It doesn’t always have to be a good image to be a good sketch


I am not very good about using my sketchbooks. They mostly get filled with random color experiments and half-starts of pictures that I don’t really structure–usually when I just feel like using the brush but not actually making an image. I prefer to try for finished images on proper paper, but then I go too long without painting because of te burden of picking the right thing to paint. 

I should be using the sketchbook for in-between work–just to look at something and paint it, to practice structure, mixing, whatever, or just have fun, whether or not it makes a decent image. 

I did the above sketch this morning. It’s a grey day, and there isn’t much interesting going on with the light, but I wanted to do something. At least I can get some practice in. This is in a strathmore 500 series mixed media paper sketchbook. I’d recommend these for watercolor. The paper is 100% cotton, takes the paint well, and the books are thinner than Stillman and Birn so they feel a little more portable.


Working with green

I found time recently to paint the view off my patio. I live on a golf course, which means there is a lot of green. The only things that break up the green are the golfers’ outfits.

I am not really happy with the result of this sketch, but I got a few things out of it. Working with so much green is difficult, and perhaps more time could turn this around, but it isn’t worth the trouble. I had trouble getting the values worked out properly and getting the different greens to look right while modifying the value. This is something I need to work on. It didn’t help that I rushed this as well without thinking it through properly, and then overworked it. I think when I feel time constraints I have trouble slowing down. Great athletes have a way of slowing the game down in their heads. I need to get to that point while working outdoors. Any tips?

Thanks for reading.


Recovering from a bad sketching session

Yesterday I had a really awful sketching session from which I realized that I need to shift my methods when working in my sketchbook outside. I need to find a better balance of speed and patience, especially if I want to get out for lunchtime sketches when I really only have 30 minutes. My loose strokes end up just being blobs and then I get frustrated.

I like the sketches of John Lidzey, who was featured in a book on sketching my wife got me a couple years ago. He’s really good at making sense of the blobs, so to reset myself and test the limits of the Stillman and Birn Alpha series I tried a copy of one of his loose studies of light. I probably should have worked off of one with more structure, but oh well. Here it is.



Slippers and Fizzy Water

Here’s a watercolor only sketch I did tonight. I wanted to try painting without guidelines and correcting as I go.

I changed the paints in my compact kit. Across the top I have Sennelier Yellow Light, Maimeri primary red magenta, Daniel Smith cobalt blue, and Maimeri Cupric Green deep (aka Pthalo green). Across the bottom I have Sennelier Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Sennelier Paynes Grey, Maimeri Ultramarine and Maimeri Burnt Umber. I dulled it down from my prior arrangement to better fit the Tysons area and so I could stay more neutral with a few accents. This palette gives me a pretty good range. I will replace the Pthalo green with Viridian when it runs out so I don’t pollute the water so much on the go.

Lunch time sketch of office buildings


I have a nice view from my office building in Tysons Corner: more office buildings. I’ve sketched the view out the window a few times, but here’s another try from today during my lunch break. The light was kid of interesting, and I embellished it a little. I was also interested in the tall trees obstructing the view. I made them a little more pronounced.

I was also excited to try out my new Isabey red sable pocket round. I plan to do a lot more sketching around work–Tysons is undergoing a big transformation, so once I can go outside again, there should be some good sketching opportunities–and I want to get my compact set up in order (shown above). It was a nice experiment today. Much better using a real brush then the waterbrushes I had been using for this sort of work.

Thanks for reading.