Sunday, October 2, 2011

Field Sketches

Casa del Sol, 5x7

here's a very quick (30 min.) little sketch of our wonderful little adobe, Casa del Sol, at Ghost Ranch.  I would love to go back there and stay longer.  I threw this in the back of the truck, where it somehow tipped over and landed smack dab on top of my palette, still full of paint of course. (isn't there some law of nature that bread always lands jelly side down?  Same goes for wet paintings, I think)  So, I scraped off the extraneous paint, but have not fixed it.  This was more of just a "killing time" kind of thing.. waiting for some good late afternoon light.. I was just reminded that though outdoor shadows are typically cool, when the light is strong, there's alot of warm color bouncing around out there, and scumbling a little warmer tones into the shadow color is a good thing. The adobe would be warmer in tone closer to the ground, but the bushes shaded it from the reflected light in all but a small spot or two.

Someone asked, "what is the purpose of doing field sketches?"  I guess for me, there are several functions that field sketches fulfill.
1.  To get a "feel" for the place- the geography, or structure,  etc. This is probably the main purpose they serve for me, at least right now. Doing a quick sketch somehow makes me see things I might otherwise overlook - I guess I "see" better with my hands than just with my eyes. 
2. . If time is short, or weather is about to get nasty, or for some other reason you can't spend a great deal of time to start a "serious" painting, a quick field sketch can record your impression of the place.  Photographs can be helpful, but I don't think they come anywhere close to the "real thing" as you might experience it standing out there.  Take a field sketch back to the studio and you've got much more info than
a photograph, especially in regards to the real colors, values, and light.  Without getting bogged down in details, sometimes field sketches are more "true" than when I put hours into a painting.  (how frustrating that is sometimes!)

I don't always do them - but when I DO, they tend to be informative and helpful in the long run.

This next one was about 45 min. or so - and is pretty rough, as you can see, but it served as a good warm up for painting at Ghost Ranch - sort of like you might do a warm up before any sport or exercise you do.  I felt like I needed something to just get my artist brain functioning - so I sketched this view right out the front door of our Casa, on some canvas paper that had already gotten wet so was kind of wrinkly.  I really wanted to try to get a feel for the basic colors and the relationships of light and shadow planes.  It wasn't as easy as you might think.
Chimney Rock about 6x8
This was informative however.  Doing this little snapshot,  I noticed   the nature of  light on those chimney rocks..  Cool cast shadows,  and warm form shadows because of reflected light. Knowing this will be key to producing any serious works - it will be vital to make the light believable on all these many rock formations and cliff walls. So I was glad I did this.  There are so many different colors of rocks and hills in these formations that sometimes things don't seem to follow rules - some purpish gray formations appear much darker than their lighter colored counterparts, even though they are farther away, and some of the very light colored cliffs appear lighter than the ground planes.... there's a balance to be achieved to be believable and yet catch the characteristics of the place.  And remember, it is not necessary to document every little nook and cranny, or hill or bump or whatever -  Get a general sense of the place - painting is less about accuracy and more about interpretation.

Which brings me to one further note.  This particular chimney rock formation is quite striking, and juts out from the mesa to catch great light early and late in the day.It just BEGS to be painted. However, one of those spires is so intensely phalic as to be almost laughable.

 Dont Paint This!!!
 I have seen paintings of this formation that make me wince.  Please be selective!!!!.  Be sure and stand back from your work - evaluate for anything that in itself becomes an attention-getter.  Play down elements that can capture attention for the wrong reason, like this spire, or boulders that look like elephant heads or cliff walls that appear to have faces in them. Find a different angle if you have to. This kind of thing can ruin an otherwise good painting!

These field sketches served their purpose for me.  I felt like they got me in tune with some of the colors and landscape elements out there, and hopefully, tomorrow, I can show you something a little nicer that came from these preliminary efforts.

1 comment:

Judy P. said...

This is such good stuff Deb, and I know I'll be studying these posts for awhile. But part of me knows I'm not there yet, because my sketches are just for some kind of accuracy, not yet to get a 'feel' of the place. That's the next level I guess!