We just spent a week camping in beautiful Zion National Park. When we scheduled the trip for late October/early November, our hope was to see fall color in the trees and we were not disappointed! I don’t think we could have gotten luckier with the timing.
I kept up my daily value studies, varying my medium and approach. I’ve been reading a lot of Andrew Loomis books so did my best to apply what he teaches about light and shadow on form, as well as perspective.
My favorite value sketches are of my little Pipsqueak and an apple still life:
I toned the background first with graphite, then sketched in the subject, and erased the light areas and darkened the shadow areas. I wish I had taken a moment to check that my drawing of Pipsqueak was accurate before starting to complete the values — I can definitely see where her eyes need improvement and her face is too wide because I didn’t get the eye spacing accurate. But I still love it as a drawing.
I can tell that I’m getting better at actually seeing light and shadow because in the reference photo of the apples, there’s a reflected light in the shadow side of the large apple on the left and I know I would have missed it just a few weeks ago.
The final sketch of the trip is special to me because it was a moment where I got past my fear of starting and just started drawing.
As a passenger in our car, I had plenty of time to be sketching, but the idea of capturing the landscape while moving on the road overwhelmed me. I finally made myself get the sketchbook and pencil out and put into practice some of what I’m learning about drawing perspective and shadow. The lines are very wiggly from the car bouncing around, but I actually like that because it loosened me up. We were lucky to be getting some really interesting cloud shapes (normally it’s just blazing sun and blue sky), and the bushes next to the road were great shapes as well.
Being in the park, surrounded by the red rocks, blue sky, fall color, and the river flowing all through the canyon, made me want to take up plein air painting! There was a gallery show at the museum featuring several plein air paintings in oil, watercolor, and pastel. I can feel the itch to start experimenting with oil paints, although I’m trying to spend more time using the supplies I already have instead of buying more. I think there’s a lot I could do with my acrylic paints to get me closer to the feel of oils, as well as the gouache.
I was struck when looking at the plein air gallery how the watercolors weren’t speaking to me nearly as much as the oils. I found the oil paintings to have more sparkle and depth. One I liked in particular was by Prescott artist Bill Cramer called Liquid Jade – Virgin River. The pieces from 2017 Zion National Park Plein Air Invitational can be seen on the Zion Park website.
I’m continuing to study value, and also working to improve my drawing skills with exercises from Perspective Made Easy by Ernest Norling and pretty much whatever I can get my hands on by Andrew Loomis.