Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why a Sketch is not a Painting.

"North towards Cape Ferrelo,
(Harris Beach, Brookings, Oregon Coast)
Oil Sketch on Centurion Oil Primed Linen Panel

(I managed to make a post using my tablet.  It was not easy, since I am not used to the workings of a tablet; it may allow me to continue posting while my laptop is being repaired, albeit less frequent.  Thanks for bearing with me.)

This work is a good example of an Oil Sketch and not a small Painting. Sometimes, as I have stated in an earlier post, there is a fine line between what may be deemed a sketch or a painting. Sometimes it may boil down to mere intent, as there seemingly may not be much of a difference between the two. A sketch is often done to gather information for a possible, or actual, larger work, and at other times it is done for the sheer joy of it, and with nothing further in mind for its use at any later date, although who's to say that it might not ultimately be used as such a reference? A sketch is also generally looser and just plain, well … sketchy, although not always. Confused yet? 

The intentions for these "Not Quite a Painting a Day," works are as sketches, but some do turn out to be actual small paintings, complete in themselves; but not this one. Let me describe the day and how it went, and perhaps this will show that the conditions under which a work was done may decide what it becomes. There was a lot of blue sky with a bit of cloud on the northern horizon as I drove through Brookings on my way Harris Beach, but by the time I loaded up my painting outfit and trucked on down to the shore, that northern cloud had come racing in. It wasn't a complete overcast, but mostly high cirrus and mackerel clouds with a lot of sun poking through. Then by the time my painting site was chosen and gear set up, banks of fog began to roll through, coming and going. 

The block-in using Ultramarine proceeded over the Venetian Red imprimatura, and then came the first problem … what to do about the sky. I had liked he sky as it was when I first arrived at the carpark, mostly blue with cirrus, but now the intermittent fog banks were regularly obscuring the higher mackerel sky. Then here was a longish break, and I began to dash in the higher cloud as the banks of fog were now out beyond Cape Ferrelo in the distance, partially obscuring the two sea-stacks beyond. While I was working on this the fog rolled in, and I continued working on the sky from memory. Later after I went on to the sea and the stacks & islands close to, the sky got really nice, but there was no time to go back; the decision and the work had been done as far as the sky was concerned. I pretty much described these closer rocks and shore as they were, including the white block of rock on the extreme right. The pattern of light and shade, on these, deviates from the original block-in. Time had passed and the shadow patterns had become more interesting than the few shadows evident at the beginning. The strip of blue creek crossing the sand in the foreground was dashed in with two or three brush strokes … nice and sketchy.

So, back to the original premise of this being deemed a sketch and not a small painting, and an informational sketch at that? The sky is not thought out as well as it might have been, but is a transcription of a few moments within a series of "few moments," any of which might have been jotted down, and some others would have worked better; but it does remain as a reference that might be used in some future work, and for that it remains valuable in and of itself. The white rock on the right sticks out like a sore thumb, as it does in reality, and might be a case of either eliminating it altogether from the work, or composing the scene in such a way as to better incorporate it within the composition of a future painting. It was there and those who know the area would be able to identify which beach the painting was done on, so decisions would have to be made if this were to be more than an informational sketch. The shadows on the rocks became more interesting than those of the original block-in, and I many times begin these afternoon sketches, knowing that this will be the case, so this is not a real problem. It is more of a problem in the morning, as the mid-day light dissolves away the interesting shadow patterns seen at the beginning of a mornings work; then it behooves the painter to block in the shadows and stick to it throughout the work session. With these things under consideration then, this work is best considered an informational sketch, rather than a well thought out painting, but as such it contains much value for future work, as well as for the experience gained in the actual painting of it. The more of these sketches one does gives one the experience to make the essential decisions rapidly and thus allowing some of them to become actual complete paintings, in spite of the original intentions.

I have mentioned the imprimatura and the block-in, so the other pigments used were Cerulean, Cobalt & Ultramarine Blues, Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red and Cremnitz White, with a bit of Titanium White for the brightest whites of the waves. 

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