I was a fountain pen driver long before became a sketcher and moving a fountain pen over good paper is still the biggest part of why I enjoy sketching. I know that for many, it’s watercolor that floats their boat but not me. When I sketch I draw what I see and when the pen goes back in the pack, my drawing is “complete.” I only add color as an afterthought.
I don’t advocate this approach. I think my sketches would improve considerably if I’d “mix” my media mentally as well as physically. Thinking of the watercolor while doing the drawing would allow me to leave lost edges, minimize the amount of hatching I use, and reduce the sketch’s reliance upon line, while placing more emphasis on form.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? My problem is implementation as, err…did I mention how much I like pen work? In addition, with a brush in my hand I am lost. Sketchbook Skool is helping me see through these problems, at least to the extent that six great teachers can shove me in the right direction but it may be an impossible task.
And so with this sketch I did something different. In Sketchbook Skool, Danny Gregory had us draw something quickly using a brush, followed by a slower, more precise approach with a pen. Brenda Swenson, a master of the brush and advocate of pen/watercolor is also someone who uses borders and lost edges very well. She centers her lessons around continuous contour drawing and using negative space when drawing.
When I started this sketch I was looking at a mass of forest understory and I wanted to capture only a tiny bit of one plant. I felt the need to visually define what part of it I was going to draw so I drew a couple “corners” to indicate a frame around what would be the sketch, noting where those corners were in my forest floor. Then, using a light gray watercolor wash, I started drawing the center veins of each leaf, quickly organizing which leaves would be part of the sketch. These two things worked well together as the ‘corners’ quickly became a frame and thus provided some nice negative spaces to anchor where the outlines of the leaves would go. The next step was some color. I quickly painted in the leaves with a very dilute yellowish green mix (Cad Yellow & Pthalo Blue). I was on a roll, and at the same time figured I’d be rolling right off a cliff ‘real soon’ as without my pen I was definitely working without a net.
When the wash was dry, I got out my pen and drew some lines, returning to paint to add more color to the leaves. As a first time attempt at this way of doing things, I was pleased with the result. Thanks to both Danny and Brenda for scaring me a little, and for providing some great ideas and challenges. If you aren’t in Sketchbook Skool, you should be. It’s fun.