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).

Do Nigerians Have Thick Necks?

Goofy question, right?  Well, I’m convinced there is evidence to support the notion that Nigerians have thick necks.  It comes in the form of the Nigeria exhibit at our Musée de la Civilisation.

That evidence comes in the form of large, and I mean large ‘crests’ worn by Nigerian dancers.  Some of these are huge and, supposedly, they wear them while doing ceremonial dances.  I wouldn’t want to balance one on my head while watching TV, let alone while dancing.

2013-01-08Nigeria4_700Here’s just one example.  This ‘little’ guy is roughly half a meter tall.  The straw band at its base is where your head goes.  I assume there’s a strap that goes through the lower hole and runs around under the chin.  Thick necks… gotta be.

This next one isn’t quite as large and I’m not exactly sure how it’s even worn.  It’s obviously an elephant who likes to play frisbee but other than that I know nothing about it other than that it too is labelled as a ‘crest’ and is part of a long line of them along one wall of the exhibit.

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Both sketches were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) sketchbook.  The first was drawn with a Pilot Prera, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink and Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.  The elephant sketch was done with a mechanical pencil.  Thank goodness for museums when it’s cold outside.

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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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’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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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?

 

 

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.

 

Urban Sketching During Winter

Winter has been slow in coming to Quebec City, which has been great for those of us who like to sketch on location.  I’ve gotten at least an extra month of sketching my favorite subjects, the buildings of Quebec.

But winter has arrived and as I write this it’s 11F (-12C) outside.  This is just the beginning, as we’ll soon be experiencing much colder temperatures.  So what’s a location sketcher to do?  Common recommendations are to go to libraries, coffee shops, airports, and train stations.  These are all great if the things you want to sketch are people but even then, these places tend to be people in motion, something that’s hard for the best sketchers and impossible for me.  I’m the slowest sketcher on the planet.

But now that winter has set in, I’ve got more places and things to sketch than I ever thought possible.  They’ve come in two forms thus far: museums and free concerts/events.

Museums

There are a bunch of museums in Quebec City.  In addition to the large museums like Musee des Beaux Arts and the Musee de la civilisation there are numerous smaller museums scattered around the city, principally because this is a tourist town.  Each has sketching opportunities and I expect to live in them this winter.

In particular, I’ve become a member of the Musee de la Civilisations as it seems the richest source of things to sketch.  Right now there are displays of Nigerian art, Maori culture, Samouri armor, swords, and helmets, and a wide variety of permanent displays of Canadian and Quebec cultural people, places and things.  And they’re very friendly to sketchers.  There’s a cafe where you can get soup, tea and sandwiches.  And, in a world with snow and cold outside, it’s warm.

My first adventure there was done with my buddy Yvan Breton.  We went on ‘free Tuesdays’ and expected to find the place crowded with people taking advantage of the freebie.  But we went in the morning and it wasn’t really busy so we set up in the Nigeria display and started sketching.  I sketched some of the masks, doing them in a fairly small size and doing them fairly quickly.  I just wanted to get a feel for sketching in the museum and I wanted to save time to walk around to look at all the exhibits.  We had a great day.

Free Concerts/Events

Cities have events going on constantly.  I’m not talking about Justin Beiber coming to town or NASCAR races.  I’m talking about smaller events.  A fashion show at the mall, school plays, an author signing event, club displays, craft shows, holiday events, etc.  All of these provide things to sketch.

Here in Quebec City there are also a bunch of free concerts, many put on by our music conservatory, where advanced students gain stage experience.   I’m new to these and time will tell but they’re a great opportunity to sketch people, the musicians and spectators as they don’t move much for extended periods of time.

A small sketchbook and a pencil are unobtrusive and just the thing.  I initiated my new Stillman & Birn 4×6 Alpha series sketchbook at the last one.  What could be more enjoyable than to listen to great music while you sketch?

I spent a delightful 1 1/2 hours listening to some truly gifted violinists.  I’m going to use these concerts to practice my people quick-sketching skills.  It’s a cinch I need the practice, don’tcha think?  What are some of your favorite winter sketching locations?