Friday, July 23, 2010

Watercolor Musings: Sketching En Route

Watercolor Musings: Sketching En Route: "Finding time to do the things we really want to do, rather than squishing them in when time allows, takes some creativity and planning. If y..."

Sketching En Route

Finding time to do the things we really want to do, rather than squishing them in when time allows, takes some creativity and planning. If you've always wanted to do a journal with drawings when traveling, perhaps this will be an encouragement.
The small (5.5x3.5) accordian-style Moleskine sketchbooks have become favorites for daily travel sketches. The paper is smooth, almost velvety, and takes rollerball pens for a "skate." The nib glides over the surface and makes drawing effortless. This is not the paper for watercolor - I use it for contour drawings. The fold out pages allow a very wide landscape drawing if you like though mine are usually a double, or 7" wide.

The images shown are from a 2008 trip to Prague which preceded a river cruise to Berlin and then on to London to meet my husband. I made a sketch each day from May 26 to June 29, just a simple contour to serve as a memory and to hone my eye and hand. This can be surprisingly difficult to do whether you are on a painting/sketching trip or traveling with others who do not draw. By making that pledge to yourself, the daily log is more likely to be accomplished.
This tiny sketch book is a wonderful distillation of that trip. In the first drawing I'm reminded of that first overeager, exhausting day where I gratefully sank into a bench to sketch beneath a leafy tree. The second was done with a cool drink in Prague's Old Towne Square where we were treated to a raucous parade celebrating something and then the 148 steps I climbed in the lesser Town Bridge Tower to get a different view of the city. 

The first of the second group was done while I was sopping wet and grateful to get out of the rain. Brenda Swenson and I had misjudged the storm and finally sought refuge in a bar where the proprietress gave us handfuls of napkins since she had no towels. This one evokes strong memories but likely would not have been included in a larger sketchbook. The Municipal House was an Art Deco delight and these are just a suggestion of the stained glass windows. Prague's many towers and spires  made for a fun day which we declared "wonky style". We worked in this whimsical way for the entire day. 
Daily sketches, whatever size, build skill and the "hurry-up" element is good for looking clearly and working quickly. I find these wee sketches an amazingly accurate way to recall the sights, sounds and experiences - even those several years past.
And the best thing? Your travel mates will love to see what you've done and the more you do the better you get, no matter what age. How many things can you do with that promise?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Keeler Jumble

On the last day of a 4-day workshop in the Lone Pine area, I did this quick ink and watercolor sketch of tiny Keeler. I worked in a bound sketchbook full of handmade paper, one of my favorites since I love the way the paper takes watercolor in these books.
The ramshackle scene is adjacent to the Keeler Schoolhouse which is close to the talc mill, once the lifeblood of this place. It now looks near to ghost town status but there are many hardy folks who like living in such a remote area, away for the hustle and bustle. It's a lovely place for interesting shapes, varied textures and unique architecture.
I remember vividly the advice of Betty Lynch, a fine painter I met in a Robert E. Wood workshop many years ago. She urged me to work in pen in my sketchbooks, not pencil. The reason? So that the work would be permanent (pencil lines smudge over time) and so that I would be even more careful when I put down a line. You look carefully when you know the line cannot be erased.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Crystal Cove and the Benefits of Working on Location

Usually I try to get several reference photos when painting on location. Once I've visited and painted a place, I feel comfortable painting it again in the studio. Even though I know how much I unconsciously edit the scene, sometimes I'm still surprised at the changes. This is an example of that. Drawings, sketches and paintings are really each individual artist's response to the place - thus the powerful draw of working on location.

Crystal is a wonderful, historic beach between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. Several years ago, our family was lucky enough to rent the tall cottage on the right of the images. It belonged to Alice and Roger Armstrong, both artists. It was a magical week and we only went "outside" for a visit to the art fairs and the grocery. Otherwise we stayed close by watching sunsets, taking long walks, feeling the gentle sea air and eating on the porch.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Paper Makes a BIG Difference

Provencial Pumpkins on Yupo by Judy Schroeder

Two paintings of the same subject, painted on paper with watercolor yielded completely different results. One was painted on yupo, a plastic originally created for signage. It's non absorbent nature makes the paint sit on the surface and makes for juicy washes. The other was created by pasting bits of watercolor stained rice paper onto the page. The painting is tied together by painting with watercolors and gouache. Until that last step is done, the image is at best, fuzzy.

I like to use favorite subject matter in different ways and these examples are only two of so many other ways to work. Since I prefer to paint on location and because I have a gallery to run, these exercises make me content to explore in the studio.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just as I began to make an initial post to this blog, the building began a gentle roll - earthquake. Hmmmm. Auspicious or not?