EDiM #115 & 116

May 16, 2011

Two-page spread, each page 4×6″. 180gsm Como drawing paper. Pre-painted background: ‘Global’ student acrylic paint (coral red) wash over graphite pencil. Sketching in Derwent pastel pencils.

Every Day in May 2011, #115: Draw a shopping cart or trolley and #116: Draw something green.

The time has come for me to put paintbrush to paper and create a pre-painted background in line with Roz Stendhal’s free online course in visual journalling, promoted by Strathmore at www.strathmoreartist.com. I’ve been resisting the idea of pre-painting backgrounds ahead of sketching because of the potential for a contrast which is too great between background and sketching focus. It’s taken me a while to overcome this resistance: I find I’ve been unsettled by the idea of doing sketches out of chronological order. Goodness knows why, because this is despite the fact that scanning and uploading them to the Internet removes any sense of the chronological: online, they become like single paintings in an art gallery, with no context on what went before or comes after (or very little). My sketchbooks don’t show any strongly imposed sense of chronology either; I’m constantly picking up different ones and adding to them willy-nilly. Ian Simpson in his painting textbook talks about pre-painting backgrounds and adapting them in the field when out doing plein air landscapes; if the colour schemes don’t suit, keep flipping over the pages till you find one that does. The daily challenge during Every Day in May would seem to contribute to the sense of linear ‘reading’ of one image to the next, but there is logically no reason why I can’t do different daily drawings on different pages, so long as I do whatever drawing is due on a particular day.

I was “saved” by the fact that the forthcoming “green” sketch seemed ready-made for a background in a complementary red. I picked up Coral Red instead of Standard Red, so got a red-pink on the page. It scarcely took a few seconds so it’s not difficult technically. Working on such a small page made the additional inclusion of stamps and other marks superfluous.  I’ve noticed how an internal frame seems to work with a lot of colleague’s sketches, especially those with an illustrationist bent to them, so I added a charcoal-y graphite pencil line before the paint went on. I’ve yet to experiment with watercolour painting over charcoal.

I couldn’t bring myself to completely cover the page with paint. I was concerned to leave some drawing paper which I knew would take the sketching medium. I wanted to stick to a sketching dry medium because there’s a certain predictability creeping into EDiM and I didn’t want to start turning it into a personal watercolour-a-day challenge. A watercolour-a-day challenge can wait for another time!

I was worried about linking the ‘pink’ to what I anticipated was going to be a mass of white and silver lines associated with a metal, ‘colourless’ shopping trolley. I’m reading Ted Goerschner at the moment and he is big on painting good shapes; he says to paint shapes for ten years before thinking about painting detail. I spotted a trolley two mornings ago near my house but today it was gone: I assume supermarkets are worried about new legislation in the ACT introducing hefty fines for trolley ‘litter’ so someone must be hoovering them up after hours. Anyway I kept walking into Marrickville till I spotted one. It was simply too inconvenient to stand there drawing an “illegal” trolley so I took photos instead. Now I normally only ever use photos as a last resort, but when taking the photo I was keen on getting an angle with dramatic shadows. I hoped that with so much going on on the page, the lack of spontaneity associated with sketching from a photo wouldn’t be so noticeable.


I originally wanted the focus to be on the white bag inside the trolley but it ended looking like some sort of marsupial in the trolley; the angles and shapes associated with the darks eventually took over. I resisted over-working everything, though working darks in pastels is pretty terrifying!

The eucalypt gum leaf was a natural with our sketching colleague in hospital. An important feature of her sketches is the shadow, so I paid homage to her too through those aspects. I guess the heavily-worked green leaf contrasts with the lack of detail in the shopping cart. Were the leaf not green, it might read as a feather instead!

Mercifully, I had no problem with pastel pencil going down on the acrylic paint wash. This strong, garish look appeals to a certain side of my sketching personality. What I know I need to do is be a bit more conscientious when it comes to Goerschner’s advice about the focus of paintings and his use of greys (ready-made in pastel pencils!) and his of additional colours close by that of the main subject, i.e. not just a red-and-green, but green against a red-yellow-orange.

Next up is a two-page spread devoted to Something Round and Some Hair. This will definitely involve some of my temari balls and a Hand holding them (hair on the back of fingers between knuckle and first joint). What I know I ought to be including is a fold-out page, as per Roz Stendhal’s workshop this week!


Roz Stendhal – www.rozworks.com

Goerschner, Ted. Oil Painting: the Workshop Experience. North Light Books, 1996.


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