Monday, November 8, 2010

Tiny Landscapes

Traveling often gives you time in 15 minute intervals. This morning, for example, I found myself on the train platform in Bourges from 7:25 until 7:39 AM.


But that’s enough time for a painting the size of a postage stamp. I got out my Moleskine watercolor book and the other little tools that I keep in the side pouch of the computer case.





There’s the painting on the far right of the second row (click to enlarge). A few minutes later the TGV train passed farms near Vierzon, where the lights of the houses still glowed. The landscapes—and the weather—changed moment to moment.

This is a really fun way to work if you want to tackle new subjects, or to try a new medium, or to explore new compositional ideas.

20 comments:

Steve said...

I feel I should print out this post and stick it inside my sketchbook, it's such a powerful reminder. I often communicate with postcards because I know I'll write enough to fill the small size. Laying out a grid of these tiny rectangles for sketching bestows the same odd freedom. As with the Bourges watercolor yesterday, I love how much feeling and information you pack into a small space.

SKIZO said...

WOW
Great
Work
good
creations

Denis S. Fedotov said...

Wow! Great! =)
Thanks! I will try... It is interesting to look at your drawings of such moments.

Matthew Gauvin said...

WOW!!! SO awesome and inspiring.

Daroo said...

This is a great practice.

I usually think -- if I don't have enough time to really do anything -- why bother? And then I just snap some pictures...

But by sitting and observing, and then judiciously putting the main ideas on paper, you are practicing the same chops used to create fully realized paintings. Also, I bet your thumbnails bring back more visceral memories of your travel experience than photos would.

Dan Gurney said...

postage stamp paintings
visual artists' take on
haiku poetry

Daroo said...

You know...

The whole thing kind of plays as a storyboard sequence -- but I'd move the last two shots to the head of the montage along with "near Vierzon" -- so it moves from country to city. Then maybe include some shots of a young heroine sitting interior train, her sad face reflected in the window as the landscape blurs by -- she looks down to a tattered photo gripped tightly in her small hands as the tears well in her ...

Rob Carey said...

This is a great idea- I love the idea of capturing tiny compositions like this on one page in real quick fashion. Thanks!

Mathias said...

Wow, that's great… hmm I mean small… but so great!! Impressive!

Vicki said...

Like Daroo, I always feel that 15 minutes isn't enough time to paint anything. It's enough time to get out a pencil & notebook, and I'll draw fellow passengers, but this is a great idea: those postage stamp size paintings.
Water soluble colored pencils? You don't have a paint box & water cup that easily accessible, do you?

My Pen Name said...

.... I give up :) outstanding work James - the way you work reminds me of the story of Louis Auchincloss, who authored 57 books (his last at age 90) for much of his life he worked full time as a lawyer - and someone asked, how did he find time to write (he was married, had kids as well) .. he just said he carried a little notebook with him and jotted things here and there - sometimes he had 10 minutes, sometimes 1, sometimes an hour.. eventually all that material adds up to a book.. and another ,and another.

My Pen Name said...

PS... I often take the Amtrack up to Hudson, though I would prefer it not to 'bullet' I am jealous of the French and Spanish bullet trains - heck, even Morocco has a better rail system than us!

Celia said...

Great. Keeps it real and immediate. I'm agree with Steve, print it and stick it in my sketch book.

Johan Derycke said...

nice little gems!

Petr Mores said...

Beautiful blink-of-an-eye mood snapshots! I wonder about the procedure: are these pure watercolors, or watercolor pencils with wash added later? How tiny the brush must be then? Do you use any initial pencil underdrawing, or is it painting right away? Perhaps pen? Apologies for so many questions, I'm just curious to know the technical setup that allows for such speed (but yes, I know the skill is always the magical ingredient!) Thanks a lot for sharing!

Liza Hirst said...

Such a good idea! Thanks for the inspiration. Love your work!

Rebecca said...

these are beautiful. Also, guess I haven't been following your latest posts, but bienvenue en France!

Max said...

Quite impressive, James. I've been making it more of a point to sketch landscapes myself from life for studies in drawing pen-and-ink landscapes myself.

Your own plein-aire landscapes have been an inspiration to me.

sfox said...

Must. Do. This.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Aljoša said...

Great idea. I just painted the first one from MapCrunch and it was really fun. I think I'll do at least a few per week.