When I first saw the reference photo we were going to use for the most recent “Live Lesson” series at The Virtual Instructor, I was both excited and terrified.
I loved the photo! It was exactly the sort of rainy-day urban scene I’ve always wished I could paint, and even I could see the beauty of the simple primary color schemes, the reds, the yellows, the blues.
Yes, I loved the image, but how could I ever draw something like this? And then, if I managed to draw this train — actually a Turkish tram, we learned — how would I paint it? This was, you see, a “line and wash” project.
But I took a deep breath, followed along with the lessons week by week, and can now finally announce that “The train has left the station!” It’s finished. It’s done. It’s gone from my drawing board.
The first step, of course, was to draw the image. I didn’t think I could. In the end, though, my thought process was a bit like “The Little Engine That Could” — a popular children’s story. You’ve heard it, I’m sure. It’s the story of a little engine on a train filled with treats and toys for the girls and boys… and facing the steep incline of a mountain before it.
That’s very much how I felt when I thought of creating a drawing from this image! Impossible. Far too difficult for me to even attempt.
But, I did it. One line at a time. A mark here, a mark there, and gradually a rhythm began to develop. “I think maybe… yes, I think I can… I think I can…” Like the little engine that discovered that it could, indeed, pull the train cars over the mountain, I discovered that I could actually draw this busy street scene.
I did simplify the scene — a lot. I concentrated on getting the tram itself as accurate as I could make it, then simplified the background buildings and the crowd of people gathering around. I was pleased with my drawing.
Drawing the scene in graphite, however, was merely the first step. Next, the entire drawing needed to be inked. I used an 005 “Needle Drawing Pen” from a set I recently purchased.
I followed the same plan of action, slowly but surely, line by line, focusing on the tram and keeping all else as simple as possible. Again, I liked the image I’d created.
Finally came the watercolor process. For me, this proved to be the most challenging part of the project, partly because of my over-simplification of the scene. With the crowd of people, as an example, I wasn’t sure how to use the watercolors to create the illusion I wanted. Because I’d left out so many details, I wasn’t sure if the piece would “read” as it should.
While I didn’t come away with a work of art, my completed project definitely exceeded my expectations. I liked my “Turkish Tram” better, I think, before the watercolor application, but I liked the painting process itself. It gave me a chance to “be an artist”, to choose the right colors, and to think about how to turn those vague marks into something that does resemble a crowd of people.
Another thing I enjoyed with this project was the opportunity to work on hot press watercolor paper. That was a first for me. Hot press paper is smoother than cold press, making it well suited for line and wash. I’ve included a link in the caption above.
Of course, what I liked best was the realization that I can take on seemingly impossible challenges and find a way to work through them. Again, my line and wash isn’t a work of art, but it’s a valuable lesson in patience, persistence, and possibility. I’ll take that lesson with me as I move on to other drawing and painting projects. I know now that I can do far more than I might initially think, and that once “I think I can”, I really can do it.
I hope you enjoy my “Turkish Tram.”