I rarely use rough paper but thought I’d give it a try today. I usually find it too bumpy, but the trick, as I found out, is to use really wet washes. I generally don’t seem to mix up enough paint on the palette and end up having a brush that goes dry before it should. With this little experiment, I made sure I had big puddles of wash on the palette for the first wash of orange sky and then later for the large blue areas. And the advantage of this is that when you do want some texture, you can let that big brush go dry and run it over the hills and valleys in the paper.
As practice for sketching animals with USk Montreal at the Biodome this coming Sunday, I sketched my dog today. I know the animals at the Naturalia room are preserved, but after a long walk the dog didn’t move much either. We usually start Sunday sketching at 10 am but since the room only opens at 10:30, we’ll be beginning a bit later. There’s a café on site so there will be no venturing out into the cold to find a place to eat this time. Hope to see you there!
Sketched in a Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook.
When I was drawing in the car today the noon phone-in show was playing on the radio. The subject: What are Montrealers doing differently this winter because of the cold? I listened for long enough to find out that we are eating more take-out food (instead of going to restaurants), walking the dog less (I can attest to that one)… just basically hibernating most of the time. This long spell of extreme cold has also taken a toll on my car sketching. A few years ago when I started drawing from my car there were only a few sub-zero days when I had to paint indoors, but this year we’ve had weeks on end when it’s impossible to stay in the car for more than a few minutes without repeatedly turning on the engine. I spent some time in Ville St. Pierre this morning, watching the bundled pedestrians and hoping to turn out a painting, but left with only one small sketch and ten frozen toes.
My Californian sketcher friend Suhita draws people in motion really well. I watched her draw in Barcelona and can attest to the fact that she creates magic with her trusty Sharpie pens. I can’t believe how fast she sketches, and how well she captures gestures of people in crowds. She has recently gone back to figure drawing with a model, and she commented on this blog after I posted something from a studio session. Here’s a snippet of what she said: “…it’s just that when I am drawing the figure fluidly, I am much more confident in all that I draw.” I think about that often, and now carry around a sketch kit in my bag, so that if I have a few minutes and there’s a willing model, I can do a quick drawing. Today I took it out when I was visiting my mother, and I thought that even though I try not to link my drawings with holidays, it might be fitting to post on Valentine’s Day.
Are you able to take colour out of the picture (no pun intended) and just think about tone? It’s an interesting exercise. I do this most often in the planning stages of a painting, by drawing a value sketch in pencil, but don’t do it often enough in paint. It’s fine to use a single pigment, Payne’s Grey or Indanthrene Blue, although I used several colours in this one. What’s the value of this exercise (there’s that pun again) and how will it help your sketching? Well, it really forces you to look at the relationships between shapes. Notice, I didn’t say between objects. That’s because the tree and the fence may form one shape (and you’ll see that more clearly if you squint your eyes when looking at a scene.) So, if you look at the relationship between shapes, you may see that the white house in the background is darker than the dark wood shed in sunlight. It takes a little time to adjust to looking at things this way, but makes it a little bit easier to see value relationships when you put colour back in the picture.
There’s not much to paint in my neighbourhood these days. Let’s see — there’s either snow, or more snow, or objects with snow on them. And then good luck trying to find a place to park to sketch these snow scenes, since the snow hasn’t been cleared everywhere. It took some searching but I finally found a parking lot at the boat club where a plow had passed by. When the snow is falling the lights and darks are closer together on the value scale, but this little arrangement of ghost boats provided some interesting shapes and contrast.
Last week at life drawing I found the half-hour poses difficult. Not enough time to really complete a quarter-sheet painting, and too long for a quick sketch. Today I decided to pick a focus for the thirty-minute poses. Marie has amazing hair — thick and curly — beautiful both piled on top of her head, or flowing over her shoulders. And the purple feather earrings in the first pose just added to the drama.