Monday, October 11, 2010

Seeing the Big Picture - I

Looking Down Yosemite Valley • Albert Bierstadt, 1865

Have you ever tried making thumbnail sketches of great paintings?

It is a great way to get at the essence of the painter's composition.

The painting above, Albert Bierstadt's Looking Down Yosemite Valley, from 1865, is a wonderful example of monumental 19th century landscape painting. It measures 64.02" x 96.26" (about 5 1/3 ' x 8'), and in every way conveys the grandeur of its subject.

In making a thumbnail sketch (no more than a few inches wide), you want to get down the big picture. There's no room for any of the glorious details of the original. You want to get down the essence of the painting quickly, in just a few minutes.

Thumbnail sketch of Bierstadt's Looking Down Yosemite Valley
© 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls

Here is my quick pen-and-ink thumbnail sketch of Bierstadt's painting. My objective was to get the essence of the painting down in a few minutes. Because light and shadow are important in this, I decided to include values. Although the proportions are a bit off, it was a good way for me to study the composition.

Ten-minute sketch of Bierstadt's Looking Down Yosemite Valley
© 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls

Having seen the difference in proportions, I decided to make a second, ten-minute sketch. A little more detailed than the first (though the same size – these are about four inches wide), notice that I am still concentrating on the big shapes.

You might prefer drawing in pencil rather than pen (it feels more forgiving). Look closely at the painting you're working from (try Bierstadt!), keep it small (even two or three inches in size), and see what you can do in a few minutes.

Here's a link to a large gallery of Albert Bierstadt's paintings. Remember, keep it simple. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment