Chickens don’t really stay still. As part of Roz Stendahl’s week (also Sketchbook Skool) she really encouraged us to have a go and offered support about how to draw something that continually moves. I loved it – and was much more successful using watercolour than pencil or ink. They are all quick, gestural sketches, and there can be no overthinking or hesitation – you have to jump in! Yet also, you have to make time, and slow down, because you have to wait for the animal to get back in the same position again, before you can gather any more information. I like spending time observing animals, and seeing how they react to my presence.
I spent May – July 2016 living in a Shepherd’s Hut. I loved living in a small space, with minimal things, and opening the doors onto the chickens, sheep and alpacas each morning. So much so, that I am even considering moving into a studio apartment permanently! I liked living with minimal possessions, and spending less time cleaning and tidying! If you have less space, you have to have less stuff – and you just keep what you really need and love.
The kitchen was a challenge – one of those where you are forever lifting things up and trying to find a space in order to put something down. I did this picture was part of a Sketchbook Skool class from Beginnings. The tutor was Tommy Kane, who draws incredibly detailed pictures which take hours and uses lots and lots of cross hatching. I am not a big fan of cross hatching (not really patient enough) but I experimented with it here and enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.
One of the best things about living here was having live animals available to draw at all times. And sometimes they would just come and ask to be drawn – the alpacas would just sit outside my door in the evening, and still be there in the morning, looking at me curiously. It was fun to get out of bed and just paint straight away – you have to seize the moment before they decide to head off somewhere else! I found the sheep totally impossible to draw – perhaps because of their whiteness, or my lack of enthusiasm for the creature – all my attempts look dull, clunky and lack life.
In order to form a creative habit I have followed several Skillshare classes. This one was by Ana Victoria Calderon. This project was great for me because it combined ‘play’ as well as a final project.
The first step was to create watercolour pattern swatches:
Making the swatches was playful and experimental, allowing freedom to make mistakes and just have a go with a new idea, and taking the pressure off the making process. I made loads and they are something I will come back to – I am only showing you a selection!
The final project involved drawing a scene, and using the swatches to make an intensely patterned scene.
This drawing felt like a natural continuation of the preparatory work, making it easier to bypass the critical voice. The preparatory work helped to limit the choices, and narrowed the focus. I am naturally indecisive and can easily stall on a project because I can’t decide what to do next, so this really helped me.
This was my favourite part – painting these tesselating, colour blending shapes was unexpectedly satisfying and soothing. It was a good way to experiment with watercolour hue and saturation as well, I love how you can gradually adjust the blend, just by dipping in a slightly different puddle.
Next time I want to think more carefully about the colours, perhaps make colour swatches using a selected colour scheme to try it out. I would also consider how to help the eye move move across the picture more easily, and how to keep the turtle foregrounded.