Paint-Ready Sketches

The opportunity to sketch a paintable subject is usually unexpected and fleeting. When it does happen, the spontaneity of the moment often generates an energy that results in a dynamic on-site drawing. My challenge is to preserve this vibrancy as I develop the sketch into a more formal composition-a task which requires redrawing and recomposing the subject. Here are some techniques I’ve devised to retain the freshness and excitement of my original sketch:

  • Enlarge small sketches on a photocopy machine.
  • Cut and paste to change the sizes and locations of subjects within a sketch. (See Example A from New York City “Subway Musicians,” which I first sketched on a postcard, then I adjusted the figures in my second drawing to reverse the men on the left and right.)
  • Place a piece of transparency film on top of cut/paste sketch and trace it with an overhead projector pen.
  • Reverse transparency film to change subjects from facing left to facing right. (See how I reversed the film to change the direction the man is facing in the sketch New York City “Art Show” in Example B to film in Example C.) Then tape either a machine-copy enlargement or the transparency to back of watercolor paper and place paper on light table or against a window. Use a pencil to trace the sketch onto the front of the watercolor paper for painting.
  • To locate areas that don’t match desired proportions, place a transparency corresponding to the enlargement over the painting and retrace as needed.

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