I guess it’s good to have to work outside your comfort zone every once in a while…That was me on Labor Day Weekend. Given a choice, I’ll always pick a people-packed scene to sketch. I’ll take urban decay, architecture and crowds over a pristine landscape any day.
But that’s not where I found myself on Labor Day weekend. I was on a houseboat on Lake Shasta for 3 days. The setting was spectacular, but so very hard to sketch!
From the top of the boat. Still in harbor, early in the morning. Watching the early risers leave the dock. It’s a tight squeeze, getting out of that narrow space and onto the open lake.
But once you’re out of the dock the scene opens up to large vistas that can be divided into 4 bands. The blue waters at the bottom. A narrow strip of red soil, the embankment around the lake. The conifer-covered mountains. And the sky above. And that never changes, wherever on the vast lake you might be.
I usually want to find a human element to use as a focal point in my sketch. Luckily, there’s enough people on the lake over the long weekend. Here are two kayakers.
Here’s an unfinished sketch (can’t remember why I didn’t finish it) that shows how I worked on some of these. This is my first layer of color, that kinda runs together, but also separates my scene into those bands. If I work like this, my second pass of more vivid color goes over this first pass before it’s totally dry. Mostly because I don’t have the patience to wait for bone-dry paper. But also because I just love wet-in-wet watercolor.
When you’re out on the lake, with a cellphone that doesn’t work, you can’t take step-by-step photos of what you do. So I just worked these 4 little sketches in parallel to record how I built up a piece. Turns out it’s good practice (a tad boring, though) to do things over and over.
Here is our houseboat, docked on a remote shore of the lake.
This one, a quick sketch done in the dark by the bonfire that night. It helps to know where your colors are on your palette if you’re going to sketch in the dark. Almost-blind-contour drawing practice helps too!
I know most of these sketches look really tranquil, (many were done sitting on the top or back of the boat or early in the morning before everyone woke up) but there were 24 of us on the houseboat: 12 adults, 12 kids! My favorite sketch is this one, with some of the kids swimming in the lake. Lake regulations say every kid must wear a life jacket when they swim. The kids weren’t happy about that. But I think jumping from the top of the houseboat into the lake kinda made up for it.