Rainstorms or not, Sketch!

We’ve had a very wet summer. And an astoundingly wet early fall too.

That has made dodging or finding ways to work around all the rain a bit pretty much the norm the last few months. This last week and a half has been more of the same … whether I was working on my own or when I gathered some fellow sketchers  to visually explore a 100 plus year old local landmark.

In the piece below, while it had stopped raining for a bit … I wanted the lowest vantage point; sitting on ground  However, our recent over abundance of “precip” has been further augmented by the previous hurricane which passing this way the afternoon and evening before …. so almost everywhere was a muddy mess.

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( Southside Harrisonburg Skyline, ink watercolor and pencil, 5×11 )

To avoid all the rain, I have sketched from under overhanging eves and even my car.  This one, done yesterday from inside a local fast food joint, was an attempt to dodge

IMG_3389_WEBthe remnants of our most recent tropical system (Hurricane Michael) as it slip up the east coast. Eventually, I had to get wet anywayEarlier in the week, I met up with members of the Charlottesville chapter of Urban Sketchers to draw the old Silk Mill building.

 

 

( From Behind The Glass Door , ink watercolor and pencil, 4×5 )

Silk Mill(2) WEB

Silk Mill Tower, Ink and watercolor over pencil, 5×7 )

It is a grand old structure, built about 1895. I think the original part of the building and the 1940s addition was restored and much of it repurposed just a few years back. The complex now houses a number of professional offices, new tech companies, and even a large co-op clay studio/teaching/exhibition space.

I started this piece thinking that I might just work it up with only ink … maybe partially in the spirit of October’s month long “Inktober” challenge (#inktober, #inktober2018). Despite my intention to use mostly a fountain pen, a brush pen, and perhaps a little ink wash, I soon found myself reaching for a bit of color. Autumn’s hues are such a lovely enticement; even when the changing leaves are, as they are here, mostly backlit.

That was not a completely smart choice as the blue grey clouds where quickly thickening and darkening. I really did have to race to stay ahead of the impending rain. I made it with about 9-10 minutes to spare.

Damp, but undeterred; I will be back at it again soon.

 

If you would to see more of my sketches you can check out:

http://www.instagram.com/hancock_john_a

or

http://www.johnahancock.com/photogallery/sketches

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Can Be Easier For Sketching

The open ground and fields are alive with color; the hills, cliffs, and peaks bounce brilliant light over the surrounding landscape, clouds create deep dancing shadows across the forested piedmont, and the sky alternates between an intense blue and a creamy summer haze. Those of us who love to sketch outside might easily be forgiven if we responded with an ever more raucous assortment of paints at our disposal. You have to know that we are just SO visually excited.

To be sure, like any other season … the weather can still cause a problem in our attempt to get out there to sketch. For me, it is the typically intense heat and humidity of our Southern summers that will sometimes hold me at bay.  And in the middle of the day, it is my abundance of caution that fuels an attempt to avoid the aggressive predation of UV light … especially with my once red haired/now just fair skinned self.  Thankfully, I’ve worked around all these the past few weeks.

Oakmont Cemetery Gate WEB

Oakmont Cemetery Gate

I have been working with adult students who are interested in exploring the practice of urban sketching so we have been seeking out all kinds of sites in and around town.  Above is a sketch I made two Saturdays ago when we had gathered on a large plot of land divided into three cemeteries. All three where all founded in the mid 1800 and have a wide range of vistas and types of cemetery architecture to sketch. When everyone had settled into their locations, I began this 5×11 piece; using a view up the slope and through an old stone gate that leads to a narrow lane.

I started with an extremely quick pencil sketch and quite soon began working with several pens to apply both permanent and soluble inks. As I neared the mid point of the sketch, a point that I most usually take out a brush and water to apply a few washes … I stopped. Completely.

Instead of that usually successful and satisfying strategy, I reached for my Caran de’ Ache watercolor leads and applied a mix of dry color; most of it beyond the wall. I even pulled back from wetting these rich pigments with a brush to unlock their waiting clear color washes. Rather, I left the soluble pigments dry; blending them a bit with a paper tortillon. Then, as I moved to finish the sketch, I did lay in some more intense solid blacks with a brush pen and even used a few drops of water to sneak in touches of a soft grey wash.

This wasn’t the first sketch of the summer that I approached this way either. Just a few weeks ago, I found myself flying through a sketch of an architecturally complex  pedestrian underpass with multiple pens, inks, and a water-brush.  At the time, I did intend to add a few hints of dry local color to that sketch but I got distracted from doing so while I was still on location.  To be sure, the idea of supplementing the inks with some quiet color is still pretty tempting; I could still persuade myself to do that. But I frankly like this sketch with all of it’s scruffy and unfinished qualities … just as it is!

Staunton RR Underpass copy

Pedestrian’s RR Underpass Arches, Staunton

For the time of year that almost always calls for so many of us to take out the watercolors for sketching the season’s light and color … it seems that I have been drawn to at least pepper my more colorful sketching this summer with a few starker and darker pieces. It doesn’t make sketching any easier but it has been rewarding … and quite fun.