Sunday, March 5, 2023

Sketchbook + Watercolor with Kathleen Moore


2/26/23 Colored pencil and white gouache in Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook
(I made this small sketch from life quickly before the snow melted.
White goauche, which Kathleen recommended, sure makes snow easy to paint!)

Kathleen Moore has been offering a series of “Sketchbook + Watercolor” classes on Zoom through Gage Academy. Nature-focused and seasonally themed, they haven’t been high on my list of must-takes. From the several classes I have taken with her over the years, especially
Drawing Trees with Graphite and Drawing Nature with Colored Pencils, I know that Kathleen is an excellent instructor, both in person and online. My ambivalence about her sketchbook courses, though, was related to the main objective: Developing a regular sketchbook practice, especially from life.

3/1/23 Watercolor in Hahnemuhle sketchbook (from photo provided
by Kathleen in case we didn't get snow when we needed it). I wanted to try this one
without the help of gouache.

As you might guess, I don’t need much help with developing a regular sketchbook practice, nor with learning to sketch from life, so I didn’t think there would be enough for me. Still, I like that her courses always center on natural subjects, which I enjoy drawing yet hardly ever do (except trees as part of the urban landscape). Unlike the five-minute line drawings I easily make during my fitness walks, botanical and other natural subjects seem to demand more attention and time than I’m willing to give when it’s 40 degrees and drizzly.

I often photograph leaves, flowers and even moss with the intention of drawing from the photos later. When I get home, though, the photos seem blah and lifeless compared to what I saw live, and I lose momentum. But perhaps I could try a hybrid process the way many urban sketchers routinely sketch: Make quick line drawings live, then add color and details later from photos.

3/1/23 Watercolor and colored pencil in Hahnemuhle sketchbook
(Sketched from actual mossy twig found during a walk.
Initially, I was going to use only watercolor, but I missed the texture
that's so easy to get with colored pencil, so I added that at the end.)

Another source of ambivalence was the “+ Watercolor” part of the course titles. When I embraced watercolor pencils as my primary color medium for urban sketching years ago, I put away the watercolors I had struggled with and have never looked back. On Kathleen’s supply list, she mentioned that watercolor pencils could be used instead of paints if desired, and initially I thought that I would do just that. But heck, this class sounded like an ideal, low-key opportunity to become reacquainted with watercolors after all these years.

With these two goals for myself – sketching nature more and tiptoeing back to watercolors – I signed up for Winter Sketchbook + Watercolor. More than anything else, I am happy to have a weekly class to get me through the worst of the winter doldrums (that interminable time between the holidays and true spring).

During the first session, any remaining ambivalence about watercolors disappeared when Kathleen discussed her favorite palette in any medium: the CMY primary triad! As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with CMYK-based primary palettes since I first learned to use them in Kathleen’s colored pencil class. Now I would have an opportunity to use the same color-mixing principles with watercolors! More about my paint palette in a few days.

When I went out walking to look for moss-covered twigs for the assignment,
I found this car -- possibly the best example of moss in my neighborhood!
I'll save it for a class in urban moss. ;-)


  1. I'll be watching to see how you do with the CMY watercolor triad. My favorite of these sketches is the mossy branch. Nicely done! I feel like I could reach in and touch the moss.

    1. Thanks! And I'm excited about the CMY triad, too!

  2. I'm excited to see what your watercolor palette is like! CMY is so fun. The watercolor + colored pencil combo looks very nice in your twig painting.

    1. CMY in a whole new medium is very different but still fun!


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