I’m in a watercolour sketching phase at the moment, sketching people in general and portraits in particular. Mostly I work in coffee shops trying to get a quick sketch done before the subject inevitably leaves at the critical artistic moment. However I am also really ‘over’ drawing people with cups or mobile phones in their hands. Given that I don’t attend regular life drawing classes I need a way to find some interesting models.
So what to do? ‘Cheat’ I happily reply. I notice that I am not alone in drawing sculptures, by way of a substitute for a live model. Art galleries or even local parks can be good places to find interesting subjects.Here are some sculptures I drew while I was in Japan.
Two sculptures and an attendant in the Churyo Sato wing of the Miyagi Museum of Art in Sendai
Shade, Churyo Sato, Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai
When even the sculptures are lacking I turn to another source, photographs. The Boss, belting out a number (original photo Getty Images)
I find that newspaper photographers are particularly talented at capturing interesting positions of sportspeople or dancers.
Aussie swimmers, Kyle Chalmers and James McEvoy (original photo AP)
The hard part, is to spend only the same amount of time sketching from the photo as you would if they were really in front of you. Just remember this is a way to practise making a quick sketch, not a photo-realist masterpiece.
To divert my nervous energy from the exhibition opening last Friday my partner suggested we get on our bikes and ride to the nearby Lake Tuggeranong to do some drawing. The most difficult thing was to decide what to draw. The lake is wide and the view of the mountains and the town centre on the far side was far too broad a panorama to make a particularly good composition. So I plumped instead for the storm water diversion system at the northern end of the lake.
Alright not everyone’s first choice for subject matter but the complex system of drains, catchment basins and structures to slow the flow of water made it quite interesting from an artistic perspective. Not to mention the variety of waterbirds that were using the different depths of water to catch their food. Here is the initial section where the storm water flows into the first collection basin. I was looking towards the sun so there were lots of dramatic contrasts and back-lighting of the vegetation. I did some additional work on the grasses at home.
Storm water diversion system
While I was letting the paint dry on my first painting I was able to turn my attention to do some quick sketches of a Great Egret (Ardea alba) which was fishing in the small creek running off the bottom of the system. As the egret’s plumage is pretty much all white it was an easy choice to paint it by using negative space. Here are two views.
I’m also pleased to report that while we were watching the egret actually caught a fish! We enjoyed watching it manouvre the fish around before swallowing it.
My final sketch, using watercolour pencils, is of the lowest level of the structure where large natural boulders have been placed to break up the flow of fast water in order to limit erosion to the banks of the lake.
Boulders at the bottom of the storm water diversion system
There are still more sections of this structure to paint so I’m sure I’ll be back.