Fleeting Moments – Watercolour Urban Sketching

There’s a pile of artwork I finished scanning, archiving, packaging for storage, from this past warm weather season. Since I have my sketching bag prepared at all times now, I throw it on an go. I draw and paint, and then the artwork gets thrown into a pile in my studio to be dealt with later. That’s been the process this summer. I think I made plenty of work though there were times I wanted to do more; I’d be standing or sitting outside watching a moment fleet away I wanted to draw. With urban sketching (or really en plein air as it were called), there’s a certain amount of restriction: you have to be able to paint fast, you have to concentrate for very long periods of time, you have to be portable, and you have to find a special place because not everywhere is comfortable nor image-worthy simultaneously. Even though some of the paintings I do take a couple hours, they really take a whole day of commitment.

Fleeting Moments - Watercolour Urban Sketching by Karolina Szablewska

Some paintings I’ve taken to finishing at home because I can’t get the results I want on-location, which rubs some purists the wrong way – like it’s less authentic that way. There’s somethings that are the same if you’re there in person or not, such as the lines on a building…the windows and doors don’t up and move when you’re not looking. I go for getting the essence and mood down instead of obsessing over details I can add later, which I only really add because I feel the image lacks refinement or specificity.

So, it’s been a long time since I wrote an update and I’m not sure where to start. I suppose I’ll follow my train of thought here.

pigeons nesting on anchor watercolor painting
SOLD. 5″x5″. Watercolor on 140lbs watercolor rag paper. Drawn on-location, pigeons nesting in a nook on an anchor, on a boat, in the old port of Montreal. ~2017 | PRINTS | ORIGINAL IS SOLD.

I’ve been wondering why I bother going to a place, spending hours there to draw something ultimately mundane everyone walks past. I think all these on-location paintings are tying together into my obsession with documenting things. I’m one of those people that takes a trillion photos on a vacation of every little thing because I do go back to them later and they are my memory. My memory is not very good at focusing on positives. Something bad happens, I can recall it in vivid detail instantly, but positive memories get buried for whatever reason. It’s like I’m trying to hold onto little grains of moments to keep a string running through life that’s something other than shame, disappointment, neglect, loneliness, and anxiety. I do it for myself, but I do it for others, too. At least that is what people tell me, that this kind of artwork uplifts them to find some beauty in life.

The above image I created on the first warm-enough day I could find in March (the 18th, evidently). It was probably 3C outside, my hands were pretty numb by the time I called it quits and went home. Justin really spotted this, these pigeons nesting inside of an anchor. No one really noticed until they looked over my shoulder to what I was sketching, then suddenly there were several tourists photographing them (how original of you to just steal my subject).

This balcony, in itself, is nothing special to the scenery in Verdun, yet it’s probably a unique look to other cities, towns, counties. It’s on a main street full of stores, buses driving past, hidden behind a tree above a stone arch. Someone lives there. What I get to remember from this moment is spending time with Julie, creating art together. Ninety-nine percent of the time, creating art is a solitary process for me. No one does it with me, so that to me was special. Any instant I’ve painted with others, I remember vividly like it’s special.

wellington street balcony
5″x5″. Watercolour on 140lbs watercolour rag. Painted on-location.

The last image I’ll share this time felt very urgent. I started painting it before a doctor’s appointment, so I had very limited time and the subject itself had limited time. The tree was in a magical moment of transitioning from green to yellow leaves. I had to finish this one from a photo, because I spent most of the time I had getting the tree shape  and colours down accurately, and left the background very unfinished. It’s a good thing I painted this way, because the photo I took didn’t capture a fraction of the colour or nice light. Maybe this painting feels a bit heavy, but I’m not afraid to paint heavy shadowing. One of the things Julie and I talked about was painting one location thoroughly, returning there again and again. I think Dorchester Park is that place for me, and my obsession with it continues.

tree watercolor en plein air painting
9″x12″. Watercolor on 140lbs watercolor rag paper. A tree in mid-transition from green to yellow, painted on-location. ~2017 | PRINTS | BUY THE ARTWORK

As a last note, you might notice my website is pretty different. I converted all of it to WordPress, merged my portfolio with my store. The CMS I was using before wasn’t being updated enough to stay current and had many bugs that were driving me insane, so I hope this is a more enjoyable browsing experience. If you experience any problems, please let me know because I am working out any small mistakes as they come up.

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