Melting Snow, Draw Quickly

Some days it is just simple.

Stand inside the window and look through the steamed up glass; trying to peer through all the reflections and refractions.

Or step outside for a few minutes into the nearly freezing air, take off the gloves, and draw. Draw; very quickly.

And that is what I did. Laying a tiny open palette of colors, a nearly full water brush, a Waterman fountain pen, and a Pentel Ink Brush Pen on the table, I opened my Canson spiral bound sketchbook to a page with a pre-drawn 5×7 format. I sketched just a few pencil lines and in just about a minute, maybe less, I switched to the Waterman. Soon I was using the brush pen as well … actually alternating between the two.

Half way through, I began adding water. A few touches with the water brush and the fountain pen ink would blur, the crisp lines softening. When it started to run, I used the same water brush to pick up the inky water and swept it across the paper to create a wash or scrubbed it into the surface to get a dry-brush grey.

It surprised me that I had waited so long but as I closed in on the end … I finally added a few, tiny touches of watercolor to depict the limited hues just barely discernible through the late afternoon/almost evening light and the wispy veils of fog rising from the snow. At last, a touch or two with the brush pen’s fine point and sides; I am finished.

As The Snow Melts of the Mountain Slope WEB

As The Snow Melts Off The Mountain Slope, 5×7, ink and touches of watercolor

Back in the warmth of the interior, beside the beaconing fireplace, I waited to let everything dry. Feeling that I had developed a fair likeness of the snow covered slope, the banks of trees climbing ever closer to the ridge … as well as some semblance of the misty, hazy light rising off of the snow, I packed up my sketch bag and started the drive home over the mountain.

I saw so many other places to stop and spread out my bigger palette and to paint, maybe to sketch, or to just take out my camera and make reference photos for later work in the studio.  But the light was fading fast on this eastern side of the mountain and  … a dinner date with my wife awaited me!

Sometimes, it is a simple decision.

 

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Sketches, for Painting’s Sake?

Well, not always.

Artists have been drawing pretty much ever since humans made their first marks in the sand or on rock walls. After the discovery of pigments to create a wide range of colors with … some artists relegated drawing to the preparatory phase of painting or for designing other forms of art. It was as if color had completely trumped monochromatic art work of all kinds. (Sort of like how color TVs eventually replaced almost all the B&W sets.)


Throughout the Classical and Medieval periods European and Middle-Eastern artists used drawing in just that way. And while China and Japan had a tradition of monochromatic ink painting that stretched back for centuries, drawing was mostly ignored by non-artists. (Well, I am an artist!)

Around 1500, some folks began to think that drawing, even unfinished sketches, were actually interesting in their own right. If a drawing was a sort of “first edition” of a visual idea … a pre-painted image … then it might be fascinating to see the image at it’s very earliest stage. Fresh off the press as it were … straight from the mind of the artist. Tentative, quick, bold, or intimate visions … even incomplete images, began to be seen as having valuable qualities.

As this “novel view” of the 16th and 17th centuries became more wide spread, drawings even began to be thought of as independent works of art. And as artists became more interested in exploring drawing, materials with extended ranges of hue and texture became available. It was possible to draw with rich hues, subtle tones, and deep values that rivaled paintings. At the same time, many artists and viewers were intrigued by the profound beauty of simplicity that drawing could achieve. (Just like my love for the classics of the B&W film noir movie era … or the rich value range of the best black and white photographic prints.)

Well, here you go …  a few of my sketches; ones that I have been working on during the past few months. Some were completed with no intent of ever painting the subject. Most, however, were part of the preparatory process. For me, all are just as complete as the paintings they helped me create. Different, yes … but complete in their own way.

Here I am showing you the B&W ones; the sketches using pencil, ink and/or ink washes. I also sometimes make monochromatic sketches. You can see one of those on an earlier post (It has been a bit SKETCHY, so far, from July 25th). While I was working on that one outside, the extra color information seemed to provide a little better clarity. Hey, anything to help jog my memory if I decide to use it in the studio! (Besides, for me it has the same sort of appeal as a sepia-toned or cyanotype photographic print!)

I hope you enjoy getting a preview of them here. Let me know which ones you like, which ones intrigue you.

More of these sketches (and paintings too) will be part of my upcoming exhibit at the Staunton Augusta Art Center in Staunton, Virginia. Exhibit info at:  http://saartcenter.org

Landscape Revelations: Watermedia Paintings & Sketches”, (John A. Hancock, Watermedia Paintings and Drawings)