How are sketches used for compositional development? Artist Stuart Loughridge explains how he takes his sketch kit to his outdoor locations and develops his sketches. He shows two sketches done at the same spot at different times with watercolors. He then developed two small thumbnail sketches, again of the same scene—one with three values, another with more value development. Afterward he did an outline pencil thumbnail drawing, exploring a different cropping.
Settling on a composition, he made another watercolor sketch with opaque white highlights. Then he developed a large pencil drawing on toned paper with white highlights. Using all of these sketches, he can find variations while staying in line with his original idea on a large-format oil painting. Sketches are seeds for larger compositions.
Stuart works in all sorts of mediums—oil paint, watercolor, and prints—as he creates primarily landscapes. He carries around sketch kits on his walks as he develops the characters for his paintings. Stuart shows us a final plate of an etching of a landscape and then walks us through the process of planning and sketches to get to the final piece.
The initial pencil drawing is a small thumbnail done from a small oil color sketch done on location. The pencil drawing is on toned paper with shading and white highlights. After that, he created a pen and ink drawing because it imitates the etching process by playing with line and hatching. The pen and ink drawing is also playing with the composition a little bit and exploring different ideas.
Next, he worked on the pencil outline sketch, working on the topography and the gestures of the landscape. He thought about the forms and planes and the growth of the trees in this sketch. Afterward, he started thinking about the background and developing interest in it without creating generality. The next pencil sketch is the essence of the darks—studying the light direction and shadows. After that, he did another pen and ink drawing that was more elaborate. Then he did an initial copper plate etching. He started to really develop the rhythms of the background.
He then did the second state of the etching on the same plate, developing more of the hatching and line work. In the third state on the plate, he did a triple-hatch stage that really starts to develop the darks. In the fourth state, he developed the sky, background, and layers. While examining this plate, Stuart shares that accenting outlines is a great way to create depth. He then developed a fifth and sixth state to really enhance the rhythms, shadows, and lights.
All of these show how sketches are the seeds for all of the work he does in the studio.