Turning sketches into layered collage

13 May, 2015. I gave a short demonstration today in how to use quick location sketches as the basis for loosely colorful, layered imagery.

I begin by explaining the “Rule of Thirds” and the “Rule of Odds.” Using a landscape sketch as my example, I demonstrate how a slight shift using the Rule of Thirds creates greater visual interest in the composition. Then I demonstrate the Rule of Odds, the concept that the human brain seems to prefer an odd number of main elements over an even number. Notice the addition of a figure in the Rule of Thirds demonstration creates additional compositional movement. Simple enough strategies, but many don’t take into consideration the power of visual movement and compositional strategies in their sketches. And then they wonder why the technique looks right, but the page does not.

We took time to scope out some small outdoor scenes, and then made several small sketches. I asked my students to keep the sketches loose – the shapes should be proportionate and believable, but without a lot of unnecessary detail. I sketched my students while they drew the foliage and buildings around us. The sketch at the top of this post is the one I selected to push further.

Back in the studio we experimented with loose and sloppy washes of color, keeping the hues bright, leaving areas of untouched white paper, and emphasizing the contrasts between values, as well as between cool and warm colors. It’s really less important to be photographically accurate than it is to maintain energy in the paint. I like to play with semi-controlled drips and runs, along with brush spatter.

Continuing to experiment, I demonstrated how to add layers into the dry washes of watercolor by using collage techniques to lay down torn pieces of tissue. The tissue is very absorbent and very transparent. This example is only a starting point; given more time, many rich layers can be achieved. Sometimes we painted onto the tissue before adding it to the sketch and other times color was painted into tissue that got added to the sketch “raw.” By moving tissue and glue around with one’s fingers, it begins to bunch up: When dry, this “bunching” has an appearance of impasto. Kansas City, Missouri – Lamy medium nib on cheap, student grade watercolor paper, watercolor washes, glue, artist’s tissue paper.

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