Am I A COVID Victim?

A follower of my blog recently wrote to wish me a Merry Christmas, which was very nice of them to do.  But included was this question: “Have you been a victim of COVID?”  The question was asked because they’d noticed that I hadn’t posted on the blog or on Instagram for quite a while.

My first answer was simply “no,” but suddenly I felt guilty for not thinking about what some might think if I stopped posting.  And so, my second response idea was to explain that I just hadn’t been sketching much and thus had nothing to post.

Then it occurred to me to reflect on the question itself.  I’ve considered myself one of the lucky ones during the COVID pandemic.  I’m retired so staying home isn’t a heavy burden.  My wife and daughter are home with me so I don’t even have the angst of not seeing my family through the holidays.

But upon reflection, like so many people, I am a victim of COVID, not as someone who got the virus but in other ways.  For instance, I was supposed to have knee surgery back in September.  It was cancelled as Quebec hospitals cancelled all “elective” surgeries to free up staff to deal with COVID victims.  This has relegated me to the limp around the house crowd and limited my ability to go for long walks, something I was doing during the early phases of the pandemic.

But maybe the biggest impact COVID has had on me is my sketching, something I used to do every day and now do almost never.  I tried drawing food, kitchen utensils, and sofas.  I just don’t like it.  For me, sketching is about going out, plunking myself down on a tripod stool, and drawing something.  Take that away from me and I simply stopped sketching.  I’m sure I’ll get back to it once I can go out again but until then, I’m really having a hard time being interested.  In that sense, I am a COVID victim.  I suspect most people have simliar “victim” stories.

That’s not to say that I’m not doing well or that I’m unhappy.  I’ve taken to playing my guitar again.  I bought a ukulele.  I’m getting in touch with music again.  It’s all good.  I hope others are responding to these disruptions in their life in similar ways.  I hope all of you have a happy holiday season in spite of circumstances.  I apologize for not making a statement about why I wasn’t posting before.  I know there are at least three of you who follow my stuff and I should have thought about the potential for misreading my lack of presence.  We’ve all got to be like the two kids in my sketch.  We’ve got to keep that ball rolling regardless of the ups and down of the terrain.

Domestika – A Warning

I don’t live on Earth.  I live on planet Quebec and this isolates me from the many opportunities others have to associate with lots of artists and to see them work.  Because of this, I’ve become fond of online workshops.  I have a Skillshare membership and I’m currently taking Shari Blaukopf’s new workshop (more on this at a later date).

I’m here today to issue a warning about Domestika, an online service that is running ads everywhere about online classes.  I took one of their workshops, which seem to be smallish, inexpensive workshops.  The one I took was more basic than I expected but it was well organized and produced.  I was sufficiently satisfied with this to take a second one.  I won’t take a third.

The reason is fairly simple.  I downloaded a second workshop only to find that it is taught in Spanish.  That’s great for a Spanish speaker but I can barely speak English so it’s not for me.  Warning one: I saw NO indication that it was going to be taught in Spanish so beware.

Warning two: Supposedly, you have four days to ask for a refund.  I did it within 15 minutes.  This resulted in me receiving a canned msg saying they were very busy and that they’d get back to me.  In the 10 days since I asked for a refund, I’ve received three more of these msgs.  Just for variety they’ve also sent me a msg asking how I was enjoying the course.  In short, they don’t respond at all.  It’s cost me some money to learn this about Domestika.  Hopefully this post will save someone else some money.

Editor’s note: It took just over two weeks, and half a dozen “we’ll get back to you” notices, but Domestika refunded my money. 

Blackwing Sharpener Review

I just got back from a sketching trip to Montreal.  I’ll talk about that once I get a chance to scan my sketches but today I want to show you what I found while wandering around Mile End.  I went into a tiny store called Boucle & Papier.  l didn’t have high expectations as the place is full of greeting cards but they had Blackwing pencils, which was a pleasant surprise.

The BIG surprise, though, was that they had the hot topic in the pencil world right now – the Blackwing sharpener.  I was hot to get one of these but shipping costs really limit my ability to do so.  But I have one now.

Before I talk about it I need to provide a bit of sharpener history for those who are saying “it’s only a sharpener.”  In the pencil world, particularly the people that carry pencils wherever they go, have never been satisfied by the cheap sharpeners you can buy anywhere.  There are reasons for this but the big one is that these sharpeners produce a very short, high-angle tip and if you want to write/draw with a fine line, you’re constantly sharpening.  The long tip you get from a wall sharpener is what we want in our portable sharpeners.

There have been several solutions but the reigning favorite is the Kum Masterpiece sharpener, a 2-step sharpener that requires you to remove wood in the first step and then carefully sharpen the point in the second.  It works great, though the 2-step approach isn’t convenient.  More important, however, is that the shavings aren’t captured by the sharpener.

The Blackwing sharpener has come to the rescue.  If you haven’t been convinced by the cost of the thing, the packaging should give you the idea that you’re holding something special.  It impresses when you hold it in your hand as well.  Very solid and the black anodizing is beautiful.

The sharpener disassembles into three pieces.  You unscrew the top and then you can pull the actual sharpener out of the housing to empty the shavings.  The sharpener hole is offset to allow shavings to easily flake away from the blade.  Sharpening is done by simply holding it and twisting the pencil as you would with any simple sharpener.

Here’s a comparison of the results from the Blackwing and Masterpiece sharpeners.  Note that the exposed graphite length is very similar but the Masterpiece removes more wood.  The reason is that the Blackwing sharpener cuts the pencil into a curved shape similar to the Pollux sharpener that is popular with some, though the Pollux  has a reputation of being picky about what pencils it will sharpen.  I haven’t exhaustively tested different pencils but I’ve tried Ticonderoga, Blackwing, Tombow, Mitsubishi, Mars Lumigraph and even Col-Erase pencils and the Blackwing sharpener handles all of them well.

This is just a close up of the results.

In the end, this sharpener is now part of my sketching bag and I just love it.  A happy surprise from Montreal.

Edit:  Tina Koyama asked for a comparision to the Blackwing 2-step sharpener.  Here it is.  Top pencil is a Mars Lumograph sharpened with the new Blackwing and the bottom pencil is a Tombow Mono 100 sharpened with the Blackwing 2-step sharpener.

Please Use An Accessible Email Address To Ask Questions

Sigh… this is a post in response to frustration – my frustration.  Somewhat regularly I receive emails from people who follow my blog.  They’re asking questions and, I suspect, they’d like a response.

The problem is that some use work emails or otherwise protected server addresses such that when I try to answer the email bounces back at me.  I could just delete it and move on but I’m always concerned with their interpretation of not receiving a response.

The latest case came from someone named Alison, who was asking several questions.  I wrote a long response and sent it.  It bounced.  I tried several more times with no success.  Alison, if you’re reading this, I tried.  Sorry but your email server won’t accept email from me.

100 People In Five Days

It’s BACK!!  Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel are, once again, leading the challenge to draw 100 people in five days.  I’m not a people sketcher but I did this last year and it was a lot of fun.  My advice is to set aside Monday and, draw, draw draw 30-40 people.  This makes the rest of the week easier as you’re less likely to fall behind and get stressed (grin).  Then, post your results with the tag #oneweek100people2019.

To demonstrate some ways of achieving the goal, here are some examples of how I drew 100 people.  None of these people captures took more than a minute or so (adding color not included) because these were real people, doing real things and they didn’t wait around for me to draw them (grin).

These were captured one at a time as they ordered coffee.

These floating heads were gleaned from TV.

 

These were people standing around in the mall.