I recently attended a fantastic workshop at the Fallbrook School of the Arts, in Fallbrook, California. It was taught by Thomas Schaller, who has long been one of my 'heroes' with regard to architectural illustration, and who for the past several years has turned his attention - and his formidable skills with pencil and brush - toward fine art watercolors. The workshop was titled "The Architecture of Light," which seemed to be right up my alley, so I was eager to participate. We spent four days together, mostly in the studio, watching Tom work and listening to his observations and thought process as he created a series of very instructive demonstrations. We followed each demo with our own attempts to incorporate his techniques.
Everything we did in the studio was from photo references, some of which I discuss in greater detail on my SketchBlog. We had just one day of reasonably nice weather, so we headed out to work on-site at The Grand Tradition Estate and Gardens, a beautiful place that seems to be primarily devoted to hosting weddings. Perhaps this doesn't technically qualify as urban sketching - it's leaning more toward rural - but it was certainly sketching on location, unlike the work done in the studio. After Tom did an on-site demo, focused more or less on representing skies and water, I tried the same subject (above). The goal was to create a clear center of focus at the gazebo by emphasizing the contrast of light and dark in this area of the image. The trees at left needed to be dark enough to create an anchoring frame to the composition, but not so dark as to compete with the focus at right. I was also trying to incorporate a wet-into-wet technique to blur the division between the sky and the trees, and was experimenting with ways to indicate the reflections in the pond. After finishing this sketch, I ventured into the semi-tropical forest in the background. Paved paths wandered among palm trees, flowers, and waterfalls, which I tried to capture in a very quick sketch in my Stillman and Birn Gamma Series sketchbook (left).
It was a wonderful week of painting and learning, and it will likely take some time to fully process all that I experienced. But many thanks go to the Fallbrook School of the Arts for hosting, and especially to Tom Schaller for being so generous with his time and advice!