I love sketching alleys and lanes, and Denver has many of them. When I was there a few weeks ago I sketched this one off the 16th Street mall. It was late in the day and there was a constant stream of waiters and line cooks who appeared from restaurants on either side of the alley for a cigarette break. One point perspective into a narrow space has always fascinated me. I love observing the light, colour and shadow on the buildings as they move further away from you. But with that fascination comes some trepidation about drawing the shapes correctly, including the angles on the buildings as they recede.
This summer at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore I attended Stephanie Bower‘s lecture “Good Bones”. It changed the way I look at the world. I understand the basics of perspective but until I watched and listened to Stephanie explain it, it didn’t seem simple or easy. She has a way of simplifying the theory in a way that is very adaptable to plein air sketching. And I believe that’s because she loves perspective drawing and that comes through in the way she teaches. She made me want to sketch perspective instead of avoid it. Stephanie has recently lauched a course on Craftsy.com called “Perspective for Sketchers”. I highly recommend it if you approach vanishing points and horizon lines with some hesitation. Have a look at her blog where she offers a discount link for the course.
There’s a trend now to market ugly fruit and vegetables. You know, the ones that are misshapen, lumpy, and often discarded. I think these apples might be from that section of the store, but that makes them more interesting for drawing, doesn’t it? This is a continuation of my experiment in a limited palette of Cobalt Teal, Quin Gold and Permanent Alizarin Crimson. I still haven’t used up the blob of Teal that leaked all over my palette, but I am enjoying these experiments so much that I have a feeling I may continue this long after the pigment has been used up.
It’s a great view up Rue Beaudoin in St. Henri because of the mountain backdrop, which, during these Indian summer days is looking very soft and almost glowing. This week I’m happy to be working with a really big, flat brush for most of my sketch. It’s liberating after weeks and weeks of having a cramped hand from fine pen work. The cobalt teal that leaked in my palette is giving me some interesting things to think about as well. Moving away from local colour and using this new triad forces me to focus more on strong shapes and values, rather than local colour. I’ll keep going with this as long as I can to see where these colour combos take me.
My unlikely trio started out as an accident — a blob of Cobalt Teal pigment that leaked all over my palette. I filled the well a full week ago and have been carrying the palette upright ever since. But I guess I thought it was fine and left the palette sideways in my sketch bag. I opened it this morning to find that the sneaky stuff had spread all over the place. So my unlikely trio is a triad of primary colours that I used for this sketch — Quinacridone Gold, Alizarin Crimson and of course… Cobalt Teal. It’s not the type of blue I would normally use in a limited palette exercise. I’d be much more likely to use something darker like Ultramarine or Phthalo Blue but this Teal granulates beautifully and makes a nice bright green when mixed with the gold. There’s still lots all over the palette so watch for it in the coming days in everything I paint.
I’ve been using quite a bit of single sheet Fluid 100 paper lately but I’ve never tried the original Fluid cold pressed paper (the blocks with the orange cover, which are not 100% cotton like the sheets). This little block is the same dimension as my current sketchbook (8″ x 8″) which is a great size when I don’t have time for a full painting. It’s not a very textured surface but it has great colour saturation, which for me means that the pigment doesn’t disappear into the paper, and when it dries it’s just as bright as when wet. That’s important. It seems to take a beating too. I went over the forest floor foreground in this sketch many times and just kept building up the texture with no loss of paint to the layers below (that sometimes happens on cheaper papers.) The other nice thing about this paper is the wide variety of formats available, including a very wide one which is great for panoramas. I know blocks are more expensive that cutting up sheets but sometimes you just want the convenience of something you can grab and throw in your bag.
If there was a soundtrack to go with this sketch it would be Pharrell Williams singing “Happy”. Happy to be sitting in City Park in Denver, looking at the distant snow-dusted Rockies and the reflections in the lake. Happy to have cracked open a new sketchbook that has been out of stock for many weeks. Happy to have a few free moments to sketch. Isn’t that what makes plein air sketches great? Looking at them days or weeks or even years later and remembering how you felt at the time you sketched because you spent a good chunk of time in that place — observing, listening, drawing. It may not be the best sketch (badly drawn, pale and weak, overworked, poor composition) but it never fails to evoke that same feeling. Do you have a sketch that evokes some kind of strong emotion? I’d love to see it. Post a link in the comments section if you care to.
I’m very honoured to have two paintings included, again this year, in the Art Rental Collection 2016 at Stewart Hall in Pointe Claire. It’s a smart concept that the gallery has been offering for many years — choose from over one hundred works of art (photography, paintings, prints or drawings) and then either rent them or buy them. I love the idea of being able to try out something on your wall before you purchase it. Also in the collection: photographs of Newfoundland by Laurel Holmes and paintings by Marc Taro Holmes, as well as many works by members of the Lakeshore Association of Artists.
The vernissage is today at 2 pm and the exhibition continues until November 29th, but the works are available through the Art Rental and Sales throughout the year. Stewart Hall is located at 176 Bord du Lac, Pointe Claire. Hope to see you there.
Masts, watercolour, 15″ x 11″