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Drawings – Field Drawings v. Studio Drawings

graphite drawing, desert plants, sage

Sage Garden, 7 x 10, SOLD

Snoqualmie Falls Drawing, 17 x 13

Snoqualmie Falls Drawing, 17 x 13

Many of you know that I create my paintings from studies – drawings done on location AND in the studio.  It’s funny why artists use the term “study,” but it really makes sense.  While we are working on a drawing we ARE actually studying the subject, whether it’s a figure, still life, or landscape – observing as much as possible in a limited amount of time in order to understand how everything holds together.

When I am in the field I will begin with a few quick thumbnail sketches before I launch into a drawing.  Then I will jot down a few notes that help me remember important pieces of information for later on.  I always include the date, the time of day, weather conditions, lightest light and darkest dark, color harmonies, and, most important, the reason for doing the drawing in the first place.  Why is it an attractive scene?  Why does it compel me?  What am I feeling at the time?  Landscapes are mirrors of our souls and I always try to figure out what it is that compels me to this location.  The top drawing, Sage Garden, was done outside on a very hot day in eastern Oregon.  I love the desert and the great variety of  plants that grow there!

The bottom drawing of Snoqualmie Falls was done in the studio.  I came back from the field with a 9 x 12 plein air painting of Snoqualmie Falls and worked from that to create this larger study.  I knew that I wanted to make a larger painting so it made sense to go into more detail in the drawing stage before I launched into the painting.  It’s amazing what we can remember from being in the field.  I work on my memory through drawing exercises and it has helped immensely.

I am trying to photograph more of my drawings (there are TONS) and I will post them in the drawing section of my website periodically.  If you ever want more information please let me know.    Thanks for visiting!

Field drawings from the Kokanee Glacier

I have returned from a trip to the Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park located north of Nelson, B.C, Canada where I spent a week backcountry ski touring.  Our days were spent climbing up the glaciers with our skis and skins and skiing down long, long runs of untracked snow.  The conditions were excellent with varied weather and relatively safe avalanche conditions.  In the evenings I enjoyed the beautiful views outside from the warmth and comfort of the cabin.  Here are a few graphite drawings from my sketchbook:

Kokanee 1, graphite

Kokanee 1, graphite

drawing of trees, hills, snow, lake, hills

Kokanee 2, graphite

drawing, trees, hills, snow

Kokanee 3, graphite

 

 

 

 

From thumbnail to color study

I recently did some sketching of the water reflections on the Snoqualmie River and I decided to turn one of my ideas into a painting.  Well, I’m about half way there.  Let me show you the process from thumbnail to color study.

First of all, it was freezing outside, so I sat in my car and pulled out the thumbnail sketchbook.  A thumbnail drawing is about half the size of a post-it, or 1.5″x2″.  All I’m trying to do is see if my design idea works as a small black and white image.  I drew this one quickly with 6B pencil and added white chalk for the light areas.  As soon as I had something down I had to decide if I liked the flat, graphic image.  Was it an interesting design?  Was it simple enough or too complicated?  Were the darks clumped together or spread all apart.  The simpler the design the stronger it is.  It’s really hard to uncomplicate the landscape because there’s so much to look at!  I decided I liked the design.

Here is the thumbnail drawing

Later on I decided to make a larger, more complete value study, this time about 4″x6″.  Because I was in my studio I had to imagine the tree because I wasn’t working from a photo, just memory and the thumbnail to look at.

Here is the 4×6 value study

I liked it but something bothered me and I wasn’t sure what it was.  I showed it to my landscape teacher, Deborah Paris, and she said it’s not a good idea to put the trunk of the tree right next to the edge, as it pulls the eye right out of the picture.  I agreed and I also remembered that Edgar Payne mentioned the same thing in his book, Composition of Outdoor Painting.  So I decided to do another value study and move the tree trunk in.

This time I made the drawing an 8×10 because that’s the same size I wanted for the color study.

Here is the 8×10 value study (graphite and white chalk on gray toned paper):

As you can see the drawing is more developed and I have moved the tree in from the edge.  I think it looks better.  What do you think?  The tree is pretty dark because it’s close up and it’s a gray day in the Pacific Northwest which makes all the values pretty close together.

Now it was time to do the color study.  Working from memory of the day I did the thumbnail I painted this 8×10 study.  As I worked I looked at the 8×10 value study as a reference.  It was really interesting how I remembered the colors from that day just looking at the black and white drawing.  I think it’s fascinating how much we record in our minds without knowing!

Here is the color study.

I’m pretty happy with the colors, but I think some of my values are off and I made it into a sunny morning type feel rather than a gray day.  What do you think?  I plan to do another study to attempt to match the value study above.  If I can do that then I’ll go for a larger studio painting.