|7/2/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood
A couple of weeks ago, Virginia Hein gave a USk Talk with the challenge to put strong splashes of color on the page first, then draw over it, allowing the color to provide an emotional element to the sketch. Splashing watercolors sounded like fun, and I hoped that the challenge would push me out of my usual comfort zone of starting with a pristine page, so I jumped right in. Indeed, the splashing part was fun. I prepped several pages in a small Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook to take out with me on walks later.
The sketches shown here are the results. The first sketch (above) was made on a dreary, overcast day that suddenly cracked open with sunshine briefly. I thought the mix of pale but clear hues helped to convey that moment of light.
|7/6/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood
The other two were made on a sunny day, but I think I chose the wrong color-splashed pages for both. The red, which I thought might be cheery behind the street scene (at left), looks dark and moody after I drew the scene. The motorcycle is just a mess. Nothing about the color enhances the drawing, and in fact, detracts from it. Perhaps I was too random in splashing colors, and the abstract quality clashes strongly with my realistic style. Several followers on social media told me how much they liked these sketches, applauding the vivid colors, but I don’t like them.
I am ambivalent about color. Obviously, my obsession with using and collecting colored pencils indicates that on some emotional level, I am strongly driven by color. I love seeing it, using it, surrounding myself with it. I love it! And yet back when I first started sketching and used watercolors as my primary color medium, I ruined many not-too-bad drawings by adding color. Frankly, I’ve seen it happen to other sketchers, too: Nicely composed and rendered drawings became mediocre after flat, wimpy colors were applied. So the emotional impulse to use color does not necessarily lead to the emotional enhancement of sketches.
What is, in fact, the purpose of color? So many of my best drawings (and by “best,” I mean closely observed and rendered as carefully as possible) are monochrome. Sometimes my full-color sketches work well too, and I can see that color clearly enhanced the drawings in some way. But sometimes I look at a finished color sketch and think, “Huh. That would have been better as a black-and-white value study.”
The seduction of color: Undeniably powerful and irresistible. But if it could detract from a drawing instead of enhancing it, maybe I need to resist. The challenge, of course, is knowing whether color is an essential part of the visual story I want to tell with a sketch – or whether it’s just the usual seduction.