Mongolia Monday- Warming Up For Sketching In Mongolia

I’ve planned this next trip to leave time for more sketching and to do studies using watercolor pencils and gouache. Last year it was all I could do to keep up my Flag Expedition Journal. This time I’ll be writing my journal in a Moleskin sketch book, but it won’t be a big narrative production like before.

The current plan is to spend the first two weeks traveling in the countryside camping out with a guide/driver and a cook. This will provide maximum flexibility since one can camp pretty much anywhere it seems reasonable to put up a tent. It’s one of the great things about Mongolia and something I haven’t been able to take advantage of before. Then I’ll be in and out of UB for a couple of weeks, then going to Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve for about ten days.

I’ve been easel painting almost exclusively for most of the year and haven’t done much field sketching, so I felt I needed to spend some time getting back up to speed. I got a start late last week and spent the afternoon doing the kind of work I plan to do in Mongolia when I can sit for awhile drawing something that isn’t moving much, like buildings or rocks.

Some years ago, my husband and I saw a show of field studies Thomas Moran did when he was the artist accompanying the Hayden Expedition, which surveyed Yellowstone, resulting in the creation of Yellowstone National Park. He worked on toned paper with watercolor, using an opaque white for his body color. I really loved the look he got and started to experiment with different papers. What I’ve settled on is a 100% cotton paper, Annigoni, from Cartiera Magnani, an Italian company that dates back to 1404.

I’ll be using another Magnani paper, Pescia, when I want to work on a white surface. Both take water media quite nicely.

Here’s two examples of my inspiration, courtesy Thomas Moran. The light brown tone is the paper color, which means this method also saves time:

And an example that I did at Hustai National Park on my 2006 trip. As you can see, the toned paper is perfect for punching up the white on the sunlit side of the gers:

Pan gouache on Annigoni paper, 10x7"

Last week’s pieces. I did them pretty quickly, less than a hour for each larger one. I wanted to replicate as closely as possible how I would do it in the field, even if I was working from photographs. For the pen work I chose Sakura Micron .01 pens. The ink is archival and waterproof. This means I can do the pen work first if I want to and then add water media:

Main Temple, Gandan Monastery- Sakura pen, watercolor pencils and body color, Annigoni paper, 10x7"
Enroute from Ulaanbaatar to Arburd Sands ger camp- pan gouache, Annigoni paper, 10x7"
Horse and tack studies- Sakura pen, watercolor pencils, Annigoni paper, 7x10"
Rock formations, Baga Gazriin Chuluu Nature Reserve- Sakura pen, watercolor pencils, Pescia paper, 7x11"

7 thoughts on “Mongolia Monday- Warming Up For Sketching In Mongolia

  1. Susan… Great work. There’s nothing like working directly from Nature on the other side of the world in some remote location. I love that you’re trying out Moran’s technique on toned paper. That will work for most anything that you’ll come across. I don’t use watercolor pencils but I’ll look forward to the ones you’ll do. Travel Safe. David


  2. Thanks, David! Watching you do location watercolors at SKB some years ago was also an inspiration to me. It made me realize that, especially for international travel, watermedia is a lot more practical to take along than oils, as much as I love them.

    I’d love to study with you sometime.


  3. Susan… I also just discovered that “THE WILDS” here in Southeastern Ohio has a whole bunch of Mongolian critters! I did the Grand Opening poster for the Wilds when it first opened. Just a thought is that you may need closer reference from time to time… you can check THE WILDS, in Ohio for a lot of info. Are you going to be at SKB this fall… I’ll be painting plain air with a small group every day!? Travel Safe


  4. Yes, Nancy Foureman has told me about The Wilds, particularly that they have takhi, the Mongolian wild horse.

    Unfortunately, captive takhi, in many cases, can have significant morphological differences from the ones that have either been born in the wild or come from semi-reserves, where they are able to live a more “normal” life. From the one photo on the website, theirs look pretty good, though.

    I think they have been involved in the Species Survival Plan for the takhi for quite some time.

    Sad to say, I won’t be at SKB this year. Between six weeks in Mongolia and going to San Diego ten days after I get back, I think I’ll be traveled out for a little bit. Maybe you should come to Redwood Country sometime :0).


  5. Thanks for the great post! I love seeing your process with the transition back to field sketching. Very smart and logical. I can’t wait to see the results from your trip. Thanks again.


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