26 August 2012

Sketch Journal Composition

Our final lesson at Brenda's workshop was to take disparate elements and put them together in a sketch "collage" of images and words. I had a hard time with this--I had three different ideas, none of which could I get to work--so in desperation (and at Brenda's suggestion) I retreated to doing a collage of my tools. Not what I wanted for my final project, but maybe I'll work out the other ideas and share them here sometime.

Before and after

From Brenda Swenson's Sketch Journaling workshop, three weekends ago...

In my previous post with the kitty and the Eiffel Tower, I had been hasty to paint, so on Saturday morning when everyone else was just starting their painting, I was already done. I decided to get out my second set of personal items and draw those, hoping to have time to paint them as well before everyone else was finished.

I sometimes tend to be lazy when it comes to drawing--often just putting down the bare minimum pencil line and going straight to paints--but since Brenda makes us do contour-line in pen, that's not an option, and after the easy sketch of the Giant Cat, I decided to take on a challenge by selecting some VERY complicated jewelry. It was a major test of both patience and observation, and I barely finished the drawing by the time everyone else was done with their painting.

Here is the drawing, with pencil lines indicating where the shadows will be. (We are working in a room with fluorescent lighting, which isn't great for contrast, so we have been taking our objects outside into the sun and turning them round and round to get the best shadow pattern to unite the objects in the painting into a true grouping.) The matching bracelet and earrings and this compact belonged to my mom. You can see the writing that goes with it below, in the completed sketch journal painting.

I finally had time to paint this, three weeks later. Capturing the shine of the pearlescent central stones and the glitter of the rhinestones set in silver was virtually impossible with watercolor (or at least at my level of expertise), but I did capture the colors--I love that ice blue. These took me back to when people still dressed up to go out to dinner, and children were left at home with the babysitter (in my case, Mrs. Rosenberg and her favorite, the Lawrence Welk Show), but it was still fun to live vicariously by watching my mom put on her powder and paint, her stockings and heels, her full-skirted dresses, and the perfect jewelry to complement her outfit. In my eyes, she was the epitome of glamour.

Here we are when I was about 3 years old. Mom would have been 33, Dad 35.

And here they are at about 40 and 42. Doesn't Dad's shirt look like a Charlie Sheen special?

Another lesson from Brenda Swenson

This one is, Don't be ruled by your photographs! Even if you frame the perfect view, there's bound to be something about it you don't like--the light, the shadows, the composition--how did that building end up falling dead center in your composition? That tree is too dominant over there at the edge of the page without something to balance it. There are too many people in this landscape. There are too many details in this city view. Bottom line is, if you are an artist, you may not be a photographer, and many times you are snapping reference photos with your smartphone, so remember that the pictures are for reference and don't let them call the shots.

To emphasize this, Brenda gave us a scene with a lighthouse attached to living quarters, with some pine trees, and water, and rocks. Then she had us separate out all the elements--trees, rocks, lighthouse, sky, water--and recombine them into a composition we actually wanted to paint. It was a great lesson! Here are my thumbnails, with notes:

Also, doing little thumbnails like this before you draw and paint the real thing is an opportunity to work out all those problems like balance, perspective, layout...