Field Notes Sweet Tooth: A Sketchbook?

FNsweettooth

I confess that I’ve been a subscriber to Field Notes, a series of small (3×5) collectible notebooks, for the past year.  These are handy notepads but mostly they come with paper that’s too light for sketching, at least with fountain pens, and they generally come with pesky lines or grids on their pages.

A while back, though, they did one of their quarterly releases that included 70# white paper.  It did have a light grid but it could  be easily ignored and proved to be a useful sketchbook at least for those of us who like the convenience of having a small, light sketchbook with us at all times.  And Field Notes have done it again… sort of.

This time they’re released a set of three colorful notebooks (Easter colors??) with a couple significant twists on their typical approach.  This time, the 70# paper is BLANK… just like we like it.  And it’s RED, BLUE and YELLOW… which we like…err…uhm… I’ll let you be the judge.

2016-03-22lampWhen I received mine I was very unhappy.  Who the heck needs paper with these ridiculous colors.  I threw them on the debris field and this my desk and didn’t even open them.

Then Tina Koyama “experimented.”  She’s much smarter than I am and saw the potential.  You can see her results here, and here.  The results were undeniable; I had to try them.

Like Tina, I started with the red one.  I took it with me when I went to meet some people to attend a small art exhibition.  I stood outside and in spite of the cold decided that I should try to draw a lamp on red paper. This was not a great idea because my hands quickly became frozen and I was struggling to get the white Uniball pen to write in the cold.  Nevertheless, I had started my adventure down the small red road.

2016-03-23FNtestThat night I sat at my desk with a photo of a street lamp on my laptop.  I only spent a few minutes on it but the red paper made it a lot of fun.

The next night I was watching TV with my wife and as I’m prone to do, I got a bit bored not doing at least one other thing while watching the glass teat.  So, after checking my Instagram feed, becoming frustrated with vitriole on Twitter, and checking in to see what the Blue Jays are doing in spring training, I got my red Field Notes, my Platinum 3776 and I grabbed the glass container that holds my watercolor water on my desk.  Watching TV became more fun as I drew that container.

 

2016-03-23waterjug

I’m a guy who loves drawing lines more than anything else.  I’m drawn to watercolors mostly cuz everyone else is, proving that I’m as much of a lemming as anyone else.  But the red paper releases me from the thought of adding color so I can just enjoy drawing with my fountain pens.  It won’t be the only sketching I do as I’m not sure how well it fits into my urban sketching passion, but for sitting around the house drawing, it’s pretty sweet… or is that sweet tooth?

I did give the approach a try while I was at the museum and drew this interesting flask.  It’s a flask which was traditionally filled with perfume.  Egyptians gave these to each other as part of a New Years celebration.  This was fun and may show me the way to incorporate the toned paper into a location session as this only too me a few minutes between my normal sketching.

2016-03-23NewYearsFlask2016-03-24hydrantI was more doubtful about the other two colors but, again, Tina led the way.  This morning I decided I should try the blue book so I could post a result in this blog post.  I decided a fire hydrant might be nice and as I’d just filled a Pilot Metropolitan with Nooder’s Red-Black I started drawing.  Not good…really bad, in fact.  Noodlers Red-Black is supposed to be “water-resistant.”  It is not… not even a little bit.  I touched the drawing with a small brush with the idea of pulling a bit of shading from the lines and those lines just exploded.  Thank goodness I was drawing a red thing because I was in chase my tail mode trying to clean up the mess.  I wasn’t very successful and smarter people would probably not post this sketch.  Here it is.  Not the fault of the Field Notes but it’s a great example why I don’t use Noodler’s “water-resistant” inks.

And so I had to try again so I could provide something…anything in the blue book that looked ok.  I did this quick architecture/landscape sketch from my limited imagination.  Hope you like it.

2016-03-24house

 

New Field Notes Format – Dime Novel Edition

Some know Field Notes as a company that produces thin, 3.5×5.5 notepads in a series of ‘themes.’  Most of the time these notebooks come with lines, graph or dot-grid paper but once in a while they produce a series with blank pages and these are great for use as small quick-sketch notebooks.  Most famous, thanks to Tina Koyama, is the Sweet Tooth series that had blank pages and came in red, yellow and blue paper books.  Tina has done, by my count, a zillion or so sketches in the red ones.

A recent release by Field Notes may be the most useful notebook yet for sketchers.  No, they won’t replace my Stillman & Birn books but for quick-sketches they’re just dandy.  The release is called the Dime Novel Edition and reflects the format (4.25 x 6.5) of dime novels of the early 1900s.  The paper is blank, except for a small page number in the upper right corner.

Instead of their typical staple-bound 48-page form, this book has three signatures (72pages) that are sewn together and then wrapped with a heavy cardboard cover.  To sweeten the pot, Field Notes uses really nice 70# paper that has just enough tooth to make it nice for drawing pencils and great for fountain pen.  I’ve only done a bit of testing but I saw no evidence of bleedthrough with this paper though there is a bit of ghosting.

I find the size ideal, mostly because it’s very thin – about 1/4″ thick, light and yet large enough that if you draw across the gutter you have a 6,5 x 8.5 page to work on.  Oh…and if you go through it, pressing each page open (the book handles this quite easily), it will also lay flat.

The 70# paper does limit what you can do with water, but if you don’t slop on too much water, you can use watercolor as well.  Watercolor pencils seem to work particularly well, but again, you need to keep the water applications light or you’ll get some buckling of the paper.

The books are sold as a 2-pack for $12.95.  Page count here exceeds the total pages contained in the 3-packs of the 3×5 Moleskine books that many use for this purpose and the paper here is far superior so if you carry such a notebook with you, give these a look.

 

A Little Bit Of Blue

Once upon a time the Field Notes company released an edition of their small sketchbooks called Sweet Tooth and it contained a red, a yellow and a blue notebook as a three pack.  Several of us started drawing in the red ones because it creates a bright mid-tone between our black and white pens.  Tina Koyama has become queen of the Sweet Tooth, using mostly red but sometimes blue notebooks.

vignette from imagination while watching baseball

Me, while I did some “serious” sketches in a couple red books, I’ve mostly relegated these books to really quick-n-dirty sketches, done while waiting for someone or small sketches from my imagination while I watch baseball.  I don’t scan these sketches as there’s just too many of them, none worthy of consideration but they help train my brain to draw, which is the reason I do them.

I feel I’ve plagiarized this from somewhere but I don’t know from where. Done from “imagination” while watching baseball

Real quick sketch of part of our skyline

I’m posting a couple of them here so I’ll have an excuse to post a nod to Tina’s ‘abandoned couch’ series.  I was waiting for our gang to show up to draw and across the street was an abandoned couch with a couple matching chairs piled up on top of it.  I thought immediately of Tina.

In honor of Tina Koyama’s abandoned couch series

 

sketch, Sketching Small In Ottawa

I got to spend a week in Ottawa, mostly visiting my daughter but I also wandering around and sketching.  I’m in the process of scanning the sketches and thought I’d start a short series of posts with a few of the many tiny sketches I did while there.  The tan ones were done in one of my mustache books while the red ones were done in a Field Notes Sweet Tooth notebook.

2016-06-20people1I’m going to include only two of the people sketches I did, mostly because I’m lazy and didn’t want to scan any more.  The first is my favorite of all of them; a woman wearing a hijab.  This scarf was gorgeous, with silver threads running through it that made it glisten.  I got caught up in the curves and folds of the fabric to the point that my coffee went cold.

2016-06-20people2This one was a bit unique in that I was waiting for me daughter at school and saw this unusually talk Asian woman.  Not an important sketch by any measure but I enjoy capturing the variability of the human form.

If you follow this blog you know that I’ve been having fun sketching with the Field Notes Sweet Tooth edition, particularly the red notebook of the set.  I’m going to have to buy a couple more packs as I’m using up my red ones.  It’s really fun having the red as a mid-tone with black and white inks on either side.  Here are a couple lamp posts, one of my favorite sketching subjects.

2016-06-21lamp post12016-06-21lamp post2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016-06-26artgallery

 

My daughter and I bought sandwiches and walked down to the Ottawa River where 7-stage canal locks lower boats from the Rideau Canal to the river.  It’s a beautiful place and we fed chipmunks and watched a young rabbit chow down on the foliage a few feet from us.  I mentioned to her that I wished that I had a loose and quick style that would allow me to capture things like the Art Museum that was visible up the hill from where we sat.  To demonstrate that I don’t have one, I did this sketch of it in just a few minutes between sandwich bites.

On another day I started walking from Parliament towards a pair of statues that honor firefighters, but I ended up doing sketches along the way and didn’t get to the firefighters until late in the afternoon.  By then I’d been pretty well beaten down by the particularly hot day so I decided to do a small ‘red’ sketch.  I’m really glad things worked out the way they did as I really liked the result.  Hope you do too.

2016-06-24fireman

 

The Parents Head To Ottawa

Last weekend Chantal and I headed for Ottawa.  It was a holiday weekend and we went to visit our daughter who is in school there, but as I write this I realize that it was more than that.  Because of a lot of good stuff that happened, our daughter wasn’t going to come home for the summer as she normally would so the trip was at least as much an attempt to deal with that disappointment as anything else.

That’s a simple way of explaining that this wasn’t a sketching trip.  In spite of that, I did a bunch of quick sketches throughout the visit and I thought I’d present some of them as an indication of how easy it is to fit urban sketching into a trip that is otherwise occupied with things that make most people say “I was too busy to sketch.”

We arrived on Friday and our daughter was still at school so we got some lunch, went to an art store (more of a crafts store as so many have become) and then headed to one of the parks.   As we walked around I saw this scene and decided that I’d do a very quick, thumbnail-style sketch just to capture the major masses.  I didn’t worry much about proper perspective or drawing accurate lines and the initial sketch took only a few minutes.  Then my daughter called and said she would be there shortly so we stayed put.  I decided to add some more lines to the drawing and, ultimately, I slopped some color on the sketch.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

2016-05-20-56cherryblossoms

Field Notes “Sweet Tooth” (3×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black, Uniball UM_153 white pen

I was sitting under a flowering crab apple tree (I think) and  I decided to sketch of some of the flowers in my red Field Notes “Sweet Tooth” notebook and I thought it came out pretty well for a 3-4 minutes I spent doing it.  I was rewarded by my daughter showing up with an “hic c’est beau.”

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out as a family, eating in market area, buying candy and listening to street musicians.

The next morning, however, was laundry day.  We gathered up ever stitch of clothing, bedding, and towels and hauled them to a laundromat where we commenced to feed an obscene number of dollar coins into the machines.  We drank coffee, ate muffins, and I drew this little scene in the tiny coffee shop associated with the laundromat.  Not much but it was fun to do and made the time pass more quickly.

2016-05-21-48LaundryDay

taned notebook, Platinum 3776,

Then it was off to the grocery store where we bought one of everything and two of some things.  My biggest fear was that there wouldn’t be room for it all in my daughter’s apartment.  Parents do get carried away some times.  And we did, of course.

Once we shoehorned all the groceries into their proper places, we headed off on a quest for shoes.  Understand, this was two women and an old guy.  We went EVERYWHERE looking at shoes.  I knew my life would end while looking for size 9 flats.

But surprise, surprise, we tracked down the illusive ideal shoe, bought two of them then went to a park where geese lived and they had lots of baby goslings running around.  They were fun to watch and I should have sketched them but I was worn out from the shoe chase.  Eventually we got hungry and headed for my daughter’s favorite Korean restaurant.

After dinner we walked to Major Hill Park, a park where the towers around Parliament poke up above the trees.  We drank bubble tea and enjoyed the changing sky as sunset was near.  I did a couple quick sketches in the failing light and probably should have settled for just a silhouette.

Parliament library roofline, FN Sweet Tooth, Platinum 37762016-05-21-56majorhillpark2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did a bunch of park hopping the next day, mostly because we just wanted to be out in the sun.   We sat for a long time in Andrew Haydon Park, looking out at the boats having fun in the Ottawa River.  There wasn’t much close to me to draw so I drew some rocks.  I love drawing rocks, though I’m not particularly good at it.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

As it got hotter, though, the desire for shade took hold and we ended up in a park along the Rideau River.  Another place to practice my sloth, I was getting quite good at it, particularly because there were a group of guys in a drum circle providing entertainment.  I did break out the sketchbook to do this quick capture of a few of the players.  It’s not very detailed but it’s the best I can do in a few minutes.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8×5), Platinum 3776

2016-05-22-48RideauRiverKidI did several really quick (< 1-min) sketches of people as they wandered by where we were sitting and I’ll share only this one of a small boy who stopped to admire the river.  We had a delightful dinner at the apartment and then headed out to wander some more, ultimately ended up back at Major Hill Park.  It was pretty dark when we got there so sketching anything other than the proverbial black cat in a dark room there were no real sketching opportunities.

That was a last thing on my mind anyway as we had our mitts full of frozen yogourt.  It was the best there is, or so sayeth my daughter.  I think its the first time I’ve ever had any that didn’t come out of a carton.  We’d stopped at Menchies to get it and that was a fun experience unto its own because of the way you put together what you want and then pay by the weight of your concoction.  I drew the spoon in honor of the place.

2016-05-23-54MenchiesSpoonSo there you have it – our trip to Ottawa.  Urban sketching adds so much to trips like this, even if you don’t have time to do it.  Does that make sense?  Hope so.