I used the long weekend for another study in the woods. I was tempted to do a study on water already for some time. I like to see the reflections in the water of those muddy holes with yellow bellied toads. Anyway there is this remote pond nearby with a little island in the middle. temperatures were low enough to keep the flies away, they were busy cruising over the water, but did not notice me. Probably much to the pleasure of the hundred+ frogs that were giving a concert. I was thinking about Hermann Hesse who loved this place. He has mentioned this pond in a short novel named “Erwin”.
While I got ready or better to say while I was making the plan how to do the sketch, out of a sudden a rare >Kingfisher bird flew by, easily to recognize by the wonderful blue head and back feathers. I was wondering where they could breed as there are no suitable and steep enough clay banks around.
I did not take many documenting shots this time. Drawing or painting water is in principle not much more than representing the reflections. Mostly the colours of the reflected scenery are subdued depending how clear the water is. Some rain drops fell and made some nice circled ripples. Below the sketch at half finished state.
After half an hours walk in the woods I noticed that I had forgotten to fill my water bottle (500 ml). So I had to take a little detour through the thicket to reach an artificial fish breeding pond. from there I made my way to the edge of the forest to take place on a path through the fields in sun with a look back to the forest.
The sky was great with many moving clouds so I could play with those sky colors a bit. I had some troubles with the “air perspective”, in fact I hate it a bit to go the standard way and to make everything blueish that is in the background even though that is very efficient. Instead I cooled the near greens, the foliage of the bigger trees at the forest border.
A piece of beautiful blue sky framed by some beech trees caught my attention, made me stop and do a gouache sketch. I really enjoy the beginning of these sketches when everything is a possibility and the colours can be dropped and splashed around.
This is a quiet forest path, people rarely walk here. The birds were very active on this morning. Young woodpeckers made such a noise that I had to choose another place. I regret that I was not able to catch the vivid contrasts of light and shadows in and under the canopy of the trees.
The sky was covered by moving clouds and the light changed constantly and so did the sunlit areas and shadows… not too bad an excuse isn’t it?
I have documented only one intermediate state,which shows the chaotic background foliage before the image was structured by the vertical trunks.
The forest surprises and inspires me each time I go out. Usually before I do anything with my sketchbook in the woods I sit down to make some notes about what is around to see,smell and hear.
That helps to make the “connection” to nature, to relax and to get ready for sketching. Today I was given a special gift : a doe with fawn passed by without noticing me. The wind was coming from the right direction and so the game did not recognise me. I had the opportunity to hide behind a big beech trunk and watch. The very young fawn was so fragile and the mother so caring. Again and again she would stop and come back to make sure that the young offspring would follow closely.
The ink drawing above was done with a bristle brush No16 and diluted india ink. The paper of my sketchbook is not the best for ink drawings as it tends to bleed unfortunately. By squinting I tried to narrow down the many tonalities to a few. The intention was to set up a coherent image by noting dark areas at the right place in characteristic form.
The structure of the drawing was established by the bigger trunks in light and the foreground in contrast to the darker areas with many layers of overlapping foliage and distant trunks. As soon as this grid was clear I could add brush strokes all over the sheet. Typically the leaves and trunks look almost black against the sky and I tried to represent that “effect” in the sketch.
What seemed difficult in the beginning turned out to become a relaxed fun exercise. Very soon the simple marks started to “make sense” and at the end I was wondering whether I should have stopped at one of the intermediate states already and should have continued with light color layers on top of the ink drawing. That exercise is reserved for the next visit to the woods. When I checked with photoshop elements I found out that the drawing has more than 8 different tonalities, I would guess that there are about 10 different tonalities.
This is a study of a typical forest in the so-called Stromberg area near Maulbronn. Oak and beech trees are the most common trees here. There are some pines trees and only a few areas with spruce and Douglas fir.
The images do not need much commentary I think, it is obvious how the sketch developed from back- to foreground. For the structures on the tree trunks I use a kind of “dry brush” technique, I remove excess water with an old cloth before painting or drawing with the brush.
The bristle brushes are ideal to draw trunks and branches. I do not press the brush on the paper. The effect is better when the brushes are gently pulled with a light touch from the base to the top of a trunk.
As the gouache color is sufficiently opaque, it was easy to add the trunks in the foreground by overpainting the background. I prefer this method very much instead of putting the background or spots of sky later in between. The background,especially the sky, looks more natural when they are painted first.