Ice on the pond,a mini tutorial for a gouache sketch

Today I try to explain a bit how I do the gouache sketches in my forest diary.

Step 1 preparing the sketchbook pages

Step1: It begins with the choice of place and the preparation of the sketchbook which I lay on the forest ground. I always have two clams which I attach to the top edges of the paper to avoid that wind can fold the paper unexpected.

step 2 setup of gouache colors and brushes used

Step2: Then I place my colour set, brushes and mixing trays on the right side.I have a flat palette for color mixing and a little cup with water to clean brushes. Usually I have a PET- Bottle with 0,3 l water with me.

step 3 A look to the motif

Step3: Then I study the motif and make some decisions about what shall be included in the sketch (borders or framing of the sketch) and what the main subjects are I would like to depict somehow. In this case my main interest was in the hazy background and the play of light and shadow on the ice on the pond.
This is a lovely, remote place, Hermann Hesse used to visit this pond in the woods and his not so well known short story “Erwin” talks about it.

Step 4 mixing colors

Step4: Then I start mixing colors for the background with a 2″ flat brush.

Step5 paiting the background

Step5: I like gouache colours because they allow a similar process as oil colours. I begin with the background and later I can add foreground structures by overpaiting the background if necessary. If I would paint the trees and branches first I would have to “fill in” the sky for example in little spots.

Step 6 More background

Step6: After the sky and the basic proportions and elements of the sketch are placed I continue to develop the background. I use grey , white some blue and dark green + black with varied amounts of water to get variations in the background colour. I have to take care that the background does not get too dark as I want to place the trees on the little island and in the foreground as dark shilouettes later.

Step 7 paiting the foreground

Step7: Now I add the trees on the Island and in the foreground as clear structured silhouettes in a mixture of black and yellow and red ocre. I use smaller brushes for these details.

Step8 Learning from mistakes

-buy this sketch as postcard on Zazzle-

Step8: The last step is learning from mistakes that happen in each and every sketch. Unfortunately I was so inattentive to place some of the green leaves of the pine on the left exactly on the borderline of the little island. Initially I wanted to keep that clearly visible (see step6). I had to “repair” that mistake and the result became a rather muddy, unclear situation compared to the previous state.

Also I overpainted a bit too much of the sky and the background for my taste. So my final critique is that I weakened the intended main message of the sketch, the strong contrasts and the play of shadows on the ice in the end. On the other hand I am pleased with the “colour chord” and the reasoning with myself is eased by the satisfaction that I managed this one in an one hour session at -4°Celsius.

The reasons why I do these sketches again and again are the little surprises, the unexpected behaviour of the colours for example, the unwanted mistakes and successes and most of all the meditation, the stop of the internal dialog while being immersed in the dabbling with colours. Only when I walked home I noticed that my hands were ice cold and freezing even after I had put on my gloves again. I totally had forgotten the temperature.

4 replies zu “Ice on the pond,a mini tutorial for a gouache sketch”

  1. Jo

    I just found your blog through the new Postcards blog. I, too, love drawing trees and have learned much from you in the few minutes I’ve spent reading some of your posts. I’ll return to read more. I’ve ordered your book and look forward to studying it.
    There’s a Dover book that I’ve found to be helpful: The Artistic Anatomy of Trees by Rex Vicat Cole. From it I learned that all buds on a particular species of tree are arranged on the twig in the same way, same angle, as are the twigs and branches on the trunk. Amazing.

  2. e-post

    Hello Jo, thank you very much for your interest in my little pamphlet on tree drawings. It will not be able to compete with Rex Vicat Cole I fear..:). For those who are interested in realistic not to say botanical aspects of tree drawing Vicat Cole is “the bible” I would say (see my recommendation here). In some chapters it is hard to make a difference to a book on plant anatomy. I very much like the introducing chapters and those about drawing tree tops (against bright sky etc). I am glad that I bought a copy many years back on a visit in London.

  3. Hans Lichtenberger

    Hallo Martin!
    Seit einiger Zeit lese ich schon in Deinem Blog mit.Der Blog ist großartig eingerichtet mit wunderbaren Zeichnungen und Malereien angereichert und sehr lehrreich dann beschrieben.Konnte schon einige wertvolle Tips selbst anwenden. Liebe Grüße aus dem Burgenland!

  4. e-post

    Hallo Johann,
    vielen Dank für Deinen Besuch! Ich freue mich schon auf Deine nächsten Monotypien in Picasa.

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