A couple of days ago I wrote about what a wonderful place Vatersay and the Isle Of Barra was for providing me with massive scope for inspiration.
Most of the time when I go away I take a backpack of sketching materials and a sketchbook. I’m going to fess up right here and admit I’m not an avid keeper of sketchbooks. I do try! It’s usually on holiday that I make any time to put anything down into a sketchbook but with less than satisfying results - or at least I feel that way at the time.
For some strange reason I find the process frustrating. I’ve never been very confident in my drawing skills. Having said that when I look back at sketches I made over the years on previous holidays I don’t think they are so bad. It’s just that at the time of doing the drawings I’m so hung up on my apparent inability to capture the moment in the style I’d like to be able to master, i.e., loose and unlaboured, slick and stylish, or whatever, I lose heart. My head is telling me to persevere, the result will only come with practice, lots of it, and yet … ! Am I alone in this? Anyone got any tips?
This year I was determined to try harder. I took lots of different art materials with me - oil pastels, pens, pencils, paint, gelli plates, water colour pencils, palette knives, brushes, Indian ink. I tried to use a different medium a day to see what clicked, if anything … with a modicum of success.
Acrylic paints applied with a palette knife and brushes, sometimes with a calligraphy pen loaded with India’s ink seemed to do the trick. Oil pastels and watercolour pencils came second although, I still had the nagging feeling with them that I was still getting too hung up on detail, yet I pushed on through and tried to ignore the uncomfortable feelings. I kept telling myself the purpose was not to come away with a work of art. It was an exercise in observation and exploring how to use different art media. I think it worked! The least successful was just black pen, my go to sketching tool in the past, chosen because it stops me from reaching for the eraser to scrub out lines in the ‘wrong’ place.
My phone camera is my main form of ‘sketchbook’. It is a means of recording the things that catch my eye to remind me later of colours, textures and just the feelings I had when I was in the moment. On this holiday I used my phone back at the cottage when the weather was too poor to go out, to use the images I took as reference for playing in my sketchbook. On other days, I sketched ‘plein air’ and then added to the sketches or played round with them in some way back at the cottage, some more successfully than others.
I tried to take the approach I take in the studio when I realized in some cases I should have well alone, that the original was better than the one I ended up with - if I don’t try new things I won’t know what works and what doesn’t and I won’t make progress..