low cloud, evening

This was another sketch done quickly when out cycling last weekend.  I dropped off the road onto the canal pathway, trying to find a good view of the evening light filtering through low fast moving clouds.  This scene was on the other side of the water.  As the composition evolved, I had left no room to show the reflections which extended to my feet.

2016-02-21 February evening sky (1)

Here are two views, the first as completed outside.  I have put quite heavy tones into the sky then worked over this with white crayon.  The marks extended unevenly onto the trees giving more definition to those darkly drawn shapes.   At home, I painted back over the sky with white gouache, then sanded this back and scraped back over it with crayon, aiming for more subtle variations of tone and light.  I also worked in pen and crayon to give more definition to the houses and foreground field.

2016-02-21 February evening sky (3)

17 responses to “low cloud, evening

  1. …. the spontaneous quality of the study done on location has a freshness to it that (to me) needs no refining touch-ups, simply because it places demands on the viewer’s eyes to complete and fill-in details left out. There is a partnership between painter and viewer–the viewer must bring his/her own perceptiveness to the piece in order to complete it to his/her satisfaction. We as painters aren’t required to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’. The viewer is quite capable of filling-in what we leave them to fill in. And that is their ‘work’ — finishing where we leave off.

    …. your work has great energy and daring–and needs little refining because you go at it with such spontaneity that by touching it up you are in danger of eroding that precious quality. (I say this as one who cannot stop himself from trying to improve on what is already complete….so forgive me for being so bold in my commenting. I am an admirer of your work.)

    • Hi
      You are very welcome. As a group we do not often comment beyond “great picture” and “thanks”. Detailed comments like yours are greatly welcomed by me and really valued. I find the same when I offer this level of comment myself. Mind you, even the brief comments mean a lot to me.

      I agree with your comments though broadly I was pleased with this sketch in both iterations. On this occasion I can report that the finishing elements of gouache and pen were already in my mind and were done as soon as I got back. I did not rework it from a photograph for example, which is something I have done before and which can wholly transform the image, losing something in the process. Still, photographing the image before messing with it gives me confidence to take risks with the picture.


  2. I love the colors in the original sketch, as well as the energy. As someone prone to overworking a drawing, I’m always interested in your progress sequences. In this one, it’s interesting that in the first shot I’m drawn to the sky, and in the second, the landscape is more compelling to the gaze.

  3. I too love the first one for its energy. It has a real ‘wildness’ about it. Sometimes I think as artists we find it hard to see it as a viewer would. Maybe next time leave it for a week or two without looking at it, then have a look and see what you might (or might not) have to do to it.

    • Thanks Kate
      I like your ideas on this. I have many outside paintings from the last couple of years. It is in my mind to completely work over these, not trying to perfect them but to use them as a starting point for a new image. I did a few experimental drawing workshops. When we thought a piece was near finished, it became a mantra: turn it upside down, cut it up, cover it over.

  4. Thanks as ever for putting yourself ‘out there’ and showing us the process of your work. In reading your description of time of day and the experience of stopping to make the sketch i think the first version does capture that feeling of low scudding cloud and evening. The second sketch seems to me to be made at a quite different time of day. In any case the first gives an ’emotional’ feel of the moment, which has been replaced by different responses to the second version. I was reading yesterday that as artists we need to be wary of the right/wrong approach and recognise that each artistic response can vary infinitely to one inspiration. You have made two responses to your experience which is quite something in itself. I hope this hasn’t become a complete ramble😊. Keep making art that’s a better response to life than most!

    • Hi Leonie
      I hope you are well. Thanks for your comments.
      I’ve been out of drawing for a week or so. It’s strange. I have had to take leave from work after a fairly trivial operation and I thought I’d get loads done but having time but being unable to get out on my bike or even drive seems to have made it hard for me to draw. I used my leave marking students’ assignments and handling clinical queries by phone as there is general but no specialist cover when I’m away. So the time I might have used has been broken.
      I’m not sure why am sharing all this but it’s part of the artistic journey I suppose.
      I think my take on the outside versus reworked sketches is this. There is no ideal version. Instead I just want to take risks. Thus I want to look at the original and then muck about with it. Sometimes I am completely drawing over it as I showed in a recent post. Other times I experiment with the balance of tone and colour and texture. If I destroy the original sketch and end with nothing, so it goes.
      When I went in for my surgery, I woke from the anaesthetic to find a man in the adjacent bed, drawing. He was drawing well, detailed big game safari animals from memory. He worked quickly. He said he does this all the time and just bins the resulting drawings. It’s just a thing he does but does not care about the results.

  5. Reworking is a tough one. I don’t tend to rework the original sketch, although sometimes I go back out to the same place and continue with something. I did this with one painting and Carmen didn’t like it much. She thought I had ended up smoothing everything out. I guess there is that danger. Something in the first marks will always seem spontaneous and fresh.

    Looking at those textured backgrounds you have made me think of another possibility: instead of post work, pre-work. If you are using gouache or acrylic or crayon you can prepare the surface before you go out with a mid-tone. I sometimes wash out old sketches I am not interested in any more and paint over the top. I like laying a white onto a midtone and then pricking out with a dark over the top.

    Always like looking at your work. And you are getting some great comments!

    • Since this sketch I have done some failed sketches which I have washed out and painted over with white gouache. I am looking forward to reusing those. I have recently prepared a sketch pad pasting in torn fragments of brown paper from a carrier bag. I don’t quite know how this will work out. Minor surgery has stopped me cycling or driving for a short while hence limited outdoor sketching recently. I’ll get back to it soon.

  6. I like the ambiguity of the outdoor sketch, particularly the middle band of trees and buildings. On the indoor sketch the building above the second right post has a vitality with shifting hues, echoing the foreground foliage and the roof also has those colours – very Blockleyesque. Moving left the buildings seem more stolid, particularly the roofs, and the sloping roofline bugs me. The way the burnt sienna flows through the painting gives it a pleasing cohesion.

  7. I like following all your activity in what you create. I will always look at your creations as an active whole from one step to the next. It is as though everything you do is a conversation and you are driven to communicate all of it to your viewer. Thank you for that.

    • Hi Leslie
      Great to hear from you. I do try to find something concise and interesting to say. I don’t always succeed but do it goes. The challenge is finding time to draw.

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