It’s All a Matter of Perspective

A few days ago, I mentioned that I was going to give watercolour sketching a try. As it turns out, that afternoon I got a call for a viewing on the house and had to leave to allow the realtor to show it to her clients. It was labour day and nothing was open, so I just drove over to St. Patrick’s Fallowfield church, parked in front of it, and hauled out the sketchbook. This was the scene in front of me:

St. Patrick's Fallowfield Church (Nepean, ON)
St. Patrick’s Fallowfield Church (Nepean, ON)

As I sat in the car listening to the thunder outside, I started sketching. Within about 15 seconds, I learned my first important lesson:

Perspective and proportion are not my forte. I need a LOT more practice.

Part of it was because I was too stubborn to use any sort of measuring system to compare proportions. Also, I didn’t manage to figure out a way to properly frame the church as above in the sketchbook. In the end, the result was a sketch framed approximately like this:

Sketch frame
Sketch Frame for St. Patrick’s Fallowfield

Here’s the final watercolour sketch:

St. Patrick's Fallowfield sketch
St. Patrick’s Fallowfield final watercolour sketch

Thing is, even though pretty much every possible proportion is off, and I more or less made up the colour scheme to avoid the roughly grayscale scene in front of me, I kind of like the end result of the church itself. I wish I had an “undo” button for the tree, but I like the cute, almost whimsical appearance of the church. In particular, I had a lot of fun drawing the steeple. It’s funny how you can see a church every week for many years, and still never notice any of the details about it. I love all the architectural details in that steeple! In a way, I’m glad the scene ended up “zoomed in” on it, so that it was big enough to add in these details.

Watercolours are also taking some getting used to. My background is in acrylics, and if I slather an intense acrylic wash on something, I know I can generally expect an intense final colour. In watercolours, however, I learned that an intense wash can result in a chalky, powdery dried colour that is not at all desirable. I think it might be partially a function of my el-cheapo watercolour set, but I’m pretty sure it also has something to do with me! I’m so used to being able to expect intense contrast in my art that it’s kind of strange to have to figure out a clever way to make that happen in watercolour.

I’ll definitely be experimenting more! If anyone knows of any good resources on how to “frame” a scene when sketching it in the great outdoors, and how to measure out a building that’s in front of you and transfer to a sketch, please leave a comment – I’d love to hear what has helped you out with this.

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