Less than a week now and I board that aircraft for Italy. I have wanted to do some sketching from my photos ever since I came back last time. On the whole I don’t enjoy sketching from photos any more, but I must be in the mood for it at the moment. This is Santa Maria della Pieve in the Piazza Grande in Arezzo. Spending a week not far from here.
Another reason for this sketch is that I wanted to give the magic pencils a workout. I haven’t used them for a long time , maybe since this sketch in 2010. I have a project in mind to do in Sicily and it may well be with the magic pencils, perhaps aided by a few watercolour shadows. But it might not happen, and it might very well turn out to be a dog’s breakfast, in which case I won’t show you.
Strangely, magic pencils are suddenly in the news, with Laurelines also using them very recently.
The thing that drives me crazy about my own sketchbook is that, unless I plan ahead and draw a line around the page, I always fill the whole page. So with this sketch I cheated, and digitally put a white border around it. Recently while reading Matthew Brehm’s book Sketching on Location, I read what I already knew – sketches look better with white space around them (Flickr, take note).
So why do I do this? A couple of reasons.
I was a painter and drawer long before I became a sketcher. I am used to filling up the canvas. Used to filling up the paper.
The other reason is that I am used to working big. BIG. Before I went to art school I thought A4 (letter size) was big. Immediately when we started in first year, we were onto A1 size and expected to fill the page. That’s around 23 x 33 inches. Then A1 became small, and we were expected to work much bigger.
Cartridge paper – six sheets of A1
Here’s one I did of the studio. I started with one A1 sheet and it grew to six. So the whole drawing is about 99 inches across by 46 high.
Stonehenge paper – nine sheets
The next drawing is on nine full sheets of Stonehenge paper. Each sheet is about 22 x 29 inches. So this one is nearly 90 inches wide by 66 high.
This is probably the reason I can’t fathom the use of tiny sketchbooks. They make me come over all peculiar (more peculiar).
These large drawings were done about ten years ago. The last one may look abstract, but in fact it was an investigation into drawing ‘the bound object’. We all had to bind an object during the holidays as a basis of our drawing for the next term (final year- Advanced Diploma of Fine Art). I got some old metallic helium balloons with congratulatory messages on them, and bound my object (rags? I can’t remember) with yellow curling ribbon. I was the only member of a large class with a coloured ‘bound object’. Beige, white, grey, black…and then mine. I did the realistic colours first and then was instructed to do more in different colourways till I had a large wall full of them.
So on Thursday we sketched around Newtown. In this area is one of the best streets in Newtown. An interesting link on this blog. So is mine by the way, but my street is full of ‘workers’cottages’ whereas this area has large mansions with lots of lovely architectural detail to sketch. I slopped on watercolour first and drew into it. There’s a nice little park opposite where we sat to sketch. Forced to listen to a ‘lovers’tiff’ which, it seemed to me, had only one obvious ending.
I have long been interested in the book,One Drawing A Day: A 6-Week Course Exploring Creativity with Illustration and Mixed Media (One A Day) and this week I bought the Kindle version. I want to take it travelling with me. I only wishhhhhhh (amazon, are you listening) that they also had the Kindle version of One Watercolor a Day: A 6-Week Course Exploring Creativity Using Watercolor, Pattern, and Design (One A Day). They have it in the shop up the road now, but I want it on my ipad. Amazon, you’ve got six weeks. Oh, wait, no, it’s five now.
My reason for sudden acceleration of interest in these books is my old bugbear, finding time to sketch while travelling. Because I am a painter originally, the tone is as important as the line, maybe more so. But the tone takes the time to get on paper. These exercises are designed for working quickly with different tools. I’m trying to be less precious, less critical. The ‘monster’ technique from Inma Serrano has helped a lot with that, but I want to take it further. (Read about that technique here.)
So the first exercise was with a fine pen. Semi blind contour. More looking at the still life than at what I am putting down onto my paper. I was also not supposed to rest my hand on the paper, but I kept forgetting that. I will have to do another one and concentrate on doing that. No control!
My still life was meant to be of things important to me, so ……it is my new benjarong pot from Thailand, a green glass bottle with a lovely stopper I bought in Arezzo, and a plant that Annie gave me for a gift. It’s a challenge to me to leave out the colour, and also a challenge not to put the tones and reflections on the bottle and the pot, but with that fine pen I would have been there all day.
As a January project I volunteered to join a collaborative portrait project as part of the SW Games Facebook Group. I had expected my section to contain a nostril, or a section of chin, but as you see what I got was far more complex. I used watercolour and my NEW purple Copic Multiliner pen.
Apart from the Rome Map we did recently, I haven’t done this type of project since 2004. My final year painting class at the Sydney Gallery School, Meadowbank did a collaborative version of a Cezanne still life. And here it is!
My section (A4 size) was part of the dark underneath the table. I did it in oils with acrylic underpainting. Many glazes. It was chosen by the other students for the invitation for our exhibition. Luckily these images were still hanging around on my computer.
So, this January 2014 collaborative project is MUCH more complex that the one ten years earlier. I haven’t the foggiest what the image will be like when it is all revealed. It will be any day now, and I will show you.
Sketching yesterday around Newtown. A little park with some lovely old houses around it. One row of very elaborate large houses had so much architectural detail that you could sketch there for a month and still do something different every time. The first sketch I was trying out the three-media technique (with a variation). I used a red Copic Multiliner to sketch it initially, then put my mid-tones on with pink and peach Tombow pens – a bit too similar to each other. I needed to do that before the light moved around. Then a purple Tombow to reinforce the main lines and the darks. A waterbrush to just wash some of the purple over the windows. Very quick, and even better…nothing to finish afterwards.
The second one was from a row of small simple, but still old houses on another side of the park. This is the two-media technique. Green Copic Multiliner and watercolour mix of Antwerp Blue and Paynes Grey.
I did enjoy doing the pink and purple one. I have been wanting to do something in completely unrealistic colours and now I have. It is the monster technique of course. Such fun to do, but perhaps I should get back to some serious stuff. I do enjoy trying new techniques though. Any suggestions?
Last week we went sketching at the Powerhouse Museum. I took watercolour pencils and used those inside the Museum. Also Copic Multiliner. It is quite dark everywhere in the museum so it was tricky trying to catch the different shades of grey from the shadows and the water in the tank and in the pump area.
We tucked ourselves away in a corner because there were some school groups visitng the museum, and we didn’t want to be in the way. However this water pump is able to be used, and most of the children who came by wanted to try. we had to reassure the parents that they weren’t blocking our view (well, not for long). Some little boys said it was really difficult to pump, but then two little girls came along and they really thumped at it and made it go fast. We didn’t try, ourselves.
As I am off again in a couple of weeks I have been thinking a lot about travel sketching. And panicking. I am travelling with a friend who is not a sketcher, and I know I am not ruthless enough to impose sketching upon her (except sometimes). Last time I went to Europe I was in third year at art school but I wasn’t ‘a sketcher’. I took a little A5 spiral bound sketchbook and much to my surprise I filled it.
I started off by taking notes at the galleries I went to, just as I did at home. Tyler Print Institute, Singapore was the first one. All my notes came in very handy, as they were reference material for writing essays and reviews back at art school. After that I was staying with relatives in Switzerland, though we went to Barcelona and also to Italy. The first sketch here is from memory, of vineyards seen from the train on the side of a hill near Lausanne. The second was done on a hot day in Fiesole near Florence. Both these sketches were later turned into acrylic paintings on canvas. The Vineyards one was quite large and sold immediately.
In Basel, we came upon a Schwitters and Arp exhibition at the Kunstmuseum. I was inspired. From then on I made small collages in my sketchbook with the bits and pieces I picked up along the way. So I show you a ‘Bologna Schwitters’ and a ‘Gaudi Schwitters’.
So, though I doubt that I will be taking notes at exhibitions, I do plan to collage again. I do hope to fill my sketchbook…even if it is just collage and bullet points about my experiences. I learnt in Bali that I also need to spend time soaking up the scene and enjoying being there (even though I have been to Bali so many times.) I was looking at the Italian sketchbook of another artist, Leslie Fehling, and I do encourage you to read this post she has written about travel sketching. While you are there, have a look at her wonderful watercolours of Italy. I do so agree with her that sketching should not be an obligation.
I do have a strategy to help me get some stuff in my book. I don’t think I have the discipline to do more than finishing off and tidying up when I get home, so I am doing some preparation now. I’ll tell you about it in another post.