Great Garden Sketchabout #11: Maiden Theatre courtyard

March 19, 2011

 

19 March, 11am-12noon, intermittent periods of strong shadow despite ongoing rain. HB pencil foundation and 4B pencil highlights. Royal Botanic Gardens, Maiden Threatre courtyard.

I used the backdrop of the building as a foundation for the palm tree and vegetation, rather than draw the tree first and then add the background. This is the method I want to use when sketching the Canova Boxers in order to improve my figure drawing of the statues. I am strangely drawn to including the built environment in almost every view of the Royal Botanic Gardens I draw. The angles of the background (the Herbarium building) are meant to echo the angles of the handmade sketchbook since this spread becomes the flyleaf of the book, so the book board becomes inadvertently part of the overall context for the drawing. Normally of course, one starts with page 3 of a commercial sketchbook, following the tradition of the printed book. This was done during the Bookbinding & Sketching workshop, following a pre-workshop amble from 8.40am through the Lower Gardens via the Conservatorium.

  

I joined the Workshop with the express purpose of challenging myself both in terms of working more with colour, developing stamina for the ‘long’ drawing  or protracted all-day sketching and moving beyond graphite pencil. I’ve even admitted in front of the other workshop participants that I intend pushing myself into more use of colour – but my first sketch is an all-pencil one! I’m both tempted to throw colour into the drawing at this point, but also tempted to not throw in colour: perhaps this first drawing should represent my starting point for my development as represented in the sixteen pages of the book, perhaps colour should be added slowly and deliberately. Which still leaves the bright white space to the left. Then again, perhaps this requires suggestions of colour with lots of bold, variegated penwork.

By being exposed to other sketchers’ work (“in the flesh” as opposed to the online version which shows individual pages/spreads or ‘selected’ sequences), I realise that experienced, established sketchers are able to drum up ‘complete’, elaborate and gorgeous work without the need for pre-sketches or “pre-pre-sketches”.  I guess one develops an “eye” for the potential of a good sketch from assessing the location: observing the environment before drawing it. I guess too if something “isn’t working”, the sketcher simply rubs out any pencil lines early on; I tend to keep going long after this, potentially ending up with a sketchbook of abandoned pre-sketches, tentative pre-sketches and excellent sketches (even reworked/titivated sketches which become “drawings”). This business of finding the potential in a view is something I might follow up at future Workshop sessions on Saturday – I know what I do when ‘sizing up’ a location for sketching, I wonder if this is a skill which can be honed.

The Workshop, led by the indefatigable and hugely talented Wendy Shortland, has  a wide range of fascinating participants and the schedule through the day is brilliant:  an very early morning amble, taking in the birds and low light, a tutor-led workshop till midday, a short break for lunch followed by the Great Garden Sketchabout led by Royal Botanic Gardens volunteers, in the company of  two dozen other sketchers, till afternoon tea and a show-and-tell of the collected day’s works.

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