I wanted to chat here a little bit about the video I posted yesterday on my YouTube Channel entitled “Sketchbook Masterpiece 6 – Watercolor Sketch (Winter Landscape)” and the many good reasons for doing a watercolor sketch. I have found that before jumping into my final painting (and potential masterpiece) it is best to become familiar with your subject, to figure out what color scheme you will be using and how you are going to mix certain colors. Other important elements to consider before you begin are your value pattern, i.e., your dark and light shapes, and your design. Are they interesting and cohesive… will they keep your viewers’ attention? With all of these things to consider and more you can see why it might be best to do your “homework” in the sketchbook. After all it’s just the sketchbook… it’s your place to learn, plan and practice!
To begin I grabbed my wet-dry media sketchbook and drew a light border – using a 2H or H pencil – that represents the edges of my painting. Light pressure is used so you can easily erase and correct. Next I proceeded to lightly draw in my subject. I typically use photo reference for my artwork and will crop out or move elements when needed to enhance the design. The line drawing above took about 5 minutes. The goal here is to catch the essence of my subject, determine best placement and proper perspective not to produce a finished drawing. At this point it is best to make as many corrections as you need to make it right.
Once the line drawing is finished I will being a light watercolor wash over the pencil drawing. Because I used an “H” pencil here there will be no graphite smudge on the surface of my paper. This is the stage to determine your color scheme and the intensity of the colors you want to use. The reference photo I used was very muted and was taken on a cloudy day so there was not an obvious light source. Since I wanted dramatic shadows that would create interesting shapes in the snow I need to determine which direction my light source was coming from and remember that throughout the process. The watercolor sketch below was done in about 20 minutes. Again, this is not a finish painting, it is a watercolor sketch. Once I begin the final painting on good paper I will take more time with each step but now I have an advantage because I’ve done some homework.
I have found that doing your homework – pencil and watercolor sketches – in advance increases your chances of producing a truly successful piece of artwork and I have also found that you will lean less on the photograph and more on your value sketch and color study. Be sure to take notes along the way, i.e., what colors were used and what colors were mixed to get that perfect tree line and that perfect evergreen! I can honestly say that when you feel more prepared the drawing and painting process can be more relaxing and enjoyable.
So my final words of wisdom to you are … don’t ditch your homework!