It’s the time of year for weather! We don’t really get extreme temperatures here in Galway, but we sure do get extreme storms. The first half of the week was icy cold by Irish standards, and that’s given way to howling wind, sudden gusts and heavy rain. It’s nice to be tucked up indoors when it’s like that outside.
When it’s cold, the roads are slippy, and if you do leave the comfort of home, you have to sketch from your car. But when it’s cold and sunny, there are no clouds to make an interesting sketch, and the shadows, lovely and dramatic though they are, change shape quickly when the days are short. When it’s blowing a gale outside and the skies are dark and ominous, the prospect of venturing out to sketch is not enticing.
And so I sketch indoors! Last Thursday I did a demo for the NorthStar Watermedia Society, which is the oldest watercolour group in Minnesota. It was a real honour to be invited by my lovely student Deirdre Vaughan. When we did our little pre-class preparatory chat over Zoom, we found we had lots to say to each other – one of the wonderful things about making friends through on-screen interactions. To this day, after four solid years of teaching live, I am still delighted and overjoyed at the reality of making new friends this way.
We noted that many Minnesotans are also experiencing very inclement weather outdoors (much colder than in Ireland), and a corresponding reluctance to go out to sketch or paint, so we figured the group might enjoy painting in their own kitchens. A kitchen is a place of cosiness, which we have likely decorated in an informal fashion (unless we’re fortunate enough to have one of those incredible designer kitchens you drool over on TV): a place where you might have hung a favourite painting or print, or arranged some cute plants, or some brightly-painted ceramic dishes. I have lots of those things – with more to come, things I’ve had forever, that just need a shelf…you know what I mean?
I started by leaning against the granite countertop in my kitchen and making a values sketch for Deirdre’s group, because you cannot have too much value (I’m not sure how else to express that). I used Velvet Black for this sketch, one of Roman Szmal’s beautiful colours under his brand name, Aquarius. You can see the little video of the different stages on my YouTube channel.
But I wanted to explain how knowing one’s values helps in the creation of a full-colour sketch, so I made a second sketch, from the other side of the kitchen counter, meaning my subject was a bit smaller, and I could get more in.
I don’t know if you can guess from the sketch, but I simplified the colours to harmonise with each other. Then I demo-ed this sketch and my process for Deirdre and her group. Before I started, my son Paddy came to my studio to see what I was going to do with the group.
“That sketch has literally everything in it,” he said.
He was right: it contains
- elements of drawing accurately
- glazing (no wet-on-wet here though)
- colour harmonisation
I can’t think of anything else I bring to a sketch! Perhaps something seen in perspective, or the addition of someone walking past, would have made it a full house. The demo seemed to go well, and I received some wonderful comments from Deirdre and her group. I felt privileged to be in the position to share my very informal approach to making art. But I am all the time, every time I teach.
Then, because I am an obsessive type, I did more value studies in my kitchen, or next to it anyway, on my dining room table. These are some espresso cups collected over the years.
So this is the topic for today’s class, a far cry from animals making a mess in the kitchen! But my students aren’t not getting away so easily – we’ll be back to mammals cooking very soon. I would love to make a big collection of animals doing things, and publish it sometime. Will I call the collection Silly Snouts? Muzzle Mayhem? My husband Marcel thinks both names are stupid but hasn’t come up with a better one. I want something that suggests animals (not just mammals with snouts and muzzles) that are Irish (and I don’t expect you to know that list). It’s going to be really cool, despite the fact that I haven’t pitched it to my publishres, because I am fairly certain that they won’t be interested.
Oh well! One must follow one’s whim as an artist. The one thing I know for sure is that NO ONE can tell you what to do. Not your husband, not your publisher, not your mum, no one. You must do YOU even if no one likes it. They will eventually.
Until next time…happy sketching!