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SKETCHBOOK: a creative tool and a way of life that celebrates design and drawing as vital ways to see and value culture, to discover ideas, and to envision a better world.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Following Ansel Adams' Footsteps in the Grand Tetons

Adams was hired by the National Park Service in 1941 to photograph several National Parks and surrounding wild areas.

The design sketching workshop we led for Washington State University's School of Design and Construction provided a springboard for Patti and I to tour some of the greatest landscapes of America's Mountain West, including the Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.  Jackson Hole and the jagged silhouette of the Grand Tetons have long held a special fascination for me, so we braved the last dregs of winter snow and some closed road conditions to see this incredible landscape. 

When we arrived at the Snake River Overlook, we learned from interpretive displays that Ansel Adams had photographed the river and the Tetons in 1942 from the spot we were standing as part of a project for the National Park Service. The influential artist Thomas Moran had painted this scene even earlier, in 1879. This fortuitous discovery called for pulling out the hat and fingerless gloves to stay warm and capture this particular viewpoint in my own way.  The cold kept me focused, and the ink line sketch came together quickly.  Watercolor washes were added later during the trip.  This experience was a high point of our ramble; we plan to return.



Adams made this photograph in 1942 from what is now the Snake River Overlook.



I'm in the same spot, with my ink line sketch completed on location.  Patti visited every 15 minutes to make sure I wasn't frostbitten.



Here's the finished piece, a two-page spread in a Moleskine A4 Watercolor Album, adding my voice to the creative conversation among the artists--Moran, Adams and others--who have seen and captured the view before me.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Step-by-Step Demo: San Miguel de Allende!

The previous post described some of the fun and adventure from our "Sketching the Energy of Places" workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with Meagan Burns and Art Leap Adventures.  While adding watercolor to this street scene sketched on location, I created a series of step-by-step photos to document my process.  I enjoyed putting this together very much; I hope you enjoy it, too!


Here I'm getting into the line sketch, while dodging cars in the narrow street.  Photo by Meagan Burns, the creative force behind our sponsor, Art Leap Adventures.

Here's the finished line sketch.  It's a "straight to ink" sketch (no pencil pre-drawing) using a PITT Artist Pen (permanent brown ink) in a Moleskine A4 Watercolor Album.


I usually begin with the sky--clear water first, then pigment applied "wet-in-wet" to achieve a soft, atmospheric effect.  I typically use W+N Prussian Blue for this technique; this time I chose Daniel Smith's Cobalt Teal Blue, just to see what happened--I like it!


Next, a wash of Naples Yellow over the areas where I intend to add more color.  This will act as an undercoat to brighten the whole scene and to help the subsequent colors relate to each other better.  At this point I've already decided to leave the street and cars in the center of the drawing as white space.


A richer orange on the central building, which will provide a nice complement to the Teal Blue sky.  I also added a little Alizarin Crimson accent to the tower while the Naples Yellow was still wet.


A graded wash, mostly Alizarin Crimson, on the building at left to pull the viewer's eye toward the central focal point.  The blue at bottom left is just wonky lighting in the photo.


Starting to add some color to details, remembering to leave the center of the drawing as white space.

This is the finished piece.  I added some bright "confetti colors" to the clothing of the pedestrians, as well as some black on some of the figures.  The color is a little richer on this image; that's because it's a hi-res scan rather than a quick iPhone photo in poor lighting like the previous images.  I'm very pleased with the balance of color to white space, and the way the complementary colors relate to each other.  There you have it!  Let me know if you'd like to see more of these step-by-steps in the coming weeks.  -Jim