Friday, December 11, 2015

Two Landscapes in 3 Stages - Pencil, Pen and Watercolor

Lots and lots of photos this time! Let's start with the triumphant finish and then go to how it's done:

Hawaiian Waterfall and White Horse on the Hill
Two page spread in pen and watercolor on large Moleskine watercolor book.

These two landscapes were as dissimilar as they could be - except that I wanted them panoramic and knew I'd be painting them with summer greens. I thought they'd look good next to each other. Both are from photo references posted by Dominic_M for the December 4, 2015 Weekend Drawing Event. He asked that the references not be used after the WDE, so, any I wanted to work from later, I had to work from my art without referencing the original photo.

That challenge hit me just right and so I did the previous Stonehenge piece and clever little Gilbert Gecko on his soda can... then tackled my two favorites of the other grand landscapes. Because of the time limit, using those photos meant a mental challenge I faced many times in life. It was exactly as if I were doing field sketching without a camera. 

I didn't even get a camera till 2000 because I could never have both camera, and film, and money for developing it, all at the same tme I went with friends somewhere scenic. I tried to draw scenes and buildings I loved and failed for not sketching quickly, just drawing slow and careful. One memorable lake scene became a waterline and one pine branch in the near ground shading a corner. It was a beautiful pine branch but I didn't get the shore ,the rocks, the trees or anything else. 

I got my first digital camera, a Quickcam webcam, one day before I got my beloved Ari cat as a six week old kitten. From then I started taking a lot of pictures, I didn't have to worry about film. Then in the past few years learned to sketch - essentially by sketching that cat! Thanks, Ari!

I could finally do the kind of locality sketching I always wanted, once I had a good digital camera and didn't need to. Go fig! But it was good because even the attempt to sketch those places helped me remember those scenes vividly. In future I'll work toward drawing from memory without a photo or reference. Some of those places may not even exist any more if they flooded or got paved over or something... but I will someday do the sketches that failed.

This was a big step along the way. First, I penciled both scenes in my large Moleskine watercolor book. They're 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" which means the spread is 17" wide by 5 1/2" tall. This is also a step toward my doing a panorama covering both facing pages with the same continuous scene. 

 Hawaiian Waterfall pencil sketch
from Dominic's sister's photo (the reason to limit use, they weren't all his.)

 White Horse on the Hill pencil sketch
from photo by Dominic_M on

Success! I got enough detail in the pencil drawings to render the scene. From there I could have done watercolor first, or done pure watercolor. Gone over it with colored pencils or watercolor pencil or anything I wanted. 

Each pencil sketch is a good utilitarian plan for painting the scene, not a shaded lovely pencil drawing done in detail. This is the big reason so many pencil sketches in the past did not become entire scenes, just study of some tree bark or one pine branch or one boulder half done or something. Forget clouds unless they were a certain drifty long narrow type that comes in rows. 

If you ave o draw fast, do the big contours first, then important points of interest wih a few scribbled textures. Don't shade much unless it's important that area is a deep dark, unless you have the time. Sketching and Drawing are not the same thing.

I could have finished easily by taking out a set of 12 or 24 drawing pencils in different hardnesses and refined the pencil sketch into a beautiful pencil drawing full of textures, careful value areas with no outlines at all. Pencil realism is its own gorgeous type of art. Go for it if you like it, from life or photo.

Hawaiian Waterfall, pen stage in Pigma Micron 01 

 White Horse on the Hill pen stage in Pigma Micron size 03

I did the inking on different days. Some important life stuff happened to interrupt me, a pest control visit meant spending a day with two home care workers deep cleaning, bagging up all my food and clothes and taking down every framed picture on my walls. My room turned into chaos but I kept out the things I needed to finish the project. Day after, the exterminator came and I moved out into the hall to wait four hours for the fumes to dissipate.

I used a Pigma Mcron 03 for White Horse on the Hill first, still a fine point but not the finest. I outlined the chalk horse cutout to keep its form and then scribbled and drew closed and open lines to define everything else in the landscape. I planned for color to carry most of the tone values in this painting but shaded some clouds with hatching.

Then a day later I went to Hawaii in mind with a Pigma Micron 01. A finer pen width gave me more detail. Remember this, when you're nking a pencil sketch. The more fine a point you use, the easier it will be to get tempted to details and complex tonal values. Hawaii had more darks though, rich deep greens and striking contrasts. I knew I'd add color but that the darks from pen textures would enrich that and give me the value ranges I wanted.

If you want to simplify, use a variety of pen wdths and do them heaviest mark first. I meant to add some black accents with my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen but the Pigma Micron carried it to a nice finish. So nice that if I'd textured the hanging foliage on the left to the right value, I could have kept it a pure pen drawing. White Horse is more obviously a stage toward completion.

 Both scenes together in pen version. Shapes are easier to see and pen work 
defines water, foliage and clouds textures.

 Pencil sketch from life of my cat Ari on the bed.

In between the two watercolor finish sessions, I had Ari out in the hall waiting for the bug-killing fog to disperse. He was n his soft sided American Airlines official cat bag. He did not want to be in the bag. He yelled and rolled around and knocked himself off his tub of cat food. He then started pawing at the flap... and got hold of into a zipper tab with his toes or claws. 

He unzipped the bag from inside it!

He went romping down the hall and checked our room smelled nasty, so headed into a side hall to visit neighbors. I caught him, got hm back in the bag and a few minutes later he slept the nap of successful mischief. So in a break between the paintings, I sketched him from life. No grudge, he was happy again after we came back in.

 Hawaiian Waterfall, finish

 White Horse on the Hill, finish

I wound up overexerting helping the home care guys handle my art supplies, running around too much and doing anything myself hat I couldn't trust to them. I was wiped out with pani and exhaustion.

That became a good thing. I painted much more loosely and did more wet into wet color shifts within areas. I didn't slow down and color precisely between the lines. I made mistakes. I got some sky areas too dark in White Horse and lifted color once it was dry - for a softer lighter area than if I'd painted around it. I mixed greens and used pan greens and mixed pan greens with golds ad browns. 

On the Hawaiian scene I added flowers tat weren't there in the reference. The painting needed them and Hawaii is full of flowers. They stay if I ever work from this to do a good pastel or oil painting of the place. I just dotted them in last with a cold red that shifted with what it was near or went over. The net result was a lot more natural and flowing than if I'd noodled over it coloring between the lines in carefully chosen exact colors. 

Overall, it took a lot of work and several days to produce these two but it was well worth it! I love how they came out and both are serious works, not just quick sketches. They serve the purpose too - I can paint from them in any way I want, long after my imaginary trip ended!

Then that led to a real trip!

Next Wednesday, I'm leaving San Francisco to move back to Russellville, Arkansas with my daughter Kitten and her family. It'll be a Road Trip With Kitten. I'll be offline a bit being on the road but if I'm feeling up to it may do some real travel sketches along the way. We'll be driving two days and then I'll stay at her house till everything's turned on at mine. This was a spur of the moment decision that began with the trouble over the exterminator and will lead to a family Christmas this year, not just wait till next year!

I was going to relocate at end of February, but plans change and with everything already torn up and packed down, why not just finish the move and get it all over with instead of unpacking and packing again? I really did overdo it and she was concerned if I did that two more imes I might wnd up in the hosptal. So off we go! After the trip, I'll post any travel sketches and news!

Ari is the world's best traveling cat and will probably sleep through the trip n his cat bag. But his zipper will be pinned shut just in case!


  1. Love the landscapes, color is rich.

    I hope the trip goes well.

    1. Thank you! Trip went very well and I've done some sketching especially after I got here, but not really ready to post. Still need some finishing touches and to photo it and get all set up and comfortable in new studio! I have a studio!

    2. Great to hear the trip went well and how exciting to have a studio. Share photos of your new studio.

    3. Oh my... well, things didn't quite happen that way. Will post today with full details!