A visit to Independence a few days past – a visit to the bike shop near the square, a visit with a friend who knows and stocks vintage components. A visit to repair a broken spoke on a fifty year old wheel. A visit, and time, and opportunity to study the buildings and signage of a past era. A visit long overdue.
And yet the clouds part from time to time and the attitude of the day undergoes a sudden and profound transformation. Watercolor paint dries on the page very quickly in the light breeze, and when one studies the landscape there are colors to be found: warm colors in those spots the sun reaches and cool, blue shadows tracing long fingers as they reach across the road and field. The sun is peculiarly oriented: I’m still in a summertime mode I suppose, and that oddly angled tilt is off putting.
A dreary day. In fact, there’s very little color outside, mostly ochre and gray, and I choose to emphasize the gray. This, in spite of subtle splash of blue green pine in the foreground. Others are further off, and their color bleeds away into the gray mistiness of morning.
Driving around the neighborhoods that surround the square in Independence, Missouri, one is struck by the charming houses, many in states of disrepair. Others are wonderfully restored, and it’s an intriguing collage of structures: a dichotomy of construction styles, restorations, eras, and decrepitude.
A lonely place nestled into an equally lonely location along a country road. A simple place, four walls and a roof, a propane tank – they appear to be largely self sufficient. It’s a lonesome sky too, reminiscent of long months of short, gray Alaskan days. This is Missouri, not the Yukon, but for a moment I might be forgiven for having forgotten that.
I realize I’ve been paying scant attention to the Just Sketching blog this month. Let’s try to remedy that this coming week so I can kick off the new year right. First up is this study, a dry run for an upcoming commission. I was fairly confident in my roadmap, but wanted to walk myself through it all the same to avoid any surprises later on. Commissions tend to do this: place a different sort of expectations on the end product than on the stuff I just do for myself, the stuff I do just because to enjoy the act of mark making.
This is how I’ve been beginning some watercolor sketches lately, with a light pencil drawing on Arches paper, drawn with a red or blue watercolor pencil. In this case an initial accurate drawing was made on a separate sheet of paper, then this sheet was placed on top and traced using a light box. It seems more appropriate to work this way for a commission piece – not everyone wants to see the construction lines. (In point of fact, I do.)
The sky generally gets blocked in first. The overall looseness helps to keep things from getting too tight, too quickly. The windows reflect the sky, so they get blocked in at this stage also. There’s something really appealing about the transparency of color in those windows at this point, and I often just leave them alone from this point on.
Block in shadows next helps to establish contrast. A lot of white continues to be reserved for later.
Dense color implies foliage, and more contrast is established.
And finally, the foreground is added. A few additional washes of color to the window glass and shadows create a bit more depth.
A touch of wash to the pavement, depth to the entryway, and some loosely painted marks to imply stone, and the study is done.
Annabelle, Yogi, and Smalls have distinct personalities, but share common traits: they want to be fed, they want to go outside if you’re also going outside, and they want you to show them affection. Lots and lots of affection.
Smalls has half a tail and a belled collar that jingles when she walks. She’s the relative newcomer – or, more accurately, the prodigal daughter. She belongs to the youngest son, but isn’t allowed in his new apartment. Thus, she’s “come home” and is now living with Yogi, her mom. Yogi isn’t used to sharing the top cat position and hisses at Smalls every time they get within a foot of each other, but otherwise manages to totally ignore her daughter.
Not so the dog though. If I lay on the ground to rub Annabelle’s belly, Yogi will rouse herself from whatever cave she’s sleeping in and insert herself between me and the dog. “Pet me instead!” she seems to be urging. The dog pleads her case, a clear instance of intense envy and a smidge of jealousy. Back and forth I go, first caressing one, then the other, until eventually Yogi will have had her fill and wander off.
At which point, Annabelle will roll those ancient, liquid eyes in my direction, all of a sudden a puppy again, as if to say, “You’re not planning on stopping yet, are you?”
If you’re from Hot Springs, Arkansas, you know I have taken some liberties with this incredibly cool Art Deco entrance. I sketched it at least a year ago, and only decided now to commit it to pen and ink. The typography is amazing and this scribble doesn’t do it any justice at all. But it was fun to try!
Just two days ago I cycled twenty miles in a thin, white t-shirt. Today, my hands actually hurt from the cold, and my fingers are stiff. It’s the twelfth of December, just days before Christmas really, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I grudgingly grant Mother Nature this; it’s her prerogative.