Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Out and About on Location

If you are going to urban sketch, you have to get out of your own house. So I went into the backyard, and then on Vancouver Urban Sketchers meet up down at the Vancouver Museum. I chose to wander down to the Maritime Museum instead, to check out the St Roch.

In both of these sketches, I worked very slowly, using the grid and I had to force myself to keep going, keep looking and then suddenly, whoosh. The sketch revealed itself to me. Thrilling in a nerdy way.

Teapots, Paints and Boots

Turns out the grid works pretty well with close up subjects too. It is great for figuring out weird perspectives. Here are my beloved teapots and Erica's beloved boots with the purple yarn for laces.
Oh and my watercolour paint and ink set up.

Upon Reflections and the Wunder Grid

One of the things I enjoyed most about Liz Steel's online course, Sketching Foundations, was that she really encouraged people to look at their own work and reflect. Many people chose to post their work to the Flikr group, an option I resisted, knowing that I would spend way too much time looking at other people's work and comments. I wanted to spend my time drawing and painting. None the less, Liz gave feedback on each of the 12 lessons based on the work she saw posted by her students, so I was able to benefit from her general comments and more importantly, reflect on and apply the comments to my own work.

As much as I believe that everyone has to develop her or his own style, I do think that, without some reflection, it is very easy to keep doing things the same way, making the same "mistakes" and not really progressing much. So looking at my own work, I could see that I often chose organic subjects at close range that could look wonderful even if they were drawn and painted inaccurately. I love a flowy, spontaneous look with splashes of watercolour. All good.

I also noticed that I usually avoided scenes where any complicated or accurate perspective was involved. I  know that a big part of my motivation for drawing and painting is to record things as I travel. I want to be able to urban sketch and paint on location, either at home or on the road. I know in my head, that learning to see as an artist, in a visual or graphic way is important but I have often felt that I really struggled when I look at a complex scene and try to figure out how it all goes together.

All this to say that Liz's lessons on using a variety of tools and methods to quickly (or slowly) set up a sketch, proved to be revolutionary for me. And I don't say that lightly. Using watercolour pencil set up lines, measuring by squinting and holding out the stereotypical pencil to the scene and most importantly looking through a clear plastic grid has set me on the path to much improved perspective. I can honestly say, I feel like I can draw anything now.

So let's be real here. Setting up a grid in my sketchbook and looking through a plastic grid at a scene is very slow and, at times, torturous. I literally look at the scene, down at my book, back at the scene and so on for minutes on end.  I truly feel like I am reteaching myself to see, as it relates to lines on a page. As slow as the set up is, I reach a point where the watercolour pencil sketch literally reveals itself to me and I put the grid down, draw with  my ink fountain pen and very quickly get to the part I love most, the colour. Once the hard work of the set up is done, the ink and colour are just a gas! The other lovely side effect of the grid is that it is a great tool to help with composition and framing. Bonus.

I have to admit that my sketches are a wee bit on the tight side, but I am not worried at all. Once I get better at the set up, I have every confidence that I will get faster, more fluid and freer. But for now, I'm so loving the feeling of being able to look at any scene and feel like I can have a go.

So here are the latest works. Thanks Liz Steel!
Kitchen in Watercolour

Living Room

Living Room in Coloured Pencil

Where've Ya Been, Girl?

Well, to be honest, I've been abstracting shapes, feeling edges and trying to teach myself to see as an illustrator. In short, I've been taking Liz Steel's online Sketching Foundations course, from Australia no less. As a TVless, flip phone toting luddite, I have to say I love the internet. Instant connection with cool people doing and teaching fabulous things all around the world.

So here are a few examples of Liz's lessons on abstracting shapes and feeling edges. These were done on fairly crumby paper so the watercolour did not take too well. The idea was to look at still life items in terms of seeing shapes,  relationships of shapes  and spaces between shapes rather than seeing recognizable objects.