What’s in a sketch ?

Lower Brockhampton

How much should I put in a sketch?

What is the difference between a sketch and a painting?

These are two questions I have been asked recently. The answer is not so easy as it will be different for each individual.

The first question you need to ask yourself is “What kind of sketch do I want?” There are times when you might be going out with the clear intention of spending a given amount of time in which to sketch and to do nothing else, in which case you may decide to devote most of your energy on one piece of work, or you may prefer to do a number of smaller sketches, maybe even combining them on the same page or piece of paper.

Other times, as in the case of ‘Lower Brockhampton Manor House’ , it may be that the chance to sketch has to fit into a number of other things you want to do, or you may be on holiday, visiting a number of locations during the course of the day, in which case the type of sketch which is best suited will be one which tries to capture the flavour of the place and how you see it, rather than trying to paint an exact copy of what is in front of you, with every stick and stone included. This sketch will become part of your armoury if you decide to paint a more detailed version at a later date.

A sketch can be something which stands alone and needs nothing more, or it may be used as part of your reference for a later project. It doesn’t matter which – it will depend entirely on you.

You’re the boss!

Happy sketching.

A glorious morning.

08-08 Straw bales at Little Rissington

This morning was one of those glorious golden summer days which we think of as only existing in our imagination – probably because they seem so few and far between… I have been hoping for some bales of straw but disappointed when visiting fields where I have found them before only to find them full of sheep!

Imagine my delight when walking home from a neighbouring village I cut down by the church and came out behind it into a field FULL of bales as far as the eye could see. What Bliss!

This is 6 x 8 inches and the bales were painted with yellow ochre,  new gamboge,  indian red, winsor violet and a little blue. Saunders Waterford 140lb CP/NOT paper

The hazards of sketching

08-06 Allotment sunflower

It has been a hazardous week for sketching outdoors, as what appeared to be settled sunny weather has been anything but with the sudden arrival of dark clouds and heavy showers.

‘Allotment Sunflower’ is a case in point as I had intended to add more watercolour, but the torrential downpour sent me scurrying for cover before I, and more importantly my sketchbook, became sodden. Later, I decided I quite liked leaving some of the page unpainted. If I change my mind I can always go back another day.

 

Derwent Graphik line maker, Winsor & Newton watercolour in softbound Stillman & Birn Alpha 5.5 x 8.5 in. sketchbook

Summer Lavender

07-22 Summer Lavender

We may have heatwaves in this country, but the thing is they tend not to last more than a few days at a time. This is usually followed by showers which can be quite heavy then suddenly we are back in heatwave mode again. It’s designed to keep us on our toes and give us something to talk about !

This is a 8 x 11 inch watercolour from  another sketch I did at the tail end of last week before the rain came and went and the sun came back again…

Before the week is over

Having spent most of the week chasing about on non-painting stuff, I was determined to go out today and sketch if only for a few minutes before the week was over.

After a beautiful couple of weeks, the recent rain has made  many of the fields waterlogged in places, so the going was a bit squelchy. Nevertheless I managed this little sketch on a half page of my Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. Not great, but it felt so-o good to be putting paint to paper again! I arrived home just before the rain started.

sketchbook note

By the water’s edge

Out for a walk the other day, my eye was caught by a little river which sometimes trickles, sometimes gushes through the landscape. Sometimes the water is still and clear, other times it is full of ripples. Always different, endlessly fascinating.

I took photos and made some small pencil sketches from various positions trying to concentrate on what I thought were the essential points of the view I was seeing. This little 6 x 8 inch is the first thoughts on what I hope to build up into a larger painting, although not necessarily from this angle. It might be something I have to keep coming back to as I keep exploring the idea.

02-22 By the water's edge

A good time of year for trees

Far too wet and windy to do anything but paint inside today. I have long wanted to paint some trees along the side of the small roads around here, as trees in Winter are some of the most fun things to paint, especially when you use only a rigger brush (long hairs like a sign-writer’s brush) to paint the whole tree from bottom to top. It’s surprising  the number of different marks you can make simply by varying the pressure on the brush and using the side of the hairs as well as the tip.

Riggers don’t have to be reserved for painting only the rigging on sail boats, (their original purpose). They can be used for painting a variety of marks, especially in landscapes or urban scenes – think trees, fences, telegraph poles, overhead wires…

Love your rigger and let it give you looser, more expressive  marks to capture the sense of the place.

02-08 Lane in February

Sunshine and Snow

It snowed here over Thursday night, in the north and south-west, and whilst it was nothing to worry anyone used to winters in North America or Canada, it was enough to cause panic and fears of ‘safety’ in a country which every year maintains we don’t have enough of the stuff often enough to bother to learn how to handle it – despite  evidence to show that our winters could be more severe in the future.

I pity the people of Cornwall who came to a standstill on the main road into and out of the county, especially those who had to spend the night in their cars or abandon them in search of emergency accommodation where they could. The weather took them by surprise, but one can’t help feeling we should be better prepared in this country instead of grinding to a halt whenever we get a few inches of snow?

Anyway, the rain last night washed away any of the snow which remained unmelted by the weekend sun and we, in this corner of the country, are back to business as usual at least for the time being.

At least it provided a chance to sketch some snow scenes. This is a replica stone-age roundhouse – originals are hard to find, but for those who don’t know, there is evidence of early settlements in the area and a lot of archaeology has been done, so it is not that someone just decided to build one on a whim. This one has educational value and is part of Greystones Farm and the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

This is also an exercise in a very limited palette of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, with a minute amount of Yellow Ochre.

02-04 Sunshine and snow

 

 

 

Severe weather

There was a severe weather warning in place for today with all the usual cautions about  venturing out onto the roads and to think about the necessity of any journey one might undertake.

Instead we had clear skies and sunshine for most of the day, which gave me the opportunity to walk the surrounding fields and find some ivy-clad winter trees. I took a lot of liberties with the left hand foreground of this view, editing it to suit my own purposes. The bank of trees in the background was put in with washes of new gamboge, burnt sienna and permanent magenta and cobalt blue.

 

01-30 end of january

Painted on Saunders Waterford HP block 12 x 9 inches.

Keeping it sketchy

This little balck and white timber-framed building on stone pillars was originally a meeting place for medieval wool merchants in Burford. The wool trade made the town and the Cotswolds rich, which is why there are so many grand buildings around.

Here I wanted to keep things sketchy with the neighbouring buildings only hinted at. I started by laying in a pale wash of French Ultramarine, Brown Madder and Yellow Ochre, letting them mingle on the paper, so the ‘white’ of the building is actually mostly this first wash.

The building now houses the Tolsey Museum containing artifacts of local interest.

Painted on Saunders Waterford 9 x 12 inch block.

01-21 tudor building, burford