Sketching Savannah’s Historic Squares

I’m just back from Savannah today, and in uncharacteristic style, all my sketches are already scanned. It was a great week in the city, the workshop went really well and before school starts up again tomorrow, I thought I’d do a little summary of the week.

I had a few days on my own to sketch and plan the workshop before we started on Wednesday. The plan for the three day event was to sketch every morning and every afternoon in a different square, and try to capture something unique about each place.

I’ve already posted my sketch of the fountain in Franklin Square, but here’s the scanned version.

I also spent an afternoon in Reynold’s Square. This is a great place for people sketching since lots of walking tours start here, and there are often groups hanging around waiting for their guides. A central feature of the square is a statue of John Wesley, founder of Methodism. The head and hands on the statue are oversize, making it really hard to draw, both for me and for my students who struggled with it later in the week.

The historic Owens-Thomas House is located across from Oglethorpe Square. The morning I sketched it, my hands turned blue from the cold and the wind. In fact, it was unseasonably cold the whole week, but that was really the coldest day. When I look at the sketch now, it seems fuzzy and lacking details. I attribute that to my frozen hands.

After warming up that day, I dragged a chair out of my rental apartment and sketched the view down East Jones St. I found a sheltered spot to draw the shaded sidewalk that’s between the lovingly maintained historic houses and the strip of tended gardens in between the sidewalk and the road.

My workshop demo on the first afternoon was the fountain in Columbia Square. The lesson was about values, so naturally the dark fountain and falling water set against a backdrop of trees was a perfect subject.

On the second day of workshop we met in Franklin Square, facing the First Baptist African Church. I was sketching the morning light and shadow on the facade of the church when the doors opened and a woman in a blue shirt and red pants came out. I quickly added her in to my sketch, but didn’t manage to capture her leaning pose very well. She really didn’t look that short!

On our final morning of the workshop we drew a series of small vignettes in Wright Square. There’s no shortage of things to draw in each of these locations — from lampposts to signage to flowers —and it was interesting to see what each participant chose to capture the feeling of the square.

My last demo was the sunlit dome of Savannah City Hall, seen from Johnson Square. It was a good challenge for our final afternoon, and the sketches that everyone did of this were superb.

Savannah was as amazing as I hoped it would be for a workshop. The city squares offer plentiful shade, spectacular landscaping, endless views of architecture and a non-stop parade of people. Luckily the weather cooperated too. When I’m teaching I often forget to take photos but I did manage to get a few of my students in the different squares. Thanks to all of you for working so hard!!

33 Comments on “Sketching Savannah’s Historic Squares”

  1. Trev Jones says:

    These are excellent. Lovely work.


  2. Sue Ferrell says:

    Looks like a great week for both the teacher AND the students!


  3. Jean says:

    Hi Shari
    I was very eager to see your paintings in Savannah! I left there the same day you arrived. Savannah historic centre is a favourite memory and your work fills me with joy—especially the azalea painting and the city hall.
    I recall the African Baptist Church and that it was important in the Underground “Railway” to
    hide people starting their escape.
    If there is any chance that you would reproduce and sell prints of your work in
    Savannah, even in the form of card notes,
    please let me know. ( Your new book should arrive soon at my home as I have it
    on preorder.). Many thanks for sharing the colours and scenes of Savannah today!


    • Hi Jean. Yes, the church is very important in the history of the Underground Railway.
      Of course I can make you prints of any of the sketches you see. You can email me at, and I will send you prices. You can let me know which of the images you would like as a print. I create the prints on demand so I can make pretty much anything you want.


  4. Chris L says:

    Hi Shari and every one,
    Those three days were the highlight of my life, I learned so much from all, especially to Shari, you are such a great teacher, I feel very fortunate to be able to join your workshop, without it I could be sticking to those awful water brushes! 😉 LoL!
    Shari, please come to Savannah to teach every year!


    • Chris, it was great to meet you and such a pleasure to see your work, especially after you started using the good brushes! I would gladly come back to Savannah every year. I still haven’t sketched in all the squares, so we could sketch them together. Glad you made it home safely.


  5. joantav says:

    You really got a lot of sketching done in Savannah. It is one of my favorite cities and has such great views wherever you look. I love the one of the Owens-Thomas House and the one looking down East Jones Street the best. This looks like a workshop I would have loved to be a part of…and my friend, Lin was there in the group. Maybe next time!


  6. That’s a terrific wrap-up of what was clearly a special week. I love how you captured the good dome, and all the magic of the squares, etc. I hope there will be more workshops in Savannah.


  7. April Stewart says:

    I just love all those beautiful sketches on the last day. Everyone looks so happy. Thank you for your skill, patience and time. It was a wonderful experience in a fantastic city.


  8. sandidureice says:

    These are beautiful. Thank you


  9. edda blume says:

    That sounds all so exciting. I will probably be in Savannah next year anytime between March 8-14. I so hope that you will teach your workshop again next year so that I finally can take a workshop with you!


  10. Judy Sop says:

    Really enjoyed reading this and seeing the paintings. They are wonderful. Your narratives and pictures from your workshops could fill another book.


  11. SasalaRW says:

    Beautiful and vibrant! I am so looking forward to sketching with you in Amersfoort! 🙂


  12. Linda Starr says:

    beautiful, are these colored pencil or watercolor ?


  13. I love the colors and details in all your sketches. I am looking forward to sketching with you at the USK Chicago seminar


  14. Adriana Gasparich says:

    Beautiful sketches Shari, Savannah is one of the cities I would love to sketch. You inspire me to visit it and sketch it sooner than later!


  15. Kirk says:

    You did a beautiful set of sketches in what appears to be a beautiful location. I can easily see reproducing them as notecards or as illustrations for a guidebook. Thanks!


  16. Grandmaslamp says:

    Shari , I also love, love, love your colors and scenes! They make me feel good just looking at them and your style is unique. Thank you for a beautiful article!


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