and there are things unknown,
and in between are the doors of perception.
We have deep depth.
When in doubt: sketch.
Last weekend I had the chance to meet educators and artists at BINDERS ARTFOLIO EVENT. On Friday, I shared the work in my STILLMAN & BIRN MULTIMEDIA SKETCHBOOKS. Still managed to get a rapid sketch done while the catering crew began setting up for the evening. MUSHROOM CAPS were outstanding. Getting a chance to meet so many creatives was a real treat.
On Saturday, BINDERS had a store event where there were workshops and demos. This gal is a bit foggy in the morning and this sketch proves she was in good company. An early riser does not always equal a morning person: I need a hour of mentally swimming through pudding before I can really start the day.
One of the things I like about the STILLMAN & BIRN journals is that the paper is drawing friendly and paint worthy. Usually papers do not have both these qualities in balance. The demonstration showed the use of wet and dry techniques, alternating painting with drawing to create a full image. I used Caran D’Ache Neocolor II wax pastels and Supracolor watercolor pencils to experiment with line and wash.
Working with saturated color can be a process of translation. This sketch kicks up the clarity of every muted or chromatic gray with a relatively balanced translation of the original arrangement. Choosing materials that lend themselves to this kind of sketching is key. Here I use CARAN D’ACHE Neocolor 2 crayons and Supracolor Soft Watercolor pencils in a STILLMAN & BIRN BETA MULTI-MEDIA JOURNAL.
NEOCOLOR II WAX PASTELS
These crayons have a water-soluble wax base. Highly pigmented, they can be instantly liquified with a touch of water. You can sharpen them with a simple plastic pencil sharpener if a finer line is needed.
I use them both wet and dry to pull up the image. A good paper for this activity needs to be suited for multi-media work in order to draw dry on a wet surface. You can use techniques like brush lifting and scrubbing out to modify selected areas. Most watercolor papers are too soft for this kind of thing unless you use a very heavyweight surface. The BETA JOURNAL breaks up the crayon slightly when dry and facilitates an even wash when wet.
If you feel the need to ‘fix’ the image, there are many good workable fixatives on the market. I avoid exposure to solvents and simply place a sheet of glassine paper in my journal over these drawings. A hot car in the South will make a wax based medium eager to smudge very slightly.
SUPRACOLOR SOFT WATERCOLOR PENCILS
These tools are great to add details and provide hard edges. Although a dry NEOCOLOR 2 crayon has a waxy feel, I have been able to draw on top with a SUPRACOLOR PENCIL by dipping the tip in water and drawing wet on dry. These are excellent to use for initial roughs: the lines can be lost or found through the use of water or brush lifting.
These materials would be perfect for plein air sketching for several reasons:
1. LEAVE THE BAGGAGE AT THE AIRPORT: You are not loaded down like a pack mule for the sketching session. I think there is a definite connection between how much stuff one drags along and how many sketches one is able to produce. Do you want to be your own bellhop, or do you want to make some sketches?
2. LIMIT THE PALETTE: I never ever bring all the colors in my bag. Usually I bring 6 Neocolor crayons and 6 Supracolor pencils, so there is palette of 12 colors. One pencil case can carry it all, though I like to keep the crayons in the metal case or in pastel box to guard against breakage.
3. YOU CAN PAINT AND DRAW: Sketching on location is a ‘fly by the seat of your paints’ proposition. These tools give you versatility and acknowledge that the goal is to be in the moment and be responsive to the setting. Everything else is gravy. Even a long session of sketching ( an hour or more ) will have a better result when the focus is narrow and the means are limited.
4. THE STILLMAN & BIRN BETA JOURNAL IS DESIGNED FOR MULTI-MEDIA USE: I like a journal that can be held in hand easily. I also like the option of working across the gutter. The binding is excellent so you will not worry about pages coming loose once water hits the paper. There is no ‘show-through’ to the opposing side of the paper so you can work the ENTIRE BOOK and paint on every single page.
EXPERIENCE IS SIMPLY THE NAME WE GIVE OUR MISTAKES.
Often people tell me that they are reluctant to keep a dedicated sketchbook because they are afraid of ” messing it up”. One of the best reasons to keep a sketchbook is to have the opportunity to mess something up that does not involve the IRS. If you have not made something hideously spectacular lately- you are not trying hard enough.
GOUACHE SUMMARY PAINTING is the answer to the page with an offending image.
My biggest issue in this regard is with the drawing that is left unfinished or barely started. A few meaningless scribbles on a blank-ish page really bugs me. Gouache is opaque so it will cover the prior imagery nicely, and one can do a summary painting right on top.
Keeping the goals modest is key in this kind of work. Remember that patterns of light & broad shape relationships form the most communicative messages to a viewer. This type of work is VERY GOOD for those who are self critical: if the page was a loss at the start the only way to go is up.
1. Limit the session to 20 minutes or less.
2. Try to capture the pattern of light immediately.
3. Concentrate on the integrity of shapes, but not DETAILS. DETAILS are hobgoblins. They lead a lot of people astray, myself included. LESS IS MORE.
4. Allow about 5 minutes for PARTICULARS: specifics that are idiosyncratic to your subject. In the first example, having a precise set to the woman’s face was important and particular. It was the moment of greatest contrast and the focal point.
So…I gotta go. I have some pages to paint…….
I am powerless against Goetze’s Bulls Eyes. The Bulls Eye is a chewy caramel wrapped around a cream core. A substantial treat, it sits solidly in the hand. If lobbed at an opponent’s head, it would welt pleasingly. The cream core has a smooth and somewhat dry texture. It is impossible to eat only one.
Bulls Eyes have been made in Baltimore since some time in the 1890’s. All their ingredients are sourced in the USA. Three Bulls Eyes have 30% of the calcium requirement for the day.
I am going to toss those hideous calcium chews that promise to keep strong bones. I am going to support American made products. I will request a whole tin of Goetze’s for Christmas.
I can never buy another bag until December 25th or my jeans will not fit.
Sometimes you just have to mix it up! I bought a bargain journal, filled with unsized rough raw paper from India. Well, I did not know the *RAW UNSIZED PART upon purchase but I did find out once the wrapper was off. Bumpy paper that feels like a gravel road. Unsized paper makes painting very hard to manipulate. It bleeds through the other side. The lines feather out beyond boundaries like the lipstick on Dame Edna.
START WHERE YOU ARE! This is often the best advice and it is sometimes hard to follow. Trying to do fine line sketching on this paper would guarantee a twitching eyeball by the end of the session. India Ink on a big beat-down brush felt like the right response. This book will be the place I try raw and graphic techniques. A new style or work method may develop after 100 or so pages of experiment ( it is a good sized book!).
A few sketches each week in the ROUGHHOUSE JOURNAL might take me someplace new. Some of my favorite sketchers at URBAN SKETCHERS use very immediate and raw styles. Next time I use this book I will aim to be more abstract and use fewer lines…
Memory is hazy. Indefinite. With certain clear incidents of light that give us direction. HAHA! That’s what an eraser is for!
… and try to capture the action as it happens.