Can I still say, "Happy New Year?"

Happy New Year to all!!!! Seattle is so dark and cold during these months, that I feel like a sleepy bear starting to emerge from a cave.

I start 2020 with such profound gratitude for so many amazing opportunities: great work projects, amazing travel, and teaching. Teaching is my true calling. I vaguely remember as a child, rounding up the other kids in my neighborhood, and sitting them down in our living room to teach them something… HA! I have no idea what I “taught” them, but clearly, this teaching thing started at a very young age.

I also really want to say THANK YOU to those of you who kindly responded to my plea for a few positive book reviews on Amazon after the first two devastating posts. It worked!! Thankfully, you and others basically buried those heinous posts, and yes, Amazon has finally removed the review about no women in the book! HOORAY!!

As my thank you, I ask, what can I do for you? What do you want to learn from me? More about finding vanishing points and perspective? How to start a painting, a pencil drawing? More about my day job, materials I use, workshops? What can I teach you via this blog???? I’m ready, send your suggestions my way! And let’s make this a great new year and decade!!

(Panorama sketch above was done from our hotel window looking out at Brooklyn in the snow last February, that’s the Brooklyn Bridge on the far right. Those of you who know me know that I first block out all the big shapes on the two pages, then start on the left –because I’m right-handed– and fill in the details working left to right.)

The Magic of Daniel Smith Quinacridone Burnt Orange

Looking at sketches on Instagram or Facebook, it’s often hard to see the details in my sketches. I love to work in large, horizontal wide-angle compositions, but they tend to not read particularly well in online formats–if I post the entire sketch, the details get lost. In order to see some of that architectural detail I love, the past few days I’ve posted a few cropped, zoomed-in images of sketches from this summer in Spain, Italy, and Croatia on both IG and FB.

A number of people have posted comments about how they like the “glow” in the shade and shadows, so I thought I’d write a blog post to talk about how I get that effect. To create an incredible glow, I rely on the magic of Daniel Smith’s Quinacridone Burnt Orange! You can see it in the warm orange color to the left of the tower in the image from Dubrovnik.

First, let’s talk about the differences between SHADE and SHADOW. Shade is the backside of a lit form, while SHADOW is the darkness that is cast onto other surfaces by forms. Shade tends to appear warmer and lighter when compared to shadow, which appears cooler and darker.

I start by painting the upper/outer, darker part of the shade or shadow using a blueish gray made from three colors: Winsor & Newton French Ultramarine + W&N Burnt Sienna added to make a Payne’s gray, then finally I add a touch–just a few molecules– of Permanent Alizarin Crimson to add depth and warmth. That tiny bit of PAC makes a huge difference! I will vary the percentages to get the color on the gray side or more on the blue or purple side.

So first I paint the gray, then while it’s wet, I drop in the QBO in areas where I want a sense of bounced light, often toward the bottom of a wall or the ground near a wall. QBO displaces the gray and leaves a warm, orangey glow. Some people ask why not just use the Burnt Sienna as they are almost identical in hue. The reason? They behave very differently on paper or when mixed. The wet-on-wet QBO somehow retains its bright orangey color, while the BS goes to a gray, and it’s that orange that creates the glow.

Take a look at these cropped sketches. You’ll also see lots of Quinacridone Burnt Orange dropped into lots of places for that magical glow!

SPLASH: One image/ Four ways

Last week, I had to the opportunity to join 3 other artists at the Northwest Watercolor Society’s annual SPLASH event held at the Daniel Smith mothership store here in Seattle. It’s a great event, around 200 people showed up to sample wares from vendors and to watch 4 of us do demo paintings.

Joining me were Catherine Gill, Katherine Wright, and Denise Le Blanc. We were each given the same photo to use as reference, and we had only ONE HOUR to paint! It was like running a sprint! No time to think or strategize much (except for those smart folks who practiced ahead of time — alas, I am not one of those.)

Here is the image we were given:

We did get to sketch in the linework before the hour started. When I arrived and saw the others already set up, I could see how they had cropped the image, so to be different, I decided to use the whole image 😉

I had sketchbooks strewn around my table, so lots of people were coming up and flipping through them, asking questions, and watching me and all of us work. We were painting so fast, it was at times challenging to talk and paint at the same time.

At the end of our sprint, it was amazing to see the results. Each of us took the exact same photo and interpreted it in incredibly different ways! This is something I love about artists and Urban Sketchers too. You can literally have 30 people sketching the same spot and each one sketches something different.

Here are the final four…pretty different from the photo, I’d say!! In order left to right are Catherine Gill (watercolor and pastel) – Denise LeBlanc (acrylic) – Katherine Wright (watercolor) – me (pencil and watercolor) on the far right. Due to the time limitation and my sketchbook ways, I opted to do a smaller painting. And let’s not get into how I dislike working from photos!!!

It was really great fun! Thank you to Dolores Marquez for organizing and to the NWWS for this opportunity!

And darn it, I probably could have sold 50 books that night, but the Daniel Smith store has sold out, and the publisher is sold out too!!!! That’s both bad news and good news. Another printing has already been ordered–yay! Luckily, copies are still available online and in some stores.

Gone Missing

I had breakfast this morning with my dear friend, Alane Simons (IG @alaneatx). We met some years ago at a fundraiser when I heard that the couple across the huge table was also from Texas (as am I), and I had to go and say hello. We chatted, she talked about how her mother had been an artist who inspired her, I shared my magical mini moo cards, and she said she’d call me. Who ever follows up on that promise? I’ll tell you who: ALANE!!!

We had a great breakfast and I was reminded of what a joyful person she is. She did, however, tell me that when they moved from Seattle last year, she shipped some 30 sketchbooks that have never arrived… years of work are lost!!! I can’t imagine losing even one sketchbook, I am so attached to those sketches as they are a record of so many experiences. Like she said this morning, it’s not like it’s just a drawing of a table, it’s a drawing that captures the place, time, the air, the sounds and smells, the friends you are with, and so much more. This is the power of sketching, of putting an experience to paper in sketch.

So how about this: let’s all visualize Alane’s box of sketchbooks arriving safely to her and who knows, maybe it will happen???!!!!!

This Saturday, November 23, I will be sharing my mini moo cards, sketchbooks and a huge stack of original watercolors, along with a presentation and book signing for the new book. I hope if you are in the area, you can join us at the Daniel Smith store at 11am. I will talk about how much sketching means to me, how grateful I am to this sketching community, and as my husband says, my tribe. And if my house catches on fire, I will grab my grandmother’s pearls and my SKETCHBOOKS!

What does sketching mean to you????

Workshop: San Antonio, TX | March 2020

Hi y’all! Yes, I’m doing another workshop at the fabulous Pearl in San Antonio, TX. Registration is open now, so contact me ASAP at to be pencilled in!

GOOD BONES SAN ANTONIO Texas | Perspective + Watercolor Sketching Workshop
March 13-14 + 15, 2020
Good sketches start with Good Bones! In this workshop, you’ll learn the simple steps to set up the foundations of a great architectural sketch in Perspective and Watercolor. How do you start a location sketch? Where is the darn Vanishing Point? Watercolor is too overwhelming!

Held in the amazing historic PEARL DISTRICT along the Riverwalk, this workshop offers 2 full days of instruction. The first day is devoted to learning the fundamentals of on-location perspective through demos and sketching on-site. Day two introduces basic watercolor mixing and techniques. Day 3 is a half day that puts it all together in an open sketch meet up!

GOOD BONES Day 1 | PERSPECTIVE | Friday, March 13 | 9am – 4pm* | Meet in front of Cure   We will learn perspective basics and a simple step-by-step process to construct an architectural perspective sketch, how to build the sketch in layers; learn what to look for when sketching perspective on location—how to find your eye level and vanishing points to provide the good bones of any sketch; learn how to measure proportions and relationships of spatial elements.
GOOD BONES Day 2 | WATERCOLOR | Saturday, March 14 | 9am – 4pm*·      We will learn: an introduction to basic watercolor tools and techniques, using a simple palette of colors; learn how to use watercolor to enhance the sense of architecture and space in your sketches; in the afternoon, put perspective and watercolor together.                                             * One hour break for lunch.
GOOD BONES Day 3 | OPEN SKETCHWALK | Sunday, March 15 | 10am – 12:30pm  Anyone can join us! An important, optional half day to cement what you’ve learned, joined by other sketchers.

GOOD BONES SAN ANTONIO is open to 15 participants with any level of experience, but it’s targeted to sketchers who want to improve their basic sketching and understanding of perspective and watercolor.
Workshop Registration is open now. To sign up, contact Stephanie by email at  The first 15 emails will be accepted—first come, first served. A waiting list will be created in case spots open up.

Workshop fee is $250.00 payable by check once you are notified via email of a confirmed spot in the workshop.
Cancellation In the unforeseen event the workshop is cancelled, all fees will be reimbursed. If you have to cancel your participation, please contact Stephanie Bower at     By February 1, all fees reimbursed; By February 15, 50% of fee reimbursed; After March 1, 0% of workshop fee reimbursed.                                    
A materials supply list and additional information will be emailed to registered participants.

This workshop is in a FABULOUS location! The Pearl District in San Antonio is one of the best urban spaces in the country. Beautiful renovated old buildings, farmer’s market, cafes and shops, great tex-mex, interesting architecture, all along the glorious San Antonio Riverwalk. I hope you can join me!!

Workshop: San Jose, CA | May 2020

We’ve been planning this one a long time, so it’s exciting to finally be able to announce this workshop! The 3 S’s are together! Here’s the info:

People | Places | Color

A Sketching Workshop by Suhita Shirodkar | Stephanie Bower| Shari Blaukopf

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

About the Workshop: This is a rare opportunity to learn location sketching from three globe-trotting Urban Sketchers specialists, 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 masterful use of watercolor.

Each participant will get a half-day/3-hour session with each of the instructors. The final afternoon session will put it all together in a joint sketching class taught by all three instructors. Maximum class size is only 12 people.

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. Another chance to cement what you have learned!

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

COST: $300.00US/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: Registration starts precisely on Sunday, December 15, 2019, at 12:00noon West Coast Time (no sooner, please.) First come, first served, in the order your email is received. To sign up, email Workshop payment is due January 1- February 1, 2020.

For more info about this workshop, contact the instructors directly. See you in California!!

Workshop: SEVILLA | April 17-23, 2020

When workshop organizer Brenda Murray approached me months ago about doing a workshop ANYWHERE–yes, she said “anywhere” in the world–my first choice was Seville, Spain. I was there in 2011, and it continues to call to me.

Here’s the chance for you to join me! The Studio 56 Boutique workshop info is HERE. It’s five days of focused instruction (the workshop info link shows the itinerary and amazing places we will go), including a field trip to the hill town of Ronda, and more. Registration is open now!!!

Would you believe that in 2011, I had just re-started sketching after a 25 year hiatus called “work and raising kids”? At that time, I was only sketching in pencil–no watercolor– and I had no idea that Urban Sketchers even existed!!!

This is part of why I’m so eager to go back, as the architecture of southern Spain is INCREDIBLE–gorgeous colors, charming streets, textured tile roofs, amazing detail and tilework, and it’s all infused with a strong and beautiful Moorish influence. To compare with my sketches of today, here are a few from 2011.

And here is one from this past summer in Barcelona. Things have definitely evolved!! Color adds so much, but it’s also much more difficult, especially when painting on the spot! We will of course draw and paint on location…

Please consider joining me in beautiful Spain! I can promise we will eat too much, see amazing places, sketch everything (including the tapas), and have a great time! (The best tapas I ever ate were in Seville…maybe that’s why I want to go back??)