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Going back to school! Well, not exactly, but close enough…

This week I received a message from one my professors when I was studying architecture, Manuel García Fonteboa.   Through the years Manuel has become a very good friend of mine and my family. He was taking his first year design studio class to sketch nature at the Jardín Botánico de Rio Piedras, and he was inviting us because we might like joining them.  Of course we were! Also he invited another very good friend of ours and watercolorist, Rafael Félix.

It’s funny that the three former students were the first to get there this morning. It was a beautiful sunny and breezy morning, great to draw outdoors. We walked to an area called “The Palmetum” and Manuel gave the instructions to his students.  And… I stepped on a fire-ant hill!   I got stung by several of them… started getting kind of mad… but, I wasn’t going to waste the chance of spending a good few sketching hours. So I put on my iPod shuffle and went to work.

I had several media with me, but decided to sketch directly with watercolors, no pencil.  I have been practicing that exercise lately and I feel looser.  Also I set myself another challenge: I was only going to use 2 yellows, 2 blues and 2 reds to paint, no pre-mixed colors. I feel it helps me understand how the different pigments work and feel the degree of transparency each has.  This is my first sketch, which was done in around 50 minutes.  I used Sennelier half pans on a 5″x8″ Moleskin watercolor sketchbook.

Then Manuel asked all of us to place our sketches in the middle and he started commenting on them. I was really impressed with the quality of some of the drawings, but one of the sketches really caught my attention. It had a lot of expression, beautiful work of values… It was Manuel’s!  No wonder…  His comments in general were very helpful and some of the pointers he gave them really make me want to learn other media, as charcoal and pastels.  One of these days I’ll get myself a set of pastels to try to see how I like them. Anyways, we went back for a second round of sketching.

This time I switched to my Yarkas and decided to take a different approach regarding the color scheme. It was kind of liberating, and sketching is all about having fun, right? Well here it is.

I love the transparency most of the colors in my Yarka set have. The red is probably the only opaque one I used here. I think it still needs a couple of spots with the darker blue, as to define the various planes, but that is what practice if for.

Going back to school for half a day was really fun, I hope we can do it more often. Thank you, Manuel!

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