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The Cortona Panorama

July 16, 2015

So, of course I’ve already mentioned, we’ve recently been sketching in Cortona Italy. We were there in June teaching a workshop – which I was actually a little nervous about initially.

This was to be my big first sketching event outside the umbrella of and I was unsure what it would be like. I was working with a company I’d never partnered with before, and we’d chosen a town I’ve never seen. So there were a lot of questions how the event might go. Of course I need not have been concerned.


The best thing about these workshops is the people. Anyone willing to drag themselves halfway around the world to go sketching is someone worth knowing! From the first day, our little group was exploring Cortona, drawing together like old friends.

By the end of the week, we’d been doing a lot of pen and ink sketching, and I was raring to get in a for-real painting. People were interested in seeing a big demo, so we set up at the lookout point in Piazza Garibaldi and I did this 9×24″ panorama.

MHolmes_Tuscany (1)_X

I was – again – a little nervous going in. I’d been drawing all week, and felt a bit rusty with the brushwork. Plus, I was a bit concerned about tackling this incredibly complex view. Not that I was going to back down once I’d set up the easel. You just stick to your game plan – do the things you are always telling people – “simplify, see the big shapes, draw with dry edges, let water play inside, come back when dry to re-enforce darks”. And miraculously – one of my favorite paintings of the trip just appeared before our eyes – like watching someone else paint it.



16 Comments leave one →
  1. July 16, 2015 3:41 AM

    Looks great wish I was there!

  2. Nandan Balwalli permalink
    July 16, 2015 7:49 AM

    Hi…can you please give me the brand of your Tripod ….please

  3. Louise permalink
    July 16, 2015 7:59 AM

    Love it, how can you look at something so complex in shapes…and make a beautifull watercolor , without a picture…ouf! What to take, what to leave for the composition….I think that takes a while to master…

  4. Jean-Pierre Riel permalink
    July 16, 2015 9:12 AM

    I was there and Mark was a fabulous teacher. It was very generous of him doing this live demonstration of that complex scenery. He was painting while telling us what he though should be the best approach to solve problems he was in front of. It was very impressive. That was a memorable experience for us. We were a very thight group of 7 (including Mark and his wife Laurel). We had so much pleasure drawing and painting all day long in a cheerful atmosphere. We have learn a lot, eat a lot together every day in nice restaurant, and enjoyed the beautiful landscape and people of Cortona. And the best of this experience is that I have made prodigious progress in my watercolor as my friend have told me.

    • July 16, 2015 12:12 PM

      Was great to have someone from home in the group – helped break the ice!

    • July 19, 2015 6:06 AM

      Me too! We had a fantastic, fascinating week together! Marc and Laurel are a super team and Marc is a generous teacher, taking all the time it takes to help you progress and learn. And we had a lot of fun eating our way through Cortona and the region, enjoying great company and fine cuisine (even got to learn to cook some Tuscan specialties ourselves).

      It was a treat to watch Marc paint the panorama – he broke it down into steps we could easily follow and his enthusiasm for difficult subjects is contagious.

  5. July 16, 2015 12:19 PM

    Bravo, BRAVO!!!

  6. July 16, 2015 12:41 PM

    oui , bravo .Quel plaisir pour les yeux et le coeur.

  7. Jane Pfeiffer permalink
    July 16, 2015 1:23 PM

    That was a wonderful day Marc and it helped me so much to figure out how to tackle the big scene. Really, I thought the whole workshop was wonderful!

  8. valgermedia permalink
    July 16, 2015 2:17 PM

    What fun you’ve had! Great following you on your sketching journeys this summer.

  9. Nathalie permalink
    July 17, 2015 3:13 PM

    Wow Marc, it looks amazing and sounds like lots of fun. Now time to enjoy Singapour :-)

  10. katzp2014 permalink
    July 20, 2015 12:29 PM

    Hi Marc
    I¹m really enjoying your posts.
    We just returned from Europe ourselves ­ a couple of weeks in the Baltic and another 2 weeks in France. I know what you mean about panoramic views being daunting. I experienced that with some of the hill town in Provence. Re your self talk about instructions, can you expand a bit on what you mean by: Œdraw with dry edges, and let water play inside¹? I¹m intrigued.
    Cheers, Patricia

    • July 20, 2015 7:08 PM

      Hey Patricia: when I say “draw wirh dry edges, play inside” what I mean is – each passage/shape – such as a hill or roof shape or stand of trees is to be made in one wet silhouette shape. You must draw that shape carefully to make a descriptive contour of that hill or treeline or whatever. The wet edge is the drawing – just as sharp as a pen line. Don’t hesitate or move away to anothet area until the whole shape is drawn. This way there are no edges in unwanted area. Now – Inside of the shape however, I’m not careful at all :) I just let the water blend and bloom, and make colorfull effects.


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