I just came back from a 12 days watercolor workshop with Marc Taro Holmes and it was a blast!! 😀
Non stop sketching, impressive demos, adorable fellow sketchers, sketching talks, good food (I had never eaten so much fish in my life, before!! 😁), lovely and amazing places in Portugal… what an awesome adventure!
Moreover, meeting Marc and benefitting from his advices were way more than the icing on the cake (or the fish?! 😂), of course! 😀 If you don’t already follow Marc’s blog, please visit it at citizensketcher.com.
I am going to share my sketches and my travel journal pages through several articles. I will try to evoke my learnings and to give you some advices for your own travel (or day to day) sketches too.
This first article is about sketching wide views. 😊
I tend to usually sketch details and parts of subjects. As I sketch straight with the brush, I need a starting point and it often makes me focus strongly on ONE subject, juste adding a few things around it. 😉 For sure, working from a strong point of interest is a good approach but it makes me forget, sometimes, to tackle wider views (and I probably don’t always feel confident to make such ambitious paintings!…).
That’s true that we need a bit more time to make these kind of sketches, too. 😉
So, one of the many learnings, from this time spent with Marc Taro Holmes, results from my surprise to see him envision to sketch all the panorama in front of us (the see, with dozens of boats, the landscape, with dozens of roofs, the sky… All in one shot!….) or some urban settings with no less than 2 churches, a porch, a statue and all the city around!! 😱😅
It was, at last, amazing to watch him sketching such difficult and detailed subjects of course.
Sometimes, I felt that a “too wide view” would make me using only little fiddling brushstrokes and I didn’t want that so I shortened a bit the scene to sketch. 😉 That was the case for the page below. If Marc shares his own sketch (I did! Here is a link), you’ll see that there was a statue on the right and that the urban setting keep going forever, on each side, obviously!! 😅 I admit that this part of the view was enough for me. 😉
However, with these already ambitious sketches, for me (good practice!), I am pretty sure I will be more at ease, now, to simplify wide views and to give a sense of depth and width to my paintings. 😀
Sketching these wide views in your travel journal or your day to day sketchbook is great because it gives a great sense of the place, right away. Then, you can add some vignettes and details sketches (we will talk about them in another article) but, at least… you know where you are! 😜
To create these wide view sketches, I used various strategies. For some of them, I made a pencil drawing first, like Marc, to organize the page, set the composition, and be sure all the wanted elements could fit in the page. 😬 Sometimes, just a few landmarks with pencil helped me to do that.
And for some sketches, I jumped straight with the brush as I usually do, trying to keep in mind all the main elements, and adding them one by one. For this sketch, below, for example (the top one, with the church), I started by painting all the orange roofs – they seemed to be good landmarks for me – then I kept going with the other elements.
At the end, I was able to sketch this urban scene,below, starting by the violinist girl (she left soon, indeed, so it was a good idea to draw her first) and growing the sketch as I was going, to build the environment nearby, even this ugly 😅 impressive bright green house covered with tiles. Praça Luis de Camões, Lagos. Portugal. The green house.
For a landscape, it’s more common to paint a large scene but I am not sure I was used to associate several elements in one big sketch, previously, like in this agave + seescape + rock painting.
Prainha, Alvor. Portugal.
I often use this kind of framing for wide angle photography and I am happy that this approach can inspire some of my sketches too, now! ☺️
I think some advices for your own sketchbook or travel journal could be :
- Change your approach and your scale! Alternate wide views and details sketches but don’t forger the “setting shot”, if you have enough time to do it!
- Try to find which proportions are needed to fit all the subjects you want in the page. The width of the page will probably be your limit. See if it can be a good idea to divide the page in two panoramic areas to get longer sketches. The other area can be used for another sketch (as I did for the castle sketch, above) or for text and lettering adds, or ephemera collage etc.
- If your paper or sketchbook doesn’t seem wide enough for your sketch, put two sheets of paper side by side (like Marc Taro Holmes often does), paste an extra sheet to your sketchbook or even keep going on the other side of the page (but that’s more difficult to do that with wet watercolor 😉 ) !
- Don’t forget to define what is your main focus, with perhaps one or two other points of interest. And do not put these important subjects in the middle of the sketch. 😉 One important element on each side (but not too close of the edge) can be nice. Three subjects, with a sort of triangular setting can create a great design too.
- Start by sketching a few landmarks or big shapes (with pencil, ink, or straight with the brush) that will help you to know where you are in the sketch (oh, I can hear Kimberley saying “I am totally lost in my sketch!!” 😂 ). However, I doesn’t matter if one house can’t fit between the church and the tree, in the background! You won’t even remember it when you will have finished your sketch!
Do you have some tips about tackling wide views to enhance our sketchbooks, too? Feel free to share it, my fellow workshop sketchers companions and my fellow 5 readers 😂 (Pernille?! 😜)!
I hope that my pages will inspire you and that you will find these few tips useful!
In my upcoming articles, I will share other types of sketches (some very different : really rushed, quick fast and furious sketches!!). We could talk about lettering, too, if you want, or other fascinating topics like that… 😝 😉
Take care, and sketch!! 🎨