Tall Sketch with a Muted Palette

Watercolor in a 9x6" Stillman & Birn Gamma Hardbound sketchbook

I decided to test drive my new little mini, warm-toned, muted palette in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook, which has ivory paper. I gave myself the additional challenge of working a two page spread in a landscape format book (6x9"), holding it in a vertical orientation. This made the sketch 18" top to bottom.

I cut a paper template with a 2x6" opening beforehand, so I could peer through the window to size up potential subjects and compositions, and get an idea of how they would fit on the page. I'll keep that tucked inside the book.

Compositionally, I was really pleased with the way this glass pitcher and flowers worked in the tall format, and I am loving these colors on the ivory paper, even though I've decided that some of them will definitely be switched out of the palette. But I think you can see that it's difficult to showcase the 1:3 verticals in a digital image on a short computer screen. If it fits on the screen, it looks like a skinny ribbon of a sketch! And you enlarge it, then you can't see the whole thing. Here's an image to show you what I mean:

The logistics of actually holding the book vertically and painting this were more awkward than I'd anticipated. I clipped the book to a 12x18 piece of coroplast, which I'd cut previously to hold open some 8.5x11" sketchbooks. But this book was in fact longer than 18" when open, so it extended past the support a bit on either side. Fortunately, in this instance I was working in my kitchen, which has an enormous granite peninsula. Out on location, it would be difficult to work this vertical format.

For a painting that will be matted and framed, I think this vertical 3:1 ratio is a stunner. For sketches that will be seen mostly on a computer screen, not so much! I thought that working this way both horizontally and vertically would be an interesting exploration of 1:3 ratio compositions, and I haven't necessarily changed my mind about that yet. I'm going to pursue some horizontals this way. I can certainly see a benefit to the format for many landscape applications as studies for future paintings. More to come as I work my way through this challenge.


  1. This is beautiful!

  2. Really like the tall format. Stunning pic. Your limited palette is looking good.

  3. I love the tall flowers!!! Yes, I would think a double spread that tall on location would be difficult, but it is perfect for this. Love the zoo sketches!!!

  4. Jacqui, thank you so much! Maybe I should do more of these after all! ;)

    Joan, thank you. I suspect this 18" format will be nice for horizontal landscapes, and an occasional tall vertical makes for a nice change of pace.