Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman

Before visiting the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, I sketched outside on the plaza in front of Santo Domingo. It’s a very lively, touristy area but there’s a shaded spot with benches and a view of the facade. My original intention was to sketch the Baroque architecture but the landscaping in the front was so beautiful — with its tall spikes of some kind of agave — that my eye stopped there. Today I hope to visit a very special garden that I only caught a glimpse of from the windows of the museum itself: the Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca. The only way to visit is by guided tour, so we’ll see how my sketching while walking system works out.


Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca

Happy Halloween from Oaxaca! I’m here for a few days, sketching the Dia de Los Muertos festivities! Its my first time in Mexico, so you can imagine what it’s like for me to be sketching here during this holiday. Full-on sensory overload! I thought I’d post a few from today, photographed on location in the Zocalo where I sketched a fantastic brass band, all wearing bright red pants and shiny black shoes. After a break that included trying a cup of the famous chocolate con leche, I sketched the balloon vendors. This holiday lasts three days so more to come tomorrow.


Sketch with me in Spain in 2020

I haven’t yet finished scanning my sketches from September’s travel sketching workshop in Italy with French Escapade, but I’m already looking forward to teaching with them again in Spain in June of 2020. And this time, it’s in a region of Spain that I’ve already visited (and loved), which makes it even more exciting.

A few years back I spent some time touring the Costa Brava after teaching at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Barcelona. I sketched along the coast in Tossa de Mar and Cadaques, as well as in towns like Girona, Monells and Pals. (Some of my sketches from that week are reposted below.) It’s such a dramatic and beautiful coastline, and I’m super excited about giving a workshop where the focus will be on boats, water, reflections, beaches and rocks (as well as a seaside botanical garden, a Romanesque village and the town where Salvador Dalí was born!). Plus we’ll be staying at a hotel by the sea, so we won’t have far to go to find subjects to draw.

Dates for 2020 are June 8-15 (still open), or June 15-22 (two spots remaining). If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me, and for more info have a look here.


My favourite tree, version 6

I’ve captured the colours of my favourite maple tree a little later than usual this year, as it veers from yellow to orange. I paint this tree every autumn because of its perfect domed shape, although sometimes I don’t manage to get the whole thing on the page. You can see some other sketches of it here or here or here or here.


Out with the old

It’s always with some reluctance that I change palettes, but I have to say that this one was overdue for replacement. A hinge had broken and been repaired some time ago, and rust was starting to take up more space than paint. I filled this one in 2016 before I taught in Galway, and I can certainly say that it has had a good run.

This old FOME palette held 23 colours, because I had added seven more half pans to the middle row. Luckily I found the same palette again, but this new model, in its original version, only has room for 12 colours. That’s a bit of a problem for me. I love the size of the closed box because it’s no bigger than my cell phone, but it will take some jerry-rigging, once again, to get it up to speed. Below is a photo of what it looked like when I brought it home. I suppose the middle row would be good for a travel brush, but what is the purpose of the empty space at the top? Not really sure what the designer was thinking about when this new configuration was created.

I bought a bunch of empty half pans that come in little holders, thinking that may do the trick for the middle row.

After some slicing and dicing, I managed to get another seven pans in the middle space, and I stuck them down with white sticky tac.

And then came the big decisions. I had to go from 23 colours down to 19. There were definitely a few in the old palette that I used less frequently, like Sepia and Yellow Ochre. And some colours that were interchangeable like New Gamboge and Quinacridone Gold (New Gamboge got cut). I also switched from the very strong Phthalo Green to a gentler Viridian. Once the final cut was made, I took a reference photo before filling the palette.

When I filled the palette, I used a porcupine quill to stir the paint and remove air bubbles. The quill and the good advice are courtesy of Jane Blundell! The palette will have to set for a few days before I take it on the road to a workshop I am teaching in Woodstock, Vermont.

The final 19 colours are:
Left: Azo Yellow (M. Graham), Quinacridone Gold (Winsor & Newton), Tranparent Orange (Schminke), Cadmium Red (Winsor & Newton), Permanent Alizarin Crimson (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone Rose (Daniel Smith)
Middle: Raw Sienna (Winsor & Newton), Naples Yellow (Daniel Smith), Burnt Sienna (Winsor & Newton), Burnt Umber (Sennelier), Cobalt Violet Light (Shinhan), Lavender (Holbein), Viridian Green (Holbein).
Right: Turquoise Blue (Holbein), Cerulean Blue (Winsor & Newton), Cobalt Blue (Daniel Smith), Ultramarine Blue (Winsor & Newton), Prussian Blue, (Daniel Smith), Payne’s Grey (Holbein).
If you are interested in knowing the brands, they are listed above and the tubes are below, photographed in the same order as the placement in the palette.

Am I missing anything in this new palette? Of course I am. There will always be situations when I wish I had some Sennelier Sap Green or a bit of Carbozole Violet. But for now, for upcoming workshops in Florida and Mexico, this will be just fine. And in 2020 there may just be a new list…


Gouache from the car

I spent the past few days experimenting with on-location gouache painting, from my car studio, of course. I don’t have a good setup for the car like I do for watercolour, but somehow I managed to make it work by balancing a butcher tray on the passenger seat. A bit of a messy endeavour but it was a good temporary solution until I figure out a better setup.

My first sketch was done on Stillman & Birn beige paper, which gives a warm glow under the paint. I did my initial drawing using raw umber pigment and then painted on top of that. The result is quite pasty, maybe because I used too much white paint in my mixes. This stuff does take a bit of getting used to.

The next day I changed my working methods. First of all, I used a block of cold press watercolour paper, instead of toned paper. I also tried not to touch the white pigment until the very end, and instead of keeping the colours muted, I tried to see how saturated I could get them. Good thing the leaves are at their brightest this week! I am loving playing with gouache pigments, and will likely continue with more experimentation and research this week.


Marina de Bibbona

The beaches along the Etruscan Coast in Italy are lined with umbrella pines, and at the end of the day, when the light hits them, they appear as if on fire. Little spots of orange ignite the dark trunks. But when something is that surreal, it is sometimes hard to capture with paint. I am considering a larger painting of this but thought I’d start first with a quarter sheet to work out composition, colours and values.