Try this at home

Someone asked me a question in the context of my online sketching class today. “Do you often do the drawing one day and add colour another day?” My answer was an unequivocal “no!”. I always add colour on location. In fact, I make sure that when I am sketching outdoors (or in my car) I leave enough time to add colour because I want my subject in front of me when I put the paint on my sketch.

But there is one place where you can’t add colour on location, and that is in a museum where only pencil drawing is allowed. Today Urban Sketchers Montreal met at the Museum of Fine Arts, where the security guards take their responsibilities quite seriously, popping up behind you while you are drawing to make sure you are not using pens or other forbidden drawing materials.

Marc Holmes and I sketched together in the galleries, first drawing some Mexican terracotta figurines and then a series of Roman marble heads and torsos. I really had no intention of adding colour later the way Marc often does, but when I got home I thought “why not?” I had included enough info in my drawings to feel confident adding a light wash on top of the pencil shading. And of course it got me thinking about trying this again. I am often a slave to the scene in front of me but I quite enjoyed the freedom (and the freshness) of adding colour in the comfort of my own studio. So the new answer to the student who asked the question about adding colour later, “Perhaps more often in the future!”




13 Comments on “Try this at home”

  1. Dorothy Greenidge says:

    Thanks for all the ideas!
    Do you think museums would allow water colour pencils? – without water of course!


  2. Judy Sopher says:

    Good idea about watercolor pencils. Fascinating temple figurines. Don’t you wonder how adults would make something so primitive when they could just look at another human and see the difference? But that was a different mindset. Anyway, your torso sketch is super.


  3. missmamie says:

    Thanks for giving me “permission” to do this! I live in Santa Fe and love to sketch at the International Folk Art Museum here, where there are so many crazy things to paint! I was taught to always finish your painting on site and it bothers me when I don’t. But in this age of gorgeous cell phone photography, why not? Drawing on site will allow me to remember the experience, and that’s what I love. Thanks so much!


    • So glad it was useful. I bet that is an amazing museum! Probably with a lot of colourful things to draw. Try using water-soluble coloured pencils instead of graphite. I wish I had done that I will try to remember for next time too!


  4. Frank Bettendorf says:

    I’m aware that some sketchers now take pictures of museum subjects, do the sketch and add the color back in the studio and I’ve seen others use the same technique with outdoor sketches. They prefer the comfort of the studio and the ability to control the watercolor.
    Frank B


    • Frank, this did make me think that I could do more painting at home, in the warmth of my studio. But today I went out painting in my car studio and loved that too. There’s just nothing like the energy you get from plein air painting, even if you are sitting in the car!


  5. Soni says:

    Shari – Keeping your feet warm & your pencils dry …….. smart


  6. Merillion says:

    Hi Shari,
    I like your work very much. One I really loved today was the portraits of Emperor Severus. I love painting portraits (my favorite) in oil. Haven’t tried watercolor yet. Also liked your street scene on snowy day.


    • HI Marilyn. Thanks so much for writing. I couldn’t figure out what post you were referring too but then I remembered my museum drawings. Of course, now I know who the Emperor you are referring to is. I haven’t tried portraits in oil yet, but there are several people in my Thursday night life drawing who paint in oil. I am always so impressed by what they do, but I haven’t tried it yet myself.

      Liked by 1 person

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