My On-The-Go Pen Pouch

Another name for this post could have been “How I prevent losing my pens.” Maybe that’s not a problem you need to solve, but that was what caused me to talk about my pen pouch.  It came up in a discussion on Facebook about a sketcher who lost a pen so I thought I’d show you my solution to my scatterbrain-itis.

When I’m sketching on location I use, principally, a fountain pen, or maybe a couple fountain pens.  But I might add to the mix pencil, white gel pen, a black brush pen, and occasionally a waterbrush.  You get the picture.  I have several pointy devices in use.  I used to lay these in my lap, on the ground, slid into a pocket, and I’ve been known to stick one in my hair.

The result was a couple things.  While I’ve never lost a valuable pen, I have lost a couple cheap ones.  I once had a Platinum 3776 take a walk and nearly fall through a sewer grate.  It’s also the case that I was endlessly hunting for the tool I need at the moment.

The solution was my pen pouch, an idea I stole from my buddy Yvan, though his is fancy and hand-sewn.  I’m too lazy for that so I hunted around until I found a cheap, easy solution and it came in the form of a sunglasses case.

These cases are typically colorful sacks with a couple pieces of spring steel that can be compressed to open the case.  They are also perfect for clipping pens into the sack.  All I did to “create” my pouch was buy some D-rings at the fabric store and hand sew them to the sides of the sack.  To try it out I temporarily used a piece of a shoelace as the strap.  That was 8 months ago.  As I said, I’m lazy.  The only other thing I did was fold up some cheap watercolor paper to act as a divider so that pens clipped to opposite sides of the pouch don’t rub against one another.  As you can see in the photos, the divider is getting pretty beat up after 8 months.  I should have changed it before showing you the pouch but, as I said, I’m lazy.

This is the pouch with little pressure on the sides. The pens clip on either side of the opening.

Aside from preventing pen loss, once I got in the habit of only having one (ok..sometimes two) pointy devices out of the pouch at any one time, I no longer have to do the whirling dervish act of looking for my pens as I draw.

If you squeeze the edges of the case, it opens up, making it easy to replace the pointy devices. Here you can see the paper divider. I started with a plastic divider but the pens complained and yet they’re happy with the paper, which compresses and extends as I open and close the case.

Another benefit, that wasn’t anticipated is that with all my pens in one pouch, it’s easy to switch from my big “serious” sketching sack to my small, carry it everywhere sack.  I just move the pen pouch.  This has meant that I no longer have to duplicate everything.  Hope this helps someone.

Sketching From Graphic Novels (Comics)

Our group often talks about sketching opportunities and options and almost as often the idea of sketching from graphic novels comes up.

If you’re only familiar with US comics, I’m not talking here about drawing superheros in spandex.  The French comic industry is another thing entirely, targeting adult consumers.  The books are generally hardcover and run the gamet from mysteries, science fiction, political commentary, humor, historical, and adventure genres.

What happened to cause us to actually act on the idea was that finding sketchcrawl venues during Quebec winters is difficult and Yvan learned that the library had a large collection of large-panel examples from French graphic novels.  He scheduled our March sketchcrawl to take place in the art viewing room of our library.  As you can see from the photo that Yvan took of me, it was a much more comfortable setting than sitting on street corners on a tripod stool.  The eight of us who showed up had a ball.

The photo shows me drawing Jim Cutlass, a classic character by Jean-Michel Charlier, one of the best adventure writers and drawn by Christian Rossi.  I hope I did Rossi’s work justice as I created my depiction of the character.

Upon completion I wandered around, enjoying the company of the other sketchers.  A friend of mine, that I hadn’t seen in quite a while, came to the event so we spent a bunch of time talking.  Then I spent a lot of time looking at all of the panels and books available for us to draw from.  This, of course, created a whole bunch of “Oooo…I gotta draw that” feelings, but it didn’t get much actual drawing done.  It sure was fun though.

I’m a building and city sketcher and after looking at a bunch of books with monsters and fantasy world landscapes, my brain was hankering for something weird.  Ill-equipped for drawing such things, I remembered Cathy Johnson’s mantra “they’re only shapes” and I tackled this guy.

I wouldn’t want him chasing me and while this guy looks like one of the orb weavers I remember from Mexico, I couldn’t help but think of the big spiders that chased Ron and Harry in The Chamber of Secrets movie.  As the day came to an end, I was pleased with this ‘out of the box’ endeavour and I think I may do more drawing from graphic novels.


First Nations Ceremonial Headdress

With all the 100people2017 stuff going on, I forgot to post this sketch that I did last week at our museum.  I’ve looked at this headdress several times and each time I convinced myself that I wasn’t up to depicted all those feathers with pen and ink.  In a crazy moment I started drawing it.  The biggest challenge was keeping my eyes from crossing as I tried to follow the feather contours.  I was pleased with the outcome, though.  Hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black (diluted 1:2)

#OneWeek100People2017: Day 4: More Mall Sketching

So far I’ve been quick-sketching whole people, mostly those buying coffee at the mall.  Marc Taro Holmes chided me a bit for drawing those people with their backs to me.  This was sort of true.  Because of the place I was sketching, everyone had their backs to me as they paid for, and received, their coffee.  I did look back, however, and noticed that 14 of those 50 people (28%) did have their face visible.  Marc’s a tough critic (grin).

So, when I went to the mall today I decided that I’d draw floating heads/faces.  I sat in the food court, moving once in a while, and most of my targets were looking in my direction.  Marc will undoubtedly tell me that I’ve left the bodies off and, again, he’d be correct.  And yes, I’m kidding, Marc.

I quickly slapped some color on these before I scanned them and, I think, this flattening the sketches considerably.  I guess I should have taken the time to try to get some shading into the color.  It’s said you can get two of three attributes from any endeavour.  These are cheap, quality, and quantity.  I always get cheap so I choose between the other two and this “challenge” is about quantity.  These 20 were done during a 30-35 minute session.  It shows.  Sigh…



Garneau Velo (Bicycle) Museum

A large producer of bicycles and bike gear is Garneau, Inc. and they are based in Quebec.  They have a factory and store just outside of town and associated with it Garneau has a small bicycle museum.  On display are really early vintage bicycles and tricycles, some made entirely from wood, but also some Schwinn bikes I had as a kid.  I guess that makes them ‘early vintage’ too.

Our group went there yesterday and we had a great time.  There were six of us, which was just about right for this small single-room museum.   Guylaine sat down to draw a Schwinn Stingray bicycle.  It’s classic banana seat and high-rise handlebars brought back lots of great memories.  I decided that rather than drawing a bicycle alone, it would be fun to draw Guylaine drawing the bicycle.  Here is my attempt at that.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I find wooden bicycles to be quite marvelous.  The museum had quite a number of them, but I decided to draw this very large (front wheel is 29″dia) tricycle.  The amazing thing is that aside from the wheel bearings, rear axle, and pedal crank, the only metal in the bike is a y-shaped yoke that connects the body frame of the bike to the fork/handlebars.

Since it was all wood, I thought it fitting to draw it with brown ink so I used a Pilot 78G with DeAtramentis Document Brown ink for this sketch.


#OneWeek100People2017: Day 1: Sketching At The Mall

I’m not a fan of sketching “challenges” because, to me, this turns my hobby into a job and I’ve had enough of those in my life.  But when Liz Steel and Marc Taro Holmes proposed that people draw 100 people in 5 days, I just couldn’t refuse.  If you want to see the people sketches  from other people, just give the hashtag in the title to Mr Google.

I knew that to draw 100 people in a week I’d have to concentrate on quick-sketching them.  I also knew that I had a problem because I’d already committed to a sketching session on Tuesday that would have me spend the day away from people so I had to accomplish this task in four days rather than five.

I headed to the mall this morning with the idea that maybe I could get more than the daily requirement of 20 people done.  I found a seat in front of a stand-alone coffee vendor.  Because they have no seats, their customers ask for coffee, it’s handed to them, and they leave.  Occasionally a line will develop but I was there between coffee break and lunch, I guess, because it was mostly one person at a time and they were there less than a minute.  It was like being in a shooting gallery but with a pen in my hand.

One thing surprised me.  I got an audience, which was a bit disconcerting because they wanted to talk to me and I was trying to keep up with the people showing up for coffee.  It was a unique challenge but they were easy to please as audiences always are.

One thing was clear.  The intimidating number of 100 was not as formidable as I’d thought before I started.  I was producing one of these people every couple minutes in spite of conversations with my audience and the occasional lull in coffee traffic.

When I got to 37 it was time for a break so I bought a coffee and spent some time showing people what I was doing and answering the typical questions.  I was happy with the head start I’d gotten on the week, but if I wasn’t going to be able to sketch tomorrow, I was already behind (grin).  Heck, let’s face it.  This is kinda nuts.

As I was leaving I walked by the food court and I couldn’t pass it up.  Just 3 more so I could have enough for today and tomorrow.  I sat down and started drawing people who were ordering poutine, a disgusting concoction of fries with salty gravy and cheese curds.  I filled the page before I finally packed up and went home.

This evening I was watching TV news and started drawing the talking heads.  This added another 6 to the head count (pun intended) so I’ve drawn 50 people so far.  More to come.  How are you doing with your 100 people challenge?

Drawing On Red Toned Paper

I got my first taste of drawing on red paper when Field Notes released a set of small notebooks containing brightly colored papers.  I posted a bunch of the sketches I’d done at that time.  The only problem with this was that I find drawing in Field Notes to be unsatisfactory because of the very soft nature of their softcover and their very thin floppy nature.

A large wooden sculpture with a stone face looking out of it.

I was in the art student coop here and found some light card/cover stock in red and I bought a couple sheets of it.  I wasn’t sure it would handle fountain pen ink but at $0.39 for an 11×17 sheet of the stuff I thought I could take a chance.  As it turned out, it’s really nice to draw on as I found out the next day when I went to our museum.  Here are those results.

A couple baskets and some sort of megaphone made of leather

Road Trip To The RedPath Museum In Montreal

I’m a really lucky guy.  Why?  Because I’ve got a daughter who’s been accepted to the McGill Law program in Montreal.  Who cares, you might ask.  Well I ask you, what better excuse could there be for a certain sketcher to go to Montreal and sketch in the many great sketching locations that exist there.

My first trip took place last week, when my daughter went to an orientation at the law school.  It was a great day.  I emailed (is that a verb yet?) Marc Taro Holmes and asked if he was available.  Good timing and a bit luck found him having the day free for sketching.

We met at the RedPath Museum on the McGill campus and I spent the day attention torn between concentrating on my drawing and talking to Marc and watching him do some amazing watercolors.  For this post I’ll stick with showing you what I drew that day.

This heron and I spent some time together.  He (she?) was beautiful.  I was doing this standing up and when it came to the paint I ran out of hands, which led to things being out of control, and that’s putting it mildly.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

When we finished up in this part of the museum we decided to go upstairs to draw.   The stairwell is filled with a bunch of stuffed animals.  It was a very overcast/rainy day and this part of the museum was pretty dark but I decided to draw the head of a hippopotamus.  As I sat on the steps, I could see the outline well enough but there was considerable guesswork regarding the various undulations on the body of the animal.   It was both frustrating and fun to try to think about how the muscles would run around the head/neck of the animal.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

We’d had a long discussion about whether one should use pencil or not.  This internet meme is very popular and I don’t ascribe to it, though I’m very much in favor of leaving the eraser at home.  I’ll probably talk about it at some later date but here I’m only going to say that I decided to do some pen-only drawings.

I was fascinated by this very primitive stringed instrument, formed by a drum-like body with sticks strung through it to raise up the “drum” cover so that a bridge could rest on it to hold the strings.  The neck of the instrument was a long, somewhat rough stick with frets formed by ropes wrapped around it along its length.  I hope I’ve captured it well enough to show these features.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), PIlot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I was getting sort of tired at this point but just to the right of where I was sitting was this clay statue that had a grass skirt and a bunch of feathers on its head.  I quickly sketched it but didn’t completely finish it as time ran out.  I played with some color when I got home but I don’t think it improved it much, if at all.

This day was a great day.  Heck, I think any day at the RedPath would be, but it was particularly great because the discussions that Marc and I had were fun and watching him work magic with watercolors was very insightful and inspiring.  Ain’t sketching and the sketching community great?


Mini-Sketchcrawl At The Morrin Center

Hubert, a member of our Tuesdays group, arranged for us to sketch at the Morrin Center.  This is an anglophone service center that holds lots of wine-drinking soirees and has a wonderful old library, with leather-covered tables, beautiful old railings and stairs, and an ambiance that can’t be beat.  The building itself used to be a women’s prison and they’ve retained a couple cells in the basement in their original form.  I think you could fit all the anglophones who live in Quebec City into this building and still have room for the wine (grin).

I decided to draw a bust that was sitting in front of one of the windows.  It wasn’t a particularly good cast but I liked the guy’s beard and mustache, which gave me ample opportunity to drive my Pilot Falcon around in my Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10) softcover book.  I’ve thought about adding some watercolor shading and may do that but I haven’t found the time.  Sorry.

Extreme Sketching: The Final Chapter

I did a blog post a while ago about what I called “extreme sketching.”  It was an idea that originated from Marc Taro Holmes.  We were going out, in mid-winter Quebec temperatures and doing five minute sketches in a small format.  Marc is quite good at it.  Me, not so much.

But it was a great exercise.  I struggle to hold a small sketchbook in one hand, while drawing with the other.  For some reason I just can’t slow the sketchbook down and the results are impacted a lot by both the sketchbook and the pen moving at the same time.  I was hoping to practice that enough to eliminate the problem.  I did not.

I also wanted more time quick-sketching.  I do a lot of quick people sketches but I don’t quick-sketch buildings or street scenes.  To get a good drawing I have to look at my subject for the better part of five minutes, thinking only about the proportions and relative locations of things before I start drawing.  All of those processes must be abandoned if I’m going to do the entire sketch in five minutes.  I do think I improved upon this because of this exercise, but I’m not sure how much.   I also haven’t figured out how to draw snow with a pen and so I ended up with lots of cottonballs in front of my buildings.

The other thing I wanted to do was to just get outside sketching.  This I accomplished.  I ran this experiment down to -20C (-5F).  When it got colder than that, I gave up.  I’m a sissy when it comes to cold.  But I did manage to do fifty of these sketches, nearly filling a small Stillman & Birn Epsilon softcover book.  I’ll probably do some more this summer, when it’s not so cold.  Here are a few of the sketches I did beyond the ones I posted previously.

Do you do crazy things like this?  I hope so.  I don’t want to be the only one.