Inspiration for Sketching and Composition

Preparatory Studies for a New Watercolor

Preparatory Studies for a New Watercolor

Art lies behind the cloth of surface things, it is always deeper than appearance and must be delved for.  Within or about every living work of art, or thing of beauty, or fragment of life, there is some strange inner kernel which cannot be reached with explanations, clarifications, examinations, or definitions.  This kernel remains beneath, behind, beyond.  It is this dimensionless particle which lives, beathes, and means.  It is this living particle which makes art mystical, unknown, real, and experienceable.

The best way to talk about art is to work.  The best way to study art is to work.  The best way to think about art is to work.  art is to work hard and one day it may become art and you may discover the artist that you are.

Richard Pousette-Dart

After two extensive visits to the Dallas Museum of Art to view the new Hopper Drawings exhibit (, I am still vibrating with newfound energy and a renewed sense of joy about making art.  One primary element that’s been missing from my work over the years has been the discipline of sketching and compositon in preparation for my finished paintings.  Naturally when I watercolor en plein air I go directly to the painting with just enough pencil work to provide a scaffolding for the watercolor sketch.  But when I work on a serious studio painting, I usually go directly at it with a pencil to sketch in the structure of the painting.  I have not had the discipline or interest to do thumbnail sketches and compositional studies.  And I have always been bothered by this.

My colleagues at Arlington Martin High School, Dan Darr and Patrick Schneider, are excellent draftsmen, always sketching, always drawing seriously, filling up sketchbooks as fast as I fill up journals with my scribbled thoughts.  I have twins in my Advanced Placement Art History classes this year who are continually drawing in their Moleskine journals as well as taking notes.  Daily I see them bent over their work, and am inspired to follow suit.  A fellow artist/blogger, Corey Aber (, is a master sketcher, and I am always moved at the sight of his prolific output.  I have been an admirer of Leonardo da Vinci throughout the years because he went back and forth between writing and drawing in his sketchbook journals.  History is replete with authors who filled journals and artists who filled sketchbooks, but how many Leonardos have there been?  For several decades, I have marveled about this, yet I keep my journal activity separate from my art activity, and as said earlier, have done very little sketching over the years.

Last night, I sat down to do some serious sketching, and continued during my breaks at school this afternoon.  I am making preparation for another mid-sized watercolor of a service station from the 1950’s and am excited about getting this one right.  Taking a page from Edward Hopper, I started with some thumbnail preliminaries (not posted) and then moved on to some larger tonal sketches, using a dark sepia Faber-Castell pencil.  I thoroughly enjoyed poring over the composition and making decisions of where to place objects, where to deepen the shadows, where to place mid-tones, etc.  I got lost in the study.  I feel that I am nearly ready to begin the painting.  And I am very enthused about this new direction and where it could take me next.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Tags: , ,

6 Responses to “Inspiration for Sketching and Composition”

  1. coreyaber Says:

    I like this drawing very much and am looking forward to the painting. I get a good feeling of the place and the brightness. It’s given me some motivation to work on a historic church near my office in a similar manner with the trees framing it like this. I am excited for you that you’ve been able to see the Hopper drawings first hand. We had a hopper show at the museum of American art in DC but it was so long ago and I don’t recall any drawings.


  2. Matthew Wright Says:

    Fantastic post. To me, art is about expressing emotion and transferring it to an audience. Expressing the inexpressible. It encompasses all forms of expression including writing and music. And in all these media it is hard but rewarding. Good stuff


  3. djdfr Says:

    En plein air is one situation when I am more likely to do a sketch, even if just to mark the shadows since they move when I’m not looking.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: