Art Warm-up For Mongolia; An Album Of Studies

Gers north of Bayanhongor, Hangai Mountains, July 2010; watercolor on Annigoni 100% cotton paper

My intention is to do at least one sketch a day this trip. So I wanted to be in a groove before I leave. I also needed to refine my portable art studio. So I spent yesterday working from previous trip photos as if I was at the scene, reliving a little of what it was like to be there and imagining having just enough time during a lunch stop to get out the paint and do a quick study. So none of these took more than about 20 minutes.

The idea is to work fast, get an impression down and move on. Here’s what I’m taking this year:

My portable field studio

The bag is a re-purposed point and shoot camera bag and it’s turned out to be perfect. In the front is a roll of drafting tape, kneaded rubber erasers, extra mechanical pencil leads and a pencil sharpener. Next pocket back is a set of water soluable Derwent colored pencils. In the back are Sakura Micron pens in a variety of sizes and colors, a couple of draughting pencils, a couple of mechanical pencils, a sandpaper pad, blending stumps, a tube of white gouache and a watercolor brush that breaks down to half its length.

The watercolor set is from Yarka. I use napkins, slightly used, from restaurants, for rags. Extra brushes go in the bamboo carrier. Water for painting goes in the collapsible plasticized cloth “bucket”.

Gobi landscape, July 2010: watercolor on vellum bristol; I ultimately decided against taking the bristol paper in favor of more watercolor paper

The support is a piece of lightweight foamcore. The drafting tape, which is lightly adhesive, doesn’t pull up the paper surface.

For paper I’ll have my Moleskin sketchbook journal and a stack of 7×7″ watercolor paper cut down from a pad that I got many years ago in England, brand unknown, and, so that I can work on a toned surface (inspired by Thomas Moran’s location studies of Yellowstone that he did while traveling with the Hayden Expedition) a pad of Anigoni 100% cotton toned paper, which happily takes a variety of media.

Here’s some more of my favorites from yesterday, all done from photos that I took on previous trips to Mongolia:

Gull, Orog Nuur, Gobi, July 2010; trying out the watercolor paper; I haven’t done any watercolor work at all for a long time, so needed to figure it out again.
Gobi, July 2010; did this one in both watercolor, shown here, and the vellum bristol to see which I liked better; both work, but the watercolor paper allows for more edge variety.
River valley north of Bayanhongor, Hangai Mountains, July 2010; Two studies on the Anigoni toned paper; watercolor with white gouache
Horses at Gun-Galuut, August 2011; I wanted to practice doing animals before I was sitting in front of the real thing. Watercolor, Micron pen; I started with the watercolor, then did the penwork, then went back and knocked in the shadow areas and the water; about ten minutes
Horses at Gun-Galuut, August 2011; watercolor and Micron pen on w/c paper; each about 15 minutes
Baga Gazriin Chuluu, July 2010; lots of rocks where I’m going, so did a couple of studies; Notice that it’s not necessary to finish everything to the same point, especially when time is limited; watercolor
Ikh Nartiin Chuluu, August 2011; rocks with an argali; watercolor

Inspirations: Fieldwork Drawings of William D. Berry

I had never heard of William D. Berry until I read a post about him over at James Gurney’s blog, GurneyJourney. Holy Cow, was he an incredible field artist! There is a book that covers three years of his field “sketches”, which you can buy here for the princely sum of…$8.50. This really is a book that should be in every animal artist’s library.  One of the nice things he did was note whether or not a drawing was done from memory. If not so noted, they were done from live animals. To say that he thoroughly knew his subjects would be a serious understatement. Here’s a quote from the book on how he did it. Simple, really….

What this meant was that I devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to simply recording the facts of animal life – hundreds of hours and thousands of drawings in the zoos or in the forests, on mountains, in deserts, or plains. A caribou, for example, is never going to hold still for you, and a photograph of him, though useful for many reasons, is never going to show him doing exactly what you want him to be doing for a particular illustration (Berry also illustrated a number of field guides and other animal books) . You have to learn the beast inside-out and upside-down, so that you can put him together on the page from scratch and still have him look like he would if you did see him doing just that. So – instead of learning to paint, I was learning a hell of a lot of animals, birds, plants, whatever. I don’t feel I ever did master any mediums, except pencil –  the medium I used to make field sketches.”

He used an Eagle pencil on Cameo paper (anyone know what that is or if it is still available?) which was supported by a clipboard, then sprayed the finished drawings with fixative. Here are a few pages that I particularly liked. Remember, these are all drawn from life (Sigh.):

And, finally, one page of color studies.

Field Sketches/I’ll Be At Pastels On The Plaza Tomorrow

I’m going back to my two-a-week posts. Mongolia Monday will start up again on, um, Monday, along with my eBay auction listing. Fridays and whenever the spirits moves me will be everything else: paintings in progress, etc.

Here are some recent pages from my sketchbook. They are done with whatever fine point liquid gel pen Staples had last time I needed some new ones. No preliminary pencil work, I just dive in with the pen and hope for the best. These were done at the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure’s zoo:





I finally sucked it up and sketched people for the first time in years on my way to the AFC “Art of Conservation” show opening weekend. Got to practice my furtive glance at San Francisco International Airport Gate 74. (ignore the date).



I’ll be at PASTELS ON THE PLAZA in Arcata, California tomorrow morning from between 8 and 9am until probably around 11am. This now-traditional October event is a benefit for Northcoast Children’s Services and brings out well over one hundred Humboldt County artists who will fill the sidewalks around the Arcata Plaza with creative, fun and amazing pastel drawings, all for a great cause. Each artist has either found a sponsor or has been assigned one by NCS. The sponsor “buys” a single or double space and the artists donate their time. The Saturday Farmer’s Market happens at the same time, so it’s a big day-long street party. The pastels usually are visible for a couple of weeks or until the first winter rains hit.