A little bit of magic

The Urban Sketching Summer Retreat at Madeline Island School of the Arts has just ended. At times during the past year, it seemed doubtful that this event — postponed from last year due to the pandemic — would ever happen, but the stars aligned and four instructors and fifty students convened in a spectacular location for a week that I can only describe as magical. I think you can see from the photo of me with Paul Heaston, Jim Richards, his wonderful wife Patti and Uma Kelkar that we were pretty happy to be reunited for the week.

I don’t think I’ve fully processed the week in my head yet, but I can probably say that the joy we felt in teaching in person again started from the moment we arrived on the island ferry until the time we said goodbye to the last students at the airport.

Most of the group stayed in cabins right on the campus, so it felt a bit like summer camp for sketchers. We ate meals together in the big red barn and after days spent sketching out at different locations, each instructor gave an evening talk. This was my first time teaching at MISA, but I can see why the school has a great reputation. They do such a fantastic job of making sure that everyone is well taken care of so that instructors can devote all their energy to teaching. If you combine an idyllic location (and five sunny days) with comfortable accommodations and great food, the result can only be wonderful.

Before students arrived we spent a bit of time filling goodie bags with products from our generous sponsors Stillman & Birn, Winsor Newton, Hahnemuehle, Daniel Smith, Caran D’Ache and Legion Paper.

Each group of students spent a day with each instructor. My group spent the morning sketching the iconic Tom’s Burned Down Café. It’s a Madeline Island landmark that needs to be in every sketcher’s journal.

And in the afternoon, we sketched the log cabins of the Madeline Island Museum…

And in the evening, after dinner, each of us gave a talk…

On the last day we sketched all together on the campus and then had a final gathering to look at all of the work.

I think you can probably see that it was a pretty great week for all of us. It still seems like a bit of a dream that we were able to make it happen.

And of course, since we had to get in one last sketch before going our separate ways, Uma, Paul and I drew together in Duluth, Minnesota on our way to the airport.

I think I must have been pretty tired from all that smiling because the only tool I had the energy to use on my iPad was my trusty 6B pencil.

51 Comments on “A little bit of magic”

  1. Pegret Harrison says:

    Oh Shari great post. You can see the joy and enthusiasm in your words and pics. A fabulous experience.

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Oh, Shari, thank you so much for sharing this. Four of my favourite teachers. A favourite spot. This sounds like great fun. I hope this becomes an annual thing. You all look like you are exhilarated, even if you are exhausted.

    Greetings from a student in Nova Scotia!


  3. Stephanie Descoteaux says:

    I’m so happy for you. I like when good things happen for you. You have always been kind and generous with the people who follow your blog.


  4. Gina F says:

    Looks fantastic!


  5. Northern Traveller says:

    That’s fantastic Shari! Looks like a wonderful time.
    Would have loved to hear the instructor lecture on my favourite vintage car – the BMW2002 – 😊.


  6. cuzinevie says:

    I’m glad you did this! I considered it last year at the same time I was considering your Oaxaca workshop, which I did sign up for….pre-Covid. Maybe when I feel safe again I will try the Madeline workshop if you are a part of it again. In the meantime I’m enjoying your blog! All the best,

    Evelyn Redfield 🎨 The “earth” without “art” is just “eh.”



  7. lois says:

    I can feel the smiles in this post! Looks like a good time was had by all.


  8. Marilyn Hansen says:

    Looks like so much fun! Glad you it happened for you all. Someday I hope to do one of these sketching trips!


  9. TonyU says:

    So pleased to hear and see that it went so well Shari. Sounds like a great week for everyone … and maybe all the better for the long wait.


  10. Uma says:

    Good Evening dear friend Shari,
    Nice to see you, your students, tutorials, and locations.All the best and good luck.
    Regards and blessings,


  11. ksmiley2015 says:

    Dear Shari,
    Thanks so very much for including us. It looked like the best of times for all of you and I’m quite happy that the border has opened. You are very generous to share your art and it’s appreciated by all of us who follow.



    • Wow, thank you. This is so nice to read. I wish I could have shared even more but the days were long because we each did a talk in the evening. I am still recovering from all of that excitement!!


  12. mcammeehan says:

    So wish I could be there! Maybe next year! Looks like fun and great teachers.


  13. Denise says:

    So glad for you that this event turned into everything you hoped it would be. I’m sure the enthusiasm of all the instructors was felt by the lucky students with you. Hope to be one of them again some day.


  14. Bernadette says:

    Looks like the experience was simply wonderful! Maybe one day, I can join you.


  15. Joan Tavolott says:

    It sounds like a wonderful experience for the instructors as well as the students.


  16. Andrea Rule says:

    I’m so glad you finally got out with other like-minded Urban Sketchers.  I know how hard it is for your extraverts have to stay inside and cannot teach.  At least we have learned alot from going this first rodeo covid.  We have to all take care.We all missed you coming to Sun Valley this year and look forward to next year.Andrea Rule


  17. Very interesting post, it really looks like they had a lot of fun!!


  18. Thanks for this terrific post and pics. It really was wonderful that this event happened. Are your cheeks still sore from all that smiling and joy!? I hope so. xox


  19. Carol Bershad says:

    Looks like a fun week, Shari. I’m happy for all of you that could make it happen. I smiled just reading it. Take care, Carol


    • Thanks Carol. It was in the works for such a long time, and we put so much work into making it successful, so I couldn’t help but be effusive about it. We were so excited that it worked out.


  20. Carol Nickel says:


    On Mon, Aug 23, 2021 at 7:04 AM Shari Blaukopf’s Sketchbook wrote:

    > Shari Blaukopf posted: ” The Urban Sketching Summer Retreat at Madeline > Island School of the Arts has just ended. At times during the past year, it > seemed doubtful that this event — postponed from last year due to the > pandemic — would ever happen, but the stars aligned and four ” >


  21. Sandra Lewin says:

    Is this location an annual event? The reason I ask is that it’s 3 hrs from where I live and would love to attend in the future. Looks like a great weekend!!


  22. Jean says:

    I spent a week on Madeline Island several years ago. It was memorable! Husband and dogs camped at a nearby park; I went to the Art School daytimes while they loafed near the beach. I very much enjoyed classes at the art school and the wonderful hospitality and warmth of the school staff and other students. I wanted to attend your week this year but was unable to do so, and I hope the Urban Sketchers will teach there again. Thanks for your account and photos.


  23. Mara says:

    It sounds like a truly wonderful week! Thank you for including so many photos!


  24. Phil Corlis says:

    Well that looks like fun! I’d give that adventure an A++ just for all those smiles! One technical question, what paper are you using for “Tom’s burned down café?” I’m sure the light is helping, but this texture seems to have some nice “sparkle” in the dry brush areas.

    Thanks for any help you can offer – and again, congratulations to all those lucky enough to be there!


    • HI Phil,
      That was fun! As for the paper, I was trying out a new product from Hahnemuehle. It is the Collection Watercolour paper. I used the pad version, although I have a block of it too. The company was one of our sponsors at the workshop. I have to say: I love the paper!! I haven’t done a price comparison yet, but it is really, really nice to work on and yes, it does have a good sparkle to it. I will do a full blog post about it soon.


      • Phil Corlis says:

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my question! I’m looking forward to a review of this paper. Of course picking brushes and pigments can be very personal – but finding a great paper that responds well is the key to having fun with watercolors.


  25. Uma Kelkar says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed going on this ride with you, Shari. Excellent blog and great photos too!


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