by Alan Li
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.
- Camille Pissarro
This quote by the French Impressionist Master is as relevant today as it was in Pissarro’s time.
While most people instinctively feel a sense of awe when they’re standing at the base of a towering mountain or staring into the depths of a waterfall, when the obvious wow factor is taken away you’ll often hear comments like: “...there’s nothing to look at.”
This is where sketching outdoors from nature comes in. Through our sketching tours, LUNA has been showing people who have no previous art background how to start seeing their natural surroundings like an artist.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.
I was investigating a section of a creek bank when a pair of exposed tree roots caught my attention. I liked how the roots appeared to be tenaciously clinging to the bank, and I felt there was something appealing about this tangled mess which warranted a closer look.
Material-wise, I sketched these roots with a ballpoint pen and I broke apart a cereal box to draw on the inside of the cardboard. Cardboard is great because you never have to worry about ruining it like you do when you’re working on a sheet of expensive art paper. A white pencil was used at the end for highlights.
Is this a pretty picture that I’ll hang on a wall? Not a chance, but I don’t consider it a wasted effort either. The process of sketching is where the real value is found, not the final outcome. Are you curious?
Find a small patch of nature in your neighbourhood. You don’t need a panoramic vista - a little area measuring two or three feet across is ample.
Gather your art supplies and spend an hour sketching all the things you see within this space. You can work entirely in line, or try a combination of line with shading. Don’t worry about making your sketches look perfect, but do pay attention to all the different shapes and textures.
If you’re unsure of what you’re actually sketching, there are field guides for everything and part of the fun comes from discovering the names of various plants and creepy-crawlies.
As you’re sketching, all your other senses will begin to kick in. Touch, smell, and listen - perhaps even taste, if it’s edible like a wild raspberry - all of these sensations become part of the experience.
Once your sketch is finished, consider adding written descriptions along with the date. It’s always interesting to return to the same location and see the changes as the seasons pass over.
Whether you choose to share your sketches online, or just keep them for yourself, it’s important to find some way to make sketching a part of your daily life. It’s when sketching becomes a habit, that you’ll begin to see all the hidden riches of nature in even the most commonplace of settings.