Thursday, August 08, 2013

Do I need to know sketching very well to learn watercolors

The short answer to this question posed to me by a reader , on this post is

To be able to sketch very well,  would certainly add value to your painting. However , even if you  can do some basic sketching, have the ability to observe, and the will to practice, you can create good paintings . As you progress along your art journey, you'll find that sketching starts to come naturally.

For the long answer, please continue reading.

To begin with, I'd like to suggest that you go through this article about the importance of drawing for painters

Now, even if you think you can't draw well ,  the good news is that it is possible to learn the kind of sketching you need to form a base for your painting, with a very simple approach and some practice. The idea is to basically break down a complex shape  into smaller more manageable shapes, while maintaining  the relationship between shapes. Don't worry too much about the  details of the painting , because those can be suggested at the painting stage, with different shades of colour.

So, for the purpose of illustration, I'm sharing the preparation I did to make my latest painting- 'Coloured Boats' .

I began this painting from a reference photo of some colourful boats, mainly because it seemed like a simple scene to draw. I can't post the photo here , because the copyright to the reference photo belongs to the photographer, but you can see it here on  my favourite ( free to join ) artists website, called Paint My Photo .

If I had painted these boats when I first began painting watercolours,  I would have  done lots of measuring or drawn a grid on my paper and then painstakingly tried to copy the reference photo down to every last detail. Then I would have gone about adding colour , trying to get the painting as close as possible to the original and produced a painting like this

'Orange Boats' Original Watercolour (c) Monishikha RoyChoudhury. Find more of her artwork on her Facebook page, 'The Coloured Wall' .

However, two years of experience have taught me that there is an easier, more painting friendly way to create an initial drawing. That is why ,once I had decided on the photo I wanted to work from , rather than getting out my ruler and drawing a grid, I spent some time just looking  at the photo to see what captured my attention ( in this case it was the shape of the boats against the sky) Again, instead of trying to get every detail right in the pencil drawing, I now find it easier to get the shapes and the relationship between the shapes roughly correct. After this (depending on how patient Im feeling that day), I start my sketch, either directly on the watercolour paper or  do a few trial sketches with a pencil on a sketch pad (see this post for this process ). For this painting , however , I took it one step further.

I did a quick thumbnail sketch with a pen, on the back of a discarded painting.

'Boats Minor' Ink Sketch on 300 gsm watercolour paper. (c) Monishikha RoyChoudhury. Size 1.5" x2.5" . Find more of her artwork on her Facebook page, 'The Coloured Wall'.

Since I had no fear of destroying expensive watercolour paper, this gave me a lot of confidence to begin drawing and let any mistakes that may happen, just happen . Also, the initial purpose of this drawing was to get a feel for the shapes of the boats. If you  look at the sketch , at a glance you can see that the tops of the boats start from approximately 40% of the way from the top horizontal edge , and that they are basically just a number of  wide 'V' shapes at the top. What is important , is the angle of the adjacent shapes with respect to each other.

Coming to the bottom edges of the boats, I followed a similar approach, taking each boat one by one, and for each successive boat, I started my drawing looking at it's size with reference to the previous one, till I reached the last one. Again, working from left to right I drew the broad triangular shapes of the shadows of the boats keeping in mind the proportionate distance ( of the narrowest part of the shadow) to the bottom right edge and corner of the paper. Confused? Look at the shadow of the left most boat , and then continue looking at the shadow of each of the boats,from left to right .  You'll see that they are roughly at an angle to the bottom edge of the page, and the last few shadows actually end on the right vertical edge of the painting . Also, another thing I kept in mind  while drawing was that relative shape and size of the spaces between the shadows cast by the boats.

Once the shapes were there, all the drawing needed was actual darkening of the shadow shapes to give the boats and sand some depth. From the reference photo, I could see that the shadows were deeper under the boats on the right of the page(far away from the viewer)  and lighter in the left most boats ( nearer to the viewer), so I put in darker marks for the deeper shadows cast by the far away boats and lighter marks for those cast by the nearer boats. Also, the boats themselves are lighter and darker in some parts, so I darkened the parts that were darker. Then with a few random shadow marks in the sand, my sketch was finished.

Once the drawing was done, I just put in some dabs of colour to get a feel for the finished painting, and that is how I ended up with this -

'Boats Minor' Ink and Watercolour Sketch on 300 gsm watercolour paper. (c) Monishikha RoyChoudhury. Size 1.5" x2.5" . Find more of her artwork on her Facebook page, 'The Coloured Wall'.
By doing this, what I've achieved is basically a reference painting, with minimum time and effort (it took about 15 mins from start to finish) and lots of pleasure and confidence. I plan to use this approach in most of my future watercolour paintings, because, you see doing something of this size

'Boats Minor' Ink and Watercolour Sketch on 300 gsm watercolour paper. (c) Monishikha RoyChoudhury. Size 1.5" x2.5" . Find more of her artwork on her Facebook page, 'The Coloured Wall'.

is a good way to lose the fear of drawing, and attempt something bigger, like this

'Coloured Boats' Ink and Watercolour Wash on 300 gsm Watercolour paper, © Monishikha RoyChoudhury . Size 13"w x 9"h  . SOLD .Find more of her artwork on her Facebook page, 'The Coloured Wall'. 

So if you want to paint, and don't know too much about sketching, I say dive in anyway,you might surprise yourself. What do you think ?


Tarang Sinha said...

A BIG Thank You MRC!! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! It's really...really helpful. And your painting is so nice!!

But I'm not done yet...:) I've learned that quality of paper is really important for WC. Which brand of paper you use?

Thanks and take care...and keep painting:)

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