Today’s experiment:

I have many photographs of parking lots. I take them when my wife is shopping. I used to bring my sketch book. I have many sketches of parking lots.

I proved yesterday that I could re-create a photograph as a watercolor composition, faithfully in many ways. Yesterday’s post was in response to the problems I encountered the day before (Sketching Problems). I was able to assemble all the landmarks in (nearly) correct spatial relationships, and imbue them with enough detail so that a viewer could recognize them as what I intended them to be.

However, looking at yesterday’s study in comparison with its reference photo one may notice a glaring difference. ‘Glaring’ is an appropriate word, since the difference is: lack of dark tones. Indeed, the impetus for me to take the photo was precisely the dark atmospheric tone. Here in sunny California, this type of sky has been largely absent recently.


Today I concentrated on tone. Instead of using watercolor on my larger format paper, I used charcoal. (I normally use 9×12 paper. The format today is 12×18.) I started with charcoal streaks to represent the dark edges of the clouds. Blending the charcoal was not as easy as I had envisioned. The initial stroke stays pretty much intact, therefore I had to be very careful in laying it down.

I started to draw the trees of the middle ground with my 2B pencil, but as soft and dark as that pencil lead was, it was anemic when compared with charcoal. I overlaid the pencil with charcoal and made sure to avoid blending it. I wanted the trees to have texture.

Here is my reference photo:

Photograph: Parking Lot #3

and my initial sketch…

Charcoal Sketch: Parking Lot #3

Charcoal Sketch: Parking Lot #3
12″x18″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper


The tonal values of my charcoal sketch are comparable to those seen in the photograph. I am pleased with that. The 12×18 aspect ratio of the watercolor paper is different than that of the photograph, but my modifications do not seem to violate any pictorial taboos. Both photo and sketch are pleasing.

As the photographer, I know that the darkness of the clouds did not dictate the ‘decisive moment’. It was, rather, the fleeting patch of clear sky in the middle distance that caught my eye. (It is just above the tree line in the middle of the composition.) The photograph does not do justice to that field of blue, so I decided to finish my charcoal sketch with a stroke or two of cerulean.

Charcoal Sketch: Parking Lot #3 with Blue Sky

Charcoal Sketch with some Blue Sky: Parking Lot #3
12″x18″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper

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