Basilica of the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo: Sketch to Finished Piece

MissionCarmelSEGL2 COOMON

Carmel Mission (long name is Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, link to Wiki article) is one of my favorite missions.  I am taking you through my sketching process from rough pencil sketches (which I wish I had not lost) to some sort of finished product in this post.

I always start from sketches, usually using Grumbacher’s Pentalic Woodless Pencil.  I may create several until one feels just right.  In this case I tried several angles, some way back looking through the courtyard, and some straight on.  In the end I liked the idea of looking up at the mission from the garden, and did two from that angle.  I created a clean ink sketch from the pencil sketches, in this case using a Staedler Fine Lumocolor pen in my sketchbook.

I liked the one best that really leaned toward the sky, and was drawn (no pun intended) to the crescent moon in the sky for Carmel.  Palms on the side reach to the moon.  There are both palms and eucalyptus on the property, but not in that location.  This is not realism, but interpretation.

I’m experimenting with the effects of various mediums on shellacked paper: various pens, acrylic or oil.  I like the golden Tuscany tones of the paper with orange or garnet shellac on it, especially when it soaks in unevenly.  It adds another texture to the art.

I did a pencil-to-ink drawing on shellacked paper using a .3 Staedtler Pigment Liner, which I won’t use again on shellac.  The lines melted away with Pitt pens or even an kneaded eraser used over them, so that pen is very unstable.  It’s a pen that needs the tooth of paper to be permanent, and the shellac doesn’t give it that tooth.  Still, I loved the lines of the black pen on the dark shellac.  I decided to leave it as is, a nice line drawing, and move on to a line drawing with a Pitt pen.

W14 1 Carmel Mission 6

So I made another.  They are the same and not; small differences are in each.  The center one is the one I will color, leaving the other as an ink drawing.  I used XS Pitt pen in black  to ink the pencil sketch on the center, lightly shellacked paper.  I liked it but decided I wanted it darker, so after testing I put a second coat of 1-lb orange shellac over the top of the one I wanted to color.  Thankfully the shellac didn’t move the Pitt india ink, and it allows me to soften the colors on the drawing.

W14 1 Carmel Mission 9

Below you can see the second coat, and it took an hour to fully dry.  Shellac flashes, so I am not sure why it takes longer to dry on paper than on furniture!


I was up at 3:15am to finish the Carmel mission in color.  I am so glad I put the extra coat of orange shellac on the paper as it allowed me to blend the Pitt pens.  I may add a bit more color after it sits on my desk, but right now I call it finished!

W14 1 Carmel Mission 11

I am thinking of offering a class on working with shellac on paper; follow me if you want to be notified of a class towards the end of the year, or leave a comment below and I will place you on a list to be notified.


I am now agreeing to the  Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International License, which you can learn more about by visiting the site, or, visit my web page for a more user-friendly summary on my terms.  My images/blog posts can be reposted; please link back to dkatiepowellart.
A version of this was originally published in my blog zenkatwrites.

Basilica of the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, Carmel, California, view of the main frontage reduced from a photograph taken 16th June 2004 by Stephen Lea. From: Wikipedia.

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
This entry was posted in art, creativity, drawing, painting, process, shellac. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Basilica of the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo: Sketch to Finished Piece

  1. Sammy D. says:

    Hi Katie – I’m on the A to Z Challenge(<100 followers) list right above you and am exploring some blogs ahead of April so I know who I want to visit. Your art is so varied and interesting. I especially like this mission sketch and the way you documented your process. I like following bloggers whose crafts differ from mine. I'm happy to follow you.

    Sammy D at


  2. anxiousgeek says:

    Awesome. I really like the perspective.


  3. Very cool art- I wish I had your talent!

    Visting from the A to Z 🙂


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