Will Noble at his easel  

 

People are often confused by my process. First, they may think the painting is a photograph, perhaps digitally manipulated. Then, when told it is a painting, they assume that I have painted over a photograph or worked from a projected image. I assure you none of this is the case. For reasons I cannot seem to articulate it is important to me to paint what I see, and the more I look, the more detail I see. So as crazy as it may seem to others, I spend hundreds of hours in stillness with just my pencil in hand, my eyes peering through a magnifying glass hovering over a photograph I have taken. This process of seeing-drawing-painting is an intrinsic part of my life. You might think of it as meditation.

     
Process - Step One, Will in the wild   Step One - In the Wild
Because of the complexity of my work, (and because my subject matter is usually found in cold damp places) I work from photographs that I have taken throughout Marin County and the Sierra. I look for interesting movements of water, interactions of water with rock, light, and vegetation. I am always out with my camera after a good winter rainstorm.
     
start  

Step Two - Into the Studio
In the studio I start sketching and composing with a blue Col-erase pencil on 140lb or 300lb hot press watercolor paper, depending on the size of the piece.

After I am satisfied with the subject and composition, I begin detailing the work, using a magnifying glass to clarify otherwise hidden patterns in the photograph. I start the drawing from one side top to bottom, keeping the rest of the paper covered so as not to smear my original layout sketch.

     
Step 3, Completed drawing (Indian Valley Creek)  

Step Three - Detailed Drawing Completed
Depending on the size and complexity of the work, the drawing alone can take up to 450 hours.

     
Step Four - Painting in Progress   Step Four - Painting Begins
When the drawing is complete, I begin with light watercolor washes over the blue pencil. Col-erase blue is water-soluble so I compensate when I mix my colors. I build up value by layering one wash over another, a sort of glazing technique carried over from traditional oil painting
.

This example is a watercolor but the process is the same with oil paints, except instead of drawing with a pencil I 'draw' with a brush and burnt sienna paint.
     
Completed painting   Finished Painting
This piece is titled Indian Valley Creek.
See a larger version.
     

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