Drawing the Doors of St Mawes

Exploring the narrow cobbled streets of St Mawes, every turn uncovers a charming cottage or an absolutely stunning view. This small historic fishing village is nestled at the end of the Roseland peninsula on the south coast of Cornwall and is magical.

Natural stone, slate, and white lime-washed simplicity, so with pen in hand, I set about capturing some of St. Mawes architectural coastal doorways.

What initially grabbed my eye was the contrast. Dark inside the windows against the elegant white window frames.

Diagonal textual elements from the bushes on the left, and almost a diagonal line that goes through the side climbing foliage, lead your eye to this dark area on the bottom right which helps to ground it all. Then you’ve got all the lovely different textural elements within the slate and stone.

The palette is crisp white and vibrant azure, dotted with pops of pinks and reds of sunny pots on doorsteps. Where the sky meets the sea, the enchanting harbour is scattered with colourful fishing boats and sparkling light.

I love the colours on this cottage, the pops of bright pink next to powder blue; it just looks so pretty.

I went back to sketch this house because I really liked the textural elements I saw in the initial detail of the sash window. You’ve got lots of angles coming in together, which helped give a point of focus, so it feels like it’s got real depth to it, making a nice composition. Then you’ve also got differences in tone, and rough next to smooth.

I love the shape of the chimneys and how they have the curve on the angle. The house felt like it drew you into it; the dark area with the background of the trees behind, so you can’t quite see inside, adds a bit of intrigue.

Urban Sketching Materials

urban sketching materials

From the top: 0.2 Pentel Pointliner, 3.0 Pentel Pointliner, Pentel Brush Pen, Lamy Safari fountain Pen, Pentel Aquash water brush. (I seem to like Pentel!)

This was such a pretty white house with a white picket fence and then roses all around the door; it reminded me of a Singer Sargent painting. I thought it was really lovely.

Fabulous textures and patterns within the stone walls

Sketching the Steps

I really liked the step element of this house, and I think it’s quite interesting to be aware of if you’re ever drawing; the focus is the door, but the steps give grandness to the space and help frame everything.

So if you look at the whole image to be split tonally, you’ve got the grey of the road, then a white band, a grey band, and a white band; there was this nice balance between lovely dark pots on either side of the door and white boxes sitting on another grey tone. So an interesting tonal pattern already exists within the image.

Stages of the Drawing – Thin Line Sketching

The initial sketch used a 0.2 Pentel Pointliner. I’ve only come across these pens recently when doing some architectural sketches for the next stage of the studio build. I’m enjoying the precision with which you can tweak the line depth. Because the 0.2 is so thin you’ll see some of the lines are broken and whispy.

The two plant pots were drawn using a Pentel Brush pen. The brush pen is fantastic for giving trees and foliage a textural, broken effect.

Pentel brush pen texture

You can see in the earlier sketch the trees and bushes drawn with the brush pen.

Urban Scene sketch pen

The Pointliner’s are also water and fade-resistant, so they work well with a technique I like to use, mixing non-soluble and soluble inks.

chisel tip marker for urban sketching

When drawing window panes, using the 3.0 chisel tip is super handy. It creates a clean and precise shape faster than if you drew an exact square repeatedly and then fill it in. I also use the tip to create small random marks for detailed areas.

layout for urban sketching

I’m now concentrating on the darkest darks. Looking for areas in the subject that I want to ‘ground’ or give weight or shadow to.

These get built out more using the 3.0 chisel for the square architectural sections and swapping to the brush pen for more fluid sections.

Creating a wash with water-soluble ink

After filling in the darkest areas, I begin adding in the grey tones. To achieve a wash effect, I utilize the Lamy Safari fountain pen. This pen is perfect for beginners who enjoy sketching, with its comfortable grip provided by the scallops in the barrel. It also comes with various nib options, and the one I am currently using is a fine nib (F). You can read more on a minimal sketching kit.

Lamy fountain pen for urban sketching

The scalloped edge at the front of the pen makes for a nice controlled grip when sketching

Pentel Aquash pen for street sketching

The scalloped edge on the Lamy fountain gives a super comfortable grip for sketching

Effectively, I ‘load’ an area with the Lamy water-soluble ink and then use the Pentel Water Pen to pull the colour out. I add a bit more ink and pull the wash over to get a darker grey.

Drawing of St Mawes Cornwall

To add the final details, I’m using the 0.2 pen and carefully added intricate designs around the windows and the front pillars. I take my time to ensure a more solid, considered line. Additionally, I enhance the shadow of the windows by drawing a thicker line and gently using the water brush for a subtle cast shadow effect.

Gulls Hill St Mawes

Da Bara Bakery Almond Croissant

You always have to treat yourself when drawing; it can be so exhausting! This is an epic almond croissant from Da Bara Bakery (check out their cinnamon buns as well)

Amazing live music from Ashley Harding.

Aperol spritz pub

Hope you enjoyed the sketches; if you’d like to learn more about Urban sketching, the Urban Sketching for Beginners Course is a great place to start.

This Post Has 43 Comments

  1. Karen Bohan

    Sipping my morning coffee and enjoying your commentary and sketches! Thanks so much for sharing – I always learn something from your posts! Cheers!

    1. Will Kemp

      Great to hear Karen, glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Louise

    Hi Will ~ Good Morning from the other side of the pond ~ me was up early and already looked at this lovely post,
    It is really beautiful and your work too ~ I love architecture and have all the media on hand for my sketches also.
    I have done several online courses re this topic and I might say, err suggest you could write a book @ Blurb, a friend of mine on you tube did and its beautiful.
    Have a great rest of the week. I am off to Delta Art this morning to get some brushes and Golden Product.
    Best to you and keep them coming ! Louise

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Louise, mmm art material shopping, have a great time!

  3. Kim

    Hi Will , sipping a coffee , having a read , thank you so much for this share , been away from my painting for a while and I believe you just inspired once again ….

  4. Dale

    Good morning Will..as always , when I see an email arrive from you, I get the refreshed cuppa and sit down to something fabulous and fun . Really enjoyed this one, Cornwall looks like a heaven for drawing and painting. I am behind on projects, but your photos and sketches from this trip look so good..will give it a try . Thanks for the tips throughout the post. Cheers!

    1. Will Kemp

      Good one Dale, yes, even even the simplest of subjects can start to come to life when you get sketching them, hope you find the tipd helpful.

  5. vanessa

    loved this story, always loved doors, looking through, etc interiors. so difficult especially if perspective is a foreign country. pens lovely all lovely, apples and pears i know good to start but this was fabulous. x Vanessa

  6. Kate Rogers

    Hi Will. Thank you for sharing your beautiful Cornish experiences with me/us.
    I love St Mawes, when not busy with tourists. Your emails are always inspirational, encouraging and very positive.
    Thank you

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s so nice to hear Kate, hope it brought back nice memories of your visits.

  7. Lori

    Hi Will
    So grateful for your wonderful descriptions and the amazing photos! As you bring us with you, deciding on the scene to capture in ink, detailing your process, you are sharing the importance of taking TIME to look at our surroundings. I live in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and many times find the scenes overwhelming in their vastness. I’m learning to slow down, sometimes staring at the ground beneath me, and that’s when I discover wonders…like a late blooming crocus!!!
    You love to create and it’s an honour to see your process. Again, so grateful for all you do. Lori

    1. Will Kemp

      Glad you’ve found them helpful Lori, you’re so right, often taking a small section of a vista can give you a sense of what it’s like to live within the environment, hope your crocus drawing goes well.

  8. Patricia Wheeler

    Hi Will. Thank you so much for your interesting updates and invitations to join your journeys and artistic ventures, they are so inspiring. I often dip into your YouTube tutorials for a needy push on those days when procrastination takes over. Over the last 70 years I have ventured in and out of all the art media watercolour oils pastels and now acrylic. It is a joy to be able to join your informative and encouraging tutorials and I can finally look at my finished work with confidence. Looking forward to my next acrylic tutorial courses.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Patricia, that’s so lovely to hear, glad you’re feeling inspired.

  9. Maryann

    Lovely sketches and tutoring—I’ve got my pens out to sketch this!

  10. Marianna Browett

    Your sketches are magical and your comments and photos have made a wonderful start to my day. Thank you so very much. I always enjoy reading about your travels. Also love your courses.
    Marianna (Victoria BC

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased you’ve been enjoying the courses Marianna, and thanks for the kind words on the sketches.

  11. Stephen

    Great topic will your blogs are very helpful and hope you and family are well
    Kindest regards Steve

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Stephen, doing great thanks. Pleased you enjoyed the sketch tour.

  12. Susan

    Thank you for sharing your process again Will. Your posts are always so interesting and enlightening … and I love the added extras such as the croissant and music, it helps to bring the place to life!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks for your kind words Susan, glad you enjoyed it.

  13. Megan

    Finding and reading this email when I first wake up here on the far south coast of NSW Australia is a terrific and encouraging start to the day! Thank you.

  14. Jacqueline Dyke

    Love your drawings and paintings Will. I like to draw in charcoal as I’m not very confident with pens (hand a bit wobbly), but you have inspired me to have a go.

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s great to hear Jacqueline, those wobbly lines are what can make a pen drawing so nice. I’d try a few pen sketches with your non-dominant hand first. These will feel really odd and look very very wobbly, but can help to build confident in embracing the wobbly!


  15. Marianna Browett

    Thank you so much for a delightful description of your trip but most of all the sketches and the tools you used. I had a very pleasant hour going through the photos and sketches. Now I will have no excuses to try my hand at it.

    1. Will Kemp

      Glad you found the info on the sketching pens helpful Marianna, they can be great fun and easy to travel around with.

  16. Rhonda Lisson

    Thank you will for my tour of The Mawes. This area looks beautiful that any artist would love to visit. I must look up about the Pentel pens, they look fabulous. I love the way you treat yourself to something sweet after a painting session, that’s what it’s all about the love of art and a treat at the end.
    Best wishes Rhonda Lisson Tasmania Aus

    1. Will Kemp

      So true Rhonda! the combination seems to work nicely together.

  17. Maureen Grimmett

    The pictures of doors was a lovely escape from packing up my “stuff” for a move! I have not painted for a long time and need the inspiration to get back into it!

    1. Will Kemp

      Glad you enjoyed it Maureen and good luck with your move, I tend to get engrossed in all the things I’m supposed to be packing!

  18. Eliz

    Hi Will, thank you for sharing your trip experience and sketching tips! Reading your post always feels like a treat — beautiful photos and equally beautifully crafted writing — and I invariably walk away feeling inspired and ready to draw and paint. In fact, your blog is the one place I come to whenever I feel I’m in an artistic rut.

    Off to re-watch your Urban Sketching course in preparation for an upcoming trip now. Hope you’ll have more fruitful and inspiring trips ahead! – Eliz

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re too kind Eliz, that’s fabulous to hear you’re feeling inspired and ready to draw! Have a nice time revisiting the Urban sketching course.

  19. Pam Strachan

    Good morning Will,
    Thank you for a really lovely post.
    I have recently joined urban sketchers in Edinburgh, so your information is very helpful. I am still a bit bewildered about what equipment to use other than a pencil and a travel watercolour set.
    So I will re-read your post again, with a view to buying some pens.

    1. Will Kemp

      Great stuff Pam, really hope you enjoy the group. And what a city for inspiration!

  20. Carolyn Kaufman

    I am one more door and window lover. The older and more crumbled, the better! I just returned with scads of architectural detail photos taken in small villages in the south of France. And now have your always encouraging inspiration for guidance! Thank you Will. Almond croissants are my favorite, and I ate my share while in France. Yummm.

    1. Will Kemp

      So true Carolyn, sounds bliss, crumbling doors and crumbling pastry!

  21. Keith

    I enjoyed your St Mawes (Cornwall) pen and ink sketches which complement your Urban Sketching course with I am currently working through ,so I will add these new sketches to my list to do in the near future. I love drawing drawing and painting doorways especially in Tuscany. Last time we visited North Cornwall this May 2023 I noticed the distinctive patterns and colours of the walls around the fields you have attached

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Keith, yes some of the Italian doors are amazing, the more peeling paint the better! Hope you enjoy the drawings.

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