Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Double Takes


6/16/23 watercolor in Hahnemuhle sketchbook (from photo)

6/15/23 watercolor pencils in Hahnemuhle sketchbook
(on location)

I’ll be doing a check-in of 30x30 Direct Watercolor challenge sketches in a few days, but these two had interesting processes, so I’ve pulled them out as a separate post.

The sketch above was done from a photo I had taken the previous day, when I also made a sketch with watercolor pencils on location (at right). My intention was for the pencil sketch to serve as both a composition and value study for the watercolor. Although I miss the tree’s texture and form of the colored pencil version, and I think the composition might be better too, I like the color intensity and value contrasts better in the watercolor version. I thought it looked better with a tighter composition so I cropped out the foreground shadows.

I did the same process with the following pair: I first made a sketch on location (standing in the middle of the street; I had to move for cars only twice) with watercolor pencils. Then the next day I made the painting from a photo. I definitely prefer the pencil version. Although the colors are more vibrant in the watercolor version, the tree (which is my focus for the second half of the challenge) looks flat.

6/16/23 watercolor pencil (on location)

6/17/23 watercolor (from photo)

I think doing the same scene twice in two days also took away some of the freshness in the watercolor version. Even though “reality” was darkish in the background, I prefer the white I left in the pencil version, which makes everything else stand out more strongly. It’s funny – when I have a paint brush in my hand, I feel an obligation to cover more of the paper with color. I feel no such need with pencils.


  1. It is interesting to see the two versions of each scene. The pencil versions have a special charm but so do the watercolor versions. I love the intensity of the watercolor versions. I hope you are going to continue doing some watercolors when the challenge is over. I've enjoyed seeing them.

    1. Thanks so much for your ongoing encouragement, Joan! I am definitely going to continue with wc, but I still haven't decided whether to take them out on location. Colored pencils seem to suit my urban sketching attitude better than paint... but we'll see!


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