Sunday, May 15, 2011

Watercolor Musings: Sketchbooks

Watercolor Musings: Sketchbooks: "Savory Cafe & Bakery, Ventura California I still remember the first time I took a sketchbook into a restaurant AND used it. I was attend..."


Savory Cafe & Bakery, Ventura California

I still remember the first time I took a sketchbook into a restaurant AND used it. I was attending a workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1998 and a group of us went to dinner together. We all took our sketchbooks and drew while we waited for dinner to be served. I found it to be such a liberating feeling! I now think nothing of it but still try to be sensitive to my companions. I don't want to appear disinterested in the chatter even though when I look at the sketch later I can perfectly recall the conversation as well as the speaker's voice. My family is indulgent and don't mind my idiosyncrasies.

In the sketch above, I drew part of the ample bakery counter and on the right, I drew my lunch. I ordered those french fries because they came in the stiff paper cone which was wonderful to draw. (OK, they were lovely to eat, too.) Last March I visited the cafe again and sat in just about the same spot. It was immediately apparent that the place had changed hands. Most of that sense was fueled by the change in the set up and feeling of the place. I wouldn't have been so aware had I not drawn it two years earlier.

High Sierra Cafe, Lone Pine CA         

At the Savory Cafe I was with a painter friend while at the High Sierra Cafe, I was alone. In this case, my sketchbook became a companion of sorts. I drew the flowers on my table as I waited for my breakfast. I was in Lone Pine for the Annual Manzanar Workshop begun my Henry Fukuhara. I'm glad I did this sketch instead of reading the paper. I have a tangible memory of that morning.

So, why sketch other than to hone your skills?
• It makes time scamper! I am a much more patient person if I can draw while I wait. When my children were in school, I drew on the backs of PTA agendas and  paper menus as well as sketchbooks. I did dozens and dozens of drawings of coffee carafes, stryfoam cups, spoons, napkins etc. In airports, I sketch fellow travelers but always keep my dark glasses on...that way my staring at people is not so obvious.
• Your memories will be greatly enhanced. Drawings can evoke smells, conversations, and even emotions. In my sketch of he cafe, I know not only what my sandwich looked like but also what was in it.
Hotel Colonial Dining Room, Puebla, Mexico
• Authencity. When I taught my first journal-keeping class, my students used authentic as word to describe the results of their combination of drawings, narratives and photographs. I can open any one of my numerous sketchbooks and remember exactly where I was, who was with me and what we were doing. Photographs alone have no such punch. The multiple drawings on one page above were done over several days while I stayed with two other artists at the Hotel Colonial in Puebla. Different interesting features were apparent as we were seated at different tables. Often food interests find their way into my sketchbooks. We were trying to figure out the ingredients for mole for which our dining room was famous...when we showed the list to our waiter, he made some corrections and signed my book!

For all of these reasons and more, artists prize their sketchbooks above their paintings. Because they are not meant for public view and sale, they are more personal. I am often asked if I sell my sketchbooks...the answer is always the same...nope.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Watercolor Musings: More Explorations with Ink and Watercolor

Watercolor Musings: More Explorations with Ink and Watercolor: "I have to admit that the element of design that most speaks to me is line. I love the quote that says 'drawing is taking a line for a walk''..."

More Explorations with Ink and Watercolor

I have to admit that the element of design that most speaks to me is line. I love the quote that says "drawing is taking a line for a walk'" although I prefer thinking of it as a dance! My fascination with ink and watercolor is long term and I enjoy playing with all the possibilities. The image selected for this blog came from a barge trip from Prague to Berlin in 2008. We had a very brief time in Torgau on the Elbe River so I only got photos. The town is most well-known as the place where during the Second World War, the US Army forces coming from the west met with forces of the Soviet Union coming from the east during the invasion of Germany on April 25, 1945.
Since I'd had no time to draw on site, I sketched from the image on my camera after returning to the boat. From that drawing, I created the other versions after returning home, each using a different pen or watercolor and/or paper. I like to replicate the same image for teaching for two important reasons. First, I can re-draw each one with increasing speed since it is familiar territory and secondly, my students focus on the lesson without being distracted with different subject matter each time.
I've included the photo reference, initial drawing in a small sketchbook and subsequent explorations with various tools and applications, the most recent being 24 hours ago.

Photo reference - I crouched down on the path so I could get the sharp angle with the roses in the foreground. My drawing is fairly detailed in the blooms on the drawing but much less so in the drawing/watercolors.

Sketchbook drawing - The sketchbook is 5 1/2" x 11" when open. I've been surprised to be able to get drawings from the camera and it helps in future work.

Torgau#1 - The drawing was first and done with a permanent black pitt pen. The underpainting was added next followed up with watercolor, loosely applied. No movement of ink here!

Torgau#2 - Underpainting came first here since I drew with the pentel color brush in sepia which is water soluble. Watercolor was added and since I'd lost the white with the underpainting I added white gouache for the roses, etc.

Torgau#3 - Pentel color brush in sepia was used here and I added hydrus liquid watercolor to the line drawing. The smoother paper makes the watercolor sit on top and perhaps the liquid watercolor too. I've only experimented a bit with it so I have lots to do yet. The watercolor didn't move as much as I thought it would, but then again with my inexperience it may be "operator error" and not the medium at all.

Torgau#4 - Underpainting was done first with a line drawing done with a stabilo brown pt. 88 pen which is water-soluble. The first step after the drawing was a wet brush over the line to establish a value pattern. Then watercolor was applied, more drawing, more watercolor and finally white gouache.

My painting buddy, Brenda Swenson and I are always on the lookout for new and interesting tools, especially ink pens and brushes. It's thanks to her that I have the stabilo pens which I am going to love using! At the end of yesterday, after exploring with this new pen I was energized in spite of a having cold and fatigue from a large family party at my home two days prior. That's about as good a recommendation for this sort of activity as I could make.