Transfering the Sketch

The Ides of March 09

After over a week of drawing, reworking and fine tuning the composition …I finally finished getting the sketch for this mammoth painting on the panel yesterday. Since this is a Vineyard scene, and since my studio is in the almost landlocked state of Pennsylvania, I am relying on a bank of photographs and sketches done on scene for reference. The first shots were taken back in 2004 and I have supplemented those with over a thousand more…chronicling  a wide range of lighting, weather and seasonal elements in the intervening years.

Without revealing too much of the subject matter yet, I can say that the view of this part of the island can and does change hourly. A busy intersection of human, waterfowl and nautical activity, there is almost constant motion…so trying to capture that energy in a static and narrow two dimensions has been a challenge.

It was also interesting to see the changes in some of the “bones” of the scene over the 5 years or more of photos and drawings. Shingles damaged over harsh winters waited years to be repaired, and names painted on boats worn by salty seas were all the sudden bright again as I flipped from one year’s shots to the next.

I decided to let the verisimilitude go and concentrate on finding the essence of the place. The early composition has expanded from a relatively small panel to fill an almost 4 x 8 foot frame. The challenges of working on a painting that size are offset by the opportunity to portray the beauty in the simplest of details that would be lost in a smaller panel. And there are hundreds of them in this composition. So here we go.

Once again my nurse has insisted that I not lift this thing alone…so together we managed to move it from easel to kitchen table and back again. When I have the sketch completed I scan it into the computer and print it out sized for the panel. In this case it was such a huge file that I had to break it up into smaller sections. The printer spits it out in a tiled format so there’s lots of trimming and taping to get it back together. Then I line it up and trace it onto the panel using a graphite transfer paper.

This shot is towards the end and I’ve cut up some of the main sketch to be able to better see how the transfer lines are looking. Once in a while the graphite paper is of poor quality and I have been known to go on happily tracing lines for hours only to find they are not visible on the panel. Not fun.


I have very little patience for this part of my job…but somebody’s got to do it.



And now….with the panel back up on the easel and the counterbalancing adjusted…I can move it all by myself….

so it’s time to throw some paint around.