I’ve Become A Samurai Sketcher

Winter has turned me into a Samurai sketcher.  By that I mean I’m spending more time sketching the Samurai exhibit at our Musee de la Civilisation than anything else.  I need to spend time in the Nigeria exhibit too as it has a lot of great masks and statues worthy of a sketcher’s eye, but the Samurai display is only here until Feb 17 so I’m trying to get as much done there as possible, which isn’t a lot as slow as I sketch (grin).

2012_12-Samurai4_700Yesterday I went with Celine, Pierre and Yvan to the museum.  We had a great time.  I sketched a couple more Samurai helmets, bringing my total to five.  There’s only another 40 or so to go 🙂

Both were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) with a Pilot Prera, Lex Gray ink, and my Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.  The more I use these watercolor pencils the more I like them.

 

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Sketchcrawl Through A Car Museum

It’s rare that I’ll re-post something I see on someone else’s blog but this video is too good not to pass it foreward.  Lapin, an illustrator with a great blog, recently posted this video of their sketchcrawl through the Caramulo Car Museum that gave the sketchers extraordinary access.  The video was professionally done by Patricia Pedrosa and any sketcher will appreciate it.

Be sure to read all of the subtitles as there are some great insights there.  I’ve watched it three times 🙂

Samurai – The Continuing Saga Of The Urban Sketcher

The last few days have been stormy here.  High winds, snow, and general ugliness.  No big deal except that I haven’t been able to follow my normal walking regime.  With mild desperation to right that wrong, I trudged off today, or rather I was slipping and sliding down the sidewalks.  I was jumping mounds of snow, walking on water…well, really just in it.  After an hour of this joyous adventure I found myself at the Musee de la Civilisations, my winter haunt.

I sketched only one Samurai helmet today, though.  This one was a bit more challenging, with all its fire ornamentation and besides, I had another hour of slipping and sliding to get home.  It was fun anyways and while I’m beat from the walk, it was a very satisfying day.  I think, though, that I’m going to sit and sketch for a while.

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The sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), which is becoming my museum sketchbook.  I used a Pilot Prera and Lex Gray.  The color comes from Faber-Castell “Albrecht Durer” watercolor pencils, mushed around with a waterbrush.  This is an approach that fits the museum world and works for me, though I’m still learning how and what to do with them.

Pilot Metropolitan from Goulet Pens

GouletPkgIs there a better online company than Goulet Pens?  Their service is simply amazing.  No, it’s unbelievable.  I ordered a $15 pen from them.  This is what I got in the mail today.

The Pilot Metropolitan came in the typical (as in nice) Pilot box.  They also sent me a business card, a bookmark, and a lollipop.  A lollipop… can you believe it?  And Alex wrote a nice note, in impeccable handwriting, and he used Noodlers 54th Massachusetts ink, the new bulletproof ink that Nathan Tardiff has brewed up.  All this and I only bought a $15 pen.  Thanks Goulet Pens.  You are the online seller to which all others are compared.

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Comparison between Lamy Al-Star (top), Pilot Metropolitan, and Pilot Prera (bottom)

So, with lollipop in mouth, I opened up my Pilot Metropolitan.  It came with a Pilot CON-20 “squeeze” converter and a cartridge.  I’m not a fan of these rubber converters and didn’t have a CON-50 on hand but I did have some empty cartridges so I filled one with Noodler’s Lexington Gray, my favorite sketching ink, and the pen was ready to go.

Everyone is talking about these pens, saying they’re a lot of bang for the buck.  My go to sketching pen is a Pilot Prera (F) because I love its fine line and great features.  Sometimes, though, I need a slightly thicker line in some sketches and I thought the Metropolitan might serve that purpose as it is a Pilot medium nib which is similar to a Lamy fine nib.  I was right.

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Posted it’s just slightly longer than my posted Pilot Prera.

The pen balances well even when posted and it’s comfortable in my hand.  Before now, I’ve used Lamy Safaris when I needed a thicker line.  They’re fine but they’re sufficiently different from the Prera in balance and size that I don’t like switching between them.  The Metropolitan makes this switch much easier.

In my opinion, this pen lives up to all the laudatory things that have been said about it.  It looks good and it’s smooth, at least on Rhodia notepad paper and my Stillman & Birn sketchbooks.  I don’t know how Pilot can produce such quality for $15 but I’m sure glad they did.  I drew this little sketch in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (4×6) to let you see how the Metropolitan pen lines look in a simple sketch.

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Samourai Sketching in Quebec – Urban Sketching?

The Urban Sketcher’s ‘manifesto’ is quite clear: “We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.”  I’m a diehard location sketcher.  I do sometimes sketch from photos or just doodle from things my two functional neurons cough up.  But I can’t really get into that sort of thing very much.

I like to draw buildings, fire hydrants, telephone poles, trashcans and vehicles, but this time of year, outdoors is inhospitable in Quebec City, at least for an Arizona cowboy like myself.  For example, it’s currently 24F (-5C) with 35kmh winds just for good measure.  So, the things I have available to sketch for the next few months are going to be indoors.

One of my favorite places is the Musee de la Civilisation here in Quebec.  Nice ambiance, lots of things to sketch, and it’s warm.  The people are also very friendly towards sketchers, which puts one at ease.  So, you’ll see lots of museum sketches from me this winter.

And here are a couple more.  I went to the museum last Sunday with three of my sketching buddies and we had a great time.  As we were there in the morning I decided to give the Samourai exhibit my attention.  Often it’s just too busy to sketch there as it’s the current ‘feature’ display, but on Sunday mornings there aren’t a lot of visitors.

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Koshozan sujibachi kabuto (1588) – This is a very rare piece, constructed with 120, riveted plates. It bears the crest of the Inabi family, a very influential family of the 16th Century.

It is a dark room, with most of the Samourai armor in lighted glass cases.  Sketching in the dark is an interesting challenge and more than once I had to walk to a light to see if I was doing ok with the sketch.  I’ve got to get a little clip-on light I guess.  These little excursions became more frequent when I was trying to figure out whether the watercolor pencil was red, orange or brown (grin).

Nagaeboshinari kabuto (Edo 17th Century) - This appears to be hammered bronze.  It features the Big Dipper constellation inset into the metalwork.

Nagaeboshinari kabuto (Edo 17th Century) – This appears to be hammered bronze. It features the Big Dipper constellation inset into the metalwork.

These helmets were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon series sketchbook (5.5×8.5) using a Pilot Prera and Noodler’s Lex Gray ink.  I have a handful of Faber-Castell watercolor pencils that I used to color them.  I’m guessing but I think I only have 30 or so more helmets to sketch.  Then I can move on to the rest of the armor, the weapons, the guys on horses.  It’s going to be a fun, long winter.  Where do you find your sketching inspiration during winter?

 

 

Kum Long-Point Pencil Sharpener

KumSharpenerThis is my new toy and it is quickly becoming a favorite.  The Kum “long-point” sharpener is just plain KEWL!  It solves so many problems for those of us who like to use pencils and need a portable solution to sharpening them.

While there are many portable sharpeners on the market, most of them produce a really stubby point that I don’t find satisfactory for sketching.  I like nice, long points, like I get from my old ‘school’ sharpener that’s attached to the wall of my office.

 

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The Kum sharpener provides a long point by using a two-step process.  There is one ‘sharpener’ that removes only the wood, exposing a length of lead (graphite/clay).  Then, you stuff the pencil into a second sharpener that sharpens the lead to a nice, long point.  It’s almost magical.

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Isn’t that great?  If that’s all it did it would be the best $5.60 I’ve ever spent, but this is like the TV commercials….there’s more.

2mmThis sharpener will sharpen 2mm and 3.2mm leads.  I’d nearly abandoned my collection of 2mm pencils simply because I couldn’t find a solid, portable sharpening solution for them.  They used to make really tiny versions of the standard sharpener that would sharpen them but I haven’t found anyone selling those anymore, probably because all draftsmen have long ago moved on to using AutoCAD or SolidWorks.  But the Kum sharpener does a great job on my 2mm pencils.  I don’t have any 3.2mm pencils but I assume they’d work as well as there are nearly identical sharpeners on opposite sides of the device.

If you need to sharpen pencils on location, take a serious look at the Kum sharpener.  It may be the best $5.60 you ever spent too.  If you don’t need to sharpen 2mm or 3.2mm leads, you can even get one without those features for $4.10.  Both of these prices are from Jet Pens, which is where I got my sharpener.  BTW, the pencils in the photos are Blackwing 602s, my favorite wooden pencil.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.