Lessons Learned

Jun 03

Lessons Learned

I am one lucky duck today! A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of interviewing  landscape artist, Nina Weiss, and now we have a sneak peek into one of Nina’s workshops!  Prismacolor team member, Laura Ross, spent an entire  Saturday attempting to master Nina’s famous technique. She’ll argue, but we think she did a pretty amazing job!

Hear more about Laura’s first landscape lesson…

Laura, our beautiful Scholar!

I first met Nina Weiss during a lunch meeting earlier this year. As we flipped through her sketchbooks and she told me stories of her travels, I thought to myself,  “how does she pick the perfect elements for her landscape compositions, every time?” Her travel sketches of Hilton Head, South Carolina, were particularly interesting to me, as I vacation near there each Memorial Day. Although I have a deep appreciation for art (and marketing!), I’ve never been much of an artist myself, and I certainly have not had any formal training. So, when Nina called me a few weeks back to catch up and explained she was teaching a travel sketching workshop the Sunday before Memorial Day, I jumped at the opportunity to learn from such a brilliant artist before my upcoming trip!

The travel sketching class was held at the Ryerson Woods in Riverwoods, IL. Driving into the conservation, I immediately understood why Nina chose such a beautiful place to hold her workshop; the landscapes were powerful and weather was perfect. Nina began by showing the class several of her travel sketchbooks and taught us a little about travel sketching history. She truly is an expert on the subject!

Ryerson Woods, my first landscape

Then, Nina took us through an introductory lesson of landscape composition and color theory. I was enthralled by how easy Nina made it look. She seemed to work with no regret, no inhibitions, where I sat calculating every angle of the fence in my landscape composition and the distance of the horizon line. Nina stopped me in my tracks (thank goodness) and had me do a very rough sketch of the composition. It was hard for me to give up the details, but it was necessary to see the bigger picture, to see the whole landscape. After that, the composition piece started to come together and I recognized the important aspects of my landscape.

Ryerson, after I stopped over thinking it! Second rough draft...

 But, there was much, much more to learn, and on to color theory we went.

What struck me as interesting is that Nina, a true landscape artist, does not use the colors black or brown. I was intrigued yet very confused all at the same time. I contemplated, “if we can’t use black and brown, how will we create the colors of a tree trunk or branches?” Clearly, I have never taken a color theory class! This is when Nina jumped into some important pieces of color theory.

She taught us the importance of a value scale and how to mix primary color values with their complementary colors to create the colors we see in landscapes. The distance of the landscape should be cooler and the foreground should be much warmer. As Nina explained this, my confusion started to dissipate as she pointed out the yellows and reds of where we were standing and the purples and blues of the trees in the distance.

All done!

After several hours of instruction and practice, I felt more prepared to venture out on my own while I was in South Carolina. So, on Memorial Day, I took a long bike ride looking for interesting landscapes I could attempt to sketch. I didn’t have to go very far, everywhere I looked I saw gnarled trees, hanging moss, curving pathways, winding creeks; but, I had to choose. I settled down on the bike path and drew for 45 minutes (the time limit Nina had given us for travel sketches) and here is what I came up with:

My inspiration, beautiful Hilton Head, South Carolina.

My starting sketch...

Coming together!

I have a long way to go, but after attending Nina Weiss’ workshops and venturing out on my own, I can say I’m truly inspired and look forward to my next adventure in travel sketching.  Any suggestions on where I should go?

I don’t know WHERE Laura’s next stop will be, but I know I want to go with her!


  1. Diana /

    I loved your sketches and article on Nina. I think the Botanical Garden would be a great place to visit. Keep up the creative energy!

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