Thursday, April 9, 2015

Scribbling on Scraps

Recently Brenda Swenson, a fakulty member from Sketchbook Skool, posted a challenge:  use your watercolors on an unusual, colored background.  People did terrific work on the sides of brown paper grocery bags and shipping boxes from amazon.  Me?  I headed for the basket I keep in a corner of my studio full of scraps for "some day."  You know, that piece of bright pink paper that is just too darned big to throw away, even though you have no clue what you'll do with it.

Scribbling on scraps.  Even less pressure than normal to produce "art."  Good for me because, as I've mentioned recently, my dog Desmond was suffering from bone cancer, and I have been feeling the pressure to take good care of him.  And to take good care of the other dog, Nik, who is wigged out at the changes in the household now that Desmond has passed on.

I wanted to share my experience of doing my daily sketching on colored scraps.  Even though I've been pretty sad lately, it was a bright spot in my days.  Here are few of my pieces from the week:

First, pure play.  I got out my one of my plastic dinosaurs (a great tip on learning to draw animals, thanks to Roz Stendahl--practice with high quality plastic toys!  They are 3-D but don't move!).  I also tried to remind myself what my Pelikan gouache would do on gray paper.

Then as luck would have it, a new set of Acryla Gouache arrived from Dick Blick, and I got a chance to try that out.  First, I painted a scene based on a pastel sketch I did on the beach in St. John, the USVI.  

This was the first time I had ever done a piece of art based on a piece of art of my own. I promptly fell in love with the Acryla Gouache, and its opacity (which I can never seem to get out of my other gouaches--expensive or cheap).  Of course, my next step was to try it on even darker paper.

Since I had fallen into total experimentation mode, I drew a circle in a square of black paper, then painted an imagined scene based on what I see when I watch the moon rise in the winter through the woods behind my house.  Interesting results. 

Not easy to scan or crop, however, especially since I don't use Photoshop.

Next, I decided to do some more quick observations of Desmond, but on a color of paper that had nothing to do with German Shepherds.

I really liked the result.  And again, that Acryla Gouache added nice color, even over the hot pink. This piece in particular is one I never would have come up with if not for this assignment.  And I am glad that I have it now that he is gone.

Finally, I decided to return to a more sedate gray paper, but to challenge myself with colored pencils. I admire the work people do with colored pencils, but pencils are not my friend.  I suspect I don't have the patience to add dozens of layers to build the color up in a vibrant way.  But I also know I need more practice.  So I practiced on Desmond as his slept in "his" chair.

I love the time I spent doing this and really studying a scene I've seen every day for the last ten years, but which, now, I will not see any longer.  I have to admit that seeing this chair empty makes me especially sad.  I am glad I have the drawing.  I have a ton of photos, of course, but somehow, the drawing connects me to Desmond more.

Overall, this was a terrific exercise.  Here are the benefits I got:

  • First, I got to feel a little righteous about keeping all those scraps and finally using them.  I even announced to my spouse, "I am using scraps!"  That felt good. 
  • Second, I drew a little more loosely than usual because, heck, I'm drawing on scraps after all. Plus, who expects a German Shepherd drawn on hot pink paper to look good?  
  • Third, I busted out some less familiar tools that I struggle to get good results from (the colored pencils) because it didn't really matter anyhow.  
  • Fourth, I connected more closely to a dog I knew I was about to lose.
  • Fifth, I played.  And this week, I've sorely needed some play time.

I hope you give yourself a shot at scribbling on scraps.  Be sure to glue them into your regular sketchbook when you are done.  You never know what they might mean to you later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beth, I've been following your blog for a little bit. It's so encouraging to me! This post in particular reminds me of Jackie Bartley's insistence that we print drafts of our poems on scrap paper, stuff with other text on the back, so that we wouldn't be too anxious about early drafts being perfect.

Keep this up!

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