Rocamador painted and a finished print

Rocamador, France Early morning, Black Madonna Chapel Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith Watercolours

As I was painting this I was thinking that I would have been happier to have done the painting after the pencil sketch. I find using ink frustrating since my sketches end up looking cartoon-ish and that is not what I want. I may actually go back and do that when I’ve finished my 30 sketches challenge.

Aside from that, there was huge learning in painting this. I’ll tell you that I didn’t indicate that each facade is large limestone brick since my focus initially was how on earth to get that warm almost yellow light, how to do the shadows, the cliffs did me in, and then there was that darn mossy wall on the right.

I’m calling this a miss, aside from the learning, and I’ll write more about that as I look more carefully at the picture.

In the meantime, here is a finished print of a part of the Hermitage that I made with my 4×5 view camera. Using the view camera allowed me to correct for paralax. I printed the negative down ie allowing for deep blacks to emphasize both the physical and spiritual weight of Rocamador.

4x5 Print of Rocamador, France. Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)Copyright Patricia Langer.

Rocamador, France; Chapel of the Black Madonna

Rocamador, France Black Madonna Chapel Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Platinum Carbon pen

I have left the tape on this ink sketch of Rocamadour because I will paint it tomorrow. I drew the sketch in pencil first, then went over it in ink. It is copied from a photo. I have a finished black and white print that I would love to show you but it is just too large for my scanner. The purpose of the sketch was to give me the opportunity to practice perspective and proportion. The slight curve in the top left corner is there because Rocamador is carved out of the limestone of the gorge it overhangs. It is actually carved into the cliff!

I have photographed here several times and it truly is a special place. The chapel at the top of the staircase houses a Black Madonna brought there in the early 1100’s. The first miracles were recorded in 1172. Draping the chapel are the chains, ankle and wrist irons removed and left there by freed prisoners who crawled on their hands and knees to receive healing and spiritual pardon.

As I sketched this I began to recall or rather experience a strong kinesthetic sense of the place – the smells and sounds, the warm air of a South of France afternoon and cold night winds that came up from the gorge, the meals we ate, the fragrance of burning candles in the chapel and the bells of the hermitage.  I suspect this is particular to sketching. I have worked for many hours in the darkroom with the negatives I exposed at Rocamadour, framed and prepared for exhibit several, and yet I don’t recall such a full sense of being there. Even as I shuffle through a stack of contact sheets, there is nothing. Yet just looking at this tiny sketch I am drawn back to the day I was privileged to have access to a locked chapel at the top of a turret dedicated to Michael the Archangel. I recall the excitement, the tentative and cautious climb up worn stone steps in dim light, the hush, the awe of being in a prayer chapel used by monks at the Hermitage for at least 1,000 years.

I’m looking forward to giving paint to this sketch tomorrow, already wondering what in my palette will suit.

Breakfast Pears

Breakfast Pears Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith Watercolours

With yesterday’s aloe vera I worked wet in dry so that I could practice layering a bit. After doing a light pencil sketch of the pears I soaked them with water being careful to leave the area around the stems dry. The green pear has an under layering of lemon yellow ( I did end up having some Sennelier) then sap green, and palette mud that consisted of a soup of greens. I dropped in some Potter’s Pink in the red area and then deepened it with Perylene Maroon.

The yellow pear has an initial wash of lemon yellow, then Mayan yellow and then Burnt Tiger’s Eye Genuine for the brown. I had also dropped a bit of the Tiger’s Eye into the green pear.

The shadow areas are, yes, palette mud. But I do know there is some Cerulean Blue Chromium in it since I’ve been playing with it lately to mix grey.

I really enjoyed wet in wet and felt much less frustrated than yesterday.

Sketch One in the Hahnemuhle

If you read my previous post you’ll remember that I have begun a personal challenge of 30 sketches in one sketchbook, in this case the Hahnemuhle. Here is today’s sketch.

                                              THE OLD ALOE VERA

The Old Aloe Vera Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)

The winter sun was streaming in gloriously over the aloe this morning. It was what enticed me to sketch it. But I had barely finished the pencil sketch when a dense blanket of winter grey swallowed the light. I lost the shadows on the plant and with them the wonderful curves and depth disappeared. So I did my best to recall, but didn’t get there. In retrospect I should have turned on a lamp and gone with artificial light.

I need practice with my greens. I don’t have lemon yellow on my palette because in Central Ontario when am I going to use it other that on a sweltering summer day when I might actually be sketching lemons? Okay … there are many more uses of lemons and lemon yellow. i.e. …. green.

THE 30 SKETCH CHALLENGE: Book 1 Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book

Since deciding that I needed to grow out of the Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook, I have been testing 3 sketchbooks: the Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book, the Global Arts Watercolour Handbook, and the traditional Moleskine.

The Hahnemuhle is not easily available here in Canada, both the Global Arts and Moleskine are. Since the Hahnemuhle has been looking a little precious to me because it is of such obvious quality, I’ve been somewhat intimidated about using it(translate- didn’t want to muck it up with my beginner sketches). So I decided to dive into it first.

Here is why I have given myself this challenge: I will only learn the qualities and challenges of a sketchbook if I use it consistently over time. It is also the only way I will be able to get a feel for the book and know it is ‘mine’.

Here is what I need in a sketchbook:

1. It needs to be light weight but not small. 5×8 or 6×9 is the perfect size for me so far.

2. The ability to work on both sides of the page without shadowing.

3. It must be able to take more than a light wash and not dry up   instantly.

4. Priced reasonably enough so that I can use it daily and not break the bank. (Alpha scores big here)

5. Lots of pages. (Love my Alpha for this)

6. Available in Canada. ( Yay Stillman and Birn!)

7. Have some texture.

I know … basically what I’m asking for is watercolour paper bound in a sketchbook at sketchbook prices!

Now that I’ve listed those things they go on the back burner until I’ve finished this challenge. The upside is that I will be sketching regularly, planning to do 30 sketches within 40 days. I need discipline in this area since it so easy for me to be distracted by what presents itself as more important. And, I’m lazy. The other upside is that given the attention, my sketching and use of watercolour will improve.

Feel free to join me in this. I would be happy to hear from you if you do!

January Sketches 2018

                                             HOLDING AN ORANGE

Orange in Hand and on plate Alpha 5x9 S&B From Jan 2018Stillman and Birn  Alpha 6×9

I filled my first Alpha sketchbook in November and although I had intended to not start another, I found myself missing the familiarity of it. I was playing with making orange and sketching my hand. I used Buff Titanium and Potter’s Pink  on the hand which looks terribly lifeless.

                                              ORANGE PEELS

Orange peels Alpha 5x9 S&B From Jan 2018Stillman and Birns  Alpha 6×9

The orange peels and the orange in the first sketch were mixed from Daniel Smith Transparent Pyrrol Orange and New Gamboge.



Clementine orange Hahnemuhle watercolour bookHahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith watercolour

I had the Hahnemuhle a few weeks before I started using it. It felt too good to use at my level of skill. Finally I dove in. I’m discovering that I treat my sketches differently using the Hahnemuhle and I’m loving that I can layer in it.

                                            THE POTTERY SHED

The Pottery shed Hahnemuhle watercolour bookHahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith watercolour

There is so much to learn about painting snow, and I suppose the good news is, I have the rest of the winter to practice!





November and December 2017 sketches

                                                         LEAF TEMPEST

Leaf Tempest on Hwy 27 (used masking fluid on leaves) Alpha S&BStillman and Birn Alpha, Daniel Smith watercolours

Driving home from town on a blustery November day I was delighted by the golden leaves dancing and swirling through the air in this leaf tempest. I wondered how I could sketch this scene so that the leaves could be painted free of any background wash and I knew I wouldn’t be able to skillfully  paint around them. I needed to protect the white paper within the leave shapes I had sketched out.

This meant using masking fluid, but would it rip up the paper in my Alpha skethcbook? I decided to jump in and give it a go, masking the leaves, the white lines in the road, the fence posts and the rocks at the base of the tree.

                              STRANGE SKY ON THE 10th LINE

Strange sky on the 10th Line Moleskine watercolour bookMoleskine Watercolour Journal, Daniel Smith watercolours

Driving the side roads around my town provides opportunity for great views of expansive skies. My goal was to work loosely and to use colour well.

                              ICE CREAM SHOP IN THORNTON

Ice Cream shop in Thornton Hahnemuhle watercolour bookHahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith watercolours

This was a much tighter sketch than I’ve been doing and my first effort in my new Hahnemuhle sketchbook. I was excited to try this book and ordered it based on a review Mary Owings of Owingsart did on his YouTube channel.


                          ICE FISHERMAN ON LAKE SIMCOE

Ice Fisheerman Lake Simcoe Hahnemuhle watercolour bookHahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith watercolour

I have made this sketch before in my Alpha and written about it in an earlier post. I repeated it because I wanted to increase the contrast and make the day appear brighter. And of course, I wanted to correct the perspective on the ice hut.

                           THE HOUSE DOWN THE HILL IN WINTER

South Window house Hahnemuhle watercolour bookHahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith watercolours

The view down the hill from my south window is beautiful on a sunny, snow draped day. I’m finding I’m more willing to use colour freely in the Hahnemuhle and Moleskin. I’m excited to learn how to paint snow.



October 2017 Watercolour sketches


             Dont Paing from your imagination in Alpha S&B

I often use my Alpha sketchbook to make notes of what I’m learning, where I’m stuck and I will often jot down things that the YouTube painters and sketchers  whom I respect offer as useful direction.

Steve Mitchell from the YouTube channel, The Mind of Watercolour gave some advise about how to improve. When he said “Don’t sketch out of your imagination.”, I wrote it down because I see so many sketchers doing just that. Steve suggested we gather resources and select among them to put together our composition.

So of course I had to learn that for myself, and thus the mess above! The house and hills were more from memory of the landscape surrounding my town but the tree was straight out of my head. I can only apologize.

                                                     ALONG A SIDE ROAD

Fall landscape from memory in Alpha S&BStillman and Birn Alpha

I’m still wanting to keep it loose so that I’ll be inclined to play more with colour, although I must say I really want to sketch more realistically.

                                    TREE ON THE SOUTH LAWN

Tree on the south lawn in Alpha S&BStillman and Birn Alpha 6×9

This wonderful old tree stands next to a grand fir. I focused on just this tree since it’s canopy was still so full and it’s bark so warm in late October.

                                                     RENE LE CHATEAU

Rene le Chateau Tour de Magdala Alpha S&BStillman and Birn Alpha 6×9

This is from a photo from a time when I led pilgrimages to France and Greece. I am really pleased with this pen and wash rendering because I finally got perspective and even managed a little shading!

                                        THE HOUSE ACROSS THE ROAD

The House across rhe street Alpha S&BStillman and Birn Alpha 6×9

The house is large and visually complex, and truthfully the tree interests me more. I used the house here just as a frame for the tree.


                                                       LUNCH AT WILLIAM’S CAFE

Lunch at William's Alpha S&BStillman and Birn Alpha 6×9

There are only a few pages left in this sketchbook which has become a comfortable place to live and play. Naturally I’ve been thinking about my next sketchbook and this leads to questions  about what my needs are as a novice watercolour sketcher – questions about paper quality, ease of use, best opportunity for learning, and so on.

Avoid and maintain, I always say! So off I went to William’s for lunch with a mystery novel and my sweet Alpha in tow.


September and October 2017 sketches

In mid to late September my part of Ontario experienced an intense heatwave. During this time I had been keeping an eye on a large field of pumpkins, waiting for just the right time to watercolour sketch them. I was hoping for a bright sky filled with lush clouds.  Just that sort of day arrived, yet soon after arriving at the field I packed up and retreated home. It was 104F with a hot and high wind blowing.

I managed a few photos of the field and made the following paintings at home using various sketchbooks. I’m testing a few, looking for ‘my sketchbook’.

Pumkin Field along Hwy 27Stillman and Birn Alpha 6×9

Pumpkin field on Hwy 27 Global watercolour handboodGlobal Arts Watercolour Handbook


                                                      THE BLUE HOUSE

The Blue HOuse in Thornton againAlpha 5×9

I returned to the pancake house for that table by the window to have another go at the house. Funny how my eye fools me. I thought I had managed correct perspective this time, but clearly not.



A couple of gourds Moleskine watercolour bookA couple of gourds Moleskine watercolour book 1Moleskin Watercolour 5×8

I did a pencil sketch only before painting these, passing on the ink. The scan appears lighter that in the sketchbook, nevertheless they are still  too pale and lack richness.

Two Gourdes in Alpha S&BStillman and Birn Alpha 5×9

These were straight to paint if I remember correctly.



August and September 2017 Sketches

For various reasons that I won’t go into here, there was a huge pause in my sketching from April to August and I really missed it. I started back at with with a ‘sketch anything’ attitude and moved out from there. What follows is some of that.

Make up BrushesI was encouraged to begin sketching again with the purchase of Perylene Green from Daniel Smith and with a ‘sketch anything’ attitude I took some make up accessories out to the sun porch and immersed myself.

House down the hill in summerLooking out my south window and down the hill a bit, this gray house and the steep hill behind it fill the view. There is so much information in the view – the house, its dimensions and perspective; the treeline in the distance and the enormous trees beside it that shield the road and the foliage clustered around the sides and back of the house. I wanted to keep all the greenery loose and let the house be more accurate. I’ll come back to this view again since it is quite a teacher for me, especially around dropping perfectionism.

Blue house in ThorntonOne of the challenges of sketching for me is doing it in public, but I’m determined to get comfortable with it since there is so much to be gained. This house is kitty-corner to a pancake house in town. I decided to sketch it over a light lunch. This is also in my Alpha. I have to say, I had a great time. The waitresses were interested in what I was doing so we had some fun conversations. This was my first time in this restaurant and patrons who live in town and are regulars came over to chat. A woman who does wood burning introduced herself and showed me photos of her art – impressive!

Blue house in Thornton 1This is entirely about the boat. I had been practicing boat shapes since I very much want to sketch the marina in Barrie. This was also another plein air adventure and some of the learning was in the practicalities of a manageable sketching kit and something to sit on. Of course the refinements will be ongoing and seasonal. Now remember … this was just about the boat, the rest is just, well , the rest.

The following two sketches are of the view from my back porch. The first I did in a Moleskine 5×8 and the second is in the Stillman and Birn Alpha.

View from the back porch Moleskine watercolour book Trees behind the yard

And to round out this post, here is Castor peering out the porch screen, waiting for the occasional chipmunk or red squirrel to enter the scene I’ve been sketching.

Castor Saturday in the porch