sketchbook - pen and watercolor sketches from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

Watercolor sketches from Baking Chez Moi

One of the (many) projects I’m working on is to make watercolor sketches from the beautiful, mouth-watering photos in the book Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan.

Since I love baking, and sometimes struggle with deciding on what to sketch, I thought this would be a great subject. There are a few skills I’d like to improve by doing this project:

  • more accuracy with contour line drawings, without getting bogged down in making it look photo-realistic
  • drawing more quickly
  • getting comfortable adding watercolor wash
  • hand lettering

sketchbook - pen and watercolor sketches from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

After just a few sketches, I’m finding that this is also a good opportunity to practice painting highlights and glass.

I’ve noticed that with this sketchbook (a Stillman & Birn Alpha Series book), when I apply watercolor washes to one side of the paper, the other side becomes very difficult to draw on. On one hand, I don’t want to leave pages blank, but on the other hand I don’t want to fight with my pens on the paper. I also find myself wanting to primarily draw on the right page rather than the left. I may try just doing a drawing on the right side of the spread, using the left side for little details or quick sketching.

sketchbook - ink and watercolor wash sketch of a vase of flowers

Loose and sketchy watercolor flowers

After watching a recent Draw Tip Tuesday video on pen control, I was inspired to draw a vase of flowers by loosely holding the pen at the end away from the tip.

sketchbook - ink and watercolor wash sketch of a vase of flowers

I started the sketch by roughly doing a single-line contour drawing, lifting the pen only a few times to reset. I knew I was going to go over with a wash of watercolor, so I focused more on suggesting the foliage instead of carefully drawing every item. And instead of obsessing over making the roses look like literal roses, I made swirly ends to suggest the petals.

I’m happily surprised how this loose approach worked! I think the swirly roses read better as roses than when I tried to draw each petal step by step in another sketch.

For the watercolor wash, I also kept it loose and rough. My main goal was to get a good range of greens, from bright yellow-greens to deep brown-greens. I added some splatter to amplify the sketchy quality.

Tools

  • Uniball Vision Fine black ink pen
  • watercolors
  • watercolor brush
  • Pentel Aquash Water Brush
  • stencil brush (for splatter)
Ink and watercolor wash of a binder clip

Simple sketch of a binder clip

While working on my hatching skills, sometimes I draw simple objects that hardly warrant any excitement. But there’s something about this binder clip sketch that I just love. I think it’s the judicious use of watercolor on the shadow areas. I focused the hatching and wash on darker areas, and I think that restraint helps make the sketch more interesting.

This simple object is also good practice for my contour drawing. Instead of doing a pencil sketch first, I went straight for the PITT Artist Pen on this one. I know that when I start with pencil, my drawings can look too measured and not very alive or spontaneous because I get so focused on accuracy.  I’m liking the character that an imperfectly-drawn ink sketch has.

Ink and watercolor wash of a binder clip

ink and watercolor wash - box of colorful macarons

Painting highlights with watercolors

I’m working on finding a good balance of painted areas and unpainted areas with my ink and watercolor sketches. It’s becoming more clear that in order to achieve a sketch that has a fresh and spontaneous quality to it, it takes more white areas than what strictly looks like a highlight.

With this box of macarons drawn from a photo, I kept the bright areas of the macarons unpainted. The liner in the box that they’re packaged in got a very light wash of color in the bright areas.

Another skill I’m working on improving is the shape of color the brush lays down next to the white areas. I feel like I’m getting closer, but the strokes seem a little self-conscious to me.

Another thing I did with this sketch was to paint the darker areas of the macarons with a deeper shade of the color, not a neutral grey as with a drop shadow. I love the way that technique makes the macarons so interesting to look at and dimensional.

ink and watercolor wash - box of colorful macarons

little ink and watercolor sketches of potted succulents

Sketches of potted succulents

During my daily drawing practice I discovered how fun it is draw little sketches of potted succulents, especially with a dip pen. I like using this subject as a way to explore hatching with the dip pen. It has a really satisfying scratching quality on the paper.

desert plant drawings from sketchbook

Adding quick watercolor washes to these little sketches helps them look more fun and colorful.

little ink and watercolor sketches of potted succulents

Tools

  • dip pen with 512 Speedball nib
  • India ink
  • watercolors
illustrated recipe - Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Illustrated recipe: Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

The idea of illustrating a recipe is fascinating to me. It’s such a cool combination of art and design — drawing and painting ingredients + typography and layout of the details and instructions.

It took me awhile to actually take the plunge and draw a recipe…but one day when I was making Rosemary Roasted Potatoes it seemed like the perfect opportunity. My goal was to make the illustration fairly quickly, without obsessing over details or layout. The crazy shape of the frame came about because I was drawing around a previous drawing in my sketchbook.

I love making little shadows under objects, especially with the water brush because of its fine point and fairly firm bristles. I think the sprigs of rosemary turned out the best in this one, and the little pile of salt is so darn cute.

I’d definitely like to do more projects like this!

illustrated recipe - Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Tools

Links

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - hatched driving moc

Sketchbooks: Drawing the Everyday class

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.

Assignments

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

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - blind contour hand drawing

For a blind contour drawing, you follow the edges of the subject with your eyes and your drawing hand follows — without looking at your paper while you draw

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.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - birds eye point of view

bird’s-eye view (where you see the tops of an item than the side)

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - traditional point of view

traditional (below or at eye level, where see a bit of tops and sides of items)

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - eye level point of view

eye level (straight-on, where round surfaces become very foreshortened and squished)

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.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - hatched paint box

My watercolor box, with different hatching values — the shadow was a big mistake! Looked better without it

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - hatched driving moc

I took my time with this driving moc drawing, and it paid off — I’m really happy with the values and shaping

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - hatching soap dispenser

With this soap dispenser, I practiced going darker with my shadow values to allow the actual white parts to remain white

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.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - value study

There’s work to be done with my rendering of the foreshortened ellipses and cylinders

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.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - figure sketching

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - figure sketching 2

As additional practice for sketching people, I found a photo online and made a watercolor sketch version of it in my book:

watercolor sketch from vintage photograph

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.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - final project thumbnail sketches

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.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - final watercolor sketch

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.

LINKS

TOOLS & SUPPLIES