Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Importance of Play

iris sketch
approx. 9" x 5"
gouache on colored paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

In last week's post I talked about how I would like to work toward a more painterly style and give up a little bit of control over the paint in order to leave room for some of the watercolor magic to happen.

This week I decided to really throw caution to the wind and give myself permission to just play.

I think as an artist it is very important to allow time for play. Playing with your art materials without expectation can really get the creative juices flowing. And I believe it can help keep the dreaded artist slump away.

So for my sketching play time this week I set aside my comfortable favorites and gathered together new paints and new paper. Talk about walking the tightrope without a net!

Last week, for some reason, I found myself thinking about painting on colored paper. It is not something that I have considered before, but I saw some Canson Mi-Teintes paper that I have used with charcoal, and I was curious how it would take watercolors.

Later in the week I received an unexpected gift of a small set of gouache paints.

(An interesting aside... When I first started using watercolors I turned my nose up at gouache because I couldn't imagine liking an opaque paint. But the work of this artist changed my mind. He creates stunning watercolor paintings and charcoal drawings too.)

When I saw the gift, I immediately thought that I couldn't wait to try sketching with these paints. And since gouache is opaque it seemed a good choice for the colored paper.

Feeling brave, I decided to take the leap. I gathered up the Mi-Teintes paper, the set of paints and my trusty water brush and went outside with the goal of sketching an iris or two. I love the shapes of the iris petals with their wavy edges and graceful curves.

My plan was to work from life and try out a few different approaches with my new paints. But the session didn't quite go according to plan.

Before I had even made the first brush stroke I heard the rumble of thunder. Let me tell you, if you want to practice sketching fast and loosening up, let your time limit for sketching be set by an approaching storm!

I made the quick decision to capture the form with white paint and then add color when I was safely inside. A few passes with the water brush and I had this...

iris sketch in process
approx. 9" x 5"
white gouache on colored paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

I decided that was good enough and hustled inside to deposit my materials on the kitchen table. I then grabbed my little camera and raced outside to snap a quick photo to use as a color reference.

Back inside once again, and away from the threat of being struck by lightening, I finished the sketch. You can see the results at the very top of this post.

I have to say that this time spent playing was an exhilarating experience. I'm just not sure if the excitement was from the lack of expectations, the new materials or the approaching thunderstorm!

I'd love to hear your best sketching stories. Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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