Friday, December 12, 2014

Week 5 Assignment: Measured Set-up

Week 5 Assignment: Measured Set-up
One aspect of this class that I’m enjoying is organizing a still life composition. I’m re-discovering objects that I’ve come to take for granted over time. Drawing and painting them has made them special again—like the handmade, glass perfume bottle, and the pottery dish made by a friend now deceased. It reminds me of the primary thesis of the book, Homo Aestheticus. In it Ellen Dissanayake makes the case that the artist makes the ordinary special. That  certainly is the case of the bottle and the dish.

Image #1: Measuring the set-up and initial sketch
This process forced me to slow down even more to take a closer look at size and relationship of forms. I seem to want to quickly sketch, rather than take the time necessary for accurate rendering.  The small shell was the most difficult to draw because of its foreshortened shape and it turned out slightly elongated. I used water-soluble pencil for the measure-up and what turned out to be a water-soluble pen (my mistake.) The ink bled a bit and I had to be careful when I added the watercolor.

Week 5 Assignment: Image #1
 Initial sketch-- measured set-up
Water-soluble graphite and gel pen on Aquabee Super Deluxe sketch paper

Image #2
Adding watercolor was difficult today because of the storm which has leached almost everything of color. Mixing the color, even when using an Ott light was a struggle. More of the same weather was forecasted, so I opted to ‘carry on’. Trying to capture the iridescence of the small shell was a challenge. Most of it was in shadow and I added white pen over the color where the white of the paper had been lost. Notice that the shadow of the bottle adds a fifth shape to the image—an unplanned element that I think adds to the composition.

Week 5 Assignment: Image #2
Watercolor added to initial sketch
Daniel Smith watercolor on Aquabee Super Deluxe sketch paper

Image #3 Measured set-up of a door
For the final segment of this week's assignment I headed over to a local restaurant which has an imposing entryway. The building is painted two shades of ochre and provides a warm backdrop to the rusted metal Bonsai.  Sunnyvale is a small city with uninspiring architecture, so this memorable entry deserved to be sketched.  However, I had not bargained for its challenging design. The arches took several tries and the off-center viewpoint made it even more challenging. To add to the drama, I was ensconced in my car on a rainy morning, huddled in a blanket to keep warm.

I don't think that I could have drawn this doorway without using the measured set-up process. I started by centering the composition and then used the door as the measure for scaling the rest of the elements. The door itself is just glass within a metal frame. I've done very little architectural drawing and so this was a stretch for me. Especially difficult were the angles for showing how the doorway on the right side moved back into the space. I decided not to add watercolor to the drawing, but used an ink line more in keeping with the Asian theme of the restaurant. Some of the set-up pencil lines were kept and are faintly visible.

Week 5 Assignment: Image #3 Measured set-up of doorway
Media: Initial drawing using No. 2 Berol graphite,
then using Pigma 05 pen for the final drawing
on Canson drawing paper

Pencil vs ink use with watercolor: 
In the distant past I have almost exclusively used pencil, usually a light HB graphite, or a silver colored pencil to make preliminary drawings for traditional watercolor paintings.  Two years ago when I began to sketch outdoors again, I tried using water-soluble graphite and liked its versatility. Sometimes I’ve added water to it to make a grey wash.

Using ink for preliminary drawings is relatively new for  me. In the past if I used ink, it was as the primary medium for a sketch. However, the banner on the this blog shows an example of when I put down watercolor first. Then I drew in ink over it, and then added color to define the shapes of berries, etc. I find that mixing media creates its own magic.

I like using both pencil and ink for drawing—but I have done so as my creative impulse, or subject, or both move me. Sometimes I just bring my Lyra watercolor crayons along on a sketch outing and enjoy their freedom of line and color. The challenge of using different media helps keep my work fresh. I was curious about what other artists were doing, so I took a look at the Urbansketchers’ Blog for this week. It was delightful to see artists using a wide range of media, and combinations of media, for unique self-expression.


  1. I like your open approach to using mediums. Love your work as well. Sandi

  2. Sandi-thanks for looking at my drawings. Yes, I really enjoy playing with different media. I miss seeing everyone's drawings, but I have not had much time to tackle getting on Flickr again.