Last Saturday night I went and saw an American band called The Black Angels. Their style of music is very psychedelic, grungy, bluesy rock and roll. I am reminded a little of Jefferson Airplane and the Doors. My friend and I sat upstairs at the Enmore Theatre and right at the front. I dont normally like sitting down for gigs, but for me this kind of music is a “chill out” sound.
I took my sketchbook with me and a cheap throw-away Japanese brush pen. I must wrack my knuckles (is that a proper saying?) each time I go out with a half-dried up pen!! Its the equivalent of not throwing out old milk, every time you go to use it only then you realise it needs to be replaced.
This brush pen was already on its last legs when I took it with me, so as I am drawing the Black Angels in the dark, wondering why I couldn’t see anything definitive on my page, it was because my pen was drying out.
Having said that, I think the blurry, washed out effect suits their music. So there’s always an upside to everything I suppose.
I finally found time to head out to an Urban Sketchers Australia meet up. I couldn’t stay the entire day so I went in earlier to get a head start.
After spending some time considering how to approach drawing architecture (see Brick by Brick post) I really wanted to implement what I learnt. It wasn’t so much about getting it technically correct, but how to capture the “personality” of buildings and create more direction or composition on the page.
What everyone loves about these Victorian buildings are the intricate details and ornate flourishes. As a sketcher they can be overwhelming. Even when you attempt to keep a lot of that detail out or decide to only focus on a smaller section, it’s hard not to get lured in.
This visit I spent more time just looking at my scene before I put pen to paper. When I decided how I was going to approach it, I proceeded to put my structural lines in as a light watercolour wash keeping it all still very loose and gestural.
I also wanted to create depth of perspective between the staircase and the building. So I watered down my ink to draw the building then used it straight from the bottle for the staircase.
I realised it was too contrasting and looked more like two separate pictures instead, so I added little hints of the saturated ink to the background – mostly in the windows. That seemed to anchor them together. A gust of wind threw some leaves into the air so I decided to capture that as well, and I think it animates the picture too.
I love all the archways around this main building, and at this particular moment the morning sunlight was peeking through the clouds and hitting the wall, so I wanted to capture that. I originally planned to do this as a watercolour wash and ink in the lines, but I ended up developing it so much that I decided to leave out the linework. I think it’s because I used a smaller brush to paint with – a Winsor & Newtown Cotman No.5 then my usual 8 or 10 Roymac.
Again, what ties this picture together is using some of the Payne Grey and Burnt Umber in both the foreground and background, of varying concentration. And I made it interesting by not putting detail in everywhere. I know it sounds like a simple thing to implement, but it’s so hard to pull back.
I wish I had taken my camera with me to show you how intense this building was. On the right hand side is the beginning of a clock tower and there was so much ornamentation along the walls and windows, etc. It was a big scene and trying to find a smaller point of interest was hard.
I went for the rooftop because not only did it have some lovely Victorian detail but it also had some quiet areas too. I also made use of the flat shadows that were falling across the sides to help balance out the intricacies and give it some volume.
With only a half hour left, I tackled something not so mentally challenging. These buildings are dotted with gargoyles and grotesques that are just wonderful. As I had warmed up a bit with the other sketches, I was really loose by the time I drew these. I let my instincts take over and had some fun.
To see some of the work from my fellow Australian sketchers that day please visit USK Australia.