Being in a beautiful garden makes me want to capture the scene on paper! Last weekend I participated in an art show at Historic London Town and Gardens, a county park south of Annapolis, Maryland. As we were setting up the show, I looked outside and was enthralled by the sun hitting the gazebo in the gardens. So after I had finished my chores, I took some time to go out and paint. As I sat down to sketch out the scene, I found to my dismay that I had forgotten a pencil. Instead of going back inside to get one, I decided that I would just paint directly without drawing first.
London Town Gazebo, watercolor, 5″ x 7″
I don’t remember why I stopped before I had finished the painting. There aren’t any shadowed spots in the overhead leaves and the small tree in front of the gazebo doesn’t have a trunk or branches. I remember not being happy with the depiction of the sun on the wood or the roof of the gazebo, but liking the feeling of spontaneity conveyed.
I made sure to bring a pencil the next day and managed to get a sketch done outside before it started to rain. (I have enhanced the drawing with a photo editor so that you can see the lines, as I usually draw lightly on the watercolor paper.)
Sketch for London Town Gazebo, pencil, 5″ x 7″
Several days later I painted this picture in my studio, using the first painting and my memory as references.
London Town Gazebo #2, watercolor, 5″ x 7″
So what difference does a pencil make? It helps me plan before I start painting. I can save light spaces better if I delineate them first. A pencil sketch lets me see the composition before I start painting, and allows me to measure elements for their relative sizes. Maybe with more experience I could do it without the pencil, but for now, I rely on it to sketch.