Dungeness, watercolour pencil and charcoal
Sketching at Dungeness with coloured pencils
Lynette Farley - Posted on 17 Aug 2012
I know Dungeness well so I walked around taking photographs and writing notes. This was important, as I didn’t want to just go to my favourite spot, sit down, and draw what I expected to see. So when out sketching, start walking when you arrive. This task should take around 30 minutes and is invaluable in helping start the ideas flowing. At the end of the walk, look through your photographs and notes. You will probably find ideas and themes emerging on which you want to focus.
It is very easy to draw what you think you see; you become too involved in the paper and your sketch, and miss vital parts of the subject that is in front of you. Make it a rule to look at your subject every few seconds. I restarted the drawing of the boat (below) several times, as I started to assume I knew its formation. This ended up with odd-shaped boats very far away from what was in front of me!
Your photographs will become useful reference points, reminding you of colours, details and form when you are going through your research at home later. However, make the most of being on location by using keen observation. If you’re travelling light, you can move close to a subject to look at the detail then back up to understand its effect and place in the overall landscape. Don’t be afraid to make rough sketches to remind you of what you see; they don’t need to be works of art to be useful for subsequent paintings.
The photograph taken on location and referred back to when I completed the drawing
A carefully observed initial pencil sketch of the boat
A coloured drawing of the boat using watercolour pencils on top of the sketch. The focus is now on colour
The finished drawing is made richer by adding water to the watercolour pencil marks, (23x30.5cm)
1 The basic shape
Don’t be too precious to begin with; simply look at the basic shape and start drawing with your HB pencil and the rubber. Keep your pencil sharp, as you are focussing on form and soft lines can be blurred and less defined. Keep looking and looking; you are in front of the subject now, make the most of it!
2 Shade, colour and definition
Once you are happy with the basic shape, you can start to add shade, colour and definition with the watercolour pencils. I find it best to avoid adding water too early. When drawing on top of damp paper, the marks can be thick and difficult to water down. Instead, observe the darker and lighter areas and simply sketch as if you are using normal pencils. Once again, observation is essential and don’t assume you know what colour is needed. Look carefully and experiment on a separate sheet or by the side of the drawing.
3 Add water
Once you have finished the sketching, add water using an appropriate brush. This can bring your drawing to life and the results can be very exciting. Don’t be too hasty here, work from dark to light or vice versa. This avoids muddying the colours. Always work with a clean brush, too.
4 Finishing touches
You could finish off with chalk and charcoal. These few finishing strokes add definition and tone to make your drawing complete.
Working from the photograph (above), I sketched, coloured and added water. The sketch (below) was finished with chalk and charcoal to enhance the effect of light and shade.
Lynette’s Top Tips
- Pack two or three different sized sketchbooks; this way you can work with as much freedom as you like. A large A1 blank page could be intimidating when you’re warming up, whereas a small A5 page could be too fiddly for a full observation of the landscape around you.
- Go along with few expectations. By thinking you know what you will draw and how your drawings will look, you will become restricted in what you choose to focus on.
- Pack lightly. The less you have to carry, the more you can move around. The more you can move around, the more you can see and draw!
A sketchbook should be treated freely and with fun. Those notes you made can be added to the edges of your drawing to remind you of the atmosphere and the way you felt at the time. If you combine your thoughts, notes and photographs with sketches, both rough and finished, the effect can be quite beautiful. Rather than one polished image, you will have a permanent reminder of your whole experience – this can then be a useful resource in the future and a valuable work of art in its own right.