When I made my big charcoal mess a few days ago, I was definitely feeling frustrated. For me, one of the most difficult things about art is that awful sense of time wasted. It’s partly my fault, of course, because once frustration sets in, I find it all but impossible to finish a drawing or painting I’m working on. So, instead of having something to show for my time — good or bad — I end up with nothing, and that leads to a huge sense of disappointment.
For the sake of argument, I suppose it could be said that I had something to show for my charcoal-on-canvas sketching time at Lord’s Park, but it was nothing more than a jumble of scribbles. It was not a finished sketch by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn’t even a good starting point for a work that could be finished back at my easel.
I’d spent forty-five minutes with that charcoal and canvas, attempting to define the boundaries of the scene, trying to locate the focal point — those long stairs — and doing my best to somehow indicate all the trees and leafy boughs surrounding the steps and in the background. Forty-five minutes with nothing but a mess to show for that time.
Situations like that tend to discourage me. So when I find myself feeling that I’ve just wasted a lot of time, it helps if I can create something I can look at and say, “All right, it wasn’t a complete waste of time. I did finish this.”
The this for my recent outing was a quick charcoal sketch of a tree stump near the shelter house. As I sketched, I thought about contour lines and used them to help me create texture and shading in this little drawing.
I tried adding a bit of white charcoal to the top. The charcoal set I had with me was very difficult to use, so that didn’t turn out too good. I think the top elliptical shape should have been a bit flatter, too. For the most part, though, I was pleased with my quick sketch.
This drawing shows one side of the stump — the simple side. Here’s a photograph of the actual stump:
A simple shape. A good practice for shading. I chose it for exactly those reasons. I needed a little boost to my confidence, and this stump seemed like a perfect choice. But this is only one side.
Take a look at the very interesting other side of this tree stump:
This will be fascinating to draw, so for my next outing I’m heading to Lord’s Park again. I want to sit down beside this stump, let myself go into that blissful Zen state of mind where I can become one with the stump, then just let go, and draw.
This side of the stump will be great practice for shading, as well as an opportunity to think about contour lines and cross contours. It’s definitely got character, and I’m looking forward to sketching this old stump.
I’m wondering, too, what the tree looked like before it was taken down…and why was it felled? Was it struck by lightning? Killed by a dreadful disease? Maybe as I sit and talk with this old stump, it will share its story with me.