Recently I visited WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire to view the current art exhibition on display in the Cheng-Kim Loke Wildlife Gallery there. My friend, and fellow artist, Marion and I are to have an exhibition ourselves there in 2010, so we plan to take a look at each exhibition prior to ours to see what’s selling and what’s not, the range of prices, prints and ideas of presentation etc... a bit of market research, if you like. We did the same for our last exhibition there in 2006 and it proved very useful to us.
Also the plan for the day was to go out in the grounds and get some sketching done. Unfortunately we could not make it an all day visit as Marion has to get home for her children after school… but in a way it helps having the shorter time span, as it focuses you on the task in hand. So after looking around the exhibition and taking notes we set off around the various outdoor areas to find a spot to sit and sketch.
Weather-wise it was a beautifully warm sunny day and we were not keen to go in a hide where it would no doubt still be chilly at this time of year. We found a good spot in the Australia area…. Kind of fitting since we’ve not long returned from that part of the world on the cruise. Marion sat and did some watercolour sketching of the backdrop of trees of the lake area, whilst I settled on a bench not too far away with my binoculars and camera at the ready.
I had in mind that I would concentrate on just one species and the Australian wood (maned) ducks – Chenonetta jubata, caught my eye that day.
I use the binoculars to help me get in close to see the subject better for sketching and with the camera I take a number of photo’s for future reference, should I wish to one day draw or paint the subject properly.
When I sketch I try to spend as much time observing the subject as I do actually drawing it. This helps me understand how it moves and what regular body postures it adopts. I can also study its form and take mental note of where the legs join the body, where the features such as eyes and, in this case, beak are placed on the head. I’m learning the anatomy and form of my subject by looking very intently at it. Then when I come to put pencil to paper I already have an idea of where I should be drawing my lines.
I am not trying to do a detailed study of the animal… I’m basically taking notes to learn its shape and form. Sometimes I just sketch part of the animal like the head or foot. I use shading purely to suggest form and try to keep it to as few strokes as possible.
So I end up with a lot of barely-started or half-finished scribblings…. And that’s fine because they are all part of my learning process of the subject.