I like images. That’s my general preference when it comes to art. I like making images and I like looking at images. I’m in no way against abstract art, Ad Reinhart’s black compositions are among my favorite works of art, but, in general, I like a picture with my pictures. To narrow it down even further I like images of the human face and body. Those are the two main subjects that I paint and draw. Even if my faces get so out there that they bare little resemblance to actual faces there is still a face there. Occasionally I make abstract art made up of shapes and colors with no images to it but that’s fairly rare.

I’m also not much of a sketcher. I don’t go out into the world and draw from life. I know a few people who like to do that. They like to draw on the subway, the park, or even at a bar during “Drink and Draw” events. I think my work is too much inside my own head for that type of thing. As a consequence I don’t do a lot of landscape drawing. That would require me to go out and find some landscape worth drawing to sit in and draw. That never happens.

Of course sometimes I draw landscapes because they’re part of a drawing with a figure or figures in it but that’s a different beast. The landscape is just a background and is therefore subordinate to the main image so the landscape doesn’t have to stand on its own and is generally incomplete. An image of some sort will be blocking most of it.

I bring this subject up because this week I actually did make some landscape drawings. No figures in them at all. I guess the drawing would still be considered an image as opposed to an abstract drawing but to me it’s not really the same as if there were people in the landscape. They’re also not real landscapes. They’re not of any real place. I’ve been trying to think of a name for them but all I have so far is “Sci-fi Fantasy Landscapes.” That’s fairly descriptive of them but not very catchy.

It’s a style of landscape drawing that I’ve developed over the years and have done a number of them but not often. They come out of my “Busted Brush” technique (see, there is a catchy name) where I draw in ink with a watercolor brush that is so far gone that it can’t even come to a point anymore. When I go to draw one ink line on the paper three or four lines come out of the brush. The thickness and thinness of the line can also be quite random. Over all it’s a technique that forces me to loosen up, improvise, and embrace the randomness of making marks on paper.

I start out with a five by seven piece of watercolor paper and draw on it with my busted brush. This is where all the image making happens. These landscape drawing are all about the building I put in the. Sometimes it’s only one small building and sometimes there are multiple buildings filling the landscape. The building don’t adhere to any architectural style and are made to look interesting. Sometimes they look like buildings of an ancient civilization and sometimes they look like they belong on some other planet in outer space. That’s where the fantasy and sci-fi name come from.

After I decide on the first building (drawn straight in ink) I decide on the landscape around it. Or at least I decide on the general direction of the landscape. Then I add some of the elements of the landscape, more buildings, more landscape and so on until I’ve got it down. I’m careful to realize that I can always add more later and so I try not to add in too much stuff right away.

After the black line work is done I come in with some color. I’m not a big watercolorist but many years ago I decided to get some tubs to keep some liquid color in. The tubs are pretty big as paint containers go. They hold about a pint of liquid. Years ago I filled them up halfway with water and then squeezed a tube of watercolor paint into them. Now any time I want to use some watercolor it’s all ready to go. I have about six different colors set up that way.

With my watercolors set up that was they’re pretty watery. They color is light and thin. To darken the color I have to use a lot of washes. And I do. I’m not looking for wild illustrative color. I’m looking for subtlety and a little bit of visual interest. The color isn’t going to carry the piece as it does in so many of my paintings. So I usually have a bold sky color and then the buildings have color with just some small changes in tone in it.

If I want to color to be a little bit bolder I break out my pan gouache set. That give me twenty colors to choose from. Gouache is an opaque watercolor but with this style of drawing I thin it out and use it like regular watercolor. It can give me a little more variation in color density too.

After I get the color all done I go back into the drawing again with my brush and ink. All that watercolor going over the black ink can dull it down and make it look brown so adding some more black makes the drawing look strong again. Plus the drawing now has two different blacks in it and that makes for more visual interest.

After I finished the first five by seven drawing I made five more over two days. And then I decided to go bigger and made two nine by twelve inch drawings over the weekend. They all took me longer than I expected them too. They look like they should take less time than they do. Plus I’ve got the technique down and it’s a simple technique so I always think they should not take too much time. But they do.

I finished them up on a Sunday night and then a strange thing happened to me. I felt disconnected. It’s weird but sometimes making art without people in the images makes me feel off. Like I’m in a dreamworld. When I make dream-like drawings of people in them I’m fine. That even grounds me. But landscapes cam make me feel out of it. No wonder I like people in my painting so much.