Interesting exercise in seeing
I am trying to learn watercolor sketching so that I can get better at backgrounds so today when I went kayaking, I brought along my watercolor sketching stuff. As an aside, if you do this 1. Do not go when there is any breeze at all. I kept drifting away from my viewpoint and I'm not coordinated enough to paddle and paint at the same time. 2. Do not take your dog (Mine loves to kayak but doesn't love to sit in one place while I try to paint.)
Anyway, I ended up taking photos and then using a recording app to record notes about what I was seeing. Just having to describe out loud the values, colors, light, shadows, focal point, appeal of the scene, etc. was in itself a great exercise, and then when I got home and compared my notes with the photos, it was fascinating. The photos lose a lot of the color and value, which I had suspected they would, but I also realized that the objects I focused on when I was describing it were not at all dominant in the photo but were really quite small. The frame of the photo forced them into a realistic perspective of sizes and shapes that my brain skipped right over when looking at it.
For what it's worth, I would recommend this exercise if you want to understand how your brain sees something versus how a photo sees it. It's actually a little surreal.
@demotlj Can you please tell me what your field sketching kit is? What you bring with you? Size and content, etc. It sounds like it would need to be small for painting on a kayak. Im going backpacking this weekend and want to bring a small kit to paractice this same thing. I watched the Marco Bucci interview by @Will-Terry last week and wanted to try it out. link text
I am interested to see what you see as well. I think I will take a photo of the area that I decide to sketch and then compare them when I get home.
Interesting exercise - never thought of trying to verbally describe a scene, and I wouldn't expect the focus to be so different in a photo from real life. I'll have to give this a try, although probably not in a kayak with my dog. Not unless I was trying to paint an underwater scene LOL!
@burvantill I've only been doing this for a couple of weeks so things might change but here is what is in my kit:
Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Paint Field Plus Set (This is 12 half pans of student grade watercolor that folds out to a couple of palette trays and water cups. I replaced the Cotman's with artist grade paint but the Cotman's are fine for sketching. I love this kit.)
A rollup brush holder with at least a flat brush, round brush, tiny round brush, a couple of pencils, and an eraser.
Wrist sweatbands -- someone recommended these to wipe your brush on instead of using rags and they work really well
A watercolor sketchbook I made myself by cutting 9x12 sheets of paper in half and spiral binding them. (You could just tie the pages together but I happen to have an old spiral binder.) I decided not to invest in a nice sketchbook because I didn't want to be afraid of painting in it! This way I can toss the bad paintings... of which there are many.
Binoculars to look at birds
I throw it all in an old shoulder bag and it's really portable. I did worry about getting the sketchbook wet in the kayak but I do all quiet water paddling and my kayak is pretty broad and stable. Besides, if I do get it wet, since it's watercolor I can just say it was an "abstract representation."
@kat The main thing that was different was that I was captivated by a field of wildflowers along the shore which barely showed up in the photo. I was just so drawn to the color that I imagined them more dominant than they were which also suggests that my assumed focal point and composition may not have been the best one.
@demotlj You could take that information and exercise a little creative license to create a composition that really focuses on the flowers, though. I would bet that other people also noticed the flowers the most when seeing the area. Might make a really nice image
Just to follow up, here is a very very rough sketch I did this afternoon based on my photos and notes I made. I didn't even do it on watercolor paper because I was just playing with various colors and compositions so I don't know if the end painting will look anything like this but it gives you a sense of what I was looking at as I drifted by. I think the wildflowers that I was so obsessed with in real life work better as an accent rather than the focal point.
@demotlj Thankyou! That’s helps.
Miriam last edited by Miriam
Yes, what you see with your eye can be very different than what you see through the camera, and of course different camera lenses can make a big difference, as well as the angle of the shot--even moving a little higher or lower can really change a photo & the focal point of the image.
Thanks for sharing your experience, and your list of tools, @demotlj.
If your sketchbook isn't too big, you could slip it into a Zip-lock bag to protect it from getting wet while you are kayaking to and from your sketching location.
Thanks for sharing the interview link, @burvantill.
So I tried watercolor sketching last weekend while backpacking. Feeling ambitious, I built a little w/c pad with 6 pages and only used one. lol! I had a nice chunk of time on Saturday afternoon, but Sunday we didn't stop for more than 20 minutes until we reached the car at 8:30pm. I did wake up around 5:30am because of a noise and lay there staring out at the most wonderful shade of DARK powder blue and black shadowy trees which I will try to replicate tomorrow in my w/c sketch pad, until I fell back to sleep.
Plein air painting is tough. The subject I choose had a great light on it for about 15 minutes. Then poof! Gone. All shadow. So I had to improvise. I'm happy with it for my first try, but I do need to push myself to go to the dark side...they have cookies there . My pict is still too light I think. Here is the photo and the painting.
I didn't look at the photo until after I was done with the painting just to see what my mind saw as opposed to what was really there. Its a very interesting exercise.
@demotlj I am glad that you started this post.
@burvantill I love this. Like you, I am trying to do better at the dark values but i find it harder to do in watercolor, especially Plein air, because everything dries lighter than I painted it and I forget to take that into account. I also sympathize with your planning on doing more than you actually had time for - I just spent the weekend in Boston visiting my daughter and carried my sketchbook all over the city but didn’t have time to pull it out once. I think Plein air painting has to be done solo and as the sole purpose of the trip! I did, however, go to an art store and bought some more cool things for a potential watercolor sketching expedition down the road. Daniel Smith has come out with watercolor sticks and I got a free sample. I’ll let you know how they work.
@demotlj yes please do so. Anything to help the process. Lol!
My next trip is in 1 week and it’s just two of us so we decided that we will not be hiking ALL day and dedicate some down time for our personal goals.
Interesting! A great way to experience and internalize the difference between the camera and the eye. I’ve found verbalizing character descriptions to help me when trying to draw a consistent character too—I wonder what other ways using verbal descriptions could help in creating visual art.