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Monday, June 3, 2019

Santa Maria Church and Toned Papers

Photos can’t captured the emotion of a scene the same way a sketch can. I imagine some photographers might disagree…that’s okay.  When I sketch on location the scene and events of the day remain with me…weeks, months, years. The image is burned into my heart and mind. I carry it with me all my days.

Recently I wrote, It's the People, Not the Place. It was my experience while sketching Santa Maria Church in Siena, Italy. The memory is still fresh. I originally sketched the image with ink and wrote about the day in my sketchbook. Since I returned home I’ve sketched the scene many times. I used my reference photo, original sketch and emotional experience to guide me. Each time I do the sketch a little differently. Either I use a different sketchbook paper, pen, paint… Why? It keeps my mind, eye and hand fresh. Eventually I plan to do a full sized painting. But for now I want to explore ideas.

Small Sketch Set-Up
Palette: Sketchers Box, by Winsor Newton (Cotman Paints).  I removed the student grade Cotman paints and filled with tube colors. My paints are predominately Daniel Smith Watercolors with a few exceptions (noted on palette diagram).

Brushes: DaVinci travel brushes 6 and 8 rounds

Pencil & Eraser

White Marker: Faber-Castell Pitt, White

Collapsible Water Bowl (Sea to Summit)

Sketchbook: Stillman and Birn, 10x8”, Nova Series. I love the warm tone of the Nova paper…the warm color of Siena!

WARM Toned Paper
The dramatic light was what drew me to the scene from the start. I drew the design with pencil. When it came time to paint I simplified the scene by putting the buildings on both sides of the street in shadow and I added the people in silhouette. The darks are Lunar Black. I added a few accents on the building with Burnt Sienna. I used the Faber-Castell, Pitt, White marker to add highlights on the building. I attempted to use the white marker in the sky but didn’t like how it looked (upper right hand corner) and quickly moved into Cobalt Blue to soften the marker and complete the sky. The paper handled light washes of watercolor nicely.

Next I sketched the scene on a cool gray paper. I used Mi-Teintes
COOL Toned Paper
 paper. The image is drawn with a pen (waterproof ink). The people in the scene are more prominent. The man and woman on the right walking arm in arm. A tribute to the woman I met that day in Siena.  They will remain together forever in my sketch. As you can see the cool gray paper effects the transparent watercolors and the sketch has a different feeling. I used White Gouache with Cobalt Blue in the sky. For the lights on the building the Faber-Castell Pitt White marker.  I really like the look of a toned surface with watercolor. The paper will warp a little, I don't mind.

I’m heading to Belgium this week.  I’ll keep my eyes (and heart) open to new experiences. 
Next year I'm teaching a workshop in the South West region of France. You can learn more here, French Escapade.

I leave you with a favorite quote. It speaks to my heart and mind of how I feel when I am sketching and exploring my world. 

The Sketch Hunter 
"The sketch hunter moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook.” ~Robert Henri

Happy Sketching!


  1. I like both sketches, but my favourite is the one on the grey paper with the figures given more prominence.

    1. Sonia, Thank you for the feedback. I agree the people add a lot of the sketch.

  2. Nice article as well as whole site.Thanks.