Abandoned truck sketch #3

abandoned-truck-3

In spite of what I have said about using cheap wood pulp paper, I do still use it as I think there is some value in it for some things.

I took my time working on this, spent an evening working on this.

The paper used here was Daler Rowney Aquafine, a cold-press 140lb. paper. It is an inexpensive watercolour paper, a value-oriented, so-called ‘student’ paper, a term which I realise now is inappropriate and misleading.

I didn’t really care about this, it was intended as a throwaway, the intention being that I would use it to get a sense of how to do the finished version. This gave me the freedom to try things without worrying whether the next step I was about to take was going to completely screw it up. If I did screw it up then it didn’t matter.

Glazing is difficult with this paper – applying paint over an existing layer there is a strong tendency to lift the previous layers. I found I can just about do wet-into-wet glazes if I’m really careful but even then it doesn’t always work or it does work it might only work partially.

Some people use blooms (aka backruns) intentionally in their rendering of a scene – one might consider it a way of acknowledging the medium of watercolour, of referencing it within your painting. That wasn’t the case here, I simply added more paint when I shouldn’t have and a bloom resulted.

Anyway, I think in spite of everything I think it turned out alright. Next step is to re-do this on a better quality paper…

This town is coming like a ghost town

First of what might become a few sketches based on this California gold-rush era ghost town. I’ve visited there at least a couple of times in the past. I find places like this fascinating. There’s a history there and the history feels so tantalisingly close in time. In fact, there were people living here up until the 1940s. Try and imagine what it would have been like for them, the people who ventured out to this place, into essentially the middle of nowhere and built something, even if only for a relatively short time.

I drew this on 300gsm cold-press Bee paper, an inexpensive yet decent 100% cotton watercolour paper. I’ve been spending time recently looking more carefully at how papers react to watercolour and doing some comparisons of different brands and I’ll write more about that in a later post. One thing for certain is that switching to 100% cotton paper has been a revelation, things that I’ve never been able to do before have become possible and I’m finding it is helping me to gain some confidence.

So, first the negative points. The building on the left bothers me, it doesn’t quite feel rooted in the landscape – it feels like has just been placed there and it also feels very one-dimensional. Next, there’s a mark on the road, a splash of paint which seems out of place and my eye is continually drawn to it – I think I need to remove it.

On the positive side, the sky worked quite well – I’ve been practising skies and it seems to have paid off here. Second, there is a sense of depth to this landscape. This is provided by the dirt road and telegraph poles receding into the distance. It is also aided by the intensity of detail in the foreground which decreases as the distance from the viewer increases. There is some nice value contrast here – there is a sense of drama – the apparently sunlit scene in the foreground versus the ominous sky in the distance.

Bee Paper, 140lb, 6″ x 9″

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Three sketches

While visiting Columbia, California earlier this year I really wanted to sit down and sketch some of the old buildings and other artefacts. That never worked out and so I had to settle for photographs instead.

I decided to make sketches based on some of those photos. I tried adopting a more loose and sketchy style. In the past, for ink sketches, I tend to work out a lot of the sketch in pencil beforehand, drawing these very lightly with an HB grade pencil and then go back over those lines with ink. With these sketches, I largely abandoned that approach, opting instead to do little to no pencil preparation.

The first sketch is of an old barn. I pencilled in the basic construction lines in pencil to get the proportion and perspective right and then used my Lamy Safari for everything else.

columbia-ls-1
Barn, Strathmore 400 series sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8.5″

With the Columbia Gazette building, I didn’t draw out any construction lines at all. It is a simple shape with no perspective to speak of and so construction lines aren’t really necessary here in any case. Some of the lines I’ve drawn are a bit wobbly, not exactly ruler straight. Actually, looking at it again pretty much everything has a wobbliness to it but I think that is part of the charm of sketches made in this way. Again, I used my Lamy Safari.

columbia-gazette-1a
Columbia Gazette building, Strathmore 400 series sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8.5″

This is an admittedly rough sketch of what was originally a cottage that was burnt down multiple times before being reconstructed for the last time in 1960. I believe it is currently used mainly as a training venue. This was completed mainly using Pigma Micron pens.

Cottage, Strathmore 400 series sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8.5″

Abandoned truck sketch #2

I revisited the abandoned Chevy truck from earlier but with a slightly modified composition.

old-truck-1b

The sketch was completed in a new Stillman and Birn Zeta series sketchbook, in the square 7″ x 7″ format. It’s a sketchbook which I purchased eight or nine months ago now but I’ve been afraid to use it, for the simple reason that I didn’t feel that I should use a quality sketchbook like this until I felt I could produce something worthwhile. I should mention that Stillman & Birn sketchbooks are among the best sketchbooks currently available. I’ve realised for a while that with that kind of attitude the sketchbook was going to be sitting on a shelf gathering dust for a long, long time. So I’ve decided that I need to just start using it regardless of whether I felt my sketches were worthy or not.

I’ve again used pen and ink but have opted instead to use a water-soluble ink. This was something new for me which I was keen to try out.  With pure pen and ink, the impression of tone is created using strokes alone. With the water-soluble approach, the drawing is built using strokes as before but then, when you are ready, you dip a brush in water and then brush over the pen strokes. Some of the ink in the strokes is released and can be used to create an ink wash of sorts.

I used an inexpensive Pro Arte synthetic watercolour brush which I’ve reserved for working with ink. The pen work was completed using a Pilot G-Tec-C4 0.4mm rollerball, which of all the pens I have available seemed to work best. Before I started the drawing I performed a quick test using several pens and inks I had available. The results are shown below.

  1. The De Atramentis document ink was completely waterproof, as expected.
  2. The Pilot G-1 gel ink rollerball pen produced very good results. It doesn’t however, produce as fine a stroke as the G-Tec-C4. It also has blue ink, which I wasn’t particularly keen on using (there is a version of this pen with black ink but I don’t have this).
  3. The Pentel Hybrid (K105) worked well. It produces a finer stroke than the Pilot G1 but not quite as fine as the G-Tec-C4.
  4. The Mitsubishi Uni-Ball UMR-85N, a gel ink ballpoint cartridge, also worked well with a stroke with similar to the Pentel. It perhaps doesn’t release quite as much ink.
  5. Sakura Pigma Micron pens use waterproof ink so brushing over the marks made with this pen has no effect at all.
  6. The Pilot G-Tec-C4 produces a lovely fine stroke and it also releases a good amount of ink.

water-soluble-ink-test-1

Abandoned truck sketch #1

I was vacationing in northern California this summer. It was a circular-ish road trip from San Francisco, mostly camping, in a mixture of state parks, national parks and national forest. I also had the intention of sketching every day during the trip, perhaps working on several sketches during each day. It had been a while since I last had an opportunity go on a trip like that, so I was looking forward to it. As far as the sketching plan went I worried that it might not go exactly as I hoped. Yet I resolved to remain positive and so I brought along an assortment of tools; sketchbooks, pencils, pens, water-brushes and my Winsor and Newton portable watercolour palette. Most days consisted of the same or similar tasks; making breakfast, breaking camp, driving, more driving, making the campsite, preparing and cooking dinner and finally relaxing, with a glass or two of red wine. I’m not complaining, it was a fantastic vacation but it had an intensity to it that left little room. Needless to say, my suspicions turned out to be well-founded. I managed to work on exactly one pencil sketch, at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and I didn’t even manage to finish that! Instead, I had to settle for taking a lot of photographs.

Anyway, this sketch is of an old truck I spotted parked near the side of the road, in the small community of Redcrest in Humboldt County. Judging by the exterior, it looked like it was in good condition. It was dirty and the tyres deflated and clearly hadn’t gone anywhere for quite some time. Yet it looked as if it could still drive again. Drawing this, I started to notice the lines, the contours, the shapes and I realised why I liked this vehicle. The design had integrity, there was a unity and a wholeness to it.

An old truck, 5.5″ x 8.5″, Strathmore 400 series sketchbook

I remember the campsite we stayed that night, at Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It was memorable but for the wrong reasons as it was cramped and mosquito-infested. Long trousers and liberal applications of DEET resolved the mosquito issue. The campsite selection there was simply bad luck. The other campsites I had stayed during the trip were usually at least good, sometimes very good and occasionally stunning, like the backcountry campsite at Dewey Point in Yosemite, with its commanding view of the valley, 2000 vertical feet below.

The sketch was outlined first in pencil and then rendered in detail using my Pigma Micron pens; mainly 01 and 03. I used my Strathmore 400 series recycled paper sketchbook (5.5″ x 8.5″).

Over the coming weeks and months, I plan on working on more pencil, ink and watercolour sketches from this trip as well as some sketches from the U.K. and from Japan.