Design Sketches for Palisade Memories

Click image for a larger, clearer view
Watercolor and acrylic on paper
(9x12" Stillman & Birn Beta Wirebound sketchbook)

This sheet of sketches was done to work out the major issues for an 8x16" painting of the Hudson River and Palisades. When I'm out painting on location, I don't usually have the time to plan to this degree. In my studio, however, time is on my side. I'm not having to drive long distances to locations and then try to make time stand still while the sun races across the sky and shadows change. Going through these planning stages yields a better painting in terms of composition, color, and overall design.

I began with the four tiny thumbnail sketches at the bottom of the page. Each is 1x2". I did them with black ink and a fountain pen, trying different places for the horizon, and scoping out where I wanted the boats to go. I sketched in a barge and tug for these thumbnails, but in doing so, I decided they detracted too much from the Palisades, which I wanted to keep as the main point of interest. When I went to do the larger study, I put in a small fleet of sailboats instead. They provide interest and break up the horizon line without stealing the show. Once I finished deciding what would go where, I pulled out some watercolors and played with color on the thumbnails. Then I did the larger study in acrylic, which would also be my medium for the finished painting.

Although I'd gone through all these stages, I still wasn't completely satisfied. I decided that when it came time to do the final painting, I'd shorten the foreground space so that the water and cliffs wouldn't mirror each other as much. I also wanted to scale back the tree on the left, so that it would break the horizon line, but not extend beyond the upper edge of the cliffs. You can click here to see the finished painting I did, based on this series of sketches.


Kaaterskill Falls from the Top

8.5x11" across a two page spread of a 5.5x8.5"
Stillman & Birn Beta Hardbound Sketchbook
Ink and Watercolor

On the way back from the Inspiration Point hike that I posted about yesterday, we detoured to the top of Kaaterskill Falls, where you can sit alongside Lake Creek just where it plunges over the 270 foot waterfall. There are dramatic distant vistas of the mountains from up there, plus beautiful rock outcroppings and intimate cascades. It was one of the favorite spots of the Hudson River School artists, and it's one of my favorites as well! They have done quite a bit of trail work there recently and the footing is vastly improved from the top of the mountain down to the top of the falls.


Hike to Inspiration Point

8.5x11" across a two page spread in a 5.5x8.5"
Stillman & Birn Beta hardbound sketchbook
Ink and Watercolor

I went to Inspiration Point several times this past summer and fall. For some reason, it has beckoned me this year! The twisted birch tree on the left seems to end up being my sketching subject on the trips more often than not. I love the contrast in the trunk, and the way the backlit leaves light up against the mass of Kaaterskill High Peak behind them. The ink and watercolor were done on location. Once home, I added the border and lettering with a Pitt Big Brush Pen