direct watercolor

Practice, practice

Like most of us I like to think that one day I’ll just “get it” and then painting will be effortless self expression. This is very short sighted thinking of course, because it’s the drive to evolve as a painter which motivates me to practice, practice, practice, even when things are not going particularly well. Practice, as in effort. My friends who participate in challenges, like the #30X30directwatercolor2018 challenge which is going on this month, understand this. Paint something every day and you can’t help but evolve, even though on any particular day it may feel like you’re sliding backward.

Suhita suggested doing more than one of the same subject. So after two tries at the pagoda on Stowe Lake, I tried a third, this time from a tiny picture on my phone, direct watercolor. Taking the advise of Marc, to get farther away or work from a less detailed pictures.

pagodanew

A quick and dirty direct watercolor with fewer specifics yet more fresh and appealing. Here’s the first two:

In the first I got mesmerized by the up close detail. In the second I was far enough away that I had to make up details, when I should have left them out!

Another day I was sketching in Sebastopol with a view of Gravenstein Station. My first try, in direct watercolor was highly frustrating! Not having the pen line to rely on, my watercolor application got too tight and descriptive, choking out the light.

gravstation It certainly represents the scene relatively accurately, but I think I pretty much killed it dead. With 10 minutes left til I had to go, I did this less ambitious sketch and liked it much better.

gravstation2

Direct watercolor with white pen line added at the end

Another day I decided to practice figures with no preplanning, just drawing/painting directly, from another phone photo.

trio

I was testing my ability to paint shapes with no drawn or painted line. Great practice but clumsy outcome. And definitely missing the spirit of the music.

selfie

Determined to do a first-thing-in-the-morning direct watercolor I did this selfie in my pajamas while sipping chai (from my computer monitor). It bears little resemblance to me (which haunts me! how to fix it!) but again, great practice.

 

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Toilets and Skyscrapers

Remember when those colorful toilets were stylish? Well they’ve still got them at Building Resources in San Francisco. Not that we were in the market. But sometimes photographers (like Bob) seek more off-the-beaten-path locations to find source for their shooting. And we sketchers can do our thing anywhere. This acre of reusable building supplies is a gold mine even if you’re not in the market! They even had an art gallery!

toilets

watercolor in 8 X 8″ Field Watercolor Journal

I must admit that I wasn’t sure this would look like anything as I worked with watercolor to build up the overlapping shapes of the toilets. But the alternating colors helped to create the illusion without pen lines!

hunterspoint

We had parked our car across the street from these buildings at Hunter’s Point. I loved the mural on one wall, the rusty towers and mosaic of broken windows. A parade of noisy (smelly) trucks rumbled by and it was a cold, foggy morning, so I managed a quick pen sketch on site and added color and detail later in warm comfort.

transbay1

Next morning, foggy again, I met Laurie Wigham and Cathy McAuliff, my friends who are S.F urban sketch veterans, at the temporary Transbay Terminal. I had asked them to please pick a spot where I could practice buildings of the sort we don’t have in Sonoma County. So they picked the big ones, the ones that go up into the fog and disappear. Initially I wasn’t so sure they were doing me a favor! After I’d been struggling with the perspective (and failing) Laurie tells me that these buildings have numerous different vanishing points from one perspective, adding to the complexity. I kept trying to fix lines by borrowing Laurie’s pencils and finally coming in with pen.

transbay2

fountain pens with Noodler’s red black and black inks and watercolor

Then I got a bit smarter and jetisoned all but a couple buildings like I’d seen Laurie do. (and later added the car since I needed some detail below) By this point the sun was out and the colors were amped. All the construction on this building makes for some pretty confusing parts, but it’s more an illustration of certain parts of a scene rather than a realistic capture.

transbay3

What I really need to do is spend a week showing up at that intersection every day. Well, that’s not going to happen! So I did this one from a picture when I got home. It definitely helps to use a water soluble pencil to get those fine lines in when you’re sketching so small and want to suggest floors and windows. Many thanks to Laurie and Cathy for giving me some new tools to deal with buildings towering over me!

You can find Cathy and Laurie’s sketches on Instagram and the SF Urban Sketchers Blog.

To be continued: Flowers!