Another “urban” sketch done sitting outside the club house here at the RV park where we live. I had a couple of onlookers stop by, so this proved to be a conversation starter as well. Again, these were done in a Cotman spiral bound watercolor pad. The paper takes the ink and watercolor really well. The line work is done with Micron pens and Sharpies.
I waited a little late to go out on this day, and it was just too hot. So I sat inside and drew the dining area in our fifth wheel rv home.
I find that I tend to overlook the hundreds of little vignette subjects that surround me wherever I am.
I’ve been interested for some time in a group called Urban Sketchers. It’s an international organization of people who sketch outdoors, using any media of their choice. I have fallen in love with the pen-and-ink and watercolor sketches that many of them do. From what I’ve seen, there are local chapters in cities all over the world, and they welcome sketchers at all levels of experience and expertise, from beginners to professional illustrators. So… I’ve spent the last couple of mornings right outside my door, sketching what’s right in front of me. Since I love pen and ink, and have been experimenting with watercolor, I decided to just take a very loose, almost illustrative approach. There is a freshness that makes these just plain fun to look at.
When Nell and I originally talked about living and travelling fulltime in an RV, the intent was to visit new places, and paint and sketch what we saw. Because we focused more on travelling, I tended to take lots of photographs, then used them as references for paintings when we were sitting still. That was only part of my original intent. I also envisioned sitting in interesting places – parks, monuments, sidewalk cafes, markets – and with a coffee or soft drink at my elbow, sketching the passing scenes as a record of where we had been and what we had seen.
That’s exactly what Urban Sketching is all about. While I focused on landscape paintings, I could also have been doing these little vignettes of old buildings, street scenes, and yes, even landscapes. I want to revive that intent, so I’m starting right here at my own doorstep. Then, hopefully, I’ll carry my sketching bag and a folding chair and work my way around the RV park, and also down at the river. From there, I just may meet up with the local chapter of Urban Sketchers in nearby Austin, Texas, and see how it works.
I’ve seldom been completely comfortable, or confident, when painting outdoors, especially around other people. It occurs to me that I just may find my niche in the plein air world with pencil, pen and watercolor. This is a completely different genre, and while I still need practice, it’s one I’m very comfortable with.
I occasionally hit a plateau with gouache, a time when it just doesn’t want to do what I want it to do. Of course, it could be because I haven’t done much painting recently. Nell and I are living our lives the way we want to, and sometimes that calls for other priorities. It does mean that if I go too long without painting, I lose my touch. So, since gouache isn’t cooperating (no matter what I say, it’s the paint’s fault), I switched gears and have been playing with watercolor.
Some subjects work well for me as just watercolor, and others call for additional pencil work. The old house above needed that added touch of loose, sketchy line work. It does have kind of an illustration feel, but that’s not a bad thing.
All of these are quick studies, without much detail. I had to stop on the sheds above because I really wanted to detail the bicycle, and was starting to add texture to the wood walls. I really want to save that for a more developed piece.
I approached each of these a little differently. I tried to keep the farmhouse above very simple, letting the shapes and the brush strokes tell the story.
A simple landscape. The house was touched in with white gouache.
Watercolor, of course, is not my first language when it comes to art, but when I can do a pencil sketch (my first love), and add color to it, I’m definitely in my element. This is a fun way to change focus for a while.
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We’ve been occupied with living life for a few weeks, so painting has slowed down. Here’s one from the back room:
This gouache painting is one from a few years ago. From a shot out in West Texas, where the landscape is filled with these twisted old survivors. It’s available at a greatly reduced price of $300 unframed. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been a while since I last did any serious gouache landscape painting, so I decided to paint a place we’ve passed many times over the years. This old farm is on Hwy 36 near Centerburg, Ohio.
Water and rocks were always a challenge, so I decided to try this scene from Mayfield Park in Austin, Texas.
It felt good to have a brush in my hand again, although I did find myself struggling with color mixes a bit after not painting for a while.
This is a recently completed commission. It’s 24″x30″, gouache on Crescent board. The home, a bit over 100 years old, is in the historic district of Gadsden, Alabama. Its not as loose as I would normally paint, but the client was very definite about what he wanted. Within those parameters, I tried to present the house in a classic, dignified image. Doing a painting this size in the confines of a 36 foot RV was a challenge. Fortunately, Nell is very understanding, the gouache paint does clean up easily, and I am a reasonably neat painter anyway.
This one is soon to be on its way to the client. A smaller, 5×7 ink & watercolor whimsical piece, also a commission was sent out a couple of weeks ago.
We continue to fill our lives with a variety of projects, travels and healthcare appointments, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.