Location Sketching Equipment – Larry Style, Part 3

I’ve talked about how I carry my stuff and what pointy devices I use.   What remains to be discussed are the substrates and supports for them, or more simply paper.  My early thought was to discuss how I make my choices, but quickly that idea became more book-size than blog-size and so I’m limiting this to a more simple presentation of what I use.  Maybe, in the future, discussions of why can take place.

Sketchbooks

I like to have several sizes of sketchbooks available to me but this conflicts with my desire to not have too many of them ‘in progress’ at the same time so sketchbook management is a constant struggle.

This photo represents the size variation I like.  The large one in the back is a Stillman & Birn 8×10 Beta, the small red one is a Field Notes notebook, the landscape 9×6 is Stillman & Birn Alpha, and the other one is a 4×6 book, also from Field Notes.

Single Sheets

When it comes to convenience at the drawing stage, there is nothing better than working with single sheets as it allows me to switch paper types and sizes, work without the constraints of sketchbook covers, and single sheets are very light.  This approach is less useful when you want to hand a sketchbook to someone who comes up to you on the street and is interested in what you do.

My approach to using single sheets takes two forms.  The first is to use a magnet board.  The base of mine is very thin plywood and the metal surface came from a small magnetic board sold at the dollar store.  All I did was remove the frame from the dollar store board and glue the metal sheet, with contact cement, to the wood.  I rounded the corners to make it easier to slide in/out of my bag.  The magnets are rare earth magnets.  This approach allows me to quickly attach any paper and, because it’s very light, it’s easier to hold than any sketchbook.  It has the added advantage that I can attach my palette to it with magnets too.

The other way I use single sheets is an idea from Marc Taro Holmes and one I use when I want to use first-class watercolor paper (Fabriano Artistico).  I take sheets and tape them to Coroplast, sometimes on both sides.  Coroplast is so light that I can carry 3-4 sheets without any appreciable weight added to my bag and they’re a dream to work on because they are so light.

Both of these approaches are great for sketching while standing because there’s no weight involved or pages to have to clip to keep them from blowing in the wind.

This brings me to the end of this series.  I do have a sense that I’ve left a lot out of the discussion by not spending time talking about why I use what I use so if you have questions, feel free to ask.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look into location sketching – Larry style.

 

Sketching Without A Net

I’m used to working with the subject in front of me.  I rely upon it to provide me with proportions and relationships.  When I leave that world and rely only upon my imagination, I feel lost, needing something to grab onto that is simply not there.

This morning I sat down with a piece of hot-press watercolor paper.  I’m trying to figure out how to use it so I thought I’d doodle a bit.  This sketch started with an eye.  Then I added some hairs around it.  This led to the addition of a nose and I was off in never-never-land, trying to figure out how to draw a mouse.

I don’t know how to draw a mouse.  I’m sure I got the proportions wrong but my serendipitous road took me to needing a mouse all scrunched up while trying to hold onto something.  Where are a mouse’s feet anyways?  I don’t really know.  I was just doodling.  Anyways, here it is.  Mice, even poorly proportioned mice are cute.

My buddy Yvan has told me that I needed to spend more time drawing from imagination.  According to him, if you do this you will never look at the world the same because you’ll always be building a vocabulary so you can draw from imagination.  I think he’s right.  I need to go look at some mice.

A Little Shed By The Bay

As a street sketcher, I’m used to coming to these blog posts with stories about where I went, what I saw, and why I drew what I drew.  What do studio artists talk about anyways?

Here’s a little sketch from my imagination.  I spent a few minutes trying out some Fabriano Artistico hot-press paper.  Watercolor acts very differently than on cold-press paper and It’ll take a while to figure out how to use it.

The Road To Waterproof Brown Inks For Sketching

Recently I wrote about the new Platinum gall inks and noted that they aren’t waterproof in the way that watercolorists need them to be waterproof.  They’re more like the Noodler’s “bulletproof” claim of water resistance.  You couldn’t remove a signature from a check, but the color bleeds when these inks are used on good watercolor paper.  The reasons may be different for Noodler’s vs Platinum gall inks but the results are the same.

Many of us have spent a lot of money trying to find a truly waterproof brown ink we can shove through our fountain pens.  Heck, I spent $30 on the Platinum ink even after I’d found a really good solution just because I was curious.  Anyways, my post on the Platinum inks resulted in some discussion and I thought I’d tell you about my solution.

Jane Blundell did an extensive analysis of the DeAtramentis Document inks where she mixed entire color wheels with these inks.  They are all quite waterproof and fountain pen friendly.  Making matters even better for the in mixer, DeAtramentis sells a “dilution solution” which is just like the ink but without the pigment.  I use Document Black, diluted 5:1 (dilution:ink) to generate a dark gray that’s similar in color to Noodler’s Lexington Gray but is more waterproof and its lower contrast to white paper works better when you’re going to use watercolors on your drawings.

DeAtramentis Document Brown leans towards red, pretty close to a burnt sienna color.  It works well as a sketching color but on white paper, just like black ink, its contrast is very high.  I’ve tried just diluting it and that works but, to my eye, it accentuates the red component of the ink and I’ve never liked that very much.  So, what to do.

Mix a bit of blue with it, that’s what.  Just like mixing ultramarine blue to burnt sienna, if you mix in enough blue you get gray.  But if I add only a few drops of blue, I get a nice, walnut brown that works really well for me.  I’m not going to tell you how many drops or anything like that.  Achieving the color YOU want will require a bit of trial and error on your part.  Personally, I don’t worry about too much.  I mix small quantities, and test with a dip pen until I get the color I want.  The next time I might get a slightly different color.  I don’t really care because my goal is to tone down the contrast of the ink with the paper, not achieve some particular color.

To the cost of this adventure.  A bottle of Document Brown (35ml) will cost you around $20 and the dilution solution (250ml) is another $20.  That’s pretty expensive but, depending upon how much of the dilution solution you use, you also end up with a lot of ink.  Adding another $20 for a bottle of blue really boosts the price and I’d recommend just buying a sample unless you plan on drawing with blue.  It doesn’t take much to achieve the shift shown above.

Finally, here’s a drawing I started on one of the few outdoor sketching days we’ve had thus far.  Watercolor will come but for now you can see the results of my “walnut” ink.  I think the contrast here is a bit more in the scan than on paper.

Fabriano Artistico (9×12), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Brown + blue

April Showers Keeps Urban Sketchers Indoors

Every spring, towards the end of March, we get a big snow storm.  People here call it the St. Patrick’s Day storm.  It comes just as we start to think that spring has sprung so it’s always a let-down.  What follows, without fail is a couple weeks of rain, which is good because it melts the snow, gets road salt dust out of the air, and generally does a spring cleaning of the city.

It’s sure hard to take, however, when you’re an urban sketcher who has been cooped up for the last five months.  In desperation I picked up some veggies while we were shopping, including an heirloom tomato that I thought could be a nice subject for a still life painting.  Ha… me trying to paint.  What a joke.  Anyways, this is what came of that idea.  I’m still pretty lost when it comes to paint and fuzzy sticks but I had fun doing this one.  Hope it stops raining soon.

Fabriano Artistico CP (7×11), Daniel Smith watercolors

A Street Sketcher Tries To Paint

Last Sunday we had our monthly sketchcrawl and it was a unique event.  We gathered at the main Quebec City library, in a large room associated with their art collection.  We were tasked with finding a painting we liked and then doing our own take on the subject matter.  There were, I think, nine of us and we had a lot of fun, particularly because we were all in the same room so we could talk.  I tend to go silent when I sketch but I took breaks to see what others were doing.

I chose a large watercolor of a bunch of kids playing in tide pools, thinking I could turn it into a fun sketch.  I started by blocking out the locations of the kids, indicating the horizon and generally getting the sense of what I wanted to do.

Then it happened.  I decided that rather than starting to draw with my fountain pen, I’d indicate the shadow areas to begine to define the kids.  This led to adding some color and I was like Alice falling into Wonderland as things quickly went out of control.  The first thing I realized was that converting a large (22×30 painting) into a 7×10 sketch wasn’t consistent with the amount of detail I was planning and so some reassessment took place.  That wasn’t so bad as my skills with a a fuzzy stick leave much to be desired.  I was really wishing I had my fountain pen in hand rather than a fuzzy stick.

But I persisted, doing things for the first time at every turn.  Still, the sketch started to look suspiciously like kids in tide pools so I convinced myself it wouldn’t be that bad.  Eventually, as a last step, I did get out a fountain pen and added some lines and details, though I kept things a bit vague.  I learned a lot, including how much I need to learn about watercolors.  While it was frustrating at times, it was also a lot of fun.  Maybe I’ll figure out fuzzy sticks eventually.

I had a hard time scanning this one.  I suppose it was because of all the very pale blues in the sky and water but I gave up and took this cell phone photo of it.  The colors aren’t quite right and the lighting isn’t even, but you can get an idea of what it looks like, I think.

Fabriano Artistico CP 7×10, Daniel Smith watercolors

Drawing For My Daughter

My daughter was home for Christmas and she asked if she could have one of my sketches to hang in her apartment.  Since I do my drawing in sketchbooks, granting her request was difficult, so I decided to do a drawing for her on Fabriano Artistico cold-press paper.  It’s really a pleasure to have unlimited time and to work at a table and without needing to juggle the tools as I sit on a tripod stool.  I drew one of my favorite scenes in Quebec City and here is the result.

This project is something of a landmark for me as well.  It’s the first time I’ve ever matted one of my drawings.  Heck, it’s the first time I’ve ever cut a mat.  It was fun.  It improved the look of the drawing. I might do it again.  She was happy with it.  I hope you do too.

 

Sketching The Red Door

I love the doors of Quebec.  I’ve often thought that an entire sketchbook filled with doors and windows of Quebec City would be great.  If were even a little bit organized in my approach to sketching, I might just do one.  For today, though, here’s a single door, well actually two of them, done from a photo (my photo) on 7.5×11 Fabriano Artistico cold press.  I love this paper but it’s a bit rough for my very fine fountain pens.

2016-11-25door

Domestic Sketching: Quebec City When I Was Born

I’ve mentioned that this winter I was going to try to learn to draw at an indoor workspace and to draw from photos.  I know it sounds odd to those of you who do it all the time, but I’ve spent five years drawing on location and have a really hard time drawing in a ‘studio’ or from photos.

In this I’m very much like the dog that’s got to walk around in circles a couple times before it lays down.  Location sketching, for me, is about discovering something to draw, which requires wandering a bit.  There is no wandering in a studio.  Once I get going on an indoor drawing I seem to be able to do it and even enjoy it, but initiating the behavior… that’s harder.

I decided it was time, though, to draw from a photo.  Looking for something that would motivate me to do so, I decided that I should draw from a photo that is not of something I can go out and see.  The idea of historic sketching must have come from my watching the new Timeless series, which is about time travel, but as I already have a lot of historic photos of Quebec City I thought that was where I should begin.  I chose a photo of a trolley, both because I like trolleys and because it was taken in the year that I was born.

I started by lightly drawing everything using a Platinum Carbon Pen, keeping the lines very light so I could cover my errors if needed.  This is what I ended up with:

7.5x11 Fabriano Artistico cold press, Platinum Carbon pen

7.5×11 Fabriano Artistico cold press, Platinum Carbon pen

To bring a more solid nature to the drawing I started increasing the contrast, using a Platinum 3776 pen and a Platinum brush pen.  This got the drawing to this point:

2016-11-21trolly_bwThen it was time for color and touch up.  I still struggle with watercolors but at least I’m starting to pay attention to it.  I was pretty happy with the results.  Hope you are as well.  I think I’ll be doing more historic sketching.

2016-11-21trolley

Domestic Sketching: Let’s Try Imagining A Pine Tree

It seems there will be a continuing series of sketches being done by this urban sketcher that have nothing to do with urban sketching.  I’m forcing myself to draw at my desk.  I’ve even cleaned it off so I don’t have to shove stuff out of the way to do it.  I’m going to call this domestic sketching and label results as such.

Anyways, my first sketch was a small, defoliated tree and I thought it only fitting that I should follow it up with a pine tree.  As it turned out, I drew two of them, the second coming simply because I wanted to try to do a classic Christmas tree shape.  Probably shouldn’t have cuz it looks out of place in this sketch, at least to me.  One thing I’ve noticed about sketching at home, with good light, a desk and a good chair.  The sketching is a whole lot easier.

Fabriano Artistico (7.5x11), Pilot Falcon

Fabriano Artistico (7.5×11), Pilot Falcon