Category Archives: sketch

marsh sketch / debunking a famous quote

Do you remember that famous quote, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” ?

sounds like b-s to me. It makes me think they want art to be political and that is not the main reason for art.

When I was in art school my wise teachers told us art serves 3 purposes, decoration, illustration and self expression. Self expression being the least important. It’s only the huge egos of the modern art world that think they can change society with a painting. And who cares about my self expression? I don’t have that kind of ego. I blame my parents. You might want to thank them. If an art viewer is savvy enough to analyze my paintings, there’s plenty of information in there about me. I can’t keep self expression out of it. I don’t need to deliberately make paintings expressing my moods.

Now, let’s say I know a disturbed person. Am I going to show them Starry Night and think that will comfort them? If I want to comfort someone who is disturbed I’ll find out what’s bugging them and try to find a real practical solution. If I showed Starry Night to a disturbed person and asked them if that comforts them they might say yes because they think I want to hear a yes. Then they go right back to their problems and forget Starry Night instantly.

What if I had some resentment to people who are comfortable? I don’t, but that would be political and if someone’s comfortable why should I try to ruin that for them. They’re not hurting me.

I don’t care really, if art metaphorically stomps on some high muckety muck’s toes. Whatever. I only want to say, if a quote sounds stupid, stop repeating that nonsense. Make art for illustration or decoration. Making the comfortable disturbed is a weak kind of art.

Sea Oats / palette knife practice w. close ups

I tried to make mental notes of the colors I needed when I sketched this in plein air then painted it at home. The color looks good in the photo for the sea oats but the background isn’t showing up green enough and there’s a lighter area showing on the right because of a glare.

For the background I wanted to give a color and texture of pine needles. For the sea oats I wanted to make a fuzzy texture .

This photo shows some of the paint texture.

It seemed like the painting went fast on this project. I worked on it for around 5 hours, which isn’t really that fast, just fast for me, because I often have 30 or 40 hours in a painting. So I like the palette knife for that. It’s not easier than painting with a brush, just different. This was a simple experiment.

The palette knife makes the project faster because I painted right on top of my sketch. Usually I redraw my sketch and then redraw it again on the canvas. This way I saved a lot of time because I didn’t prime a canvas which is a multi step process with sanding the canvas, painting gesso on it and sanding it again then tinting the canvas. That part needs to be spread out over two days or more. This way I could jump right into painting.

It’s nice not to have to clean the brushes. That is a job.

Paper is working out to be more conservative than canvases, So the palette knife is practical on a lot of different levels.

I am using more paint than I use normally. That’s one drawback to the palette knife.

The palette knife is fun, though, so I’ll do more.

Battery De Russy / finished sketch

I tried to sketch this a couple years ago and never finished.

I transfered those old sketches to this larger paper and made some corrections but I can see it’s not still not right, better, but not good enough. When I transfer this to a canvas and go back I’ll make more corrections and it will be ok the next time.

Perspective ain’t easy. I’m eyeballing it and drawing freehand. It’s a challenge so if I keep at it my drawing will improve for other subjects too.

I’m looking forward to painting it with a palette knife. If I told you this joint vibrates with its own weird frequency, I hope you know what I mean. I don’t believe in ghosts so that might be why I never saw one, and I spent a couple years practicing figure drawing in Hollywood Cemetery around 15 years ago. I drew the sad stone angels. They make great subjects because they never move and they’re free any time you want to sketch them. Hollywood Cemetery had the vibe of a sanctuary to me.

I felt safe at Fort Monroe the past few times I went there even though there’s a two lane street between me and the battery. There’s not much traffic. I saw a ton of cops over there too so they may be making me feel safer. I was not a person of interest this time. I parked in the real public lot across the street instead of taking an illegal spot next to where I was standing.

Every time I go out on the highway lately traffic is flying!

BATTERY DE RUSSY / unfinished sketch

I don’t know if the paranormal investigators have been there yet but they should go. This place is dripping with spookiness.

Fort Monroe was decommissioned in 2011. It’s one of the oldest forts. They called this spot Point Comfort when the first colonials came to VA. After their long dangerous voyage across the Atlantic they were so happy to find a good place to land.

The fort has so much history I can’t remember half of it, but I’ll give you some info and if it’s not exactly right feel free to tell me.

It was a Union held fort in the Civil War which caused VA some problems because VA. was Confederate. A lot of escaped slaves took refuge there. After the war was over those people started up Hampton University which was the first black university.

This is the side of the battery that faces the water and a tot lot on the far right.

The battery is long. My sketch so far only shows about 1/5 or 1/6 of it.

I heard someone wants to redevelop the fort. The plans aren’t all laid out yet. I wonder if they’ll try to take the batteries out. Can you imagine how much dynamite that would take!? That thing is thick!

This is the view upstream. Hampton Roads tunnel in the distance.

Three rivers flow together here, the James, the Hampton and the Elizabeth. From there they go into the mouth of the Chesapeake not too far down stream.

From here looking that way they could watch the famous battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack, the two first ironclad ships in the Civil War. They bombed each other for hours and neither one sank. They took a break to rearm and do repairs then they went back at it.

What did they learn from that battle? We need bigger guns.

pastel studies of butterfly ginger

I changed my mind.

Doesn’t palette knife painting look like a lot of fun? Instead of watercolor, I think I’ll paint these flowers with my palette knife and not use a brush at all. I need to buy a palette knife set so I have a variety of shapes to work with.

I have 5 studies of these flowers now. That should be enough.

I’m not sure if artists that use the palette knife to paint prime their canvases or not. It might make it a little easier to scrape the paint across the canvas if the canvas is sanded and gessoed and sanded again. That makes it smooth. Then the canvas needs a coat of background color.

I can glom the paint on real thick and try to get it to go where I want it to go without a paintbrush. It will be a challenge making shapes and lines and textures and still making a flower out of it.

I’ll go back to the garden to mix some green colors then I can paint at home.

Butterfly Ginger

I’m trying to get used to the new editor. This is my second try with this post.

Drawing flowers is fun and easy. I’d have done two except it was too hot. Maybe I can get out earlier tomorrow and do another sketch or try to do a watercolor study.

This is a tall bushy plant and the flowers don’t last long before they start to wilt. It has some unopened buds. I saw a butterfly go to this flower when I was drawing it but he moved on before I could sketch him. Maybe next time.

figure drawing

The first of two models.

My models are made of bronze and I’d like to paint them in bronze colors. I’m not sure exactly how yet, Which media to use, probably not oil paint. I still have to sketch the second dancing girl and she’s in a more difficult pose to draw. She’s leaning back. I’ll do it next week.

The back of the sculpture looks good too, so I might draw both sides. I’ll have to transfer the sketches to a larger paper. They’re holding hands while dancing.

It doesn’t make any difference how long it takes me to come up with a plan for my dancing girls. They’re not going anywhere. I might even wait till winter to do it so there will be less people at the garden and I won’t be in the way on the path.

Dunes Sea and Sky / try try again

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Yesterday I slept too late for the best light. It was 9 when I got to the overlook. I decided not to take all my plein air supplies with me because I knew it would be crowded. I only took my color rough from the day before,  my color charts and a pencil to make notes.

When I compared my rough to nature the first thing I noticed is that there’s not enough greenery. Otherwise, not too bad, I thought. So I decided to do another  color sketch. Also, the ocean wasn’t sparkly at 9 like it is at 8 so that solves the problem of painting the sparkles. That wasn’t working out in my trials and I decided to forget about it until some time in the future. I might have to use oils to paint the sparkly water.

I came to another important decision. I decided to paint the panoramic scene at home. I might mess up the paper outside and can’t fix it with watercolors like I can fix a mistake  with oil paint.  There’s less chance of the paper picking up a smudge in the wrong place if I paint it at home as opposed to lugging all my stuff out there in my beach cart. After I get more experience with watercolors I’ll know exactly what I need to take along to paint in plein air and it will be a lighter load than taking oil paints.

If I do another rough sketch of a different area of the panorama and it looks ok compared to nature I’ll feel like I can paint it at home with more confidence. Just one more rough. I think I almost have it all worked out. I want to try to paint the thicker foliage first. This is a challenge and I want it to come out right. That’s why I’m doing so much preliminary work, the sketches, the color roughs, taking my time when making the decisions, etc.

It’s nice to have the luxury of taking my time when doing something difficult, and it’s nice to go there and walk even if I’m not working on an art project.

plan for dune paintings panorama

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I don’t know if you can see it well enough in this photo. As I was working on these separate pieces of sketch paper I was putting the others in my bag loosely and the charcoal and chalk was rubbing off inside the bag. No big deal, these are only sketches that I’ll never frame. They got messed up with sweaty fingerprints too. This is 4 pieces of sketch paper each 11″ x 14″ with a 4″ piece of a gray paper added to either side because I need 64″ across for my panorama but I ran out of the tan paper.

The watercolor papers are 15″ x 22.5″ so if I deduct a few inches from 3 x 22.5″ because I’ll staple them to boards, then when it’s all finished I’ll have to trim off the staple holes, I’m figuring roughly 64″. I’ll transfer this to the watercolor paper tomorrow and I might have to redraw at the beach a little before I start painting, but the hardest part of the planning stage is under control now.

I made some notes of colors I think I’ll need. And I want to do a couple practices for that little triangle of ocean showing between the dunes on the left.  The ocean looks gray and it has sparkles. It’s far away but still sparkly.

The chance of rain goes up over the next few days. I’m hoping for a blue sky with light clouds. That will be the first step in the painting. If the weather cooperates, it might not take long to paint my 3 pieces of the triptych, or it could take weeks.

the path to the beach

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That’s the ocean in the background.

I bought two big sheets of watercolor paper for my dunes now that I have a few sketches I can use. I’m planning a triptych. I want to show more sky in the watercolors than is showing in my sketches and it would be great if I could make the three paintings of the triptych  look connected. The watercolor paper is larger than my sketchbook so I’ll be able to extend my sketches on both sides a little.

I’ll have to haul my watercolors supplies down a path but not real far, I/4 mile or so, I guess. I can use my beach cart. I’m not sure if I can take all three pieces out with the paper stretched on boards, or if it would be better to work on one at the beach and the other two at home. The three watercolors will be a big job for me. I’m not sure how to paint that little bit of ocean and I’ll have to decide how to do the sky.

The bugs were after me this morning. Now I’ll have to start taking bug spray along too.

This plan seems like a lot of work but I think it will be worth it. Just hanging around there is worth the drive.