This was the first full week of the Autumn Plein Air Drawing challenge, so I had time to do more than one drawing. However, steady sometimes heavy rain from Wednesday through Saturday kept me indoors the rest of the week. I seriously considered trying my hand a water soluble colored pencils during the rain, but wasn’t keen on getting wet myself!
My subject for this week was the sky. It was early evening and the light in the clouds was ideal for drawing. Lots of colors and shadows, too.
The clouds in the sky when I finished the drawing were not the same clouds in the sky when I began. It was a day of high winds and clouds were passing quickly, so rather than try to draw a specific cloud, I drew my impression of the overall pattern of the clouds as revealed by light and shadow. The only constant was the clear, blue sky.
The Methods I Used
I began by lightly and quickly sketching the general shape of the clouds, then laid down sky color as quickly as possible around that shape. I used blunt pencils and the sides of the pencils, to layer two shades of blue—Mediterranean Blue and Light Cerulean Blue—with hatching and cross-hatching strokes.
Blunt pencils and the sides of pencils also played a major role in the clouds. This time, however, I applied color in strokes following the contours of the clouds. You can see some of the initial layers in the unfinished parts of the clouds.
I used light-medium pressure in the early stages in order to get good coverage and color as quickly as possible.
Since I didn’t have much time for detail, I concentrated on color and values and on patterns of direct light and reflected light.
It took about 30 minutes to draw this. Maybe a little longer (I need to find a timer of some sort and then learn to use it!)
After the initial color was on the paper, I continued adding layers to build up color and value. I added warm tones on the bright sides of the clouds and in the reflected lights between clouds.
To finish, I burnished first with a colorless blender, then with white.
Time Spent Drawing
I’m estimating a minimum of 30 minutes, but no more than 45. I sat on the front step without a back support and that’s about all the longer I could sit without getting painfully uncomfortable.
What I Learned
Use methods and tools that allow me to lay down fields of color quickly. I’m a purist by nature. I prefer using colored pencil and only colored pencil on my drawings. Solvents for blending are acceptable, but I prefer not to use them.
However, that attitude doesn’t go very far for plein air drawing unless I’m drawing a stationary subject and/or I can revisit the subject as often as I need.
For everything else, I need to unbend enough to incorporate other drawing methods and, maybe even other mediums.
Burnishing is My Friend. I’ve never been a huge fan of burnishing, either, for the simple reason that it often left my drawings looking flat and waxy. But there is a place for burnishing in plein air drawing and I have better results when I use it. It doesn’t matter whether I use a colorless blender or a colored pencil, though using a colored pencil speeds the drawing process by allowing me to adjust color or value as well as burnishing.
Mead Academie Sketch Book, 9 inches by 6 inches, Heavyweight white paper
- Mediterranean Blue (Sky)
- Light Cerulean Blue (Sky)
- Slate Gray (Clouds)
- Jasmine (Clouds)
- Powder Blue (Clouds)
- Colorless Blender (Burnishing, Sky)
- White (Burnishing, Sky & Clouds)