On Nait Tous Artistes!

On nait tous artistes (We are all born as artists) is what is written on the sides of a tiny Fiat car owned by DeSerres, our local art store.  They have just opened a new store within walking distance of my house which was event enough but in the parking lot was this really amazing Fiat, it’s paint scheme that of a young child drawing herself I suppose.

Anyways, I just had to sketch it but it was far too cold to sit in the parking lot to do so.  I took a couple photos, came home and sketched it off my computer monitor.  I guess that disqualifies it as a true ‘urban sketchers’ sketch but this one deserves an exception.

2013-02-03DeSerresFiat700

Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5), Lamy Safari, Noodler’s Lexington Gray. Faber-Castell watercolor pencils provide color.

Strathmore Series 400 “Toned Gray” sketchbooks

I’ve posted a couple examples of sketches I’ve done on Strathmore’s Series 400 gray drawing paper and it’s spawned a couple of questions about the sketchbook in particular but also the paper itself.  I’m really new to the paper and I’m not a paper guru, but I thought it might be useful for me to discuss my limited experience with these products.

Series400DrawingStrathmore’s Series 400 Drawing sketchbooks have been around for a very long time and most commonly found in various sizes of spiral-bound books with “Drawing” on the cover.  According to Strathmore they are and “ideal surface for any dry media, suitable for pen and ink.”  I’m not a pastel guy but I don’t think this paper would be useful for that medium but for pencil and pen and ink, it’s an excellent, inexpensive paper.  It may lack a bit in ‘tooth’ for those wanting to do detailed pencil sketches.

StrathmoreTonedGrayThe recent release of this type of paper in both gray and brown is an important event in the sketching world, I think, and even more so because Strathmore has wisely produced brown-covered sketchbooks containing these papers.  I nearly went off the rails the first time I saw one of these beautiful sketchbooks.  I get bored by the typical black covers and the matt-brown finish of these sketchbook covers speaks to me.

The binding looks good but I don’t have enough experience with it to speak further about it.  I should also add that I have no experience with the brown paper version so my comments are limited to the gray paper.

2013-01-08Seminaire38thSketchcrawl

Done with Pilot Prera and Prismacolor white pencil

But I’m getting ahead of myself as I first discovered this paper in a spiral-bound 9×12 sketchbook.  These come with finely perforated pages so you can remove the papers cleanly.  I did exactly that and use this paper as individual sheets.  I found it very nice for pencil sketching, though I admit to know almost nothing about pencil sketching.  What I can tell you is that my buddy Yvan is a long-time and certainly excellent pencil driver and he said that “it’s great for ‘sketching’ (in quotes because his sketches are framing quality) but for portrait work the paper lacks tooth.”  Those of you who understand this can do your own interpretation.  Me, I’m still trying to figure out how to do basic shading with pencils.  I’m a pen and ink guy and so I provide the ink sketch on the left, done with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.

Series 400, done with Pilot Prera, Noodler's Lexington Gray ink

Series 400, done with Pilot Prera, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink

My understanding is that the hardbound sketchbooks are available in 5.5×8.5″ and 8.5×11.5″ sizes.   As I was in the market for a pen-only sketchbook that I could dedicate to learning how to draw people, I bought the smaller size.  I admit that I much prefer drawing buildings, cars and even fire hydrants rather than sketch people but it’s winter and there are more people indoors than there are buildings, so what’s a sketcher to do?

My new Strathmore sketchbook has become my “people” sketchbook.  Its 128 pages of gray, 80lb paper works well with the pens I use regularly (i.e. fine nib fountain pens).  I did find that if I use a medium nib and lay down a significant amount of ink there is slight feathering with my typical sketching ink (Noodler’s Lexington Gray) but it wasn’t objectionable.

Series 400, done with Pilot G-TEC-C3 hybrid ink pen

Series 400, done with Pilot G-TEC-C3 hybrid ink pen

As I haven’t done much with the sketchbook yet I don’t have much to show in the way of examples so I’ll include the only two pages of my book that have ink on them.  The first is a set of scribbles I did of people parts.  There was no intention of anyone but me seeing this and no rhyme or reason to it so I apologize for its scattered nature.  The second sketch is my first attempt at sketching clothing folds with pen and ink.  Need to work on my darks a lot and proportions even more, but again, here it is.  This is a post about the paper, not this sketcher’s limited abilities (grin).  In any event, I hope this answers some of the questions about this paper and the new sketchbooks.

Oh…I should add, this paper contains too little sizing and is too light for use as a watercolor surface in my opinion.  I have done some experiments and I can get away with adding some shading using a Derwent Graphitone pencil and color with Faber-Castell watercolor pencils, moving both around with a small Sakura Koi waterbrush.  Trying to add a graded wash down the side of a building wall, however, is 1) very difficult as the paper is so absorptive and 2) the paper starts to pucker.  For myself, I’ll stick to my Stillman & Birn sketchbooks for all my color work.  They’re simply the best there is, though I wish I could buy them with brown covers.

Museum Sketching With Claudette

What’s going on?  Last week it was so cold that it was fashionable to run outside with a bucket of hot water, throw it up in the air and watch it turn instantly to snow.  Those -30C temps are tough so mostly we just stay indoors.  But this week, we’re 40-degrees warmer than that and it’s RAINING!   This doesn’t happen in Quebec, in February.  These temps, however, are much easier to take.

And so it was, yesterday, when I walked in the rain to the Musee de l’Amerique francais to meet up with a new sketching buddy, Claudette Gauvreau, a very talented sketcher.  I met her at our last sketchcrawl and we agreed meet at the museum for a sketching session.

2013_01-30ChapelOrgan700I got there about half an hour or so before our scheduled meet time and decided to sketch an organ that sits high above the floor of a chapel associated with the museum.  I always struggle with perspective when I have to look up this much and this case was no exception.  I started with pencil, drawing and redrawing the basic columns and the ceiling curves.  I even drew a big cube where the organ sits before turning to pen to do the actual sketch.

When Claudette arrived she needed to do some work in the chapel as well so I continued working and finished up the pen work.  I did it in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook using Pilot Prera and Metropolitan pens filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray.  Shading was done with a Derwent Graphitone 8B pencil.  These pencils are great because once you hit them with a waterbrush they ‘set’ and you can put watercolor washes over it.

ClaudetteBalastradeClaudette finished up this great sketch of part of the railing around the main seating area, which holds a bunch of round banquet tables these days.  I can’t speak to materials used but isn’t it great?  The small bit at the bottom is an example of the flooring.

We headed into the museum where we sat in comfy sofas and sketched mannequins dressed in costumes used in movies and created by French costume designers.  She started sketching the cowboy character that Owen Wilson played in Night at the Museum, while I decided to do something I’d never done.  I sketched a Victorian dress using only a pen.  I’m fascinated by clothing folds and want to learn to draw them in ink.

2013_01-30VictorianDress700Anyways, in the time it took me to do this sketch, Claudette finished drawing her cowboy, then drew a security guard and an indian from the same movie.  Then she wandered off to look at the exhibits while I finished up my single figure.  Have I mentioned that I’m slow at sketching (grin)?  This sketch was done with a Pilot G-TEC-C3, hybrid ink pen on Strathmore Series 400 toned gray paper (5.5×8.5).  I wish I could show you Claudette’s sketches but I didn’t think to take a photo.

Next Wednesday, we’re meeting at the Musee de la Civilisation.  Want to join us?

Music, Friends and Sketching – A Very Good Day

One of the great things about Quebec City is that there are a lot of free concerts.  Many are associated with the conservatory here and are mostly students – really good students.

Another source of free concerts are the ‘mid-day’ concerts associated with the Grand Théâtre de Québec.  This venue is the site of operatic and symphonic programs, musical plays, and a bunch of big name but not big venue performers.  I saw B.B. King there.

The mid-day concerts are held on the second floor foyer, however, and once they’ve set up a stage and a bunch of chairs, it’s about the size of a decent sit-down night club without the booze, though you can get coffee and danish.

And that’s where I was today, to listen to a fantastic group of six jazz singers, all people too young to have so much talent.  2013_01-27TheatreTreeI arrived a little after ten AM and the concert didn’t start until eleven, though I got a mini-concert as the group went through a couple numbers, getting warmed up and checking equipment, I suppose.  With little to do besides look out the window, that’s what I did.  I got together with this pine tree, which also didn’t seem to have much to do, and we made this sketch together.  We had a good time together.

But when Yvan arrived, the fickle friend that I am completely ignored my pine tree friend.  Yvan and I talked about sketching, his new sketchbook, the Series 400 toned paper that Strathmore is selling and some other stuff.  When we could, we went up and staked out some primo sketching seats, saving one for Celine.

Celine and Yvan are quite comfortable doing really great sketches of singers and musicians.  Myself, I still struggle with people who are moving around a lot.  Heck, who am I kidding.  I still have trouble sketching people who are comatose.  Yvan has explained, in his patient manner that ALL I have to do is choose a position the person returns to frequently and sketch that position.  So far my brain hasn’t gotten the message as it can’t quite sift through all the movement.  Practice, practice, practice…

2013_01-27Spectator1While I tried to sketch the singers, I didn’t do so well.  So, I sketched people who were in the audience.  These were all very quick sketches – another problem my brain has when in a crowd of people moving around.  My brain goes into “you’ve only got a minute, dummy, go fast…blindingly fast.”  So, while these spectators were going to stay put for me for the duration of the concert, I was doing 1-2 minute quick sketches.  Darn brain.

2013_01-27Spectator2All of these sketches were done in a 3×5 sketchbook using a Platinum Carbon Black fountain pen, filled with PCB ink.  I’ve come to like this pen a lot for detail sketching as it’s really fine, like a .005 Micron.  I’m not so sure about it as a people sketching pen for the same reason – the lines are just too fine.

The music was fantastic, being with my sketching buddies always a good time, and there’s no such thing as a bad sketch if you view sketching fun as coming from the process, not the result.  I do.

2013-01-26GuyReadingAs long as I’m talking about people sketching, here’s a slightly better sketch I did the day before, of a cooperative guy who sat reading.  He changed his position only once in the 10 minutes or so I spent sketching him which I thought quite considerate.  This sketch was done with my Hero 578 “Chinese calligraphy” (tip bent upward) pen, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink, and a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.  You can see that I can get variable line thickness from this pen and I think it adds something to the sketch.

Museum Time Again

It’s been really cold here in Quebec.  So cold, in fact that I couldn’t bring myself to go out at all, let alone walk the hour to the museums.  I hadn’t sketched in several days because of this, so when the high temp hit -17C I jumped at this ‘warm’ day to head out.

I decided to go to the Musee de l’Amerique francais, the site of our recent sketchcrawl.  As I was there on a Thursday morning, I think I was alone in the museum, except for the staff.  It was quiet.  It was comfortable.  In fact, I sat in a nice, comfy sofa and sketched a mannikin who was dressed in a 16th Century gown worn in the movie The Fountain.

2013_01-16thCenturyWoman700Still trying to figure out pencil sketching, that’s what I was using.  I decided early on that the subject might be too ‘grand’ for my Stillman & Birn 5.5×8.5 Epsilon sketchbook as the dress has a very bold pattern that I simply couldn’t capture in a 6″ tall sketch but I persisted doing the best I could.  Sadly, the sketch shows my biggest problem – I constantly smear the pencil work.  I can’t seem to avoid it.  It got worse, of course, when I sketched on the page opposite this one.  So, the sketch is more than a little bit ‘muddy’ but I sure had fun doing it.  The mannikin didn’t have much of a face and neither does my sketch.  Don’t hold it against her 🙂  I’m going to have to carry a sheet of paper to cover these sketches while I work, or maybe just go back to using a pen.

2013_01-25_19thCenturyWinterwear600I moved to another room and was taken by a pair of 19th Century snowshoes.  These are the widest shoes I’ve seen and if horses made John Wayne bowlegged, these would surely do the same to their wearer.  I also sketched a boot that was associated with this display.  Here I used a Pilot Prera and some watercolor pencils.

Sketching On Toned Paper

I’m no expert to artist materials.  Most of the time when I talk about using them the discourse begins with me saying “This is the first time that…”  This is almost true of my use of toned paper in my sketching activities.  During last summer I made a small sketchbook from toned paper (Canson Mi-Teintes) and I did a few pen sketches in it.  Unfortunately, the sketchbook itself wasn’t stiff enough (thin covers) to work well as a sketchbook to use on location while I held it in my hand.

Now that it’s winter and very cold here, I’ve been working a lot in museums.  This shift in location and subject matter has been coupled by me doing some experimenting with different tools and materials and recently I’ve done a couple sketches on single sheets of gray, toned paper and I thought I’d share them here.

2013-01-15Nigeria6_700The first was done at the Musée de la Civilisation, in a large Nigeria exhibit that features lots of masks and headdresses used in ceremonies.  This one was done in Canson Mi-Teintes paper.  As I am also trying to learn how to use a pencil as a sketching medium, I used the smooth side of this paper and it worked well.  Not being a pencil guru, I started layout with a 3H pencil and ultimately ended up with an HB mechanical pencil.  Nothing special here and, I’m sure, most pencil experts will probably cringe that I didn’t use softer pencils.  I added a bit of highlight using a Prismacolor white pencil but I was fairly tentative in this as I’ve never done that before at all.  Still, the results ended up better than I expected.

The next sketch I did was done during our 38th Worldwide Sketchcrawl, which we did at the Musée de Francais and its associated chapel.  The chapel has been ‘secularized’ and is rented out for meetings and banquets.  Still, its walls are still adorned with statues of saints, the windows are stained glass, and a huge alter remains.

2013-01-08Seminaire38thSketchcrawl700But I love to sketch buildings and being driven indoors by snow and cold is frustrating.  I took advantage of the sketchcrawl to set my tripod stool in front of a huge window that looked out on a courtyard that was bordered by a very long, probably 150+ feet long building.  Rather than capture the entire structure, I decided to concentrate on a slice of it and I came up with this sketch.

This sketch was done on Strathmore Series 400 “toned gray” paper.  I bought a 9×12 spiral sketchbook of this stuff.  The sheets are perforated and can be easily separated from the sketchbook.  I did the linework with a Pilot Prera filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  The suggestion of snow was added using the same Prismacolor pencil I used in the first sketch.  I like this paper a lot.  It’s much cheaper than the Canson paper and it’s a great pencil paper.  I felt that it was a bit too absorptive for ink, though.  A heavy line tends to feather a bit.

I really like drawing on toned paper.  I’m less wild about using single sheets of paper for my sketching and wish Stillman & Birn would create a gray version of its Epsilon sketchbooks.  A sketcher has to have a dream (grin).

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.

2013-01-15Nigeria5_700

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)

==================================================

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