“The best way to find out if something needs to be in the picture is to leave it out.”
I end the year 2014 with a sketch and I begin the year with a sketch. And what exactly else is a sketcher supposed to do?
I am currently reading Tom Hoffmann’s excellent book Watercolor Painting (2012). While the title seems pedestrian and predictable, this book is anything but. So many of my watercolor books are about technique, if you want to paint this way do A, B and maybe C. Hoffmann offers few techniques or tricks. Instead his book is more about what not to paint. The secret to sketching and painting is seeing. Seeing your sketch and knowing what to include and what to leave out, how much detail one should add, and when to stop and put your pens and paints away and close your sketchbook. In other words: simplify.
To this end I followed one of Hoffmann’s suggestions and headed to Sunset Reservoir, turned towards Big Blue and created a five-value monochrome sketch. I chose sepia and painted the scene before me on this crisp and clear day, the final day of 2014. It seemed a fitting, zen-like way to end the year. By only using one color, I was forced to assess the values in front of me. I took the complex scene before me and translated it into a simple sketch.
For my first sketch of the 2015 I chose a subject that I have seen many times as a child and a subject that I wanted to sketch for some time: Benny Bufano’s sculpture: Peace. For four decades this 30 foot sculpture greeted visitors to the San Francisco International Airport and now has been downgraded to the side of the road on Brotherhood Way. It seems ironic that a sculpture that is dedicated to “the Ideal of Peace Among All the Peoples of the World” should be marooned amid all the new construction where motorists rarely stop and look at the statute and it is increasingly hemmed in by the jumble of boxy homes that surrounds it.
It is a fitting subject to begin the New Year with, for sketching brings me much peace in a world that can be cluttered and confusing. Perhaps this is an apt metaphor for the stature itself as she peacefully gazes above and beyond the constant stream of traffic and the cookie cutter homes that run rampant, up the hillside behind her.
Happy New Year. May 2015 bring you much joy and peace.
Peace by Beniamino Bufano (1958)