This wasn’t a vacation, it wasn’t a work trip, and it wasn’t a family vacation. It was a different thing altogether. This year I’ve put a lot of thought into where my work comes from and why I paint what I paint, so when we arrived, I was super-aware of how I was experiencing this place, but also trying to ease into it since we were going to be there for so long. I was also overwhelmed with the sketching possibilities. Everywhere I looked there were interesting landscapes, cool rocks, new-to-me plants, and BOATS!
So I kind of surprised myself when, instead of easing into it by sketching coffee cups or everyday items around the house, I went ahead and sketched the big hill that loomed over us across the body of water outside of our house.
When I went to New Zealand earlier this year (I know – isn’t it funny that we went to New Zealand and Newfoundland in the same year?), I had this one big grounding experience that helped me know what to do with myself while I was there. I still made crappy sketches, but that’s all part of the process.
In St. John’s, over the four weeks, I had this as a series of experiences – walking and suddenly it was like the landscape would come into focus and I could really see and know the differences in the plants and the sounds and the light and air around me. And being three-fourths through a hike and feeling a connection to the earth I was walking on as all distractions fell away. And landing on my sweet spot of sketching materials a week and a half into the trip.
I ended up sketching the hill a lot. These three are out of a total of nine, and are just from the first week. I can still see the hill when I close my eyes.
Lately I've been thinking about how my work consists of sketching on location and experiencing places through sketching and through various actions - like walking or swimming - and then my oil paintings come from a combination of the sketches and the experiences. When I paint, I think about how well I can get to know a place through these actions – how it feels, the energy of the place, the sounds, sights, smells, solidity or airiness, wind, rain, cold and heat - and the sketches contribute to getting to know the shapes and lines that go with it. So, the point is to connect with a place briefly, so that what I paint comes out abstracted or flattened or with unlikely colors or patterns, but the feeling of the place is there.
We took a boat tour in Auckland - a whale and dolphin safari. We saw neither whales nor dolphins, but I was perfectly happy sketching all of the little islands we passed by. I just used pencil because we were sitting on the front of the boat, and I didn't want to risk losing any sketching supplies to the bumpy ride. Keeping it simple seemed like a safe bet.
On our last full day in Auckland, we rode the bus around town to six different places that sell meat pies and I sketched every one of them, but I didn't taste all of the pies. The Mill Bakehouse and Ripe Deli were my favorites. We ended at a restaurant called Toby's, which seemed appropriate. I kept it simple here with just two Pilot Parallel pens.
After we came back, my sketching felt refreshed. Here are some from April and May, right after we returned from the Symposium. I feel like the Symposium really helped me to find my sketching sweet spot again, as did the trip we took to Newfoundland, which I'll tell you about next time!
I'm testing posting from my phone - again. This software is glitchy but I check back every so often just in case.
If it works, you'll see this sketch that I made in Mobile, Newfoundland (get it - mobile!), as a preview for upcoming posts about my trip to Newfoundland. I'll keep posting spring and summer highlights until next week, when I can start reflecting on this trip.
Fingers crossed this works!
(ETA - It only kind of worked. I'm sticking with the full online Square/Weebly blog editor.)
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