Sunday, April 28, 2013

Look More, Draw Less: Line to Color in Rainy Mt. Vernon

4/27/13 Noodler's Lexington Grey ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
Twenty-five lucky Urban Sketchers met in Mt. Vernon yesterday for Frank Ching and Gail Wong’s drawing and watercolor workshop, “Line to Color.” The morning was a crash course in composition and perspective from Frank. His motto: “Look more, draw less,” which means that he recommends spending a large part of one’s sketching time identifying an interesting composition before ever putting pen to page. He believes that a good composition, which is 80 percent of the success of a sketch, can make up for a less-than-perfect drawing and still result in a great sketch. But a good drawing can’t become a great sketch if it’s placed in a mediocre composition.
4/27/13 Perspective study
An interesting process step he takes is to sketch out the entire bare skeleton of the composition first very quickly. Then you can add more and more detail to small areas as time permits. “White space is your friend,” Frank said, urging us not to be afraid to leave areas on the page blank. He also encouraged fully drawing out any guidelines that help develop the structure or perspective – in ink. If a line turns out to be wrong, simply redraw it. Even incorrect lines add to the life and vibrancy of a sketch.
After lunch (crab mac & cheese for me – swimming in
4/27/13 Composition thumbnail
butter, but delish!) at the Trumpeter Public House, which is adjacent to the Front Gallery that hosted the workshop, the workshop was turned over to Gail for another crash course, this time in watercolor. The most valuable part of the workshop’s watercolor portion was seeing how Gail emphasizes a sketch’s “story” or focal point by painting selectively. Avoid the temptation to paint everything you’ve drawn, she urged. Selective painting is one of the things I admire most about Gail’s sketches, so it was very useful to hear her describe her technique and see examples. In the same way that Frank uses a drawing’s detailed areas to sharpen the focal point and strengthen the composition, Gail uses color to draw the eye. And like Frank, she uses white space as a counterpoint to a sketch’s positive shapes.

Gail’s palette favors transparent pigments to those with more opacity. Her suggested watercolor list included the Valazquez palette of Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Sienna and Ultramarine Blue, plus Aureolin Yellow, Quinacridone Rose, Pthalo Blue, Cobalt Teal and Indigo.
She talked about developing a range of color values from the white of the unpainted page to dark by thinking of the metaphors “tea,” “coffee,” “milk” and “cream”: Start with the lightest value and layer each successively darker value over the previous one.
4/27/13 Lexington Grey ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
Rain in the afternoon and a chilly breeze all day were less than ideal conditions, but the bar and restaurant at the Trumpeter Public House provided comfortable shelter for indoor urban sketching.
For me, yesterday’s workshop was just an intro. I’m going back for more next month when Gail and Frank present an extended weekend version of the same workshop in Seattle!

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