Thursday, August 24, 2006

Plein Air Sketching - the Sandia Mountains


You will recall that in my post about Friday 21st July Plein Air Sketching and a Banquet I said I was in a quandary because the sketches are still in California. Well - it's sorted as you can see above! Louise has scanned the images and sent them to me. I've arranged them as the images are intended to be when developed - you can click on either of them to see a larger image.

So a recap and more details about approach and process, given I wasn't sketching on the run and actually had time to think about what I wanted to do and how to design the 'picture' before I started.
  • Just after 9am, after much walking around, I sat on a tiny patch of grass in a car park attached to the north of the Winrock Shopping Centre in Albuquerque looking across to the east at the Sandia Mountains over the tops of the trees. Nice and quiet and unlikely to be interrupted.
  • I was fresh from the slideshow the night before and my analysis of what gave a drawing impact and thought I should really try and apply a few of those messages if I could in the approach to and design of my sketches, so................
  • I tried both horizontal and portrait formats out in my sketchbook and plumped for the portrait as I began to realise as I sat there that the sky/clouds/light were a very big part of the 'story' about looking at the mountains. Also the portrait format just seemed to work better in terms of what I could actually see. I may have changed a landscape format if I'd had a better view of the mountains (given I also had Georgia O'Keeffe's landscape paintings at the back of mind eg Untitled (Red and Yellow Cliffs), 1940 and Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back Of Marie's II, 1930).
  • Having plumped for the portrait I realised that a diptych and maybe even a triptych might be possible. So I started with the intention of doing at least two in a portrait format to produce a diptych and also if I could get more done later in the late afternoon/evening I might get a triptych of the mountains at different times of day.
  • Sandia 'north' is the left hand one and Sandia 'south' is the right hand one. I've been trying to find the names of places on the ridge but can't. There is a small gap between them in real life as there would be if done larger and hung (I feel a pastel coming on!)
    • the light in Sandia 'north' is early morning - the mountains are still bluish purple and the sky is a very pale aqua blue with lemony pinky streaks near the crest of the mountain
    • the light in Sandia 'south is late morning/midday - the yellow in the light has moved out of the sky onto the land which is losing its bluish tinges while the sky begins to intensify its blueness. The clouds have also changed and there are fewer 'little fluffy clouds' and more of a white haze just above the crest
    • the third one - never happened - but the mountain would have got reddish mauve in the late afternoon/early evening and the pinkiness in the sky would have reappeared along the crest.
  • Having plumped for the portrait format and more emphasis on the sky I placed the crest line about a third of the way down the page - but actually tried looking at what it would look like with the two together - hence why there is a connection between one ridge and another and the tree line is in about the same place. I've done diptychs before and there is nothing more frustrating and irritating than forgetting to design the whole as well as the individual drawings.
  • Initial outline sketch to sort out cropping, design of main shapes and the nature of the value pattern in my sketchbook.
  • Followed by an initial pencil drawing of the main shapes using a mechanical pencil and then coloured pencils to develop the range of colours - generally going from light to dark and working the whole sketch at the same time.
  • I seem to remember I didn't try to finish the first one before starting the next one. What i did was finish parts of it with enough information to allow me to complete it later - which is what I did. In other words, once I've established what colour the sky is at different places on the paper, if it doesn't vary then I can just complete one part and then develop the rest later. I don't need to get absolutely everything to a 'completed' stage when I'm trying to catch light effects - I just need enough information before I move on to the next thing in the sketch, or as in this instance, the next sketch. I completed the blue part of the skies back at the B&B.
Techie details: the sketches are 12" x 9" and are on Saunders Waterford Hot Press 140lb/300gsm paper in a block (which saves having to carry a drawing board).

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