Many of my readers are artists or interest in art... so I decided I'd give you a peek at several of my Yellowstone sketches that I brought home in an unfinished state. My first choice is to do all of a 'field sketch' right on location, but realistically I often don't want to stay in one spot long enough; or, sometimes I want to check out some details on the computer; or, all too often, my subject leaves and I might as well finish the sketch later. I've purposefully picked a variety of these situations just to demonstrate there are a lot of ways to tackle 'field sketching.'
Here are several I've finished since I got home a couple of weeks ago. I've enjoyed working on them .... it takes me back to being in a wonderful place.
Early on in our Yellowstone trip I started this drawing of bluebirds in an aspen, one with lots of detail work, thinking I'd have some dull time and I could work on it when the opportunity arose. I got the pencil part done on location and just a little inking to get a feel for what I wanted to do. When I started the sketch it looked as though a pair of bluebirds were going to nest in the hole. They didn't. I suspect they realized all too soon that there was too much traffic just outside their front door.
Somehow the dull time never happened ..... or when it did, I fell asleep! I'm usually way behind on sleep when we are in Yellowstone. So easy to close my eyes for a little nap when life gets dull.
I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to add paint to this drawing. I'm tempted to. The male mountain bluebird would be a tiny spot of the bluest blue. She is much duller, but beautiful when one is close enough to appreciate her.
Here is another one I started early in the trip. We were waiting for a sapsucker to return to the tree it was working on and along came this Townsend's solitaire. They return to the high country when snow showers are still common. Solitaires may be plain birds, but their song is every bit a lovely as that sung by other members of their family, the thrushes. No ink on this drawing, just pencil and watercolor.
I was too busy photographing this wonderful bear and didn't even start the sketch on location .... but I could hardly wait to flip open my laptop and work from the photos I took that day. I got the ink part done right away, but the painting part waited until we got home. When we first saw the bear it was grazing on fresh grass on a cloudy day. Suddenly it started snowing. The snow, the bear and the dark forest just begged to be painted.
I call this 'The Bubbler.' It is a geothermal feature just off the side of Orange Springs Mound on the Mammoth Terraces. Over the years hot mineral water has laid down enough travertine deposits to create a mound several feet tall. Steam pours out and every moment to two it burps hot water from a small hole in its top. I got just a little paint on the sketch before we were ready to move on. I knew it was a rather complicated setting, so I made sure I took a photo before we left the spot.
During one of the few warm days these two bison bulls decided they wanted a little shade while they rested. The sun was slowly making its way across the sky. All too soon the bull on the left will be out in the sunshine again. I got the pencil part done on location and, once again, took a photo to make sure I captured the contrast between the sunny slope and the shade. Very often it is the lighting that makes a picture.
Here is another of bison, this time a young bull. He is about 3 years old. The heavy horns tell me it is a bull, but he hasn't matured yet. I sketched this young bull as he walked towards me. I also quickly took a photo of him and peeked at the back of the camera to refine some details. On the unfinished drawing you can see my initial pencil lines and the followup ink. I often pencil first, then ink, then erase before adding paint. Looser sketches are usually done directly in ink.
It was an odd spring. Very few really warm days, yet winter snows left early. Trees leafed out sooner than normal and we saw flowers we generally don't get to see. The arrow-leaf balsamroot was spectacular. It looks as though someone left big bunches of yellow daisies scattered here and there. My goal was to capture the freshness of springtime in this one. My sketch is an impression of the area, so I finished it just from memory.