Many of you know about my Moleskine exchange with Raena of Raena's Sketch Journal, where we mail the Moleskine to and fro from Florida to Texas and back again, adding a little bit at a time, and post it on our blog, 2'nFro. I am excited to say that this is the page that I just completed.
Yes, page one is done. Finally. (Someone compared watching our page grow to seeing a movie. If so, it is a very slow movie.)
Before this installment, the page looked like this. I needed to decide what to place on the page beyond the ladies, and I needed to deal (gulp) with composition. Often I do sketches in my Moleskine and color them without giving composition more than a fleeting thought. In my few larger works, I have generally focused on one or two main objects. But here I would have to plan. I was nervous about this, but I knew that this was a skill that I need to tackle if I am to accomplish my long-term goals in art.
So I was kind of thinking about the gals being near some quaint shops - maybe an interesting storefront would fill the blank space to their right. My wife mentioned that to her the ladies looked like they'd be in a nice neighborhood, and I agreed. That shifted my thinking, and I snapped some photos of possible houses. It was my wife, again, that suggested the house I finally used - there are many interesting shapes in this house. It is kind of a shame that I couldn't use the whole thing.
So there they would be: two ladies standing in a residential neighborhood, one with dogs. A single word kept popping into my head: Boring.
There was another thing that bothered me too. It looked to me like the woman with the two dogs was looking beyond the other woman, and not straight at her. Why, I wondered, was that? What was it that she was looking at? It seemed a shame to just place them in a setting without rhyme or reason.
Then came the lucky day when I saw a dog near my son's school in the middle of the road. He had his nose in a paper bag. I knew then that this was what she had been looking at! I had the vague idea of her staring at this stray dog in a nice neighborhood with his nose in a paper bag, the other woman oblivious. So I snapped a picture of him with my cellphone. A few days later, I had a closer look, and snapped his picture again.
It was clear that I could not paint just the dog or the setting. I had to do both.
At first I laid out the page very horizontally: horizontal road, horizontal sidewalk, straight-on view of the house. Again that word, boring, sprung to mind. Finally one day I realized that I could use diagonals and it would be much more interesting. I drew a small thumbnail on a post-it-note, maybe a half an inch square, setting forth the basic arrangement. And I tried to apply (roughly) the vague recollection I had of the concepts of this post in Kathy's blog about composition.
I had to deal with perspective, how large the house, how big the dog. And the details of the composition: Where would the ladies be standing, on the grass? Was the dog in the street?
It was only after playing with this for some time that I wondered why it was necessary for the second woman to be in the picture if the first lady was looking beyond her at the stray dog. Woman no. 2 was almost irrelevant. So what if she wanted to talk to lady number 1, and didn't realize what was happening behind her? I finally realized that for her to be an integral part of this picture, it had to be her dog! But the dog was a little far, hence the retractable leash.
Raena made it very clear with her shadow where the sun was coming from, so I had to take another picture of the house when the sun was right, because try as I might I could not guess at the proper shading. Then the sketching in pencil (I never do this and I realize that I need a much more precise pencil), then the painting of the house (I needed many layers to get the values right, and some subtle splashes of color to make it interesting), the painting of the stark difference in color between the shaded grass and the grass in light(I had to make a color chart first to feel comfortable), etc.
At every step there was a challenge. At every step, nervousness and hesitation. So, all in all, it was a great experience.
Thank you Raena! I don't believe I ever would have put forth the effort had I not received such a wonderful drawing back from you.
I realize that ultimately I pretty much dominated this page. I give more reasons for this at 2'nFro. But I figure that some pages will be more Raena, and some more mine, and some pretty evenly half & half, and that'll be the way that it goes. Raena and I exchanged a few e-mails, and I believe that she understands this and agrees.
So it's off to Texas, and on to page 2!
3 years ago