A Look Back Through Sketching

I’m an old man and part of being an old man is that my daughter is now a grown, confident woman who is off beating law school into submission.  I’m extremely proud of her and because of her age and maturity we now have conversations to solve the world’s problems and maybe a few of our own.  That’s pretty neat.

But there is a part of being an old man that causes me to miss the days when she would giggle as I’d bounce her on my knee or carry her on my shoulders.  Back then drawing meant scribbling with crayons and she was far better at it than me.  That was also a time when we shared a common interest in stuffed animals.  She was my excuse to buy them and she loved every one.  The result is that we now have a literal mountain of them, each with memories attached to them.

I’ve started drawing some of them because, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it rains here all the time so I need stuff to draw indoors and I’m tired of tomatoes.  But what really drives me with this project is that as I draw these puddles of fluff and fur, memories of those early days fill me with joy.  Here’s one I did of a little poupée (doll), one of many in the collection.  For some reason she lacks a nose or mouth and I saw no reason to add them.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brown/black

Is It Spring Or Is It Summer?

Yesterday was Memorial Day in the US and all day I heard the US press saying that this day, unofficially, marks the beginning of summer.  Here in Quebec City we had a frost advisory and the trees are just now deciding that they might as well put out their leaves.  It’s sunny today and feels very much like spring.  So, is it summer or spring?  Weather this year has been hard to take for many parts of North America.  I’m hoping we have a really long summer, or is it still spring?

In any case, the squirrels are out and about and I even saw a bumble bee this morning.  In honor of this change of weather, I drew a squirrel with a smile on his face. Like me, he’s happy that things are warming up.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Brn/blk

Hopping Down The Bunny Trail

I’ve been experimenting with using paint before I do any ink, using a brush and paint to do the actual drawing.  This is mostly as a way of getting my brain to realize that there’s value in color.  That’s probably an odd statement to most artists, but I’ve always been more enamoured with using a fountain pens/inks than I have been with “art.”

Anyways, I’ve decided to do more of this paint-first approach and as I also got a dose of drawing my daughter’s collection of stuffed animals with my recent sketch of Dudley the Dragon I grabbed a large rabbit with oversized feet and ears as my subject for the day.

To provide some guidance with respect to proportions and relationships I penciled in the locations/sizes of all the major masses and then started with paint.  Any self-respecting artist would chuckle to watch me sneaking up on the shapes and color patterns.  I started very light, improving the shapes as I went.  In this process I also started identifying tonal variations, trying to figure out how to create them in color.  I’m woefully ill-equipped to do this but I plowed ahead as if I were.  Eventually I added some ink lines just cuz my drawings need ink lines.  Hope you like the result.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10 softcover), Daniel Smith watercolors

Sketching Session At My House

We’re on the verge of actual spring and I can’t wait for it to happen.  My excitement is tempered only by the fact that my bad knee is getting really bad, as in I can’t walk at all some days.  Anyways, my buddy Yvan felt sorry for me and agreed to come over so we could sketch together.  He’s got the best studio a guy could want but I’ve got some stuff to sketch that he doesn’t.  Even the king can get bored in his castle.

On the morning of his arrival I realized I didn’t have a cookie or cake in the house.  One must have sketching snacks.  A few days earlier we’d discussed me making biscuits and we realized that we didn’t know what you call them in French.  You see, ‘biscuits’ in French are cookies.  A day later, Yvan came up with biscuits à la poudre à pâte.   The word galette could also be used but this is a very broad term that includes a lot of sweet biscuits/scones/cakes.

All that is the lead up to me quickly whipping together some biscuits as a snack and so he could actually see what I was talking about.  While the idea was to eat them (we did), we took advantage of them as sketching material too.

Yvan got the bright idea to start with paint rather than my typical ink first approach.  Talk about walking out on a thin limb.  I admit that I struggled with this, a lot, but I also had a lot of fun and think it may be the way to get my brain to believe that watercolor is as important as line work.  Here’s my result:

We took a break and he showed me a copy of the classic book Nature Drawing by Claire Leslie Walker that he picked up for only $5.  What a gorgeous, but out of print book [face turning green with envy] this is.  So, I showed him my copy of Living History by Cathy Johnson, one of the gems of the book world.  And we ate another biscuit and admired the great drawings in both books.

Conversation led to me cutting up some sheets of paper for Yvan while he grabbed a stuffed animal (Dudley the Dragon) and started drawing it.  When I finished I decided to quickly sketch the same animal but he had the good view so I drew the side view.  Apologies to Dudley as I didn’t spend enough time organizing and blocking in the drawing.  This was done ink first with watercolor as an afterthought, my typical way of working.

At the end of this fun day, I’d experienced a new way of sketching and I plan to do a lot more of this paint-first approach.  It’s confusing as can be to think of outline, tone, form and color simultaneously but I like a challenge.  Thanks to Yvan for a great day.

Fisherman Wood Carving

Canson XL Multi-media (7×10), Wing Sung 8008, DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, DS watercolors.

My hands were working Friday night so I decided to sketch a small wood carving we have.  The actual carving is of a grumpy old man like myself but decided to draw him younger.  In the end, it made me smile.

I was sketching while watching the Blue Jays so I was drawing in a Canson XL multimedia book that I use for scribbling during TV time.  This is not watercolor paper but if you go easy on the water, you can add some color.  I used a Portable Painter filled with Daniel Smith watercolors that I keep available for these purposes.

Sketching My Stuff

Yvan and Claudette came to visit this week and we spent the afternoon sketching my stuff.  I’ve got a bunch of stuff, mostly obtained at flea markets for purposes of drawing and we put some of it to good use.  As is too often the case, my hand was hurting me but we nevertheless had a great day.

Yvan drew the front of a plaster rabbit so I drew the back and found it hard to make the foreshortened ears sufficient to give the rabbit a real rabbit look.  Some views are better than others I suppose.  Claudette did a really great drawing of a large Japanese woman’s head and it turned out great.

Arches cold press, DeAtramentis Document Black,

We took a break, had coffee and the obligatory talk of drawing and watercolors.  We decided to draw something else.  I have two really nice Japanese figures that I’ve drawn several times and Yvan chose to draw the male figure so I grabbed the female (that didn’t come out right).  I’d never drawn her from behind so I decided to do so, drawing in pencil in a Stillman & Birn Nova.  In the end I wish I’d used ink but this is the result.

Stillman & Birn Nova, mechanical pencil (2B)

Sketching Hands At Yvan’s House

Here in Quebec City we’re still waiting for the opportunity to get out of our igloos so we can sketch outside.  Until the snow starts melting, however, we get together at someone’s house and sketch.

Stillman & Birn Nova

 

Stillman & Birn Nova

A favorite in that regard is Yvan’s place because he has a great studio that’s filled with an artist’s version of a cabinet of curiosities so there’s lots of stuff to draw.  When several of us gathered there I chose to draw plaster casts of hands.  I had a lot of fun with these but I made the mistake of using a water-based felt pen to shade them.  I know lots of people love felt markers but I can’t understand why.  Whenever I use one the results are streaky and splotchy.

 

Learning To Sketching Rabbits

I recently posted a sketch of a rabbit skeleton and talked about drawing Beatrix Potter rabbits and then sketching my way to wanting to understand their insides.  I was asked “Where are the other sketches?”

Truth is, they were in my garbage can, where most of my “let’s try this” doodles end up.  I dug through the can and found a couple of the sheets with rabbits on them and, with some embarrassment, I’ll show them to you.  Laugh if you like.  I don’t mind.

These sheets are cheap card stock from Staples and so they don’t take watercolor well at all but I have such sheets sitting next to my computer and I’m always doodling something.

Some feeble attempts at drawing stuff from Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit book.

 

This hodge-podge of scribbles is typical of my doodle sheets. This one contains some feeble attempts at rabbits.

I thought I should include a serious, though not entirely successful, attempt at a rabbit just to redeem myself somewhat.  I think she’s cute.