Salvage Job

I was ‘on location’ in King’s Lynn today; a lovely day (if a bit windy), perfect for sketching I thought. I had a window of about an hour to make a sketch, but the first hurdle was finding something to draw. I dithered badly, all the while aware that my time was ticking away…

Quay King's Lynn watercolour 2Finally, I sat on the quayside wall, looking out to sea. It was a fairly complicated, industrial scene of a working dock, complete with silos, masts, and a couple of of cranes. I set my outlines (not that well, it turned out), then plunged in with the watercolours. There was a ferocious wind blowing, threatening to knock over my waterpot, and whipping my paper up as I’d forgotten to bring any clips.

The paint was drying faster than I expected in the wind, and the sun was extremely bright, which was pleasant but also making it rather squinty. With some patchy colour added, I consoled myself that I could sharpen everything up with my trusty fineliner. Which fineliner would that be? Oh yes, the one I left at home. I very quickly found that my time was up, and all I’d got to show for it was a very blurry, muddy, imprecise sketch. I went home grumpy.

Still, once I’d had some lunch I had another look. The sketch hadn’t improved, but I found my fineliner and set to. Before long, things looked a bit better and there was some definition emerging. Although I don’t think I’ll be framing this one, I’m still pleased that I managed to salvage something from the morning. Thank goodness for fineliners!


25 thoughts on “Salvage Job

  1. Wow, if I could do work like this, I’d color myself happy. Really well done, Rebecca! I wouldn’t have even attempted this. Oh, for the day I could draw OR paint something this beautiful, especially in the conditions you described.

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    • Thank you for your kind words – and I’m sure you will get there. I know you’re very persistent and determined – please, don’t ever be put off because something looks ‘too hard’. Sometimes, you’ve just got to have a bash, and accept what comes. Every now and again, a ‘hard’ picture will surprise you and take you to new levels, even if it just teaches you what not to do! 🙂

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      • Thank you, Rebecca, I really appreciate your encouragement. I live in the country and would love to capture so many scenes, but I don’t feel I have any clue how to approach a landscape work – such as the outlines you mention. Do you mean that you blocked in the horizon and large objects first?

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      • Yes, that’s right. For me it went: outlines in pencil, horizon first, then the wall coming towards me and the shoreline, then the quay ‘business’ and the sheds etc.

        I put in the sky using watercolour, followed by basic water, shore and wall. Next came the tricky buildings, boats etc. That’s when I missed my pen!

        I usually use something like this order of events, mostly because I get scared and leave what I think is going to be the hard stuff til last 🙂 Because I’m not trying to produce a real ‘painting’, just a sketch, I don’t worry about erasing any pencil marks, etc once I’m ready to paint. And, for me, the pen truly is a saviour for adding definitition. I’m sure others have their favourite orders and techniques too… There’s nothing like having a go and finding out what works for you though!

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      • Thanks for explaining that; it’s definitely helpful. Can you recommend any books on landscape work that helped you? I feel like I do pretty well if I can just find the right book. Approaching a wide country meadow with maybe a distant barn and a horse or two, also in the distance, seems like it would be tough for me, at this point. But that’s the kind of work I’d really like to do. I really appreciate your tips, Rebecca, I probably need to do my own investigating from here. I really do love this painting, and I agree with Cynthia, I think the angle and composition are particularly good, because they pull the eye right in.

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      • I’m glad I can help a little. It’s hard to recommend a book – I’ve looked at quite a few, but mostly about watercolour technique (and I’m not very good at following their advice). One watercolour landscape artist I really love is John Blockley, and he has written quite a few books. The one I have is called Watercolour Practice and Progress. It’s ferociously expensive on Amazon, so I guess it’s out of print, but maybe a library could help? I lust after his landscapes…worth a look if you think watercolour might be your thing. I look forward to seeing your experiments!

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      • Thanks, Rebecca, I will check that book out! I would like to work primarily in watercolor. I feel I’m really better at colored pencil, but it’s got its own limitations, time being one of them. I don’t know, really, I’m feeling a little bit “art ADD” and I just want to do everything. I want to work with every medium, and do every subject. It’s a little kooky, actually. I was never good at art, but always wanted to be. Now that my daughter has flown away from home and moved out of state, I feel like there’s a big hole there and art seems to be filling the void. I just want to do absolutely everything. Were you like this at the beginning? Or did you always want to work in watercolor?

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      • Are you kidding? I’m still like that !!! And frankly, I don’t see what’s wrong with it. I know you don’t get to be brilliant at one thing, but why not experiment with different media as your fancy takes you? So, while I do like having a go at watercolour, I enjoy pencil, coloured pencil, pastels, clay, etc etc. I’m sure that each medium you try adds something to the others. At least that’s what I tell myself! Obviously, it’s good to learn about and practice the basics, like drawing, so that you can feel more satisfied with what you produce. However, if you’re making art for your own pleasure (as I am), and not trying to satisfy anyone else or make money from your hobby, what have you to lose? Just have fun!

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      • Thank you! I would eventually like to make art quilts, and I wouldn’t mind selling them, actually, but I don’t know if that’s going to come to fruition or not. As you say, who knows? I would like to feel like I have more focus though. Have you been an artist all of your life, or have you kind of come lately to it?

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      • Um, well. I did lots of art at school, but mostly pencil drawing. (Always scared of paint then. ) Then I went to Uni to study languages, got a job, got married, had a child and consequently didn’t do much art at all, but stayed interested. Now my son’s becoming more independent, and I currently only work part-time, so instead of going stir-crazy, it’s literally back to the drawing board. A welcome return.

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  2. I am amazed you can waltz along the countryside and just plop down with your art tools ready, including paints! I’d be happy just to have a sketch pad, pencil and a stool. You had an easel and the works?

    This image reminds me of a French port I walked along on September evening. I was all alone, a stranger in a foreign land, and at a loss for what to do. But, I remember the sun setting and the vacant streets. On my way back to the cruise ship, I passed a family walking a little girl along a stone wall. I tried to capture the moment on video tape, poorly.

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    • Well, I find it’s manageable if I keep the equipment to the basics. I use a spiral-bound A4 pad, and do without a stool or easel. I paint where I can sit or lean comfortably, and I’m not usually there more than an hour or so. If it’s really cold or uncomfortable, I sit on my rucksack! My blog post ‘Travelling Light(ish) talks about what I take with me. Your French port experience sounds very evocative – sometimes a memory-jogger, like your video clip, is enough to bring the scene right back.


      • No stool or easel? Well, you’re sitting…just not on a stool/chair.

        I’d need more than an hour, knowing me. I’m a slow artist.

        Yea, but if the video is mainly of my (and that little girl’s) feet and the road (because I could not keep my eyes up and the camera perpendicular to my stance while walking), am I imagining what it was like?

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