30 September, 2018. “30 Days hath September,” or so the phrase begins. And here we are, 30 days of the month nearly at an end; done, complete, in the books.
Our town’s annual Fall Festival was this weekend. The town square was brimming with people, wandering from booth to booth or pushing baby strollers or simply walking a dog. The carnival was in full force, and the air smelled of kettle corn, hot dogs, and cotton candy. A live country music band entertained a crowd on the courthouse terrace, and two blocks north streets were barricaded for other music venues. Teens were converging on the square from all directions as night fell, and I wheeled my bicycle through the crowd, stopping here and there along the way to make a composite sketch.
I’ll sometimes do this, create a sketch that is made up of parts of an event or place. It’s not true documentation, at least not in the sense that a courtroom sketch artist is attempting. But that’s fine by me. I’m more interested in the story of the place and time; it’s my decision what to include and what to leave out. And really, isn’t that a more honest approach anyway? Artists always edit. They decide how to crop. My sketches are often collages, scenes that never actually were, but are truthful all the same, a combination of all that I experienced. Then, like a film director, I select which scenes to include.
I like to play, to experiment. A couple of artworks on social media recently caught my attention: lightly drawn, with a scribbly, sketched quality. I looked to see what the media was and read “watercolor crayon.”
Well, heck. Here’s a tool I’d never heard of and I wanted to know more so I relied on my good buddy Google to find out what I could and discovered Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water soluble wax pastels. I’ve no idea if these are what was used or not, but I was intrigued enough to get my hands on a few.
Now let’s be very clear: I’ve no idea if these things are “my” sort of media or not. More than likely, they’re just a passing plaything. But they are fun, and very quick.
The skies were wonderful the other morning. I was on the way to work, so literally no time to sketch for longer than a couple minutes. The only thing I had in the car with me was a a small kit of these pastels – not even a water brush on hand to see how they might react to an application or two of water. A scrap of watercolor paper was in the trunk of my car.
Anyway, voila! “Drawing” with watercolor feels a little like I’m working with a very high quality crayon, very smooth and creamy. And I find myself wondering what it would be like in this sketchy style using a smoother surface. Hmm, I think to myself. Better try it.
They definitely force one to focus on the masses rather than teeny details. And Ooooo! I like these crayons a LOT more on smooth paper… so much more creamy! Sketchbook, here I come!
Next up: activating the pigment with washes, and then layers of marks over the dry washes, perhaps?
Well now that’s an interesting effect. Everything easily gets very “solid” feeling. The pigment instantly melts into the application of water, and it’s pretty easy to add more once it dries. It takes me in a different direction than the loose, light drawings that initially caught my eye, but I am thinking they make a good choice for tiny little super fast location sketches.
The colorfastness is excellent for most of those in the kit I’m using, but I’m disappointed to discover that some of the most useful pigments are rated poorly – the Olives, Periwinkle Blue, Ochre, and Carmine in particular. The colors are deceptively titled in some cases, too. “Salmon” seems anything but, for instance, and I definitely don’t see a flame in “Flame Red.”