A Morning At The Museum

I realized that I never posted sketches from my last trip to the museum.  My only excuse was that I was still dealing with the flu and wasn’t much in a blog-writing mood.  But as I looked at them I realized they told a story of the day in a way that only sketches can.

When I arrived at the museum I was feeling ok.  Not great but not good enough that I hadn’t cancelled the trip.  There were five of us and we all headed to the Egypt exhibition.  I realized two things.  I’d forgotten my stool and I’d forgotten my light.

The exhibit is pretty dark so it was hard to find a subject where I could get enough light on the paper to see what I was doing.  I found this little statue (about 40cm high) and if I stood close enough to its glass case, the spotlight that was on it illuminated my paper, sort of, and so I drew.  I remember noting how hard it was to draw something when you stand that close to it.  I used a watercolor pencil to add the color.

2015-11-26StatueBy the time I finished this sketch, though, I felt like I’d been run over by a truck.  I went sat down and stared into the dark for a while, interrupted only by a couple short conversations with students about the drawing above.  Mostly I was waiting for the others to finish as I just wasn’t up to standing and sketching.

Eventually I got up and walked to where Claudette was sketching and sat down to watch her.  She was mostly in the dark but I decided to do a quick-sketch of her.  Mostly I was making it up as it really was hard to see her.  In fact, I completely missed the fact that she had a sweater laid over her shoulders.  We need more light in our museum exhibits (grin).

2015-11-26ClaudetteWhen the others were done we headed to the museum cafe for coffee and to share sketches and to talk sketching.  This must have revitalized me a bit as while we typically leave after coffee, I decided to stop and do a quick sketch of a fishing creel that’s part of a small historic fishing exhibition going on right now.  I guess I felt guilty that I hadn’t accomplished more.

2015-11-26CreelI remember thinking how stupid itwas to be drawing in a museum while feeling the way I do.  I also remember thinking that the dedication to drawing that drew me to the museum was why I can’t understand people who say they don’t have time to draw.

 

More Museum Sketching

I’m still doing sketching at our museum in what is, for me, lightning speed.  It’s funny to write that as I regularly do 1-2 minute sketches but those are quick ‘grabs’ at some subject.  In this case I’m trying to rush my way through sketches while retaining a semblance of accuracy and detail.

Egypt artifacts

Stillman & Birn Beta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I can’t say I’m successful but it’s sort of like the 1-minute, single-line drawing exercises I’m doing in response to a Marc Taro Holmes workshop; it’s a sketching time frame that’s teaching me things and helping me visualize proportions quickly and helps me prioritize what’s important and what is not.  If 1-minute single-line sketches are the 100-yard dash, these are more like the 3k run and in contrast to my normal sketching which is akin to a marathon.  I did all these sketches in about an hour.  At the rate I’m going, I predict that I’ll have sketching figured out by the time I hit 130.

Egyptian artifacts

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Museum Sketching Exercise

2015-10-29musee

Stillman & Birn Beta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

We’ve got a sketchcrawl coming up on Saturday and it looks like an unexpected blob of warm weather in early November is going to reward us for scheduling an outdoor event this late in the year.

But, truth be told, outdoor sketching is mostly over so I’m making regular trips to the museum to draw.  The big exhibit right now is Egyptian and composed, mostly, of small statues, jewelry, and some miscellaneous goods.  I’m in a mood right now to work on speeding up my sketching so rather than doing slow, precise drawing of these items, I’ve decided to draw a bunch of them more quickly.  I’m not quick-sketching (2 min or less) but rather I’m spending 10-20 minutes per item, trying to capture them as accurately as I can in that time.  Given my normal snail-like pace, I admit to feeling rushed.  It’s fun and I’m hoping that this exercise will add something to my skill set.  Here are a couple of the sketches I did during the first exercise session.

Egypt exhibit

Stillman & Birn Beta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Eventually I’ll do more detailed renderings of some of these pieces, but I feel that varying the time I give myself to do sketches has really helped me improve and I want to continue playing with that variable.  Do you do that?

Sometimes It’s More Than Sketching

The change of seasons, for me, means transition from street sketcher to museum sketcher.  It’s a sad time, but also an exciting time. There’s so much shape variation in museum exhibitions.

Our Musee de la civilisation has a new exhibit just opened that presents Australian/New Zealand aboriginal art and as I play didjeridu and love aboriginal art, I’m quite excited about it.  Most of the exhibit is paintings, rugs, and such but there are some statues and masks that I’ll be taking advantage of this winter.

I was there a few days ago, drawing a large wall-hanging mask.  So were a bunch of kids on school outings.  The kids were great as they’d come to see what I was doing and when I talked to them I got half a dozen more coming to see what was going on.  This begat more and more kids to the point where I was mostly just talking to them about the watercolor pencils, waterbrushes, and how much fun it is to draw.  Kids “get it.”  They haven’t learned the feelings and emotions about art that adults somehow acquire.

Eventually they wandered away, though, and I got back to drawing.  I was really enjoying the music and serenity of the room.  A mother and her two young daughters (I’d guess they were 4 and 6) came by and, again, the kids were interested and, as is often the case with parents, the mother told them to leave me alone.  I told her it was fine and I showed them what I was doing.

The older girl had some sort of writing/sketching book with her and started to draw with me.  The younger one, of course, wanted to draw too, which sent mom scrambling for paper and pencil.  She found some paper but had only a Seattle Seahawks pencil with her and it needed sharpening.  I sharpened it and we chatted as I did.  They were on vacation from where some of my favorite urban sketchers live – Seattle.

The kids drew a bit and I finished my sketch.  The older girl came over to show me her drawing and I asked her if she wanted to use my watercolor pencils to color her drawing.  Her look was priceless and I loaned her one pencil at a time.  The same thing happened with the younger girl.  We had a regular sketchcrawl going on.

I wish I had been smart enough to take some photos.  Sadly, all I can share is the sketch I did, but it was the most insignificant thing that happened on this day.

aboriginal mask

Stillman & BIrn Beta (9×12), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black, Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils

Return To Museum Sketching

I wonder what my dad would think if he knew that the thing I remember most about him was him saying to me (often), “You’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached.”  The sad thing is that, decades later, he’s still right.

I headed off to meet sketching buddies at the Musee de la civilisation the other day, which amounts to full acknowledgement that outdoor sketching is finished, or nearly so, for the year.  It’s starting to get cold and this Arizona boy doesn’t do cold.  None of us is very excited by the current expositions at the museum but there’s always something to draw, if only to provide practice and opportunity to try different techniques.

Once at the museum and I started thinking of sketching, I realized that I’d forgotten my light and my stool.  Most of the rooms are so dark that without a light clipped to my sketchbook, I can’t see what I’m drawing.  And, oddly when you think of it, most of the displays are low, requiring a stool to get your eyes on level with what you’re drawing.

Lucky for me, my head was attached and I used it to decide to draw something from the main entrance, where the museum seems willing to pay the electric bill and thus there is sufficient light.  I thought about the stairwells, they’d be an interesting drawing challenge.  I thought about the old bones of a boat that’s part of the entrance display.  To do it justice, though, would require a lot of hours.  I thought about drawing the ticket counter, but I’d already done that once.

Instead, I looked out the window to the courtyard associated with the museum and did this sketch.  I forgot a lot that day but because of this sketch I’ll always remember to be grateful that my head is attached.

Quebec City Museum of Civilization courtyard

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×9), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Sketching A Hansom Cab

space

A minute later we were both in a hansom, driving furiously for the Brixton Road. – A Study in Scarlet 

I’m a big fan of Sherlock Holmes.  Not the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock.  Not the TV show Sherlocks.  I’m a fan of the original, as written by Arthur Conan-Doyle.  In those stories, Holmes and Watson were often travelling in hansom cabs.

Sherlock’s carriage equivalent of the taxi was, more precisely, the Hansom safety cab, designed by architect Joseph Hansom in 1834.  It’s interesting to note that “cab” is short for cabriolet, a French word for a 2-wheel, horse-drawn carriage.  It’s also where taxi cab comes from.

I’d never actually seen one until Quebec City’s Musée de la civilisation opened an exhibit of 13 representatives from a large collection of carriages.  I had to draw it.

I did this one in a Stillman & Birn Gamma (10×7) sketchbook.  It was the first sketch in my new, “Spring” sketchbook.  I hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10x7), Namiki Falcon w/De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10×7), Namiki Falcon w/De Atramentis Document Black

Speed Drawing With Colored Pencil

Last Sunday I headed out to our museum.  We were in the midst of a blizzard and the snow was going sideways.  On a couple occasions wind gusts caused me to go sideways as well.  But I was walking through this mess because I’d told some friends I would meet them.  Later I found out that the only reason they didn’t cancel was because they’d promised me.  We humans are funny that way.

Previously I’ve expressed my boredom with drawing the heads of Olympus but there I was again, faced with numerous white, and now very familiar heads.  I decided to try something new.  I’d bought a Pentel 8-color mechanical pencil and decided to give it a try, using it while seeing how quickly I could grab a likeness of the heads.

2015-03-15QuickSketches1

It was a good plan with a couple flaws.  First, I have little ability to do this but on a more pragmatic level, my sketchbook has too much tooth for soft pencil and the points wear down very quickly and second, I couldn’t find my sharpener.  So a new experiment arose.  Could I draw with a dull pointy device.  The results are these 3″ heads drawn on Stillman & Birn Alpha paper.

2015-03-15QuickSketches2

Better drawings of marble heads have been drawn but I found this exercise fun and very helpful.  It was fun to work quickly and doing so with these subjects forced me to identify the big features, ignore the details, and to emphasize the dark/light relationships.  The dull point furthered that goal as it was impossible to get lost in detail when the drawing was 2″ square and the lead was rounded over 2mm colored pencil.  I will be repeating this experiment but hopefully on something other than Olympic gods.

Bobbing Around In The Sketching Doldrums

When I was a kid I was infatuated by the notion of pirate ships, the HMS Bounty and other sailing ships portrayed in movies getting caught in ‘the doldrums’, the area along the equator where prevailing winds are often very low.  Without wind power, these ships and their crews could flounder for days, waiting for some weather disruption that would give them enough wind to take them out of the area.

These days we talk about being ‘in the doldrums’ more figuratively but, for me and my sketching right now, my doldrums make me think of those movie scenes where the guys on the ship mournfully looked out at a dead calm sea, waiting for something to happen.

I know that spring is going to come ‘real soon’ and that while truly warm temperatures are still a couple months away, there will be some ‘tolerable’ days when I can get out on the streets and sketch.  But as I’ve become completely bored doing pencil renderings of white heads of Olympic gods, I’m bobbing up and down in my imaginary sketching ocean, anticipating the upcoming exodus from my house and onto the streets.

So I’ve been filling little sketchbooks with doodles, quick gestures of people on the streets and an occasional coffee house session.  They’re fun, they’re probably improving my hand-eye coordination, but they’re not much to look at so I won’t bore you with them.

But it’s been a while since I’ve posted so I’ll show you a sketch I did when I just HAD to go somewhere and sketch.  I was at the museum and decided to try something different.  If the subjects won’t change, change your approach to them, says me.  And so, rather than spending time blocking in proper proportions, I set a time limit of around half an hour, and started scribbling with my Pilot Falcon in my Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook.  Direct with ink, pedal to the metal.  Would it look anything like Zeus’ head?  It actually took me a few minutes beyond my half-hour limit because I grabbed a waterbrush I had that’s filled with very dilute Lex Gray ink and, shazaam…a mediocre depiction of the head of Zeus, a head that’s had its nose broken off giving is a rather odd look.

Can we just have a bit of spring?  Pretty please.  With sugar on top?  I’ll be good.  Honest.  The doldrums aren’t as much fun as I imagined when I was a kid.Zeus sketch

The Surrey With The Fringe On Top

In my last blog post I talked about how dark it is in the museum exhibit room where the new carriage exhibit is displayed.  I bit the bullet and decided to try to draw one of them.  I took a sketchbook light with me and I needed it.  In fact, if I’d had three of them, I would have used them all.  It was so dark where I was sitting that I couldn’t see what pens I was pulling from my bag without shining the light onto the bag.

Here’s the sketch I generated before I just gave up.  I was sitting no more than 8-10 feet behind the rear wheel and yet I could not see the front of the carriage and had to walk up beside it to figure out what needed to be drawn.  You know how they tell you to spend 80% of your time looking at the subject and 20% at your paper so you can get the proportions correct?  Well, I’m sure I did that but I don’t think the advice assumes you have to walk around the room to see the subject.  What I’m certain of is that this sketch is wonky from all the movement.  In the light or in the dark, those big, thin, spoked wheels made me go cross-eyed.

And so, as I write this, I rely on the axiom, “Any day that includes sketching is better than a day without it.”  But I think our museum is taking photon austerity just a bit too far.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Sailor calligraphy pen , De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Sailor calligraphy pen , De Atramentis Document Black

Drawing Lights In A Dark Room

There’s a new exhibit at Quebec City’s Musée de la civilisation.  It’s thirteen gorgeous carriages and sleighs from a large collection.  They are amazing examples of transportation from times past… all crammed into a room where, apparently, someone forgot to pay the light bill.

I understand the crowding problem.  These things are very large objects and displaying them indoors requires a LOT of space.  It’s also the case that it’s not the museum’s prime directive to provide enough space for artists to get back to a proper viewing angle for drawing.  I get that, and some imagination is going to be required to capture these objects on paper.

But why does it have to be so dark?  It’s so dark that it’s hard to see the details.  I had to get up regularly to look at what I was sketching to see its construction.  The fact that many of them are black makes this even more difficult.  It will be a challenge and doesn’t do justice to the objects.

I spent most of my first sketching session in this exhibit just looking.  The carriages are amazing and it’s interesting to compare and contrast the different ways the undercarriages were designed and built.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

I don’t know if it was because it was so dark or something else but I was drawn to the lights on some of these carriages, which were much more than lights; they were works of art unto themselves.  I drew two of them.  Hope you like them.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black