Monday, August 24, 2020

Mt. Rainier Commission

8/15/20 Mt. Rainier, 8" x 10," watercolor pencil on paper (mostly from photo)

Several weeks ago, a friend commissioned a drawing of Mt. Rainier. At the time, I had just made the sketch of Her Majesty from Maple Leaf Park, so I thought it would be an easy matter to return and do another. It turned out that the day I had sketched it was the last truly clear sky for seeing Rainier easily. Well over a hundred miles away, she’s partially visible from our bedroom window, so I would check each morning, and though she might be visible on the horizon, a low haze would keep the shadows indistinct. By mid-August, I was concerned that fall’s morning marine layer would soon be upon us, and I might not have another good opportunity to sketch Rainier from the park.

One morning, I decided the mountain was visible enough, so I headed out to the park early. Even as I began sketching, I could see the sky getting hazier. After drawing the contour and blocking in a few landmarks, I took it home and finished from a photo I had taken the day I had made the first sketch.

I knew it didn’t matter to my friend whether I had done it on location, from a photo or even from memory. But it mattered to me – I really wanted to do it “live.” It didn’t feel nearly as special or memorable to me to draw from the photo. I admit that the finished piece might be “better” in some ways because I was able to take my time, comfortably seated at my desk easel, instead of standing on a ledge at the park where the view is best. But urban sketching has spoiled me: Drawing from a photo will never be as satisfying, meaningful or “life-ful” as being on location.


  1. Well, you can consider it "half live." I know what you mean about it not being as satisfying to draw or paint from a photo. Somehow you lose the connection you have when you are actually doing it there. This did come out really well!

    1. Thank you! And I know you know what I mean... you've always been a committed urban sketcher and plein air painter!


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