Sunday, 5 October 2014

They're all just creative tools

When I woke up on Saturday morning, the dream from which I was emerging involved being with you at some sort of garden center where we had been walking around looking at plants and flowers, and we were heading into a cafe for tea and cake.  (I woke up before we even got to the cake counter, gosh darn it!)  But as I was putting on my robe and heading downstairs, I was wondering whether your Saturday morning had been spent at a cafe/garden center, and your Saturday was psychically drifting into my sleeping subconscious.  I would not be surprised, the way we can overlap each other's thoughts so eerily sometimes.

So later, when I'd made coffee and was cruising through my Feedly blog pages, I was bemused to see your Saturday cafe post.  So perhaps there was a psychic overlap.  At any rate, your Saturday blogging spot looked very charming to me from the photos -- although those chairs do look awfully  stern and hard compared to the saggy softness of the Cedar Farm sofas!

I am delighted that using a different brush has changed your painting experience!  I went and looked at the Rafael Soft Aqua brushes -- I do not have any but now I must try one or two!.  Your colors do look much brighter and I"m glad you're getting the look you want, not to mention the satisfying feel of the brush you like!  I often really like how something looks (color and value wise) when it's just painted and still damp ... and then, of course, it pales as it dries and I don't like it as well.  I know that learning to anticipate how it will look dry as you paint wet is part of the watercolor learning curve.  And learning how to go back in and add more depth with more darks is, too.  Seems like the last stages of anything I sketch are always about MORE DARK.  MORE DARK.  STILL MORE DARK.  And then I tip over into ACK, MUDDY MESS.  It's a fine line, that last stopping point.

When I was in Washington two weeks ago, I did a bit of sketching and definitely struggled a bit with painting a lot of beigey-brown shells, and getting the darks right.

Anyway.  I'm going to try some of those brushes. (By the way, you will laugh at this.  I just paused to go look again at the brushes, I put a few in the online shopping cart and got  a message:  "Congratulations!  You are just $86.14 away from free shipping on your order!"  I stopped myself for shopping for $87 worth of additional art supplies which I no doubt could have found quite easily.)  I know a lot of people love the waterbrushes, and I carry a few for the total convenience of the water-with-you-at-all-times aspect... But I don't like the color results I get with them, they feel far less predictable to me.

And I love your bulb recipe page!  Very clever and charming!  And bright!

Congratulations on the new camera!  I have (now, because of you) read about the new mirrorless cameras and they sound great -- capable of great photos AND light and compact.  You asked about how I decide to sketch or photograph.  For me, it's about my mood, and how much time I have.  I view them as very different activities, actually. 

Taking pictures, for me, is more about capturing something in the moment.  It's a sort of fast thing.  It's not that I don't take time, or think about what I'm doing.  And really, it's the seeing before taking the photo that is the part that takes time.  I'm consciously choosing what I want to photograph, and thinking about different angles or light or what settings would give me the result I want.  I do snap a LOT of pictures -- I am not inclined to stand and ponder and fiddle with settings and then take 2 pictures.  (I went on a photo walk with someone like that once.  I think I took 50 photos to each of his.)  Anyway. And while traveling, I use my camera as a way of capturing images as I go.  For me, it still makes me look at things differently, notice color and pattern and light and value in a more specific way.  But I can snap a bunch of photos and keep going.

Sketching is a whole different thing to me, although there are overlaps in the seeing and thinking.  I'm still noticing color and shape and pattern and such.  But when I set out to sketch, I know that I will want to sit somewhere for a bit of time and just relax and draw and paint.  I'm looking to find ONE thing or scene that grabs me and makes me want to sit and explore it through drawing and painting.  It feels much more leisurely, and so far anyway, I don't like having to sketch faster than I usually do, or hurry to sketch that scene over there, and then that building down there, and then that clump of people over that way....  I know there are people who love recording things that way, and their fast sketching is a shorthand communication for them.  Maybe it's because I've not learned that approach and haven't tried it much, but for me the enjoyment of sketching has a lot to do with the sense of peace and meditation as I sit and really study what I'm drawing, being in one place and absorbing the ambient sounds and smells as I draw.

So, choosing to sketch or photograph?  It depends on my mood and what I feel like doing, plus it depends on how much time I have.  When I traveled with my sister, some days we set out knowing we planned to pick somewhere and then sit and sketch. And other days, we knew ahead of time that we were going to go and walk around and take pictures, and then come home and sketch, mostly because it was so dang hot and we wanted to be back inside in the worst heat of the day.

You asked if I ever do both sketching and photographing in relation to the same subject.  And at first I thought that no, I don't usually -- unless I sit down to sketch somewhere out in the world, and take a few photos of the sketch subject in case I run out of time or someone parks smack in front of my subject which seems to happen ALL THE TIME.  But then I remembered that when my sister and I were in Yosemite earlier this summer, I did do both.  There is so much gorgeousness to see there, and we only had a day there.   So we both took tons of photos.  Here's one, for example:

(You can see more here.)  But we wanted to just sit and BE there, too, so we planned some time for sitting and sketching, too.

 And now that I think of it, we did the same thing in the little gold rush town of Columbia on that same trip.  We walked and took a lot of photos.

 (More of Columbia here, btw).  But then we also made a point (well, I insisted!) to just sit and sketch, too.

Oh look, I took a photo of this very scene before I started painting.

So it turns out that I did both.  And they felt like totally different activities to me. 

What do you think?  How do you anticipate using your camera versus sketching?

By the way, I've heard some longtime sketchers say things that struck me as rather disparaging of the process of photography, and I've always disagreed.  Things like photography being like mindlessly xeroxing while sketching is thoughtful, individual interpretation, that sort of distinction.  And I think it's absolutely wrong and reflective of ignorance about the artistic process that can be involved in photography.  So I know that in the sketching world, some people express disdain for people who use cameras or choose to photograph a travel experience rather than sketch it.  I think that's just silly.  Both are ways of seeing and capturing and interacting with the world in front of you in a creative way.

 I put that photo up top, by the way, because you can see the reflection of me taking the picture in the glass.  A subtle selfie!  Seemed appropriate for this post.

By the way, you know that by the time this posts I will be on my way to a quilt retreat.  In the past I've tried to do a sketch each day, which has usually involved wandering outside and spending an hour or so drawing and painting. I'll bring my camera and sketching supplies as usual, but this time I suspect I'll take a lot more photos and maybe not do too much sketching, as I have a lot of sewing I want to get done.  I'll let you know!

Also, I'm glad that you posted. I've missed our TT4T postings!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Cracked it!

Dear Diane,
Hey! How are you?! I couldn't get a table at our usual BocBoc cafe so I am re-trying a farm shop about fifteen minutes away. I came once and it was not that good but I am giving it a second go. As you can see its more countrified than our usual place and the chairs less comfortable but it was a nice sunny drive through country to get here, and its a quite place to blog and journal for a while so that's fine.

But look, I just have to show you this, I am so excited. You know how much I have struggled with  sketchbooking ( is that a word?) and how I like the immersion in the process but tend to be really disappointed with my output at the end. Well, I declare myself 95% happy with this spread. And the 5% unhappiness only relates to the ink smudges. They happened because my Platinum Carbon pen had been on a flight and like all fountain pens tended to leak a bit on first use after landing. Must be the cabin pressure or something. I didn't notice it was on my fingers. But, then again it reminds me of being on holiday so, maybe I am only 3% unhappy.

And in a roundabout way it was the holiday that made this page so happy-making. When I was in Florence I visited an art shop looking for useful souvenirs. Anything art related I didn't already have. And I ended up buying some Softaqua watercolour brushes by Raphael because they said they held twice the amount of colour of other brushes. And boy, do they! Much of my previous dissatisfaction - even after swapping to Daniel Smith paints - was my inability to get bright solid colour and to control fine lines. Turns out it was my brushes.  I don't know if, once post don line, this iPhone snap really shows it but there is a big difference in my work with these high paint  load brushes. I love them! You can get these brushes in the USA here and the UK here.

Now I need to find a good travel holder for them:)

I had had the soiled stained notes I scribbled(about what bulbs I had planted where)  set aside to write up into my garden journal for a week. Meanwhile I was debating whether or not to sign up to the storytelling class at Sketchbook Skool, simply because I am saving up for new camera lenses and I thought maybe I should put the cash in that direction. Then, hours before the class started I signed up on a whim and watched the first class early this morning in my PJ's. I have discovered that using Apple TV to watch on the full sized screen is a very good thing to do. And of course that class, on documenting a recipe ( or effectively) a creative process inspired me to go immediately and do this page.  I was amazed when I surfaced and realised I had spent nearly two hours on it. Where did that time go?!

[interlude: My soup came and it had an onion bhaji in it which was weird but absolutely fantastically delicious! If had dot photograph because of the strong side light from a window. I  am glad I tried here again!] 

Of course, whilst falling down the creative well like that is always a good thing, at the same time its not always possible for me to find such  a long time in one go.  And that brings me back to photography.

I know you love both your camera and your sketchbook and I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of my new Olympus mirrorless camera. So, I was wondering: when you are out travelling, or indeed, if you are pottering at home, what factors influence your decision to sketch or to photograph? Do you ever do both in relation to the same subject? How does the process differ for you?

I paused watching the Sketchbook Skool videos to make some toast and thought : I should draw this toast making process. Then I thought: but then the toast will go cold! Maybe I should take clever food photographs of my toast. But then, because I am still at the point and shoot stage and eagerly awaiting proper lenses and time to read my pile of photography books, I thought: but maybe a styled photo of toast isn't actually that quick. I don't know. Guess I will find out as I learn!

It will be interesting to see how the two different ways of making an image make me feel, how I experience the different media. Because I think for me a lot of making art is about that - how it makes me feel. My Softaqua brush trial gave me a "Yes!! At Last!" feeling.  Which I think ought to be celebrated with apple and berry crumble Don't you?  I'll nip down and get them. Do you want cream or ice cream with yours?


PS Something else deeply satisfying I learned whist typing this post. If you are in iOS 8 on ipad or iPhone, if you go to settings - general - keyboard - edit you can delete that IRRITATING emoticon key on the new keyboard that I kept hitting by accident.