One pencil, one sketchpad at Dry Comal Creek (New Braunfels)

30 minute sketch of a scene at Dry Comal Creek with a large tree and cactus.
30 minute sketch of a scene at Dry Comal Creek with a large tree and cactus.

This is a quick post of a great lesson I learned today. If you don’t like technical art stuff, you may skip this or use it to induce a powerful nap.  You were warned.

When you’re having trouble with your paintings outdoors, only take a pencil and a sketchpad to draw your potential painting. Do not paint. It’s very painful sitting in front of a scene full of color with only graphite, but it more painful to spend hours only to get a pitiful result … again… and not know why. The key here is to re-learn to see color in terms of value first.  Most likely, you will try a sketch and find it very hard because your subject is either too complicated or doesn’t have enough contrast to the rest of the scene. What results is a grey sketch.  At this point, don’t get discouraged.  This is when your “aha” moment can occur. As you start to look for a different scene, you begin to search subject you can draw, not paint.  You are now scanning the same scene, but seeing it in values.

The second point to drawing scenes is to re-learn to focus on the subject. How many time have you painted a scene and become lost in the details? You end up spending as much or more time on the background rather than the subject you’re focusing on. Drawing naturally re-focuses you to spend more time on the one or two main points in the sketch and let the background only support it. Here is the actual scene. Look how much detail there is! There are thousands of bluebonnets painfully, but necessarily being ignored.

If you like the drawing when you’re finished, then paint it and use the drawing for reference!!

The reference photo. Notice how value is lost or distorted comparing to the sketch.
The reference photo. Notice how much detail is left out on the sketch. 

I’m anxious to get back out there now that I’ve sketched the scene and understand it better. Next post? We’ll see.

Good luck and I hope this helps!


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