I’ve been a huge fan of Sara Midda and her gorgeous art for many years. I first came across her work when my parents lived in St. Remy de Provence, France in the mid-90’s. Her book, South of France, A Sketchbook, is dreamy journal of her own experience of living a year in Provence.
Her journal is filled with tiny thumbnail drawings of her moments. She has a spread of postage stamp sized loose watercolor paintings of mas’ (Provencal farm houses) and typical Provençal buildings in golden hues. She paints snapshots of everyday activities like an evening in the park playing pétanque. She discusses (and paints) the fruits and vegetables in season at the markets, and illustrates playful fabric patterns so typical of this region. Throughout the book her journal notes accompany her drawings. This book is really a feast for your eyes.
Her work inspires me in so many ways. It teaches me to try to stay loose with my interpretations of scenes. Sometimes less is more, gestures and mark making can tell a scene just as effectively as a tight drawing. Also, be mindful of size. A large watercolor of a building or corner of a garden can be beautiful, but several thumbnails of many buildings and a dozen garden vignettes can be powerful!
I am a big fan of line work (mostly with black pen) and use it often in my illustrations. It can be helpful in clearly outlining the objects in focus and or be a wonderful way to provide detail. Although these points are true, Sara Midda’s work reminds me that line work is not always necessary and can sometimes add distraction from the softness of painted watercolor lines mixing and bleeding together.
Sara Midda’s use of color is incredible. Her shades are soft yet rich with hues so reminiscent of the scenes and location she is painting. Many times I dive into a sketch in my travel journal and don’t necessarily pay attention to the color palette of the scene. Sara’s work reminds me that color is truly the first thing to creating a piece. Her color also can speak volumes for the mood, the weather and the season which she captures her scene. Adding small swatches of my intended palette to my sketch before I start may help remind me of the power of color.
Your can find Sara Midda’s books online and in bookstores everywhere. Sketchbook Skool also has a wonderful video on You Tube thumbing through her books and discussing her work in detail. Also see the online interview Danny Gregory conducted with Sara for his Sketchbook Club.