I was out for a long walk, with no intention to sketch, but as always, I had my sketching stuff with me. I was walking down Rue St. Claire from Rue St. Jean and saw this little scene containing my favorite thing – a fire hydrant. My stool comes out, I sat down, and the next thing you know, this little sketch was completed. Sometimes it’s the little things that count.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I like to draw fire hydrants. I’ve sketched bunches of them. I think I’m drawn to them because they were one of the first things that I noticed when I became a sketcher that I had not noticed at all for 60 years of living around them.
But another reason I fell in love with fire hydrants is because Pete Scully loves fire hydrants and I really like Pete’s sketching style. I was ready to brand Pete as the best darn fire hydrant sketcher on the planet but then I wondered, is there someone better elsewhere in the universe? Hmmm…how to know…how to know.
I made phone calls, asking if anyone knew anyone who was better than Pete at fire hydrant sketching. I called Jean-Luc Picard. He said he’d never seen anyone better. I gave Spock a call, asking him if he knew of anyone on Vulcan who was better.
It was really hard to get his number but when I did, Yoda told me that “No one better in the universe than Pete there is.”
Malcolm Reynolds told me that he’d never seen anyone better, at least among the Browncoats. Zoe said there was a pretty good hydrant sketcher on Persephone but that while on a run to Athens, the Reavers got him.
I even gave Thor a call, figuring that they must have fire hydrant sketchers in Asgard. He was quite scary-sounding on the phone but said he didn’t know anyone better than Pete. I tried to contact Darth Vader but kept being redirected to Dick Cheney’s office. Not sure what that means.
In the end, the data are clear. Pete Scully is the best darn fire hydrant sketcher in the universe, so I thought I’d share my latest acquisition with you, a genuine Pete Scully fire hydrant mug from Society 6.
In celebration of this announcement, I’ll share a few of my own, Pete Scully-inspired hydrant sketches.
I thought about sketching the proverbial Santa Claus for this post but geez…that red suit and white beard are everywhere. The world doesn’t need another. But you can hardly imagine a case where there would be too many fire hydrant sketches in the world and this acts as a great stand-in for Mr. Claus, don’t you think?
Merry Christmas Everyone!
If you follow my posts you know that I’m a pen driver. I draw a bunch of lines, hope they look like something and then, if I want to add color, I generally just ‘fill in’ the various pieces, using watercolors like crayons.
But I thought it was time to do a “painting.” I’m not really sure when a sketch becomes a painting or whether you have to approach things very differently to create a painting. Seems to me like it’s more the later than former so that’s what I did….that different thing.
We’d just gotten some snow and I was out walking, saw a “winter scene” to my liking and took a quick snapshot of it. When I got home I took a 5×7 sheet of Fabriano Artistico “Extra White” cold press paper, and I made a few marks to indicate a horizon and the verticals for my fire hydrant. Ya gotta have fire hydrants in paintings don’t you? I do.
Then, with considerable intrepidation, I started applying paint roughing out the tree and hydrant in light color. Once I knew their ultimate shape I increased the color until it was mostly as you see it here. Then I added a bit of ink just to emphasize things a bit. I don’t know if this is an example of my demonstrating a willingness to learn new tricks or that I have no shame in posting my first painting. Either way, here it is.
We held our fall sketchcrawl last Saturday and I reported on it on Monday. The post was getting so packed with graphics that I decided not to post the sketches I did during the sketchcrawl.
I did do a couple, however. Being a fan of mundane urban accessories, I decided to draw one of a dying breed of accessory, the phone booth. It was convenient as it was situated at the meeting place for the sketchcrawl so I could sketch and still meet people as they arrived. I learned this trick from my buddy Yvan. I did it in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9) using a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink. I found that I’d forgotten my watercolors so I did the color with Faber-Castell “Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils. I like these as a substitute for watercolors because I can completely eliminate the lines made by the pencil.
In front of the Farmer’s Market was a large pile of pumpkins, stacked on hay bales. I drew a portion of those in my Singapore special toned-brown sketchbook that was sent to me by Patrick Ng. I’m still learning how to work with this paper but I’m really enjoying it. I used the Pilot Prera and watercolor pencils on this one as well.
I thought I’d throw in a couple other sketches I’ve done recently. The garage sits at the end of a little park I sit in while waiting for a study group I run to convene. I don’t think I ever posted it. It was done in a 3×5 Moleskine watercolor book.
When I was doing that sketch, they were tearing up the street in front of the park. By the next week they were ready to re-pave it and they’d just finished laying new curbing along its length. To do that, it seems, they had to remove the fire hydrant, which was hanging from a mechanized shovel. I’m a fire hydrant afficionado and this was akin to a bird-watcher seeing a rare bird. I had to sketch this and so I did, in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9) with my Pilot Prera. This was the tenth fire hydrant sketch I’ve done and certainly the most unique.
If I did a statistical analysis of the my sketching subjects, it would be clear that I’m a building portrait kind of guy. I just love ’em and enjoy going out, finding them, and sketching them. In fact, being out in the city, sitting on a stool as people walk by, is a major part of what I enjoy about it. I’ve never been much for sketching from photos and this is probably why.
I guess it’s true for most people, regardless of how or what kind of art they do; we all have a preferred subject type, whether it is flowers, landscapes, boats, or still lifes. But sketching provides something that other forms do not – the ability to sketch something quickly. This translates into sketchers drawing a much wider variety of things than an artist who must set up an easel and has a mindset of hanging the result on a wall.
We sketchers are happy with these quick sketches, often of subjects that no other group would ever do. We proudly show off our sketch of a garbage can, a fire hydrant or maybe even a dead fish. Why our brains work that way I do not know but I do know that our ability to do this without devoting a lot of time to it is the reason we do it so regularly.
This occurred to me as I was looking at the last few sketches I did in my little Moleskine watercolor book (3×5). Excepting the roller, which took me twenty minutes or so, these sketches were done very quickly, with no particular goal in mind other than to be sketching. All were fun.
A very popular form of sports training is mental visualization, where the athlete visualizes himself doing whatever sport it is they are doing. You can see it in real time by watching a golfer set up for a shot. They’ll look towards their target, staring intently. They’re “seeing” (visualizing) the shot. Seeing the ball travel the ideal trajectory. Then they take a practice swing, again seeing that trajectory. Repeated visualization has been shown to produce positive results. Some suggest that this process is the very basis of positive thinking. It’s the ultimate in what you see is what you get.
I find myself doing this constantly relative to my sketching. During any dull moment you’ll find me ‘drawing’ something, anything, but without a pen and without paper. I envision running the pen around the outline of a house, a sign, a fire hydrant. At other times I’ll just mentally dissect the angles and relationships between pieces of some object. I think this constant practice of my ‘seeing’, making those all important eye/mind connections, has helped me quite a bit as a sketcher.
But there’s been one problem. It causes me to miss my bus. The first time this happened I was waiting for a bus across the street from a major shopping center. I was ‘drawing’ a large sign and got involved with noticing the various tones from the various planes that composed the sign. Only the sound of the bus pulling away brought me out of my trance.
Then there was the day I was waiting for the bus early in the morning. I was looking at rooftop angles, trying to see how they changed as I looked at a row of buildings along the street. It was an interesting mental experiment, until the bus went by as I obviously wasn’t interested in the bus. I was holding my finger up to analyze the angles.
We’ve got a great bus system in Quebec City but if you don’t get on them, they don’t take you anywhere. Lucky for me I always have something to do when I wait the 10 minutes for the next one to come along.
Me: “Hi, everyone. This is my first meeting. I’m am a fire hydrant addict. I need help…”
Everyone: “Hi Larry. Welcome to Fire Hydrant Addicts Anonymous.”
And so it went at my first meeting. Nice bunch of folks, and an intimidating number of dogs. All are very understanding of those who spend a lot of time looking for fire hydrants.
I reported on my sketching of fire hydrants here. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Once I ‘discovered’ fire hydrants I started noticing their differences. And now that it’s winter people watch with suspicion as I brush snow off a hydrant and take photos of it. I think what freaks them out the most is that I act so excited. Fortunately, they don’t see the time I’ve spent on firehydrant.org, a great site for fire hydrant addicts. They haven’t seen me on hydrant manufacturer sites, looking at exploded parts diagrams of the various models. Yes…I have a hydrant problem and I hope that Fire Hydrant Addicts Anonymous can help me.
Until the addiction intervention is accomplished, though, I’m compelled to draw them. Quebec City provides some fun variation in shape, color and vintage and, well, they’re just cool. Do you have a sketching obsession?
Drawn in a Stillman & Brin Alpha (5.5×8.5) using a Lamy Safari and Noodler’s Lexington Gray. Winsor&Newton watercolors.
Cheers — Larry
… really looked? Me neither…until I got interested in sketching. Even then I didn’t give them a glance until I found the sketching work of Pete Scully. Pete is a master urban sketcher, mostly doing sketches of buildings in the US Davis area and mostly of the buildings there in. I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from his work.
One of the things Pete is known for are his fire hydrant sketches. He’s found some of the most wonderful fire hydrants in his travels and he’s made a point of sketching them. This caused me to look at the fire hydrants we have here in Quebec City and I was surprised to find that ours are pretty cool too. They are mostly a pale red (sun bleached?) and yellow but their shapes vary as they represent vintages that probably date from the Victorian era to the present. I had fun drawing this one and so I share it here. One in a Stillman & Brin Alpha journal using a Noodler’s Ahab flex pen and Winsor & Newton watercolors.