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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Something sketchy


Sketch for painting, 9X12, #2 pencil on vellum.
Having assembled my reference photos for my upcoming project, it is time to do something with them. I am still only good for about three hours of work a day, but I mean to take advantage of those hours. 

The apple tree was an icon in our neighborhood, a gnarled old thing that produced bushels of delicious fruit. Years ago, the homeowner told me I could pick any apples I wanted. He is gone now, and one frigid day earlier this month we awoke to the whine of chainsaws. The first casualty was this tree, whose grace would not be apparent to someone looking for conventional suburban plantings of juniper and euonymus planted in unyielding 3-5-7 formations.

I took a single photo for my own sentimental reasons, never intended to paint it. However, my husband pointed out that it dovetailed with my current project. I had cropped my snapshot, and so my sketch was largely about imagining a different composition as well as thinking about what might have been outside the frame. To this purpose I added two other reference pictures: the orchard photo I posted Friday and a shot of a dead tree I found on the internet.

My initial sketch. That big ugly line across the bottom is my crop.
I quartered my original sketch and loosely gridded it onto my drawing vellum. To me this is the most important point: that you transcribe the big shapes from your sketch and not from a photo, unless you’re just intending to transcribe a photo (in which case you can skip this step and move directly to gridding on a canvas).

Once the large shapes were in place, I flipped between my three reference photos, adding details and allowing the movement of the final composition to emerge in its own time.

The shapes are positioned not from the photograph, but from the above sketch. At this point the diagonals of the composition are attempting to assert themselves.
I will set this drawing aside and repeat those steps for each of the paintings I intend to do. Partly this is about allowing my ideas to mature outside my consciousness. Partly it has to do with avoiding yanking my easel around so soon after surgery. When I’m done drawing (hopefully at the end of this week) I can proceed to making small oil studies of the finished paintings.


Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

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