Do Nigerians Have Thick Necks?

Goofy question, right?  Well, I’m convinced there is evidence to support the notion that Nigerians have thick necks.  It comes in the form of the Nigeria exhibit at our Musée de la Civilisation.

That evidence comes in the form of large, and I mean large ‘crests’ worn by Nigerian dancers.  Some of these are huge and, supposedly, they wear them while doing ceremonial dances.  I wouldn’t want to balance one on my head while watching TV, let alone while dancing.

2013-01-08Nigeria4_700Here’s just one example.  This ‘little’ guy is roughly half a meter tall.  The straw band at its base is where your head goes.  I assume there’s a strap that goes through the lower hole and runs around under the chin.  Thick necks… gotta be.

This next one isn’t quite as large and I’m not exactly sure how it’s even worn.  It’s obviously an elephant who likes to play frisbee but other than that I know nothing about it other than that it too is labelled as a ‘crest’ and is part of a long line of them along one wall of the exhibit.

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Both sketches were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) sketchbook.  The first was drawn with a Pilot Prera, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink and Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.  The elephant sketch was done with a mechanical pencil.  Thank goodness for museums when it’s cold outside.

More Museum Sketching…Still…Again

Yet another Samurai helmet.  This is the eleventh one I’ve done and I think it’s time to move on, though there are still a bunch of cool ones to sketch.  This one, like the others, was done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera loaded with Noodler’s Lexington Gray inkFaber-Castell watercolor pencils made it pretty.  I couldn’t help but think about propeller beanies while doing this one.

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38th Worldwide Sketchcrawl in Quebec City

I received this from Celine Poulin, via email:

38e Sketchcrawl à la Chapelle du Musée de l’Amérique française

Bonjour à tous les amis du dessin,
Un 38e Sketchcrawl aura lieu à Québec le samedi, 19 janvier prochain. Voici les renseignements pertinents :
 
Lieu : Chapelle du Musée de l’Amérique française, 2 Côte de la Fabrique (à côté de la Cathédrale de Québec)
Coût : Gratuit (annoncer au guichet que c’est pour l’activité de croquis)
Heure : 13h
 Apporter son banc ou sa chaise pour plus de confort.
 
Pour infos : http://www.mcq.org/fr/maf/renseignements.html
Pour ceux qui veulent visiter le musée avant l’activité, c’est gratuit de 10h à 12h le samedi (janvier et février seulement)

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chapelle_2For those unfamiliar with French, the 38th Worldwide Sketchcrawl will be celebrated by Quebec City sketchers on Saturday, January 19th at the chapel associated with the Musée de l’Amérique française which is at 2 Côte de la Fabrique (next to the Quebec Cathedral).  This chapel was secularized for banquets and meetings but it’s gorgeous  and should be great for sketching.

This is a free event.  Just tell them at the door that you’re there for the sketching activity and they’ll let you in.  We’ll start at 13:00.  Bring your materials, and if you have one, a stool, as it will be more comfortable than standing all afternoon.

MuseeFrancais

You can get information about the site here: http://www.mcq.org/fr/maf/renseignements.html

View Location Map
Lastly, if you would like to visit the museum, during January and February it is free from 10-12h on Saturdays.

 

Sketching On The Run

Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment so I couldn’t go to the museum to sketch. This, however, didn’t prevent me from sketching, but it did force me to mentally shift gears a bit.

I’m a sketcher who enjoys sketching precisely, or I try to achieve some precision in my sketches. I like my sketches to reflect what I’m sketching, without a lot of loose and/or restated lines, casual approach to outline, etc. Depending on your view this is a good or bad thing and I’m not here to defend my approach; it’s just how my brain works. In point of fact, I’d like to do both loose and precise sketching but as a relatively new sketcher, sketching slowly fits my limited ability to truly ‘see’ and depict what I see.

Anyways, yesterday I got to the doctor’s office (he works out of a clinic) and I had to wait. Those of us waiting sit, while others stand in a short line, waiting to tell the receptionist about their own appointments. There’s not much to sketch, at least that sits still for any period of time.

There is, however, a 20-30 second period of time where each of the patients is standing in front of the receptionist and I had a clear view of them. So, I took out my S&B 4×6 sketchbook, my Pilot Prera, and I started quick sketching the people as they took their turn at the receptionist’s window. I did several of them before the doctor, all too soon, called my name. It was fun.

2013_01-10DocOfficeQuick1This is what those 30 second sketches look like. Not much to speak of but satisfying in some strange way. The second sketch is one in which I spent an extra 30 seconds, after the patient had left, adding some rough shading and darkening some outlines. More fun.

I should add that I’ve been critical of the many books and drawing courses that advocate students begin sketching by doing ‘gesture sketches’, which these most certainly are.  A year ago, as a new sketcher, there is no way I could have done even these crude sketches in this short time frame.  If you’re a newbie sketcher you know what I mean.  Thus, while this was/is fun, I remain skeptical that it’s where you want to start as a sketcher.

I’m reminded of something my buddy Yvan has said to me several times.  “You must draw slowly before you can draw quickly.”  I think he’s right and the how-to-draw books could learn much from Yvan.  I still can’t draw people well, whether I draw slowly or quickly.  But because I’ve drawn a bunch of them slowly, and because I’ve studied (watched a lot) people, I’ve got a better idea of what I’ve got to capture when I’ve only got a few seconds to do so.

I have to say that I had a lot of fun in those few minutes in the doctor’s office and I hope I can improve my abilities to capture people quickly.  I still like my slow, and I do mean REALLY slow, sketching approach, but sketching quickly is fun too.  I feel there’s room for both in my life.   What do you think about quick sketching?

Cheers — Larry

 

Why Am I Such A Loyal Goulet Pens Customer?

I tell everyone who will listen how great Goulet Pens is as a company.  They’re great people.  They have a fantastic website with more info about pens than any other site.  They stock a huge array of inks, pens and papers.  And they ship everything at reasonable prices, wrapped as though they were sending it into a war zone.  What more could you ask for in a company.

But there’s another reason and you can see it here:

This video hit my inbox as part of the Goulet Pens newsletter and five minutes later I was in my shop, my Prera disassembled, and the ink cleaned out of the cap. I love my Preras but the one problem was with ink in the cap of my demonstrator. Problem gone. Thanks Brian… again.

Cheers — Larry

Am I Spending Too Much Time At The Museum?

It’s been bitter cold in Quebec City so my sketching itch has me haunting the Musee de la Civilisation on a regular basis.  Maybe it’s too regular.  I have evidence.

2012-12-27Samurai6_700First evidence came from a guard.  I was sitting with my buddy Yvan, who was drawing a horse statue as I recall.  A guard came by and offered him a chair (we normally sit on our sketching stools).  When he returned with the chair they started chatting about Yvan’s sketch.  Then the guard mentioned the ‘other’ guy who draws a lot in the museum.  “He stands in the Samurai exhibit and makes very nice helmet drawings.”  At least he thought they were nice.

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2012-12-29Samurai9_700The second bit of evidence is even more clear that I’m going there too often.  When you are a museum member like I am you have to go to the info counter and show them your membership card.  They write your name down and give you the sticker you’ve got to wear to have the run of the museum just like those paying for a single visit.  Two days ago I walked towards that counter and before showing him my card the guy said, “You’re Larry Marshall.  What do you do here every day?”  Yep…coming too often.  But we had a quick chat about sketching and I showed him my sketchbook, and my Samurai sketches.

2013_01-01-Samurai10_700It seems time to share some more of them with you as well.  While those who follow this blog have seen some of them here, here and here, I’m including five more in this post.  Click on them to get larger images.  Lots of fun to sketch and some are significant challenges but I need a building sketch fix.

2012-12-27Samurai8

All of these were done in a 5.5×8.5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera pen with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  Color comes from Faber-Castell watercolor pencils and a waterbrush which is idea for use in a museum.  Hope you like them.

Cheers — Larry

I Wish There Were Good Subjects To Sketch Where I Live

2012_07-FireHydrant5_800Raise your hand if you haven’t heard this, or something similar said/written by someone in a sketching/art forum.  In the writing world the questions that authors joke about is “Where do you get your ideas?” and the answers run from horribly snarky to absolutely hilarious – often it’s hard to tell which is which.  But in the end, what authors explain is “Ideas are easy; it’s execution that is the hard part.”

And similarly, this “Where do you find good stuff to draw?” question should get a similar treatment in my view.  I don’t mean the snarky part but the truth is, the best way to find good stuff to draw is to stop looking for good stuff to draw.

2012_04-RailroadSiding800.Just like a writer’s ideas, finding good stuff is the easy part; it’s the execution that is important.  I think people spend so much time looking for the perfect scene because they believe that a ‘perfect scene’ does great art make.  I say that’s not true, though I confess, I’m not much of an artist so maybe I’m wrong.

         

But I do know one thing for sure.  Trying to do a drawing of the Taj Mahal or the Grand Canyon that doesn’t look like yet another picture of the Taj Mahal or Grand Canyon is MUCH harder than creating a meaningful drawing of something that the viewer hasn’t seen in a gazillion photos before they see your sketch.  Don’tcha want to show people what they’re missing, not what they’ve already seen?

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50Think about the famous painters and what they found worthy of their time.  Monet painted in Paris but instead of a steady stream of Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe paintings, he painted gardens, smoky railroad stations, fishing boats, and water lilies.   Van Gogh painted peasants sitting around a table eating potatoes.  He also painted sunflowers.  Lots of sunflowers.  What made Monet and Van Gogh memorable wasn’t their subject matter; it is what they did with it.

And so it goes with sketching.  Everywhere, anywhere, and at any time, there are things to sketch available to anyone with a set of functioning eyes and a pencil.  Personally, I’m drawn to the mundane, mostly because I never noticed any of this stuff before I became a sketcher.  Once I became one I was amazed at how much personality fire hydrants, telephone poles, and lamp posts have and how, if one looks one can see ‘art’ in everything.

49I’ve scattered several sketches of mundane, readily available subjects from my town.  I never would have seen or sketched any of them if I’d been looking for the proverbial ‘great scene.’  So again I suggest, stop looking and instead sketch what is before you.  If nothing else you’ll be sketching and it’s that process that is the key to the smiles you see on sketcher’s faces.

10 Favorite Sketches of 2012

2012 represents most of my sketching experience to date.  I started trying to draw cubes back in September of 2011 but I didn’t start doing any location sketching until spring of 2012 as the Quebec snow melted.  It’s been a fantastic journey as I’ve climbed the early stages of the sketching learning curve. I thought it might be fun to do a ‘ 10 favorites’ post, where I present what I think are some of my best sketches of the year.  I’m often accused of being ‘down’ on my sketches.  Here’s my chance to show people that I’m actually happy with some of them (grin).

Because 90% or more of my sketches have been done on the street and most have been buildings, I thought I should vary my choices by selecting one sketch from ten different categories, just to increase the variety.   So, here they are.  I hope you like them.

Building

This is, by far, the hardest selection.  I’ve done a LOT of building sketches and none of them really stand out as extraordinary, though many are personal ‘favorites’.  I’ve chosen this one because it, in the extreme, is the brightest (grin).

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Vehicle

2012_09-CarI’ve drawn a number of cars, trucks and even heavy equipment.  I chose this one, however, because the subject was so darn cute when it found it lounging in the old port area of Quebec.

 

Fire hydrant

Pete Scully, by example, caused me to notice and sketch fire hydrants.  I don’t know what it is about them but once you start looking at them you realize they vary considerably and that fire hydrants have oodles of personality.  I chose this one because I like the composition.

2012_01-FireHydrant2_sm

 Samurai helmet

2012_12-Samouri3_700I’ve tried drawing from photos and it’s ‘ok’ but sketching, for me, is about going places and seeing things.  But winter in Quebec City is just too cold to be outdoors so we’re all driven indoors.  At first I found that depressing but once I saw the Samurai exhibit at our museum of civilization, I was hooked on indoor sketching.  I started sketching Samurai helmets, which are amazing, serving to protect heads as well as indicate status, identity, and even to serve in ceremonial roles.  It’s hard to choose a single helmet sketch as I love these amazing pieces of hardware.  I chose this one as it nearly drove me nuts drawing all those flame thingies.

Human

52This was hard as I haven’t drawn many people.  It’s on my ‘to do’ list for 2013.  But I chose this one, a very simple sketch, because I liked the way I was lucky enough to capture the movement of this guy’s coat as he walked along.

Ship

2012_07-CHJColor800Quebec City has an active port so I’ve sketched several ships.  I chose this one because I remember struggling with all the decks and railings.  I also have memories of how much fun I had that day as I sketched with my buddy Pierre.

Steeple/Dome

Quebec City is heavily populated by domes and steeples projecting upward from their supporting structures.  I love sketching them and have done a bunch of them.  I chose this particular sketch because it features both domes and steeples in a single sketch.

2012_11-Domes800_site

Telephone pole

Maybe you have to be an urban sketcher to appreciate them, but I like telephone poles and all the wires, transformers and connectors that hang from them.  I did this sketch on blue paper and liked the way it turned out.

2012_04-3Transformer800

Tree

I’ve drawn a bunch of trees but mostly they’ve been ‘studies’ where it was just the tree and nothing for supporting material.  This one, however, was done one day when Pierre and I headed out one Sunday morning looking for things to sketch.  It was a crisp autumn day and the maples had started to change colors.  I decided to make the tree the main attraction, putting the building in the background.

2012_09-StAnneTree800

Vignette

To fulfill my promise of ten sketches, I’ve added this vignette to complete the set.  I was sketching with my friend Nicolas and we were sitting in a church yard, a church that has become a library.  I looked over my shoulder and could see part of this restaurant, liked the red umbrellas and so I drew it.  Again, it brings back memories of a good day.

2012_08-VeauD'OrC800

I’m looking forward to 2013 sketching.  For a while I’m going to have to work indoors but sometime around April we’ll start having a day or three where it’s tolerable to sketch outside and you’ll find me on the streets all summer.  Happy New Year, everyone.

 

Indoor Sketching At Its Best

Today was a new sketching experience for me.  Most of my sketching has been directed at buildings; mostly on the streets of Quebec City.  But as I’ve reported, winter has driven me into museums and so I’ve been boring you with sketches of Samurai helmets and Nigerian masks.

My sketching buddies, who are all better sketchers than I am, are similarly afflicted with the ‘It’s Too Cold To Be Outdoors Sketching Blues’ and Celine decided to do something about it.  She invited Pierre, Yvan, and myself to her house for a sketching session in her studio.

Her studio is a wonderful place, with lots of spot lights, tables and shelves full of “stuff” to sketch.  It was hard for me to turn my back on her great art library, but we were there to sketch so we did.

Pierre pointed at a bowl of artificial fruit and said, “I want to sketch that” and just as though following orders from Capt. Picard on Star Trek, we followed his orders and ‘made it so.’

Celine set up a spot light over the fruit and we sat in a circle around the fruit bowl, and sketched…and sketched.  It took me forever as I’d never done a still life of any kind.  Does a building count as a still life?

I’m still getting used to using watercolor pencils and this sketch taught me a few things, including some “gonna have to figure out how to…” sorts of things.  One thing I found interesting is that they didn’t seem to work as well in my S&B Beta sketchbook as they do in my S&B Epsilon sketchbook.  I guess the smoother paper of the Epsilon keeps the pigment higher on the paper, making it easier to wash them out evenly.  With regular watercolors I really prefer the Beta paper as it’s so much thicker.

2012_12-BowlOfFruit700

Here’s my completed sketch, done in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (6×8), using a Pilot Prera and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  Don’t tell the urban sketchers I did this one.  They might drum me out of the corps, though it was done ‘on location’ so I guess it qualifies.  I’m still reading the fine print on such things.

Sketching fruit works up an appetite and Celine and Pierre had prepared a feast for us.  My usual sketching lunch is a granola bar and an apple so I was completely unprepared for a heavenly soup, fine cheeses, crackers, and fruit.  This was followed by dessert and a yummy oolong tea.  Let it be written that Larry ate too much.

2012_12-BlueJayStatue700And then it was back to sketching.  Well, I indicated some reluctance as I was once again buried up to my nose in Celine’s art library.  So many books…so little time.  Eventually I found myself sketching a small ceramic statue of a blue jay.  It’s the first bird I’ve ever sketched.  It’s also the first bird that’s ever stood still long enough for my slow sketching pace to capture it.  Thanks, bird.  Here it is, done in the same sketchbook, same pen, same ink, same limited abilities.

We finished up with discussions of sketching and Yvan, as usual, provided some great insights.  His skill is enormous, and exceeded only by his patience for my silly questions.  I write this as the end to a perfect day.  Thanks again, Celine.

 

 

 

Quick Sketching: Trying Out The Platinum Carbon Pen

I just bought a Platinum Carbon Pen from Jet Pens.  I’m a fan of Platinum Carbon Black ink and this pen is supposed to have a feed sized specifically for this pigmented ink.  Most people say that it has a very fine nib.  Giving away the punch line, I think both of these things are true.

The pen comes from Jet Pens looking like this.  I carry my pens everywhere and this one is just way too long.  It’s designed to look and feel like a dip pen.PCarbonPenAnd so I “fixed” mine.  I cut it off long enough to allow the ink cartridge but short enough that I could post the cap while it was in use.  For anyone wanting to follow this approach, that’s 6cm from the gold ring around the pen body.

Once cut, I mixed up some epoxy and dabbed the pen up and down in the puddle of epoxy, filling the hole in the end of the pen.  Once dry I simply sanded everything smooth and the result looks like this:

PCPclosedPCPopen

 

 

 

 

Cut down like this, it makes a very comfortable sketching pen.  When capped it’s nearly as short as a Kaweco Classic Sport and when posted it’s nearly the length of my Pilot Prera.  The balance works out well also.

The pen really shines, though, because of its fine line, which is actually finer than my Pilot Prera (F), which is already finer than a Lamy (XF).  The Platinum Carbon lays down a line nearly as fine as a Gillot 303, if you’re familiar with dip pen nibs.  Hatching is a dream with this pen.2012_12-quick_sketch0

The Platinum Carbon Black ink cartridge that comes with it is nothing short of spectacular.  This ink is the definition of a true black and it’s absolutely waterproof.  You can buy this ink in cartridges or in a bottle.  I’ve always been a fan of Platinum cartridges because they have a small metal ball that keeps the ink mixed and so I just fill them from a bottle using a pen syringe.

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So I sat down and took the pen for a test drive.  I did some tonal hatching practice and several small sketches, just to get used to the feel of it.  I’ve included a few of those sketches here, all done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6).

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I like this pen a lot.  It’s a great compliment to my Pilot Prera and Metropolitan pens and may become my ‘go to’ pen for quick sketching due to its super-fine nib.2012_12-quick_sketch5