My training in watercolour has always been to plan the composition first before painting and that is what I will be working on with the students in the workshops that I will be teaching this summer in Montreal, Paris and Portland. That idea even carries over to my small sketches because what are these, really, but little paintings? One of the compositional ideas that is important is to choose a dominant direction in the painting and then to have some element that is a contrast or foil for it. That direction can be vertical, horizontal or diagonal. In this sketch vertical is the dominant direction, firstly by the shape of the paper itself and secondly by those strong trees that echo the shape of the paper and that are darker than the rest of the shapes in the sketch. The contrast? The horizontal string of wash on the line.
After many days working with a pen I’m back to a brush. And what a brush it is. My first stop in New York City was Pearl Paint, the Canal St. mecca for artists. My old Winsor Newton Series 7 sable has really lost its sharp point and I knew what I wanted when I headed into the rabbit warren that is Pearl Paint. Up a few flights of stairs and then down another few steps straight to the brush department and an astute salesperson who obviously knows her sables. I described what I wanted — a fairly large round brush — and she pulled out a few for me to test. A Winsor Newton similar to the one I already had and then this Raphael 14. Made of the finest Kolinsky sable, capable of holding vast amounts of wash and also tapering down to the finest of points. A look of shock came over her face when she scanned the bar code on the brush. It was on sale. At an amazing price. “Go directly to the cash!” she said, looking me straight in the eye, “These don’t go on sale often.” Which of course I did. And when I saw her again later we exchanged knowing glances, and she nodded to me once again, content that I had heeded her sage advice.
It is quite astonishing that I had any time at all to do this sketch at the Harvey Theatre in Brooklyn. Astonishing because there are very few cab drivers in Brooklyn who know where the theatre is so I thought I might arrive late for the play or miss it entirely. But by some lucky accident landmarks were recognized and I made it to my seat with a few minutes to spare. And a few more at intermission to complete the drawing. The wash was added later back at the hotel because I don’t think the New York theatre-goers would have appreciated me painting during the show. At least if I read correctly their reaction to a poor fellow whose cell phone went off during the performance. The play, by the way, was Harold Pinter’s “The Caretaker”, starring the wonderful Jonathan Pryce.
Here’s a first – posting while driving. Actually posting while completely stopped at the Canada /U.S. border. I think all of Quebec went to New York for the holiday weekend. Drawing done in my little Moleskine with a Micron pen. Took a side border but the traffic is bad here too.
It’s been a bit of an adjustment to sketch in New York City. My Montreal suburbia is pretty quiet, especially when I’m in my car. But here the horns are honking constantly, people are yelling, and every few minutes a fire truck flies by with a siren going at full volume. It’s pretty hard to focus. This morning I went out early before the stores opened in Soho and found a quiet spot near the corner of Grand.
It’s a perfect day in New York City. Perfect for sketching in Bryant Park, in back of the New York Public Library. It’s an ideal little park — surrounded by plane trees with a big grassy area in the middle. It seems that all of New York was there today, sunning themselves, having lunch and just enjoying the day.
Testing, testing. This is the first time I post remotely using the camera on my iPhone and the WordPress app. And the wi-fi in my hotel room. If this works send me a comment to let me know.