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
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.
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.
- Uniball Vision Fine black ink pen
- watercolor brush
- Pentel Aquash Water Brush
- stencil brush (for splatter)
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.
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
Another fantastic class from Ana Victoria Calderón. Her Watercolor Textures class on Skillshare introduced me to painting textures and patterns with watercolor, something that hadn’t occurred to me before.
She demonstrates how to get started making texture swatches and choosing a color palette before moving on to a final project. The texture stage was addicting for me! I kept discovering new things to paint that might work with the concept I had in mind — a scene from the Redwood Forest where we had our summer vacation.
Once I had some ideas sketched out, I started painting my swatches. It was a lot of fun to pay with different strokes and colors. For this project I liked the more organic textures. Some of the others turned out too stiff or structured.
Before sketching my idea onto watercolor paper, I did some thumbnails in my sketchbook. The large sketch was close, but the main focus (the owl) was too centered. The upper right sketch was my final version.
My color palette of primarily neutrals:
My final project took so long for me to complete! I actually enjoyed the process of painting the texture swatches more than the final artwork.
With this project, I started to see that I like the process part of art more than the final artwork itself. Which was a little frustrating…until I discovered art journaling and urban sketching! Since I’m not interested in hangable “fine art”, embracing my sketchbook as my playground is a relief.