Watercolor Carp Sketch, Spring 2017, MEC
I have always enjoyed sketching. There is a real pleasure to freeing yourself from concerns about "product" and simply being present to the subject before you. While sketching, I like to be sure that I am also aware of my thought process. e.g. what is attracting me toward the subject? Is it the color? The movement? Its form? All the above? I also like to capture the immediacy of the "thing." In other words, what is important to me to express in my work is to express the subject's being and presence to another person who encounters the subject through my art work. As an artist I see myself as a conduit of an experience rather than "creator."
With this in mind, when working in the studio, I find that revisiting sketches through different media can help me bring further aspects of the subject as I experienced it to the forefront. Therefore, the subject can be encountered in a new way since certain media emphasize various elements of art and thereby emphasis aspects of the subject that perhaps were not expressed as strongly in the initial sketch.
At this point, best to look at an example. See above the watercolor sketch of the carp. This was done initially as an in class demo for fish anatomy, specifically the line of the spine, fin placement and posture as the fish moves through the water. Movement was a primary principle of design I was seeking to capture. As I worked on the sketch, I began to think about how values underwater are reversed, with the highlights on the underside and the dark values on the back of the fish (this is Nature's way of giving the fish a camouflage advantage). Working in watercolor, I find it impossible not to think about color. Here I sought to harmonize the palette as a reflection of the smooth, rhythmic movements of the fish as it swims rather than be a slave to exact colors of the specific fish.
I liked the sketch. (which does not always happen, but remember for each one you don't like you are one step closer to one you do!) So much so that I decided revisit it in a different medium, silk painting. Now silk painting is all about color, value, and line. Notice how those elements of art take precedence just because of the nature of the medium.
Next, I decided to emphasize the elements of value and line in order to create a strong sense of movement so I brought the sketch to the printing block. Here composition and the play of light and dark, which is an essential element to the fish's survival in its natural environment became the focus. Balancing the composition both in positive and negative space as well as values of light and dark was essential to create a unified whole while (hopefully!) making the fish moving gracefully in its environment present to the viewer.