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Watercolor Interlude

I’ve been watercoloring quite a few of my evenings lately. It’s been fun; there’s improvement, though watercolor’s definitely one of those things that takes a minute to learn and a lot more than twelve weeks to master. The sketch above is from the class field trip to the Legion of Honor Museum. We were there to draw from the artwork, but I thought the building itself was impressive, like it was waiting for Stanley Kubrick to come do one of his slow tracking shots through the halls. I’m learning watercolor for on-site sketching and possibly for the drawings we do for clients, but much of what I have done in the class is working off black and white photos.

The ones below are all copied from photos by Wilfred Thesiger. A little random, but I had to do something and I’ve loved his photos for years. He was the last of the old-school desert explorers and one of the all-time great travelers. Arabian Sands about his explorations of the Empty Quarter of Saudia Arabia is one of the great books of travel literature, The Marsh Arabs, about his years living in the marshes of Iraq is also great, and the compilation, The Last Nomad, is one of my favorite books. His writing describes the landscapes and cultures with an amazing clarity, and the photos certainly don’t need any coloring efforts by me. There’s a selection of photos here, but really his work is best appreciated in an old-fashioned, dead-tree book with text and images together. Both his photos and the writing have a stark black and white expressiveness that fascinates me. They aren’t gardening or design books, but there’s a lot of good stuff about landscape in them.

I don’t know a whole lot about the places I was drawing. The town above is named Shibam, in Yemen. Below is Liwa Oasis, showing that ‘oasis’ is very much a relative term.

The others are scenes from the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world.

The masked woman is from Oman. The last one below is from the marshes of Iraq, more of a drawing than a watercolor painting. We’ll see how much watercolor I do going forward. I did feel like it got its hooks into me, so these probably won’t be my last.

2 Responses to “Watercolor Interlude”

  1. May 8th, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    James says:

    Nice work. Watercolor can be pretty unforgiving. I think I tend to work too spastically to ever be much good at it. Maybe it helps to have a photo to work from so you know where you’re going with the image? The idea of presenting clients a watercolor sounds terrific. It would project an expectation that the project would be more hand-crafted and not spat out of a CAD program. People want gardens as humanizing spaces.

  2. May 12th, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    ryan says:

    Yeah, I’m pretty spastic with the watercolor whenever I don’t have a plan. The black and whites have been good for learning, because I know the forms and tonal values ahead of time so I can focus the colors and techniques. And watercolor is, like you said, so much more evocative and humanizing than CAD drawings. All the hand graphics seem to be making a big comeback lately for that reason.

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