I was at our civilisation museum the other day and my joints were bothering me. It was hard to draw and, even more, it was hard to concentrate because of the pain. But I sat, stared at, and drew an Inuit stone carving of an Inuit stalking a seal. I loved how a complete scene was captured in the rock.
If you’re a sketcher you know something about the Urban Sketching Handbook series. These books look like a 6×9 Moleskine sketchbook, complete with the elastic band holding its covers together. There were five of them. Now there are six, the latest written by Shari Blaukopf and titled “Working with Color.”
If you’re a sketcher who uses watercolors, you probably also know that it would be great if you could spend time talking with Shari and asking her questions about watercolor. Most don’t get that opportunity, so she’s written Working with Color and owning a copy is the next best thing (grin).
I binge-read my copy, which means it took me three days to get through it. No, I don’t read that slowly but Shari’s book is written, as are the other Urban Sketching Handbooks, as a bunch of small sections full of guidance and tips. It seemed that each one had me doodling and pushing paint around, trying out the things she talks about. Not only did I have a ball, I learned a lot.
Like most books on watercolor, the early pages cover materials. This book emphasizes materials that facilitate sketching on location. I confess that I rarely get anything from such sections but it was interesting to see Shari’s palette choices.
Very quickly, however, Shari moves on to color mixing and color and value in general. Subjects covered include: mixing darks, mixing greens, shadow colors and a discussion of values. Each of these subjects are supported by sketches that illustrate each subject.
There is a section on limiting your color(s), from selectively choosing a single color to discussions of the use of a limited palette. This later subject was time-consuming for me as Shari suggests several triads and, of course, I had to try them all (grin).
There are a couple different sections on using color to express mood and atmosphere and I have to read them again as there is much to think about in these sections.
There’s also a large section on mixing and using neutrals. This is an area that is important to the watercolorist, but an area where I understand very little. Mixed into this section is the notion of using warm and cool grays in an urban setting and it all seems like its the core of what I should know. Wish I did. This book is helping quite a bit. I need to do a bunch more doodles and neutrals mixing though.
I do think that if you just read all the tips and look at the pictures, very little will change in your art. This is stuff that you have to do if you’re going to begin to incorporate the ideas and methods into your art. But heck, that’s the fun part and I can’t recommend Working with Color enough to anyone wanting to better understand how watercolors work and how they can be used in a sketching environment.
Inukshuks are common across northern Canada. Seen principally as a product of the Inuits, other Native American groups also make them. They are said to have been used as navigation markers, or markers of significant locations. They commonly represent of Canada itself and some have deemed them a symbol of hope. You can buy tiny inukshuks as souvenirs, sold right next to the beaver and moose figurines.
In any case their structure is meant to represent a human form and larger ones even have legs and arms. Most have outward projections that represent arms in some way. Mostly, though, they are a pile of rocks and I love drawing rocks.
We were at the museum the other day and in the Native American exhibit there is a small inukshuk that sits behind some large display cabinets. You can see all of it if you’re standing in front of those display cabinets but I had to sit across the aisle from them so I would have light to see my paper. This meant that I couldn’t see the bottom half of it. I drew it anyway, direct with ink, and this is the result.
I really had fun drawing this inukshuk and I remembered that I’d drawn one before, an inukshuk that resides on the Quebec Parliament grounds. I decided to see if I could find that sketch. I rarely look at my old sketches but I did find it and I learned a couple things. First is that this older sketch was done in 2012, only a few months after I decided to learn how to draw. The second thing I learned is that I have actually improved as I’ve accumulated pen miles. That made me happy. Maybe inukshuks do represent hope.
It’s BACK!! Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel are, once again, leading the challenge to draw 100 people in five days. I’m not a people sketcher but I did this last year and it was a lot of fun. My advice is to set aside Monday and, draw, draw draw 30-40 people. This makes the rest of the week easier as you’re less likely to fall behind and get stressed (grin). Then, post your results with the tag #oneweek100people2019.
To demonstrate some ways of achieving the goal, here are some examples of how I drew 100 people. None of these people captures took more than a minute or so (adding color not included) because these were real people, doing real things and they didn’t wait around for me to draw them (grin).
On Tuesday, Yvan, Claudette and myself headed to the hunting and fishing museum. We’d just had a huge snowstorm that was a real struggle to clean up because the 11-12 feet of the stuff that has preceded it made it nearly impossible to find a place to put the new snow. Anyways, it felt really good to head out for a day of sketching.
Unfortunately (for me), that same storm was beating up my joints. I was limping a bit, but the real problem was my left hand and wrist which made it very hard (impossible?) to draw. We had fun and I did three sketches, all of which were so full of errors and attempts to fix lines that went off willy-nilly that I’d be too embarrassed to share them.
We were drawing rabbits, however, and that got us discussing the structural underpinnings of a rabbit. When they sit back on their hind legs, they start looking like a ball of fur and it’s hard to make out what’s really going on inside. When we got home Yvan and I asked Mr. Google if he could provide us with a rabbit skeleton to study. He obliged and this morning I drew a rabbit skeleton, well sort of. My hand was a bit better this morning but it’s still hard to get my lines to flow. But I do understand lagomorph anatomy just a bit better.
Long before Sesame Street, baby boomers cheered on puppets of one form or another as they came to our houses via television. Television was new back then and we didn’t seem to mind that the shows were goofy, didn’t have any super-heros and not a single explosion upset the simplistic dialog of these shows.
Bobinette now stands in our civilization museum, next to Bobino’s suit coat and bowler hat, and while a blizzard was dumping yet another foot of snow on us, I drew her. I probably should have used color to show off her pink dress and big blue eyes but I settled for a Pilot Kakuno and a brown/black mix of DeAtramentis Document ink. I hope she’ll make you smile. We need more smiling these days.
My brain is rusty. While I’m still having trouble with my drawing hand, it’s my brain that has fallen out of practice and needs some line miles to return my sketching to the miserable quality it once was. So when Yvan and I made another trip to the hunting an fishing museum I was determined to make a lot of lines.
Instead of trying to create a detailed, well-proportioned drawing, I decided to sketch quickly (for me) so I could cover more ground – make more marks. No pencil block in, no holding my pencil out to get proportions. The goal was to make lines – lines that, hopefully, would look something like a duck. Here’s what I managed to put to paper.
Errors abound, of course, but they do look like ducks and generally they look like the ones I was looking at. I label this a success with the caveat that I need to do a lot more of it to get my lines to flow better. After a short break I decided to do the same thing with a bunch of fishing lures. The drawing here was pretty “sketchy” (pun intended) so I added some color to add some life to the spread.
As I look out my window I can only barely see the house across the street. This is because we’ve got a rip-roaring blizzard going on. This winter has been a doozy thus far. We’ve already had 11-12 feet of snow and it’s only mid-February.
Many of us have gotten some chuckles listening to the people in Seattle and Vancouver try to deal with snowfall and I include myself among them. Sure, they’re not used to it, aren’t equipped for it, and are even somewhat surprised by the snowfall, I suppose, but it’s fun to poke fun at them nevertheless. I’m just glad they took some snow off our hands as we’ve got so much my snowblower is having a hard time throwing the snow to the top of the snowbanks that line my driveway.
But it wasn’t snowing on Monday and Yvan and I headed for the Quebec Federation of Hunters and Fishermen offices. They have an amazing exhibit of taxidermy animals and it’s a delightful place to sketch.
My hand was hurting a bit, but my real problem was that I’d lost my ability to “see.” Nothing was automatic and I struggled to see the shapes and volumes of the coyote skull I decided to draw. I should have chosen something more simple. I guess I should have known that “out of practice” would include all aspects of drawing, but I figured that once I trained my brain, it would stay trained. Then again, I forget where I put my keys so… Anyway, here’s my version of a coyote skull, which has an eye socket drawn way too small.
I took a short break to get a drink and rub my hand a bit. Then I sat down to draw a duck. I felt a bit more confident by this point and I didn’t need to second guess myself so much. We’d decided to stop at noon for lunch and so I rushed a bit to finish this one but I was happy, and a bit tired.
We ate lunch with the idea that we would return to sketching but we didn’t. My hand was hurting and Yvan suggested that we call it a day since it was my first day back to location sketching. Instead, we decided to go have coffee where we talked about composition, tactics for blocking in drawings and identifying simple shapes in a scene. We topped off the day with a stop at an art store and then I got to look over a bunch of Yvan’s art. The day couldn’t have been more perfect.
I don’t know why but we urban sketchers are almost obsessed with the notion of creating tiny palettes. I’ve made a bunch of them, though each time I’m disappointed, mostly because there’s not enough mixing area and I find them difficult to hold compared to my larger palette that has a nifty ring on the back I can shove my thumb into.
And yet, here I am again… I just can’t help myself. When my buddy Yvan made one of “these”, I had to follow suit and I thought I’d share it with you.
Unlike the traditional Altoids box, this one is made from a case for reading glasses. As such, it’s long and thin and I think it might fit my particular needs. To “create” it all I did was paint the lid with white acrylic paint and stick 8 half pans into it using blue-tack. Instant tiny palette.
I did add one more thing, or maybe two things. You can see in the bottom view that I’ve glued a couple small seed magnets to the underside. These are very handy because I often draw on a 8.5 x 11 surface of a thin, metal-wood surface. It helps corral things into a unit I can hold with one hand, whether I’m standing or sitting. I can attach single-sheets to it using magnets or, using a support board rest for landscape or portrait sketchbooks. And now, I can attach my tiny palette to it as well.
The days are becoming cool and raining and between that and days when my hands won’t let me draw that coincide with the good days, I’m not getting a lot of opportunity to sketch on location. But Yvan and I did get out and into the alleyways of old Quebec to do a bit of sketching. This, and the smile on my face, was the result.