Friday, May 05, 2006

Plein Air Sketching at Kew 04.05.06.

First, check yesterday's date - did anybody else spot it? I didn't until this morning when I was downloading all my photos to the computer.

"He who must not be bored while I sketch" had a day off yesterday and decreed we were going out. Fortunately it was the first splendid day we've have this year. Hot - but not too hot - and sunny with a light breeze all day. We decided we'd go down the District Line to Kew Gardens - for more walking and sketching.

One of the things to see at Kew right now are bluebells around Queen Charlotte's Cottage - and they're three weeks late just like the ones at Emmetts last Saturday (see Sketching Bluebells). I found a man with a very large camera on a tripod and discovered he was filming them for the third series of the BBC programme "A Year at Kew" - and that was how I found out that they were three weeks late - as that was how long he had been waiting to film them! Other things to see right now are the magnolias, the rhododendrons and azaleas to the right of Syon Vista and the lilacs near the Orangery. Everything is late though. The real blaze of colour was in the beds next to the Palm House.

I did two sketches using coloured pencils in my Moleskine. The first - of the Waterlily Pond - is IMO not a success. It has very little graphite underneath - which, on reflection was a bit of a mistake as it was a very complicated view and would have benefited from taking it a bit more slowly at the graphite stage. The colours are also [expletive deleted] difficult. The darks were very challenging and and I think I need to work more on trying to get the very peculiar colour of new lily pads - which appeared to me to be a very light olive green on top of a crimson base, producing a soft russet shade - but with great depth.

We watched all the moorhens and coots busying themselves with nesting activities -they had nest built out right in the middle of the pond - so naturally they had to go in the drawing as well. We also very fortunate while at the pond to see a golden pheasant - whose colours are simply stunning.

The second sketch - is of the view from the top of the walk called Syon Vista (it looks over to Syon House) looking down the Thames. I discovered afterwards that this is a view which has, not surprisingly, been done many times. It seems to me to be one which would be interesting to do through the different seasons. Here's:
  • the photo of the graphite sketch taken before I started to use the coloured pencils.
  • a photo of the view and me adding colour
  • finally, the colour sketch of what it looks like with the first flush of new growth of the trees after the coloured pencils have been added.

And finally, here's a photo of what the kit for the day looks like. From left to right and top to bottom:

  • Daler Rowney black hardback sketchbook (not used yesterday - but good for when you want more space to lay out a sketch)
  • Moleskine
  • Faber Castell portable sharpener - includes a coloured pencil sharpener and has containers for shavings built in
  • two pencil cases - I sort the blues / greens and darks into one and the reds / yellows and lights into the other - makes finding a pencil much simpler. Also the cases tend to have mostly the short stubby pencils with just a few longer ones of the colours I expect to use that day.
  • a pencil case for my graphite supplies
  • a plastic tray (I think this one was from the purple sprouting calabrese we had at the weekend!) into which I put the colours I am using. I drop new colours into this as I pick them out (rather than back into the pencil case so I forget which colour I used already and avoid having to add it to the vast number already clutched in my left hand!).

Incidentally, for those people living in or near Kew who'd like to sketch or paint in the gardens, I think I spotted four other artists there yesterday - mainly focusing on the blossom and the bluebells.

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