Favorite Things Top Ten: Number 4, Watercolor Sketchbooks


Sketches of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, Cassis in Provence, South of France, Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, and the Japanese bridge in the Japan Pavilion at Epcot, Walt Disney World

Many don’t realize I paint mostly in watercolor because of watercolor sketching.  My primary medium was oils.  On trips to Paris, and when I lived there working for Walt Disney Imagineering, I found the world of “Carnet de Voyage,” sketchbook of your travels.  Even before Urban Sketching became so popular, many publishers in Europe published the watercolor sketch journals of artists. There were dedicated sections in book stores for these!  I even saw a great show one year at the La Poste Museum in Paris, displaying artists sketchbooks.  I was bitten by the bug.  I had to do this!  The very first sketchbook I got was made by Savoir Faire and it has inside Indian Khadi paper.  I like the rough surface and the deckled edges of the paper.  These are the green and blue books shown below. Sadly, they stopped making them and I bought as many as  I could find a few years ago.  However, there is a nice substitute that I have had students get for my watercolor sketching workshop. Sam Flax here in Orlando carries them and the covers are brown.  You could google “Khadi paper watercolor sketch book,” to find other options.


Shown are the Savoir Faire, Khadi Paper books in 2 sizes and on the bottom the Stillman & Birn, Alpha Series, 8″ x 10″

Since this turned into a habit and obsession over the years,  I have used a variety of books and I like all of them, Hand Book, Stillman & Birn Alpha Series, and Moleskin Watercolor Books.


This is a handmade one with a soft leather cover my husband bought for me in Rome.  I love it because it’s small and very light weight and fits easily in my purse. The sketch shows a view of the fortress in Salzburg, Austria from the Mirabell Gardens.


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Watercolor Sketching Workshop in Winter Garden Florida


The Old Water Tower, in Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook

The more I teach the more I realize I love to teach!  We had a glorious weekend with the arrival of some cooler weather, which only lasted the weekend by the way, it’s hot again!  I can’t remember since moving to Florida seventeen years ago it ever being this hot this late in November!  I digress…. I had three lovely ladies join me for a weekend of sketching and they were great!  Sketching in the morning and afternoon is tiring and they were real troopers and really enjoyed it.


Sketching the Red Caboose and Train Station

I’m hearing from students in all of my workshops that I cover many topics that most instructors  don’t discuss and they are so happy to discover and learn about!  There were quite a few light bulb moments in this workshop, which I was thrilled about!  I love that I can help others move forward with their painting/sketching practice and that I’m providing them with many take aways.


The Crooked Can Brewery, in Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook

In this watercolor sketching workshop since we were sketching in Downtown Historic Winter Garden and focusing mostly on architecture, I covered  different perspective views, horizon lines, vanishing points, one and two point perspective and proportions.  Proportions are key, it took me a while when I first started sketching to figure out how to measure and make sure what I wanted to sketch fit on the page!  How many of you have started sketching something only to run out of room on your paper?

An added bonus for me is that while I’m explaining all of this to others I can’t help but grow and improve myself!

#watercolorsketching #workshop #historicwintergarden #florida #stillmanandbirn #crookedcanbrewery #wintergardenartassociation

Kim MinichielloLimited Edition Giclée Prints & Note Cards of my work available here.



Japan Pagoda Plein Air


Japan Pagoda, Watercolor, 11″ x 15″, on Handmade Paper

The last few months I have been sticking to my every Friday morning plein air sketching and painting practice.  I just got back from today’s session, got a good start,  and this is the painting I did last Friday.  I say sketching and painting because I have this thing in my head that says if I’m working in my sketchbook it’s a sketch but if I’m working on paper it’s a painting.  Even though while I’m working on paper I try to psyche myself into thinking I’m only doing a sketch which makes me paint a bit looser and be less fussy. I’m also not using my easel lately and painting on a foam board or my sketchbook on my lap.   I’m still trying to balance the two concepts in my brain.  Crazy!

If you live in the central Florida area, I will be teaching a Watercolor Sketching in Plein Air Workshop in Winter Garden, Nov. 14 & 15.  For more information click here.

#watercolor #epcot #japanpavilion #pagoda

Kim MinichielloLimited Edition Giclée Prints & Note Cards of my work available here.


A Loose Watercolor Sketch

Japan_Epcot coprt

Watercolor Sketch in Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook

This was my sketch from last week.  You never know when you work outside what you will encounter: can’t find shade where you want to sketch, bugs, crowds, people wanting to chit chat right when you have started to  lay a critical wash down, vehicles pulling up and blocking your view,  and landscaping maintenance, just to name a few.  The latter was what I encountered the day this sketch was done, hedge trimmers, cherry pickers beeping, pressure washing, etc.  You get the idea.  That’s why this one was quick and loose!  Share your stories in the comments of the craziest things you have run across while painting or sketching outside.


A Couple Watercolor Sketches and some Workshops


Watercolor Sketch, in a 9 x 11 Stillman & Birn Sketchbook

I have been starting up again my once a week plein air watercolor sketch outing.  My goal is to user a larger sketchbook and get quicker with the drawing and looser with the painting.  I’m using a 9″ x 11″ Stillman & Birn, Alpha Series sketchbook.  I am really liking this painting surface.  A few of my other books have hand-made khadi paper which I also like, but I’m loving how the color is popping off the page with this smoother paper!   The Alapha Series paper is thinner than their Beta Series paper.  The advantage to that is you get more paper in the book and I’m able to watercolor sketch on both sides of the sheet with no bleed through.  That’s how nice this paper is.  It’s a little more like a hot press surface than a cold press paper, if you were to compare it to watercolor paper, but not as smooth and slick as some hot press papers are.


Watercolor Sketch, in a 9 x 11 Stillman & Birn Sketchbook

The main reason watercolor is my preferred medium at the moment is for my love of sketching in watercolor.  Once I did this for a number of  years I had the desire to try my hand at larger works!  My sketchbooks are like my little children, complete treasures.  I love looking through them to remind me of the memories of the places I have traveled.

If you are interested in sketching in watercolor, documenting your travels or your daily life, I will be teaching a “Sketching in Watercolor: Plein Air” Workshop” at the Winter Garden Art Association.  One this fall, November 14 & 15 and one this spring, April 11 & 12.  For complete details and more information you can visit my website here.  And to register  for the fall class you can do that here.  Leave me a comment or send me an email if you would like to register for the spring class.

My complete workshop schedule for spring 2016 is on my web site here.

#urbansketcher #watercolorsketching #watercolorworkshop

Kim MinichielloLimited Edition Giclée Prints & Note Cards of my work available here.

Sketch Page from the Musée Guimet in Paris France


I’m in design and sketch mode right now on a commission, which I can’t share yet. So I thought I would share more sketches today from the Guimet Musée, in Paris.  I miss this place!!  This page shows sketches of statues from Vietnam, Tibet, and a Noh mask from Japan.


Limited Edition Prints & Note cards available here.

Pak Tai Guardian Lion Sketch & Painting


 Pak Tai Guradian Lion, Watercolor on Archival Paper, 30″ x 20.5″, Inspired by my sketch and my last visit.

As I mentioned in my blog before, one of my favorite places to visit and sketch is the Pak Tai Temple in the Wan Chai area of Hong Kong.  A few of my smaller sketches have inspired larger paintings.  This pencil sketch is one of them.  The day I did this one was particularly memorable for me.  Our time in Hong Kong was winding down and I knew I would be leaving soon.  This visit, I knew would be my last while we were living there.  I did a pencil sketch of this guardian lion statue and before I could apply any  watercolor the keeper of the temple came up to me and we started chatting.

Kim Minichiello

Sketch done at the Pak Tai Temple

We talked for over an hour about a variety of things.  He was kind enough to write the name of the temple in modern and ancient script in my sketch book, next to the sketch plus a faint impression of the actual temple chop.

Kim Minichiello

Me & Sammy Lo, Pak Tai Temple, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

While I painted the larger painting of this statue it invoked so many wonderful and memorable memories of my visits there.

Sketching on Gray Days at the Musee Guimet in Paris

Kim MinichielloMontage of Sketches of works in the Musee Guimet using Black Prismacolor Pencil

We have had a lot of gloomy and rainy weather since Monday.  It’s making me nostalgic for Paris, so today I’m sharing a page from my Musee Guimet sketchbook.

The museum is in the 16th on Place d’Ieana and has the largest collection of Asian art in Europe.  This place was my sanctuary on those cold gray days, when I was getting stir crazy in the apartment but by no means wanted to spend any time outside!  I would pass the whole day sketching in the museum.

This sheet is a montage of different pieces on display there.



Watercolor Sketch Chedi Beach, Phuket Thailand



Watercolor on Handmade Paper

One of the things I loved living in Hong Kong, was you are centrally located to travel all over Asia.  The airport is a breeze to get to from Central with the Airport Express train which departs from the IFC tower.  You can even check your bags at the train terminal so you don’t have to do it at the airport!  We went on a long weekend holiday to Phuket Thailand.  My previous trip to Thailand was during the design phase of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, visiting Bangkok and Chang Mai for research.  It was wonderful to see the beautiful beaches in the South.  This sketch was done on the beach.  There was a family that set up in an outdoor kitchen to serve lunch to the guests at the nearby hotel.  The food was scrumptious.  One of their little boys came over and talked to me while I was painting.  He was so intrigued he kept touching the paint as I was putting it down.  I have a little souvenir of his fingerprint on the sketch!


Watercolor Sketch, Kyoto Treat



Watercolor Sketch, Kyoto Japan, Green Tea Soft Serve Ice Cream

My daughter and I had walked the Path of Philosophy, from the Ginkaku-Ji Temple to the Eikan-do and Nanzen-ji Temples, and stopped at an outdoor cafe for a green tea soft serve ice cream.  I adore green tea and anything made with matcha, (the powdered form of green tea).  Where I have had green tea ice cream at Japanese restaurants in the States, it is rare to find it soft serve.  I’m embarrassed to say, or maybe not, that I had one of these cones every single day I was in Kyoto.  As I was sketching at the table, the owner of the cafe came out and presented me with one of her name cards, which I attached in my book.  This one had to be quick before it melted all over my daughter’s hand!


Path of Philosophy during cherry blossom viewing season, Kyoto Japan