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  • Brod Wong

URBAN SKETCHING: VANCOUVER



This was a result of a plein air study I did during a urban sketching meet up. I chose the Holy Rosary Cathedral on Richards and Dunsmuir because of it's architecture and the way the light and shadow presented itself on it. It was also another chance to use my watercolor easel and learn something new from life!


It was a bright sunny Saturday morning and I found myself away from everyone in the group. I spotted 2 of my fellow urban sketchers within an eye shot from the 4th floor of a nearby parkade. The vantage point was better than ground level, but location wise was a bit challenging as the parkade walls impeded my vision.

I had to lean out to get a good look. I decided to take a picture of the full view and have it ready when I just needed to quickly look at something.



Here's a thumbnail working out the composition and value distribution. Working small is a great time saver and it saves your much needed energy and focus for the actual piece to paint.



My objective was to simplify what I saw and target values. Color will be arbitrary.

Things that I learned from this experience: 1) When you see the light and shadows that you like, don't be tempted to change it later when you see another light and shadow pattern form because the light source, the sun, has moved. Take a picture of the scene first and then capture of it by eye as much as you can. The picture can serve it's purpose  when the light and shadow pattern changes later.

2) I used negative space to describe areas where the light is hitting. 3) Stairs adds repetitive shapes and establishes a directional element to lead the eye.

I wasn't happy with the turn out but after all, it was just a study. Right after finishing, I immediately picked it apart, critiquing the areas that I liked and wanted to change. My painting was filled with little scribbles, mostly what I wanted to change.


I worked on the new one, and this time, with a renewed energy and vision. I knew what I needed to avoid doing, what to keep and what to do differently. I took my time and tried to keep it loose and suggestive. When it comes to details though, it's hard to simplify the shapes without losing the overall look. I decided to slowly paint the the smaller designs slowly but not too carefully to keep it suggestive and loose.

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