Rider’s Lens #002: Vince Colvin, Drawing as a reference.
Rider’s Lens #002: the sketches of Vince Colvin, made during his trips around Ecuador, Texas and New Mexico.
In this second instalment of the Rider’s Lens, we’re showcasing the value in sketching from the trail, as a way of both recording a journey, and helping appreciate the very elements that draw us to the outdoors.
Words and sketches by Vince Colvin
Beyond the necessity of staying on course, I am most interested in the existing in the moment when riding in the backcountry. It is so enjoyable to clear your mind, later to realize that you’ve only been thinking about keeping your wheels upright – letting go of what is next and coasting into a state of focus.
Drawing while bikepacking offers a similar perspective on this; a chance to stop and really exist in the surroundings. As I begin to draw, I try and capture these moments of intense focus, and enjoy what I’ve worked so hard to pedal to.
Over the last year, I’ve been riding and backcountry testing CHUMBA USA‘s bikes, from Volcán Cotapaxi to Volcán Chimborazo in Ecuador, throughout IMBA trails in Big Bend, TX, along Colorado Trail mountain ranges, and around New Mexico’s calderas. Although I bring my sketch book with me everywhere, I set no specific art goals on my trips when approaching the practice of sketching. Typically, anytime I stop for camp or to take a break I start a new sketch.
I generally spend 1 to 10 minutes on any given sketch and definitely no longer. Looking is more important than drawing, so I look directly at the feature I want to draw, following the contours or details as I bring them to paper. Every time you sketch you are training your eye to truly see. As you spend time translating what you see to paper you will begin to find what inspires you in the landscape.
For me its the big features and light. I am pulled to dramatic lines and opposing angles, stark shadows against bright highlights of contrast… two horizons crossing one another or clouds wrapping around a mountain side.
Where the true reward lies:
When you are done, and you look at the drawing compared to the landscape, do not concern yourself with how accurate it is. Free yourself from judgements of “is this drawing good, is this drawing bad”. These sketches are for you. It is most rewarding that you’ve captured the act of looking. You’ve taken a moment to soak in your surroundings regardless of the outcome. You’ve created a memory of the trip that can transport you back to the location every time you see the drawing.
Just like you might keep a camera handy, keep your sketching kit in an easy to reach place. I keep mine in my Wanderlust Gear Sawtooth bar bag front pocket, or in my Divide frame bag side pocket, so I have access without digging through lots of gear. And keep it simple. Here are two easy ideas to get a inexpensive and lightweight kit together.
- Small box of conté crayons for $4
- Small sketch book with some tooth to the paper for $8, This one is great because you can draw across the binding and make bigger 2 page drawings also.
- A kneaded eraser $0.50, to clean up the sketches after the trip.
- A zip-lock freezer bag to keep it all dry and clean.
- Tips: Don’t smudge with your fingers, just draw. Let the conté crayon do the work. Don’t erase anything, if you mess up, just draw over it. A drawing with history is better than a “perfect” drawing. Always hold the conté crayon underhand it is meant to be held this way. Conté is a versatile drawing tool that can be used on its tip, length edges, or side to create big strokes and marks.
- A set of PITT ink pens $7
- A small soft graphite stick $1.25
- Small sketch book or Moleskine notebook $12.50
- A zip-lock freezer bag to keep it dry and clean
- Tips: Try drawing with the pens and graphite separately, and then also try using them together in the same drawing – see this blog post for an example. The graphite stick can be handled the same as the conté. Test your pens before the trip to make sure they are not dried out. Get a zip-lock freezer bag to keep it all dry and clean.
Sketch Break Down
As we do in each instalment in our series of Rider’s Lens, we’ve asked Vince to deconstruct his last sketch, and explain how and why he made it the way he did. Here’s what he had to say:
This drawing in black conté crayon, made at the base of Volcán Chimborazo, Ecuador, is a great example of what I have been discussing. It is important to let go of concerns for capturing the precise, surrounding landscape. I focus on features. I focus on light and shadow. I focus on what makes the largest visual impact to my eyes. When I start drawing I am not looking to complete a predetermined image from my head. Instead, I am responding directly to what my surroundings are, focusing only on what arrests my attention. If clouds roll by or shadows change mid-sketch, it only makes the drawing better and I am quick to draw the new changes right over the original drawing. In this way I am completely focused on the moment of the drawing. Later back in the studio I work from memory and queues in the sketches to create new larger works.
For more of Vince’s artwork, and inspiration for sketching from the trail, visit his website and blog. Vince is the Operations Manager at CHUMBA USA. He holds an MFA in Painting and has instructed art for over 10 years… but insists you don’t need any formal training to give sketching a try!