The other thing that I am trying to do during this trip, besides remembering people and situations, is to capture the landscape. This is my fourth visit to Canada, but it’s the first time I’ve seen the mountains in winter. I am taking plenty of photos because it’s too cold to sketch outdoors, but I want to somehow record my feelings, rather than just copy photos. When I was here in 2014 I found a picture of a bear that perfectly represents the atmosphere I’d like to be able to create:
The Chinese/Japanese approach to painting is to sit and observe a scene for a long period, then to go away and paint it. I’m nowhere near that stage of achievement yet, but I’m attempting to simplify and modify the paintings I make from my photos so that they more closely resemble the image in my mind’s eye.
This picture was the first landscape I drew, the day after we arrived, from the kitchen window:
It was drawn entirely with a fountain pen that contained sepia water soluble ink, that I blurred in places with a wet brush. It looks very like the photo I took, even though it’s been done entirely from life. I ran out of sepia ink shortly after I made this drawing – I had left the bottle behind in case I broke it in transit.
The second attempt was from a photo of a very complicated landscape: this time I focused on the foreground tree and greatly simplified the mid ground detail, using sepia and indigo Winsor and Newton watercolours. I discovered that I could dilute the sepia watercolour and use it in my pen, just like the water soluble ink. I drew this in my little A6 4 x 6″ cartridge paper sketchbook and was quite surprised at the degree of punishment the paper was able to take in terms of soaking.
I then tried two paintings using a wash of indigo, in two or three different strengths, on Saunders rough. Both paintings were less than A4 size.
This scene I didn’t even conceive until my husband pointed out the figures on the far bank, and I was able to capture the image with our zoom lens. It’s a very simplified version of what the camera saw, painted in my Moleskine watercolour 21 x 13cm (5 x 8″)sketchbook. I added the reflections of the figures as this was what the camera was indicating, although I wasn’t sure whether they were really reflections or just blurred images of the foreground plants. I’m not sure whether the reflections are needed in the painting.
Finally, I drew this in my new Fabriano 7 x 9″ cold press sketchbook, from the kitchen window – except I had to move, because people needed to get at the sink, so I finished it by working from my iPhone. The iPhone kept turning the image off, plus the photo wasn’t the same as my memory – the mist had lifted when I took the picture – so it wasn’t very helpful. I also edited out the power lines. I think it might be the best compromise so far between working from memory and working from photos.
But then there’s this one… painted from a photo, also made in the sketchbook. I cropped the photo and lengthened the composition, trying to portray the essence of the dog’s delight in ploughing through the crisp snow on a sunny morning.
I’d love to receive some comments on which paintings work best, and why. Each one of them signifies a personal moment for me, but they may not all be as effective for other viewers.