Stand Up Watercolor Sketching

Tina just wrote this comment to my last post.
I’m starting to think about using watercolors in the field again. But the whole setup part is what stalls me… I like sketching while standing, and having to attach the palette, etc. to my sketchbook or to a board crimps my style. 

The old “clip the palette to your sketchbook road is full of frustration, at least it was for me. Different sketchbook sizes, left page/right page, beginning/end of book… there’s just nothing consistent about this process.

So, long ago I realized that I needed to bring my “table” along with me. Lots of people do this, using fome-core or Coroplast boards. Some clip palettes, some imbed magnets into the backing board. I’ve tried all of these methods and they work, if you’re more consistent in your sketching practice than I am. I went a different way, mounting magnets on the bottom of my palettes…all my palettes. This eliminated the need to use a metal palette. It works as well with Cotman plastic kits as metal palettes. All it takes is a little dab of 5-minute epoxy in each corner and 4 little seed magnets, like this:

Of course this requires that your backing board be made of metal (= heavy). But what if you took some very thin plywood (mine is 3mm) and used contact cement to attach thin metal? “Come on, maybe YOU can do that Larry but I don’t have any tools.”

I found, at the dollar store, a small magnet board…a REALLY cheap magnet board. It cost me $2. It was cheap because it came with a cheap plastic frame around a thin, painted piece of metal that was backed by a piece of cardboard. Oh..and they give you some crappy magnets too.

What a deal this was because it was a game changer for me. It took about 20s to pull the frame off, toss the cardboard in the trash and I was left with a perfect sheet of metal that weighed almost nothing. Some 3M77 contact cement and my board was finished. I just dumped a bunch of art books on it to keep it flat while it dried. That was at least five years ago and she’s still going strong, albeit with scratches here and there.

Because Tina is a sketchbook user and because I know she’s like me and uses different kinds of sketchbooks, I’ll skip my single-sheet approach and just show a couple sketchbook possiblities.

Notice first that I’m holding this in one hand. In fact, when I use this standing up, I also stuff a small water bottle in my right hand (I’m a lefty). Sometimes I put the sketchbook on top and the palette on the bottom; it makes no difference. Notice also that I’m holding it up at an angle. The palette doesn’t move.
Here the palette is at the bottom and I have an A6 sketchbook on top. Works the same. A caveat here. When I’m working I typically hold the board from the top and stick the bottom of the board in my belly. In this configuration I have to be careful to keep wet pans of paint from getting on my clothes.
Yesterday I showed my current small bag set up. Because I use a sandwich of Coroplast to hold my paper I find I can just shove the secondary palette cup between the Coroplast sheets and clip it. It’s extremely stable and I can walk along a trail with this set up and ready to go, though I generally dump any water before I break into my marathon trot. Because Tina likes small sketchbooks I grabbed one of my scribblers as the example here. This is a never-before-seen sketch done in the middle of winter. It was probably -20C so apologies for its crude nature.

I know these are lousy photos but this is less of a blog post and more of a conversation with Tina, and anyone else who found it interesting enough to read to this point.

A Ten-Minute Experiment

I was out for a walk yesterday and sat down to rest. Looking back from whence I came I “saw” a vignette and simultaneously I asked myself, “could I sketch that in 10 minutes.” The answer was yes, it’s simple so I immediately asked, “in color?”

So, I set up to do this small watercolor, and it’s not complete because the answer to my question was a no, but I stopped at 10 minutes anyway. When I got home I reassembled the kit I was using for the drawing so you can see how my Portable Painter Micro Palette works for me.

Hmmm… I just noticed that in setting this up for the photo I forgot to attach the water container to the palette. Imagine one there, please (grin).

A Bit Of Summer Sketching

We’ve had a real “meh” spring. A bunch of light rain but mostly it’s been cold, even for us. It’s raining right now but a couple days ago Chantal and I went for the first walk of the year where we didn’t have to wear a jacket, and the day was gorgeous. We walked for at least two hours and along the way we stopped to relax and take in the sun.

At one of those stops we sat at a picnic bench that faced a large tree with an apron of suckers growing from it. I thought it pretty and decided to draw it using a simple Uniball pen. I spent about 10 minutes drawing and then another five adding some color when I got home. Maybe we’ll have a summer afterall.

Art Without My Pen: #30x30DirectWatercolor

This is #30x30DirectWatercolor month and while I don’t participate in “events”, when Marc was visiting I told him I’d do it this year. I didn’t really know what I was signing up for when I said that. Yes, I’ve read his Direct Watercolor book (at least twice) and so I understand the concept, but I didn’t have a clue how it would make me feel to actually do it.

And how did it make me feel? Well, there are several feelings. First is naked. Without my pen I’m lost. Putting it down and picking up a brush causes me to lose my ability to put proportion and perspective on the page. Don’t know if it’s a shift in my concentration or what but things go south when I pick up a brush.

The second feeling is ineptitude. My ability to handle a brush is sorely lacking and it shows in everything I’m trying to do during 30×30. Everything goes down wonky, to use a Liz Steel word. Also, water control is tough for me, also due to a lack of experience.

And the third feeling I have is that it’s just no fun. I’ve heard lots of artists talk about doing the sketch quickly so they can get to the fun part. Well, for me, ALL the fun comes in the drawing. Painting is an afterthought, necessary evil, or something along those lines.

It’s obvious that the ineptitude feeling is a result of me placing all my emphasis on drawing and not painting. If Marc reads this he’ll giggle because fixing that problem is what #30x30DirectWatercolor is all about. I need to spend more time with a brush, following the same “put in the work” that has moved me from painting wonky cubes to being able to draw most things I see. Sigh…is this how a kid feels when he’s told to practice his times tables?

Anyway, I’ve actually done seven of these little paintings, one for each day so far. Four of them are too much of a mess to show you. Marc said in a recent post that 2 out of 10 is pretty good. I suppose he’s right. Here are three of my seven. I hope I get better.

In case you can’t recognize them, Left: onions, Center: Iles aux Grues landscape, and Right: Heron

I’m Now Prepared For The Spring Sketching Offensive

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It seems like the media have gotten attached to “spring offensive” when talking about Ukraine and I tire of the media’s innane use and reuse of catch phrases. And don’t get me started on the militarization of North America rhetoric. Seems we can’t even speak of sports without it. But I have “rearmed” and I’m ready to “battle” the plein air with my new “arsenal,” none of which were supplied by NATO 🙂 Some were purchased locally while other pieces had to be sourced abroad.

A few blog posts ago I talked about losing my sketching bag and I showed you the replacement. In preparing this post I realized that I didn’t talk much about this photo.

What I should have mentioned was that THIS was the real pain of losing that bag. The bag itself was over a decade old and while it was an old friend, it wasn’t much of a loss. The value of the sketchbooks, to me, was not great as they just end up on a shelf with the other umty-tendy-teen sketchbooks and I never look at. But the photo above was of the paint kit lost with that bag. By far, it was the hardest, and most expensive thing to replace.

But I have reconstituded that kit, with some differences. Heck, I was even able to find a Rosemary Co. sticker for the palette box, though this one is square and not round like the old one. I replaced my squirrel mop (I really don’t like squirrel hair brushes) with a Princeton synthetic cat-tongue brush but the important thing(s) here are the two sable travel brushes (#6 & #10) which are my primary brushes. I’m still mostly an idiot when it comes to using brushes and watercolor but those are my favorites.

I’m a fan of metal paint boxes cuz magnets can attach them to stuff, so the first order of business was to find a replacement. I finally did but when it arrived I realized that it was just a wee bit smaller than the old one I had and that wee bit was just enough to prevent the 4×6 (24) half pan palette of my old one. No big deal as I didn’t use half the colors anyway but it did require that I rethink a bit. I’m pretty happy with the result and I can add a couple more colors. I think I’m going to leave those slots empty, though, so I’ve got place for trial colors. I’ll show it to you just cuz it will never be this clean again (grin).

Oh, I know that many of you are way past “spring” and probably wonder why I’d talk of spring being a future event, but we had a frost advisory last night. It is getting warmer, though. Slowly.