It’s been a year since I took the opportunity to do a watercolor sketch live and not from a photo. I tend to do these sketches while traveling away from home. Ellen and I just returned from celebrating her birthday in East Boothbay, Maine. We were there for only a few days but I was determined to do some sketching. The first sketch was done at Cozy Harbor on Southport Island near Boothbay Harbor. The fishing hut was just perfect for sketching and very picturesque with the yellow lobster traps on either side. It was a HOT day, around 90 degrees and I was in full sun so I worked rather quickly and didn’t realize that the sketch pad was on a slight angle. I kind of like the tilt. It’s like something Cézanne might do (only he would have done it on purpose)!

I did the second sketch later the same day from the porch of Five Gables Inn where we were staying in East Boothbay, ME. The house across the way, partially hidden with shrubbery and overlooking the inlet, caught my eye. It was much more comfortable drawing there. The porch was covered and I had a very convenient table available to put my paints, brushes and sketchbook on. I really liked the deep burgundy colored tree on the left behind the house. It made a nice contrast to the greens of the shrubbery and distant trees across the bay.

Both were drawn with two Micron pens (#3 and #5). Two brushes were used for the watercoloring, a 3/4 inch flat from American Journey and a #8 round DaVinci Casaneo. The sketches were done in an 8 1/4 inch square Hand Book Travelogue sketchbook.

From the Footbridge

I tend to do most of my urban sketching when we travel. Since the pandemic makes it hard to go very far, I decided to look at photos from past trips for inspiration. In June of last year we went to Ogungquit, Maine to be by the water and enjoy a short getaway. One of the photos I took was of a small snack bar and surrounding buildings near the footbridge in Perkins Cove. Using that as a reference, I did this drawing with a #3 Micron Pen and watercolors using a 3/4 inch flat and a #8 round travel brush. It was done in a 5″ x 8″ Pentalic watercolor journal.

Île d’Orléans, Quebec

Ellen and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on beautiful Île d’Orléans situated in the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City. On the island there are six farming communities. They produce everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to wonderful preserves, wines and hand crafted items. We spent six days on the island with one day in Quebec City and explored all of the individual farming communities, visiting wineries, craft shops and art galleries. Delicious meals at the island’s excellent restaurants were also very much enjoyed.

Farming and food production along with tourism are the main occupations on the island.

The last “urban sketches” I posted were done back in June of this year. I had hoped to do more in the intervening time but have been preoccupied with my iPad and Procreate app as well as life drawing. I finally had a good opportunity and the motivation to do some sketching while we were on Île d’Orléans.

pen & ink and watercolor sketch of farm fields on Île d’Orléans
pen & ink with watercolor sketch of an interesting shed on the island

Sketching in Ogunquit

We celebrated Ellen’s birthday by taking a few days to visit Ogunquit, ME and enjoy the ocean along with some great seafood. The local community has developed a wonderful walkway along the rocky coast between the town center at one end and Perkins Cove at the other. Called the Marginal Way, it rises above the coast and provides delightful views out towards the ocean and the rocks below. It was a bright sunny day so we stopped at one of the many benches along the trail (one of the few that was in shade). We sat down and I did a sketch of the rocks and tide pool below. It was just a quick half hour drawing but I think it captured some of the feeling of that open view.

Rocks and tide pool below The Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine (painted in 5″ x 8″ Pentalic watercolor journal)

The next day we drove down to Cape Neddick where the Nubble Light is located. From a massive stone outcrop you see the buildings of the light station located on a small island just across a narrow stretch of water. We were there in the morning and, looking East the buildings were mostly in shadow. The sun was bright and the sky clear making for good viewing. I spent about 45 minutes on the sketch.

The Nubble Light (painted in 5″ x 8″ Pentalic watercolor journal)

Farewell Provence and Le Mas D’Hermès

Our final days in Provence were spent at the spacious and beautiful B & B called Le Mas D’Hermès in the village of Plan D’Orgon. There aren’t enough superlatives to properly describe this wonderful place to stay. The charming stone farmhouse dates to the 1890’s and has been lovingly and comfortably refurbished with three rooms for guests. The grounds are spacious and have an abundance of varied trees and gardens. The provided breakfasts are always varied and plentiful with homemade baked goods and fresh local fruits.

But the most important attribute is the supremely gracious hostess and owner, Emmanuelle Housseau. She not only speaks fluent English but goes to extremes to make her guests feel at home and to provide any needed assistance. We came as strangers and left feeling like family. On our last day, we just stayed on the premises and enjoyed the surroundings and hospitality. I was able to do two drawings while we were there and, in thanks for her hospitality, I gave one of them to Emmanuelle.


Back to St. Rémy

While we were still in Provence staying at Le Mas D’Hermès we spent one day returning to St. Rémy. While I was drawing with the sketching group the previous week, Ellen had a chance to see some of the town on her own and wanted me to have a chance to see it as well so we went to the weekly market. I also had a chance to take a second look at the monastery of St. Paul de Mausole where Van Gogh had been. The market in St. Rémy was filled with all kinds of local produce, cheeses, sausages, and crafts as well. Here is a sampling from that busy and crowded event.

When the sketchers were at the monastery of St. Paul de Mausole we concentrated on only a couple of locales and I didn’t get to see Van Gogh’s room or some of the other areas on the grounds. On this second visit, we had time to explore the area more fully.

Staying in Provence

Shari Blaukopf’s sketching workshop was over but before leaving the Hotel du Poète in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, I did a quick 20 minute sketch in the hotel’s beautiful grounds complete with deck chairs and exotic plants.


We later met up with relatives from Germany who would join us for several more days in Provence. After spending the afternoon in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, we drove down to Le Mas D’Hermès, a wonderful farm B & B in the town of Plan d’Orgon, south of Avignon. The stone farm house was built in the 1890’s and has been beautifully converted to a three-room B & B. More on this great B & B later…

Le Mas D’Hermès

The next day we travelled to the picturesque village of Venasque with it’s charming narrow passageways and ancient church dating back to the 11th century. It was a very hot day and the town is less well known so we had it practically to ourselves.

The village of Venasque

After a light lunch at Le Petit Chose overlooking the valley, we meandered through the village and I found a good subject for drawing.



Final day of sketching workshop in Provence

On the sixth and last day of Shari Blaukopf’s sketching workshop, we worked in the center of the village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. Shari did another inspiring demo sketch of the village and we students spent the morning doing our own compositions of the complex subject. There is a gigantic plane tree in the center of the village that shades the buildings that surround it. I used that as the central part of my drawing. At Shari’s suggestion to challenge ourselves and do something that we didn’t normally do, I included several people in the composition. As we worked, we could hear the river as it flowed through the village. It is an amazingly picturesque spot and all of us kept remarking that it seemed too perfect to be real. Here are the preliminary pencil drawing and the finished pen and ink drawing with watercolor.

In the afternoon, back at the hotel, Shari and a few others including myself did drawings of  a decorative arrangement of water cans that were gathered at the base of another monumental plane tree. It was fun to do a quick and loosely handled sketch after the complexity of the morning drawing.

Before dinner, we had a little exhibition of the week’s drawings for all of us to enjoy. In the evening the workshop participants shared a final dinner together at the wonderful Restaurant Philip located right on the edge of the river. The meal was amazing and the emotions of the group added to the memorable experience as we shared thoughts about the past week’s events.

The workshop was ended but not our stay in Provence. Stay tuned for more from Le Mas D’Hermès in the village of Plan D’Orgon…

In the Shadow of Van Gogh

On day five of Shari Blaukopf’s Provence sketching workshop we went to the monastery of St. Paul de Mausole in St. Rémy. This was the sanatorium where Van Gogh stayed and painted some of his last and most famous paintings including Starry Night. The day was divided between drawing the lavender garden which he could see from his room on the second floor and then, in the afternoon, the beautiful cloister in the monastery. The rows of lavender and a small building at the far end of the garden were the subject for the morning’s drawings. My first drawing was less successful than I’d hoped it would be. In looking at it now, it seems rather clichéd and not properly planned out. I looked at the small building through the divided trunk of a nearby tree and thought it would make a good composition. Unfortunately, I jumped in too quickly and didn’t really plan how to compose and execute it. Here are a reference photo and the finished drawing/painting along with a wider view of the lavender yard as several of the other students painted it.

My second painting was done nearby and featured the same subject matter but from a different angle. It was painted a bit more loosely and, although, again, not fully planned out, at least has a bit more interest for me.


After a lunch in the olive grove, we moved back into the cloister of the monastery. Shari did a beautiful demonstration painting with the stone arches and geometric shrubbery of the garden. We followed with our own interpretations of the cloister. I opted for a different more vignetted view. I’m also including the work of some of the other very talented students in the group.

More from Provence – Day 4

On our fourth day of the sketching workshop, we rose early to get to the famous market at the town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. It has been referred to as the Venice of Provence because of all the branches of the river running through the town. Here’s a montage of colorful local market products.

Though the market was a fascinating and bustling event, Shari decided on the more placid view along the river as the subject for her demo painting and for the students’ efforts to follow. I did two drawings, the first, a small one, 5″ x 8″ in a Pentalic Watercolor Journal. I enjoyed trying to get the reflections of the colorful buildings on the water’s surface. Later, I started a larger composition over two pages in an 8″ x 8″ Handbook Watercolor Journal. As is often the case, I bit off more than I could chew, trying to capture the whole view in accurate perspective and detail but not in time to complete the drawing. Having started a detailed pencil rendering of some of the buildings and being frustrated with the way they looked, I took Shari’s wise advice to start over, loosening up my approach to the subject (I had been meticulously using a straight edge to be sure of each line). I did start over and took several photos of the subject but had to finish it on my return home. I’m grateful to Shari for her suggestion to start over and her encouragement to try to finish the drawing. Here are both the small and larger drawings along with some reference photos of the scene.

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