Sketching on 12/12/12

Yesterday I had a lunch appointment and as I walked home from it I passed a bright yellow pizza place.  Have you ever done anything goofy for a goofy reason?  Maybe I’m alone in that combination.  It occurred to me that it was 12/12/12, a rather unique date and that I should sketch something.  But, this was one of the odd times when I didn’t have my sketching stuff with me.  Besides it was cold.  Still, as I continued walking I couldn’t get the pizza parlor out of my mind.

By the time I got home, all sense of rationality had left me.  “It’s only 10 minutes back to that place,” I said to myself.  “I’ll work fast and it’s not really that cold.”  I grabbed my sketching bag, threw half a dozen Tombow markers that I thought would I’d need into the bag along with a waterbrush.  Off I went.

It was nuts and I’ve never sketched a building so fast.  It’s certainly not my best sketch and somewhat wonky.  I used the Tombow pens to color it at lightning speed.  and then got out the waterbrush to add some sky color by wicking color from a Tombow pen onto the waterbrush.  I made a mistake and swiped some red from the sign into my sky.  I liked this little “happy mistake” so I did it some more.  This adds to the wonkiness of my 12/12/12 sketch but I liked it.

I liked it better, though, when I got home and got a cup of hot tea in my hands.  It’s definitely too cold for me to sketch outdoors anymore this year.  Have you done anything this crazy in the name of sketching?

The sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbooks, using a Kaweco Classic Sport (fine) and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  As mentioned, Tombow pens were used for color.

 2012_12-Salvatore700

My Very Own Artistic License!

Brenda Swenson is one of my favorite online artists.  This is mostly because she has one foot in the fine art world and another in the sketching world.  She’s written books on both.  So, while she understands what I’m doing as an urban sketcher, she also brings a wealth of talent from her fine art and so while I’ve never had opportunity to take one of her classes, I’ve learned a lot from studying her art.

But Brenda brings something else to the table… imagination and a penchant for helping new sketchers and artists.  And from those things came her “75-Day Challenge”, where you create one sketch, every day, for 75 days.  The only rule is that  and you use only pen to do it (no pencil; no erasing).  You can add color using anything you want but the sketch must be drawn in ink.  This isn’t the imagination part though, as she says she went through the challenge long ago as part of her training as an artist.  She claims that if you do this challenge you’ll ‘see’ better as an artist.

She knows people, however.  She knows that we’re like the donkey with the carrot hung out in front of his nose; we need motivation.  And from her imagination came the notion of the Artistic License.  This isn’t that mystical kind of artistic license that we simply means we took liberties with our subject(s).  This is the cold, hard physical kind of license – like your driver’s license.  You can show it to the cops if you’re caught sketching too fast.

MyArtisticLicense

And I’ve just received mine because I’ve recently completed the 75-Day Challenge.  Best of all, it came enclosed in a Christmas card that featured a Swenson original and that is cute as can be.  Thanks Brenda.

SwensonXmas I had fun doing this challenge.  Do I ‘see’ better because I used pen only?  My view is that anytime you create 75 sketches you improve.  In my case, I don’t think the pen-only thing did much for me, mostly because almost all my sketching is done with pen, though I normally start a sketch with some basic pencil lines.  But this challenge got me to try a bunch of different pens and work in a smaller size (I chose to do the whole challenge in a 3×5 notebook).  I also did a few sketches that weren’t done on location and that was fun too.  So I feel I know a lot more than when I started and I think that was the goal.  Besides… did I mention that I now have my very own artistic license?

selection

I’ve included a few of the sketches I did during the challenge.  You can see all 75 of them, however, on my Flickr page.  If you’re interested in the challenge, here’s Brenda’s Challenge.   I encourage you to give it a try.

Fun At The Musée De La Civilisation

Tuesdays are “free Tuesday” at the Musée de la civilisation in Quebec City.  I’m a member but it’s still sort of a special day as there’s a hustle and bustle in the museum that is lacking when I go during most weekday mornings.  Besides, some of my friends show up on Tuesdays, which is always nice.

Today Yvan, Bethann, and Nicolas were there and with so many sketcher shoulders to look over, I spent more time watching than sketching.  It’s said that to learn to draw you need to do it.  That’s certainly true but I learn a lot by watching others ‘do’ as well.

Because of all my sketcher gawking, I only completed one sketch today.  Most of my sketches are done with pen but I’m trying to learn to use a pencil.  I confess to being mostly lost when it comes to shading with these graphite spitters but here’s a sketch of the head of one of Joe Fafard‘s painted bronze statues.  The horse’s name is Vermear, according to the plaque that accompanies the statue and he was very cooperative, not moving a muscle during the entire session.

The sketch was done with a .7mm mechanical pencil in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.

 

Where The Dogs Run In Quebec City

The keepers of Quebec City have a sense of humor, or so it seems.  On every tourist map there is a pointer to Passage du Chiens, or Dog Passage and people flock to see it.  Well, maybe not flock as it’s down the street from lots of other stuff and they simply see it as they pass by.

But there it is, complete with official street sign – Passage du Chiens.  It is a passageway to a road/parking area for residents who live in the area and whose house fronts on a ‘street’ that is no longer a street but rather a walkway for pedestrians.  And the Passage du Cheins does sit between two art galleries that are quite photogenic and so many photos are taken of the spot.  I suspect dog lovers get a kick out of showing it to their friends.

Towards the end of our outdoor sketching season I was wandering around, trying to get in some last minute plein air sketching, and I decided to sketch this famous landmark.  The sun was bright, which was great because the temps were just above freezing.  Before I finished, though, the sun had moved behind the buildings, shading the entire area.  This, and the fact that I’d been sitting for an hour caused me to be quite cold so I quickly snapped this photo and moved on to find more sunny ground.

And then I completely forgot about the sketch, until today.  I decided it was time to add some color and this was the result.  Hope you like it.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7) and a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.

 

 

Urban Sketching During Winter

Winter has been slow in coming to Quebec City, which has been great for those of us who like to sketch on location.  I’ve gotten at least an extra month of sketching my favorite subjects, the buildings of Quebec.

But winter has arrived and as I write this it’s 11F (-12C) outside.  This is just the beginning, as we’ll soon be experiencing much colder temperatures.  So what’s a location sketcher to do?  Common recommendations are to go to libraries, coffee shops, airports, and train stations.  These are all great if the things you want to sketch are people but even then, these places tend to be people in motion, something that’s hard for the best sketchers and impossible for me.  I’m the slowest sketcher on the planet.

But now that winter has set in, I’ve got more places and things to sketch than I ever thought possible.  They’ve come in two forms thus far: museums and free concerts/events.

Museums

There are a bunch of museums in Quebec City.  In addition to the large museums like Musee des Beaux Arts and the Musee de la civilisation there are numerous smaller museums scattered around the city, principally because this is a tourist town.  Each has sketching opportunities and I expect to live in them this winter.

In particular, I’ve become a member of the Musee de la Civilisations as it seems the richest source of things to sketch.  Right now there are displays of Nigerian art, Maori culture, Samouri armor, swords, and helmets, and a wide variety of permanent displays of Canadian and Quebec cultural people, places and things.  And they’re very friendly to sketchers.  There’s a cafe where you can get soup, tea and sandwiches.  And, in a world with snow and cold outside, it’s warm.

My first adventure there was done with my buddy Yvan Breton.  We went on ‘free Tuesdays’ and expected to find the place crowded with people taking advantage of the freebie.  But we went in the morning and it wasn’t really busy so we set up in the Nigeria display and started sketching.  I sketched some of the masks, doing them in a fairly small size and doing them fairly quickly.  I just wanted to get a feel for sketching in the museum and I wanted to save time to walk around to look at all the exhibits.  We had a great day.

Free Concerts/Events

Cities have events going on constantly.  I’m not talking about Justin Beiber coming to town or NASCAR races.  I’m talking about smaller events.  A fashion show at the mall, school plays, an author signing event, club displays, craft shows, holiday events, etc.  All of these provide things to sketch.

Here in Quebec City there are also a bunch of free concerts, many put on by our music conservatory, where advanced students gain stage experience.   I’m new to these and time will tell but they’re a great opportunity to sketch people, the musicians and spectators as they don’t move much for extended periods of time.

A small sketchbook and a pencil are unobtrusive and just the thing.  I initiated my new Stillman & Birn 4×6 Alpha series sketchbook at the last one.  What could be more enjoyable than to listen to great music while you sketch?

I spent a delightful 1 1/2 hours listening to some truly gifted violinists.  I’m going to use these concerts to practice my people quick-sketching skills.  It’s a cinch I need the practice, don’tcha think?  What are some of your favorite winter sketching locations?

Parchemin Du Roy – Sketcher’s Paradise

I was talking to a sketching buddy and he asked “Do you know about Parchemin du Roy?”  I said no and he told me about a place that sold pens, sketchbooks, and pencils that he’d recently discovered.  To say my interest was peaked was an understatement.  That was a Sunday.

And so on Monday I hoofed my way to Parchemin du Roy, about a one-hour walk from my house.  They were closed, so like a kid in front of the toy shop, all I could do was put my nose to the glass and look in.  And what a view.  I left with the resolve to return.

And so I did.  It’s not very manly to jump up and down while giggling so I controlled myself, almost, as my eyes beheld the interior of this store.  Inks, pens, books, papers, sketchbooks, notebooks, maps, pencils, watercolors, brushes, and lots of other wonderful items to look at and touch.

Maybe more important, is that while they have the more typical Paper Blanks, Moleskine, and Rhodia products, they also have some really nice high-end speciality paper products.  Not only do they have J.Herbin and Pilot/Namiki inks, they’ve got walnut inks and specialized calligraphy inks.  In addition to Brause dip pens, they’ve got handmade dip pens turned from hardwoods.  While they stock Lamy pens and all their accessories, they also have the new Shaeffer “Ferrari” pen.  Yes, I admit it.  I did giggle and I jumped up and down a little.  I hope Roy didn’t see me.

They offer workshops in calligraphy and you can learn to create illuminated pages.  I might have to take one of those.  For my first visit I bought a brush, notepad and mechanical pencil.  I talked with Roy about differences between Parker and Waterman ballpoint cartridges and I looked and looked – and then I looked some more.  I’m still a bit giddy from the experience.

As I left I took a couple photos (it was too cold to sketch outdoors) and ran home to do the sketch I’ve shared above.  I hope you like it.  Do you have a specialty store like this in your town?  I’m so lucky.

Tis The Season…To Be Cold

I’ve just finished my first summer as a “plein air” sketcher.  I so passionately wandered the streets of Quebec City with a sketchbook that I’ve not spent enough time reporting on those activities in this blog.  My productivity as a writer has been excruciatingly close to zero.  But I have had sooooooo much fun this summer.  Sketching has changed my views of everything.

But for five months of the year Quebec City becomes an icebox.  I don’t mean it gets a little bit cool.  That happened when I lived in Arizona.  I mean it gets the kind of cold that causes tires to go clunk, clunk, clunk as you roll down the street as the rubber  stiffens while the tires sit.  I mean the kind of cold where you have to plug your car in at night so it will start in the morning.  I mean the kind of cold that causes polar bears to hibernate.

Like squirrels gathering nuts, we run around this time of year, preparing for our own hibernation in warm, cozy huts and with the exception of a few crazy people who like to ski and skate, we see “outdoors” only when forced to shove a snowblower around the driveway.

But, with my new found hobby, this is unacceptable.  I want to sketch.  Yes, I can draw coffee cups and sofas but that’s not who I am.  I like sketching places.  So, how do I get past the reality that watercolors freeze when subjected to Quebec City winter temperatures?

Clearly the watercolors will have to be left behind,  but a pen and a small sketchbook can be crammed into a coat pocket.  I’ve got small versions of Stillman & Birn’s Alpha series sketchbooks on their way.  I may even move from my favorite fountain pens to a gel pen or…shudder…maybe even a pencil, to simplify the toolkit.

I’m excited.  As the leaves fell from the trees, my stomping grounds have revealed a whole new landscape, just waiting to be sketched, with or without color. 

But, can an Arizona-bred old guy sketch in the cold.  We’ll see, but I’m optimistic.  Is this how a well-dressed sketching fanatic faces temperatures that live around zero degrees Fahrenheit?  Hope so.

I think the sessions will be shorter, and they’ll probably followed by warming myself over a hot cup of tea, but I’m optimistic.  Then again, it’s still “warm” here.  The  following photo was taken last weekend as I sketched on the large island next to Quebec City.  It was 35F.  If nothing else, winter will help me sketch faster (grin).  What do you do to feed your sketching itch when winter rolls around?  Am I nuts?

Photo by Yvan Breton

Halloween – Urban Sketching Style

This is the time of year that sketchers post beautiful sketches of pumpkins.  I love them all.  I figure this to be my first Halloween as a sketcher.  Last October I’d just started try to move pointy objects across paper and I wasn’t up to the task of sketching pumpkins.  So, a year later, here’s my first set, done with a black ballpoint pen that blobbed on me more than a few times, adding “character” to my sketch.

Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (6×8), Pentel RSVP ballpoint, W&N watercolors

But I’m an urban sketcher.  I sketch buildings, lamposts and fire hydrants.  I guess a group of pumpkins sitting on my kitchen table is ‘urban’ but you have to mentally squint to see it.  So I thought I should do something else and I found the ideal subject as I walked the main street that runs through our port area.   What could be better than an orange building with some black Halloween decorations on it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7), Pilot Prera w/Noodler’s Lexington Gray, W&N watercolors

When I sat across the street to sketch it, though, I had an immediate problem.  There is considerable vehicle traffic on this street and when sitting low on my tripod stool, it was hard to see the lower front of the building.  I’m not good enough to sketch moving vehicles so I sat, looked and pondered.  Then I sat, looked and pondered some more.  What to do.

I got out a 3H pencil and started laying out where the building and stairwell would sit on the paper and marked out the door location.  Then I picked up my stool and walked down the street and found a place where I could sit the ‘right’ distance from a car.  I sketched it as though it was moving in front of my, as yet to be drawn, building.  Then I moved back to the building and sketched it.  I’m not sure I got car and building sized properly relative to one another but it’s close enough for me.  Hope you like it.  Happy Halloween.

Cheers — Larry

Brightest Building in Quebec

The leaves are falling from the trees and temperatures are heading in the same direction.  It won’t be long before I won’t be able to stalk the streets of Québec, looking for buildings to sketch.  I guess I’ll have to go inside and stalk Quebecers to sketch.

But I was out today and walking a street I’d walked many times.  Either I’m going blind or this small ‘casse-croute’ (in some places it would be called a chips stand) has just gotten a very bright facelift.  In any case today gave me opportunity to capture its essense, which I did.

Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7), Pilot Prera/Lexington Gray, Winsor & Newton watercolors

I did the basic sketch on site but decided to come home to do all the signage as I wanted to try out some different tools.  To that end, the large sign and the plates of food were done with colored pencils, a medium I have yet to conquer.  The ‘Frites maison’ sign was done with some Stabilo felt pens I just bought…and like very much for doing such things.   The building’s kinda cute, don’tcha think?

Cheers — Larry

larry@larrydmarshall.com

A Shivering Good Sketchcrawl in Quebec City

Today we had our second sketchcrawl in Quebec City. The best description of what went on may come from the fact that I learned a new French verb – “frissonner.” It means to shiver and that’s exactly what I was doing as I tried to sketch a restaurant at the QC marina. That sketch, in all its “frisonner” wavy lines may get finished up but it will occur in my office.

Bethann and I were the first to bail out, though others were already huddled against a wall that broke the wind. We went into the Marché de vieux port (our farmer’s market), got coffee and Bethann spotted some empty tables and chairs, left behind by summer kiosks, now closed for the winter.

We set up shop and couldn’t have asked for a better place to sketch and talk sketching. There was also eating involved. The rest of the group quickly gathered and we were entrenched for the day. Nobody wanted to go outside.

If this wasn’t luck enough for anyone, the kiosk next to our “meeting hall” was owned by a very nice woman who sold blueberry syrups and some incredible chocolate/blueberry pieces of heaven. AND she brought us a platter of the stuff.

Here’s my shivering sketch, a view from across the marina: