I woke up to a grey day but the cast of colourful characters at the marina where I painted today more than made up for it. I set up my easel on the dock of a shrimp processing plant/marina on San Carlos Island. It’s a place I discovered by accident while on my way to paint somewhere else (the best places always seem to be on the way to somewhere else, don’t they?), and I found enough there to paint for weeks and weeks. Shrimp boats, warehouse buildings, loading docks piled with rope and netting and barrels, and of course the characters. A boat captain who just came off a 30-day shrimp fishing expedition, a few young men from Guyana who work the boats, a group of tourists on a Segue tour with a guide — everyone stopped to have a look over my shoulder, say hello, and meet the crazy person who set up an easel in the middle of all the chaos.

Fort Myers Workshop photos

Last week I spent a few wonderful days teaching a really fun group of sketchers in the historic riverfront district of Fort Myers. In this city there’s no shortage of fascinating stuff to draw, including palm trees, historic buildings, boats and reflections. All the stuff I love. We were even fortunate enough to spend an afternoon at the Edison Ford Winter Estates, sketching the houses and gardens of these two famous guys. It was a cloudless day so we left no time at the end of our day to visit the indoor display of historic cars or the museum that houses all of Edison’s inventions. Typical of sketchers! We never end up visiting half the stuff that most tourists see at any given site since we are always outside sketching.

Below are a few of the short demos I did during the three days: an exercise in values, a little street scene using a limited colour palette, mixing greens around the big banyan tree and a boat scene with reflections. We had a couple of torrential downpours and lots of overcast skies on days 2 and 3, but we managed to find shelter wherever we went. This is Florida, after all, and weather can be unpredictable. We also discovered that when all else fails, a Dyson Airblade hand dryer in a public washroom is the best method for getting wet sketchbook paper to dry.

Announcing a joint sketching workshop with Suhita Shirodkar |Stephanie Bower | Shari Blaukopf

I’m excited to announce a joint workshop with two awesome sketchers. It’s something we’ve been talking about for a while and now it’s finally happening this coming May.

People | Places | Color

A Sketching Workshop by Stephanie Bower | Shari Blaukopf Suhita Shirodkar

May 15-16, 2020 • 10am-5pm • Downtown San Jose, CA

About the Workshop:

This is a rare opportunity to learn location sketching from three Urban Sketchers doing what they do best!

Suhita Shirodkar (USA) will teach quick sketching of people in motion.

Stephanie Bower (USA) explains the basics of perspective sketching.

Shari Blaukopf (Canada) teaches her creative use of watercolor.

Format: The workshop will be taught through 4, 3-hour sessions over the two days. For each half-day session, we will divide registrants into three small groups of no more than 12 participants each. You and your group will take the first 3-hour lesson with one instructor, then rotate through two more half-day sessions until you’ve had a class with all three teachers.

In the final afternoon session, we’ll put it all together in a joint sketching class taught by all three instructors. We are also adding an optional opportunity to join other sketchers on Sunday morning, May 17, for a Sketching Meet-Up that is open to all sketchers! (Yet another chance to cement what you’ve learned.)

Additional information about locations, recommended sketching supplies, and more will be sent to registered participants at a later date.

Cost: $300.00 US/person
Payable by check (preferred method) or PayPal ($310.00US including additional transaction fee.) Payments will be coordinated by Stephanie at

How to sign up:
Mark your calendars: Registration starts precisely on Sunday, December 15, 2019, at 12:00 noon Pacific Time (no sooner, please.)

First come, first served, in the order your email is received.
To sign up, email

Workshop payment will be due in February 2020.

For more info about this workshop, contact me at with “People | Places | Color” in the subject line. But to register, you must get on the list with Stephanie Bower at

Begin with blue

I rode my bike to my favourite sketching spot along the canal in Sanibel to sketch some boats at the marina. I spent a moment thinking about the process for this sketch before I put brush to paint. The first step in a sketch like this is to paint a light wash of blue over almost everything. I begin with the sky and move right down into the water, leaving whites only where the lightest parts of the boats will be.

Why does blue work as an underpainting for this sketch? Because in a scene like this, almost everything has blue in it. The palm fronds are a blue/green, the distant trees have blue in them and the shadows on the boats are blue. A unifying wash of blue ties everything together, and hopefully creates colour harmony in the sketch. Highlights of red, white and pale yellow are added later, but with an opaque paint that I know will sit on top of the transparent colours.

The only thing I didn’t manage to capture in this sketch is the dolphin that surfaced just a few feet from the dock I was sitting on.

Greetings from sunny Sanibel

I’m taking a little break from winter, and also teaching a workshop in Fort Myers, Florida next week, so it may be a while before you see snow sketches again. I’m back on beautiful Sanibel Island and looking forward to drawing boats, reflections, beaches and shells.

This year we decided to drive from Montreal to Florida (with Alice the dog) — an adventure that probably requires its own blog post. I did no car sketching on the drive down, but now that we’re here and settled, the paints are out again. I’m still recovering from the three-day, 2820 km car journey, so I could only muster enough energy to sketch the view from my backyard chair, but I’ll be venturing further afield in the coming days! And maybe I’ll even sketch Alice at the beach.

A new pairing

Winter started with a bang and then faded. The snow we had in November melted away and except for a few flakes here and there, the ground was bare, and so was the wheelbarrow, until today.

Instead of using my daily palette and sketchbook, today I pulled a few new things out of a drawer: a Laloran sketchbook that I bought this summer, and a Daniel Smith Half-Pan set of earth colours called Desert to Mountains.

I love trying new pigments, and this little set contains six pigments that are mostly new to me: Buff Titanium, Raw Sienna Light, Bronzite Genuine, Venetian Red, Burnt Sienna Light and Lunar Black.

Buff Titanium and Lunar Black are both colours that have lived in my palette at one time or another, but my revelation today was to combine them. I’ve always found Lunar Black a bit too granulating, and Buff Titanium a bit too bland, but put them together and they make a warm grey that is quite opaque and very creamy — a pairing I will definitely be using again, even if it means carrying a second palette with me when I go out.

REM, moving up and over

I took a few days off from urban sketching of the REM line because of other commitments, and when I got back to it today they had made significant progress, moving right out of the Canadian Tire parking lot and into another big box store area where the views are even better. For the first time this line will soon intersect with a major north/south road that goes over the Trans Canada Highway, so there is an existing overpass that the rail line will cross. That means it will be even more elevated than it is already. The supports have gone up already for the raised portion, but we are all waiting to see the engineering of the line as goes over St. Charles Blvd. I hope I can find a viewpoint to draw it, but it’s highly unlikely that I can stop my car anywhere near the crossing. I may have to wait for spring when I can stand outside to draw.