Friday, 8 October 2010

Art House Coop Sketchbook 2011 Project

I've prepared all the spreads with watercolour washes and collaged bits. I'm still not sure how I'm going to interpret the theme "your name here" except that I know it's not going to be about me, per se. Perhaps a series of spreads on famous (and not so famous---perhaps even fictional/made-up---) namesakes, with images and quotes. Something like Lynn Perella's altered portraits might work for this project.
Here's a sample spread from the Moleskine ready for more to be added. This is how my desk usually ends up when I'm really getting into it!

Direct painting

Popular painter Fiona Peart uses this term to describe watercolour sketching without prior drawing. The idea is to focus on one shape at a time, starting somewhere in the middle of the picture, and build outwards from there, fitting shapes together in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle and leaving a little white space between the shapes. I have been experimenting with this approach, eg, in my Kirrie show and croft sketches, and find that it forces me to slow down, look carefully, and really think about colour, shape, and proportion before I even touch the brush to the paper. It also forces me to apply paint more deliberately, and to take time to observe how the paint spreads and dries. This is exactly the kind of practice I need, as I tend to be slapdash with watercolour, rushing in without thought and always overworking the paint.

Working from photos

A photo flattens shapes so that you see line, as opposed to volume---2D rather than 3D. In addition, the camera with its one eye erases depth and warps perspective by compressing depth of field into a very shallow plane. In my Highland pony sketch, the length of the pony's foreshortened barrel is lost and the pony thus looks too "punchy". I am at a loss as to how to fix this because I have no live drawings to refer to. The lesson here: draw from life where possible and by default, instead of relying on the camera. Sketch live to record the essentials--shape, volume, gesture---and use the camera to collect details that will be filled in later.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking this pony would make a lovely subject for a linocut.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

In spate

From a photo of a mountain stream in late winter. This is very much a sketch focusing on how to render contrasting textures of vegetation, rock that is both wet and dry, and water from smooth and dark to white and foamy.

I was very conscious of NOT overworking and stopped the moment I found myself getting fiddly with this. I'm pleased for not ruining the white water with too much fussing---it was very frothy indeed, and the only thing I would add now would be a few touches of very light yellow to describe the direction of flow. However, the water under the bank and rocks should be darker and warmer, to reflect the rock and bank colours respectively---I obviously reached for the instinctive "blue" even though this was an overcast, albeit bright, day with not a scrap of blue sky in sight.

It's clear in the photo that the background is quite a bit warmer than the middle- or foreground, and the foreground rocks are looking rather amorphous and less than solid to me now. They would need more careful description and significant warming up if I were to go back into this sketch. Which I am not going to do!

Palette: ultramarine, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cad yellow, a bit of sap green. Although I love this palette for its soft natural mixes, for my next project I'm getting out of my comfort zone with colour.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

World-wide Sketchcrawl 28

A pile of rocks on the beach near my home. The technique is quite obvious, but still effective, I think: random wet-in-wet colour with spattering. When dry, add shading to describe the rock shapes. I used ultra and burnt umber.
Now if I can only figure out how to make my photos look brighter and sharper with my little Samsung P1000. There must be a better way than just plunking down my sketchbook next to the window?

Friday, 30 July 2010

Sketch studies

I made this pencil study to try out ways of describing the varying flat surface of the water in the stream and the contrasting vertical planes of the cliffs in the background. Trying to stay very loose with this, deliberately leaving it unfinished to subvert my own self-defeating perfectionism (that murderer of confidence!), doing only as much as I need with the image to get what I want for the moment out of the process.

Experiments in progress, reports to come:
1. a series of small WC sketches of skies
2. using clingfilm, spattering, and sponging to texture backgrounds as a prelude to painting
3. drawing on a toned background

Much excitement today: my sketchbook for Sketchbook Project 2011 from Art House Co-op arrived---yay! My theme is (your name here). Now I just have to figure out how I want to interpret that, and how to work with, or not with, that flimsy and rather shiny moleskine paper.
Reminder: tomorrow is World-Wide Sketchcrawl #28. I will be sketching and posting here.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Quilt block collage

This morning when the house was quiet and my first cuppa was brewing, I brainstormed a list of possible projects for the coming weeks. A little later, as I was sipping my tea and pondering the list, along comes Miss Muse and starts urging me to "forget about painting for today, try some of that quilt block collage thing using magazine pages!"

Now, if there's one thing I've learned from my exile in the creative wilderness, it's that I have to pay attention to Miss Muse when she starts spouting off because if I ignore her she'll stomp off in a huff and God knows when she'll be back.

So this is today's spread of experiments and notes in my big catch-all sketchbook. The collages are a bit dark because of the papers I happened to tear out. Next time I would balance the monochromes with more brights. I enjoyed using the cheap and pretty papers as fabrics, which I trimmed, cut into neat squares and triangles, and stacked across the top of my desk for arranging into patterns.

Inspirations: quilt blocks, primitive art, geometry, jewellery, mandalas.

1. Work one block very large to give more scope for layering colour, pattern, and texture.
2. Add paint, ink, pen.
3. If working in quilt block mode, make a new block for each layer of collage. Then mount the blocks in sequence of either construction or deconstruction---or both.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Rock garden sketch, revisited

A starting point: yesterday's pencil sketch repeated in watercolour.

Double page spread in 4.5" by 6" Daler Rowney hardback sketchbook with very cockly 150gm/sqm paper. Light pencil sketch to place main shapes, then right in with watercolour. Right foreground should have been an evergreen shrub or flower bed, but I ran out of time and didn't touch it up in any way when I got home.

Palette: ultramarine, sap green, burnt umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre. Cerulean and touch of cobalt in sky only.

What I like about this painting:

1. The colours are fresh and clear, pretty much straight off the pan with minimum mixing on the palette. I use these hues a lot and am comfortable working with them.

2. The modelling of the bench is a good start, although the perspective is a bit off.

3. Trees: I deliberately painted the foliage in clumps and tried to model each clump for volume. I like the spaces in the foliage because they suggest space through and behind the tree.

4. I like the splashes of paint for leaves because they suggest movement and liveliness, but more are needed in a greater variety of tones and colours.

5. I tried to paint a receding succession of planes from foreground to background to convey depth. Forgot to add the paler hill behind the far shore!

What I need to work on:

1. Deeper shadow colours and more clearly defined shadow shapes to make the white paper really zing.

2. How to interpret the different foliage of various plants and clumps without getting fussy or same-y?

3. Skies! There were lovely little fair-weather clouds that I left out.

4. Drawing is a bit amorphous. I need to get the underlying shapes the right size, shape, and proportion so that I know where to put the paint to show volume, where the boundaries are between light and dark and the shapes of light and dark areas.

Next step: Check out some other watercolourists to see their approaches to these elements. Also try to figure out how to format this blog...

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Starting point

Be a student of your own process.

---Roz Stendahl

Go to your room and make something.