Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's not work

"Quiet Power" ACEO can be bid on here.
Copyright Rita Woodburne

"Gone With the Wind" ACEO can be bid on here.
Copyright Rita Woodburne

So I'm back with another installment on my VanGogh project. I'd like to have a bunch of sketches to show you but those are going to have to wait until next week because my camera battery is charging right now. Guess I should really check these things before hand, eh?
That said, I still want to touch on the subject of the importance VG attached to sketching/ pre-planning for larger works and my own feelings about the process. This isn't going to be a post heavy on VanGogh himself but more a post for myself and what I've worked on over the past week and a half in regards to my sketching.

As I mentioned before, and as anyone who is familiar with VanGogh and his working process will already know, he attached a fair bit of importance to sketching (meaning practicing one's drawing skills in general) and also to planning out any issues that one might have before delving into a larger piece. After all, who wants to get half way through an 18x24" only to realize that you should've moved that birch tree behind the rock rather than in front of it? It could be changed but you just know it'll irk you as you work on the rest of the piece.

I bring this up because there's a large work I'd like to do with the culmination of what I "discover" along the way in doing this project. It'll be done in coloured pencil (and possibly some pastel) but in order to get the image I want I need to cobble together several reference pictures and do some colour, value and shadow adjusting. No small task for myself as I don't often find the need to use several different pictures and collage them together, at least not as many as I have lined up for this piece.

What have I gotten myself into?

I've never done a lot of pre-planning (heck I can't remember the last time I did any pre-planning) for any of my works. I've always felt it was a buzz-kill and this is something that I'm hoping to change or at the very least resolve to embrace as an important learning tool. VanGogh seemed to delight in the whole process of working out problems before putting paint brush to canvas and I often wonder if it had something to do with the immediacy of both his medium and process. Oil paint can be very forgiving and painting with it, without question, is much faster than coloured pencil even on the best of days. Labouring over a piece doesn't strike me as being particularly enjoyable but then again, I could adopt the attitude that it's not labouring over a piece so much as it is savouring the creation of the piece, right? How's that for trying to change one's mind-set? ;)

I'm really kicking myself for not making sure that I had my battery charged because I really did enjoy doing the sketches and I'm noticing that it is slowly turning into more of a habit rather than something I feel I need to do. I had also done some sketches for the larger piece I mentioned earlier and I felt that in doing them little things were falling into place that would help me tackle the larger, final work.
Last week was quite higglety-pigglety for me so I didn't get to do as much sketching as I would've liked but life tends to get in the way of having fun from time to time. When I wasn't sketching I found myself thinking of what I'd like to try next so the fact that it's entering my mind as something to do for fun to pass the time is a good thing, a very good thing. Let's see if it can persist...


Lisa B. said...

What I notice in Van Gogh's oils is how similar the brush strokes are to his pen drawings. I think he liked drawing with paint just for the color.

As labor intensive as colored pencil is, it makes tons of sense to have the final composition worked out beforehand. Especially if it's a large piece!

Rita said...

It definitely does makes sense Lisa, if for no additional reason than it can be a bugger to fix your mistakes. ;)

I noticed that VG's later drawings start to reflect his painting style with more of the choppy strokes and angles that you can readily see in his oil paintings. Without a doubt Van Gogh definitely loved his colour so you may be onto something!

Meg Lyman said...

Can't wait to see the sketches.

I recently noted that for me, "prework" for a piece involves just as much *thinking about it* as sketching and planning. It's nice, because you can think while driving or in the shower.

Rita said...

I know what you mean Meg. Still, I have to admit, most of my planning takes place in my head. That said, I want to try getting more of my head-space onto know, so I have more to think about! :p

Ann said...

Interesting post, Rita. I haven't been in the habit of doing much planning of my works either, and probably should :) I really like you sketches from the earlier post and look forward to seeing more. What I have found with doing the weekly EDM challenges is that although in themselves they are not great art by any means it is a good exercise for me and my confidence with drawing has improved greatly. I am much less intimidated by what might have been more difficult subjects for me to tackle just a short time ago.

Rita said...

Thanks for sharing that perspective Ann, I'm glad/ relieved to hear that I'm not the only one that's not big on pre-planning! :D
Much like yourself I'm also finding that, bit by bit, the sketching is helping me with final pieces in that I'm able to tackle issues that I previously would've balked at. Art really is learning about "how to see" isn't it?

Ann said...

Rita, I am afraid I have done it to you again! I'm sorry. This time it's an award. I thought you deserved it after I went and tagged you. If you want to play (and you certainly don't have to if you'd rather not) details are on my blog :)

Rita said...

No problem Ann! :D
I appreciate the award and I'll be more than happy to play along!