Join Me in Italy Next May!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Want to come back from your travels with a sketchbook full of memories? In this dynamic 4-day Urban Sketchers workshop co-hosted by La Romita School of Art, you’ll learn techniques for quickly capturing scenes in ink & watercolor as you explore Umbria, Italy. You’ll use gestural line to sketch the essence of fleeting moments, whether it’s people at a cafe in the piazza or clouds over a sweeping landscape. Then you’ll add vibrant color to bring your drawings to life.

Each day will bring new places and subjects to inspire and challenge you: markets, ruins, even vineyards. There will be a mix of demos, exercises, and individual instruction in each location. You’ll come away energized and excited to draw!

Participants will learn to:

  • Choose and frame a subject, using compositional principles
  • Simplify architecture and people using gestural, dynamic line
  • Use appropriate marks for both close-up as well as wide-angle scenes
  • Tailor their sketches to the place, using a localized palette of colors and textures
  • Add color to their sketches with loose washes, not bound by the lines drawn.
  • Selectively “break the rules” of color, tools, and paper to get a fresh perspective
  • Create a visual narrative of their travels
All you have to do is get yourself to Rome; everything else is taken care of! Learn about dining and accommodations at La Romita School.

Workshop details

Day 1

  • Arrival and orientation
  • Transfer from Rome to workshop location
  • Showcase and intro to the workshop
  • Survey of sketchbooking styles - words, pictures, collage, textures

Day 2
Outdoor Sketching Basics

Morning [San Gemini or nearby]

  • Warm up, getting loose
  • Choosing a subject
  • Principles of composition
  • Close ups, wide angles

Afternoon [Studio]

Techniques for proportion, angles, and perspective
Measuring and capturing proportional elements and angles

Day 3
Gesture, Place, and Values

Morning [Todi or nearby]

  • Using gesture for suggestion: buildings, people
  • Localizing your sketch - textures, unique features
  • Simplified scenes, a sense of place

Afternoon [Studio]

  • Simplifying values
  • Focus on light and shadow
  • Ink and wash value sketches; coloring sketches

Day 4
Paint the rainbow

Morning: [Montefalco or nearby]

  • What color is that? Seeing color in a beige world
  • Pushing colors to extremes
  • Complementary colors and how to use them for vibrant scenes
  • Compositions using contrast and vibrant colors

Afternoon: [Studio]

  • Explore options for limited color schemes
  • Using different 3- or 4-color palettes

Day 5
Day trip [Assisi or nearby]

  • Putting all the elements together
  • Creating a narrative and adding notes
  • Series of sketches to tell a story of a place
  • Use a sketch as template for “breaking rules”
  • Sketching scavenger hunt

Day 6
Departure - Transfer to Rome for travel home


Minimum 10 participants. Beginners welcome. Scholarships available; please inquire when you register.

Fee: $2,100. Includes all instruction, airport transfers from/to Rome, dining & accommodations. Pay in full by 30 November 2019 to get 10% off the workshop price. Register for the workshop >>

East Coast

From City to Beach

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Traveled to New York for a work conference the week before Labor Day, so I got in a few sketches before breakfast/between meetings:

190828 New York City 2

190828 New York City 1

Spent the long weekend in Mystic, CT, with family. Just as we did last year, we spent a morning watching the waves roll in at Misquamicut Beach in Rhode Island. (And cooling off with a Del's frozen lemonade, naturally.)

190831 Misquamicut Beach RI 1

190831 Misquamicut Beach RI 2


Recap: Sketching Techniques

Sunday, September 08, 2019

My workshop last month -- Sketching Techniques: Layer It On! at Arch Supplies in San Francisco -- combined outdoor sketching with indoor exercises. It was great to see everyone's exploration of mixed media, including layered watercolor and colored pencil.

Here's a peek at some of the demo sketches.

Thanks to everyone who joined!

Sunday drive

Hiking at Big Sur

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Woke up a few Sundays ago craving a leisurely pre-birthday weekend drive, a hike, a swimming hole. Big Sur River Gorge, accessed through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, checked all the boxes, plus rock scrambling and wading, to boot. How had I not known about this??

190818 Big Sur River Gorge

But we didn't stop there. The one-mile hike to the beach at Andrew Molera State Park gave us this view, below. In the sky, gulls and swooping pelicans. On the sand, just a smattering of people and several driftwood beach shelters. Bliss.

190818 Andrew Molera State Park Beach

local colors

Playing with Inks

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Last month I took a workshop with Judi Pettite called "Wild Ink" at the knit/sew/dye boutique A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland. We learned all about the process for turning materials such as indigo, buckthorn, black walnut, and eucalyptus bark into saturated inks.

I've been thinking a lot about creating a sense of place in a drawing through the palette of colors used, and it's even more interesting to consider local plants as a source of those pigments.

We had fun testing and playing with the various inks, and got to take six bottles home.