A Marathon of Miniatures in Watercolor
A few weeks back, I had the urge to do a major painting expedition. I was in the middle of an illustration deadline, and all that picky computer work was making me crave some watercolor. I wanted very badly to take a week off and just paint every day. Sadly, there wasn’t time for anything like that.
So what’s the solution?
See how many miniatures you can do in a day!
These little paintings are from a huge walk all the way across Montreal’s old port, then hopping the subway up to my old neighborhood on the Plateau. The sketches are approximately 5 x 6.5″ painted two-to-a-page on 9×12″ Canson Montval watercolor paper taped onto coroplast backing boards.
I’m in the process of using up all the student-grade paper I have in stock. I like this stuff for pen-and-wash drawings, and it’s sort of ‘easy on my nerves’ to use it up on sketches. (Cheap enough, you don’t mind wasting it :)) But I probably won’t go back to it for any serious watercolors. It’s fine for this kind of speed-sketching, but doesn’t take wet-in-wet as well, and in some ways, the washes get a bit too ‘edgy’, due to the sizing.
The great thing about working small is: you have to focus on what interests you. Eliminate any unnecessary clutter. There’s just not enough room to get everything in.
Often I’ll walk around gazing up at roof lines, looking for the cupolas and chimneys I enjoy. Just below this frame is a mess of real estate signage and boarded up shop windows. Stuff I’d just as soon leave out.
This one is all about those back lit church steeples. I do this all the time. Just crop out the parking lot that’s in front of me. Looking up gets you out of the everyday, the mundane.
As well, at this size it’s easier to see a silhouette shape. I find if I’m *able* to add detail – it’s very hard to stop myself. My brain just wants to keep focusing, keep overdoing it. So working small, and working fast, are two ways to short circuit that obsessiveness that comes with drawing. These buildings are four blocks away from me, and on the other side of a park. They were tiny in my view – and thus tiny on the page.
I also find miniatures make it easier to experiment with color. This was the first day trying DS Olive Green and Windsor Sepia. This shop house is of course more colorful than this – but doesn’t it look great with a limited palette? I’m more willing to try things out on a ‘throw away’ piece like this. I went into it meaning to test the color and throw this one away – but it ends up being one of my favorites.
Here’s a trick a sketcher in Ireland showed me. Just sit anywhere, on a bench, or some steps, and clamp your drawing board between your knees. It makes a make-shift drafting table!
Can’t be done with a large board. This one’s 14×18″ – just big enough for my sketches and my paint kit. I was travelling super light that day – if you bring an easel and chair, you probably won’t want to be walking from sun up to sun down.
Of course, out of any set of paintings, some will be more successful than others. In these ones up on the Plateau, I feel I fell prey to over doing it. Trying to put too much in.
It’s always better with a more impressive building. Something where there’s a natural focus. I’m a sucker for a big old dome or a peaked roof. It’s such a natural way to make a focal point.
Finally, closing out the day with the last gasps of light. My feet were ready to go home at this point! I’d actually given up and was heading to the metro – but I caught the light on the Mont Royal angel, and who can resist just one more?