Saturday, June 08, 2019

Nature Hike Sketches: New England

Ever since I seriously got back into art last year, I've become more and more interested in travel sketching and painting and plein air.  I love travel doodles and sketches, and do them more frequently now, so when I read in depth about plein air and heard watercolourists talk about it on their YouTube videos, I became enamoured with the concept.  I tried it a bit last summer, and loved it, but of course summers are short here, so I did it in spurts in winter.  When it wasn't so cold that I froze right away, I tried more taking my sketchbooks out to wildlife sanctuaries and popular birding and nature hike areas, and loved the sketches I produced.  I became comfortable with nature journalling- painting doodles with phrases and words scrawled alongside as they sprang to mind.  Once I was comfortable with that, I need to conquer plein air.  I've just started it, so I won't share too much of that juuust yet, but I will share some of my "nature spotting" pieces and early plein air pieces right now!  Early meaning before I decided that I loved plein air enough to dedicate a backpack to it, and not just move a sketchbook and field artist kit around in whatever I happened to be carrying that day.

Done in my Pentalic Aqua sketchbook.  Leaves are from a nature hike back home in Arizona, the rest is from Maine.
This was one of my first "true" nature journalings.  Sure, the item is manmade, but I didn't plan it out beforehand or anything like that, I just happened to be walking along a path, saw this structure with the words "solitary bee habitat" and was so intrigued by its look and the phrase that I sketched and painted it on the spot.  I did look it up after, and it turned out to be a bee hotel.  My educational background is in environmental science and ecology, so that was really cool to see!

Above: Sketches from an Audubon Center hiking trail.  Left are some sights I saw on the path from the top of a treehouse like structure, and the right is a lake view where I saw a great blue heron fly overhead.

Both of those are from the same location.  The mushroom and doodles were done on-site, with a field watercolour set, again in my Pentalic Aqua sketchbook.  The postcard was done after the fact, from a reference photo I took using my phone, and is on 4x6 Khadi Handmade rough watercolour paper.  With the postcard, I wanted to see how well I could suggest a vivid, detailed scene using only the most basic of shapes, so I chose a paper that would not allow me to go into a lot of detail, both because of its size and its texture and how it absorbs water and pigment.  The result is what made me love this paper instead of just wanting to get rid of it already.  This also began an obsession I seem to have developed with the line "A family of trees wanted to be haunted" from "Kids" by MGMT echoing in my head whenever I paint certain forest scenes.  Not bad, it seems appropriate.  But it only seems to happen when I paint trees in view of water.  Interesting.

And now, for a place that I find myself painting again and again: Great Bay, New Hampshire.

Above: The first time I visited AND the first time I painted this, in my Pentalic Aqua sketchbook again.

The first time I painted this scene I couldn't get it out of my head, so I followed it up with a doodle of the place in sunset, on an artist trading card:

Little doodle with a little song...

As you can see, that song quote makes an appearance again.  I don't know why I keep scrawling it on these New Hampshire and Maine forest sketches.  Because I painted Great Bay AGAIN (more pines, actual pine content exaggerated) on the Khadi Papers postcard sized paper, and behold:

Sennelier watercolours and Noodler's Heart of Darkness ink on Khadi Papers 4x6 rough watercolour paper.

And another, from when the summer was fading.
Okay, that last one was on Fluid 100 5x7 cold press watercolour paper.  Not terrible paper, not the best.  I'm shocked it's the price it is since it has the feel of a high-quality budget paper, but retail price is a little more than 5x7 sheets of Fabriano Artistico.  I bought the Fluid 100 sheets on clearance last year, and if it ever drops to that $10 or less price again I would snatch up large amounts of them.  But otherwise, I can't see myself forking over that much money for watercolour paper that doesn't lift well or take masking fluid when better quality papers are available for less per sheet.  But, back to the scene:  the summer was fading in New England and I felt compelled to paint the scene again because I went there and the water was just so damn blue.  I failed to capture the line of reflection dividing the treeline and marsh grasses from the bay, but I'm happy with the feel of the piece.