Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Struggling with Tanner Springs and The Fields

I think everyone at the Symposium was involved in at least one field sketching session that went to Tanner Springs Park. And why not? It's near the school, and it offers a real slice of (simulated) wild nature in a city block. It's a great park. But I don't think I'm the only one who found it frustrating to sketch. Something about the park's low vegetation, even lower water features, complex skeletal constructions, and the boring modern condos that surround it made it tough to find a satisfying vantage point and balance of detail and background. This frustration may have to do with why so many of us wandered up to the vast empty field to the north, the future site of The Fields Neighborhood Park Project. This less-planned space presented open vistas, a great view of the Fremont bridge, several abandoned factories, the Pearl District's iconic water tower, a giant yellow sculpture called "Rational Exuberance", dogs running exuberantly free, and (if you really missed them) more boring modern condos.

Here's the main sketch I did of Tanner Springs with one of my Urban Nature sessions. I guess it's fine, but I don't love it. And I really hate the paper I did it on (The blue Canson XL "Mix Media", one of our freebies; I like the other Canson papers we got quite a lot, but this one just does not jibe with my watercolor technique).
Tanner Springs

Halfway through the session, my group and I all discussed how danged challenging it was to sketch the meadow of the park. So that made it clear what our next exercise should be--sketch the meadow! Dive right into the hardest part and make it work! Here's my meadow sketch, done with a very nice Kuretake brush pen lent to me by Don Colley:
Meadow, Tanner Springs

Then we cut out of there for the yellower pastures of the Fields. Here's the first sketch I did up there:
Future Site of The Fields Neighborhood Park

I wasn't too happy with it--the broad perspective and my desire to get everything in there led to an unbalanced result. Later on, I realized I like this sketch just fine if I crop it to a narrow strip:

Future Site of The Fields Neighborhood Park
Much better!

After disappointing myself with the sketch above, I did the thumbnail below to help someone else with their own composition. It was sobering to realize that this thumbnail was better (if much less complex) than the sketch I'd just poured far more time into.
Future Site of The Fields Neighborhood Park

It wasn't til I came back two days later that I got my favorite sketch of the Fields. The water tower is what drew me there originally, but it didn't make the sketch, nor did the sculpture. What turned out to be more important was an interesting angle on the bridge and buildings, plus including the people and dogs:
Future Site of The Fields Neighborhood Park

And here's a photo of me doing that sketch, alongside Matt Brehm. (photo by Liz Steele):
Sketching with Matt brehm and Jason das

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  1. I especially love the last one with dogs but each one has lovely character and all so well captured.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your process and attempts to capture the Fields. Drawing a site multiple times obviously has its rewards. You are continuing to teach me, Jason. Thanks!

    I really like the dogs in the last one, too!

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