Travel Sketching - Capturing the Feel of a Place | Marco Bucci | Skillshare

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Travel Sketching - Capturing the Feel of a Place

teacher avatar Marco Bucci, Professional illustrator & teacher

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

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1 Lessons (13m)
    • 1. Travel Sketching - Capturing the Feel of a Place

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About This Class

My process for sketching places from life. In this video I look at broad ideasĀ for composition, color, focal point, feel, brushwork, handling watercolor, etc.

Meet Your Teacher

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Marco Bucci

Professional illustrator & teacher


Hello, I'm Marco.

I'm a professional artist with 15 years' experience in the film, TV, game, and print industries - primarily as a concept artist and illustrator. I also happen to believe that it's the duty of experienced artists to pass on what they've learned, with no BS and for as low-cost as possible. It's for that reason that I'm a passionate teacher. I currently teach at CGMA, and have previously taught at Academy of Art University, Centennial College, and more. 


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1. Travel Sketching - Capturing the Feel of a Place: You know, I really don't think I'll ever get tired of painting outdoors. I just think it's one of the best ways to get a sense of place and atmosphere into your work. And because every place is different, you never know what you're gonna find. So I still try and bring my sketchbook pretty much everywhere I go and I hope you'll join me today as we pack up the art supplies flop on the painting hat and put on the shades because we're headed all the way to Morocco. Take the first word that comes to mind here, bustling, and I don't just mean bustling with people. It seems that everywhere you look is filled with potential compositions, beautiful colors and shapes. So I'm here in this main square marketplace, and I think I'd like to capture some of it with a quick sketch. But it could be pretty intimidating to just pull out your art supplies and start working in a place is publicas This So what I did. I found a little corner where no one could sneak up behind me and I'm just getting my feet wet with this little watercolor thumbnail sketch working small like this helps you feel like you don't have to create some masterpiece on site. And that kind of gets to my overall philosophy on painting on location like this. I'm not trying to do a finished piece of art. I'm treating this more like note taking as if the subject were like a professor delivering a lecture. And it's my job to take what's important about that lecture and put it down in my sketchbook. You're not going to get everything, but hopefully, what you do get is the essential information. This scene is lit by warm sunlight, so I'm putting down washes that represent the warmest colors in the painting, the lightest values to this being watercolor. I will get darker from here. What I think is so great about painting from life is it forces you to editorialize the subject, which involves you kind of injecting your own opinion about it. That's why traveling and sketching really go well together, because when you go somewhere new, you're instantly developing all these gut impressions, and what I'm doing here is filtering those impressions through shapes, values, edges, color temperatures in order to capture the feeling of Marrakech, small sketches like these really lend themselves to shapes and colors. You know, the architectural details on the building are not very high. On my list of importance, I'll put down a few smaller shapes to indicate windows and doors like you see me doing right now. But at least for this sketch, I'm far more interested in capturing the bustling activity that makes this market what it is. After all, I'm experiencing Marrakech for my very first time, and this is what my impression of the place is. And I think that could be filtered down into, like I said, shapes, colors and simple lights and darks. So getting back to the painting process itself, I have a lot of big and medium size shapes on the paper and those air good to kind of lay the foundations of a picture. Now I'm getting into what I consider the small shapes. Composing a picture for me is a process of arranging big shapes, medium shapes and small shapes in a way that is both orderly and appealing, and I realized that was pretty vague advice. Composing shapes is a huge topic unto itself, but just to say something about shapes I think a painter learns to see a scene very differently than most people. When I'm looking at this scene with all those hundreds of people walking around the big buildings and trees, I don't actually always. I try not to see those things like. A person is not a person. It's a potential shape, and that shape has a certain size and I like to reduce. The size is to just three categories big, medium, small that helps my shapes stay structured. And remember, painting is a language. It's a visual language, just like verbal language. It needs structure to communicate. So, for example, with color, I'm using the basic structure of warm vs Cool. This scene is lit by the warm sun, so all the things that are in light, I mixed with yellow jokers and vermillion reds and oranges and things like that. Then, for the shadows, I went towards the complementary colors, mixing in some purples and blues. I have other videos on my channel that Mawr directly dissect the fundamentals and kind of discuss the ins and outs. But I'll be keeping my narration here to some of the broader topics of painting that are still just as important. Let's get back to arranging shapes. One idea for arranging shapes that seems to work is start by using just a few big shapes because big shapes air good for taking up a lot of real estate and kind of anchoring your picture. Then use mawr medium shapes to break up those big shapes and then use even mawr small shapes. Of course, where you put those shapes is completely up to you and depends on the picture you're painting. But that's a shape hierarchy that is tried and true. It's, it appears throughout art history. Onda cool challenge of painting from life is that nature is a 360 degree, fully immersive environment, right? There's no pre made pictorial structure. That structure needs to come from you, the artist. And don't forget a tiny thumbnail like this can have just as sound a structure as a larger studio piece. And I do tend to work small when I'm outdoors. It just takes less time to do a painting. It also helps to drill these fundamentals over multiple pictures rather than just one. Let's break down this idea of big, medium small shapes, a little further. Big shapes air like your foundation in this picture the sky, the main building, the ground big shapes by themselves are not very interesting. But now we can lay medium size shapes over top of that. In this case, the trees, some of the shadows, medium shapes helped define the environment a little bit and add interest by breaking up those big shapes. And then the small shapes come over everything else. The small shapes complete the variety of picture needs to look interesting. In this case, they also add that bustling variety of the marketplace. OK, moving on. Check out this craziness. Actually, that looks safer than it felt, But I'm really attracted to those shops and the rich warm colors of Marrakech. It's a city infused with this sandy readiness. It creates a certain feeling, which is exactly what I'm after in this sketch, and I'm just not gonna be shy about it. I'm gonna go for it right away. The best way to get saturated color with watercolor is to lay those washes in first while the paper is still purely white. Because watercolor is a staining medium, the first stains you put on are the purest ones. While that washes wet, I'm going to get in that blue sky behind it and let the edges of the sky bleed with the edges of the buildings. And by the way, see that white paint I'm dipping into there that's actually good washed. So my medium is water colors with white wash. If you're interested in them or extensive breakdown of my set up, click the link you see on the screen right now. Anyway, while these washes air still wet, this is the time to get in that color. So I'm going back into the buildings and just getting colors off the pallet almost at random and putting them down. I mean, when I say random, I still want warm colors, which I've kind of grouped at the bottom of my palette and at the top half my palate, I have an arrangement of blues and purples. Basically, this may sound counterintuitive, but I really don't think much about the colors I'm mixing when I'm painting. I'm only thinking about warm vs cool, and this road that I'm painting is a good example. Right now, it's kind of a neutral, neither too warm or too cool, but watch this. That's a really hot reddit's too hot, so I'm gonna adjust it with a cooler, grayish, purplish red, and then I will kind of arrive at my final temperature. I honestly could not tell you which colors I'm mixing like I couldn't say, Oh, that's just cadmium red with cobalt blue. If I had to think that way, every time I went to my palette, I would sever my connection with my emotional experience of the place, and I would be bogged down with technical stuff. I want there to be a freshness in the sketch, and part of that freshness comes from an ability to interact with color. And again, the way that you can do that is understanding colors by way of relative degrees of warm and cool. So I mentioned earlier that this city is very red, and I set that up very early in the sketch was the first thing I did. So you see that gray that I'm mixing now? When I put that on the painting, it will look more blue than it actually is, because next to those warm reds, a neutral gray looks cooler. It's always a comparison warm vs. Cool. That's why the question What colors should I use is unanswerable because it changes with the context that the rest of your painting exists in. If you want to hear more about this, check out Episode five of My 10 Minutes to better painting Siri's, which is about color harmony So moving on here, I'm going to slow down a little bit in order to get in some distinct forms. So watch this. This is a very critical line I'm putting in. It divides two buildings, putting one in front of the next. And while I have that value in color on my brush, I'll see where else I could put it. Every time you mix a color on your palate, that's some valuable time you just spent. So try and make the most of it. And remember, you can always modify a mixture by making it either warmer or cooler, you know, adding some red to it, adding some yellow to it, adding purple to it. Whatever direction on the spectrum you want to go anyway, I'm still putting down these mawr considered marks. Remember when I started it was very loose. I was just trying to capture that color statement. Now I need to get some kind of architecture in there and again, just like the last one. I'm not going for perfection when it comes to my rendition of the architecture. It needs to look enough like shops, but without overtaking the more important aspect of this sketch, which is that overall color flavor. It looks like I remembered to take my sunglasses off for this one. It was amateur hour before I left him on. Yes, we're getting back in here, putting some more lighter washes just to differentiate one building from the next. Actually, I'm dealing with the background building here, mixing in again while the washes wet mixing in a few various temperatures in their watercolor is so good with that, the way watercolor interacts with pigment to me just feels like an ideal way to capture light. You get so many beautiful little blends and modulations of color basically for free. Okay, so what I'm doing here is a little bit of invention. That shadow does not exist in the actual scene, at least not at this point in the day. But I feel like it. I needed something to lead the eye into the sketch, and a nice strong diagonal will really work to break up the otherwise vertical shapes that are currently there. But hey, let's be real. That shadow is not the first thing I invented. Everything in this sketch has been modified to some degree to fit my particular composition . I mentioned that in the last sketch nature is 360 degrees. It's totally up to you to pick and choose what needs to be there. Just because you happen to be looking in one direction, it doesn't mean that that is what is ordained to be in your picture. It may form the bulk of it, but you should totally remember toe, look around and see if there are other visual cues that you can bring into your picture or just invent things that you think should be in your picture. Always remember the pages, your domain. Now, of course, the caveat is make sure you're not doing anything that fundamentally disrupts your connection with the place. Like I'm not gonna go paint one of these buildings green. Just because I happen to like green, that would be counter to my experience of Marrakech which is the part of the process that I hold sacred. My sketch ideally should capture how I think this place feels. I mean, if not there really be no reason for me to be out there in the first place. But speaking of that, I want to point out something that I think would otherwise be invisible. That initial pass, I put down all those reds and yellows, those air still there, like I haven't done anything that takes the effect of those away. I always try and be very conscious of that, because the thing you put down first is often your truest gut feeling. And I think it's good to trust that. In fact, what I'm doing now is I'm using pure water to take pigment off the page in order to reveal the under sketch. You know, bring back some of those reds that I'm kind of at risk of losing too much of. Ah, when I'm doing this, I know I'm almost at the end, putting in the little power lines. This is debatable whether this looks good, but I think it it's nice to break up the large shape of the sky with just a few smaller shapes, and you notice that while I'm doing this smudge a little bit with my fingers to soften the edge, and I'm also going to go to the buildings and put in little, I don't know and 10 a or satellite dishes, just indications of little things that exist in real life. I think those tiny shapes do have a place and can really bring a sketch to a finish. So at this point, let's get out of this high traffic area because we have earned ourselves a drink hand over some Moroccan wine and olives. I just put the finishing touches on the sketch with some content, just a few saturated color notes here and there. I try and limit myself to about a minute of doing this, so it's less likely I'll ruin anything. And it's right around this point that my wife will remind me to spend some time with her, too. So I hope this video inspires you to grab a sketchbook and get outside. It really doesn't matter if it's down your streets or to a whole other country. I'd like to take a quick moment to thank my patrons for helping to make these videos possible. And thank you, everyone, for spending your time with me today. That's it for now. I'll see you in another video.