Morning Sketch & Walk: Local Houses and Paper Testing

July 29, 2014 | Leave your thoughts

I mentioned on my weekly wrap up of daily sketches that I am starting a regular ‘sketch and walk’ in an attempt to get out sketching more in my local area. In the past 18 months of my ‘freelancing lifestyle’ I have never managed to get a schedule that was really working for me. It is early days but I am excited about what I have started in the last week.

There is something very beneficial about setting aside a regular time to do something – the act of creating a schedule helps you do the thing. As most of you have realised, I start everyday reading my bible (I don’t always write it down in my sketchbook) but it happens every day (in some form).


Two years ago, I started a sketch & walk before arriving at the office and I couldn’t believe how much it helped me 1. focus on my work during the day 2. get the blood circulating (I feel the cold) 3. and my creative juices pumping! The urgency of trying to squeeze a sketch in each day beforesitting down at my desk meant I started planning days in ahead, and started seeing more things to sketch. It also was the most amazing way to learn how to use a new medium – this period I used Copic markers. You can see the whole set on flickr here.
(An aside: whenever I look through this set and read my notes I am reminded once again of the value of recording your creative process!)

I have also been inspired by the lunchtime sketches of two Sydney Urban Sketchers in recent months – Alissa and Dtai. It is impressive what a collection they have built up by going out regularly week by week.

To get back to this week….

Despite my crazy beach/rock sketching last week at Port Macquarie, I haven’t been doing a lot of sketching on location lately and I feel that it will take me a week or so to get into the groove. The first two days last week, I used my alpha book and found that I didn’t quite have the right water ratio, I also felt that the size of the book was a little small for the way I felt like working.

Something that I find about sketching out on location (and I know many others do too) is that everyday is different. I can not necessarily predict what it will be like. The position I am sitting, the weather, and my mood all seem to have an impact – some days it just feels uncomfortable. Some days I feel like doing something completely different from my plan. I find that my results are a LOT more consistent when I work at home  in the controlled environment of my studio. This unpredictable-ness is what you must accept and embrace!

Anyway yesterday I took out a Stillman & Birn beta book A4 spiral bound. I am not used to this paper and found it a slight challenge (I love a challenge so it was fun!) . I spent the whole day thinking about it (off and on of course) and there was a lengthy discussion on facebook about it to help prompt my thoughts further.
I will be doing a more formal review down the track…but first I want to road-test it more. I do love the paper but its sizing does present a challenge for the way I work – very wet and fast. I am looking forward to seeing if a slight adjustment will make it easier for me. As I just sad, I love the Beta books and want to make it work!

Please Note 1: most sketchers I know absolutely love beta paper – it makes the most beautiful consistent washes! I rarely want that and am looking for some non standard effects at the same time as not waiting for wet washes to dry – so yes I am a little difficult!
Please Note 2: For me sketching is all about playing with pigment- watching happy accidents occur and moving the paint on the page so more happen! Different paper feels different to work with – the result is often a lot better than you think it is…but it does feel differently with the brush in hand.  It is a process to get to know whether this is a problem or just a difference. (if you haven’t already realised I love this process!)

So today I decided to take my moleskine (new paper) and the beta out with me to compare. It was a grey morning just like the other day and I drew the same house. So now I have three versions of the same subject matter.

It was my intention to try to make today’s two sketches as close as possible –  to start with the beta, let the first washes dry, do the moleskine and then come back to the beta. However, the nicest possible distraction occurred – I met and had a lovely chat with the owner. This is the thing that I love most about sketching on location and wouldn’t want perfect test sketches over engaging with the people on the streets.

Please don’t compare one finished image over against the other. I was not trying to achieve a finished as such – this exercise was all about  testing how the paper was working with various techniques. And the sketches were not done in exactly the same way (the closet comparison would be the sky which was done on both at the same time) I think that I need to work with less water on the beta – with the moleskine I like working with more.  I am starting to work out the differences…but of course testing more tomorrow!

Finally anyone in Sydney… my great friend and colour guru Jane Blundell is giving a Daniel Smith watercolour demo at The Artscene store West Ryde this Thursday at 12-2pm. Come along if you can – I am planning to be there.

Leave a Reply