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.
I haven’t worked much on toned paper, so I thought I’d give it a try with a sketch inspired by one of Turner’s. I have been out of practice sketching with watercolors, and I have tried to make the sketches too complex, which isn’t possible given time and paper quality constraints. Looking at Turner is a nice reminder.
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.
A quick sketch of a nearby tree in my tiny moleskine watercolor notebook. The background was improvised. I have not done much work with flowers or blossoms so this is really rough. I don’t think botanical painting will be for me, though I will try out some more of these sketches, perhaps with some rough pen lines as well.
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.
Sometimes it’s nice just to sketch with no real aim in mind and not worry about getting things right or keeping with a theme or purpose. Here I just liked the view of the shadows on this house and the other house sticking up in the distance framed by the large pine tree.
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.
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.
I am trying to build momentum with my sketching again. Here is one from Friday of an apartment outcropping drawn during lunch with a Pentel brush pen.
And here is one from tonight of my dog waiting for my kids to move away so she could snag some carrots. I used to have a rabbit who convinced my dog to love vegetables.
Back to watercolors soon. Thanks for reading.
It seems that fall came all at once, with every tree changing at the same time. The light has been incredible coming over the tree tops in the morning. This is the best sketching season.