Last year I sketched waves with charcoal and chalk. This year I want to sketch them in color. I think the watercolor pencils have a grainier quality than regular watercolors. I’ll do some comparisons with the watercolors in tubes this year. It seems like I picked a difficult subject for Plein air painting because waves never stop moving. I’ll keep working on it but there are so many great views around here and I’m not on a deadline. I’ll try out my Inktense watercolor pencils drawing other scenes before I get the hang of painting of the ocean. It’s not just painting waves, it’s also that I want to paint the bubbles on the sand and that looks even more difficult.
Yesterday we had nice weather but it was too windy to stand on the beach at the water’s edge. I sat on the leeward side of a sand dune and it was great. It took me some time to plan my sketch with pencil and pick my colors from the charts I made. Then I realized I forgot to bring a piece of soap along. If you put soap on your paintbrush before you dip it in the masking fluid it saves the brush from getting gummed up and ruined. For this experiment I used my white oil paint stick on the sky as an alternative to masking fluid and used regular masking fluid to block out the white foam on the breakers.
After I got my sketch planned and picked the colored pencils I wanted to use I came home to paint this because I had enough sun. I’d buy a beach umbrella, but those things can be a hazard. I don’t need to stay out all day painting in plein air. I can go back any time. This could take months or even years, but eventually I’ll get it.
Finally! I have a sketch I’d like to work into a painting from Back Bay. I’ll take my watercolor pencils and give them a try. I have very little experience with watercolors but they’re less bulky to take to a popular overlook than my oil paint supplies.
I want to explore and sketch more places there. This could take some time. Years.
The water isn’t finished in this sketch. Before I left home that day I checked the weather report and it said the wind was coming from the southwest but it would change to the northeast. When I got there the bay had nice ripple waves. First I started planning where the water would show and where the reeds would be, and the horizon. It seemed like that went fast, but when I looked at the water again it was CALM! The water looked like glass. I hate when it’s calm so I quit working on the sketch.
The weather is very important to your Plein air artist. It’s funny how fast it changes around here too. Good thing I can go back any time.
A couple days ago when it stopped raining I went down to Back Bay just to check it out and as soon as I started walking it rained again. I got soaked. I said I’d go back when it stopped raining. Then yesterday it was sunny and warm and dry but the wind was whipping. I took a bike ride anyway. I did good with the wind and even on a gravel road but the wind definitely made it more difficult. There were gusts that made me walk it a few times. And riding into the wind coming back made me too tired to sketch the beauty by the road.
I’d like to do a painting of the dark water with the almost white sedge. I stopped a few times to look at it and found a some places I could sketch on less windy days.
The water is almost black. It’s the mud on the bottom. I thought to myself, mud is beautiful. I could see layers of violet, brown red and blue to make it. Then with the contrast of the delicate grass growing in the mud and shining so brightly in the sun, it’s bleak and beautiful. Then in the background you might see trees far away or more water.
When I got back to the parking lot I sat in the car to sketch this view over the bay. Darn it, I got a little too much sun. I’ll have to stay in today which is disappointing because I want to practice drawing and painting water.
Last time I saw this tree all the flowers turned yellow overnight. It still had a lot of buds. Now all the second buds are open and it looks like the cold didn’t damage them. The tree is more beautiful than before. I hope I can get more sketches before they wilt. But it’s pretty even when they get yellow.
My next apartment is on the other side of town from the botanical garden so I want to get flowers sketched until I move. Then I’ll be hanging around at the ocean front more. I’ll still go to the garden but not as often.
When I got to the tree today I was surprised to see that a lot of the flowers are turning brown before they open but it’s a nice yellow ochre. I think the one on the left is a bud I sketched a couple days ago. I was glad I brought a yellow ochre pastel along.
Before I left home I checked the weather and there was a 5% chance of rain with the chance going way up in a few hours so I thought I could get a little sketching in. Guess what 5% I was under.
It started as a few drops and I continued to sketch. Then it was a pretty good shower and I took shelter under a tent for a few minutes hoping it would stop raining. It messed up my sketch and I thought about giving up for today. Then it eased up some so I finished the sketch.
I couldn’t blend or do any erasing on that flower on the left. The rain made my pastels run and smear. I thought WOW! This rain is giving my sketch that fast loose happy accident look so prized in the art world these days! Maybe I should draw in the rain more often! Crazy though it seems.
My goal this month, besides moving, is to sketch as many magnolias as I can. Next year I’ll do a painting but the more flower sketches I get in advance, the better.
It was cold out there yesterday and even colder today, so I might get back to the tree this afternoon, but I’m not sure if I will.
This is one reason why my paintings aren’t marketable, they take a long time in the planning stage. People seem to want art to be spontaneous and fast. They don’t want to pay for the time it takes for me to finish a painting but if I could ever sell a painting I expect it to pay the rent. I’d rather throw my old paintings away when I move or give them to my friends than sell them cheap.
Yesterday I worked on this sketch for about an hour and a half and got this far. First I blocked in the general size and shape of the flowers with the side of a small piece of charcoal then erased the excess and drew some lines. Then I erased the lines that were in the wrong place and redrew my lines. Then I erased again when I started in with pastels. Now you may say,” Chris, Why don’t you learn to draw faster?” I’d say, “If I liked to rush I wouldn’t have moved to Virginia in the first place, I’d have gone to New York. Also, why rush if you have the time and you enjoy what you do?”
Sometimes I think I can give in to peer pressure and paint fast, but why should I? I like my nonprofessional, “amateur” status and can’t conform to art society rules for very long, when I do try.
Between these sketches and the ones I do next year for the painting I’m planning, I could have 20 hours or more in the sketching phase. My painting won’t come out like I want it to if I skip this step.
These flowers are so big when they open that only one will fit on this size sketchbook paper. If the weather holds up I’ll go back with more paper next time.
If I do a painting of this tree I’ll only do a few branches not the whole tree. Maybe next year. I’ll put a piece of glassine paper over this sketch to save it. Most of the time I just put the sketch back in my sketchbook and they get smeared.
There’s also some lichens I want to sketch before it gets crowded at Seashore St. Park. I love their texture.
And I have a great plan to produce a video of a conceptual art piece on the beach. It’s still too cold for that but I’m excited about this movie I want to make. It’s a secret. You will freak out. My daughter said she’ll help me with it.
Ships and boats are all around us here. I should get some practice drawing them. Yesterday I went over to Fort Norfolk to check it out and it was closed for Presidents’ Day, which I forgot about, but the guard at the gate told me I could park in their field on the outside of the fort to sketch. It was great. The ships are close because the river isn’t too wide there. It was sunny and not too cold and I had the place to myself. A lot of people could see me from the tall buildings all around but it was safe because the guard was probably watching me too. Since you have to show a photo ID to get into the fort it might be the safest place on the waterfront to sketch. I’ll get back over there again soon. It’s the oldest fort and they have guided tours.
The ships weren’t easy to draw. My sketch kept getting bigger as I was working on it which means it was out of my control. Control, sometimes you want it, sometimes you don’t. If I was always in control of my sketch that means I’ve mastered drawing. So, there’s still room for improvement. My ships aren’t in exact proportion either, maybe that’s not noticeable.
I drew this much larger than life so I could do the detail of the red veins in the petals but it’s showing up on my computer screen close to the actual size of the orchid.
The flowers are oil paint sticks and the background and the yellow inside the petals is watercolor. I also used my yellow paint stick in the petals.
This is my charcoal sketch from the day before. The bud opened up a lot in one day. I erased this sketch when I went over it with the paint sticks, so I redrew the flower on the left using the paint sticks. I didn’t need to do it again with charcoal because it’s easier the second time.
There are a few more orchids I’d like to draw. I’m not sure if I’ll do it this year or wait till next year because one lady working in there said, “Oh, you’re back.” She didn’t sound happy about it and I ignored her, but now I feel like I should try to find times when she’s not there if I draw in the greenhouse again.
I love gardeners despite that important lady. Gardeners grow my inspiration.
Did I draw too many flowers? Or not enough? Do I even know what I’m doing? Those are the questions I’ve been asking myself as I stand outside in the arboretum sketching flowers for my painting of the Chinese Paperbush on 40*F days.
I’m dressed for the weather so 40* is ok for me to be out a couple hours on a sunny day, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to use these sketches. When I paint the flowers on my canvas they’ll be smaller. Am I wasting a lot of time in the rather nippy fresh air?
Half the time I think I can paint the flowers at home instead of taking my oil paints, easel, canvas etc over there. Then the other half of the time I think I have to take all my stuff and at least get started on it in plein air and maybe I can finish it at home, because I think painting the flowers might be time consuming.
It’s not that I’m really stuck with this difficult painting, I’m still working on it, but I’m not exactly sure how to proceed and I don’t want to mess it up since I already have a lot of time in it. When I was in art school so long ago, they told us if you don’t have a good plan worked out for your painting, do more sketches. I’m going back to my training on this one.
I worked on the branches at home for a few hours but I still want to go over them again after I get the flowers on the bush. The branches should be a warmer color. It’s almost a glow. I hope I can get that orange winter sunlit effect. I’ll do a glaze.
I want to go over the ground again too, maybe with a palette knife, and define the shadows more.
So, for art viewers who are interested in the process, here’s where I have to make some decisions. Some paintings don’t require as much planning.