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Sketching in St. Ives, UK - Part Four - Values Shapes Dominance

drawing ink and watercolor plein air painting sketchbook travel sketching urban sketching watercolor Mar 07, 2019

Sketching in St. Ives, UK - Part Four

Values - Shapes - Dominance

What do I look for when I'm out in the world sketching? What are the questions I ask myself before I touch my pen or brush to the paper?

Question 1: What grabs my attention?

Question 2: Why does (blank) grab my attention: shape; value; motif; subject; color; emotion?

Question 3: How much time do I have?

Question 4: Am I going to draw, paint or both?

Question 5: Playful or studious?

Within 15 to 30 seconds I have answered all five questions and I begin.


Looking through my hotel window early in the morning

The rocks grabbed my attention. The bold, dark shapes formed a barrier between me and the awakening of the St. Ives shoreline as the morning mist lifted, slowly revealing the vague shapes of building, boats and early risers walking the beach. The light was changing quickly and I had little time to capture the moment. No time to be studious. I decided to use direct watercolour rather than sketch anything before painting the suggestion of color and shapes and both soft and hard.

View from the coffee shop at Tate Museum - St. Ives

The shapes of the rooftops as backdrops for the angled rectangular windows grabbed my attention. I also liked the play of lights and darks of the geometric planes of both roofs and windows.  It was just a short break for coffee and biscuit so I allowed myself to be loose and playful, calling attention to the windows by making the edges sharper and the value darker. For color, I ignored reality and created movement by shifting between cools and warms of a similar value (tone) using direct watercolor (without a preliminary drawing).

I know it appears that all I do is eat and drink when I travel.  That's truly not the case.  Mealtime and coffee breaks are ideal for sketching. 

The red and black umbrella and the nearby street lamp grabbed my attention.  So did the giant seagull that swooped down from the restaurant roof, tried to snatch my food and knocked over my pint of pilsner!  Fortunately, I had my sketchbook in my hand and it didn't suffer a soaking. this was a very quick line drawing sketch with my Platinum carbon ink fountain pen.  I added just a few spots of color to give it that bright punch of color that I felt as I looked at the umbrella against the backdrop of neutral buildings.

The waitress was kind enough to give me another pint to calm my rattled nerves.



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