People Sketching – Nantasket Retreat

James,  me and several others from RC/Informatics went to the Conte center retreat in Nantasket yesterday.   There were lots of great talks and we had great views of the sea and the sun was shining.  What’s not to like?   As if this wasn’t enough this also gave me an ideal opportunity to do some people sketching.   Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to hone my people sketching skills by drawing people on TV.    This is extremely hard as shots are rarely more than a couple of seconds long and people keep moving about.  You have to be quick and have a good memory.  Needless to say this has resulted in pages upon pages of appalling drawing.
However – once you get into a situation where people are relatively still (say a bunch of people listening to scientific talks) things get a lot easier and somewhat of a luxury.

Shelburne Falls – View from the Flower Bridge

The plan yesterday was to take the painting sticks out and paint on location.   The weather didn’t play ball however and so we only took photos and this was done back at home.   Strictly speaking it’s not quite finished but I was getting to the ‘I’ll just do this’ stage and quit while I was ahead.   Not the most exciting of subjects maybe but fun nonetheless.

And the original photo.

Cape Porpoise – Studio Version

So I wanted to see whether I could improve on the sketch I did outside yesterday.    I think it’s better (James likes the first one).   The sea is not so garish and there is more color variation in the land masses.

Here I am in action.  This was a nice seat hidden away from people.  We should have brought sandwiches.

This is the panorama shot that James took (see my hat in the left hand side).

Zbukvic Practice

I’ve been watching my birthday painting videos and have been painting along with Joseph Zbukvic for the past week or so.  Wowza!   This is tough – I haven’t produced such bad paintings in such a large quantity for a long time.   His technique is fantastic but very different to what I would do naturally.  He often paints almost in monochrome with many neutrals and a lot of calligraphic very dark lines.   It’s beautiful to watch but boy oh boy is it tough to emulate.

The two paintings in this post are the most recent and the least bad of the dozen or so I’ve attempted.  They’re both coincidentally from the ‘Watercolor in Rural France’ DVD.  When I’ve recovered from the shame I’ll post the complete failures.

So what have I learned?    Good question.   Let’s see if I can make a list.

1. A good drawing is a must.  Not necessarily detailed on the paper but the process of moving through each part of the picture with the pencil enables you to get to know what you’re going to paint.   

2. When you put brush to paper you need to know where you’re going to put it as you have to move fast.   Mr Zbukvic often works with ‘the bead’   – wet paint that collects at the bottom when you are painting at an angle.   If you keep this bead there you can move down the page adding pigment to it and create smooth transitions of color.    This is not something you can create, wander off and come back to.

3.  As he says many times  – if you can do it in less than one brushstroke do.   Get the paint on the brush, take a deep breath and dive in.  This means you have to have the right amount of pigment *and* the right amount of water on the brush to start with.

4.  This is blatantly obvious but having watched him paint I’ve come to a better appreciation of this.   Different amounts of pigment with different amounts of water have different effects.   A relatively wet wash (see the sides of the buildings in the top picture) will create a good bead and enable you to add pigment into it after the first application.    A slightly thicker mix will move less on the paper,  not create such a big bead and not fade so much after drying (see the roofs of the buildings).    A *really* thick mix can be added to either of these previous mixes and it will spread but not that much (see the shadow under the roof on the building on the left).

5.  Leave white bits.  Especially useful when you want to emphasize regions with very dark darks which is counterintuitive.   See the separation between the roofs in the top picture.    

6.  Calligraphy is important  – those little twiddly dark pieces that create chimneys and fenceposts and branches that suggest things.  Combined with the white pieces these also create visual sparkle.

7.  Plan where your tonal values are going to go.  And make sure the darks join up.

8.  Painting is hard.  It’s also fun.

Cape Porpoise Maine

In my Joseph Zbukvic videos he is constantly saying that we have to paint outside if we want to be better painters.   As James and I are now not going to Canada (about which the less said the better) we took a trip up to Maine to find some coast to paint.
We ended up at Cape Porpoise near Kennebunkport and we were lucky that it was relatively quiet compared to Kennebunkport itself.   After lobster rolls by the sea and few boat sketches we sat down and I did my first painting outside for quite a while.     It wasn’t the most relaxing of painting sessions as James (helpful though he is) decided that video would be taken and helpfully provided a running commentary.
The result above (30 minutes) I’m quite pleased with with only one really bad mistake.   If I had my time again I wouldn’t have made the sea an unadulterated cobalt blue but otherwise I’m pretty happy.   As we were finishing a couple came up behind us and were very complimentary and actually offered to buy it.   
Oh – and the really bad mistake is the red boat.  It looks fine by itself but it’s completely the wrong scale and looks like a toy.  Never mind.

Boats viewed while consuming lobster rolls.

More boats – always good to have reference photos.

What is this?  A pier?  Jetty?

More boats.

Nice rocks.

And a few more boats.