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My first field study fling


I decided that one thing I would do during my vacation from my 9-5 job is some outdoor sketching in the form of field studies, which differs from my usual lunchtime clandestine sketching sessions in the park. There is a church in my neighborhood that always catches my eye, and I’d remind myself that one of these days, I should sketch it, if not do a fully realized piece. With that in mind, starting with the most visually appealing local landmark seemed a good place to get my toes wet with en plein air art. Even though the church covers almost a whole city block, I was most drawn to the spire with its (inaccurately timed) clock. I set out with my sketch book, pencils, travel watercolors, and micron pens. Two hours later, I produced the image to the right.

The pencil drawing itself could have stood alone, but I was so drawn to the greens and terra cotta tones that I had to capture a color study, as well. My years-long separation from watercolors, along with using a cheap Van Gogh brand travel kit (don’t assume the master painter’s name a quality product makes), made it a slightly frustrating exercise. I had to experiment with the greens to get the right tone and value, which I achieved towards the center of the spire.  The sky was a very calm and vivid blue. Because of the tiny, low quality brush that came with the kit, the brush strokes required to cover the paper made the sky read as more tumultuous.

While I was fully prepared with the art materials needed, I failed to bring a hat or sunscreen. I happened to pick the squatting spot that had full sun exposure during the whole session. I didn’t expect to spend two hours in that spot, but I was reminded how intricate and complex—and beautiful—church architecture is. I came away with a headache, dehydration, sunburn, but filled with a sense of accomplishment that made it worth it.

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