As I’m gearing up to run through my SketchingNow Watercolour course again, I thought it would be good to share something that I mention in the introduction to the first lesson, as I really would love to get other people’s feedback on it.
I believe that there is a big difference between using watercolour in a traditional way in the studio and using it out on location for quick sketches.
- controlled environment – comfortable seating, table, temperature and good lighting
- planning – composition, values, colour studies and thumbnails
- generous time frame – no time limit, can come back on another occasion and keep painting
- no restrictions on materials – selection of fresh paint, generous mixing areas, clean water, best quality watercolour paper.
- a system which helps reduce the risks of watercolour – layering wet on dry
- pressure to create a great painting and hang it on the wall!
- uncontrolled environment – everything changes and you might be uncomfortable
- spontaneous – painting on the spot, little or minimal planning
- time constraints – because of the changing environment you have to work quickly
- lots of compromises – small water containers, limited palettes with paint in pans, paper needs to accommodate drawing as well as watercolour.
- alternative ways of working – making use of ink to help speed up and take pressure off the watercolour to tell the whole story.
- freedom to experiment – turn the page of your sketchbook and start another sketch!
Now I know that there are some urban sketchers who are more ‘plein air painters’ and use more traditional painting techniques outside (with easels, fresh paint, multiple brushes etc and take a one to two hour time frame) so I’m qualifying the comparison – I’m talking about quick sketching!
The point of the comparison is that I believe watercolour for sketching needs a different approach and that’s what I am constantly developing over the years as I obsessively sketch on location. I’m always trying to find the best ways for using watercolour in a free and spontaneous way (see my earlier post sharing some of my techniques). And of course, that’s what I focus on in my watercolour course.
Just a reminder that SketchingNow Watercolour is now open again. This is a self-directed course (so you can work at your own pace) but if you want to work through with a group I’m going to be leading a run-through, starting Wednesday 12 September. Click here for more details.
Note: I don’t have any traditional studio paintings of my own to make this comparison, so I have taken a photo of some of my watercolour heroes – John Pike, Charles Reid, Shirley Trevena and John Singer Sargent. I feel very cheeky to compare my work below with them, but at least it makes it obvious that I am not saying sketching is inherently better than studio painting!
So what do you think? Have you done/do you do any traditional studio painting and do you find it different from your sketching?