I bought this class taught by Shari Blaukopf several months ago, along with her other class “Sketching the City in Pen, Ink & Watercolor”. Watching the classes was inspiring, but also a little intimidating. I kept feeling like I wouldn’t be able to make my sketches look as good as I wanted. And it felt like I would know how to do the techniques just by watching, not necessarily doing them myself. (Wrong!)
But motivated to take my skills up a notch, I finally jumped in and sketched along with her all the way through. And I’m so glad I did! Shari has lots of great tips throughout the class, and actually following along makes things stick better. Instead of completing the lessons as she assigns, I chose to mimic what she’s sketching and painting in class.
In the months since I bought the class, I became more and more drawn to Shari’s style. I particularly like the dappled brush strokes that make her work recognizable, and how her work looks accurately representational yet relaxed and loose. Watching her work and talk her way through her process was very helpful — it took some of the mystery out of it and made it more approachable and methodical than seeming like pure magic. She’s a great instructor!
I’m on the hunt for a sketchbook and paper that will work best for me, so these lessons were done on a variety of papers to test things out. The morning sky, neutral sky, and fluffy clouds are on Fabriano Artistico 140lb cold press natural white and the stormy sky is on Fabriano Artistico hot press white (folded from large sheets into journals using these instructions). The Flatirons sketch is in a Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook.
I can see that in my main Flatirons project, I went too dark with the first big shapes layer, making the mid tone layers hard to distinguish and the darkest layers too dark and muddied. I’m still working on my techniques for layering color, leaving white areas, and nailing values.
This class is fantastic just to watch Shari work, but even better when you do the exercises yourself. I highly recommend it for developing ink and watercolor sketching skills!
- Craftsy class Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor
TOOLS & SUPPLIES
- Lamy Safari fountain pen with EF nib
- Black De Atramentis Document Ink
- watercolors (mostly Daniel Smith)
- watercolor brushes (Escoda Versatil travel brushes sizes 4, 6, 8; Master’s Touch round size 24; Princeton Neptune size 10)
- 5.5×8.5 Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook
- Fabriano Artistico 140lb cold press watercolor paper in natural white
- Fabriano Artistico hot press watercolor paper in white
Once I realized I was most interested in the process of sketching and painting I signed up for a few Craftsy classes on the topic. Although I was itching to watch them all at once, picking just one to start seemed more prudent. So I started off with Sketchbooks: Drawing the Everyday with Paul Heaston.
Paul is a master at drawing with ink (his hatching is really special), and he’s an excellent teacher as well. This course was so good for learning basic things to consider when starting to draw. Many of the things covered were familiar to me from college art classes, but I’d forgotten them over the years.
There were seven assignments, and I committed myself to do each of them one at a time before moving on to the next lesson.
1: Blind contour drawing of my hand
2:Explore points of view, space, and texture with 3–4 arrangements of a still life
I used this opportunity to draw the same subjects from the three different points of view that Paul covers in this section.
3: Hatching values
One of the things I was most excited about learning from Paul was hatching. I’d been dabbling in it and struggled with consistency and direction of my marks. His techniques help with achieving a precise yet natural look.
4: Paint two objects that are the same color but different values
I had a surprisingly difficult time finding two objects that fit this description! For me the best part of this lesson was just gaining more experience with my watercolors, primarily with doing a background wash.
5: Sketch a person that’s moving through my scene
The challenge with this lesson is to learn to sketch people quickly, capturing what’s necessary and unique about the person and letting go of the rest. This one was really intimidating for me to begin because it sounded just impossible. Finally I asked my husband to stand there while I quickly sketched him.
I also experimented with my water brush — it has a much different feel from painting with regular watercolor brushes. I like how precise it is in some cases, but find it too precise for other things. It’s really good for painting in little shadows or small washes of color.
As additional practice for sketching people, I found a photo online and made a watercolor sketch version of it in my book:
6: Use a viewfinder and draw several thumbnails of a scene, trying different approaches
The viewfinder was awesome for making it clear how the composition was going to look on paper. I took it outside to find something to draw, and it cut out all of the extra bits of what I saw in the environment. Paul suggests doing thumbnail sketches in a few proportions like landscape, portrait, panoramic, and square, to get a sense of what’s going to work well before diving into the larger sketch.
7: Create a detailed study out of a larger scene
Using my favorite thumbnail sketch from the previous lesson, I selected a part of my house and back yard in a portrait view.
I really like how the rosemary bushes look, and the general composition. But overall the house was a pretty boring subject! It was more about getting some practice in a convenient place than capturing something really interesting.
It looks a little too much like a cartoon for my taste — as opposed to a journal sketch — so that’s something I want to see if I can figure out.
This class is a great balance of learning a lot of techniques in a very accessible way. When I look back at all of the lessons I can see it was very informative and helps move my art skills toward my goals. My big goal is to record watercolor sketches in a travel journal. I sure wish I’d had this knowledge when we went to Paris a few years ago! I may still do some watercolor sketches of those photos just for fun.
- Craftsy class Sketchbooks: Drawing the Everyday
TOOLS & SUPPLIES
One of my favorite times of the year is the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I love taking a break from work (or at least letting up on work a bit) and focusing on personal fun stuff. For the last holiday season, I treated myself to the Craftsy class Jean-ius! Reverse Engineer Your Favorite Fit with Kenneth D. King. I was filling the break with some personal sewing projects:
- a Coco top
- lounge pants
- long sleeve boatneck tee
- long sleeve scoop neck tee
- chambray button down shirt
And I also decided it would be my mission to sew a pair of jeans. Except I don’t wear jeans very often these days, so my husband signed up to be the guinea pig. He’s really good about wearing jeans until they fall apart (I’ve patched a few for him since getting my sewing machine), and loves wearing jeans.
The project started in early January, then took a big break while I prepared for the Spring Jackalope show. Once I felt caught up with my business I worked on The Jeans a little bit on weekends, making sure I never pushed myself past the point of enjoying the process. It was so much new stuff to learn!
I used the Craftsy Jean-ius class for my primary direction, and also the Ginger jeans sewalong from Closet Case Files for additional perspective.
Self-drafted pattern based on a pair of men’s Lucky jeans
- self-drafted pattern
- sewing with Japanese selvedge denim
- serged seam finishes
- topstitching with jeans thread (with all purpose thread in the bobbin)
- button fly
- 5 pockets, including pocket bags
- rivets installed at stress points
- used the jeans making kit from Clost Case Files (which came with a denim needle that I used, the buttons for the fly, and the rivets)
- made a test fit pair of pants (with zipper fly) from a similar weight fabric — miraculously no fit changes were necessary
- ordered 6 yards of 30″ wide denim (used about 3 1/2 yd, with about 2 1/2 yd left over)
- traced pattern pieces with soap sliver before cutting out
- consulted this post and examined the construction of the ready-to-wear pair to recreate the button fly
- used selvedge for top of coin pocket and inside of waistband
- finished all exposed seam allowances with serger
My construction order:
- Prepare the patch pockets and install on back pant pieces
- Attach the yoke to the back pieces
- Assemble the front pockets
- Prepare and install the fly (making buttonholes before installing)
- Attach front to back
- Install fly buttons
- Install waistband
- Make and attach belt loops
- Make buttonhole in waistband and attach button
- Install rivets
For my first pair of jeans, I’m super happy with how these turned out. I loved working with this denim, and since it’s only 11 oz. it went through my machine really well everywhere but just a couple of places (e.g. at the top of the back pockets, it wanted to skip a few stitches getting through the layers and over the hump.)
Since the gold denim thread was going to be so visible, I paid close attention to my topstitching and the extra care paid off.
There were some areas that gave me trouble, which I’ll watch for next time:
- before cutting out the pieces, I had increased the side seams to 1″, but forgot to account for this on the pocket bag pieces, so the pockets are a little too narrow
- the fly ends too low, making the fly longer than I wanted, and the bottom button is too difficult to reach
- the burrito method mentioned in King’s class for finishing the ends of the waistband was really tricky for me, so I may try a different method next time if I can find one
- the waistband is a little narrower than I’d like, and when lining up the waistband at the front it sent me down a road of making the front overlap too thin
- making the buttonhole for the top button did not go well because of the bulk at the bottom edge of the waistband, pushing the hole too far up and making the top edge of the hole rather thin (I compensated by attaching a patch to the back of the waistband around the hole)
- it’s important to use a flat, smooth, metal surface for installing the rivets because anything softer like wood or textured results in either the rivet post poking through the front of the rivet head or imprinting the texture onto the rivet head
- they seem to be a little short in the crotch length, something to re-measure next time
I’d like to make another pair of these some day, since a big part of the project was drafting the pattern — and that’s done now!
How long did they take? I started watching the Craftsy class around January 1, 2016, and finished the jeans on June 25, 2016. I didn’t track my time, but I’d ballpark it at 9 weekends, working about 3 hours each weekend. The basic steps were:
- make a pattern based on the existing jeans
- make a quick version of the pants from test fabric (for fitting)
- make the final pair of jeans
I watched the Craftsy class The Classic Tailored Shirt all the way through some time ago, but never felt motivated to actually make the shirt. Although I was inspired by the hand-stitched collar band process when designing and making my Tailored Dog Jacket.
When I watched The Gunman the other day on Netflix, the chambray button down shirts that some of the characters wore stuck in my mind. I decided I needed to have a shirt like that. These shirts were certainly not classic tailored shirts, but the class helped me get through the confusing pattern instructions that came with McCall’s 6649. That’s the button down shirt pattern I had from when I bought Craftsy’s One Pattern, Many Looks: Blouses.
- used sloper from One Pattern, Many Looks: Blouses class
- used dark blue chambray fabric
- only used interfacing on upper collar and neck side of collar band
- yoke: I did it so the top stitched side faces out, so when I joined the shoulder seams to it, and slid the yoke piece down 1/8 in. for turn of cloth, it was too bulky inside and the outer yoke pulled on it. I compensated for this by pressing it with slight folds in seams to straighten things out.
- collar band and collar: I got quite confused with this component, between which sides get interfacing and which pieces get pressed at 5/8 in. After doing some Googling, it seems like there are multiple ways to do this correctly, except that typically the non-interfaced collar band piece is the one that gets pressed up 5/8 in. And the important thing is to make sure the button hole is on the right side of the collar band.
- cuffs: this was all kinds of confusing. I’m pretty sure I sewed the plackets in on the wrong side because of where the top stitching ended up being, and there’s a pinch in one of them, but they function just fine so I didn’t rip anything out.
- using a double thread for sewing on the buttons was problematic for me, and I kept getting knots and mistakes, so I switched to single thread and it went much more smoothly
What a feat! It took 3 big days of sewing, but it’s done. I’m SO glad I my sloper to make sure the shoulders actually fit me. And I’m glad that my sloper didn’t require changes to the neckline, shirt length, or sleeve cuff — making those adjustments on my first shirt would have been really challenging.
Next time, I’d leave out the interfacing all together because I like a softer more crinkly look. I’d also like to figure out how shirts get that rippled edge near the topstitching — not sure if it’s in the construction, or just happens after several washes or what.
And now that I’ve seen how the shirt comes together, doing some contrasting accents, like in the collar band, button placket, or cuffs would be cool.