Draw From History: A Sketchbook Workshop

Late spring is the most perfect time to be in historic Virginia City, Nevada. Come join Gay, Nina and me on this sketching adventure. Signups open now, details below.


Draw From History

With the Sketching Trio in Virginia City, Nevada
Suhita Shirodkar | Nina Khaschina | Gay Kraeger

June 10, 11, 12, 2020 • Virginia City, Nevada
Reserve your spot now to receive Early Bird Pricing.

Take a step back in history and enjoy three days of drawing and painting. Ride the steam train, visit silver mines and grave yards! Enjoy lots of practice sketching as you explore the old western mining town of Virginia City, Nevada, a National Historic Landmark.

Instruction begins with creating a simple journal. Then we will teach you to fill it with lessons in journal layout, quick sketch, nature journaling, people drawing, watercolor, gouache and many other techniques.


Cost includes three days of instruction, all materials and a comfortable indoor sketching location to learn in. (And a whole historic downtown a block away to practice those sketching skills!)

• Lodging, food, steam train excursion and museums cost extra. The hotel costs about $100/night double occupancy with continental breakfast.
• Want to bring a non-sketching buddy? This unique and historic place offers adventures for people of all ages and interests.
• Virginia City is just a 40-minute drive from Reno, but a world away from today.

Some topics covered in the Workshop:
– Creating a simple journal
– Layout design
– Quick sketch
– Nature journaling
– People drawing
– Watercolor, gouache and other techniques

Cost: Early Bird Price: $450 | After April 15th $550

How to sign up:
Use this link to sign up now: www.watercolorjournaling.com/virginia_city_form.html


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Baja, California Sur: 2

Boats in the night, when we arrived in La Paz. I’m using my super-small palette here with a waterbrush. The small palette I have no trouble with. Water brushes, I might learn to like and use. Some day, but not yet.

La Paz is a big city we didn’t see much of. But we loved our day out in the ocean, snorkeling among some gorgeous reefs and out on the islands around La Paz. We also loved our b&b full of tropical plants and pets. The kids loved the animals. Also, everywhere we went, people made sure to tell us to look at and admire the shells on the beach but not take any home. I liked that.

A quick sketch before we boarded our boat headed off to Isla Espiritu Santo. Wish I could sketch in moving cars and boats, there was so much to paint!lapaz_boat1

And a couple of sketches from an overcast but beautiful day on the island. Lunch, not sketched, was ceviche, which felt so right.

Two pages of little stuff. Warm weather, tropical vegetation and color all make me so happy. Mexican tile and good coffee is the icing on the cake. Hacienda Paraiso de La Paz is the lovely home of Richard and Gloria that we stayed at. Gloria designed the home and it is filled with her art and beautiful crafts from all over Mexico.

And some meals in sketches. When a cup of warm shrimp broth arrives as soon as you sit down, you know you’ve found a good spot. With just the demi-palette and a waterbrush, the food, my beer and my sketchbook can co-exist on the table.


Next up, a little fishing village by Magdalena Bay.

Here is my first post from the trip.

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Baja, California Sur: 1

Over the winter break, I spent some time in Baja, California Sur. We flew in and out of Cabo but (thankfully!) didn’t spend too much time in that city. This next set of travel sketches are from a rad trip over the southern half of California Sur.

Trying to travel cheap in holiday season means crazy flights, so our first flight on Christmas Even was from San Francisco to Houston. flight1

6 hours there, and then it was onward to Cabo San Lucas. Here are some tired travelers with long layovers.

Early morning in Cabo, I went up the hotel rooftop and painted this view twice, once on each side of the spread. The left version is painted with my full palette, the right one with a little demi-palette from Expeditionary Art.
day1_cabo.jpgI took only two small books with me this time: a small Hahnemuhle watercolor book and a square Stillman and Birn Alpha Book. With no large stuff to paint, the demi palette did it’s job: I found myself pulling it out to do a quick sketch in times where I’d have given my regular palette a miss. Plus, a really limited palette meant color harmony came easily.

Being at the outer edge of the tropics means I often see plants I grew up with. Like this tree with orange-red flowers that I know as gulmohar.

One of the aims of small sketchbooks on this trip was to see how much I could sketch without ever having my family wait up for me to do a sketch. What that meant is that I did very small sketches, sometimes 3 a page like here, and I sketched when we stopped. A lot of it at mealtimes. I ate fish tacos wherever I could and drank beer or tamarindo. Also, not sketched so often was my daily dessert, tres leches flan.

I’m not a Cabo fan, resort towns and I don’t like each other. So I was super-happy to get out to the tiny mining town of El Triunfo where our Baja adventure finally felt like it began.

Lots to sketch in this little town, but we weren’t stopping there long. So I didn’t sketch this gorgeous truck, and all I got in was a sketch of a small door of the Museo de la Musica and we were ready to head off to La Paz.

Those sketches coming up tomrrow.

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Building a Sketching Practice

I’m just back from a two week break from my computer and from blogging. I’ll post sketches from those days over the next week, but first some thoughts on a sketching practice. And some sketches from the end of last year.

Just before the holidays is when things get super busy. Commissioned pieces, last minute freelance, kids’ concerts, tying up big projects… the list is long and sketching seems to get to the bottom of that list. But Nina shared with me a super-simple google doc she keeps that helps her work towards a wee bit of sketching everyday. Each day has a one-line entry. The end of December looked like this for me:


It’s almost irrelevant what I drew and how long I sketched everyday, but the one red NOTHING day bothered me enough that another one hasn’t appeared since…

A few things help in drawing everyday:
1) having my supplies right by me, either in a sketchbag or on my work desk.
2) being okay with drawing anything, and drawing it over and over.

I sketched that cat so many times. You can see in that last shot that my sketchbook is on top of my computer keypad as I draw because the cat came and sat right where I was working and I just reached for my supplies and drew him.

On a day when I haven’t drawn all day I know I can still count on drawing the kids in the evening. Each of these spreads was done within one 20-minute practice session that the kids do most evenings.
I sketch on a continual basis, but it’s in fits and starts. 5 sketches one day. Nothing for the next few days, then another burst of sketches. I’d like to see if drawing everyday brings something to my work.

That’s my modest little sketching resolution for 2020. What’s yours?

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Persimmon 2019

Can’t let a year go by without painting persimmons. They’re not a fruit I eat. But I love
1) That they’re orange. my favorite color. 2) That they mean I was at Gay’s home in the Santa Cruz mountains with her and Nina when the persimmons turned orange.

We painted them on the tree, cooked up some plans for a new sketching adventure we’ll be leading in 2020 (more on that soon) and then I brought some home.

Here’s the 2019 collection of persimmon.


Back at home, playing around.

Painting a bunch with my daughter. Her watercolor piece in the back.

And one last lone persimmon.

It’s been a busy and a crazy year, art-wise. I taught a lot of workshops and had some fantastic sketching adventures. I started working on the Faces of Recovery project. New workshop announcements, a big project I’m working towards finishing early in the year, and some new things I’d like to try in my sketchbooks over the next year: that’s what 2020 is looking like for me.

I’m excited about some of it, stressed about some deadlines, and feeling a bit like I don’t know where all this is going. I’m going to take that odd combination of feelings to mean I’m doing new things, and that I’m always happy about. Here’s to your 2020 bringing you all that you wish for.

Thanks again for following along yet another year. Your responses keep me blogging and that I’m super-grateful for.

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Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: All that Dancing

One last post from the Dickens Fair. I saved the dancing post for last, but it’s what I enjoyed drawing the best, especially at the practice session: You can see how the body moves so much better in everyday clothes. There’s the drama of the big skirts and how they move in costume, but I so much prefer the much more subtle gestures without them.

All my gesture sketches aren’t finished like the one above I have a few pages that look like this one. Odd things happen (see her ridiculously bent elbow at the bottom of the page) when you draw quickly, you just keep going in the hope that some of them come together.
The sketch on the left is of the people who played Queen and King at the fair. I spotted them very briefly at the actual fair too. (on the right) In costume, but still recognizable.

This is from Fezzwig’s, the largest dance space at the fair. It’s hard to paint in low light!


Here is the complete series of sketches:
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Scum, Sweeps and Peelers
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Costumes
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Building London
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Music and Musicians
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Ale and Tea

That’s it from me at the Dickens Fair. If you didn’t manage a visit this year, maybe you’ll be there in 2020. Maybe I will too.

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Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Ale and Tea

Ale and Tea. Two drinks that feature big at the Dickens Fair.

Signs going up The Leather Bottle on setup day.
And the boisterous bartender shouting “God Save Tippers! Tippers go to Heaven!” at the fair. I didn’t try the cherry hot cider, since I had a day of sketching ahead of me.

Afternoon tea goes beyond the beverage, for sure. Plates of dainty sandwiches, (when I see sandwiches with the crust cut off the bread, I see my mum shaking her head at the waste) scones, cakes, and china service are all part of the deal. This red parlor where the tea was served was setup to be Tavistock House, the home of Charles Dickens.
And Charlotte and Lottie graciously served afternoon tea. They never sat down at all. I suspect it was those dresses…

The Dickens Fair runs through this weekend. If you’ve never been, you can still visit.

So far in this series:
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Scum, Sweeps and Peelers
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Costumes
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Building London
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Music and Musicians

Posted in california, Close to home, people, reportage, san franciso | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments