Sketchbook roundup from Chiricahua camping weekend

We spent a lovely weekend in our camper near Chiricahua National Monument in southeast Arizona, and I had lots of time for my art projects. And we pretty much had the camping area to ourselves which is always a plus!

The dogs loved exploring the new area on our walks, and Matt got some good nature photography time in. I told him that I wanted to sketch some of the animal photos he took, so he kept an eye out for good options for me. There were lots of deer and Mexican Jays in the area, so I did a couple of sketches from one of his bird photos:

Chiricahua camping weekend watercolor Mexican Jay in Strathmore Mixed Media journal
This watercolor sketch is in my Strathmore Mixed Media journal. 

The paper is similar to hot press watercolor paper and my first attempt at a wash didn’t go well. I used what I learned with that trial to make this one better by starting with light colors and building up with glazes, letting the paint dry between layers. I love the light concrete color! It’s a mix of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, and yellow ochre. I just wish the leaves in the background didn’t compete with the bird so much.

The next day, I wanted to do another sketch of this bird in my daily art journal, with a slightly different approach. I added a little color with my Polychromos colored pencils before adding watercolor, and the background is much lighter and simpler to help the bird stand out more. I really like how the cast shadow looks in this one.

Daily Art 10-01-17 Mexican Jay in pencil and watercolor wash
Colored pencil and watercolor sketch in Canson XL Mix Media sketchbook.

I also had a chance to add color to a sketch I’d made a few days ago using a Hunt #107 Hawk Quill nib and india ink. I hadn’t really drawn anything with that nib before and I was happy with how super fine the marks can be with it.

dip pen and watercolor bunny sketch
Dip pen and watercolor sketch of bunny using a photo reference.

The first morning there, I was feeling a little lost on what to draw for my daily art. I had an exercise saved on my iPad for a value study of a cooking pot, so I chose that since it was good practice working on ellipses and values. It’s primarily a graphite drawing with some watercolor wash laid on top.

Daily Art 09-30-17 dutch oven value study in pencil and watercolor wash

While we were relaxing in the woods, I read Artist’s Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson. What she writes about in it is pretty much what I needed to hear right now. I keep trying to make “final” artwork in my sketchbook — which isn’t a bad thing, but for me it’s preventing exploration and feeling free to try different things. I’m attaching too much importance to each drawing.

Her words are a reminder that my art journal (sketchbook) serves a different purpose. And what I want from mine is to be a home for getting better at art, exploring, experiencing new things, and something I can flip through and see progress. I have a couple of sketch books that I’m working in currently, but when those are full I’m considering making my own journal from a bunch of different papers. Some will be better for pencil, or watercolor, or ink, and that variety might help me see what papers I like with what media. For now, I may just glue in things I draw or paint on other papers so they’re all in one place.

Side note: I’m so impressed with what Cathy can do with hot press watercolor paper! I really struggle with getting my brush and paint to do what she does. Maybe I’ll try reaching out to her for tips…

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