Tuesday, November 7, 2023

A Choice, Not a Default


9/26/23 Derwent Drawing pencil in Stillman & Birn
Nova sketchbook (reference photo by Rick Clark)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that one of my ongoing struggles is learning to grow into “looseness.” We probably all have some idea about what “looseness” is – or at least we know it when we see it. A loose drawing has the illusion of being an easy and casual gesture, but I’m willing to bet that any artist who makes a drawing look easy and casual has many, many years of experience during which that “easy” look has been earned.

Last week when I made the carefully rendered still life for my watercolor class, I called it “competent” – the thing I do that has become my default – but I said it somewhat self-disparagingly because, you know, who wants to make “competent” art? Besides, if I wanted to make a carefully rendered still life, I would much rather use colored pencils, which are so much easier to control (if control is important).

10/23/23 ArtGraf watercolors in Hahnemuhle sketchbook (photo reference)
Then when I tried the version without an underdrawing, I liked the result much better, but it’s clumsier than I would have liked. I guess what I’m looking for is somewhere in between – more expressive than competent but with enough accuracy that the forms are clear. I’m happy, though, that I know it’s there to reach for (and it has become obvious that I have an easier time reaching for it with a brush than a pencil).

Perhaps one reason for my ongoing struggle is that it represents a direct conflict in what I love about sketching. My InkTober noses and now my Pencilvember ears affirm for me how much I enjoy making closely observed and carefully rendered drawings. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have spent years investing in classes at Gage Academy to develop classical rendering skills. At the same time, I am thrilled when I am able to pull off a still life or urban scene with direct watercolor that conveys more liveliness and energy (if not accuracy). I want to be able to do both, and I want the result to be my choice – not a default setting.

Maybe that’s a tall order, but going into my 12th year since I began this journey, I’m ready for that challenge.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the pencil on black paper. It gives that sketch a moody look. Cute racoon! Just enough detail on him.


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