Above: 7 x 5 inches approximately—Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper in a handmade journal. Faber-Castell Pitt Calligraphy Pen transitioning to a Staedtler Pigment Liner (used in the bottom two sketches on the left). Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Before leaving the topic of warming up at the start of a sketching session (I know, I've written about this topic before and I'm sure to write about it again, but I mean before leaving the topic this week) I wanted to share another journal page where I used a warm up to capture observed details—where details were the goal, not a finished sketch.
Because sometimes you have so little time to sketch that your intent is just to get down as much as you can notice—it's like visual notetaking.
On this page, made as I stood in front of an aviary in a nursing home, I was struck by a bird's head and the angles of that head in relation to the beak. I wanted to get something down about that and did the top two sketches with the calligraphy pen. But then I wrote the date and time and decided as I wrote that I would sketch more, so I made a note about warming up and some physical issues I was experiencing. This was a pep talk to keep going, "you're warming up, keep sketching, more to come." I not only write such notes to myself in my journal I also talk to myself. Now you know.
I caught one finch looking at me with a cocked head and did the top sketch on the right then. And knew I had warmed up and wanted to do more with the birds and with watercolor, but not just color that image, see if I could do something more refined.
Remember on my list on Monday I wrote about knowing, or rather recognizing, through warm up, what pens would or wouldn't work for you on the day? Here I changed to the Staedtler Pigment Liner to use the finer point to do something a little more detailed, the large unpainted sketch at the bottom. This is a refinement, without paint, of the loose sketch immediately above. I didn't need to paint this sketch because my paint notes were made in the looser sketch above. Here I was able to add detail about the cheek patch and the under the wing patch that weren't in the previous sketch. My arrow and note "refined" will remind me 20 years from now that those to are the same bird.
Then I stopped and wrote the dialog at the bottom left.
I felt there was something more I wanted to do with one of the other finches and so I started yet another sketch at the bottom center of the page. I took my time to carefully observe and to draw with accurate proportions and angles. But I also created "segments" in the body that could be easily painted and not blended. This isn't a portrait of one of the finches of this type. Instead it is what I consider a schematic. It tells me what I need to know about color on this bird, and its body shape and proportion and eye set, and beak, even the leg color. It is more than a color study because it tells me all those things. It is less than a portrait of an individual bird because I've made no attempt to blend the areas in a realistic fashion, it is, simply a schematic.
But it is extremely useful to me as such, because it documents the observed details needed if I were to sketch an individual later.
When that sketch was drying I made additional notes about something that was happening in the hallway. Those notes appear at the top of the page on the right.
I consider all of this page a warm up. My point is that this particular warm up was less about getting the gesture of a bird or nuances of an individual, and more about getting a record of shapes, colors, and relationships. And a record also of me staying alert to what was happening around me.
So be sure to allow your warm ups to go in different directions and lead your visual journaling either to new insights or additional information. And remember, the pages don't have to be pretty! Messy is fine.