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.

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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?

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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).

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Sketchcrawl Through A Car Museum

It’s rare that I’ll re-post something I see on someone else’s blog but this video is too good not to pass it foreward.  Lapin, an illustrator with a great blog, recently posted this video of their sketchcrawl through the Caramulo Car Museum that gave the sketchers extraordinary access.  The video was professionally done by Patricia Pedrosa and any sketcher will appreciate it.

Be sure to read all of the subtitles as there are some great insights there.  I’ve watched it three times 🙂

Samurai – The Continuing Saga Of The Urban Sketcher

The last few days have been stormy here.  High winds, snow, and general ugliness.  No big deal except that I haven’t been able to follow my normal walking regime.  With mild desperation to right that wrong, I trudged off today, or rather I was slipping and sliding down the sidewalks.  I was jumping mounds of snow, walking on water…well, really just in it.  After an hour of this joyous adventure I found myself at the Musee de la Civilisations, my winter haunt.

I sketched only one Samurai helmet today, though.  This one was a bit more challenging, with all its fire ornamentation and besides, I had another hour of slipping and sliding to get home.  It was fun anyways and while I’m beat from the walk, it was a very satisfying day.  I think, though, that I’m going to sit and sketch for a while.

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The sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), which is becoming my museum sketchbook.  I used a Pilot Prera and Lex Gray.  The color comes from Faber-Castell “Albrecht Durer” watercolor pencils, mushed around with a waterbrush.  This is an approach that fits the museum world and works for me, though I’m still learning how and what to do with them.

Samourai Sketching in Quebec – Urban Sketching?

The Urban Sketcher’s ‘manifesto’ is quite clear: “We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.”  I’m a diehard location sketcher.  I do sometimes sketch from photos or just doodle from things my two functional neurons cough up.  But I can’t really get into that sort of thing very much.

I like to draw buildings, fire hydrants, telephone poles, trashcans and vehicles, but this time of year, outdoors is inhospitable in Quebec City, at least for an Arizona cowboy like myself.  For example, it’s currently 24F (-5C) with 35kmh winds just for good measure.  So, the things I have available to sketch for the next few months are going to be indoors.

One of my favorite places is the Musee de la Civilisation here in Quebec.  Nice ambiance, lots of things to sketch, and it’s warm.  The people are also very friendly towards sketchers, which puts one at ease.  So, you’ll see lots of museum sketches from me this winter.

And here are a couple more.  I went to the museum last Sunday with three of my sketching buddies and we had a great time.  As we were there in the morning I decided to give the Samourai exhibit my attention.  Often it’s just too busy to sketch there as it’s the current ‘feature’ display, but on Sunday mornings there aren’t a lot of visitors.

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Koshozan sujibachi kabuto (1588) – This is a very rare piece, constructed with 120, riveted plates. It bears the crest of the Inabi family, a very influential family of the 16th Century.

It is a dark room, with most of the Samourai armor in lighted glass cases.  Sketching in the dark is an interesting challenge and more than once I had to walk to a light to see if I was doing ok with the sketch.  I’ve got to get a little clip-on light I guess.  These little excursions became more frequent when I was trying to figure out whether the watercolor pencil was red, orange or brown (grin).

Nagaeboshinari kabuto (Edo 17th Century) - This appears to be hammered bronze.  It features the Big Dipper constellation inset into the metalwork.

Nagaeboshinari kabuto (Edo 17th Century) – This appears to be hammered bronze. It features the Big Dipper constellation inset into the metalwork.

These helmets were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon series sketchbook (5.5×8.5) using a Pilot Prera and Noodler’s Lex Gray ink.  I have a handful of Faber-Castell watercolor pencils that I used to color them.  I’m guessing but I think I only have 30 or so more helmets to sketch.  Then I can move on to the rest of the armor, the weapons, the guys on horses.  It’s going to be a fun, long winter.  Where do you find your sketching inspiration during winter?

 

 

Sketching on 12/12/12

Yesterday I had a lunch appointment and as I walked home from it I passed a bright yellow pizza place.  Have you ever done anything goofy for a goofy reason?  Maybe I’m alone in that combination.  It occurred to me that it was 12/12/12, a rather unique date and that I should sketch something.  But, this was one of the odd times when I didn’t have my sketching stuff with me.  Besides it was cold.  Still, as I continued walking I couldn’t get the pizza parlor out of my mind.

By the time I got home, all sense of rationality had left me.  “It’s only 10 minutes back to that place,” I said to myself.  “I’ll work fast and it’s not really that cold.”  I grabbed my sketching bag, threw half a dozen Tombow markers that I thought would I’d need into the bag along with a waterbrush.  Off I went.

It was nuts and I’ve never sketched a building so fast.  It’s certainly not my best sketch and somewhat wonky.  I used the Tombow pens to color it at lightning speed.  and then got out the waterbrush to add some sky color by wicking color from a Tombow pen onto the waterbrush.  I made a mistake and swiped some red from the sign into my sky.  I liked this little “happy mistake” so I did it some more.  This adds to the wonkiness of my 12/12/12 sketch but I liked it.

I liked it better, though, when I got home and got a cup of hot tea in my hands.  It’s definitely too cold for me to sketch outdoors anymore this year.  Have you done anything this crazy in the name of sketching?

The sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbooks, using a Kaweco Classic Sport (fine) and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  As mentioned, Tombow pens were used for color.

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Fun At The Musée De La Civilisation

Tuesdays are “free Tuesday” at the Musée de la civilisation in Quebec City.  I’m a member but it’s still sort of a special day as there’s a hustle and bustle in the museum that is lacking when I go during most weekday mornings.  Besides, some of my friends show up on Tuesdays, which is always nice.

Today Yvan, Bethann, and Nicolas were there and with so many sketcher shoulders to look over, I spent more time watching than sketching.  It’s said that to learn to draw you need to do it.  That’s certainly true but I learn a lot by watching others ‘do’ as well.

Because of all my sketcher gawking, I only completed one sketch today.  Most of my sketches are done with pen but I’m trying to learn to use a pencil.  I confess to being mostly lost when it comes to shading with these graphite spitters but here’s a sketch of the head of one of Joe Fafard‘s painted bronze statues.  The horse’s name is Vermear, according to the plaque that accompanies the statue and he was very cooperative, not moving a muscle during the entire session.

The sketch was done with a .7mm mechanical pencil in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.

 

Where The Dogs Run In Quebec City

The keepers of Quebec City have a sense of humor, or so it seems.  On every tourist map there is a pointer to Passage du Chiens, or Dog Passage and people flock to see it.  Well, maybe not flock as it’s down the street from lots of other stuff and they simply see it as they pass by.

But there it is, complete with official street sign – Passage du Chiens.  It is a passageway to a road/parking area for residents who live in the area and whose house fronts on a ‘street’ that is no longer a street but rather a walkway for pedestrians.  And the Passage du Cheins does sit between two art galleries that are quite photogenic and so many photos are taken of the spot.  I suspect dog lovers get a kick out of showing it to their friends.

Towards the end of our outdoor sketching season I was wandering around, trying to get in some last minute plein air sketching, and I decided to sketch this famous landmark.  The sun was bright, which was great because the temps were just above freezing.  Before I finished, though, the sun had moved behind the buildings, shading the entire area.  This, and the fact that I’d been sitting for an hour caused me to be quite cold so I quickly snapped this photo and moved on to find more sunny ground.

And then I completely forgot about the sketch, until today.  I decided it was time to add some color and this was the result.  Hope you like it.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7) and a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.