When Ideas Are Brewing

When ideas are brewing in my head, it often takes awhile for them to emerge as finished paintings. I often play with those ideas in my sketchbook at night, or in a small format on loose pieces of paper. I had some color ideas I wanted to explore last night, so I pulled out my little half-pan watercolor travel setup for these, and used squirrel mop and sable brushes.

I usually keep a few pieces of good rag watercolor paper taped to boards and some are subdivided for sketches like this. Setting up a sheet this way is something I got from a workshop I took with the amazing David Taylor. He always advised doing these small thumbnail sketches on the side of the page in a small taped-off section. That way you can test drive your ideas (a few times if necessary) before taking them to a larger version. It speeds the process along, and you can immediately apply what you learn to the next one. I was torn between working in my sketchbook and working on the rag paper. (I love the way a hardbound sketchbook keeps all my ideas from wandering away!) But in this case, I needed to see how the colors would blend on rag paper. 

Technically, I'm not too pleased with these. However, I am happy with the way the colors are working, and I think with some more practice I'll be able to get what I'm after. Then I'll scale them up and start exploring the idea with assorted materials and techniques. One thing I've had to accept over the past few months is that the way I'm wanting to work with watercolor and acrylic requires a larger palette for those media for wash mixtures. It's always a juggling act to try to determine how much stuff we can take out painting on location, considering the need to pack light and carry it all!


Courtroom Sketches

I was sitting in on a court case today and had my first-ever opportunity to sketch in a courtroom.  I arrived a few minutes before the first case was called, so I did the quick sketch above to feel out the lay of the land and get my bearings. I used a Pentel Gray Aquash brush pen for all of my sketching today. The sketchbook is one of the new Zeta hardbound books from Stillman & Birn. Going right in with an ink-filled brush is really my favorite way to go about this kind of thing, especially on this smooth Zeta surface. The two facing pages of this spread had been slightly toned with a warm-colored watercolor wash several days previously. I laid in a bit of color after I got back home just to liven it up a little.

This was the Albany City Court building. I wouldn't have minded an entire day there just to sketch architectural elements. The hallways were filled with magnificent marble arches and a central winding marble stairway. This courtroom had exquisite woods with intricate carvings, which of course I didn't have time to render.

The proceedings got underway, and I got to experience at least a little bit of what courtroom artists are up against when they are trying to capture a scene amidst a cast of changing players. I have to say, it was really a lot of fun to do this, though I'm not sure I'd want to do it under the kinds of pressures that the courtroom artists endure. There are lots of things I'd plan differently the next time around, such as leaving spaces to put in figures that would move into various positions in the room, then pop them into those spots as the situations present themselves.

This second sketch was done over a blue wash, which was a little bit dark in terms of being able to present my light values. That's something I'll have to take into consideration next time, especially if I plan to use watercolor over it. I resorted to a little white gouache to reclaim some lights, like on the table tops. It also would have been nicer to work a larger size for this; however, I was trying to remain inconspicuous, so the double spread of a 5.5x8.5" book was perfect for a few minutes of stealth sketching.