Saturday, July 2, 2022

Blah Backyard Composition (Plus Mini Sendak’s New Job)


6/26/22 Our backyard view

If you’re a regular reader, you well know that I can sketch almost any mundane subject repeatedly and still entertain myself as well as find something new to explore. I’ve been doing it for most of my 10-plus years as a sketcher, especially since the pandemic. My 30-Day Challenge reinforced that message: Any subject can become a compelling or dynamic composition; it’s up to the artist to find it.

I’m not saying that what I did find in my blah backyard last Sunday was anything compelling or dynamic, but when the temperature climbed to the mid-80s, I was motivated to sketch from my shady back deck, where it was only in the high 70s with a lovely breeze. I noticed that our neighbors had pruned their sour cherry tree, leaving a hole of light surrounded by foliage. It was a compositional challenge, to be sure, but armed with a glass of iced tea, I was up for the task.

An essential thumbnail to find composition
potential. I wish I hadn't lost the window.

An initial thumbnail study was definitely essential – was a composition in there somewhere? I loved the slender strips of light on the tree limbs, and the garage and house beyond had some potential. Unfortunately, in my over-exuberance with scribbling foliage with water-soluble crayons, I managed to obscure the window that I had put in the thumbnail, which was regrettable. It would have been nice to retain that strong, dark rectangle behind the organic foliage.

Sketch kit and color note: In winter and early spring, I used my mini Sendak pencil roll as a convenient way to bring along experimental materials while sketching in the car. Now it has a new summer job: The mini Sendak is an easy way to tote a selection of materials out to the deck. I packed the Sendak with some Caran d’Ache Neocolor II crayons and Museum Aquarelle pencils in primary triad hues and used them together. The triad I used here is mostly my favorite CMYK, except I swapped out Lemon Yellow (240) for the slightly warmer Yellow (10). The other two colors are Purplish Red (350) and Phthalocyanine Blue (162). I like this triad – not too different from my usual CMYK, but the warmer yellow makes some difference. The triad reflects our cool backyard, but it’s not the warm summer triad I’ve been looking for.

Speaking of the Neocolor II crayons, they are an interesting animal that do not mix with Museum Aquarelle pencils as much as I would expect. Although they are both water-soluble and rich in pigment, and the crayons apply well over pencils, pencils do not apply as well over crayons. The crayons leave behind enough of a waxy surface that pencils seem to slip and slide over it. Using them together requires a bit of planning. In this sketch, I used pencils for the finer lines, and then I could go to town scribbling the foliage with Neocolors heavily but very quickly.

I don’t like taking Neocolors out on location, as they are a bit more fiddly to handle standing up, but they are lots of fun. They are ideal for large areas of color that don’t require fine details, like trees and other foliage. I hope to use them more from the deck this summer.

My back deck studio.

Another primary triad trial.

Hard-pressed for a composition, I persisted.

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