Friday, September 5, 2014

More Brush Drawings

Black-bellied Plover. Wash Drawing by Ken Januski.
Black-bellied Plover and Dunlin. Wash Drawing by Ken Januski.

As I was working on the wash drawings for the last post I realized that I had two advantages in them that might make them more likely to be successful. First I was working larger, about 9x12 in a Stillman and Birn Delta sketchbook; and second, I was using shorebirds for subjects. Why are they easy? Because unlike many birds, especially warblers, you can see the entire bird.  Most of it is out in the open, not hidden by leaves or gone due to quick movement.

So over the last few days I've tried some other subjects. The American Redstarts and American Wigeon are too bad to show. After a bad morning with the wigeon I went back to shorebirds this afternoon. These are done in a much smaller 5.5x8.5 Gamma sketchbook from Stillman and Birn. Because of that much smaller size I had to work somewhat daintily, a method pretty foreign to me. (The following morning I did another set of Black-bellied Plover wash drawings. They are at top).

Still it was informative. When I was an abstract artist, even when I did figure drawings contemporaneously, I tended to work large. When you're drawing 22x40 or so you can make sweeping gestures with your arm. Make a sweeping gesture with a small sketchbook like this and you're quickly off the page and knocking something over perhaps your watercolors and water bottle.

So at this scale you have to make marks differently. But that is good. Like learning more about yourself by traveling in a foreign country you learn more about your subject by drawing or painting it at different scales. Hopefully I learn to conceptualize it. If you learn the pattern or structure of birds you've learned something that works at all scales and media.

So that's my justification for showing these tiny little sketches. Each bird is probably 2x2 inches or smaller. But one of the wonders of realistic art is that it doesn't take much, perhaps just two or three marks, to create the illusion of something. No matter how much 'progress' is made in art, or how many new media replace old media, there is always the magic of illusion. It's magic to the artist and to the receptive viewer. I get far more excitement out of seeing someone bring forth an eagle from just a few brushstrokes than I do from seeing someone who's rendered most of the eagle feathers in great detail. Which really is more magical? Or to quote Aristotle, which one creates the most delight?

I'm not sure where all this will lead. Many of my recent woodcuts have used simplified outlines of the birds portrayed. I think the simplification required in working with wash will help me in simplifying in other media. In the meantime it is a lot of fun. Except for those passerines, obscured by leaves.

Oh yes, these are based on photos I've taken. I wish I could walk down the block and find shorebirds to sketch from life, but outside of the occasional Spotted and/or Solitary Sandpiper or Killdeer they are very scarce around the immediate vicinity. So I'm using the photos I've taken over the years.

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