Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Favorite Sketchbook Pages

of any artist, myself included, often look like the page above. I realized this as I did these sketches today. They're thumbnail sketches of a Black-throated Blue warbler and a Tennessee warbler, both seen in Devil's Walkingstick, feeding on the berries, this past Sunday. As much as I like seeing a quick field sketch that captures the sense of life in a bird, often at a unique moment, I'm equally taken with planning sketches like these.

They are almost never done from life. Instead they show the artist working out ideas, often using photos, sketches or just memory for the subject. I had no intention of posting about this. But after finishing this page of sketches it hit me how much I like pages like this, for others artist as well as myself.

I think the reason is that you can see an artist thinking out loud, trying out various things. For instance both of these sketches started off horizontal. But as I worked on the lower one I ran out of room to get the Tennessee in and eventually made it into a vertical format.

Who knows if the final drawing will look anything like either of these.

I got the idea to do a more developed pastel after doing the 15-minute watercolor above. At first I thought I'd just do the Black-throated Blue and the Devil's Walkingstick. But then I thought it also might be interesting, and more lifelike, to include the Tennessee as well. One of the showiest of our wood warbler alongside one of the drabbest.

I think one other thing I like about sketches like this is that the artist works in shorthand. The lines are often too light or too dark. The shapes are just indications, not finely tuned. I like that. They show the process of making a drawing or painting. I'm not sure why but I've always loved seeing this.

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