Spring Sketching Has Begun…Almost

On Good Friday I met with Claudette and Yvan at the Musee de la Civilisation to sketch but we were facing a day that seemed enticingly warm.  When I type that I have to chuckle.  I’m an Arizona guy so for me to say that a high temperature around 40F is warm is, well, an exaggeration that comes from a brain that’s spent the last few months without sketching outdoors.

2013-03-29Nigeria1We sketched indoors and packed up around noon.  I did this sketch  during that session.  I sort of screwed up the eyes somewhat but it was fun doing this sketch anyway.  With a rock wall for a beard and hat, what’s not to like?  It was done in an S&B Epsilon (5.5×8.5), with a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray ink.

Then, Yvan and I headed downtown where one of his friends was sitting in a window, sketching people on the street who were willing to pose for ten minutes.  That was fun to watch, for a while, but I got cold just standing around and I decided it was time to head home.  And so I did.

When I arrived home my wife and daughter were out shopping so I decided I’d wander the neighborhood and see if I could sketch something outdoors.  After all, it WAS 42F!!

2013-03-29_1stAvenueI’ve walked by this building many times and have said “I’ve got to sketch that” an equal number of times.  It was built in 1927 but today was the day it was going to be sketched.  Besides, I wanted to try out my new Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook.  I used my Pilot Prera/Lex Gray combo  and, because I had my museum stuff with me, I used watercolor pencils to do the color.  I was uncomfortably cold towards the end but clearly spring sketching is about to begin and I’m getting excited.  Sorry that much of the light blue in the sky and in the snow got lost in the scanning process.

Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbooks Have Arrived

Yippee!! Stillman & Birn’s new Zeta series sketchbooks have been released.  Double-yippee – mine was plopped into my mailbox this morning.

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I’ve been using Stillman & Birn sketchbooks since December 2011, when I bought my first Alpha series sketchbook.  I rarely brand any product ‘best’ as, for me, product choices shouldn’t be spoken of in that way.  Stillman & Birn is my one exception to that view as they are simply the best.  While I still experiment with pens, inks, and even watercolors, I no longer buy any sketchbook that doesn’t have Stillman & Birn embossed on the its back.

Mostly I have used Alpha series sketchbooks.  I have 4×6, 5.5×8.5, and 9×12 hardbound and 10×7 spiral bound versions of this series and several of them rest, full of sketches, on my shelves.  I’ve also filled a 6×8 Beta series sketchbook, which is its heavier-paper counterpart.

2013-03-24Nigeria1This winter, however, I started using a 5.5×8.5 Epsilon series book.  I’ve had a 9×12 version of this series on my desk for a long time and use it as my learning platform as I can do a lot of small sketches on a single page when trying various techniques.

If you’ve seen any of my museum sketches (eg – Samurai helmets, Nigerian masks and statues), you’ve seen the results of ink and watercolor pencils on Epsilon paper.  Here’s my latest sketch in my current Epsilon 5.5×8.5 sketchbook.  Epsilon paper is simply awesome for ink and wash as the paper is very smooth and double-sized which makes the watercolors remain bright.  I just love the stuff.

So when S&B announced that they were going to create Epsilon-like paper in their heavier, 180lb format, I got very excited.  While the 100lb paper of the Alpha and Epsilon papers are more than up to the task of accepting my watercolors, there are times when I want to play with wet-in-wet in a bigger way and the 180lb papers are just amazing for such purposes.

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Here’s the first sketch I did on this paper.  It was done rather quickly as “spring” in Quebec is still pretty cold so it’s not as detailed as most of my building sketches.  It’s a sketch of my favorite tea store.  I’ll be showing you more sketches on Zeta paper ‘real soon’ as it should start warming up in the days ahead.  Thanks, Stillman & Birn for making my sketching life easier.

 

39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl In Quebec City

*** Les détails sont disponibles ici, en français.

I’m excited about our upcoming participation in the 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl.  Quebec City sketchers are going to ride rather than walk during this sketchcrawl.  Maybe we should call it a sketch cruise.

traversieralphonse-desjardins-ext-ete4_STQOur organizers, Celine Poulin and Yvan Breton, have planned an event you won’t want to miss as we’re going for a boat ride.  Starting at 13:00h, Saturday April 13th, we’re going to board the ferry that traverses the St. Lawrence Seaway, between Quebec City and Levis.  Once on the boat we’ll sail the ocean’s blue, going back and forth between the two cities, sketching to our heart’s content.  We’ll can sketch from the indoor passenger rooms and their large viewing windows or from the decks themselves.  There are bathrooms, vending machines, and seats available.

Total cost will be $3.10 for a ticket and if you’ve got a monthly bus pass, it’s free.  What could be better than to have two coastlines and numerous ships and boats to sketch, as well as a steady stream of passengers.

traversieralphonse-desjardins-extmonde8_STQYou need to check the weather and dress accordingly.  You’ll need your sketching gear and a lunch.  Oh, no ability or talent is required – just some paper and a pointy device that can make marks… and a smile.  We thrive on smiles.  I hope you’ll join us.

Event Details

Date: 13 April (Saturday)
Location: Quebec City ferry dock
Time: 1300h
Cost: $3.10 (unlimited number of ferry crossings) – free if you have a monthly bus pass.

Les détails sont disponibles ici, en français.

If you’d like or need more information, you can contact me (French or English) at larry@larrydmarshall.com.  While it’s not required that you R.S.V.P. it would be nice if you let us know that you’re coming so we can look for you.

Still More Museum Sketching

A late snow storm and associated cold weather has kept us off the streets and in the museums.  I met with my buddies Yvan and Claudette on Wednesday and we headed into the Nigeria exhibit at the Musee de la Civilisation.  Claudette and Yvan set up to sketch different masks and I wandered, and wandered.  For some reason I wasn’t in the mood to do a single object.

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Then it occurred to me; I hadn’t sketched any of the museum interior.  I looked around and chose this view, because I hadn’t yet sketched the large statue and because Yvan was somewhat visible behind it.  I thought the background of display cabinets in the darkened room would balance the large statue nicely.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) with a Noodler’s Creaper flex pen and Lexington Gray ink.  I did the color with watercolor pencils but, when I got home, I went over most of it with a gray wash to highlight the display cabinets and to reflect the dark exhibit room.

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2013-03-22Nigeria2Today Yvan and I went back and I did these two objects.  Same S&B sketchbook, same tools.   Hope you like them.

Quick Sketching On The Bus

2013-03-17OnBus1I suffer from motion sickness when I read on the bus.  And the first couple times I tried to sketch on a bus, I had the same problem.  But I’ve persisted and, it seems, I’m becoming able to do quick sketches on the bus.  It’s a bumpy ride on a bus so I’m learning to study the subject as I bounce along, adding lines at the stops.

2013-03-14Bus1These are not great sketches, but I’m starting to have fun doing it.  Here are four I’ve done recently.  All were done in an inexpensive 4×6 notebook I bought from the dollar store, though it cost $2 (grin).  I used a Noodler’s Creaper flex pen to do the paper scratching.  A waterbrush with a few drops of fountain pen ink added was used for shading/color.

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Shapes Are Everything In Sketching

I continue to sketch at the Musée de la Civilisation here in Quebec City because it’s turned cold again.  Mother Nature seems to be reminding us that it’s too soon for spring.  We’re supposed to have a big snow storm at the beginning of next week 🙁

2013-03-12Nigeria1But the practice I’m getting at seeing and depicting shape couldn’t be better as the Nigerian artifacts are truly extraordinary when it comes to shape.  I’m starting to experiment a bit with technique, trying to do some more quickly than others, some less/more detailed.  This is fun to do, though it takes a certain amount of gymnastics on the part of my brain to break out of my penchant for detail and a slow pace.  I thought I’d share a few more with you.

2013-03-12Nigeria2I did these first two by creating a rough outline in pencil.  I followed this by the addition of color using a waterbrush with a few drops of J. Herbin Lie de thé.  Then I added the ink outlines and hatching.  These were also done more quickly than my normal snail pace and while not as precise, I like the results of this process.

2013-03-12Nigeria3This one was done in the same quick style but I did it in ink and then added the color, again from the waterbrush/ink pen.  It’s a large pestle used for smashing grain, or unruly husbands I suspect.

Finally, I’ve been waiting to do this helmet for a while.  It’s something 0f an anomaly in this exhibit as most of the items are created in wood and covered with mud of varying textures.  It seems cast in metal and is very detailed.  It called out for a detailed sketch and so I went back to my more typical approach.  I used a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray ink.  I added some shading using Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.  The more I use these the more I love them for adding color as you can get the lines to completely disappear with a waterbrush.  Very handy for shading.

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All four of these sketches were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) and I realized that I’ve never filled this one with just museum sketches this winter.  But I’m ready for spring…aren’t you?

Sketching Other People’s Art

Last Sunday Yvan, Pierre, Celine and I headed to the Musee de L’Amerique Francais because they were launching a new display of art done in Quebec long ago and donated to the Catholic church who kept the collection in their museum.  We didn’t know what to expect but since it’s still too cold for outdoor sketching, what the heck, we were going sketch art.

Much of the art in this collection is religious art, not my favorite way to use display space.  I find most of it too gawdy and repetitious.  But one room was filled with some amazing Quebecois pieces, many that would be considered ‘urban’ art today.  I was looking for a new challenge, something different… at least for me.

2013-03-10BronzeStatueAfter looking around, I settled down to sketch a bronze statue of a woman carrying a heavy bucket.  I was struck by how well the sculpture captured the physical effort and body/arm positioning to maintain balance with a heavy bucket in one hand.

This was a considerable leap for me as I’m not good at drawing human forms and I had no idea how to make one look like a bronze statue.  Still, it was fun.  I drew it in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) with a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray.  I used watercolor pencils to fake the bronze look.

There were many paintings that seemed worthy of turning them into a Larry sketch but one in particular caught my eye.  It was a painting of a 19th Century seminary courtyard, a courtyard that was actually just next door to the museum.  I went outside to look at the real thing and found what a hundred years can do.  The basic building layout remained.  In fact, on one edge of the courtyard, the end where the artist stood, there exists the remains of an old wall, clearly a very old wall.

Aside from that, everything had been remodeled and updated.  The two main buildings had an extra story added to them and all the windows had been modernized.  The stairway was gone adn the entries had modern doors.  It definitely looked cooler in the 19th Century so I went back indoors where it was warm.

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I’d never sketched an oil painting before and converting it to my cartoon sketching style did present some challenges, but it was fun, too.  Done in the same S&B sketchbook but with a Lamy Safari as my Prera ran out of ink .   I’m not sure I’ll add color to it as I like it au natural.

We’ve vowed to return to sketch some other pieces, particularly some of the sculptures.   A great day was had by all, but every sketching day is a great day, isn’t it?

Nigerian Statues And Museum Sketching

I continue to use our Musee de la Civilisation as though it were closing soon.  That’s not the case, thank goodness, but I need need my daily fixes of sketching, now, don’t I?

I’ve switched my attention from Nigerian masks to Nigerian statues, of which there are many in the exhibit.  Before sharing them with you, however, I thought I’d talk a bit about sketching in museums.

Museum Sketching

I’m no expert about anything related to sketching but I play the role of an urban sketcher almost daily.  Because it’s cold in Quebec, my urban sketching for the past few months has been in museums and here are a few things I’ve learned.

1) Know the rules

Every museum has rules and the best way to get on the good side of the administration and security is to follow them.  Even inquiring about rules is seen as a good thing.

2) Talk to the people who work there

This is particularly important.  Show them your sketches.  Tell them how great it is that you can sketch in ‘their’ museum.  Make a point of asking if your location is ok, and try to choose locations that will be out of the way of people wandering the museum.  There’s no need to hide but often a bit of thought leads to a good compromise.

3) Adjust your materials to a museum milieu

My outdoor sketching kit includes watercolors, collapsible brushes and small bottles of water.  My museum kit includes watercolor pencils and a waterbrush.  If you use a pencil, consider switching from an eraser that drops debris all over the floor to a kneaded eraser.  And keep your working footprint as small as possible.  I have a tripod stool and my small art bag leans against it behind my feet while I’m sketching.

4) Buy a light

MuseumKitMuseums often keep light levels low in their exhibit rooms because many of the artifacts can be damaged by light.  Buy a clip on light to illuminate your work.  These are inexpensive – mine cost me $13.

I also carry a small piece of masonite, cut to the size of an open sketchbook.  I clip the sketchbook to this, making this unit easy to hold while walking around.  It serves two purposes.  One is to support the sketchbook while you sketch but the other is to keep it open when you’re not as open sketchbooks stimulate more interest from museum-goers.

5) Talk to patrons

Museum goers are curious folks and they’ll be curious about your sketching.  Talk to them; particularly the kids, who are often more bold than their parents.  Engage them in conversations.  Not only is this fun, if done regularly, the museum staff will notice and come to understand that you are an asset as well as a dumb cluck who sits in their museum day after day sketching.

About Them Nigerian Statues

2013-03-02Nigeria1I promised some Nigerian statue sketches.  Here are a few that I’ve done recently.  All are done with Pilot Prera, Lex Gray ink, in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.

While the masks seem to be made of wood, the statues are made from a variety of materials.  This one is carved from a gray rock that looks like granite.  It is truly gorgeous, much more so than my sketch indicates.

2013-03-03Nigeria1I fell in love with this bird which isn’t, strictly speaking, a statue.  Rather, it’s a stopper for a large jug of some kind (thus the pointy thing at the bottom)  It’s made from wood and, as tradition seem prone to dictate, covered in a very thin mud of some kind.

2013-03-03Nigeria2This next one isn’t a statue either.  The large hollowed out area on its belly serves as a cup and, somehow, it’s used during funeral ceremonies.  The sign says it allows two people to drink simultaneously.  All I can say is that they’d better be very good friends.

2013-03-03Nigeria3This is a wonderful statue of a person carrying a child on their back.  Very stylistic in its elongated proportions, I just love it.  It’s made of wood with a sculpted clay covering and is more sophisticated than many of the other wood statues.

I’m hoping spring will be sprung from its hiding place ‘real soon’ and I can get back on the street.  Until that time, I’ve got lots of great statues to sketch.  Hope you’ve got a museum too.

 

The Hidden Fun Of Urban Sketching

2013-02-23Hockey1We’re lucky in Quebec City.  Every year we host the International PeeWee Hockey Tournament.  Kids come from around the world to spend 10 days playing hockey and walking around saying “Bonjour” to everyone because it’s the only French word they know.  I know the feeling.

2013-02-23Hockey2We live down the street from one of the two venues where the tournament takes place and I was shoveling snow when one such group walked by my house.  Several of them used their one French word but one kid said, “We really like your snow.”  They were from Maryland.  When I said, in English, “You can have all and I’ll help you load it,” I swear a couple of them jumped off the ground.    2013-02-23Hockey3

2013-02-23Hockey6But this post isn’t about hockey, Pee Wee or otherwise.  It’s about sketching.  But it’s not about the sketches I’m presenting either.  Rather, it’s a post about the evening I spent with my family and thousands of hockey fans.

My habit of sketching every time I stop moving found me sitting among cheering fans, watching hockey and sketching, trying to create quick hockey player sketches by jumping from one player to another to grab a complete outline.  I’d never done that before and the results show my lack of experience with the technique.  But it was a LOT of fun and when the dust settled, I’d done eleven pages (5.5×8.5) of the darn things.2013-02-23Hockey7

Ok…so if the post isn’t about hockey, and it isn’t about sketches, why are you reading this, you ask.  I want to tell you a couple short stories about my interactions with some of the spectators.  Too often I hear people say they are too shy or not good enough to sketch in public.  These two stories, I hope, will convince you that none of that matters and that people LOVE sketchers.

2013-02-23Hockey8The first story begins between periods during the second game.  The players has just returned to the ice and I was sketching, as I had been for the past couple hours.  There was a very gentle tap on my left shoulder.  I turned to find it had come from the finger of a young girl, probably no more than 12-13 years old.  She very shyly said, “Do you speak French?”  I guess she’d heard me speaking English.  I told her yes and she immediately looked up a couple rows and waved. Another young girl jumped up and ran down to us.  “Hic c’est beau!  J’aime beaucoup vos esquisses,” (I think) immediately came from her and she asked if she could see all of my sketches.  Of course I complied, sheepishly showing her these crude sketches as she went on and on about how great they were.  I showed her my pens, my waterbrush, and how I used the waterbrush to shade the sketches.  They were thrilled; I was chuffed.  Nothing like an appreciative audience (grin).

At the end of the second game I got a cup of tea.  The food vendor lady ‘made’ me a tea, stuffing a tea bag in a styrofoam cup full of hot water.  I guess she was more used to people ordering coffee as she said, “I don’t know how to make tea.  If it’s no good I’ll give you your money back.”  I just smiled.  Quebecers are so nice.

2013-02-23Hockey9As there were no skaters on the ice I did a quick sketch of the Zamboni (ice cleaning machine) and then decided to sketch a guy who was sitting a couple rows below me.  Again, it was just a quick sketch, but at least he wasn’t in constant motion.  I was nearly finished when I got a tap on my shoulder.  This time it was a great big guy who was sitting behind me.  He asked “Are you drawing that guy down there?” and he pointed at the guy I was sketching.  My immediate thought was “Oh crap, I’m in trouble now”, but I admitted that I was.   I didn’t dare let on that I didn’t think it was even close to a likeness as he obviously saw something I didn’t.  He said, “That’s what I thought.  He’s my friend,” and he stood up and yelled, “Marcel, viens ici”  Marcel turned around, got up and came up to where we were sitting.  I showed him the sketch, he told me it was nice, the two friends kibbitzed a bit and he returned to his seat, and I did a quick shading of the sketch.

Sketching on location is special, even if nobody talks to you.  But when they do, it’s really special.  I’m convinced that there are people in the world who think my sketches are horrible and a waste of time…but they never talk to me.

 

Urban Sketching, Nigeria Style

2013-02-17Nigeria2Now that the Samurai exhibit has left our museum I’ve been concentrating more on the Nigerian exhibit.  The more I sketch it the more I gain insights into life as an urban Nigerian of the past.  While many (most?) of the masks, crests and statues that make up the exhibit were ceremonial in nature, the early Nigerians used carvings to grace everything.  If they needed to stopper a bottle, they made a plug with a head or statue on top of it.  Combs were carved from wood and had ornate handles.  Even spoons and ladles were handsomely carved.  Because of this, there’s a lot to sketch and because of the complexity of these objects, it’s the best sketching practice an urban sketcher could want.

2013-02-19Nigeria1Here are some examples of what I’ve done recently.  All were done in an Stillman and Birn Epsilon sketchbook (5.5×8.5) and all with a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

2013-02-17Nigeria1Color comes from watercolor pencils as they’re just more convenient in museum setting than are my actual watercolors.

Have you done any sketching in museums?  If so, do you find it fun?

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