Huff and puff up the steep bridge, through the Porta Santa Maria, turn and look back at this view as you emerge into the Piazza San Pietro. The workshop group often sketches here in the morning while we sit in shade and the facades are bathed in crisp morning light, plus the bar (what we call a cafe) on the piazza opens early and serves yummy lattes. Appropriate, as apparently there was a market here long ago.
Look carefully at this wide-angle view and you’ll see blue sky in some of the windows of the Renaissance era Palazzo Colesanti…yes, the building collapsed into the valley below and all that is left is the facade! The outdoor stair is called a proferlo and is typical of this area of Italy. The gray stone around the windows is a very dense balsatina, which is mined locally. It’s also used for some amazing fireplace throughout town.
In terms of technique, this is where we learn to leave a swath of the paper as white untouched by paint in order to get a sense for the sun hitting the face of the building and ground. This is also where we learn to do varied washes of color so the color isn’t flat and also talks about the materials and stone texture. Just look at all the colors that are dropped into any one facade! That was done with one layer of watercolor wash. And my favorite part, just look at the arch on the far right under the stairs…that glow of red is a drop of Daniel Smith Quinacridone Burnt Orange into wet paint. I love that color!
I am looking back as a way to dream about next year…gosh I miss this place!
With Paris workshop registrations starting tomorrow, it’s got me thinking a lot about my time in this extraordinary city back in 2013. I had been awarded an amazing architecture fellowship, The Gabriel Prize, which meant I was able to live in Paris for 3 months to learn about architecture by sketching on location (my project settled on the use of perspective in the gardens at Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte). Unbelievably great and challenging time. It was an opportunity that would change my life forever and lead to amazing opportunities. But of course, at the time, I had no idea any of this would happen!!!
A big part of what made it life-changing was having the luxury of time in an inspiring setting to figure out who I was as an architect and an artist. I literally stayed up nights wondering if I was a pen or a pencil person! Would I draw a lot or paint a lot, how would I hit that sweet spot of having the right balance of both? What colors and equipment would I settle on using? This meant a fair amount of experimentation with few “successes”, although in the end I realized — and this is an important tip from the new book — we shouldn’t spend a lot of time thinking about sketching… instead, just do it. Do anything. Don’t worry about style or if you like your work or not, just listen to your inner voice and do anything… your style, your way of working will emerge as long as you keep moving in a forward direction.
So, one of my sketching experiments was in underpainting. Many artists start their painting with painting light washes of transparent colors like aureolin yellow, cobalt blue, and permanent alizarin crimson to establish areas of light and dark. Underpainting also unifies a painting, as there is a common layer at the foundation that is still just barely visible with the other transparent layers laid on top. I do this all the time in my studio work, but not very often when sketching in the field. It’s an extra step that takes time, especially since you have to wait for it to dry before doing anything else. It’s scary to start to apply watercolor, so another benefit of this wash is that it allows me to “dip my toe in the water”, aka start painting without making a huge color commitment. Helps me shake off my painting nerves!
But here, I wanted to emulate some beautiful sketches we have at home that were done by my husband’s Croatian great-grandfather. He was the head of the Yugoslav railroads, as well as a poet and artist who painted incredible watercolor scenes on the heavy yellow paper used for printing train schedules! It’s fun to flip over the paintings and see the schedules.
For these sketches, I tried to mimic the warm yellow paper he used by underpainting with yellow ochre. Once it dried, I painted other layers on top to create 3-dimensional shapes… and for surfaces hit by LIGHT, I painted with an opaque white. I rather liked the glow this gave the sketches, and it launched me into using yellow ochre to underpaint probably a majority of my sketches now. And you can see the beginnings of what would become my “style”! I’m eager to go back and try again, now that I have more sketching know-how.
So thanks to great-grandfather Villim Filipasic for his inspiration. I hope my great-grandchildren, should I be blessed some day, will look at my sketches with the same love that I look at and appreciate his…
Yep. I’m soooooooo excited to be heading back to The City of Lights this June. I’ve dreamt about teaching a workshop in this gorgeous place for years. Here’s the scoop:
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? And how do I start painting? Held in the amazing historic Marais of romantic Paris, this workshop offers 2 full days of instruction. The first day is an introduction to the fundamentals of on-location perspective through demos and sketching on-site. Day two introduces basic watercolor mixing and techniques, and in the afternoon, we put it all together!
Friday, June 19 | Meet for a bring-your-own picnic dinner at the Places des Vosges.
GOOD BONES Day 1 | PERSPECTIVE| Saturday, June 20 | 9am-5pm* | Meet in the Place des Vosges
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| Sunday, June 21 | 9am-5pm* | Meet in the Place des Vosges
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 PARIS is open to 15participants 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 opens Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 8am Seattle time/ 5pm Paris time. To sign up, contact Stephanie by email at email@example.com The first 15 emails will be accepted—first come, first served. A waiting list will be created.
Workshop tuition is US$295.00, by check or PayPal (tuition includes PayPal transaction fees.)
***And for you blog followers, I’m offering early-bird spots today and tomorrow as a THANK YOU. Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP if you’d like to be pencilled in to a spot. And if you also sign up for the French Escapade workshop in the Loire, I’ll knock of $100 from the cost of this workshop, and FE will also reduce their price. Paris will be a great warm up for the LOIRE!!
There are also still workshop spots open for Seville in April (before it gets too hot in southern Spain) and one spot in Civita in June.