March 6, 2021

Sketch of Bourdeilles, done virtually 2/28/2021 (watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencils on watercolor paper)

This is one of three sketches we did on our recent virtual sketching trip to France—le deuxieme. For our previous excursion there, la premiere, we explored the Fleurs d’Ajonc (Gorse Flower) festival in Pont Aven (see February 27, 2021 post). Our hosts for that first and memorable trip had specifically gone to that part of Brittany to sketch the people who participated in the festival, with emphasis on seeing and sketching the women’s very elaborate costumes. If you have looked as last week’s post you may have noticed some pretty extreme head gear. But for last Sunday’s trip to Southwestern France our host shared with us that she and her husband had not gone there to see what the local folks liked to wear 100 years ago, but for cheese tasting. They traveled from town to town, tasting regional fromage as they went. She shared photos of some of the cheeses they sampled, as well as hams and other regional foods. Not sure I would have enjoyed sketching a stall of hams hanging about as much as I liked sketching this scene in Bourdeilles. When I first glanced at these structures I planned to do a finished outline sketch with some “heavy handed” graphite and then use only watercolor with my 1/2 inch squared off Stroke brush. However, it just didn’t go as planned and the graphite pencil didn’t give me the outlines I wanted. So, I grabbed my Prismacolor colored pencils and added some French grey lines, indigo blue and a couple other colors. Once I had taken care of that I was in a much happier state of mind and especially enjoyed adding the final apple green Prismacolor to the grapes that flanked the walk up to the front door. Of course, as this is France, the grapes grown there are harvested each year and turned into wine. OMG, that’s definitely a French and CA way to think and live—wine to go with fabulous regional cheese! I was now lost in some kind of dreamland, deciding the shrubs to right of the grapes were French lavender. I love the smell of lavender and have been known to spray my pillow cases with lavender essence. I was now imagining a friendly afternoon of pairing various wines with cheeses. Then it would be time for a lovely nap—a nosh and nap (or romantic romp)—on scented linen. It doesn’t really get any better than that. 

Sketch of Hotel Coligny, Brantome, Dordogne, done virtually 2/28/2021 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

It’s funny, but for all the hard times I seemed to have with my first sketch, this one went more easily and was way more satisfying to do. It was like spreading a soft cheese on a piece of crusty bread, not at all like trying to spread butter just out of the frig on a graham cracker. My artist friends have often commented that when doing these quick sketches, the first one you do feels like a warm up. And all the sketches that follow are somehow better, with less doubt about the sometimes split second decisions we are making in the moment, as we look at something and choose materials to represent that something we have conjured up in our brains. It’s like the muscle memory needs to get activated so it can go on autopilot and the brain is freed up to think of composition, materials, color or not color, and the final knowing when it’s time to stop. I think I’m in agreement with the idea. I need a warm up before I can enjoy sketching something. Anyway, I enjoyed the process of capturing this little hotel. When I first looked at it I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And that meant nestling the charming white structure with terra cotta roof directly into the background of the dark green blob of trees and shrubbery. Then, to put it further in its place, and make it interesting, I knew I wanted to add the buildings reflection in the slowly moving river. Somehow I knew that if I could get that right I would relax and be satisfied with the results. So, I limited my materials to just watercolor and Inktense pencils. And I finished what I set out to do in 20 minutes or so. I found I had time to work more on the bridge and attend to the awnings etc in the front of the building. I don’t remember our host telling us of some great cheeses they sampled there. I mean, she may have, but I think the minute she shared this picture I began planning and sketching, even before the official 30 minute timer was set. The whole experience was very satisfying. 

Sketch of Brantome, Dordogne, done virtually 2/28/2021 (POSCA markers, Inktense pencils, black ink on watercolor paper)

Several of the members commented on the lovely light colors for this one. The trip host said she thinks she’d put a filter on her camera to create a different feeling of light. One of the group leaders said she thought it made it look like it was a warm summer day. With that single comment I knew what I wanted to do. I got out a non-water soluble black ink pen, POSCA markers, and a couple Inktense pencils. I wanted to somehow capture light waves that were moving all around this bright village scene. I started the sketch using my black pen and captured the scene you see in one long continuous line. Then I added wavy POSCA pen lines to reinforce the idea of normally invisible light wavelengths that appeared to bounce off the stone walls, terra cotta roofs, road and of course the blue sky. Finally, I scribbled in some bright fields of Inktense pencil–yellow, blue, green and orange. I think we all had a great time in Southwest France even though we didn’t get to taste one bit of cheese. And I think I heard that our next virtual trip would be to Maine. Stay tuned!

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