Sunday, December 6, 2009
Finishing off the Pintails
Who would have thought that the photos I took of Northern Pintails at Brigantine NWR at the end of October would be the source of so many sketches and watercolors? I suppose it was a combination of numerous good photos and the previous time I'd spent on other ducks, especially doing sketches of them. By the time I got to the Pintails I was ready to break loose from the detailed work I'd been doing into something more painterly.
I've had two main purposes in my recent duck work: one, do enough detailed pencil sketches so that I feel like I'm actually getting to understand ducks, and two, do enough short watercolor sketches that I become looser with it, but still don't become so loose as to abandon everything I've learned about detail.
I'm happy with the results, at least in terms of what I've learned. All of the works I've done are on lower quality paper. That allowed me not to get too precious about them. Nothing can kill good art quicker than preciousness. I'm particularly happy with a couple of the watercolors of Pintails. The one at top is very overworked. The Aquabee Super Deluxe sketchbook that I've been using for the watercolors is very versatile and amazingly sturdy for a sketchbook paper. Still it couldn't hold up very well to all I did on the first painting. But that is not the fault of the paper. It's mine. I just wanted to keep working until I got what I wanted.
And to a large extent I got what I wanted: a complete painting. I think more than anything else I've wanted to be able to do both bird art and watercolor in the same way I used to do abstraction and oil, as a vehicle for something ambitious, or at least something that seems full, not just a sketch.
Both birds and watercolor lend themselves to sketches and I love this aspect of bird art and watercolor. There can be a quick sketchiness that seems like life itself. But there are other times where I'd like to do something fuller and richer. The painting at top makes me think that this might eventually be possible. I'm starting to feel like a craftsman who's started to get familiar with his tools and can now start practicing his craft.