Watercolouring @ 50kph
by Alan Collins
I LOATHE AND WILL NOT DRAW from photographs. Why? Because I am convinced that the perspective between my eyes and the focal length of a camera lens is so different and that my eyes are much more accurate or, the way my eyes view a subject are much less emphasised.
I travelled recently with Sally, her cousin from Devon and her husband Andy (who like me is a Railway enthusiast) via Kaitaki to Picton then Coastal Pacific to Christchurch for an early start on the TranzAlpine. On this occasion, recording the images of those mountains the way my eyes saw them was more exciting than the rumbling DX locomotive accelerating to an incline (almost heaven).
My sketch book is spiral bound 10cm X 15cm; I draw with a ‘Bic’ fine black, and I realised you can’t loiter. I need between less than half a minute and two minutes (depending on the complexity) to complete the sketch together with my own shorthand ‘Ultra m’ Ultramarine or ‘Tuss’ Tussock colour, dots = sparkle etc.
If there is time before the whole scene changes, bang off a photo as a reminder of the colour, but beware: the windows of the passenger cars are tinted. Less so in the vestibules but if you walk up 2 or 3 cars there is the observation car, open on both sides especially for photographers, those wishing to record a DX in notch 3. I hold my sketch book up at almost eye level so as to save time and accuracy moving the angles of mountains rather than looking up and down. This was added entertainment for those using phones and video cameras. I got 14 of these sketches during the trip. You must keep up, the train won’t slow down for you. It’s not fair you may think; you have been doing it for 100 years - well almost. You do get slow and frail - but when I am involved in watercolour, I’m 40 again!
Next day it was hire car to Akaroa. Wow! The composition from Summit Road and the colour - pinkish straw colour with summer heat and azure blue water with cruise ships dotted about. I have a ‘Tracer’ projector that will project 140 x 140 cm, almost the size of my sketch book page. This allows me to project on to my final piece of Arches cold pressed 640 gsm so that I follow the original biro lines very carefully to preserve the spontaneity of the sketch.
Crickey, that was exciting ….. well, it was to me. Have a ‘GO’- the scene from your house but time yourself, half a minute?
Then photograph it, be honest though, don’t look at the photograph until you have drawn it. Then you will see what I mean.
Just a wise word from most of my idols - “To improve your drawing, keep drawing”.
Now as the youngsters say, “download that into your memory banks”.