Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sketching on Location

Sketching on location -- making quick studies of a subject -- is a great way to develop and practice skills as well as record ideas for more complete painting or drawing. It's also a way to record the light and shadow patterns in a scene before the rapidly moving light source (sun) changes them, or make note of a particular color that a camera may not quite capture. For these reasons, many artists won't leave home without their sketchbooks.

Here are a examples of the different ways I've used such sketches in my art process.

Value sketches are usually monochromatic. Their purpose is to help you decide on the relative values of the different objects in the composition. You can check your overall composition at the same time. In this value study, I decided that the horizon needed to be lower (as I noted with an arrow).

I lowered the horizon in this second sketch to see if I liked it better. I also adjusted some of the values.

In this example I tried three different compositions.

Here I tested ideas for a birthday card I wanted to paint for a friend. I liked the drawings on the bottom the best, so I added color, and then finally decided to use the stair concept for the card.

This was a value study for my three Japanese Teahouse watercolors.

In this sketch, I recorded the interesting edges of the plant.

This ultra-quick sketch captures the motion of the kangaroos.

And again.

This sketch focuses on the back-and-forth movement of the elephant's trunk and the twitching of his ears and tail.

Here I was trying to decide if this view of my living room would make a good composition.

Here's a painted sketch of the shadow shapes in a scene. I wanted to be sure to include these shadows in the final painting. The light and shadow in a scene can create framework that's an important part of the composition.

Here's another painted sketch of shadows only.
Sketching doesn't have to be for a particular purpose, though. Sometimes I like to get together with other artists and sketch for fun. There are many opportunities to sketch in more organized ways. For example, Michele Cooper, who keeps a wonderful sketchbook, participates in the Sketchbook Project

Sketchbooks on display for the Sketchbook Project. 
Several other artist friends take part in Urban Sketchers, which is a group that gets together to sketch in various locations. Also, Catherine Gill hosts a weekly group called Art on Tap, where artists meet at a local pub three Monday evenings a month to sketch. Maybe I'll see you there!

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