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From the Architect's Desk



In From the Architect's Desk

By lthomas

Where I sketch.

On 09, Jan 2017 | In From the Architect's Desk | By lthomas

So—-where do you sketch, Laura?

I am frequently asked that question after people take a look at my watercolor sketches.  Mostly they seem to think that I take photographs and then go back to a studio and paint there. I have actually tried to do that, especially early on when I could not quite get the right angle or I got tired of sitting on a curb. And just when I would get everything as I wanted, a delivery van always seemed to pull up right in front of me. But after years of traveling and sketching and trying to get the scene – the feeling, the light, the colors – just right, I have figured out that I must sketch and paint right there.


In order to do this, I have several tools that are critical to my creative process:

  • A tiny travel set of Windsor Newton Watercolor pans and brushes.
  • A small, sketch watercolor pad and a band or clip to hold the pages down in the wind. (Actually, after being stopped at airport security enough times, I gave up on the large metal binder clip and use just a wide rubber band.) I keep my sketchbook in a Ziploc bag while I’m traveling to protect it.
  • Multiple great, Niji stylist black felt tip pens. I have learned that, unfortunately, my favorite fountain pen will leak on a flight, and traveling with bottled ink is a disaster waiting to happen.
  • Two small travel size bottles of water that are TSA-approved–because you will forget to empty them before flying home!
  • A few paper napkins or tissues for blotting.

Essay-Chiesa2-BolognaIn addition to these practical supplies, there’s a certain mindset I have when traveling. It is what I need to capture the scene, the detail you just can’t get from a photograph back in a studio:

A willingness to STOP and search out “the spot.” A sketch can take up to an hour, but it’s a great break from walking. I stop at a café or an outside bar table, I climb a wall, a hill or even, yes, a roof, and stop to really look at the scene. I now have a tiny folding camp stool and table that can fit into my carry on so I’m comfortable when I find “the spot.” (I am a big believer in carry on only travel—and my watercolors never, ever get checked!)

Essay-SanMarco-SketchI settle in and LOOK.  This can sometimes take a while. Sometimes I move slightly to get the angle I want. I look at the light and the colors. I study the shadows. Frequently my sketches are peeked at by fellow travelers and local children.I don’t mind the curiosity. The little kids are the best; they seem truly amazed at what I am doing and can just watch patiently and silently for minutes at a time.





Sometimes if I am lucky enough to find a café in the right spot (and I will search), I can also have a doppio macchiato and a biscotti, or a glass of wine while I work. Otherwise, I just sketch and paint and then, when I’m done and feeling satisfied, head off to my next adventure around the corner.