Summer Landscape Vignettes

As summer draws to a close, I’m nearing the end of my summer drawing project — following along with a 10-week drawing course by art instructor Barrington Barber. It’s been frustrating at times, but it’s been a lot of fun, too, and in the end, that’s what I most needed right now. As I work to improve my drawing abilities and my overall artistic abilities, it’s easy to get caught up in striving not just for improvement but aiming for perfection. But nobody is perfect, and when it comes to art, I’m nowhere close to achieving perfection of any sort.

And so it was that I spent a good part of my summer playing with art, drawing fast and furiously, shrugging off any attempts at creating real art, and just having fun without trying too hard.

For my drawing time this morning, I enjoyed making very rough copies of several illustrations in the book. These are considered “landscape” scenes, although each scene also includes one or more buildings. In my landscape oil painting, I rarely include buildings, but in my sketchbook — with graphite and my beloved gansai — I had fun putting these little “summer landscape vignettes” together.

First a simple look at a house across a lake. I even tried to get the suggestion of a reflection in the water.

Across the Lake

Part of the fun I have with my gansai is in just letting it “do its own thing.” If I get blooms, I get blooms. No problem. I let the colors run together, I dab in lighter hues here and there. I drop on a bit more color for shadowed areas. And then, when I’m finished, I have a delightful little vignette like this one in my sketch book. I like it. It was fun to draw the rough outlines, fun to color in with gansai, and for me, it’s fun to look at this view of a house across the lake. Perfect perspective? No, but ask me if I care.

And then there was this little vignette showing not one but two houses side by side, with suggestions of tall poplars — or maybe Lombardy pines — around them.


Admittedly the trees are funky, but that was half the fun of doing this quick little graphite and gansai sketch. As for the perspective? Well, hey, I tried, and it was fun to add in the shadows. I really do enjoy playing with my gansai.

And then, for my morning finale, I did this scene which is supposed to be reminiscent of a little village surrounded by rocky cliffs. We’re sort of looking down at the jumble of houses nestled in the valley.


A Jumble of Houses

Actually, this didn’t look too bad until I started “trying to fix” a few places. I darkened the roofs of the small jumble of houses, and that spoiled the effect. And my rocky cliffs look maybe more like a gigantic hole in the ground. Even so, it was fun to play, to think of myself almost as a child again, just drawing and painting childish houses, cramming them all together, and grabbing different colors to create different effects.

It has been a good summer, and today has been one of the most pleasant mornings I’ve spent at my drawing table. As I move on now from making quick sketches and scribbled drawings and return to my landscape oil painting, I think I’ll be taking a lot of good lessons with me. The most important one of all is to approach art not with worries about what I can’t do, but with curiosity to discover what I can.

Thanks for letting me share these little “summer vignettes” with you.



  1. are really starting to enjoy the nuances of watercolor..i remember the infatuation, too! I still love it best, although you may or may not..the blooms, yes! and trying new papers and brands of watercolors and different brushes..the techniques and me it is so marvelous!!

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    1. Yes, it’s so much fun with my gansai. I had fun playing with “traditional” transparent watercolors last year, but I also get frustrated. For me, gansai is so much easier to use, which makes it so much more fun for me. 🙂 So I am planning to do more with it, to learn more about it, and to keep on having fun with it. It feels so “loose and casual” and that’s the attitude I need as I continue my art studies.

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      1. a little…i get a 20 page block on Amazon for around $55-60..but i usually sell a few so at least make it goes in spurts. But even if i didnt sell, now that i know the difference ( i have tried playing with previous paper i had and thought was good at the time) i just cant bring myself to waste time. what i can do in 1-2 nights on Arch’es take days and doesnt work even close to that. Good to practice lines on , like figure drawing and such ,but not for actual pieces

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      2. Watercolor, for me, is definitely for playing with. I have fun using my gansai in my nature journal — which is made from copy paper from the printer. I do have a block of Arches (not sure of the weight) so I might try my gansai on it. I need to get my rice paper out, too. I think it would be great for gansai.

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