Sketching boats in Amsterdam

It’s a great thrill for me to have been selected to teach this coming July with an amazing group of instructors at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Amsterdam. And I finally get to give a workshop on one of my favourite sketching subjects: boats!

My workshop location won’t be confirmed until closer to the date, but I hope to be near the National Maritime Museum, close to the replica of the three-masted “Amsterdam”. It’s always so much fun to sketch the details of these historic vessels, plus all the others in the surrounding harbour.

Symposium registration opens on Saturday, February 2, 2019 and workshop passes tend to sell out fast, so if you are thinking of attending, plan to register when it opens. You can read about workshop and sketching passes plus more details here.


On my recent holiday to Sanibel Island I made the choice to travel light. That meant no easel and no large sheets of paper — just a sketchbook, a pen, a few brushes and a small palette. You might have seen my post about riding around on my bike to sketch. It was liberating to travel like that, but I have to say I sometimes missed having my big brushes and bigger sheets of rough watercolour paper.

Now that I’m back and have all my materials at my disposal, I had an urge to push some paint around on a bigger surface, so I took a quick photo in the woods while I was out walking the dog this morning, and painted in studio. It’s way too cold to paint outside today (-16C), but it did feel good to put down some brushstrokes on a quarter sheet of Arches Rough.

Last Sanibel sketches

No Sanibel sketchbook is complete without some shell sketches. After all, this is what the island is known for. This week we walked on beaches where the piles of shells were almost ankle deep.

When our boys were young we used to buy a postcard that listed the names and photos of the most common shells, and we’d make a game of trying to find all of them on our visits to the beach. These days I just try to find the most interesting shapes and sizes to sketch.

My last sketch of the vacation is a scene I’ve looked at every day through my window — the Sanibel Causeway that links the island to the mainland. It was a hard one to sketch because it’s a ways away and the details are very tiny, but putting the palm in front of it helped to add distance, I think.

I will be very sad to leave this place, but I have a book filled with sketches. Plus there’s always snow painting to look forward to!

Pelicans, egrets and osprey: sketching the birds of Sanibel

Today’s long bike excursion was to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a repeat of something we did last year, except this time with sketchbook in hand (or in my bike basket).

The website says that at different times of the year there are up to 275 different types of birds, but of course we only saw the more common ones like the pelicans, egrets and herons as we rode the 4-mile path. With the help of a docent we also had the privilege of looking through a high-powered lens to see a roseate spoonbill and a yellow crowned night heron.

I knew it might be hard to paint along the way so I drew the birds on site, and painted them when I returned home. These are the ones that were quite close to the path — the egrets in a marsh by the side of the road and the osprey in a nest above us.

Sketching the page was so much fun that I decided to make it into a double-page spread, so I walked around our condo and saw a group of ibis feeding on the grass, a pelican near the water and my friend the little blue heron.

On site, I also did a pencil drawing of a bigger scene of great white pelicans out on a marsh, and painted that one when I got home. Saving the whites is hard in a scene like this so I used Titanium White watercolour when the water washes were dry.