Friday, February 21, 2014

Quick Draw McGraw Watercolor Sketching


Watercolor sketching is a great stretching exercise. The point of sketching is to capture the essential feeling of a scene as quickly as possible without regard to detail…as opposed to rendering a photographic representation. As mentioned previously, the soul of a painting—the "Art"—is often inversely proportional to detail, accuracy, realism…and, to some extent, time spent.

With this in mind, sketching helps take some of the pressure off the results as we only want to capture an impression and mood. Maybe it's the cobalt blue sky, or the contrast between subject and sky. The pencil drawing should be loose and lack most of the detail and accuracy your mind and eyes are telling you to include. This is a battle of will, to simplify, simplify, simplify. It is quite likely that most of your favorite paintings…the one's you are most happy with…will be "loose" sketches. 

If you are self conscious like I am, sketching "plein air" (on scene outdoors) when there is an audience looking over my shoulder is counter productive in that it tightens me up. Sketching is all about teaching us to loosen up. Since I need to be alone in order to be loose, sometimes I take photos of the subject from where I would paint if there were no people and do a sketch from the photo. However, there is much to be gained from painting plein air that has nothing to do with painting. It is a courageous act for a beginner to paint in public. It has been suggested that one should disrobe before painting in public as it takes the focus off the "art." 



San Xavier Mission, Tucson, Az..

 Shown below are a few paintings that began as playing, i.e., dropping various complementary colors onto a wet surface and watching them blend into shapes. As the paint begins to dry you will begin to see "something" (or near something) take form. Like below, I saw a partly cloudy sky and then colors that reminded me of Zion, so I added some cliffs and a little definition and a little more color. Bingo. Zion. Watercolors are like strong women…they have a mind of their own and sometimes you just need to follow…let them take you, instead of trying to force your will on the painting. You will learn more about painting by "Playing" than all the workshops and books in Sedona. If you just sketch and play there is less disappointment and you will itch to do it again and again just to see what happens…wet paint into wet paper.   



The painting below came about by "playing" after a visit to Yosemite National Park, where I was fascinated by waterfalls.


 Below is a coastal Oregon sketch painted from a photograph. I got a little bogged down in minutia…trying to show foreground grass and bushes in detail when the subject…the thing that captured my attention originally…was the distant forested hills and mountains. The too blue ocean and lighthouse pretty much stops the eye from going into the distance. 


 On a brillant, sunny day we tried to do a little sketch near Sedona. It was hot and dry as a desert bone, so we were forced to work fast as the paper dried immediately behind brushstrokes. Watercolor on dry paper is quickly fixed, and stark raving LOUD. Still, it was fun. In such conditions you need an umbrella to shade the painting.

Now go get some watercolors and "Play."
mark and bobbie











16 comments:

  1. Love the colors you guys use. Very nice. Do you know Mary Hoeksema? She and her brother, Ron, used to live in Ouray (well, Ron was down in Colona, I think, may still be). Mary moved to Dulce, NM. They're both wonderful artists, I have quite a bit of their work, and the way you and Bobbie use color remind me of them. Love watercolors but have never had the patience to do much with it. Maybe a few lessons would help, but I like instant gratification - I want to be really good on my first one - LOL.

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  2. Chinle,
    Yes, both Mary and Ron use to live on Log Hill where we resided in "the Village" for a few years before making the leap to Ouray. Mary's painting are soooo detailed; she must have the patience of Job. Ron seemed to go the Graphic Arts direction…less detail with bold lines, shapes and colors…serigraphs, I believe is what he does exclusively now. Western artists love New Mexico, with it's Georgia Okeeffe skies and adobe walls. I'm an "Instant Grad" type myself (class of 68)…but took up painting on the assumption that patience would come with age. Still waiting…
    mark

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    1. Mark, I was talking to Connie Williams up at the Apple Shed Gallery in Cedaredge - you may know her - a number of years ago and she said Ron ended up in the hospital from his serigraphs, chemical poisoning - so he took up oils instead at her suggestion. I have some of his serigraphs and also some of his early oils and they're really nice. Mary did the cover to a book I published called Red Twilight and it's beautiful - the Cimarrons at sunset. You can see it on Amazon. I have the original.

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  3. Oh, I really LOVE that sketch! So you mean you don't use a RULER?? haha!

    I went to Michaels this week to have my Outer Banks Lighthouse sketch framed that I bought at the beach last summer. I decided I would look at the watercolor section on my way out....Maybe. Just maybe. Why not? But tubes vs pans? Pads vs blocks?? Hair vs synthetics? I smelled smoke coming from the unused right side of my brain, and went running back to the comfort of my Excel spreadsheets like a little sissy. LOL!

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    1. Chicken! :)
      For the record, forget tubes of watercolor for now…a collection of "transparent" watercolors in a pan will do just fine…especially if you are doing the small 4 X 6 inch blocks, which you should be to start out with because a big canvas is intimidating. Brushes…well synthetic is fine, a couple that come to a nice point when wet, and a couple of small squared off. Small, tho, cause your canvas is small…don't want a three inch brush on a six inch canvas. :(
      And don't forget to watch a couple of BEGINNER youtube demos…simple desert scenes are a great way to start. Distant mountains are just a variable line that meets a sky…no detail needed. The sky is easy…and generally is done first…wet the entire block of paper, tilt it slightly and touch a loaded brush…preferably with a square brush with one side loaded with say orange or red and the other side with yellow. let them run down the paper…keep tilting the block this way and that way to assist mingling. Bang, you've got a sunset easy as pie. Skies are fun and the easiest thing to do so I suggest starting there. When the sky is dry pencil in a distant mountain…a cool color like blue helps give it distance…and then paint it in. It's a lot more fun than spreadsheets.
      Gosh, don't make me take you by the hand; buy the paints, damn it.
      mark :)

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  4. Hey youngster, what is that thing called "patience"?

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    1. I don't know OFM…I'm still looking for it :))

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  5. Beautiful! Your loose "instruction" makes me think maybe even I could try this! Food for thought.

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    1. Stay tuned, and start with skies and a simple mountain range. Send me a photo of your attempts and I will put them up on the BCB for ridicule, er, constructive comments. :))

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  6. This singer sargent, shows with that single brush stroke outlining her cheek, as she measures perspective gives life and meaning to the whole picture. Real genius.

    http://www.art.com/products/p602498529-sa-i4021335/john-singer-sargent-the-sketchers-1914.htm?sOrig=CAT&sOrigID=0&dimVals=5023817&ui=81249D41CCA445E09670333231720877

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    1. My comment wasn't very coherent, and the picture in the link is a poor rendition. I think what I like best about this is that this work was obviously done quickly in impressionist style and the only carefully rendered part of the painting is her profile, and it's all that was needed.

      Alice Walton's private collection of watercolors are now on display at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, AR, and she owns several of Sargent's works. If I had her bucks I'd own a few Sargent's as well.

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  7. Thanks so much for all that you blog! The photos and water colors are so inspiring. I'm thinking I may pick up some water colors and try.

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    1. That's great…don't allow yourself to become discouraged, and put paint to paper (play) everyday, watch a few demos on youtube…and give it a year (what else have you got to do?). You'll be hooked. If you want to become a pro, it's as simple as painting a thousand paintings. That's the advice I got from a watercolor artist when I was frustrated with the art form. His work blew my mind so I asked him the dumb question…thinking there was no answer, you either got it or you don't…and he said he was just like me for years, struggling and disappointed. His secret? There is no secret he said…you must paint a thousand paintings, then your art will be as good as mine.

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  8. I love how you described the water color process. You made it sound so inviting that many of us think we should give it a try. Oh, but you have a special talent in blending colors which gives the painting its life. I just love the Zion and Yosemite paintings. I think I like more muted colors. The mustard for the waterfall is beautiful. Awesome writing and painting:)

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    1. It is an invitation. Color is my weakness, tho. Bobbie knows color much better than I do…what complements…but it is learnable. A workshop instructor told our class that color doesn't matter…you can use any color you want for mountains and trees and sky…it's VALUE that makes a painting pop. In other words, on a 0 to 10 scale match the intensity or darkness/lightness of the paint to your reference photo (they make little Value rulers so you can get it right). Notice how in good paintings and photos there is contrast…and as you go into the distance color fades…which gives depth. If everything in the painting is of the same value… it will be flatter than a pancake, no depth. Foreground sharp and edgy…soften the middle ground…and soften the distant background even more. Tip for the day...

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