Thursday, May 21, 2015

Steeple through Spring Trees: the process

A lot goes into a drawing even before I put a pencil or crayon mark on the page. 

KNOWING THE PLACE: I'd walked on Grove Street as it curves and becomes W. 7th many times, in all seasons. That curve borders this large grassy expanse. It was a floodplain of the Cedar River before the flood wall and dike (unseen to the left) were built.  This is a distinct Cedar Falls neighborhood of single family houses with yards, a nursing home, a church, and the Viking Pump Foundry. The Foundry, which was behind me as I stood at my easel for this drawing, is what makes this neighborhood not quiet on workdays. It's only a few blocks from downtown. On the other side of the dike are railroad tracks leading to the coal burning utilities plant and a City park that hugs the bank of the Cedar River. 

WHAT CAPTIVATED ME: the shadows on the grass, the grove of dark tree trunks, the steeple of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church through the trees before the leaves would unfurl fully and obscure it, the small dark red shed behind the tree trunk on the left, the soft colors of early Spring. All of this was in my mind's eye, before I actually started to draw.

The preceding days had been either too cold, rainy or windy. On this late April day all was quiet and early Spring idyllic. We all know here in the Midwest how breathtakingly rapid Spring can unfold. I knew I had a narrow window of opportunity to capture what beckoned. 

STARTING WITH A QUICK COMPOSITION SKETCH--soft pencil in my pocketsize Moleskin. Sometimes, my Moleskin sketches are all I need to do if I feel they've captured what I call "the truth of a place". But this time, I was pretty certain a larger, more developed piece in color was called for. I'd bicycled the 1/2 mile from my house, carrying my roaming studio in panniers: portable easel and my drawing accoutrements.
UNDERDRAWING--9B water soluble graphite applied with a wet brush on warm gray Canson Mi-Teintes paper. 

BRINGING IT TO COMPLETION: After about two-and-a half hours on-site, I'll  have an almost finished Neocolor II water soluble wax pastel drawing. That's about all I can handle standing in one spot. Anyway, it's alway good to take some space, step back and peruse afresh in the cloister of my studio. Sometimes, as with this drawing, I'll do some minimal tweaking (usually of value relationships), before I call it done. Go to my post HERE'S THE CHURCH AND HERE'S THE STEEPLE on the Urban Sketchers blog to see the finished work up close.


  1. Thanks for the step-by-step, Marcia. I always like finding out the process used by others. Yours is a much more formal approach than I have done. It serves you well.

    1. I always find it interesting when artists compare notes, so to speak, John. I love that process and result can be so different.

  2. This is wonderful, Marcia, I'm delighted to see your process. Your work is so strong and distinctive!

    1. Means a lot that you think so, Cathy! Since I don't do instructional videos or books, like your wonderful oeuvre, this was my way to share how I do what I do.


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