Urban Sketching In Isolation

Many of us have lamented that our urban sketching lifestyles have been disrupted by COVID-19.  We sit in houses thinking of better days when we sat in public places drawing the scenes before us.  And some of us have reported our “solutions” to this.  Tina Koyama talks about standing in a street circle and drawing what’s around her.  I’ve mentioned my 2-min sketches while on walks. Others have succumbed to looking out their windows for subjects.

I may have found a way to up my game as an isolated urban sketcher.  Maybe you’ll think I’m not urban sketching at all, but it feels like urban sketching to me.  Here’s what I did.

1) I went for my daily walk and found a scene worthy of sketching (are there any that aren’t)?
2) I stood, leaning against a tree, while I studied the scene, thinking about drawing it.  I noted the relative locations of all the major objects and ‘saw’ the major angles and proportions that related the objects to one another.  I thought about what I’d eliminate from the scene, where the center of focus would be.  I even mentally traced around one of the cars and some of the major tree branches just to etch them into my mind a bit.  I probably spent 5-min doing this, just as though I was actually going to sketch the scene.
3) Then I took a couple photos and rushed home.
4) I cropped a photo to reflect what I’d been thinking while on the street and drew some organizational lines and blobs to organize the paper and then started sketching from my laptop screen.  This is what it looked like when I finished the ink.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black ink, gouache

5) I’m still experimenting with gouache and still stumbling over myself with it.  Nevertheless, I decided to use gouache on this sketch and had some fun trying to move back and forth between transparent and opaque approaches.  Very confusing but lots of promise.  I got James Gurney’s new course yesterday and, shazaam, that’s exactly what he starts the course talking about.  Can’t wait to try some of the things he talks about.

BUT, excepting that I was sitting at a table rather than on my stool, it felt like urban sketching because of the immediate translation of a scene I’d just looked at and the one I was putting on paper.

I won’t split hairs whether this is “real” urban sketching or not as I don’t much care.  But if I can repeat this process during my isolation, I’m going to be a happy camper.  The only thing I miss is meeting up with friends after the sketching session.  I have to settle with bugging my wife and daughter with “Hey, look at this.”  Give it a try.  You just might like it.

 

One Rock Leads To Another

As I’m prone to do these days, I was sitting around, listening to a podcast when a pen leaped into my hand and drew a rock.  I thought, that’s ok, but it needs a friend.  So I drew another rock.  Pretty soon I had a pile of rocks so I put a bit of sand in front of the pile, a bit of ocean and sky behind it, and I had a landscape…well, sort of.  In truth the rocks don’t go together as well as they would if I were drawing them on location but l’m ignoring that and sharing it with you.

I’m still walking, and still doing 2-min sketches.  I’m finding that while these are sloppy and unsatisfying, they have gone a long way to remove the “couped up” feeling that isolation was causing me.  Now I go out almost anticipating those couple minutes where I put pen to paper.  How are you adjusting to your new situation?  Any tricks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Curious Pig

In Quebec City we have a couple restaurants called Cochon Dingue (crazy pig).  In the old city there is one that faces a main street but they have a back entrance on a rather famous pedestrian street full of shops to grab tourist dollars.  Next to the the entrance is a rather plain window that looks in on this backdoor entrance.  It seems I was not the only one interested in that window.

SM-LT watercolor sketchbook

Chocolate Time In Isolation

Since my daughter has been old enough to run around the house, every Easter we’ve hidden chocolate eggs for her to find.  When she was young, her excitement could not be measured on any excitement meter, but over the years it’s become less and less as one might expect.  Still, she’s always liked the idea, at least in part to relive her younger years.

Like everyone else, we’re COVID bound and she mentioned that this year she wouldn’t get to look for eggs.  She’s 25 so the proper parental response would be “Come on, you’re in law school for goodness sake,” but that’s not how we roll.  We had lots of Easter chocolate because my wife loves to treat our daughter as though she’s still her little baby and, more importantly, she loves chocolate too.

The moral of this story is that in spite of our isolation, we’re awash with chocolate.  I’m a Peeps kind of guy myself but when I saw the chocolate chicken I just had to sketch it.  It was a lot of fun.  The head’s already gone and I’ll let them consume it while I eat some Peeps.

Handbook watercolor (8×8), DeAtramentis Document Black

 

Keeping It Loose??

I’ve always wondered why amateur artists are so enamoured with “loose.”  Everyone craves it, nobody can define it, and there are many great artists who would be wondering with me if they were here now.  I doubt whether DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Sargent or modern artists like Norman Rockwell or Robert Bateman would have told their students to “loosen up.”

But there I was the other day, trying to “loosen up” by drawing cups quickly.  I did half a dozen of them, some “loose” to the point that they ceased to look like a cup.  Here’s one example.

4×6 sketchbook, DeAtramentis ink

It’s what a lot of people call loose.  I call it sloppy but, well, different strokes I guess.  I thought I’d try a different approach, somewhere between this and my typical, very stiff, cartoon style.  I used a larger format, about 5×7 I guess.  And I slowed down some.

Rather than a coffee cup, I chose a tea cup.  Maybe that makes a difference too.  In any case, I like this result better than those “loose” cups.  It suffers a lack of precision I suppose but it looks more like a finished drawing to me.  Opinions welcome.  Just keep them loose.