Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sketchbook Journeys - Italy: Day 7 (Vicenza - A flower shop and two Italian gentlemen)

You know how it is when you're traveling... there's so much to see and do, and just not enough time. Throw some sketching into the mix, and things get even more challenging. During my time in Italy, I had to make a conscious effort to not stress about what I wasn't seeing or sketching. Here and there in my sketchbook, I left blank pages, so I could go back later at home and add paintings of a few of the spots that were my favorites, but that I hadn't had time to sketch onsite. This flower shop sketch is one of those blank pages come to life.

10" x 7",ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

I tend to get very tight and detailed when I'm painting from a photo, and I really didn't want to do that with this pretty scene. The sight of all those gorgeous flowers in early April made my heart sing, and I wanted to give this sketch the same light, free, happy feeling I had that day in Vicenza.

I thought it might be interesting for you to see the photo I took that day, and how I used artistic license to change things a bit for the painting, while remaining true to the spirit of the scene.


Most obviously,  there's the color. I decided to keep the whole thing high-key and colorful, so gray cobblestones and sidewalks morphed into blush pink and lavender. A black jacket was changed to light teal, and the golden yellow building was washed out by the bright sunshine in my sketch. I exaggerated the purplish hue that's often seen in shadows, and even pushed it to pink in places.

I enlarged and centered the shop name to make it more prominent. Now, it announces "This is Italy!"

Details on the foreground balconies and shops were simplified, and as I moved farther back in the picture, they became even less detailed.


I even left out a building or two at the end of the block, because I thought the composition would benefit from having the contrasting pink building jutting out, to stop the eye from running off the page.

I moved the shop window with the mannequin to the left of the double brown doors, so the doors would act as a frame for the man's head.

The arcing cobblestones, which were so beautiful on Andrea Palladio Street, looked odd when I sketched a few in pencil on my painting. They made the street look like it had little hills on it. I could have worked to get the perspective right, but, instead, decided to make it easy on myself and change them to square cobbles. Just a few here and there were enough to suggest the texture of the street.


It would have been very easy to get caught up in the details when I painted all those flowers, but I constantly reminded myself not to get too fiddly with them. I did include most of the pots and containers that were in the photo, and their lovely blooms, but I tried to keep them as masses,with just enough detail to hint at a light and dark side and give them some depth.


Notice that the colors on the flowers are much more intense than on the building or the street. That helps to draw attention to my intended focal point, the flower shop.

The two gentlemen in the foreground are an important part of the scene, and I loved their relaxed stance, but I kept their colors a bit on the muted side, to make them secondary to the riot of color across the street.


I also changed the position of the bicycle guy's arm to look like it was in his pocket rather than scratching his head. I like that you're not quite sure, when looking at my sketch, whether it's a man or a woman. What's the story? Are they two old pals talking about the latest soccer game, or could that be the widow lady from down the block? Is there a bit of flirtation going on? After all, that light blue color and fur collar on the coat are a bit girly...

We saw scenes like this everywhere we traveled in Italy - older folks stopping with their bicycles to pass the time of day with a friend or acquaintance. There's something so charming about it. It speaks of friendship, relaxation, and a certain attitude toward life.


So, that's the inside story of this page in my travel journal. I hope you'll let me know if you enjoyed it. I'll be happy to share more about future sketches, if you like. Also, would you enjoy seeing a post or two showing step-by-step photos of how a page/painting comes together?
 

21 comments:

  1. I love the story background! yes yes yes....tell me all the stories. Please.
    The process would be interesting, too. thanks.

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    1. Sometimes I wonder if I ramble on too much in my posts. Thanks for letting me know you enjoy them.

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  2. Thanks for sharing the info behind what you painted and sketched! Seems like it was just yesterday you were preparing to go! I'd love a post on how your supply carrier worked out for you! :)

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    1. Thanks for reminding me about that, Colleen. I'll be sure to write something about the art supply carryall I took along. I'm leaving this week for our family vacation in Maine, and I'll take some more photos of it in action. I only have a couple of how I used it in Italy. It did come in handy though - I like it alot. I'm still planning to write up instructions for it, too, probably after summer gardening and travel season is over and things slow down a bit.

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  3. Wow...I always love your work, Leslie, but this treatise on how an artist thinks is, as the Visa commercials say, priceless. Thanks so much for taking the time to write it.

    Cheers --- Larry

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    1. You're welcome, Larry. Glad you enjoyed it. I don't tend to analyze why I'm doing what I do with a sketch, usually. I get too "in the zone" when I'm painting to think about it. But it was kind of fun writing about it this time, and I know I always really enjoy reading this sort of thing from others. It helps us gain insight into the process.

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  4. Wow...keep them coming! I love your style Leslie.

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    1. If only I didn't have to work, garden, mow, and help renovate my daughter's new old house, I could keep them coming a whole lot faster! All in good time, I suppose...

      Glad you like them, Margie.

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  5. loved your lesson....thank you!

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    1. You're welcome. I'll share more of this sort of things in the coming weeks, so keep checking in occasionally.

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  6. Love your interpretation of this scene. I too have troubles simplifying or using artistic license with a photo. I had better luck sketching from a blurry photo that I took out the car window one day. The blurriness of the photo sort of freed me up to do my own interpretation.

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    1. Great idea, Claire! I guess the squinting thing would work, too, when you have a sharp, in-focus photo. I just forget to do it. <:)

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  7. Thank you for showing us how you do it. I'm trying very hard to get away from putting in every detail, exactly, and it drives me nuts.
    Your scene is so much more pleasing than the photo.....I really appreciate how you moved things around and changed placement and colors.

    May I ask, please, you use photos for reference and when you go back and do a page such as the one above, do you still have the same emotions and memories of a place as you would have had if you had put down a few scribbles on the page while on the spot?

    I hope that's clear, what I'm asking.....thank you so much.

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    1. PS. Yes, please, to more instructions. I like how you think and figure things out.

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    2. I think the scenes that I choose to sketch later from photos are the ones that really impacted me when I was there. Some of my photos, though beautiful, don't invite me to include them in the journal. This one, however, of the flower shop was one that I just loved. We'd had a week of very chilly weather, and northern Italy was just beginning to show hints of green here and there. Walking down that street in Vicenza, among all the stone buildings and cobblestone streets, it was so refreshing to see the bright colors, soft shapes, and wide variety of plants at the florist shop. I took so many pictures of the flowers! They were just so fresh and beautiful! I could hardly tear myself away. It was one of those places that tugged at me emotionally, and I'm sure that's one of the main reasons I chose to paint it, not just that it was a typically pretty scene. All the old folks standing on the streets talking was another one of my favorite things and something I really wanted to add to my journal. It was a big part of what made Italy so different from home.

      Also, I think that when I'm painting from one of my own photos, just spending extra time studying that particular scene helps to bring it all back. I can recall the feel of the sunshine or the smell of the pizza cooking in the shop next door when I took the picture.

      One thing that seems to make on-location sketches look more spontaneous is just the fact that they're done in a hurry. Consciously trying to limit the time working on a sketch back home helps to accomplish the same thing. I just don't have time to keep fussing with it, so it ends up looking looser.

      More often than not, though, I do keep fiddling with a sketch, then I sit back and say, "Darn it! I did it again! Too much detail." It drives me nuts, too, just as you said.

      I don't know if I answered your question exactly, but those are some of my thoughts. :)

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    3. Leslie, you answered my question exactly.
      I've been trying to get out of the habit of taking too many photos because I thought it would be better for memories to make a couple of quick sketches....but since I don't often do that (sketches), your ideas are really helpful. I end up with no sketches OR photos. Duh!
      Take the pictures now and pick the ones that grab me, later, for sketches.
      Brilliant!
      Thank you again.

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  8. I loved hearing how you set about painting this scene. Your sketch is much nicer than the photo. I would love to have step by step photos too. And I'm glad you're still planning to post instructions on your supply carrier. Glad it worked well for you.

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  9. You are fantastic, Leslie! It's a pleasure for me to read you and see your work. Love all of your drawings, love all of them!!! Thank you very much for your lessons, for all this beauty.

    Greetings from Madrid (Spain).

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  10. Love your sketch. I really enjoyed seeing the before and after here. Love seeing how others work. Yes would love to see more of this. I think your sketch feels like you are right there compared to the photo of it.If that makes sense. :)

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  11. This page is wonderful and is like a lesson in how to do a sketch. Thanks so much for sharing your method and reasons for using "artistic license" in certain areas.

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  12. I certainly would love some more of your step by step details. I just love your style of painting, & it's encouraging to read even someone as professional as you has to remember to back off & not fiddle.
    I don't know how I missed seeing this post, can't wait to see more.

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