Last week I took my students to sketch one of my favorite trees as I do quite often. This tree provides lots of opportunities for beginners as well as for seasoned artists and is quite beautiful in its own right. At one point, we began to talk about the differences between field sketches, drawings and finished paintings completed in the studio. And like thousands of artists before me I go to the site to capture my impressions of the subject and bring it back to the studio to aid me in completing a painting. I do not mean for the field sketches to stand on their own. They are a reference tool, even though I must admit I do find some of them to be worthy of a mat and a frame.
I'm most known for my whimsical animal paintings, and it occurred to me that people may not realize I couldn't produce those paintings without first going out to the field to sketch. This is where the concept of my work is born, where it grows its bones. So when I have time I head outside to sketch my chosen subjects, feeling the wind, smelling the marsh and listening to the rustling in the bushes nearby and the clear notes of birdsong overhead, using all those senses to understand the flora and fauna that make this habitat their home. When I'm back in the studio, I study those sketches and recall what it felt like to be on site. Sometimes I will reference a photo to check a wing marking or the pattern in the veins of a leaf, but usually it's those first impressions from the field that help me begin a new painting.
So this week I'd like to share a couple of sketches I've done of this tree. I have sketched and painted this sentinel more times than I can count, in all
seasons and at all times of day, learning something new each time. I've also included a few finished paintings that have resulted from my time spent in its company where we got to know each other. Some of my paintings may be anthropomorphic in theme but reality is hiding just beneath the paint and in my sketchbooks.
"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral." Antoine de Saint-Exupery