Sketching in the summer
Being able to get out and about in summer means more opportunities to see and sketch new scenes, perhaps new places if you are able to get away, even for a day or a weekend. Now that travel is opening up a little you may be lucky enough to get abroad, or you will soon…or at least have a staycation in our beautiful country.
If cold, wet, snowy days are for staying in your warm home drawing and painting from photographs, surely warmer days are for getting out into the fresh air armed with a simple kit for drawing or watercolour, plus maybe a folding chair and a picnic or at least a drink of water. Remember sun protection too – hat and sun cream. A simple viewfinder ( a piece of A5 card with a matchbox-size window cut into it) will enable you to choose the view you prefer.
Sketch on the spot if you can – your work will have so much more immediacy and freshness than something laboured over indoors. Take inspiration from Constable, Turner and the wonderful Impressionists who did their landscape drawing and sketching outdoors, trying to capture cloud effects and the sensations of being in Nature. And that is so good for you!
Any sketches can be worked up into finished pieces later. Though you may find that their spontaneity and looseness beat an overworked painting anyway!
Of course you should also take photos as reference for later use. The Impressionists didn’t have this luxury!
Always carry a camera or your smartphone so that you are ready to capture any scenes which catch your eye and especially any events, however small – all can add to your stock of images to use in the future. Simple events like a few birds flying over, a great cloud formation or sunset, a dancer in a show, a boat sailing past, a group of people at a table outside a café, etc etc can enliven future scenes to paint.
Don’t be afraid to combine two or three photographs to create your new painting. You could combine the sky from one with the landscape from another, plus a horse or birds from a third photo.
Remember to try out two or three compositions in pencil beforehand- about the size of a matchbox ( this is called a thumbnail sketch.) It’s better to make your mistakes on a rough rather than on your painting!
This also gives you the chance to try out the balance of light and shade in your composition – simply shade in the light, medium and dark tones, leaving the white of the paper for the lightest tones.
The success of a painting often depends on the tones, not the colours or even the subject! So the thumbnail sketch is your best friend here.
People often worry about being watched while out sketching but there is no need for concern for these reasons: anyone wanting to see your work is simply interested. They are most unlikely to paint or draw themselves. And anyone who does is simply interested!
You could always position yourself so that no-one can get behind you! Or go out sketching with a friend or friends. I even heard of one artist who put out a collecting cap in front of himself – that seemed to keep people away! ( Another artist keeps coughing, though in these days of Covid that is probably not a good idea!!!)
Sketches don’t have to be large -Winsor and Newton even make blocks of postcards for you to paint. You could keep your finished postcard for yourself or send to a friend or family member. So much more personal than a bought one!
So please don’t let your artistic practice get rusty in the summer months. Practice makes progress! You could even consider keeping an illustrated journal, either doing a simple sketch from something in your day each day or week, or recording things you see on a trip away ( now that we are able to go away again.) Enjoy the great outdoors and come home with a hand-made souvenir of your day in Nature.