When I don’t have time to work on a whole painting sometimes I pick one thing and practice it. For me, painting skies in watercolour takes a great deal of practice and you almost always have to get it right in the first wash. It’s really difficult to go back into a dry sky area and make changes without having it look touched up. It also takes a lot of control to know how dry your brush should be because you can end up with horrible blooms if the brush is carrying too much water onto a semi-dry sheet. Today I took the backs of some used watercolour sheets and practiced skies, with more pigment, less pigment, wetter brushes and drier brushes. It wasn’t easy. The foreground in this one is inconsequential, it’s really just there to ground the composition. I was happy I did this because after four or five sheets of scrap paper I did feel more in control but I will keep on practicing.
Still practicing my people drawing skills (it seems to be a lifelong struggle) and trying to figure out which way works best for me. I think I’ve pretty much figured out that a loose contour drawing for people in motion (like students at school) has the highest success rate (that means for every two that I post I have drawn six or seven). If I get into shading it never works unless they are sitting very still but I think I could probably add a light wash to this without getting into too much trouble.
If I squint the dark side of the fig and its shadow blend together. That was the first wash in the sketch. The deep yet dusty purple is a mysterious colour to mix — a blend of purple and green with a yellowish glow in places. Sketched in an Arches spiral sketchbook — a paper that soaks up all the water yet one that I continue to use.
I’m quoting from one of those informational panels in Utah’s National Parks when I say that the clearest air in America is on the Colorado Plateau. The average summer visual range is 145 miles! That’s a bit more distance than what I’m used to sketching in the city.
There were many reasons why painting in Utah was a challenge, but I would say that trying to capture those great distances and vast vistas in front of me was something that took a bit of time to understand. There are so many variables that have to be dealt with: colour temperature, value, edge quality. I am still working on the Utah paintings (there are ten in all), but when I am done I hope to post them and talk about the challenges of painting each one. Table Cliff Plateau in Bryce Canyon was one of the easier places to paint because of the shade from the pines on the rim where I sat. I haven’t started the paintings from Bryce yet but when I do I hope to include this view, especially the giant cloud shadow that floated across it.
There’s a big old tree I’ve been looking at for years. It’s in the woods near my house and I see it when I walk my dog. Needless to say, I don’t bring my sketch stuff with me on dog walks but I do have my phone and I occasionally snap photos of things I see that might be interesting to paint later on. Painting from a phone shot is kind of cool because it’s as if you’re just catching glimpses of something. You draw a bit and the phone turns off. You paint a bit and the phone turns off. I know I could change the phone settings but that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as this.
It’s always a thrill to be sketching in a city, especially my own city. I haven’t had a chance to draw in downtown Montreal in a while and since it was a bit too cold to be outside (that first cold day is always a shock to the system), I found a window seat at Starbucks with my favourite kind of view — mostly nondescript structures, intersecting in interesting ways, no building trying to steal the spotlight and a little bit of light on something. I don’t often use Phthalo blue — it’s too strong and staining — but today it worked well for the slate shingles in the foreground building and as a contrast to the strong red of the brick.
Alice is just as bad as the students I sometimes draw. She can’t sit still. I was drawing her having an afternoon nap when suddenly there was a gust of wind outside and she popped up to check out what made the sound. Sketched in a Handbook journal sketchbook with a Muji mechanical pencil on a windy day in Montreal.