Wendy Jelbert is a teacher and professional artist who works in pastels, oils, acrylics, inks and watercolours. In her book, ‘From Sketch to Watercolour Painting: Pen, Line and Wash‘, Wendy takes us through her process of turning an interesting subject into a completed painting via drawing, documentation and experimentation. I decided to try out some of her suggested techniques in the form of a book review – I used her method from the book to paint a scene – a silver ‘Yay’ balloon hanging in the front window of a house I pass everyday (detail shown above).
The book is organised around the fundamental concepts of drawing and painting, including drawing from life, using tone, rendering texture, building a composition and introducing figures. Wendy primarily focuses on watercolour landscapes, however she regularly (and quite unconventionally) plays with mixed media to introduce interesting textures to her work. She also provides lots of useful information for beginners about basic studio equipment and materials such as paper types, sketchbooks, brushes, pens and mediums. The majority of the book is written in a ‘step-by-step’ format and sometimes includes multiple progress shots of her work. All of her writing is supported by beautiful photographs of her drawings, paintings, sketchbooks and her inspiration, as shown in the sample page spreads.
The element I found most interesting was the way that Wendy created and curated her early sketches and the impact this had on her finished paintings. To prepare for a painting, she took multiple photographs of the subject, made pencil, pen and watercolour life drawings at different times of the day and recorded the colours she saw. These early drawings acted as a visual log of information rather than finished pieces; she would rely on them as heavily as she would her photographs. This resulted in her simplifying or enhancing landscapes and colours, working expressively in her finished paintings. I rarely make preparatory drawings in the way that her book suggests, so I thought I’d give it a go.
My finished painting is of a silver ‘yay’ balloon hanging in the front window of a house near my office. I have walked past it every day for a good few weeks now and there was something I wanted to investigate about it. The process of making multiple, stripped back drawings and taking many photos helped me find the exact angle I actually wanted to paint from and identify the relationships that I was most interested in. It also allowed me to plan out my use of masking fluid more than I usually do when working from such impressionistic sources. Overall, I’d say that this book is an interesting read aimed at mainly beginners.
Art Materials used:
- Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Pencils
- Winsor & Newton Black Indian Ink
- Stillman & Birn Nova Series Sketchbook
- Derwent Graphitint Pencils
- Jackson’s Seawhite Black Cloth Sketchbook in White
- Jackson’s Watercolours