Cemetery Sketchcrawl Was A Big Success

It’s too late in the year to have an outdoor sketchcrawl in Quebec City.  We did it anyway.  Our group met at 10AM at the Mt. Herman Cemetery, a large expanse of rolling hills, tall white pines, oaks and maples and an ambiance that makes one want to meditate.  There’s a haiku group that meets weekly just to sit and write haiku poems.  I can understand why.

But we were there to draw.  Mark Brennan, one of the nicest guys in all of Quebec City and director of the cemetery, offered us the facilities of his building so we had toilet facilities as well as a kitchen and table around which we could sit for lunch.  As it turned out this really put the frosting on our sketchcrawl cake.

We went out to sketch and after some wandering, I sat down to draw a monument with a statue on top.  I had just done some organizational lines when Rene came over, introduced himself and told me that there were some other people that had just arrived.  So, as the organizer, I grabbed my stuff and hoofed it back up the hill to welcome people.  The cemetery is huge so it was no small feat to find everyone but find them I did, all busy sketching and in no need of my smiling face.  I gave it to them anyway.

I was heading back down to my sketching location when I met someone and that encounter became an hour-long discussion of fountain pens and inks.  Eventually I realized that there was something of an information overload occurring and so I told her I’d send her some links to the products we’d been talking about (Goulet Pens should give me cut) and I finally got back to sketching.

I got a few more lines drawn before I saw Rene and Gilles walking along the road and realized that we’d agreed to meet at the house at noon for lunch.  Guess what time it was.  So, once again, I packed up and walked with them.  Lunch was fun as we sat around talking (well, mostly I listened as I still have a hard time maintaining a conversation in French), some other people arrived, and we were having a bit of a party, sharing sketchbooks, talking about the virtues of gathering to sketch, etc.

Having had food, drink and comraderie, we headed back out to sketch and I was determined to finish at least one sketch so I headed immediately back to my statue.  It was now 3 1/2 hours into our sketchcrawl and I’d sketched no more than 15 minutes of it but I was having a lot of fun.  Sometimes it’s just not about the drawing.

It had also cooled somewhat and my Arizona bones were hurting, literally.  My arthritis and the cold froze up my hands to the point where I was having a hard time holding the pen and getting a straight line was out of the question.  But I finished the sketch and then ran over to a car full of sketchers and spent a few minutes inside warming up (grin).

Mt Herman Cemetery

Stillman & Birn Beta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

In all, we had a dozen sketchers, enjoying one of those ‘crisp fall days’ that authors talk about.  We sketchers call them ‘awfully cold’ but we did have fun.  Thanks to everyone who came and to Mark Brennan who made it all possible.

Sketching At Ecole De Cirque – Are You Kidding Me?

The great folks that organize the Collectif des ateliers libres en arts visuels  (longest group name ever) arranged to allow us to sketch at the Ecole de cirque where young people train to become circus entertainers.  It was a wonderful opportunity, or so I thought.  In the end, though, I wasn’t up to the task.

Attempt with a washable ink.

The school was fantastic and just getting to see it made the outing worth the trouble.  there were people jumping, bouncing, swinging, and being thrown across rooms everywhere you looked.  And they were good…really good.  Sketching them, however, was another matter.  It was like trying to draw popcorn being popped.  No two movements were identical and most not directed.  I simply couldn’t keep up.  Need more practice – more experience.

Attempt with a washable ink.

Attempt with a washable ink.

2015-10-30cirque2_colorHere’s an example of my failures…many failures 🙂  The woman on the left was spinning around and around in this hula-hoop thingie hung from the ceiling.  She’d hang from it, zip up through it and sometimes dangle with hands outstretched in different directions.  By the time I had  a line or two “defining” the woman on the right, she was upside down and she too was swinging, hanging and moving… a lot.

This woman made it a bit easier on me as she was working with a coach.  Her thing was to have two sets of belts hanging from the ceiling, as a gymnast working on rings might do, except she had no rings, just the loops of the belts.  She was practicing hanging vertical and moving her legs into and out of different positions.   She’d also dismount once in a while and stand, talking to her coach.  It seemed more like the popcorn in a bowl rather than in the popper and I took advantage of it.  I also drew a bunch of people who were just sitting/standing around but I’ll spare you those.


While we were eating lunch, a bunch of kids came into the room to eat lunch.  They were all bundled up in coats so I took the opportunity to do some quick pencil sketches of them.  It was a fitting end to the day as eventually I put my coat on too.  It’s that time of the year where I always lament that I’m now having to put on a coat before I go outside (grin).

Museum Sketching Exercise


Stillman & Birn Beta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

We’ve got a sketchcrawl coming up on Saturday and it looks like an unexpected blob of warm weather in early November is going to reward us for scheduling an outdoor event this late in the year.

But, truth be told, outdoor sketching is mostly over so I’m making regular trips to the museum to draw.  The big exhibit right now is Egyptian and composed, mostly, of small statues, jewelry, and some miscellaneous goods.  I’m in a mood right now to work on speeding up my sketching so rather than doing slow, precise drawing of these items, I’ve decided to draw a bunch of them more quickly.  I’m not quick-sketching (2 min or less) but rather I’m spending 10-20 minutes per item, trying to capture them as accurately as I can in that time.  Given my normal snail-like pace, I admit to feeling rushed.  It’s fun and I’m hoping that this exercise will add something to my skill set.  Here are a couple of the sketches I did during the first exercise session.

Egypt exhibit

Stillman & Birn Beta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Eventually I’ll do more detailed renderings of some of these pieces, but I feel that varying the time I give myself to do sketches has really helped me improve and I want to continue playing with that variable.  Do you do that?

Wake Up, Larry!

This week has been very hectic.  I’ve been out sketching almost every day and I’ve been doing all the winterizing stuff done around our house. Seems I’ve forgotten to scan stuff and post it here.  Sorry about that.

Here’s a little sketch I did while watching a movie.  I’ll get some scanning done and posted ‘real soon.’


New Workshops From Marc Taro Holmes

coverI’ve been a fan of Marc Taro Holmes and his art nearly as long as I’ve been trying to learn how to sketch.  His style is more loose and painterly than most sketching styles and reflects the fact that he’s a formally trained artist.  But as much as I’m a fan of his art, I’ve become more a fan of his teaching abilities.  This came first to me in the form of his The Urban Sketcher, which remains my favorite urban sketching book.

More recently, Marc’s two Craftsy courses, People in Motion and Travel Sketching in Mixed Media exceeded all my expectations for online courses.  Sadly, I find online courses mostly lacking, primarily because they typically assume the student knows nothing and they are filled with yet another description of red/yellow/blue color wheel discussions, what a contour drawing is, and how to hold your pencil in the air to measure things… that I’ve seen over, and over, and over.

Not so when Marc steps onto my computer stage.  He explains his materials and then launches into discussions of drawing and painting that assumes you know that the pointy end goes on the paper.  He does so with clarity that must be experienced.  He assumes you want to draw stuff.  He assumes you want to paint stuff.  And he provides multi-step processes to do both.  There are plenty of other places to learn about the color wheel; you’ll not find such discussions in Marc’s workshops.

Maybe most important is that he not only describes the process but he explains why he does what he does and what he’s thinking as he does it.  He makes it crystal clear what you’re supposed to be learning and why it’s important.  Each time I listen to one of Marc’s workshops I learn something more.

So, I was thrilled to find that Marc, in association with ArtistsNetwork.tv, have released four new workshops:

My understanding is that if you are a paid subscriber to ArtistsNetwork.tv you have access to all four of these workshops as part of your subscription.  They are also available directly from North Light as DVDs or you can buy them as downloads.  I bought two of them via downloads as I’m an instant gratification kind of guy and besides, there’re cheaper that way.

I expected that the concepts Marc teaches in his book and via the Craftsy courses would be the same in these workshops and I was correct.  Any thought that this suggests that they are repetitious, however, would be wrong.  One fundamental difference is that these workshops are done on location, so Marc discusses his urban sketching tactics as well as discussing his 3-step drawing and 3-step painting processes.  Also, because you’re spending so much time with him there are numerous little tips presented as he draws and paints.

Marc's Cemetery paintingThe Drawing and Painting in a Travel Journal workshop takes place in a Cincinnati cemetery/botanical garden and he begins with the major work of the workshop, an old gothic cathedral/mousoleum.  Marc walks us through his three-step drawing process, discussing his motivations and thoughts along the way.  The videography is outstanding with just the right amount of close ups of the drawing while allowing us to see the subject as well.

I particularly liked the painting portion of this as while I’ve seen his tea/milk/honey approach described, here I got to see his actual mixes, what brushes he uses, and how he worked around the painting.  I have a bunch of new things to try and practice.

Once done with this painting, Marc begins to walk the grounds, stopping to do some quicker sketches in an attempt to capture the essence of the place.  At each stop he discusses location sketching, what’s important, and what may be less so.  He sketches statues, monuments, and even the busts of a couple of Cincinnati’s founders.  While his fluency with a pen is humbling, it’s also inspiring.

This workshop runs 100 minutes and in spite of its nearly two-hour length, it seemed to be over too soon.  It’s a workshop that, like his Craftsy videos, I’ll watch several times.

15oct17_artnet_tv_birds_03bI’m one who believes that ‘urban sketching’ isn’t limited to drawing buildings, cars and people, and Marc seems to agree as his Urban Sketching: Bird Drawing takes place at a raptor rehabilitation center.  Marc describes his process of drawing and painting birds using similar techniques to his building and people sketches but here he emphasizes the unique nature of drawing animals, creating textures, capturing moving objects, etc.  Here I feel I got a lot out of Marc’s early pencil organization stages as he indicates not only the shape of the animal but also some of the major shadow shapes.  He draws several poses simultaneously as the bird is in near constant motion and he shows you how to work back and forth between them, ultimately generating a group of poses.  Marc makes this look easy but I find it difficult to shift my brain/eye between poses as the subject moves between them.  But Marc’s workshop should help when I try it again.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to learn from Marc Taro Holmes, do yourself a favor and pay the little bit of money required to gain access to these online workshops.  I’ll leave you with that thought as I’ve got to go buy the other two workshops.