“Don’t Sit On Your Stool,” She Said

Chantal: “Where are you going?
Me: “I’m meeting Yvan and Claudette on 3rd Avenue.”
Chantal: “Ok.  Don’t sit on your stool.”

That’s the conversation that took place following my “banging head against the wall” day on Tuesday.  She needn’t worry.  My Walkstool has worked flawlessly for years and excepting the need to replace the rubber feet that just wore out, it has been a reliable companion.  The calamity was all on me; I screwed up… again.

Anyways, I did meet “the guys” and drew this little scene.  Not my best but I am trying to recoup my blood supply after all.  I did another sketch, a more complete one, but I didn’t get to put color on it so I’ll post that one tomorrow.  Great day but REALLY cold.

Stillman & Birn Beta (7×7 spiral), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Sketching Is Dangerous – Expensive Too!

WARNING: Graphic Results of Violence Follows

Tuesday I was the organizer of our Tuesday sketching session.  We were to meet in front of the Chateau Frontenac, on the Terrace Dufferin at 10AM.  I like to get on site before anyone arrives so I can say hi when they do.

I started setting up to sketch a large statue, but one of the tubes on my WalkStool came apart from the lower portion.  I didn’t think much of this and just pounded it back in place.  I should have thought a bit more.  This disrupted my normal cycle of ensuring that all three legs were locked in place.  One was not.

I sat down on the stool, a leg gave way and my head smacked against the granite block wall of the hotel.  The crack to my head wasn’t as extreme as if I’d fallen from a standing position but…  I put my hand to the back of my head and it came away full of blood.

I scurried to my feet.  Well, I sort of scurried.  My knees don’t allow me to pop to my feet as I once could so it was more of an old-man process of getting to my feet.  I picked up my bag and stool, grabbed a paper towel to block the wound, and I headed into the Starbucks that’s part of the hotel.

I asked a guy there where I had to go for first aid, he said “Quoi?” and I showed him my handful of blood.  He got the message and immedately called the hotel medic, telling me to go stand by the doors outside and that the medic would be there.  I did.

A guy walked up to me and asked if I was ok.  I told him the medic was coming and he offered to take me to the hospital or at least stay with me until the medic came.  A woman ran over, carrying a wad of Starbucks napkins, which were gratefully received.  Then the Starbucks guy came out to check on me and we all stood around until a guy with a great big red first aid kit came through the door.

This is what my head looked like by the time I got home. The red on my neck is not a sunburn.

I know a real urban sketcher would have been sketching all this activity but, well, my hands were somewhat tied up trying to keep blood from running down my neck.  I went with the medic into a bathroom and he did a bang up job of  cleaning me up.  He concluded that I probably didn’t need stitches and did his best to bandage the tiny wound that was the source of the blood.

By this time, it was well after 10AM so I grabbed a coffee, thanked the Starbucks guy and went looking for my buddies.  They were all sketching away when I arrived.  The wound had stopped bleeding but, it started to drip so rather than sketching I was holding kleenex over the wound, applying some pressure.  It didn’t take long to realize that going home was a better plan than hanging out with my friends.

The wound did stop bleeding by about 1PM but I sat around the rest of the day watching Netflix and trying not to move my head too much.  Oh, the title mentions how expensive sketching can be as well as dangerous.  Somehow, during this fiasco, I lost my wireless headphones.  It was not a good day.

Finally…Some Outdoor Sketching

Here it is, the middle of May, and we’re still having a hard time getting outdoors in Quebec City because of cool weather and a lot of rain.  But it happened.  In fact, we had a bright, hot summer day on the 16th and our little sketching group took advantage of it.  We headed to an older part of the city where they have alleyways.

Alleyways provide sort of grungy views but views with lots of shapes that make for great sketching subjects.  I just love them.  In this scene you’ll find two large “towers.”  These are actually enclosed stairways, loosely constructed but effective in keeping the snow off the stairs.  They are very common in these neighborhoods.  I had a lot of fun doing this one.

Alley scene in Limoilu

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

 

Isn’t She A Doll?

When I was a kid I remember Howdy-Doody and Buffalo Bob, Captain Kangaroo, and Sheri Lewis and Lamp Chop.  When my daughter was little she watched Mister Rogers and Sesame Street.  Kid shows with a mix of adult and puppet characters have always been popular.

A show I never did see was very popular in Quebec and involved Bobinette, a wooden-headed puppet, and Bobino, a guy sporting a vest and bowler hat.  I’d heard of Bobinette but never seen her until, because of rain (again) we were forced into the museum.  A new display provided some insight into this early TV show and provided a chance to draw her.  The show was called Bobino and ran from 1957 to 1985.  Bobinette was Bobino’s sister.  Isn’t she a doll?

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10)

Crazy Colors, Pretty Colors

I’m trying to figure out watercolors.  My use of them over the past few years has been very childlike.  I look at the subject and I put blue where blue should go, green where green should go, red where…., well you get the picture.  I’ve been careful to always paint within the lines.

More recently I’ve started thinking about shading and such but still, I often envy those who are far more loose with their color interpretations.  I don’t really know how far I want to move in that direction but the other night I was watching baseball and I’d drawn a facade from my imagination in a cheap toned sketchbook.  While the paper was not good for watercolors, I decided to play a bit so I sat on the couch, legs curled up Kelly Ann Conway style, and I started adding colors.  I couldn’t work wet in wet as the paper wouldn’t allow it but this is what I came up with.  I liked it.

The next day I decided to try the same thing on a piece of Fabriano Artistico CP.  I started by wetting the entire facade and then dropped in blobs (see how I’ve mastered the technical terminology?) of paint to sort of mimic what I’d done the day before.  Again I was pretty happy with the results.  It looks like no facade I’ve ever seen but I felt it created an ambiance that suggested light coming from the windows… or something.  Anyway, I felt these experiments were successful and I will pursue more of them.  What do you think?  How do you learn to do this sort of painting?  I sure don’t know.

On The Other Hand…

I’ve mentioned my arthritis problems and I experienced complete frustration last week when we were given the opportunity to meet at a sketcher’s house to draw while rain fell outdoors.  On this day my hand was not cooperating and I could not draw without a lot of pain.

Now I like watching other people draw but doing it all day becomes a bit much.  What to do, what to do.  One of the sketchers laughed and said, “Use your other hand,” to which I said, “I have a hard enough time drawing with this one, holding up my left-hand.  But, the more I got frustrated the more I thought it might not be a bad idea.

As it turns out, I’m really horrible at drawing with my right hand.  My eyes still worked so I could identify proportions and relationships but getting my hand to put the lines where I wanted them, not so good.  Anyways, here’s the results.  In case you can’t recognize it, it’s a glass bowl with some fruit in it.  I gave up entirely when it came to hatching; as a righty I failed completely at that.

Old Guy Artist Struggles

Besides yelling at the sky because of all the rain we’ve been getting (parts of Quebec are considered disaster areas because of the flooding), I’ve been struggling with arthritis in my drawing hand.  The two things are related because low barometric pressure triggers my arthritic problems.  Regularly I think of Babette, in Gilmore Girls as she runs down the street saying “It’s gonna rain, my ankles are never wrong” as I’m in the same boat it seems.

But I did get out one damp, cool day.  It was only 7C with on/off misty rain but I was out walking and decided to do a quick drawing just to say I did.  Here’s one of the side entrances to our city hall building.  I hope things get on track soon so I can get out and do some real sketching.

Stillman & Birn Beta (7×7), Pilot Falcon

In The Museum – Out Of The Rain

This crazy spring is causing us to be drawing in museums even into May and we found ourselves, once again, sketching at the hunting and fishing museum in St. Augustine, Quebec.  I should consider myself lucky because many in Quebec are dealing with their houses being flooded from all the rain we’re receiving.  I’m just disappointed that I can’t sketch outdoors, which pales by comparison.

I spent some time with a wolf on this day.  I have to admit that I’m really getting a bad case of cabin fever and less and less in the mood to draw in museums but what’cha gonna do?  Unfortunately, I think this is beginning to show in the results.  Here’s the first drawing I did.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I decided to compliment this drawing with one of a wolf skull.  If you extend the back of the skull in the drawing just a bit, you’ll see a pretty decent rendition of a wolf skull.  Fun thing about this is that while I was drawing I kept thinking I was drawing everything too long, when in fact, I’d drawn the back of the skull too short.  Better luck next time.

The Virtues Of Sketching With A Pencil

People who follow my blog know that I’m a pen guy.  I used fountain pens long before I started trying to draw so it just seemed natural that I should use one as my drawing tool.  In fact, I was told that this was THE way to learn to draw by those who hung out in sketching groups.  Working with pen, it was said, would make me see better, make better decisions, improve my hand-eye coordination, and a whole slew of other great benefits.

Five years later I’m still using a fountain pen as my principal drawing tool.  More importantly, I can better assess all those well-meaning people who were advocating the use of ink to learn to draw.  And you know what?  I don’t think they were talking about ink at all.  They were talking about erasers.  They were talking about being sure about where you wanted to put a line before you put it.  They were talking about not spending a lot of time erasing and replacing lines.  When they said ink would improve my ability to see, they were really saying “If you know you can’t erase, you’ll pay more attention before you make a line.”

I suppose, they were right, BUT that is not the whole story.  There is room for pencil in the drawing process, even if you ultimately use fountain pens as your primary drawing tool.  For instance, I use a pencil when I start most drawings.  I use it to generate layout lines, to evaluation locations, major angles, and object sizes BEFORE I start thinking about drawing actual objects.  This is a step that pro artists may do in their heads but they are nevertheless doing it.  Less skilled folks, like me, need the pencil lines to evaluate those relationships and correct those they got wrong BEFORE they actually start drawing the outlines of the objects they’re trying to capture.  Most beginners skip this step completely.  I might talk about this at a later date but today I want to talk about a more fundamental reason to use a pencil to actually draw.

Using ink causes people to concentrate mostly on outline.  Whether it is buildings or people, basic lessons of contour drawing are very evident and, for the most part, that’s where the process of drawing ends for most people.  They may follow up with watercolor or maybe even hatching but these are done as after-the-fact processes once the contours are all drawn.

But if you draw with a pencil you start thinking more about form and less about outline.  Folds in clothes become areas of tone rather than a single line.  Curves become gradients of tone, or they should as the surfaces change their angles with respect to the light.  If you’ve ever tried to turn a circle into a sphere with a fountain pen you know how difficult this is, but with a pencil it’s a quite natural thing to do.

Because of this, drawing with a pencil will teach you more about seeing and creating tonal variation than will using a fountain pen.  You’ll concentrate more on 3-dimensional form rather than outline.  In short, you’ll start seeing in a different way and in doing so, even your fountain pen drawing will improve.

Because of this, I try to draw something in pencil every once in a while.  I always find it a struggle because I’m a left-handed sketcher who drags his hand across the drawing as I draw.  The smudging that results is not pretty.  The fact that I don’t do it as much as I should also limits what I can achieve, but each time I get a little bit better and I see just a bit better.  I also gain a keen appreciation for the pencil as a sketching tool.

Here’s a drawing I did of a statue in our museum.  I did it with a 0.5mm mechanical pencil which is a convenient tool, but probably not optimal for doing pencil drawings.  Please excuse my smudging; I’m just a lowly pen driver afterall.  Do you ever draw in pencil?