Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Botanical Sketching

Last week, I had a date with my friend, Mary Donato, to go to the Idaho Botanical Gardens to do some sketching.  I have really been wanting to do more sketching outdoors so that I can get better and faster at doing it.  I would like to be able to do quick sketches when we travel other places and only have a short time to do something (like while waiting for a train or having a drink at a café).

I can do quick thumbnail sketches of ideas I have in my head.  But when I sit down to draw something I see, it takes me a long time.  I get caught up in the details or wanting to make it look realistic.  What I really want to do is capture the impression I have in my mind of the shapes, lines and colors (which for me tends to be abstract).

I take a lot of pictures with my camera so I can go back and do this at home.  But I notice that sometimes the camera doesn't "pick up" what colors I'm noticing or what I am picking out as the "important stuff" in my mind. (I know you can see the next picture below and I was able to get the color and focus on the important part for me in this one.)

The other issue I noticed that I have when drawing something I see, besides being slow, is that I have some problems with proportion because I don't have  a "frame" like you do when you take a picture.  When I take a photo, I zoom in or out to "frame" the exact section I want of what I'm looking at. Like this.

While drawing in person, I don't have those edges for reference.  I know I can make a viewfinder by cutting a rectangle out of a piece of cardboard, or I can make "L" shapes with my fingers to help define the space.  But when you have a pencil in one hand and have to hold your sketchbook in the other, it's not very convenient to use those things.

I want to just be able to do it without those aids.  To be able to do that just takes practice, practice, practice!  And that is why we went to the botanical gardens.

I will confess that I probably spent more time taking pictures (it's so much easier to abstract something that way) than I did actually drawing.  But I did do three sketches.  When I attempt to do "plein air" sketching, I have done line drawings with pencil.

This sketch below is actually the last one I did with a limited amount of time because I was supposed to meet Mary back at the car.  There were many different kinds of plants and trying to figure out how to suggest them and not get caught up in the details was a good exercise.

I also wanted to try to capture some color that day.  I have a small travel watercolor set that I have taken on a few trips with me.  But I am slow with that as well.  I have acrylic paints, but not in a travel set and they would dry too fast in our desert heat here.  I have not worked with oils and do not own any.  So, I took my Caran D'Ache Neocolor II crayons.  They are water soluble.

As I mentioned in the last post, I had to fight off the mental attitude of judging the sketches of being "good" or "bad" and just practice and learn.

The first sketch I did was of some rock forms. I drew in pencil and then used the crayons to color. Then I went over them with my water brush to blend the colors.  I don't have a picture for you but I realized that with a limited set of 30 crayons, I don't have many choices because I can't just make the color I want.

On the next sketch, I just started directly with the crayon and no pencil.  I learned that you cannot make great detail with the crayon (and you cannot erase).  Here is what it looked like before I added water.

 After I came home, I did a little bit of blending with some water.  And here's how it looks.

Even with a few sketches, I learned something, especially using the crayons.  In the next post, I'll show you some more of the photos I took.

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