Urban Studies

My trip to Georgia largely put artistic production on hold.  At the same time, it has also stimulated the creative juices.  Conveniently, the weekend has just begun.  With the bathroom remodel project almost complete, the time is ripe for a good studio session.  New work should be flowing from the fingers shortly.

In the meantime, let’s talk studies.

‘Studies’ isn’t just a euphemism for intellectual pursuit like, “after polishing off an entire pizza, Daryl returned to his studies.”  In the context of art, studies are the preliminary drawings or paintings the artist undertakes to prepare for a more substantial work.  These frequently take one of two forms: a full-composition study, or a detail study.  Neither of these terms are anything official, just my take on things.

The full-composition study is basically a less-polished version of what the artist intends the final piece to look like.  The artist uses the study to work out the relationships between the various components of the piece, and makes sure they are working together the way he or she wants them to.  The finished piece can end up looking almost identical to the study, or it may diverge quite a bit.

The detail study is like a mini-painting or drawing, or sculpture, etc. of just one object in the final piece.  For instance, the Metropolitan Museum of Art site showcases studies that Michelangelo completed in preparation for one figure on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

These are opportunities for the artist to literally study the subject which he or she intends to paint.

Here is a sketch that served as a study for a subsequent watercolor:



The main purpose of this sketch was to get a sense of:

  1. The interplay of lights and darks
  2. The balance of the composition
  3. How to render the individual shapes (I’ve never been very good at cars)

You will also notice a little note in the upper right portion.  It reads “Need Window”.  The window isn’t there in real life, but this portion of the building is boring without anything there.  In addition, the composition needs something there to keep it feeling balanced (see #2 above).  So a window was scribbled in.

Below is a watercolor study of the same subject:


At this point, I already know where I’m placing each object having done the pencil study.  This study is to determine the color combinations, develop the window and figure, and to just get a feel for the paint.

Sometimes artists make studies for paintings that never get painted.  They either discover during the process that the idea is less worthy of a finished painting than they first thought.  Or, they die.  That makes it more difficult to create a quality piece of art.

The studies above do not have a finished piece to show for their existence, yet.  Work will begin on that, soon.  Unless I die, of course.

What ‘tweaks’ do you notice between the pencil and watercolor studies?  Would you consider these changes improvements?

This entry was published on February 17, 2012 at 10:23 pm. It’s filed under Drawings, Humor, MN, Neighborhood Landmarks, Signs, St. Paul, The Artistic Process, Watercolors and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Urban Studies

  1. Pingback: Where I Buy My Little Debbies – pt.1 « Gabriel Garbow | Artworks

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