One of the artists whose work I admire on the One Drawing A Day blog, Michelle Bedigian, posed a challenge over a week ago. She recounted that one of her former teachers had challenged her to “Go Big” when she went out to sketch on site. This was to shake things up a bit and to make her approach a drawing differently. The “big” size she was challenged to do was 36″ x 42″…oi!
I took this challenge immediately! However, not even owning a board or paper coming anywhere near that size, I decided to use the largest piece of paper I had which was 22″ x 30″. All week long I looked forward to taking the hot press w/c paper on a board with my French easel and all kinds of drawing media and watercolors, to our Ciener Botanical Gardens here in Kernersville, NC. I typically draw and paint there with no bigger than a 9″ x 12″ sketchbook, so this was going to be fun! I have certainly done larger paintings and drawings on location before, but this time I wanted to approach it in a similar manner to how I work in my sketchbook and see what would happen. In other words, I wanted to “think drawing”, rather than “proper painting”. This may not mean anything to you, but in my mind, there’s a big difference.
Friday morning dawned with gray skies and spitting rain. We had been having this weather all week and I was just sure the clouds would part for Friday’s adventure. Humph. Not to be daunted, I hauled my stuff there anyway, determined to find some way to “Go Big”, even in the misting rain. Right as I hopped out of my car, I saw it. Just the view I wanted to draw! Flowers in the foreground, main building behind with the Methodist church in the far background. Yes! And as I got out my stuff, I realized the back hatch of our vehicle would provide some shelter from the spitting rain. Perfect.
I was joined by two of my dear artist friends from Reidsville who had come to Kernersville to draw with me. They were not daunted either and found a terrific spot under an awning to draw for the morning. Once my setup was in place (which was truly perfect using the back of my car to open up all the supplies for ease of reach) I attacked the drawing, trying not to think too much. I had splashed a bit of watercolor on the page the night before. I often enjoy drawing over an underpainting (or rather an undersplashing). It helps tone down the large white expanse of the paper and offers lovely surprises later on as you view the finished the drawing. (See the first photo above for the “drawing only” on top of the pre-splash of watercolor.)
I got really caught up in the moment, only stepping back a couple of times to take a look and dive back in. After two hours, I decided I had hit the “niggling” stage. This is where I begin adding little bits of this and that which aren’t really helping anything at all. Even though I wish I had stopped long before I was near niggling it to death (I almost like the “drawing only” version the best!), I still liked it immensely if only for the fact that I did it! I drew larger and more expansively and oh boy was it fun!
I can’t wait to do this again! My little brain is hopping with ideas and different approaches and mixes of media! Definitely a challenge worth taking many times over! Perhaps you’ll try it too! I highly recommend it!
I’m including some close-ups of specific areas of the drawing so you can see it better. It really was a gray day so I apologize if the photos are a bit dim as well. C’est la vie!
And in case you’re curious as to the media I used, here’s a list:
Faber-Castell watercolor pencils, Feber-Castell PITT artist pens of various tones of black and gray, Prismacolor Premier Fine-Line Marker 08, Loew-Cornell oil pastels, Loew-Cornell 7020 Ultra Round watercolor brush size 14, American Journey Watercolor paints with a few DaVinci Gouache colors.
Here’s a definition of the word “niggle”:
nig•gle (ˈnɪg əl)
v.i. -gled, -gling.
1. to spend too much time and effort on inconsequential details; trifle.
2. to criticize in a peevish way; carp.
***Should you be up for an excellent read about an artist’s life, read J.R.R. Tolkein’s Leaf by Niggle.