickly, and also recording a lot of details both by drawing and also in my head when I set up. Why? Because when I was halfway through my painting a car parked in front of that garage door. And right after that another car, this one towing a boat. My whole scene was pretty much obscured, but luckily I had enough details in there to finish it up. And a phone photo just in case.