I remember the day I painted the black-and-white sketch above: I had just come away from the Everhart Museum, where I had been seeing the big retrospective of John Willard Raught’s lovely regional landscapes. I was stopped in traffic on Harrison Avenue, and saw this back view of some houses on the hill. As I snapped a photo, it occurred to me that I had taken part in a previous show of Raught’s work, “The Art of the Land.” And I remember wondering if Raught would have considered this view as ‘paintable’ as I did.
Back in my studio, I pinned up a sheet of Canson Sketch paper, booted up my reference photo, and began to paint, jumping right in with no pencil work. My term for this kind of spontaneous, direct brush drawing is the “big brush exercise.” I’m finding that doing them builds skills, perceptual abilities, and stamina in a lot of areas where a watercolor painter needs those things. For example: the ability to translate “forms” into “flat pieces;” the ability to pre-visualize and map out the placement of major shapes without any preliminary drawing; and of course, the ability to render forms directly with the brush.