Memories of France in Two Styles of Watercolour Sketching (and Overnight Cinnamon Buns!)

WofenP Cover photo

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in France with some of my favourite people in the world. There is a crew of us that get together each year for the ‘Weekend of Food’. It started with a few friends meeting to cook a delicious Southern Fried Chicken dinner and each year’s indulgence surpasses the last. I wasn’t present at the very first ‘WoF’ but I am so glad I was able to come to this year’s special ‘WoFenP’ or WoF en Perigord. My friend’s family has a beautiful rustic farmhouse that they very generously let us use for the weekend to eat ourselves silly.  I’ll leave the full coverage of the feasting to my friend, The Swindian, and focus here on what I do best – baking and painting.

My friend's beautiful garden, a local shop selling local treats, and walnuts from the walnut tree in the garden!

My friend’s beautiful garden, a shop selling local delicacies and wines, and walnuts from the walnut tree in the garden!

I was responsible for dessert on Saturday night and Sunday’s breakfast. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that with the entire world of French baking available, I chose to make a pavlova for dessert and overnight cinnamon buns for breakfast. However, we only arrived early Saturday evening, so dessert had to be easy to prepare. I ended up discovering that a meringue base for a pavlova can be taken on a plane! It went through airport security with no questions asked and survived the journey with only a few cracks.

For breakfast I made Alton Brown’s delicious Overnight Cinnamon Buns. The rich dough is made the night before, then the buns are left to slow rise over night in the fridge. Then shortly before baking, you warm them up slightly and pop them in the oven. Fresh, gooey cinnamon buns have never been so easy! I’ve included the link to the recipe because I didn’t change anything except to add a few toasted walnuts to the filling. It really is fantastic! Next time I make it, I’m tempted to make a double recipe and just freeze the cinnamon rolls so I can have fresh cinnamon buns whenever I fancy it.

Now on the painting. I have two little watercolour sketches to serve as mementos of my trip. The first one is done in my Moleskin watercolour sketch book. The initial pencil sketch was done en plein air whilst we waited for our train between Bergerac and Le Buisson. Before we caught our train, I snapped a photo for the train station on my phone and finished up the ink and watercolour wash at home. The second sketch is down from a photo I took of the ‘Poulet House’ at my friend’s home. They are both watercolour sketches down with ink and wash, but I think they each have a distinct ‘feel’. On a side note, my scanner tinged the paper a little pink… so the colours are a bit different than in real life, but o well!

Sketch 1: Gare de Bergerac

Materials Used: Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens, Winsor & Newton Watercolours, Moleskin Watercolour Journal, pencil, ruler

This sketch has a much more detailed and careful ink drawing. I used a ruler quite a bit to ensure clean lines and completed the pen drawing before I did any painting. As a result, the watercolour is more precise and there is less wet in wet mixing of the paints. The washes are mostly simple clean washes and I found that inking in the lines first made me more reluctant to ‘paint outside the lines’.

Sketch 2: Poulet House

Materials Used: Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens, Winsor & Newton Watercolours, Cotman Watercolour Postcards, pencil

Poulet House Sept 2016

This sketch had a very rough pencil sketch before I started painting. There is a lot of wet in wet washes and it has a much more ‘painted’ and loose feel to it. I didn’t use any rulers and the ink lines were added after the watercolour painting was done. The pen just adds a little texture to the painting rather than it being a drawing that has been coloured… if that makes sense?! The best bit is this little sketch was done using watercolour postcards so it doubles as my thank you note to my friend’s parents!

Which do I like better?

The question isn’t which is better, but which do I like better. There are so many techniques and ways to paint that it really isn’t fair to say one is better than the other. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.

I love the textures and interesting colour mixes that spontaneously develop when painting wet on wet. I think it is really suited to watercolours with a lot of greenery or trees etc. Often a group of trees really just looks like a textured blob with darks and lights. Using wet on wet, I can add primary colours like blue and yellow and let them mix on the page itself. The effects can be really beautiful!

However, with the train station and the preciseness of the iron railings, I like the fact that the painting is made of more simple washes. The focus is on the ink in Sketch 1, but on the watercolours in Sketch 2. I will definitely be trying out the watercolour before ink sketching style again and I’m especially curious to see how buildings and other urban scenes turn out.

Happy Baking and Sketching!



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