Learning about Yourself while Messing Around with Mixed Media

March 21, 2017
Mixed media sketch of a Papillon on 6 x 9 inch watercolor board.

The other day I wanted to get some sketching done but it was late. I found a cute puppy photo on the Sktchy app and picked up a red China pencil/marker to do a quick sketch. Then I grabbed a green color pencil—lime green. I started filling in some areas with it. I didn’t have a plan except that I wanted the whole thing to be stylized and loose (inspired by those papillon ears).

It was really just a way to unwind after a day full of technical difficulties and frustrations.

I was working on a piece of cold press watercolor board that I’d cut down to 6 x 9 inches. It’s a little too vertical for most things, but it was useful to simply cut the original boards in half. I find that I’m always, no matter how large or small I begin my drawing, running out of space, like here, with the ears.

The initial stages of my sketch. After putting in a bit of lime green, I added the background with an acrylic marker.

In the second image I took to show my progress you can see the original sketch lines and the original lime green color pencils. I wasn’t sure if I liked the color pencil (it happened to be the only color at hand—go figure—a color I never use). I was still pondering what I would do with the whole sketch. I wasn’t sure what level of detail I wanted. (Note: the spacing on the left side of the image to the text isn’t coming up correctly, it’s one of the things I’ll be discussing with the web designer. You never get to find all these things until you get to use them! I’ve been without internet for 4 days so I’m just getting back into it.)

I typically like to paint something at the end of the day if I haven’t been able to paint during the day, so I got out the Schmincke pan watercolor set I set up to take to last year’s Minnesota State Fair. (When all the website wrinkles are ironed out—I’ll write about the palette and I’ll even post my images from that event!)  

I’ve been playing around with Helio Blue Red Shade which is in other lines Phthalo Blue Red Shade. I think as a blue it’s still a little greenish for my taste but I’ve committed to giving it a fair go so I’m using it for most things these days to really test it out. Besides, the PB60 pan was almost empty!

The early washes added to my sketch. The lime green pencil is getting pretty covered. I’m not sure whether I want it to show much or not.

In this sketch I put a scarlet wash in the ears and when they dried I used the Helio Blue Red Shade to mix my “black” with a madder brown and sometimes maroon perylene—I was working so fast I sometimes got one and then the other.

After the initial washes of watercolor I almost stopped. It had a nice looseness that I liked and I never had a planned direction, so why not. But I still wanted to play some more.

Below you’ll see a detail of this loose stage.

I decided that I would do more red China marker sketches in the next few weeks to see if I like them, but for now I was going to push this some more. I started adding various paint markers, another layer of watercolor to bump up the contrast, and then I brought back the lime green in a big way on top of everything else. I also tried more strident red watercolor lines around portions of the figure, but didn’t’ like those everywhere So I blended them with my dark neutrals.

Detail from the wash stage. I like the looseness of this, but couldn’t decide if I wanted the great to go.

I think my sketch lost the sweetness of the original photograph. The lime green at the end is getting too fussy as I’m using it to hide some of the paint marker I thought too hard. And I’ve also got other bits of paint marker showing. I’d reached the point where it was becoming something totally different from my original intention and I was just exploring to see “what happens.”  I was about to get out more markers and make it all about acrylic markers. That’s when I stopped because I realized that all I’d wanted to do all day, and in fact all week, was to get out the gouache.

Time to stop fussing, go to bed and get up early to paint with gouache.

Detail of today’s sketch, showing close up of some of the paint and pencil layers.

Sometimes I think the things we learn about ourselves when we are sketching are more important than the sketch we’re making. Sketching forces us to make choices quickly (because of paint drying times and paint movement). It forces us to take leaps of faith. And sketching helps us remind ourselves that it’s alright to play and fiddle. And fall down while taking those leaps. It’s alright to give up on our initial intention, feel our way to something else, and explore some more. It’s how we train our editing eye—which helps us bring our intentions onto the page with specific feedback about things we can change or try.

In the process of experimenting we discover new directions that might be worth pursuing further, or we rule out directions we don’t want to go. We might even look at balancing our lives so that we get some gouache time.

(I’m still playing around with the new site’s controls on images to see how they can fit in a post, especially when they are verticals—I’m doing a lot of long verticals these days. We’ll see how this goes over time.)

NOTE: If you haven’t worked it out yet, click on any image in the post and you’ll see an enlargement and be able to scroll through enlargements of the other images in the post. This feature doesn’t work with the 2,100 posts that were brought over from Typepad I am sorry to say. It has to do with how Typepad sets up image links. I’m still considering redoing all those links manually sometime later this year when I have some spare time—but it might turn out that it is too time consuming, I have probably 3,000 images—you know I’d rather be sketching. So it might just be the final result of having been on Typepad.

    • Tina
    • March 21, 2017

    Your new site looks great, and I love seeing this progression of work! I can’t believe you would ever have enough “spare time” for that manual link redoing (the thought of it makes my hair stand on end) — please sketch instead! Really! Life is too short for manual link redoing!

    – Tina

      • Roz Stendahl
      • March 21, 2017

      Tina, I appreciate you looking out for me. Sometime toward the end of the summer I’m going to do one hour and see how many links I can get done. If it seems doable in small increments I might do 30 minutes every so often and so work on it in that way. I’d like to do it because all the “detail” images I created won’t show up unless I do it.

      But we’ll see. Thanks for checking in. I’m glad you like the site and enjoyed this post.

    • Cathy
    • March 22, 2017

    I also love your new site and get inspiraton from your wonderful sketches!

    1. Reply

      Thanks Cathy, for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed this post and are liking the new site. I’ve got things to work out, but it’s getting a bit easier.

    • Patricia
    • March 23, 2017

    I think you are brave and admirable for starting a new site. Looks great!! I am loving working in the Hahnemuhle sketchbooks. I am doing another Sketchbook Skool course and did a self portrait just with gouache the other day and was very pleased how the paper responded to it. I was using the gouache fairly thick. Almost like oil paint. It was fun! Thanks for recommending them.

    1. Reply

      Well thank you Patricia, I’ve printed this out and will post it over my desk to remind me when I am screaming STUPID, STUPID, STUPID, why now???? I am so glad you are loving your Hahnemühle Nostalgie Sketchbook!! I think they are great for gouache too. Keep having fun with it and enjoy your course!

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