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).

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

 

Am I Spending Too Much Time At The Museum?

It’s been bitter cold in Quebec City so my sketching itch has me haunting the Musee de la Civilisation on a regular basis.  Maybe it’s too regular.  I have evidence.

2012-12-27Samurai6_700First evidence came from a guard.  I was sitting with my buddy Yvan, who was drawing a horse statue as I recall.  A guard came by and offered him a chair (we normally sit on our sketching stools).  When he returned with the chair they started chatting about Yvan’s sketch.  Then the guard mentioned the ‘other’ guy who draws a lot in the museum.  “He stands in the Samurai exhibit and makes very nice helmet drawings.”  At least he thought they were nice.

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2012-12-29Samurai9_700The second bit of evidence is even more clear that I’m going there too often.  When you are a museum member like I am you have to go to the info counter and show them your membership card.  They write your name down and give you the sticker you’ve got to wear to have the run of the museum just like those paying for a single visit.  Two days ago I walked towards that counter and before showing him my card the guy said, “You’re Larry Marshall.  What do you do here every day?”  Yep…coming too often.  But we had a quick chat about sketching and I showed him my sketchbook, and my Samurai sketches.

2013_01-01-Samurai10_700It seems time to share some more of them with you as well.  While those who follow this blog have seen some of them here, here and here, I’m including five more in this post.  Click on them to get larger images.  Lots of fun to sketch and some are significant challenges but I need a building sketch fix.

2012-12-27Samurai8

All of these were done in a 5.5×8.5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera pen with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  Color comes from Faber-Castell watercolor pencils and a waterbrush which is idea for use in a museum.  Hope you like them.

Cheers — Larry

I Wish There Were Good Subjects To Sketch Where I Live

2012_07-FireHydrant5_800Raise your hand if you haven’t heard this, or something similar said/written by someone in a sketching/art forum.  In the writing world the questions that authors joke about is “Where do you get your ideas?” and the answers run from horribly snarky to absolutely hilarious – often it’s hard to tell which is which.  But in the end, what authors explain is “Ideas are easy; it’s execution that is the hard part.”

And similarly, this “Where do you find good stuff to draw?” question should get a similar treatment in my view.  I don’t mean the snarky part but the truth is, the best way to find good stuff to draw is to stop looking for good stuff to draw.

2012_04-RailroadSiding800.Just like a writer’s ideas, finding good stuff is the easy part; it’s the execution that is important.  I think people spend so much time looking for the perfect scene because they believe that a ‘perfect scene’ does great art make.  I say that’s not true, though I confess, I’m not much of an artist so maybe I’m wrong.

         

But I do know one thing for sure.  Trying to do a drawing of the Taj Mahal or the Grand Canyon that doesn’t look like yet another picture of the Taj Mahal or Grand Canyon is MUCH harder than creating a meaningful drawing of something that the viewer hasn’t seen in a gazillion photos before they see your sketch.  Don’tcha want to show people what they’re missing, not what they’ve already seen?

2012_07-Lampost800

50Think about the famous painters and what they found worthy of their time.  Monet painted in Paris but instead of a steady stream of Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe paintings, he painted gardens, smoky railroad stations, fishing boats, and water lilies.   Van Gogh painted peasants sitting around a table eating potatoes.  He also painted sunflowers.  Lots of sunflowers.  What made Monet and Van Gogh memorable wasn’t their subject matter; it is what they did with it.

And so it goes with sketching.  Everywhere, anywhere, and at any time, there are things to sketch available to anyone with a set of functioning eyes and a pencil.  Personally, I’m drawn to the mundane, mostly because I never noticed any of this stuff before I became a sketcher.  Once I became one I was amazed at how much personality fire hydrants, telephone poles, and lamp posts have and how, if one looks one can see ‘art’ in everything.

49I’ve scattered several sketches of mundane, readily available subjects from my town.  I never would have seen or sketched any of them if I’d been looking for the proverbial ‘great scene.’  So again I suggest, stop looking and instead sketch what is before you.  If nothing else you’ll be sketching and it’s that process that is the key to the smiles you see on sketcher’s faces.

10 Favorite Sketches of 2012

2012 represents most of my sketching experience to date.  I started trying to draw cubes back in September of 2011 but I didn’t start doing any location sketching until spring of 2012 as the Quebec snow melted.  It’s been a fantastic journey as I’ve climbed the early stages of the sketching learning curve. I thought it might be fun to do a ‘ 10 favorites’ post, where I present what I think are some of my best sketches of the year.  I’m often accused of being ‘down’ on my sketches.  Here’s my chance to show people that I’m actually happy with some of them (grin).

Because 90% or more of my sketches have been done on the street and most have been buildings, I thought I should vary my choices by selecting one sketch from ten different categories, just to increase the variety.   So, here they are.  I hope you like them.

Building

This is, by far, the hardest selection.  I’ve done a LOT of building sketches and none of them really stand out as extraordinary, though many are personal ‘favorites’.  I’ve chosen this one because it, in the extreme, is the brightest (grin).

2012_10-MokaPlus800

Vehicle

2012_09-CarI’ve drawn a number of cars, trucks and even heavy equipment.  I chose this one, however, because the subject was so darn cute when it found it lounging in the old port area of Quebec.

 

Fire hydrant

Pete Scully, by example, caused me to notice and sketch fire hydrants.  I don’t know what it is about them but once you start looking at them you realize they vary considerably and that fire hydrants have oodles of personality.  I chose this one because I like the composition.

2012_01-FireHydrant2_sm

 Samurai helmet

2012_12-Samouri3_700I’ve tried drawing from photos and it’s ‘ok’ but sketching, for me, is about going places and seeing things.  But winter in Quebec City is just too cold to be outdoors so we’re all driven indoors.  At first I found that depressing but once I saw the Samurai exhibit at our museum of civilization, I was hooked on indoor sketching.  I started sketching Samurai helmets, which are amazing, serving to protect heads as well as indicate status, identity, and even to serve in ceremonial roles.  It’s hard to choose a single helmet sketch as I love these amazing pieces of hardware.  I chose this one as it nearly drove me nuts drawing all those flame thingies.

Human

52This was hard as I haven’t drawn many people.  It’s on my ‘to do’ list for 2013.  But I chose this one, a very simple sketch, because I liked the way I was lucky enough to capture the movement of this guy’s coat as he walked along.

Ship

2012_07-CHJColor800Quebec City has an active port so I’ve sketched several ships.  I chose this one because I remember struggling with all the decks and railings.  I also have memories of how much fun I had that day as I sketched with my buddy Pierre.

Steeple/Dome

Quebec City is heavily populated by domes and steeples projecting upward from their supporting structures.  I love sketching them and have done a bunch of them.  I chose this particular sketch because it features both domes and steeples in a single sketch.

2012_11-Domes800_site

Telephone pole

Maybe you have to be an urban sketcher to appreciate them, but I like telephone poles and all the wires, transformers and connectors that hang from them.  I did this sketch on blue paper and liked the way it turned out.

2012_04-3Transformer800

Tree

I’ve drawn a bunch of trees but mostly they’ve been ‘studies’ where it was just the tree and nothing for supporting material.  This one, however, was done one day when Pierre and I headed out one Sunday morning looking for things to sketch.  It was a crisp autumn day and the maples had started to change colors.  I decided to make the tree the main attraction, putting the building in the background.

2012_09-StAnneTree800

Vignette

To fulfill my promise of ten sketches, I’ve added this vignette to complete the set.  I was sketching with my friend Nicolas and we were sitting in a church yard, a church that has become a library.  I looked over my shoulder and could see part of this restaurant, liked the red umbrellas and so I drew it.  Again, it brings back memories of a good day.

2012_08-VeauD'OrC800

I’m looking forward to 2013 sketching.  For a while I’m going to have to work indoors but sometime around April we’ll start having a day or three where it’s tolerable to sketch outside and you’ll find me on the streets all summer.  Happy New Year, everyone.

 

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.

 

2012_12-Samurai5_700