Saturday, July 10, 2010

Life .... anew after Scotland

My family and travel experience had multiple effects. Firstly... it elevated my emotional state both artistically and personally to a higher level. But as well... the saturation of all of my senses, particularly my visual sense... for a time seemed to be in stasis and "I" was unable to work on anything new.

Finally... on Wednesday, I forced myself to sit with my watercolours kit and pens in front of my computer monitor... to work up an "idea" from my visit to the tiny ancient fishing village of Crail.

"I"recognized right from the moment that "I" first set foot in the village that "I" had found a place of unusual interest for further study and work back in the studio. The saturation of my senses began there at that same moment... and prompted me to work only in pen and ink for the remainder of my visit. Colour puts my senses into "overdrive". One could safely say that "I" ... am a "colour junky".

The scene that "I" was most drawn to... was a view looking back down "The Hen's Ladder"... a cleverly designed series of gradual and alternating inclined planes that gradually lifted one from the harbour far below to the village level several hundred feet above. From the pinnacle of this zigzag structure... one looked over rusty red terracotta and slate roofs... studded with a multitude of chimney pot types... to the walled harbour... and beyond to the bluest harbour and sky... that one can imagine. It possessed all of the "Magic" of "Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang" and Harry Potter... combined!

An hour of "playing" at the monitor yielded the preliminary study/sketch... the place from which "I" would step into my first larger canvas. All that remained to be decided before actually beginning the canvas was the size... or format to be used. As strange as it might seem... it took another two days to arrive at that decision - square... or rectangular vertical format?

I had a toned burnt sienna toned 30x36" canvas hangin' about... so that went to the easel... and "I" simply dove into "exploring" with vine charcoal... to feel out a composition that worked for "Me". That part took a couple of hours... before I was finally satisfied with the composition and drawing enough to spray a coat of fixative to secure or "fix" the drawing and eliminate unwanted greying and blending of the charcoal and colour during the underpainting process.

The two jpegs in today's post record these two initial parts of my painting process for "Looking Down the Hen's Ladder". Note that the difference in quality between plein air sketches completed on location and the preliminary sketch or study developed in front of my monitor is really minimal.

I think that this fact supports my own belief that plein air study over years develops one's ability "to see"... and to work as one does when outdoors. There is no substitute for working from Nature. It is only "out there"... where all of the senses coalesce... and create an excitement that champions and guides individual artistic growth and development.

The experience and knowledge gained through this long term exposure to natural subjects and conditions formulates a confidence and ability to "imagineer" and recreate seasonal... lighting and colour effects similar to those on location... with more accuracy and truth. Just my thoughts... but perhaps... worth the effort to try. It works for "Me"!

Stay tuned for further development of the canvas....

Good Painting to All!


  1. That watercolor drawing/painting is lovely and I am certain the painting will be fabulous as well... Glad you've got your muse with you again!

  2. Bruce, you are exactly what the art doctor ordered. I will give it a try. I love painting outdoors. But what a great idea, the plein air sketch, to the computer to the easel. Thank you for sharing your process.

    I love your watercolor painting and also look forward to your larger painting.

    All the best to you.

  3. Hi Marian!... Thank "You" for your continued interest and support!

    We all share in the "highs n' lows" that accompanies trying to be creative... and to maintain contact with "the Muse"!

    "He"... or "She" comes and goes seemingly as they please. How wretched the feeling... when paralysis/artist's block sets in. Sort of like having the urge to go to the bathroom... but nothing comes out!HAHA!!!

    Thanks for the encouraging words.... "I" will get down to work now!

    Good Painting Marian!
    Warmest regards,

  4. Hi again Joan!... This process works for "Me"... and a host of other serious and productive artists!

    Give it a try! I'm sure it will add confidence and improve your already great sketches and painting!

    "I" will be watching your progress!

    Good luck with it,,, and Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Oh Bruce, how I relate to Sensory OVERLOAD!!
    Being an artist is really channeling all the sights, sounds, smells and essence of 'being' in the now.
    This is a beautiful sketch and painting.
    Thanks also for your generous comments which make my day.

  6. Hello back Mary!.... Thank "You" for the visit and for your very encouraging comments.

    Blogging is such a wonderful vehicle to form "connections" with "Others" who share equal passion and commitment to painting.

    "I" honestly can say that my visits to your vivid and creative world fires my own enthusiasm for what "I" am trying to accomplish with my own "view" of the world.

    Good Painting... and vacationing Mary!

    Warmest regards,

  7. That top piece you posted (in prep for your work to come) just truly grabbed my eyes. I was instantly reminded of sketches and drawings I've seen of the old masters. Your work is always just as beautiful to my eyes, Bruce.

  8. Hi Autumn!.... Thank "You". Quite a compliment. But regardless of the fact that my work falls well below the quality of the masters... the intent is there to prepare through careful observation and planning in the beginning of the painting process.

    Draughtsmanship... in my opinion... is the foundation of "good" art. Everything that comes after it... colour... values... detail... whatever... depends upon on this framework. Further effort and work trying to disguise its absence... only draws attention to the weakness further.

    I believe in keeping a daily sketchbook like a journal.In it one can record ideas and impressions that can become forgotten. It needn't become a "public" record. It can be only for personal reference and experimentation with ideas and technique.

    Even if one can't paint every day... one should at least try to make a drawing or two. It trains the eye... and disciplines the mind... and pays dividends every time you step to the easel.

    Thanks again forer your uplifting and encouraging comments!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,