Here are the sketches I made during some early morning walks. The ink sketches on white ground (I forgot to use the toned paper I’d prepared) were done on day 1, and I can see a big step in confidence between these and the day 2 watercolour set. Also i spent more time on the watercolour sketches, taking the same time to do four of them as it took to do the five ink ones. I had another go at watercolour on day 3, using a toned support.
It was a good experience painting outdoors from life, with water based media and a brush. I still feel self-conscious and I expect I’ll always have to pluck up the courage to venture out. Next would be to introduce pen, and also to make lots of quick line sketches with colour etc notes, and take these back to develop in my studio – see my next post for further sketching safaris in my neighbourhood.
Here’s what I did :-
I prepared a simple kit for going out for a walk to make the 5 small ink sketches:-
- clipped on to a hand-held ‘table’ (35x25cm piece of perspex), several small containers for ink and water and a small rag
- camera bag over my shoulder containing pre-prepared postcard size stack of loose paper with a couple of bulldog clips; Rotring black ink in a small nozzle bottle; size 8 watercolour brush, size 1 waterbrush; pipette; small water bottle; pieces of kitchen roll; specs, iphone, drinking water and pepper spray!
- hat, foldable stool.
6.30am (no-one around?) stood at my gate looking out and made a quick, surreptitious ink sketch of next door neighbour’s house and garden. It shows my haste to get away. 300g HP watercolour paper.
Retreated back to own garden, made a cup of tea, checked facebook, decided one sketch (not bad for a first attempt) enough for this session, told self not to be idiotic, agreed with self to have courage to do one more. Walked a bit further, lurked round corner from another neighbour’s house, sketched her old 1952 Fergusson Massey tractor. Its a family workhorse – where not long ago a donkey was used for the same tasks, the tractor now helps the family with all the heavy graft involved in a self-sufficient family life. Unfortunately she came along and drove it away before painting finished, so looks like its flying. 300g HP watercolour paper
Went a bit further (feeling bolder), sat on stool sketching wheelie bins, one tilting, one deceased and fallen. Neighbour passed by and had a look, then sent small daughter who helpfully pointed out details I’d missed, and promised to have her portrait done another day, then neighbour’s husband and other neighbour, all interested in what I was doing and asking after dogs, husband etc. The wheelie bin looks too regular somehow. 300g HP watercolour paper
Getting used to going straight in with ink and brush. Painting main composition lines first with nearly clean water. Adding very light washes feeling my way into composition; gradually reinforcing withstronger washes, then finally starting to be a bit braver with darks and mark-making. Learning to control hard and soft edges.
Walked on up lane, sat looking along path at distant trees. Tried to capture morning sunlight contrasts. 185g Arches rough wc paper, so tried ‘dry-brush’ technique, dragging brush along on its side (see foreground area), liked the effect.
Finally, painted trunk of an old fig tree, impressed by its textures and twisted growth. Used more dry-brush on 185g Arches textured wc paper, also hatching with brush to mimic marks on tree. A bit overdone – but good exoerimenting with different ways of applying the ink
Next morning replaced Rotring ink with small watercolour box, walked in opposite direction. Arriving at our large rusty oil drum which we, like our neighbours, use as a dustbin, I made a monochrome study of it in the surrounding context of hedgerow, barbed wire and forest path. Alizarin / burnt umber
Down a lane leading to some gardens and small fields where I take my dog for walks there is a group of striking cypress trees. I was looking eastwards, so they appeared sillouhetted against the sky, with the sun bathing the ground around them. The colours where there are any, are tonal and washed out, and i think this successfully gives the feeling of the pale early morning light blinding me. Pleased with the aerial perspective. Cool palette of Hookers green/burnt umber.
Retracing my steps, admired a glimpse through an opening to an orchard, where the sun flooded in, and walked on. Turned back, realising I should paint it, I might never get back to the exact feeling again. Pleased with the composition, how it swirls round, and the textures of background foliage. By using warm colours and leaving pure white for light, I think I captured the light and heat – ultramarine/burnt sienna/burnt umber.
I came to my neighbours house, across the gardens from our own, could hear the husband hollering at the boys to get up, and breakfast-making sounds. Placed my stool at the end of their drive outside their garden gate and painted their old, iconic, Renault 12. Made a reasonable fist of the proportions/perspective. Prussian blue/viridian/burnt umber.
And the following morning I saw a row of sunflowers in my neighbours garden. It was a struggle to paint as I was greeted by three small dogs jumping all over me, spilling my water container, puting muddy paw marks on my trousers; one stayed and chewed through a stem of sweetcorn until the whole thing fell on my head. Done on mid tone support. Lemon yw/yw ochre/hookers gn/burnt umber/cad red
My bro-in-law commented ‘like William Blake’, so googled ‘William Blake and flowers’ and discovered his poem, comparing the sunflower (a little sardonically I feel) to the travails of romantic love.
Songs of Experience
Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.
Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire.
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.
Blake used pen and watercolour, touched with gold for this A6 page, on which the representation of a sunflower may appear at top left of the poem itself. This reminds me of my artist book ‘Family Album’ where I combined handwritten text (my father’s poems and letters) with painting.