• 2021-07-16 - Virtual Urban Sketching

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Logs > Art Log

The past week or so I have picked up painting more regularly. Part of what was stopping me from painting, lately, was a lack of subjects. Around the same time I got my pocket stillman and birn watercolor I also started discovery the volume of #urbansketching posts on instagram. Normally, I don't use social media much, but I've been enjoying dipping a toe in from time to time and in this particularly instance it's given me a bit of inspiration to paint more frequently.

"Urban sketching" seems to be the modern day equivalent of "Plein air" painting, although I suspect that the former makes more sense in contemporary and more populated areas, while perhaps plein air has been around long enough that many associate it with rural / landscape painting. Just a hunch - the terminology is still new to me.

One of the artists I found on instagram seems to use something akin to Google Maps to find scenes to paint. So I've started doing that this past week. It's going well so far! I've been picking places from books that I'm reading or have read, which is a fun way to virtually visit real locations I've been immersed in the past, as well as to feel a bit more connected to the paintings and the process.

My partner and I have been co-reading-out-loud the Millenium series, and so I've been exploring Stockholm and some other places in Sweden. I "toured" around Gamla Stan, which seems like a pretty fascinating place to visit. I stumbled on a hotel with a "red carpet" (which had a very neat gradation into orange-yellow-green) and tried it out. I am happy with the results:

I have tried doing some Plein air throughout the summer. I've come to the conclusion that it's hard. Very hard. But, I still think I'd prefer to get better at it and go to real places and paint them so I can be outside and away from screens, and just improve at moving quickly with my sketching.

I've been enjoying the process of watercolors when I use my platinum carbon ink first, and find that the results are more fun and interesting. Doing pure watercolor in a sketchbook hasn't yielded the best results for me yet - it's very hard to control where one colour starts and ends, as well as to really show depth of forms. As usual, Mr. James Gurney's paintings are an inspiration and I will continue to work toward that because I do think I'd like to be able to have a purely-watercolour go at it. Despite that, Having some crisp lines really makes things stand out to me, and it's a bit easier. So for now, I think I'll pursue that.

The other positive flip side is that this is making me become less precious with my sketchbook. I still struggle with not wanting to mar a page, but it's getting easier to just think of things as practice (and practice, and practice) so I might as well just go at it.

One challenge I've run into once or twice is that outlining / inking is a bit tricky. My hand shakes when I do it and I need more practice / could use some technique pointers. I think that maybe one part of the problem is that I'm nervous because I'm making a permanent mark - so in that case - more practice. But there might also be some tricks of the trade making up for the other 5% of the challenge.