Monday, June 29, 2015

Quick Sketching

Pen and Water Wash with stamped letters
Crummy watercolor journal
3.5" x 5.5"
I would love to tell you I've been traveling or sketching up a storm or on some delectable adventure, but the truth is I'm not really sure where the last two weeks have disappeared to! I haven't any sketches to show for my absence either. Well, with the exception of the one to the left and it's just a quickie.

There are times when I want to sketch and there are times when I want to sit back and absorb what's going on around me or to focus on the person I'm spending time with.

I can fall into my sketchbook like some people fall into their smartphones and it can damn annoying to someone who doesn't sketch. Or so I've been told.

For me, often the point of sketching is to create a portal, or return ticket, back to a moment I want to remember. In this instance, I wanted to remember the "pity pot" and a quick sketch was all that was necessary.

As we sat together, it took a few minutes for me to grasp the idea that the pity pot was a toilet and when my friend was done with her pity party, she simply hit the handle to wash all the negativity away!

It amused me and it delighted me that she had found a way to deal with some of the ongoing, life challenges she's facing. Like most of us, she's dealing with her fair share of "stuff."

She also puts a timer on her pity parties and sets a firm deadline, say 4 o'clock in the afternoon before her family comes home from their day, by which to end her party. That way she doesn't fall into the trap of lingering too long.

At the end of her party, she ceremoniously flushes the toilet and watches the water swirl the pity away and out of her world. Clever, huh?!

And that's what I have to show for the last two weeks.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Do You Give Up Too Easily?

Assignment from An Imaginary Trip To Canada
There are days when I get up and it seems I have completely lost the ability to draw accurately. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, drawing is often an exercise of frustration.

But not futility.

What I've learned is that sometimes it pays to keep going even when all the lines are wonky, proportions are off and well, it looks like a toddler got busy on the page with their crayons.

Because it turns out okay in the end.

If you're on location in some beautiful local and you woke up not knowing which end of the pencil to use, would put your sketchbook away and just take photos while telling yourself you'll draw it all out when you get home (knowing you probably won't)?

There's a quote I recently discovered by Mark Twain:
Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.
Huh. That says it about as well as it can be said. 

And that explains my approach to the page above and to sketching in general. The page above is part of the Imaginary Trip To Canada class currently going on and the page above is on the back of the first page I did for the class. I didn't want to skip it.

The very first mark I put down on the page was incorrect. But I figured if I just kept going, I'd work out the kinks and hit my stride. 

My stride was no where to be found that day. 

The clock tower is probably the worst of the drawing, but the sailboat's mast looks drunk, the box around the lighthouse is way off and the lighthouse itself looks a little bizarre. 

When I finished with my sketch, this is where I was:

Some folks think that adding color will "hide" incorrect proportions or perspectives. 

They're only half wrong. Color alone won't hide anything:
You can see from the comparison above that the clock still looks pretty wonky even with the color added. 

However, when you use some other strategic techniques along with some that use color, you can help to direct the eye so that the wonky becomes more of "the hand of the artist" and less of the "I forgot how to draw."

In this case, I used the following techniques to both disguise my challenged drawing and to re-direct the viewer's eyes:
  • I created layers of "stuff" to look at. By adding the map in the background, it pushed the other items on the page forward. By placing the boxes over the map but behind the boat, clock and foghorn, I built a back, middle and foreground. This creates a push and pull of items to entertain the viewer.
  • By placing the blue wash around the land mass, I also created a unifying wash that creates one overall element with lots of smaller components. Kind of like a map of the United States is one land mass with the various borders creating the states within. If I had stopped with just the clock, it would have been front and center and quite obvious that I had trouble drawing that day. By adding the other elements, I took the pressure off the clock drawing.
  • I also used a color trifecta to lead the eye around the page. Did you notice the red foghorn first? Then the lighthouse and the lettering? That's because I've used the red to move the eye around the page rather than letting the viewer just "read" the page. By using a strong color ( and it doesn't have to be red,) in three or more distinct places, it moves the viewer's eye around. You'll note that it doesn't direct the viewer's eye to the clock or drunken mast. 
  • The sailboat and the clock serve as "brackets." All the information held within them is about Prince Edward Island and it gives the viewer a visual clue about the page. Because the sailboat and clock are visually balanced as long verticals, it again takes the eye away from the wonkiness. 
As you may have guessed, I work directly in permanent pen, especially when I'm on location because it saves time and it keeps me out of the "Oops Loop." I'm sure you've dealt with're working in pencil and you realize your lines aren't working so you erase and redraw. Then you do it again, and again and again, and finally something that should have taken five minutes ends up taking thirty. Not to mention the paper is now messed up.

Working on location is often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'd rather take Mark Twain's advice and work on continuous improvement rather than delay until I get home and hope for perfection. 

What about you—do you give up on a wonky drawing too soon or do you push through?