Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sketching Landscapes

5" x 8" Graphite Pencil on Paper
New Years Day I went for a walk up a local canyon. It wasn't a long walk. In fact much of my time was spent just standing still, enjoying the sights and sounds of the outdoors. A scattered herd of mule deer browsed the thin winter grass on the mountain slope across the wash from me. A couple of the mulies stayed bedded down, soaking up the low winter sunlight. A flock of chickadees passed by, working the twigs and branches of the scrub oak I stood by. Flocks of chickadees as they travel through the winter woods often intersect with my path. The energetic little birds seem deliberate about it, and I always enjoy their brief visits. Continuing my winter walk I came across a flock of juncos, and a little later a bunch of robins. The robins I'm familiar with back east migrate south for the winter. Here in the Wasatch, they seem happy to spend winter with what the wild hawthorn provides for them. These walks in the wild benefit me tremendously. I make it a point to go for a walk every New Years Day. And of course, I sketch.

12" x 9" Ink on Paper
The sketches shown in this post are all, more or less, from a while back. They're just a tiny portion of the huge number of landscape sketches I've made over the years. Landscape sketching has been indispensable in preparing me for plein air painting. Even the sketches I've made solely for the joy of sketching in the wild contribute indirectly to the plein air oil paintings I make.

8" x 5" Pencil on Paper
The first sketch in this blog post dates back to when I lived in Pennsylvania. It was drawn one wintry day from the edge of a hill overlooking the Allegheny River at Oil City. The second sketch shown in this post was made on my first backpacking trip into the Wasatch Mountains during a visit from back east. The sketch shown immediately above was made during a backpacking trip in Southern Utah during another visit from PA.

My art box in the early '90s was big but got poor gas mileage.
The next few sketches were made after I moved out West. The sketch of a jumble of boulders was made during an overnighter in the San Rafael Desert.

9" x 12" Pencil on Paper
Sketching in black and white (or monochromatic) is important. I still usually sketch with graphite or charcoal pencil in my sketchbooks. But pastels have allowed me to explore color in the landscape, and helped prepare me to use color in oil painting. The scene shown below is a view westward, across a marsh towards the Basin and Range mountains.

11" x 14" Pastel on Paper
The last sketch in this post would be difficult to do again. Most of the flat area shown in the sketch has been developed since then, and both commercial and residential buildings now block the view.

11" x 14" Pastel on Paper
It's really easy to pack along some sketching gear wherever you go. There's always a sketchbook in whichever of my day packs I take with me into the outdoors. The combination of sketchbook, pencils, kneaded eraser, and small can of fixative I take with me easily fits in a plastic bag, which provides protection from any inclement weather that may happen on a walk. Color sketching supplies can be made compact for easier carrying, too.

I think I'll have a future blog post about sketching supplies.


David King said...

I'm a big believer in sketching too James! These are great sketches. That's really neat that you recorded that view before the area got ruined by development.

James Gunter said...

Thanks, David. There's a number of spots around the valley I wish I had gotten to before "progress" happened to them, but there's still a lot of good places to paint around here.