Some time ago I have written a short tutorial how to draw pine trees in charcoal for artgraphica.net. The tutorial is published now. I tried to document the drawing process also with some short phone videos, mainly to show the use of a soft eraser to creat structures on bark etc. Artgraphica.net is a great library with many other free drawing and painting tutorials.
I needed two sessions to complete this gouache sketch in the forest diary. It is the mating season for the roe deers. Today I heard a roebuck jumping through the undergrowth coming nearer. Finally there he stood some 40 yards opposite of me staring curiously at the intruder. With a couple of impressive jumps he disappeared again and warned me with loud barking. On my way home I heard him again giving a barking duel with one of his colleagues.
“You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.” – 12. Brute Neighbors, Walden, Henry David Thoreau
I found that quote,which is nothing poetic, but states a simple fact, on the net today and decided that I should read Walden again.
See the making of this sketch in the slide show below.
Apart from the mixing trays that come with the Caran d’Ache 14 color set I use a separate plastic mixing tray. In the compartment at the very left top I always place the white.
There is clear water in the upper bigger compartment and the mixing takes place in the one below. The plastic cup is filled with water to clean the brushes, I also have some old towels with me to strip off excess colour and water from the brushes if needed. The bristle brushes, especially the old and torn ones, are great to create structures of the wood and bark in dry brush technique.
This is a bristle brush in action. I have those in various sizes with me from very small up to no 16. Mostly I use a no.14 which is nice for painting leaves. I love the Caran d’Ache gouache set because it is so easy to mix natural colours with it.
For some time I studied light and shadow in a number of dry pastel paintings. Some old vessels bought on the flea market were arranged to still life that I lighted with a strong 1000 Watt light bulb to get dramatic shadows and strong lights.
There is a summary of the experiences published under the title How to paint shadows
The many spring greens already merge into the more or less uniform,saturated and dull summer green. The images above show how the latest sketch developed. The advantage of gouache is that it is opaque and it is possible to paint in layers. Especially for depicting foliage this property can be very helpful as it is possible to put in dark or light any time you want. Also in this case I started with the background and worked from there to the foreground.
By squinting I try to discern areas of dark and light tonality. Then I try to discern 2 tonalities in each of those areas so I would have two lighter and two darker tonalities. In the end I would add two final tonalities lightest lights and darkest darks. As a result the sketch should have about 6 different tonalities,which is not very skilful the least, but for someone like me with a limited graphic mind quite pleasing.
I removed the color information in a photo editing program and separated different grey values. Indeed the version with 6 values was the best. A final hint on composition: I was not too happy that I added the bare tree trunk on the very left. The comparison with a manipulated version gave final prove that the trunk is superficial. The big trunk was placed with purpose aside from the image center to open the center for the viewer’s eye to wander to the horizon.
I spent some time following a small brook in an ash forest. There is always a lot to see when a stream of water can meander freely, it has become a rare situation in our heavily used landscapes. Outside of the woods water streams are regulated and their natural way has been straightened. The reflections of the tree trunks in the moving water formed an almost psychedelic picture.
The cold temperatures were back again and the pages were flooded with water. This time I tested the nonwoven cloth and put it between the wet pages before closing the book to carry it home. The result was not bad. As one could expect the nonwoven took up the moisture and accordingly some very fresh coloured parts were lost. I think that waiting 5-10 minutes after the last brush strokes will make a big difference. The paper adhered to the vlies, but it could be removed without damage. I am thinking of another session on this site as the sketch looks a bit unfinished. On the other hand I like as a colour note.
It was already raining a bit when I left home. First birds could be heard, especially the woodpeckers were very busy, spring is coming soon. I sat down in a dark, young douglas fir and spruce tree forest. Green algae covered some of the trunks and contrasted with the dark wet bark. The wind was roaring way up in the tree tops under grey sky.
I got quite a bit of a problem to bring the sketch home. The paper was flooded with color washes and the rain was getting harder. No chance to walk with the open sketchbook. Finally I decided to close the book with a wooden stick between the pages, which was not clever this time. I had to do a bit of repair at home, fix the broken page with tape and revive the trees in the center of the book.
In future I will have a nonwoven cleaning cloth with me to be placed between wet pages. I hope it will absorb the moist color and thus will avoid the mess I got today.
The rain left nice structures on the sheet, I like the washed out look. There is a lot of potential in these unfinished sketches,which I want to explore this summer in a more detailed landscape book in same format. In summer the gouache dries way too fast for my taste, perhaps I will take a spray can with water with me.