Peaks Island Sketchbooks Workshop

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Art Classes, drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, Peaks Island, Sketchbook Project | 3 comments

For the fourth summer, Judy Labrasca and I led a Peaks Island Sketchbooks Workshop through Maine College of Art’s Continuing Studies Program. This one day workshop is a fun meander of island views and wide open possibilities. Every year is a different group, paper skies, and new friends made. You can read about past ventures here, here, and here.

Judy meets the group in Portland and ferries over on Casco Bay Lines. I meet them at the island dock where we share materials and our philosophy: sketchbooks are vessels for adventure!

Thanks to The Sketchbook Project, I’ve developed a steady sketchbook practice, always with a small one in my bag. I showed some recent drawings and discussed pastels and sanded paper. Judy shared a buffet of sketchbooks, varieties of paper and portable palettes, plus lots of tips.

We began at the beach closest to the ferry, where Judy used a waterbrush to get started. She used a viewfinder to locate her subject, and made a small sketch for reference.


Here is Bethany’s breezy sketch of House Island.


I drew a small study in pastel of the ferry heading back to Portland.


The overcast morning turned to hot sun, and we relocated to the Fifth Maine Museum porch, to welcome shade and ocean vistas. After lunch, Judy did a watercolor demo.


In just a matter of strokes, she conveyed a variety of methods.


I did a pastel demo on sanded paper. After drawing a quick composition in red pastel pencil, I blocked in where the sea meets the sky.


photo by Judy Labrasca

Working small and spontaneously, it’s about finding what’s visually important to you. It’s not gonna be a photograph, OK? Or perfect.


photo by Judy Labrasca

Nothin’ fancy here, just some color dust.

Then everyone left the porch to sketch. Bethany and Janice picked a pretty perch in the garden.

I used Prismacolors on sanded paper to sketch the drowsy daisies and a glimpse of Aubree.


Here she is drawing below the garden.

She was exploring the pastels with sumptuous results.


I’d brought my island car this year, due to the iffy weather report. We lucked out with sunny skies and the chance to drive to the north side of the island, where a quiet cove awaited.

I sketched Bethany sketching.


Bethany painted a cool house on Long Island.

Meanwhile, Janice made a simple symphony of sky, land, and water in pastel.


Aubree drew island fauna up close.


I can’t resist the rocks there.


Judy drew Long Island, too, on sanded paper with vibrant line.

She suggested an exercise for warming up: just scribble in the forms. The loose approach can ready both the arm and the brain for something unexpected.


All too soon, it was time to head to the ferry back to Portland, Maine. There’s nothing finer than a day of drawing with eager folks. Thanks to Judy and the Maine College of Art!



  1. Beautiful!

  2. If one stays on Peaks Island anytime from May thru Sept.2017 , will there be workshops on Peaks Island

    • Possibly! The summer schedule hasn’t been confirmed yet, but let me know your time frame. Thanks for readin!

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