Saturday, November 22, 2008

Autumn Tree - Nov VSD

I really loved this reference when it was posted. (Thanks Jeanette!) But it turned out that I couldn't get into the flow with it.

First I started it in graphite. I loved the strong shadows in the reference and how they worked against the brightly lit trunk. But once I had my line drawing done, I decided I didn't have the patience to build up the values in graphite.

graphite line drawing
6" x 9"

So I moved onto charcoal. Charcoal spoils me with its quick and easy darks. After drawing out the image again, I started my shading. But I felt I was fighting to get a smooth tone for the sky and good form for the trunk.

crop of charcoal WIP
crop approx. 7.5" x 9"

Being the fickle girl that I am, I set aside the charcoal with a whispered promise to come back later when I wasn't under a time crunch. And then I turned to my old stand-by... watercolor. I decided to try a limited palette of aureolin, quinacridone red and french ultramarine blue. Rather than draw the image a THIRD time, I transferred my graphite line drawing from my sketchbook to my watercolor paper.
watercolor on paper
crop approx 5" x 8"

I painted the sky first and it went down with no problem. I foolishly thought I was home-free. Next I moved onto the tree. I loved the neutral I mixed from my three primaries and how it separated some as it dried, but I ran into the same struggle over form that I had with the charcoal.

At this point I finally took some time to figure out why I was struggling. It was that strong light that was creating the fabulous leaf shadows. Since it comes from almost directly in front of the tree, the form of the trunk looked flattened. Now that I had identified my problem, I had ideas about how to resolve it, but -BUZZ - time was up. Oh well, win some and lose some.

And all was not lost, because I did learn some valuable lessons.

First, don't try to tackle any painting or drawing when distracted by other things. I never slowed down to focus on this reference and form a plan. I just kind of jumped in. Had I given the charcoal my full attention I wouldn't have jumped to watercolor so quickly.

Second, although I like dramatic lighting, this type of lighting brings with it it's own set of issues which must be skillfully dealt with. The knowledge I gained here will help me the next time I work with the combination of strong shadows against bright light.

And third, as much as I love dramatic lighting, I can't sacrifice the feeling of good 3D form for it. Turns out good form is pretty much at the top of my list of priorities. Who knew.

I really love how these challenges push me. They push me to try new subjects, to complete paintings under time constraints and to work around obstacles and learn new things. I can't wait for next month!


Mary said...

Stacy. both are looking good but I am a little partial to charcoal at times. I hope you continue it!:)

virtualsketchdate said...

Stacy, it's great to read all that you learned! I agree about the jumping in!

Regina Calton Burchett said...

I like how your watercolor came out - and admire that you tried this so many ways. I agree it was a much trickier subject than I first anticipated!

Stacy said...

Thanks Mary! I haven't given up on the charcoal, but I am going to set it aside for a bit so I can re-approach it with a better attitude.

Thanks Rose! I've learned that "jumping in" lesson before, but apparently it was time to learn it again. :D

Regina, I'm normally impressed when people give the reference more than one try too, but in my case this month it feels like it was more a symptom of slacking. If my kids approached their homework the way I approached this challenge, they'd be grounded. LOL!

Sheona Hamilton Grant said...

It has been interesting to read how many of us have found this ref to be trickier than first thought.
In my mind your watercolour has come out tops!. The limited palette works really well as does the composition you chose. Your rendering of the trunks is subtle and accurate.
The pushing really suits you:)

shicat said...

I'm not sure which painting/drawing I like better. I know that I love the crop job.

Nithya Swaminathan said...

Lovely versions. I like the watercolor one better. Great job on the shadows.

Andy said...

Hi Stacy, the watercolour is great with it's cropped composition and the shadows on the bark work very well. I hope you do carry on with the charcoal version, it looks like it could be a darker and more atmospheric piece, and a good contrast to the watercolour.

Andy said...

Hi Stacy, the watercolour is great with it's cropped composition and the shadows on the bark work very well. I hope you do carry on with the charcoal version, it looks like it could be a darker and more atmospheric piece, and a good contrast to the watercolour.

Jan Pope said...

Thanks for posting your creative process. But you know, I like the line drawing. Simplicity at its best. You know it's a tree with a few leaves. So the viewer is left to decide if the leaves are red or yellow, if it's a windy day or the sky is blue. I like the watercolor version too. Nice strong vertical element contracted with the horizontal nature of the yellow leaves.

christine said...

Stacy, I love seeing your three versions! And I agree, the bright/dappled sunlight makes it hard to initially distinguish the dimensions and form of the tree trunk.
I like all three versions, but am partial to the water color. And thank you for being so specific in naming the water colors you used. I find that so helpful as I learn more about this medium.

virtualsketchdate said...

All three have their appeal you know. I love the line drawing, because I love the simplicity of it. The charcoal is my new best friend so I'm partial to that. The watercolour adds speed to the process and such wonderful colour.

Paulette said...

I loved hearing about and seeing all three. I think they all have merit, a good line drawing, good contrast and great choices on colour!

Ann said...

I think you did very well with both media! That looks like a complex image to do and it's interesting to see your process.

Lisa Reed said...

I am so glad Gabi mentioned your blog on Urban Sketchers. I am really loving everything you do!

Anita said...

The charcoal looks great - don't give it up. I love quinacridone - its one of my favourite colours and you can see it just glowing here. Challenges are great when you come out of them feeling you have learned something.

bluelilac said...

I liked the way you were going with the graphite. But to see your different approaches comforts me because maybe we all do this from time to time trying to find the best way to proceed with a project.
The creative process is always fascinating to watch.


Stacy said...

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments! I always feel so good after a VSD post! :D

For those who liked the charcoal WIP, I promise to pick it up again one day soon.

Like Jan, my favorite was the line drawing because of its simplicity and because it captured my first impressions of the reference.

I enjoyed working with a limited palette for the watercolor and will definitely be trying that again. Anita, the quinacridones are some of my favorites too! I use them a lot.

Thanks again everyone for taking the time to give feedback. I appreciate every single comment!

SYLVIANE said...

Stacy, I love especially your charcoal with those shadows.

Anonymous said...

I agree with is when we take on real challenges that we did great work here and your autumn tree look lovely in colour and I have to admit that I really like the strong impact of that charcoal as it is!

Lindsay said...

These are beautiful and I especially love the graphite one. It has alot of movement and punch.