Alice eats bugs

Alice appreciates being outside these days as much as I do. But drawing a dog outdoors is a lot more challenging than the usual “sleeping dog after a walk” sketch session. Positions shift constantly, people (and other dogs) go by on the street, and bugs must be eaten. But, like people in motion, dogs in motion generally come back to the same pose eventually, and with some stop and start, the drawing ends up getting completed.


It felt pretty great to finally have enough flowers in the garden to create a bouquet, but they flopped over almost immediately. The bleeding hearts were mere shoots a few days ago, and now they’re almost past their prime. Same with the tulips. That’s what happens when you have a cold spring and summer descends quickly and with no warning. I’m not complaining though. It was pretty great to plunk these in a vase and paint them from a chair in the backyard, watching them shift gently in the wind. After that long period of confinement it was worth waiting for, and made the painting process all that much more sweet.

Garden plans

One thing I am looking forward to about my summer at home is taking care of my somewhat neglected garden. For the last few years, it’s been hard to grow annuals or have containers because I was away for long periods of time teaching in different places. So this summer, besides doing lots of maintenance around the house, I will actually be able to plant flowers that serve two purposes. I will enjoy looking at them every day, and when I take a break from weeding and mulching and feeding them, I’ll get to sketch them too.

Announcing “Light, Colour, Shadow” — a new online course!

Hopefully wherever you are in the world, things are opening up and you’ll be able to do some social distance outdoor sketching very soon. In preparation for sunny days, I’ve just launched my newest online course — Light, Colour, Shadow: The Essential Triad for Watercolour Sketching. It’s a class you can do at your own pace, from the comfort of home, and hopefully it will make you feel confident going out on a sunny day to sketch your own sunlit scene. At a safe distance, of course.

Like the previous Sketching Structure in the Garden, I’ve packed this new course with tips and techniques for making your sketches come alive.
You’ll learn how to: 

  • Paint lights and darks more effectively
  • Use shadows to give form and volume to subjects
  • Mix the best colours for subjects in sun and in shade
  • Mix your own glowing shadow colours (rather than using diluted blacks or pre-mixed grey)

The course includes:

  • Seven full-length video demonstrations that illustrate key concepts
  • Downloadable reference images
  • A full list of materials

For a preview of “Light, Colour, Shadow,” check out the trailer.

Garden page

It’s finally warm enough to sit outside to sketch in my garden, but there’s not much to sketch yet. Some Allium reaching up to the sun. A lonely white daffodil, looking longingly for its companion — a purple tulip which was recently decapitated by a squirrel. With the absence of natural elements, I resorted to the old standbys — a trash can with garden waste and a broken brick on the deck. It’s just the start of garden sketching season, and with no plans for travel this summer, be warned, there will be a lot of it.

This week’s challenge

It was an honour and also so much fun to be interviewed by Rob Sketcherman on UskTalks today. And I loved listening to the other guest, Matthew Brehm. Wonderful advice about drawing from a great artist and educator. If you missed the talk and want to hear it, it will be archived on the Urban Sketchers website, although at the time of writing this, it has not be uploaded yet.

Both of us were asked to come up with challenges for sketchers. And since many people are confined to home, mine is to draw the same view at different times of day, and observe changes in light and colour, a bit like I do with my wheelbarrows. Please tag us on Instagram @usktalkschallenge and @sharisketcher if you participate because I can’t wait to see what you do! Maybe you even have a wheelbarrow somewhere close.

Learn something new every day

“Learn Something New Every Day” is the title of the next USk Talks on Instagram Live this coming Sunday, May 17 at 4 PM GMT. I’m really thrilled to be a featured guest, along with architect and sketcher Matthew Brehm. During the hour long show, we’ll both be chatting (and showing sketches) with host Rob Sketcherman about how to stay motivated to draw during these difficult times. Here’s all the info about how to watch. Hope you drop in to say hi. At the end of the talk, both of us will give out a sketching challenge for the week, so stay tuned for those. And have a look at the previous talks on the USk site as well. They have all been fascinating.

In keeping with the theme of learning something new, I’ve been experimenting with Carbazole Violet lately. It’s an intense purple that I’ve had on my palette for years but never fully explored. It was perfect for sketching some dried chiles that appeared in the house today and it will be featured soon in my new online course that will be launched next week. More about that soon!