Sunday, August 30, 2015

Chester Fair Animal Sketches

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Last year Roz, from Roz Wound Up, who is constantly an inspiration to me, introduced me to the idea of sketching at the fair.  We both share a love of sketching animals, and especially chickens. Crazy right? I sketch in public a LOT, but the fair did seem a little intimidating. However, with all of Roz's great "how to get ready for the fair" posts I knew I could do it.

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I had a wonderful time last year and treasure those sketches. Love every one of them. Last year I prepared by sketching from photos the animals I knew I would sketch live at the fair. I may do some of that again this year too.  For the big fair I mean. Today's sketches are form a little fair. Here's what I mean. Connecticut doesn't have a state fair. New England has the BIG E in Massachusetts ( aka the eastern states exposition) which is way too big and crowded for me.

Here in Connecticut many towns have their own agricultural fairs. Some are very small, some are larger, The largest, the Durham Fair, is just 30 min form me, and that's the fair we typically go to every year, and then occasionally we visit some other smaller ones too. Last year was my first year sketching the Durham Fair and that for me is "the BIG ONE".

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Yesterday I did live animal sketching warm ups at the Chester Fair. When all three of my kids were very little but old enough to be walking and wanting to get out of the stroller the Durham Fair was just too big to reasonably do so we switched to the Chester Fair for several years. I have some really fond memories of this fair, including my oldest when he was 7, winning a giant blue ribbon, the Superintendents Award, for his peanut butter fudge.

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The sheep are my favorite sketch of the day, even though I had the most fun talking with the goats. 

Sketching at the fair requires a fair (see what I did there? ) amount of thought and pre-planning to have a really enjoyable, successful day. Yesterday I learned a bunch of things that will make sketching at the big fair better,

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First I realized that for the Durham Fair I'll need to work on hot press watercolor paper for the best sketching experience. That will mean a new or different sketchbook. For the Chester Fair I decided to just use my current sketchbook which is one I made that's filled with Nideggen paper. I've been using the Nideggen paper since the beginning of the month and it has many qualities I like but quite honestly I'll be glad to get back to watercolor paper. 

So now I have a couple of choices. I can make a spiral bound sketchbook out of my favorite watercolor paper. I have lots of hot press Fluid watercolor paper on hand and I have a binding machine. I just have to check and see if I have chipboard for the cover but that's easy to get. OR I could use the brand new 6x8 cold press watercolor block that I have and bind the sheets into a sketchbook after the fair. This has the advantage of letting me toss out any sketches that are really bad, I could also design the cover after the fair, even using sketches from the fair on the cover itself. Downside is that it's cold press paper, which I don't hate, just prefer the hot press. The other question is how do I keep the loose 6x8 sheets safe from getting bent or dinged after I take them off the block. I have to say I'm leaning towards this approach, and even though I already have the cold press block I may just go buy a hot press block.

The next thing I learned is that no matter how appealing it seems to work in monochrome with a single watercolor maker I'm never gonna be happy with that. That's how I started the day at the fair and why there's all that writing on the first spread. I began with the cow just using a W&N raw umber watercolor marker. Hated the results. So I just turned the page and switched to my fountain pen and watercolors. When I got home I rescued the sketch using watercolors and pen and used the rest of the space to journal,

What I realized is that for big sketching events in public (where let's face it there's always some amount of pressure because people will inevitable want to look at what you're doing. Then there's the fear that they will want to look at the exact moment you are working on a sketch that has gone completely wrong) it's best for me to work with materials that I'm very familiar with and very comfortable with. Sketching at the fair or any big public venue is not the time for me to be experimenting. For me that means hot press watercolor paper, light pencil sketching first, fountain pen and watercolors.

The other big thing is focus.  Yesterday I felt rushed at first and wasn't able to slow down enough to really "see" with my artists' eyes for the first several sketches.  This was partly due to the fact that the fair is small and wasn't that crowded. At the big fair I have some amount of invisibility and anonymity...basically lost in the crowd.  At the smaller fair the other visitors are moving along moire slowly, and strolling along and have the opportunity to notice me sketching instead of passing right by me shuffling along with the crowd.

Also, I should start with my most familiar subjects first. That means chickens, rabbits, and the sheep.  I should definitely save the cows with their bony hips and bulky heads, the goats with their sloping profiles and bony skulls, and llamas with their funny "Y" shaped noses and rubbery lips and big eyes for after I'm in the seeing groove, and relaxed.

So, just some thought on making fair sketching the wonderful, fun, exhilarating experience it should be for me.

1 comment:

  1. I love these sketches, but especially appreciate the good advice on 'getting ready' before the fair...prepping yourself (like an athlete) to be ready for the task at hand!! It would make the time spent much easier when you come prepared! I really like that advice!! (from another chicken & critter fan!). :-D


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