I’m taking an online course right now
from another architect turned artist.
This artist is quite protective about her coursework staying within students,
so I hesitate to discuss her by name.
As our drawing styles are similar,
I am taking the course primarily
to learn tips she may have to laying
down watercolors quickly on location.
Anyone who follows my blog knows
I am a proficient acrylic artist, and
switched to watercolors this year.
Watercolors are a whole other world,
very be-here-now in their nature,
and I am just beginning to get the
hang of them. One thing I have observed in my own work as I’ve progressed, is that the best work is when I have little time and
just do it quickly without thinking too much,
and without fussing over the details.
It’s a one-stroke mentality, and I like it!
That said, I noticed that most of the architects-turned-watercolorists appear to use pencil to lay in some guidelines or the basic form of the sketch before laying in ink or color.
Yet especially with many Urban Sketchers and art journalers, that is a bit like admitting you are a cheater. As an architect, I learned to use a pencil proficiently, especially to lay in guidelines. I used the entire range of pencil types, hard to soft to blue, and had no idea that anyone did this any differently until I met watercolorists! In this class I am taking, much of what is being taught is old news for me. That doesn’t mean I have not learned anything — I can always learn something from a teacher, even if it through sharing!
A lot of people have trouble with circles, ellipses, and even squares.
(Five minute freehand wonky drawing / watercolor above.)
When I was a young architect, I practiced drawing grids during lectures
(when I was not doodling stars) and this was a good thing because I was able to
freehand at 1/4-inch with no problem by the time I was out of college.
I had been an advanced draughtswomen for seven years, and had the many-hours-daily practice of circles, triangles, perfect squares, and endless grids paid off.
By the time I was working as a corporate architect, I could freehand about 20,000 sf and not be off by more than a foot or two in any direction. This tool came in handy when dealing with clients, which allowed me into the conference room doors to do just that — design with the clients, instead of being relegated to drawing details for someone else.
What is the point of all this? When an art teacher tells you to practice, PRACTICE!
If you are in a meeting, draw circles and then more circles. Take gridded paper with you to meetings and appointments and draw over the lines until your hand-to-eye coordination can do it in your sleep, then do it without the gridded paper.
This morning I knocked out a quick sketch to satisfy the class requirement. To make it more interesting, I timed each phase to see how long I took.
I learned something. With the distraction of holding a morning cat in my arms, the pencil sketch took a minute, maybe two. My Lamy Safari pen still is not working as smoothly as my cheap Preppie pens, and so that slowed me down — but that phase only took six minutes. I rushed the watercolors because I had a blog to post (not this one) and while I
wished I had waited a bit longer on drying the paints — the colors ran — I finished the watercolor in under fifteen minutes. WOW! I said to the only living being up with me at 5am, my cat. Maybe I am faster than I thought!
Next goal, to get the hang of watercolor juicy washes and finding that just-right mix
of water-to-color ratio so that I don’t get puddles (see the rings around some of the
color in the detail image?) but instead lay in a nice just-right density of pigment.
And shadows. I need to turn off the overhead fluorescent lights and paint shadows!
Drawn in an Stillman & Birn Alpha journal (sorry but I am not a fan of the small journal, which just doesn’t lay flat enough for me, and that is what I wrote in one of these pages — but I love Stillman & Birn). A Caran D’ache watercolor pencil followed by Lamy Safari pen with Noodler’s Polar Brown ink, and Daniel Smith and QoR watercolors.
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