The Sketching Process

Whether sketching is about the sketching process or sketching product is discussed frequently enough that you’d think everyone would “get it” by now.  But just as often you hear people lament that they don’t have anything to sketch.  They don’t get to go on trips, don’t live in places with great scenery, or simply they “just can’t find anything to draw.”  Obviously some people haven’t “gotten it” yet.

But for most of us, the process of putting lines on a page for the pure enjoyment of it is all that matters.  What we produce with those lines is way down the list of priorities.  I confess that I love going to a new place to sketch.  I lament the fact that my health issues are limiting my ability to sketch Quebec City architecture.  But I still enjoy putting lines on paper regardless of the subject.

Even a simple trip to the grocery store can feed my need for something to draw.  Subjects that are brightly colored and that don’t move make great sketching subjects and grocery stores are full of such objects.  On this day I had a “life drawing” session with some great models.  Hope you enjoy the results half as much as I enjoyed drawing them.

 

Doodling My Way Into Winter

My sketching over the past month has been mostly doodles done out of desperation and then only when my hands are working.  I’ve put my free time to good use, however, revisiting art books I’ve wanted to re-read.  Don’t you find that second reads of art books reveal information you didn’t get the first time through?  I sure do, particularly if I wait several months worth of sketching experience before the re-read.

Anyways, it never seems that doodles are worthy of blog posts so my posts have become fewer and farther between.  I did get out a couple times this week, though, so I’m reporting that I finally got to sketch in a more formal way, though ‘formal’ is exaggerated here.

My first stop was the 3d mask exhibit I talked about at the beginning of the month.  I went there with our sketching group and while my hands were less than happy about it, I drew one of the masks.  I confess to a certain frustration drawing these masks and I think I’ve figured out why.  I’ve been trying to turn them into a real face, when in fact they are somewhat alien because the tops of the head are removed, the eyes closed, and in general they’re just too smooth everywhere.  So, I figured I’d go with the flow on this one, producing the alien creature that it is, exaggerating it a bit with watercolor.  The mask is lit from below and excepting that it’s white rather than blue, this is pretty much what it looks like.  Kinda spooky don’t you think?

Once  a year we all get together and draw holiday cards in one form or another.  This year was no exception though I confess that I wasn’t much in a holiday mood that day.  It was a lot of fun, though, because there were a bunch of us creating art so I could see what everyone else was doing while I puttered away myself.  For this I always use Strathmore’s Watercolor Cards, which are convenient.  I never did get around to writing the obligatory Merry Christmas or Happy New Year on them.

Sketching With The Pilot Kakuno

For the past couple years, my sketching tools of choice have been the Platinum 3776 and a Pilot/Namiki Falcon.  Both are excellent sketching pens but a bit on the pricey side.  I’m a pen nerd so such expense was “justified” simply cuz I wanted one but the reality is that one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on a fountain pen to get good results.

Evidence for this comes in how many sing the praises of the Platinum Preppy that may not win any beauty contests but it only costs $4 and works really well.  I remember a time when everyone recommended a Lamy Safari to newcomers because it was the only game in town when it came to inexpensive pens but since then we’ve seen the release of the Pilot Metropolitan, TWSBI Eco, Platinum Plaisir among others.  Each of these is less expensive and at least the equal to the Safari so choices abound.

I want to talk about the Pilot Kakuno, specifically about the recent release of the completely transparent version, though it comes in a couple of colors as well.  There were two things that caused me to investigate this pen.   I love transparent pens because, as a street sketcher, it’s nice to be able to quickly check the amount of ink in a pen before I go out the door.

Mostly, however, this pen interested me because it was from Pilot and I love Pilot steel nibs.  They are smooth line makers, even when you use fine nibs like I do.  Second, they can typically provide lines that are very fine or a couple times that width with a little bit of pressure.   The low price point ($14) made it easy for me to scratch my curiosity itch and so I ordered a fine nib version of the pen.

I loved it from the start.  This pen may be the lightest pen I’ve used and it fits my hand beautifully when posted.  Like all of the dozen or so Pilot pens I own, this one works flawlessly with the DeAtramentis or Platinum pigmented inks I feed my sketching pens.  I was a happy camper but I was about to get happier.

I decided to order a medium nib version because I had a medium nib Metropolitan that I enjoyed a lot for quick-sketching.  The reason is that the medium nibs provide width variation from a Micron 01 with light pressure to a Micron 03 with a bit of pressure.  In addition to that, if you flip the pen upside down you can get hairline lines from the same nib.  Since I’ve received this pen I’ve used almost nothing else.

I got happier still when I solved the one problem I had with the Kakuno.  It has no clip and I need a clip on my pens.  Happiness came, however, when I discovered that the inexpensive clip sold by Kaweco for their pens fits beautifully on the Kakuno cap.  I immediately ordered a silver one for my fine nib pen and a gold one for my medium pen.  I now have a color-coded set of these pens and I’m thrilled.

Doppelgangers, Look-Alikes and Soses

There’s a new exhibit at our Museum of Civilization that plays right into my new endeavor to learn how to use a pencil while drawing portraits.  It’s called Mon Sosis a 2000 Ans  which means, I think, My 2000-Year Old Double.  While there’s some variation in how it’s presented, most of the displays look like this one (left).  On the right is a head (or bust) from long ago and far away (many are Egyptian or Greek).   On the left is the result of scanning a person’s head and using the results to 3D print a mask of the person’s face.  The pictures above show you what the person looks like with a comparative photo of the ancient sculpture.

This presents to the sketcher an array of faces/sculptures to sketch.  The downside of the 3D masks is that the person’s eyes are closed and the top of their head is gone so there is no hairline.  Still, they don’t move which is a plus.

Here are a couple of drawings from my first batch of sketches.  I’m not very good at this but I’m determined to improve.

Struggling With Pencil And Other Laments

Pat Roberson wrote to me asking if she was somehow missing my posts.  I was glad she was missing my posts, but had to confess that they were being missed because I wasn’t writing them.  If I could write about CT scans, doctor visits, constant blood and urine testing, and a bit of depression, I’d have lots to write about.  As it is, however, writing about urban sketching would leave me empty-handed right now.

So, I’m going to talk about the little bit of sketching I’ve been trying to do, even though it’s sketching I’m unfamiliar with and even more problematic it’s being done with a tool I don’t understand at all … a pencil.

As the weather turned cold and my leg didn’t get any better I realized that this winter I was not going to be able to be an urban sketcher.  I decided to view this as an opportunity (I brainwash myself regularly).  I told myself that this would be a great time to set my pens aside and pick up a pencil in an attempt to master the tool.  Everyone else starts with pencil but I was a pen-driver when I came to sketching and so all of my art baby steps were done with pen.

Further I decided that I would learn my pencil skills by drawing portraits, either from photos or from plaster casts.  This was (is?) probably foolhardy because my least favorite sketching subject is people, but I need practice in this area too, so while the wind, rain and snow keeps me indoors, I might as well “get out of my comfort zone” and learn something new.

I started by drawing a bust of Mozart, a cast I picked up at a flea market in a small town east of Quebec City.  Only an artist drives along a road to a sketching location and has to turn around to visit the flea market because they saw a white head sticking up from one of the tables.

Anyway, it seems I got off to a bad start.  I made a rank beginner mistake.  “I was just learning so I don’t need good materials” was my thought and so I grabbed a pad of cheap watercolor paper that I’d rejected for use long ago and started drawing.  It was too grainy for a pencil drawing but it didn’t matter; I was “just learning” after all.  I struggled to get an even tone, partly because of my lack of skill but also because of that paper.  And then I realized that I’d drawn Mozart’s eye too large so I tried to erase it.  The paper immediately pilled and I had a REALLY rough spot where the eye used to be.  I tried to fix it but was a fool’s errand.

This frustrated me to the point of giving up, realizing that I was fighting the paper more than the pencil.  So, here is my partially drawn Mozart, shown here with a black eye caused when he told Haydn that major-minor theme variations were silly.  I’ll have to draw him again.