Las Vegas Sketch 1 - The Strip
We were only going to be based in this wonderland for 2 days and 3 nights, and so time constraints meant I switched to sketching and watercolours in order to capture and experience more of the fabulous Las Vegas. It also meant it was easier to produce work inside the casinos, cocktail bars and cafes, and work done outside in the extreme desert heat could be compiled quicker.
I first learnt to paint with watercolours, sat alongside my grandmother, Mary Pointon, who ran a watercolour group in Caverswall, Staffordshire and studied under Potteries artist Reginald Haggar.
So here's the first Las Vegas sketch, produced in a bar that overlooks the Bellagio, but i was facing more towards the Cosmopolitan. I wanted a view of the traffic continuously queuing through this heart of the strip. The bar had some shade, misters and kindly kept me hydrated with water but still the desert sun at 42 degrees made it difficult work, I was working through sunglasses because the reflection off the white paper was so bright, and I was beading sweat in no time. I am quite pleased with the results though, having not used the medium for so long, I think this method of colouring a pencil sketch is a good method of capturing the subjects and communicating the information whilst building up my skills with watercolours.
After retreating from the desert sun, I was hunting good subjects in shaded or air conditioned space, and found this great moment of silhouetted people overlooking a good view onto the main strip of Planet Hollywood and the Paris casinos (complete with fake Eiffel Tower).
The medium of watercolour really came into its own with this piece, I knew the subject was mainly the people and had limited time with them so, just drew and painted them until they moved, and then worked up the background. This is the opposite way of working to oils with which I only get chance to define people at the very late stages of a painting when the background has been developed.
Las Vegas Sketch 3 - Karen at the Bellagio
Of course, this body of work demands some interiors of the gaming halls in casinos. This is a view of Karen playing the machine on the bar inside the Bellagio after we had watched the famous evening fountain display. The Bellagio was our favourite casino somehow retaining an air of class in amongst the funfair. There were piano and double bass musicians playing within earshot, along with the clicks of poker chips. I like the macabre feeling to this drawing, Karen's incidental pose of the hand supporting the face, makes a great reflection on the casino experience. I am very pleased with this composition and subject, I feel it would make a great painting or series of works should the opportunity arise in the future. For now though, due to time constraints, it remains a light pencil study.
Las Vegas Sketch 4 - 'New York, New York' Casino
We stepped inside the plastic version of New York before our visit to the real thing. I wanted to represent the glowing lights of the endless rows of slot machines that make up all the casinos gaming halls. The darkness in these halls that are shut off from the outside world and time, when you know just how bright the sun is shining outside i found unnerving, as a guy that spends a lot of time studying light cycles. Still they are a spectacle, like no other, and worthy of a visit.
I was up against it with my choice of medium trying to get glowing lights in a dark space using pastel watercolours and starting on a white background but I think the result has captured something. I used conte crayon over the watercolour and pencil which added some needed harsh contrast. The sitters on the machine in the foreground left so I asked Karen to model in their place. Whilst modelling she put a dollar in the machine and won a $34 jackpot!
Las Vegas Sketch 5 - Fremont Street
Fremont street is the downtown edgy little brother of the uptown Vegas strip. It is where we stayed and enjoyed the buzzing nightlife. This sketch is of a magician performing in the daytime. I was sat in a bar overlooking and witnessed his act 5 times over and think I have figured out all his secrets!
Next stop New York!