An Observer, an Editor and a Recorder = An Artist

There are several things that may strike you as incredibly pleasant when you read Iain Stewart’s Watercolor Artist article, “From Sketchbook to Studio.” For example, the opening painting itself (shown here) is enough to take one’s breath away with the implied size of the great city of New York and the sounds of traffic making its way over the Queensboro Bridge during perhaps a Thursday morning commute.

Once you’ve had a chance to take in Stewart’s watercolor painting, you’re swept to Istanbul, as he describes what it’s like to be sketching abroad in what I, at least, consider to be ideal circumstances: with nothing but time and a patient traveling partner.

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“Bridges are one of my favorite subjects, especially those of New York,” says Stewart. “In The Queensboro Bridge (watercolor on paper, 20×12), I wanted to play up the lacework-like quality of the struts and cables. The only solution I could find to do that properly was to use masking so that I could apply a gradient wash to help give the illusion of unity to the bridge as a whole. (Click here to “pin” this painting on Pinterest.)

“My wife, Noelle, sips her tea at a small café in the Fatih district of Istanbul, chatting with our waitress about the sketch I’m working on at our table.” writes Stewart. “Over the last four days she’s had to order second and third cups of tea to allow me time to finish a sketch, and she’ll graciously continue to do so for the next couple of weeks. By now she’s used to the routine, and I know if she gets truly bored she’ll tell me when and where to meet her, and I’ll know where my last sketch of the day will take place. The thing is that Noelle has actually come to enjoy this time, and I suspect she’s doing naturally what I tell my students is the most important part of what we artists do: engaging in the moment and watching life as it takes place.

“When I travel, I always marvel at the rushing about going on around me. It’s as if the tourists are let out of a nursery with stern warnings of cold supper and early lights out if they don’t take at least 500 photographs and see all the major sights in one afternoon. That’s no way to see a city and certainly no way to immerse yourself in a culture. My travel mantra is “more of less,” meaning I try to spend more time enjoying where I am rather than checking places off a travel guide list. It’s also an essential part of understanding where you are. When I stop to work in my sketchbook, I’ve hit the pause button on my day. (Tweet this quote if you can relate.) Everything else keeps moving, but instead of being part of that machine, I’m now an observer, an editor and a recorder. When I return to the studio, I find that those observations can serve as well or better than any of my photographs.”

Continue reading in Watercolor Artist, but don’t stop there. Learn Stewart’s techniques for sketching and painting in the Light in Watercolor Painting Collection. It includes his feature article, plus three From Photos to Fantastic DVDs, three downloadable companion guides, Daniel Smith watercolors, and a folding palette.

Happy sketching and painting,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor
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