Saturday 9 January 2016

working from sketches

I live in a truly spectacular part of the world. Surrounded by big mountains, crystal clear lakes, lots of grassy farmland, beautiful rivers, forest, glaciers and lots and lots of wilderness. And yet, when I sketch outside I've always been drawn to buildings. Or people. And when I paint the landscapes around me, I usually paint abstracts.

At the beginning of summer I decided I wanted to change that. I wanted to push myself to capture these landscapes in a more realistic way. And in watercolours, not acrylics, because when I travel acrylics are not an option. So I've been taking my sketchbook outside a lot and learning to paint skies, mountains, and water.

Boxing Day 2015 - I didn't even get out of my sleeping bag before reaching for my sketchbook and paints.
Rob Roy Peak, Mt Aspiring National Park.

Sketching outside can be very challenging. The paint dries so fast ... the wind can pick up and blow grass and sand into your paints, your sketch, your eyes ... the clouds come over and your shadows get all lost ... your nice shady spot goes into the sun and you suddenly can't take the heat anymore ... or it's suddenly too cold and your paint won't dry. Somehow urban sketching seems way more tame than the great outdoors!

I love painting outside and I'm never going to change that. But the results I've been getting have been less than perfect. (Big understatement!) So I've been bringing my sketches into the studio and redoing them. I can then work calmly and slowly, fixing things that weren't quite right the first time. And I get to relive that moment in the hills all over again.

West Wanaka and The Peninsula.

In the above sketch I was pleased with the composition and colours of the sketch, but the thin paper in my sketchbook buckles very easily with very wet washes and so I wasn't pleased with how the paint lay on the page. I could fix that with better paper and controlled conditions in the studio.

Dublin Bay, Lake Wanaka

In the sketch of Dublin Bay above, my original sketch quickly became overworked as I tried to darken the hills in the background. I also lost the lovely evening light catching the left hand side of the trees. In the final sketch I added a bit of foreground beach to shape the bay.

Here are some of the finished pieces...

West Wanaka and The Peninsula

Dublin Bay, Lake Wanaka

Black Peak, Lake Wanaka

Clay Cliffs, Lake Hawea

These finished paintings are available for purchase on Etsy here ...

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