Sunday, March 30, 2014

Trying New Things - China

Watercolour and coloured pencil from a photo I took.
It felt a bit goofy pulling out my iPad for a photo of this tiny shop. But I could not resist the bright colours of the brooms and mops set against the dark background so I snapped a quick shot.  Back at the hotel, as I was struggling to get the detail I wanted in watercolour, something struck me. I went to the tiny, local stationery shop and bought some coloured pencils. I have been a bit of a watercolour and pen purist. (Can there be such a thing?) But I have to admit, adding coloured pencil to a small detailed drawing was a lot of fun. Thank you Tommy Kane. 

Having Gumption - China

Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou China

Before going to China, my big goal was to have the gumption to draw and paint in situ and not be self conscious about people looking on. I know my sketchbook is for myself, but there is nothing like an audience to make you feel like you have to produce something wonderful. To date, people who have stopped to look have been nothing but enthusiastic and encouraging. Even so, I'm still working on getting over my impostor syndrome. 

What I discovered on my recent trip to China, is that finding a quiet place (with my back to a wall) is very conducive to being able to relax enough to draw and paint. This building roof line was done in The Humble Administrator's Garden in Suzhou. The garden was heaving with visitors but I found a quiet dead end. Granted there are a few problems with depth and perspective but this quick watercolour sketch reminds me of the day and captures the feeling of being there. 

Door Handle Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai.
This was an interesting combination of starting in situ and finishing from a photo back at the hotel. Usually I'm loath to go back to a painting. Often when I continue to mess around, I lose the freshness. But in this case, adding some shadow to the door handle as well as  painting in the rough and peeling door details improved it.

Here is the back story. As I stood in a tiny courtyard staring at and starting to paint this door handle, two of the clerks from the garden souvenir shop came out to chat with me. We had a lovely conversation  about how they had learned to speak English from tourists. And after seeing a quick sketch I'd done of a bench detail, they told me about the bat symbols in the garden. It was a connection that I would not have made if I hadn't had my sketchbook out. I like this door handle painting but I enjoyed the conversation even more.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Shanghai Sketches

A big load of laundry in front of the Hanting Hotel. 

On a recent trip to China, I had daily adventures, wandering and cycling the streets of Shanghai. The streets were frenetic and full of life. Before I arrived, I had every intention of urban sketching on location but, in truth, I lost my nerve on those streets filled with people and vehicles of ever description. So I took lots of pictures on my iPad and then painted from those. Eventually, I found a few quiet gardens and parks where I gathered enough gumption to pull out my pens and paints. As seen from the painting above, people put all manner of loads on their bikes and motorbikes. I saw a three wheeled bike  with a full load of aquaria sloshing with goldfish and turtles along a busy main street. And then there was the guy with the load of styrofoam literally 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide. That bike looked like the size of a truck! Have bike, will haul!

Many stores and restaurants had red lanterns hanging outside. 

I discovered the lovely modern Square Park across the street from the rather thread bare People's Park. I ordered  lunch noodles for a little more than CAD $2, found a quiet bench in the part of the park where young couple go to smooch, and painted plein air. Park cleaners, a photographer and some labourers stopped to have a look. We communicated through charades but it was frustrating not to be able to have even a basic conversation. I must study more Mandarin!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

All Over the Map

Loose and colourful
These four pieces that I have most recently worked on, may look completely unrelated. But there is a theme here, honestly. I'm trying to get ready for a trip where I plan to draw and paint "on location". So I have been experimenting with materials, speed and inspiration. The colourful orchids are a close up detail done with a loose, negative painting style in my watercolour paper journal. The drawing of the brushes and water pot, is inspired by quick sketching techniques, a 9B pencil and smudger. The house was an on location sketch while I waited for my visa to be processes. It is a mix of 9B pencil and watercolour on lousy paper. And finally, the faces are from photographs, experimenting with various shades of grey brush pens.

The idea is that I don't want to take an entire studio with me on the road so I have to figure out what is working best for me at the moment. The other thing is to feel like I can hit the ground running.  So instead of waiting to arrive at my destination to shift into painting and drawing high gear, I'm trying to rev up at home. So you see, these pieces are all related.

Be brave. Draw in public!
Darks, lights and smudges

Quick markers for people - lights and darks