Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sketchbooks - Sketching Buildings

Man-made structures aren't usually what set my pencils or brushes in motion. Nature's "infrastructure" is far more attractive to me. I believe there is more to explore in the wild - but, of course, buildings, roads, bridges, and such are also an important part of my life. 

Painting landscapes allows for a great deal of flexibility. Unfortunately, some painters think that flexibility allows them to be sloppy. They might schmeck paint onto a canvas without much skill or care, hope to luck and call the result their "style." We're not talking about the difference between "loose" and "tight" paintings here. This is about learning to put the right marks in the right places, regardless of whether your painting style is loose or tight. Like drawing portraits or the figure, drawing man made structures requires greater care. If you get the perspective wrong, the whole thing looks out of whack. Draw people and man made structures well and you'll also have control over a landscape painting's design. That, of course, requires a lot of practice, especially a lot of sketching. More sketching means less schmecking.

The sketch at the top of this post is from when I lived in Pennsylvania. The second sketch is of the house I made the other sketch from. The owners moved and asked me to house sit for them until they could sell their house. One day I sat warm and cozy on a bench by a window in the house shown above and sketched the wintry scene shown at the top of this post.

The family hired me to make four paintings of their Tudor home. One for every season of the year, all from different angles, and each including different members of their large (and wonderful) family. The image shown above is one of the preliminary sketches for that project, drawn on location. There were preliminary sketches made from every angle, color studies, and oodles of detail sketches. I also used photographs for reference. Unfortunately I didn't photograph the finished paintings and no longer have the other sketches to show you. 

In the sky above the house you can see the ghostly image of a cat. The cat distracted me as it crossed the yard and I began sketching the cat in an available blank spot on the sketchbook page. The cat left before I could get very far with it's sketch, then I remembered why I was there and got back to work sketching the house.

The wintry scene shown above was sketched from the kitchen window of my former home in Pennsylvania. I don't always have to sketch winter scenes from the cozy confines of a warm house, but if one's available, why not?

The pen and ink sketch shown above was made in a pocket-sized sketchbook. My back was up against another building, preventing me from moving farther away from the subject. That resulted in the extreme perspective in this sketch. It's sketches like this that help you figure out how to make better sketches.

The building my back was against was the Springville Museum of Art, which has since doubled in size. The outdoor spot I made this tiny sketch from is now indoors.

The last sketch (shown above) is of a house in Utah I lived in for a little while. One day I dragged a kitchen chair to the corner of the yard, sat down and made this sketch.

These are only sketches and I never took the effort for things like mapping out exact vanishing points, but the sketches still required extra effort, and I learned a lot by doing them and others like them. Like I've probably said somewhere else on this blog, every sketch you make helps you with other sketches, and contributes in positive ways to your finished works.


Patricia K said...

Hey! I lived in that last house, too!

James Gunter said...

Old houses might require more upkeep and repairs, but they're more fun to live in and draw! Old houses are cool!