Field Sketching vs Oil Painting

The title of this post is probably a misnomer, but I can’t think of a better one.  Truth is, I’m comparing what I’ve done as a field sketcher to what I’ve tried to do as a neophyte oil painter.  Sort of apples and oranges but the apple and orange were both done by me and they’re both apples.  Does that make sense (grin)?

Ok…it was September of 2020 and a lull in COVID lockdown was in the air.  We went apple picking at an orchard on the south side of the St. Lawrence.  Everyone was enjoying being outdoors, climbing picking ladders and filling bags with apples.  I relied on my family for the picking while I wandered around looking for just the right view of apples and a mix of leaves.  I’m sure people thought I was nuts as I walked around and around trees, moving from one to another without picking a single apple.  But I found the spot.  So I sat down on my tripod stool and drew this with my fountain pen (S&B Beta sketchbook).

When I got home I added watercolor.

Fast-forward to 2022… and we’re in lockdown (again) because of Omicron.  I wondered what would happen if I tried to replicate one of my sketches with my very limited oil painting skills.  So, I applied a couple light coats of gesso to an S&B Beta sketchbook and went to work, using pencil to draw the closest replica I could from the original watercolor.

I’ve got to say that my limited abilities reared their head when it came to replicating the original.  Also, my pen and wash style relies so heavily on the pen lines to convey their msg that I struggled more than a little bit without them.  Still, the result kinda sorta looks like the original, though the watercolor apples look better to me.

This was an interesting experiment.  Painting in a sketchbook with oils works pretty well except you can’t close the sketchbook for a couple days.  This might slow me down as a street sketcher (grin).



2 thoughts on “Field Sketching vs Oil Painting

  1. Very interesting experiment … I enjoy seeing processes like this. The field sketch seems a bit fresher and more spontaneous. But I’m not sure I agree that the ink linework is essential. In that regard, I really like the un-outlined look of your oil version. Not that you asked my opinion. 😉

    • An interesting analysis and I thank you for it. As for the linework being necessary, I think the watercolor leaves would be very weak without them. It’s the result of my using watercolor like crayons rather than building form with them. I agree that the un-outlined look is great. My whole reason for the oils is to get beyond drawing an outline around everything before even considering color. I look at work by someone like Suhitha, where she does watercolor and then uses pen just for emphasis and it seems so much fresher than typical line and wash. To my mind this is because she’s thinking about capturing form with watercolor shapes rather than contour.

      Your night and snow scenes are other examples where getting away from contours opens the doors to lots of stuff. I’m doing all this oil painting stuff to force my brain to see without emphasis on contour. As for freshness, this is what I mean by that. I can sit, and without thinking about it draw the ink work above. But this is strictly about capturing contour. Any color/form stuff is just an afterthought. When I paint I have to start with the idea of capturing form by adding color shapes to the surface. This shift in perspective is powerful, as you know.

      Anyways, it’s great to talk about this stuff. I miss having art discussions.

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