Today I try to explain a bit how I do the gouache sketches in my forest diary.
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.
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.
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.
Step4: Then I start mixing colors for the background with a 2″ flat brush.
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.
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.
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: 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.