I seem never to get tired of looking at trees. There is a remote place about 20 minutes walk from my home amidst the fields and meadows were some plum trees grow unattended, just not cut yet by the farmers who plow through the root area, damage the branches and don’t care in many ways. The fruits are for the animals. This year the plums are still green in August. Hidden from the eyes of walkers and motorists I draw the neglected,weathered plum tree trunk, perhaps they are gone next year.
On the last weekend I could do a first demo video about sketching and drawing with oil pastels in nature. I bought a flexible camera tripod that I can attach with a big clamp on my drawing board. Before mounting the Gopro camera I start the camera and enable the WIFI control. Then I mount the camera after I have made the WIFI connect with my Iphone. I can see a preview on the Iphone and thus I can adjust the camera for the best view. Unfortunately I recorded a film instead of using the time-lapse function of the camera. So that is reserved for next time. I turned the view upside down in the camera settings, that way I could record the film already in correct upright position. The camera recorded about 1 hour. The camera stores the video in ca. 2 GB packages largest size. At home I processed the data with the Windows movie maker, mainly reducing the duration with the time-lapse function (8X).
I commend to watch the video in full screen mode because the study is really small. You can see the cardboard box with my “active” pieces of oil pastel on the left. I began with the outlines of the tree trunks as grid that establishes the simple composition. The grass looks miserable at this time of year, not green, not brown just worn out. The grey of the tree trunks and the blue of the sky compensate for that. At the end I clean the picture and add texture with a plastic palette knife.
I roamed the woods again on the weekend. I saw some old tree stumps polished by wild boar, woodpeckers,tits and nuthatches busy and the leaves of wild Arum showed here and there already. I finally settled down in front of a pine tree stump. The sketch is about 26X23 cm in size. I used in total 14 different oil pastel colors, a minimal extended 48 color set Caran d’Ache oil pastels. In addition to the standard 48 color set I used only one extra color from the 96 color set.
The colors used are, marked with black numbers:
1 Black, 2 Light Grey, 3 olive yellow, 4 Moss Green, 5 Beige (96 color set), 6 Grey,7 Dark Grey, 8 Lime Green, 9 Russet, 10 Raw Umber, 11 Brown, 12 Ochre, 13 Light Orange, 14 Pale Yellow
There several hues of beige in the 96 color set that are great for natural warm greys or really muddy earth colors.
I find tree stumps are great subjects for natural color studies. I have circled 4 areas in the sketch. Behind the numbers of those areas you find the colors that have been used.
The color mix changes of course when you change the layer sequence. For example a grey on top of russet will look different from russet on top of grey. I found the color of the pine bark
the most difficult to decide in this study. In the end there were 2-3 layers of grey and russet in varying thickness and different sequence. When you experiment with layer sequence you can get closer and closer to the desired color mix. Once you have learned the sequences and stored in them in your memory you will be able to reproduce many colors with ease.
I always start with and try as long as possible to work with a light touch putting down layer after layer.
Before using a color I break up the stick in smaller pieces of 1-2 cm length for better handling. I keep a small carton box that has all the small pieces of colors that I have in use. The original set box has the remaining half or quarter sticks as reserve.
For most people drawing foreshortening is difficult and I am no exception. I remember very well my first exercise from the Bert Dodson book “Keys to drawings” (my favorite drawing books on amazon). He requests the reader to draw the own left or right hand with the fingers pointing to the viewer. That exercise gets the right side of the brain in action. To close one eye helps a lot. It stops the left side of the brain interfering again and again suggesting that those fingers should be drawn longer. I commend to try yourself to get that funny feeling inside your head
Ball pen sketch of the left hand, drawing exercise to learn foreshortening.
My latest entry in the old style landscape drawing book consists of only two types of elements: circular and linear marks, vertical or horizontal.I started in the upper right corner and made my way to the left and downwards from there.
For the next small oil pastel sketch in the woods I selected a detail view of some trunks in the background. Is started with black and a dark grey as basic colors for the trunks and added other, lighter colors on top. Over time one learns about layering and depending on the wanted result may start with a lighter color and add dark on top or vice versa.
I put those colors I have used a bit outside of the tray so I can keep the color scheme coherent. It helps to reproduce same color mixtures where necessary.
Also I learned to make notes of the color numbers/product codes, because it is much easier then to re-order your favorite olive green.. or similar.
I love these oil pastels and the effect of the irregular “tooth” or roughness that I got on the pages primed with thinned oil color. It is not necessary to press or rub with the pastel pieces, the light touch is the best, but sometimes it can be necessary to apply pressure on the top layer.
The dark brown underground made a great match to the woody debris and the old,dry foliage and inspired some still life photography.