Sunday, April 23, 2017

David Chamness Frees Us from Worry and Details

4/22/17 ink, watercolor
As all construction sites are, the building going up at Ninth and Howell in downtown Seattle is a formidable and intimidating sketch subject. But David Chamness promised us “freedom from worry and the details” as we tackled the site in his USk 10x10 workshop. He encouraged us to stay loose and fast with the sketch while having fun and engaging with passers-by.

On a cloudy but fortunately mostly dry morning yesterday, a dozen of us began by making small thumbnails to divide the intimidating scene into manageable compositions. David suggested taking smartphone photos to help us view various compositions. Giving a brief drawing demo, he explained how to identify the horizon line and vanishing point and how to take relative measurements of elements and angles with our pens.

Next we drew a complete scene using one of our thumbnails as a reminder of the composition. (“Look at the thumbnail briefly, then put it away and look at the actual scene while you draw,” he said, “don’t draw from the thumbnail.”) David urged us to draw with bold, confident ink lines, not dashed, sketchy pencil lines. (“You don’t want to draw it twice or spend time erasing.”) As we drew, he gave us more pointers like using the whole arm – not just wrist – to draw long, straight lines, and using the “rule of thirds” to make interesting compositions.

David giving a watercolor demo.
During a brief watercolor demo, David showed us his signature painting style: bold, sometimes “unrealistic” colors put down quickly with a large brush. Moving from lightest to darkest colors, he showed us how values support the forms and shapes in the drawing. He also moves from the top down on the page to avoid dragging his hand through wet paint. After the demo we made our final sketch of the workshop – on large paper, at least 9-by-12 inches, and finished with watercolor. (He recommends taping a sheet of watercolor paper to a board for support.)

Shown at the top of the post is my final sketch. Whenever I take workshops, I usually end up feeling like the resulting sketches are not my spontaneous responses to the subject because they are assigned by the instructor, who has a specific objective in mind for the exercise. I maintain the attitude, however, that I’m there to learn more than to make spontaneous sketches, so the results don’t bother me. I have to say, though, that this sketch is one of few workshop sketches I actually like because it did feel like a genuine, fresh response. Influenced by David’s approach and feedback, it is looser and bolder than most scenes I’ve sketched under the duress of being intimidated by huge and complex subject matter. Free of worries, indeed!
A few thumbnails

Incidentally, this was the first time I used watercolors on location since I committed to using colored pencils exclusively last fall. Although I haven’t missed watercolors, it was fun to splash around with a wide brush (I even used a real ¾-inch brush recommended by David instead of my usual waterbrush) to make bold streaks of color. While I’m generally more attracted to the finer lines and details I can get with colored pencils, there’s a place for loose, splashy marks, too. I’d like to find a way to get both from one medium, but that’s a tall order.

One thing that was definitely confirmed, though, was that I don’t like the extra baggage that painting requires – somewhere to sit; supporting a painting board with my lap; bending over to dip into paints, a mixing tray and water; cleaning up afterwards. Each sketching medium has its pros and cons. I think I’ve made my choice with colored pencils, but every choice means giving up the benefits of the alternatives not taken. 

Our intimidating sketch subject!

Workshop students hard at work.

A bus shelter makes a handy studio.

David helps Svetlana take a measurement.
Final throwdown and critique.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting workshop and you got a very nice result.


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