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Camden Harbor

March 20, 2016

From the sketchbook…

camden harbor 600w

These sketches are done from photo references taken in Maine a few years ago. What I hope to develop is a way of working plein air that doesn’t require time spent doing a preliminary pencil sketch. I want to sit down and draw the scene before me directly on the paper with pen & ink, then complete the scene with watercolor. And I want to do it quickly, while sitting on a rock, a park bench, or at a table.


camden harbor detail

Here’s a blown up detail. The sketches are pretty rough. I certainly want to keep the freshness of the linework, but I’d like to have a bit less of it. Hopefully, that will come with practice.


camden harbor detail2

Here’s another detail. I really like the looseness, but would have liked for the roof line on the shed to have been drawn with a bit more confidence and fewer construction lines. Again, that should come with practice.


camden harbor2 600w

Another view of the harbor. Nell says this is good for me. I have always had a tendency to focus on details in my drawings and paintings, and working in this direct manner with the pen is pushing me more toward grasping the essence of the scene, rather than the details. Since my hope is to develop more of a documentary or journal style, I’m having to put the strokes down and leave them alone.


camden harbor3 600w

I am finding that my education in learning to paint has given me a better eye for atmospheric perspective. Keeping the foreground in high contrast, and using finer pen lines and softer, grayer color in the distance gives this scene the depth it needed. I was tempted to go back and put some colorful clothing on the people in the big sailboat, but that would have drawn the eye away from the little dinghy in the foreground. I think that little boat makes a nice focal point.


camden harbor3 detail

Using the reference photos from Maine has put me more into that reporting mode that I’m looking for, trying to find the images that tell the story of a place or an event. This group has been challenging because boats are not part of my normal repertoire. However, doing these gives me an idea of what I need to work on if I’m going to tell visual stories of my own native Gulf Coast one of these days.

Meanwhile, I’ve still got a lot of images from Maine that I want to try.

Stay tuned.


22 Comments leave one →
  1. SitaRasa permalink
    March 20, 2016 11:15 am

    I love these! 🙂

  2. March 20, 2016 11:46 am

    I really love these…the line work is amazing. I really love the harbor scene! I enjoyed reading about your process. Can I ask what pens you are using?

  3. hannastocksick permalink
    March 20, 2016 11:56 am

    I love everything you do! Do you teach? I’d love to learn with you. Maybe an online class…

    • March 20, 2016 5:07 pm

      Hanna, I’ve thought about it, but have never put together any kind of curriculum. Never thought about doing it online.

  4. Marsha Layman permalink
    March 20, 2016 12:18 pm

    These are EXACTLY the sort of sketches I’d like to become proficient at! Well done.

  5. March 20, 2016 11:14 pm

    I love these!

  6. Maria permalink
    March 21, 2016 8:21 am

    All lovely, I like the middle one the best.

  7. March 21, 2016 4:43 pm

    Very nice work – Camden is one of our favorite spots!!

  8. Lynn Macintyre permalink
    March 22, 2016 7:39 am

    Lovely work Ralph! I see what you mean about the extra lines but they also are what gives your work character. Don’t get rid of them all!

    • March 22, 2016 9:37 am

      Thanks, Lynn! I think the construction lines will remain. I suspect I’ll eventually work both ways: a quick preliminary pencil sketch; and no pre-sketch done very quickly. I suspect it will depend on the purpose of the sketch.

  9. March 22, 2016 9:07 am

    Beautiful work! Keep it up 🙂

    • March 22, 2016 9:49 am

      Thanks, S.M.! I hope to go back and read more on your blog. I suspect all of us who blog and post things are egoists in a way. All the best to you.

      • March 25, 2016 7:28 am

        As long as it doesn’t bloom into narcissism, I guess I am okay with it, lol! I really enjoy reading about y’alls adventures, and seeing the artistic output as a result of your travels. Have a great weekend!

  10. peggy kilgo permalink
    March 22, 2016 5:40 pm

    These are great Ralph, it seems that you are continually improving as you go along!!!


  1. Maine in Watercolor | Back Roads & Brushes

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