Ex 1: Clouds
Initial sketchbook experiments, graphite on slightly textured sketchbook paper. I like the smudged sky and soft graphite produces an interesting result that I like. It starts to convey the glow of some of these clouds and provides atmosphere.
Drawing the outlines of the clouds, however, doesn’t lead to a good result. (First sketches) It has no real feeling behind it. That has interesting implications for line art involving clouds. Maybe the tree-scribble approach might work? The drawn clouds don’t represent the clouds actually seen very well. I need to go for effect and feel rather than accurately reproducing. The second attempt worked better and is worthy of further experiments. Possibly try a similar approach but in colour.
Cloudscape #1 and 2
We were out in a lightning storm at a festival. The clouds glowed independently as the lightning showed off the sky’s structure. For #1 I’m not so happy with the composition though. I added the bottom for context, but it doesn’t work. Need less of it. If I’m going for Lowry stick figures then less detail. If I’m going for semi- realistic people then I need more substance.
Tried again (#2), and I’m somewhat happier this time. I like the overall look and feel of the atmosphere. Better than #1. The clouds need more structure. A bit random at the moment.
Ex 2: Sketchbook walk
The process I used was to outline the composition lightly in pencil and then fill in with coloured pencil. I did this as a practice with pencil and coloured pencils.
What works? Initially I was thinking ‘Not a lot’, but I like the basic composition and scene as a whole. It’s looking down a street in Whitstable on a relatively clear day with just a few clouds in the sky. It was actually drawn from a photo on the train, but I thought it was worth practising this way.
In some ways I like the way that that the background and middle ground are working – at least more so than the foreground.
What doesn’t work? Some many things, but the biggest issue in some ways is how “wishy washy” the colour comes through. From the work I did around completing the Broccoli I know this is partly the particular pencils I’m using.
There are other issues, with probably the next being that I failed to edit the complexity sufficiently. That is, I got lost in the drawing again. This is especially true on the right hand side in the foreground – though by the I thnk I’d basically decided to abandon the drawing.
What would I do differently next time? The Prisma colour would get a better colour density – but I don’t tend to carry these on the train. Even so, I’d probably be better off with the soft pastels. Possibly even the oil pastels. This approach takes too long and I don’t like the results. (c.f. Soft Pastel experiments)
What can I take forward into other work? The way I built the composition (light pencil outlines etc.) is worth keeping. That would work with other media, and possibly stop me losing the composition when building the image.
So, I decided to try again… this time in Pentel oil pastels:
A slightly different scene, but the same basic idea.
What worked? Much better colour density this time. The clouds and general impression is improved. It seems the oil pastels are an improvement for this sort of piece over the previous pencils for colour and impression.
What didn’t? I’m slightly less happy with the overall composition this time, as the foreground isn’t sufficiently interesting. The approach is also still too slow to use for the exercise itself – as this talks about working quickly. This A4 image probably took between an hour and two on the train.
What would I do differently next time? I need to work on the composition more before starting these pieces – thumbnail sketches. Even doing an A4 image is too slow for visual note taking, which is what this exercise mostly seems to be about.
What can I take forward into my next work? I think I need to continue to experiment with oil pastels as a medium. The pentel ones are the best I tend to carry on the train, but I suspect my others would get a better result still.
Happy accidents? The oil pastels leave plenty of scope for happy (or otherwise) accidents. I’m using a blending stick, which sometimes transfers colour unexpectedly in the clouds for example. Stray particles of pastel also leave unintended marks.
I think I need to return to the exercise now. I’m off guidance doing expansive scenes. I’m supposed to be doing more focused work, and working quickly.
Tried again, this time of a large rusty anchor outside the Community College Whitstable. (NB: Incorrectly labelled WJS in the sketch notes.)
This was more successful in many ways. The exercise is partially about visual note taking, and the quicker sketches work better for this. Also, I’m now using the Caran D’Ache water colour pencils for this. They are much improved for colour density.
The main body of these sketches was done in a very few colours – do as much as you can with one (even if it doesn’t match well) and only then move to the next. The resulting colour sketch is reasonable as a visual note. Total colours in the sketch is probably 5.
As I’m using watercolour pencils it might be interesting to experiment with adding a little water in the future. Overall, however, this approach should work. I need to try a few more…
These fit the bill for the sketchbook walk, and in doing them i have learnt quite a bit about this sort of visual note taking. In the two of them I got a bit carried away with a focus on the single large block of flats in Whitstable, as this is effectively the subject of both sketches. I’ve also started with finer liner structure and then added colour afterwards in both cases.
These seems to be much faster than sketching directly with the coloured pencils. It also produces a better definition in the final image. (c.f. Ink and wash in the Tress Project.) To add to this I’ve done a little technique research. The most useful articles were this one: Tips For Painting Line & Wash, and this: Pen-and-Wash Masterclass.
What worked? I prefer the look of these pieces to the previous experiments, and was able to complete them at a reasonable pace. The black line and coloured pencil approach is growing on me for this sort sketchbook work. I think the sketches are beginning to convey an impression of how Whitstable is on its streets. I’ve deliberately avoided the more scenic parts of Whitstable – such as the sea front, and main shopping areas. Some of the sketches include adding a water wash to the scene at the end. This has improved the blue skies, for example.
What didn’t? Even for sketches the perspective is off, and the cars both too simplistic and badly placed for the scene. They don’t come across as believable.
What would I do differently next time? When starting with fineliner it is difficult to get the composition and perspective right “off the bat”. I need to address this without damaging the fast nature of the approach. I could, for example, start by an under drawing in pencil – but that would significantly change the character of the pieces. Possibly a better approach is a “thumbnail sketch” or to start by adding points lightly to build a better model first. I need to keep practising – of course.
What can I take forward? This approach to building a sketch seems to be producing good results. (Fine liner, coloured pencil and water wash plus finishing.) I think it is worthy of further experimentation – and possibly even see if it works for a full size piece. If not it would translate well into the ink line and wash.
Happy accidents? In more than one case I’ve accidentally picked up the wrong coloured pencil and started applying it. There are a few cases (such as the roof tiles) where this has produced an interesting result that is reusable. I’m very much still learning how best to overlay colours to get a different tone/effect.
As a follow up to this I decided to try another. This time A4:
I quite like the result – despite various technical errors. Time to move on to the next exercise…
Ex 3: 360 Degree Studies
In completing this exercise I used views from near the sea wall at Whitstable. I also decided to take the 15 minutes per sketch seriously, and so decided that the best approach would be ball pen sketches in an A4 sketchbook with 2 sketches per page:
The result was interesting. As well as showing the level of change a rotating viewpoint makes, it demonstrated just how much visual information its possible to catch in this way. As observed by my tutor, I tend to leap for a digital camera to grab visual notes quickly with little equipment. These sorts of sketches would do well instead of this – or as a supplement to the camera. Its a working approach I need to get more practice in.