A Sketch Of A Statue Of A Statue

Qin Shi Huangdi, who proclaimed himself the first emperor of China, built one of the wonders of the world when he ordered the creation of a veritable army of clay soldiers, horses, armaments, and a whole lot of other stuff.  And since these treasures were excavated from his tomb, statues of them have been created and sold to those of us fascinated by these relics.  I own one such statue, albeit it’s a small one.

It’s been a while since I’ve drawn in my slower-than-molasses style and I was feeling the need for it.  I didn’t really take as much time as I probably should have but it was nice to sit, comfortably, and draw with some Miles Davis in the background.  This sort of thing reminds me of the compromises we street sketchers make by sitting on tripod stools while juggling our materials in our laps (grin).

I start this sort of drawing with a mechanical pencil.  I started by locating key parts of the figure, thinking only of lengths, angles and locations.  Once I’m convinced that I’ve got the pieces and their locations on paper, I move on to fountain pen for the real drawing.

Some say “never use pencil..just go for it.”  That’s fine, and I often do that myself.  But it’s really liberating to know that the parts and their locations are defined because I can concentrate on drawing the arm without having to think about its relation to the head.

There’s another reason I like this approach.  The pencil step I outlined above requires cognitive functions as elements are compared, sized, and located.  Once done, however, I can let go, relying upon my visual cortex (that I work desperately to train) feed my motor cortex with info that guides my hand.  No thought is necessary; I just do.

Once I did the basic drawing I made a decision not to hatch the shading but rather to use watercolor for the darks and colored pencil for the highlights.  I was pretty happy with that decision.  The Stillman & Birn Nova paper handled both well.

Location Sketching Equipment – Larry Style, Part 2

In my last post I described my modular system for location sketching.  I want to emphasize that there’s nothing unique about how I approach moving art materials to and from location sites and neither is there anything “best” about it.  It’s just what I do, so this is more of a “just the facts ma’am” report than a “Look what I invented” thing.  Here I continue the discussion by describing the three tool modules I mentioned in that first post.

Paint Module

This module holds all my paint stuff, or rather the paint stuff I take on location with me.  Home seems to overflow with palettes, brushes and tubes of color.  Why is a question more for a psychiatrist than myself.  Anyway, the case itself is a Lihit Lab Teffa Pen Case, or so says Jet Pens.  This is the second one I’ve owned.  I lost the first one, along with two nice Escoda Kolinsky travel brushes somewhere between here and there on Black Tuesday, at least that’s how I refer to it.

This case is mostly empty so for those who carry a lot of brushes and paint, there’s plenty of room for more.  I try to keep my paint kit simple because that matches my understanding of paint.  Here are the contents of this module:

From left to right: 30ml Nalgene water bottle, squirt bottle, messy paint kit, Rosemary pointed-round Kolinsky brushes (#6 & #19), waterbrush, small brush used when I want to do something that’s hard on brushes.

A few words on this kit.  First, the water doesn’t typically reside in this module, though it’s easy enough to include a bottle in the case.  But as I mentioned in Part 1 of this treatise, I carry water bottles like this in each of my bags.  I stole this bottle idea from Marc Taro Holmes and love it because it’s easy to carry a couple of them, exchanging a dirty one for a clean one when necessary.

The squirt bottle is indispensible.  I love my Kolinsky brushes but they’re expensive and scrubbing them around to pick up pigment off dried cakes of watercolor isn’t my idea of a good use for them.  But if I wet those cakes, and rewet them occasionally as I paint, it’s easy to pick up paint and a more saturated paint it will be.  I think this is good, at least it works for me.

The paints are all Daniel Smith watercolors.  Expensive yes, but I have a hard enough time with paint; I don’t need to be handicapped by cheap paint.  When I started out I tried several cheaper paints.  I thought it normal that my watercolors were all light and washed out.  Then I bought some Winsor & Newton paint, real Winsor & Newton paint, not their Cotman line of student-grade paints.  The difference was startling, even to someone like me.  I have found that Daniel Smith paints rewet better than do W&N paints, which is why I now use them.  This is not an endorsement as, to quote Sgt Shultz from Hogan’s Heros, “I know nothing” when it comes to paint.

Rosemary travel brushes:  Wow…I love these brushes.  I have limited experience with brushes I suppose.  When I started I was determined to use good quality and so I bought a couple W&N Kolinsky brushes.  I’ve mentioned the Escoda Kolinskys that I lost.  Those were replaced by a couple of their Escoda Versatile travel brushes (synthetic) that are ok but just not the same as sable.  I also own several Silver Black Velvet brushes which are a blend of squirrel and synthetic fibres.  These are very nice and I use them when I’m at home.

The Rosemary travel brushes shown above are, as my dad used to say, the cat’s meow.  I also like their short dagger brushes (#772) that Liz Steel loves but I’m more clumsy than normal when I try to use them.  That’s all I’m going to say about brushes because there are better, more knowledgable people to listen to when it comes to all things watercolor.

Pencil Module

The case is from Global Art.  They sell this case as a single and double-layer case but I keep my pencil selection to a minimum and thus use the single-layer case.  Mostly I’ve followed Cathy Johnson’s list of watercolor pencils and I limit myself to 3-4 graphite pencils (Tombow Mono 100).

My watercolor pencils are Faber-Castell Albrect-Durer, mostly because I can completely solubilize the line they produce allowing me to use them to replace watercolors when I’m working small and particularly when I work in a place where water bottles and such are not allowed.  I love working with them for everything but large washes but confess that I don’t use them as much as I once did.  Not sure why.  Notice that I carry a short waterbrush in this case.  It works well in museums.

I should point out that I use the graphite pencils only if I’m going to do an actual pencil drawing, including rendering, which is rare.  I’m a smeary kind of guy and always have trouble with that approach to drawing because of it.

Pen Module

This module is central to what I do.  I’ve always said that I’m not an artist and that I just draw stuff and most of what I do is drawn with fountain pens.  I just love them.  I’ve used fountain pens since me and Alley Oop attended school together.

The case is one of those squeeze-to-open sunglass cases.  It’s ideal because the metal squeeze mechanism allow pens to be clipped to the case on both sides.  I cut a double layer of Bristol card that separates the two sides, keeping the pens from rubbing against one another.  Note that I also sewed a couple half-rings to the case so I could have a shoulder strap.  When on site I can hang this thing around my neck and my pens are always accessible.

Mechanical Pencils

I don’t “draw” with mechanical pencils but I do use them for organizing a drawing.  During this stage of my drawing I’m concerned with proportions, locations, orientations of objects, not the actual objects themselves.  In this way, when I pick up my pen, I know where the pieces are, what size they should be, and it gives me the freedom to concentrate on the drawing because the organization is already done.  For this job I could use any old mechanical pencil but I love pointy devices and enjoy using good ones.  I use a a Pentel Graph Gear 1000 (0.7mm) and a Pentel Kerry (0.5mm).  The former has a retractable tip while the later can actually be capped, like a pen.  Both are superb performers.

Fountain Pens

This is the most dynamic portion of my kit.  I own a lot of pens and I like to play with them.  The photo reflects what’s in the case right now.

From left to right:  Duke 209 (fude), Pilot 78G F, Platinum 3776 SF, Pilot/Namiki Falcon EF  

I guess this set of pens reflects several views I have about pens.  The first is that a good cheap pen is as good as a good expensive pen, and I don’t buy pens costing more than $200, period.  I think I paid $6 for the Duke 209 and the Pilot 78G was about the same.  While I grumble a bit at the Duke 209 on occasion, the 78G works flawlessly.  Yes, my ‘go to’ pens are the 3776 and Falcon but mostly because I love using them, not because they let me draw stuff any better.

Another thing this cadre of pens reflects is my approach to inks.  You can’t talk about fountain pens without talking about ink.  I’m lucky because I don’t get excited about drawing with colored inks and because I insist on my inks being able to withstand watercolors once they’re dried.  This limits me to only a few inks on the market and most of them are black, or thereabouts.  That said, drawing with dark, dark, black ink is sometimes useful, sometimes not so much so I mix it up a bit.

The Duke 209 is filled with DeAtramentis Document Black.  I’m not the fan of fude pens that a lot of urban sketchers are and I confess that’s mostly because I’ve never been able to get use to them.  I do like the Duke, however, because it’s very light.  The black ink supports the fude role, where I can get fairly thin lines, but its real value is for creating shaded areas, thicker lines and more expressive sketches.

My Pilot 78G produces a very fine line and it’s filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray.  This produces a light line that is great when I want edges to be less pronounced and when I work very small.

My Platinum 3776 is filled with Platinum Carbon Black, still one of my favorite inks.  It serves to provide me with a thin, black line and the gold soft nib gives me enough line variation to make me happy.

My Namiki/Pilot Falcon is filled with a mixture of Noodler’s Black, Noodlers Polar Brown, and water in equal proportions.  This serves two purposes.  It lets me use up the Noodlers inks, neither of which work for me by themselves and I end up with a brown-black that flows beautifully because of the addition of water.  Another way I’ve gotten this sort of result is to mix DeAtramentis Document Brown, Document Black, and their Dilution solution.

Realize, however, that tomorrow this kit may have a Pilot Prera, Pilot Metropolitan, Platinum Plaisir, Platinum Carbon Pen, Kaweco Lilliput, or any number of Hero, Sailor, or even vintage pens.  No, I don’t use Lamy pens, though I own a couple.  No, I don’t use Noodler’s pens (I threw those away).

Misc. Pens

I carry a few specialty pens for special uses.  These are:

From Left to Right: Prismacolor fine brush pen, Uniball UM151 white gel pen, Kuretake brush pen

The Prismacolor pen is new to me.  I bought it because someone mentioned that they liked them.  I haven’t used it much but it does seem like it might be fun for quick-sketching when you want thick lines.  I’m not a fan of nylon-tipped pens though.

The Uniball white pen is a staple when I’m working on toned paper.  Nothing special here but I’ve found these to be more reliable than the Gelly-Roll equivalents.

The Kuretake #33 brush pen is one of my favorite tools, though it makes a fool out of me more often than not.  For those who have used the Pentel ‘real brush’ pen, consider the Kuretake as a classy equivalent.  It does have a real, soft, nylon brush and I can feed it with Platinum Carbon Black ink cartridges.  It’s ideal for adding dark accents but these real brush pens will test your ability to control tip pressure.  Marc Taro Holmes claims it was using these a lot that taught him how to draw directly with paint and I can believe it.

If your eyes haven’t glazed over by now you must be heavily caffeinated or a die-hard art stuff afficionado.  In any case, I applaud you.   Next time I’ll talk about paper, sketchbooks, and paper supports.

 

 

New Tuesday Museum Sketchers Group???

This winter it has become a habit for five or six of us to meet at the museum for a sketching session on Thursday mornings.  I really look forward to it.  I go on other days as well but it’s fun to meet and talk with some fellow sketchers.

Field Notes (3x5), Pilot Prera F, Noodlers Polar Brown

Field Notes (3×5), Pilot Prera F, Noodlers Polar Brown

Claudette suggested that we meet on Tuesday this week as well, and while some of the ‘regulars’ couldn’t come on Tuesday, she managed to get a couple sketchers I don’t see often to show up so there were seven of us sketching this morning.  Why is it so exciting for sketchers to gather together only to ignore one another for extended periods of time?  Don’t know myself but it sure is fun.

I started the day with a little five-minute (maybe?) sketch to try out the yellow Field Notes book that comes with the blue and red books I’ve reported on recently.  It’s a small wooden statue and I guess the yellow notebook passes the suitability test.  I’ll probably do more in this book, though I prefer the red and blue books.

After wandering around a bit I headed to the new nanotechnology exhibit to draw a Mayan 3-tube flute.  It’s made of clay and I haven’t a clue why it’s part of the nanotechnology exhibit.  Maybe I should have read the plaque.

I’d filled my Falcon with Noodler’s Lexington Gray which I haven’t used in quite a while.  I’d forgotten how much its “water-resistant” nature doesn’t work on papers with lots of sizing.  I applied some color with watercolor pencils and a waterbrush and everything acquired a gray overcast from the ink.  Back to DeAtramentis Document Black for me.

Stillman & Birn Beta (9x12), Pilot Falcon, Noodler's Lexington Gray

Stillman & Birn Beta (9×12), Pilot Falcon, Noodler’s Lexington Gray

Parc Des Braves – Quebec City

2015-06-17ParcDesBravesA few days ago I talked about Parc des braves and showed you a sketch I’d done of the toilet building.  I was back in that neighborhood and decided to draw the large monument in front of the parc.  This monument is in tribute to soldiers who died in one of the final battles (1760) of the French-English war.  It’s hard to capture a monument this tall but I hope I’ve done it justice.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (9x12), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & BIrn Beta (9×12), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Short Cruise Sketching

After a week of frightfully cold weather, things warmed up in Quebec City.  In fact, we’re experiencing weather that’s more like it should have been in mid-August, when we were all wondering when summer was going to start.

Given the date, and given that the trees measure day length very well and are starting to look like autumn, I’m taking advantage of every one of these warm, sunny days.  Late last week I went for a really long walk and mid-walk I climbed onto the ferry that crosses the St. Lawrence between Quebec City and Levis just to get out on the water.

I headed for the top deck so I could sit outside, catch some rays and experience the high seas, or at least my version of it.  Below me was this scene and, of course, I had to sketch it.  It was the only sketch I did that day but it was a glorious day.

Quebec City Ferry

Monologue 4×6, Pilot Falcon, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink

The Value Of Sitting

I’m a street sketcher.  I wander my city looking for things to sketch.  I’m not too picky and actually shun the things tourists photograph.  I guess I’m more of a “mundane sketcher” as I like the challenge of creating something that looks good from something most wouldn’t even notice.

But there are times when I “can’t find anything to sketch.”  I put that in quotes as it’s a common phrase among sketchers that really makes little sense, but the person saying it knows exactly what they mean.  Yes, there are trees, planes, trains and automobiles to sketch but nothing is speaking to them.

When I find myself in that situation I sit down.  Yep, it’s that simple.  If I sit, pretty much anywhere, I start to see things I don’t see when I’m walking.  I’ll sit and start looking around.  Rather quickly, I’ll find something interesting to sketch.  Remember, I’m not searching for Mona Lisa.  I just want something that motivates me to get out my sketchbook and pen.

This sketch is the result of sitting down in a tiny park along the St. Charles River.  I sat on a rock as it was dryer than the benches because it had been raining as I walked.  Before I got to add color to this sketch, it started raining again so I had to add the color when I got home.

park near St. Charles River

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

I was returning from a long walk and I sat on a bench in Parc Brebeuf, along my river (the St. Charles) and decided to sketch this small scene of a part of the river bank.  Done quickly, I added color to this one when I got home as well.

Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, Pilot Falcon, Noodler's Lexington Gray

Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, Pilot Falcon, Noodler’s Lexington Gray

So, the next time you’re out and looking for something to sketch, sit down.  It may help.

Plants Are Everywhere

2014-07-16TreeI’m a building sketcher.  I also love to sketch garbage cans, fire hydrants and lamp posts.  I’ve rarely drawn plants that weren’t part of a building sketch.  After our sketchcrawl at the botanical gardens I started to rethink that and suddenly I’m aware of the obvious.  There are plants everywhere.  Who’da thunk it?

While out walking the other day I did these two sketches.  Both were done quickly in a 3×5 Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera and Lex Gray ink.  I’ll be doing more of these.  They’re fun.

2014-07-18bullrushes

Sketching The Parc Victoria Chapel

Parc Victoria is a large park not far from my house and I’ve done a lot of sketches in it.  I’ve told myself many times that I needed to sketch the small chapel that’s on the grounds.  It’s no longer used as a chapel and I know nothing of its history.  Currently, from the looks of things, it’s now used to store equipment for the associated pro-quality soccer field that was built a couple years ago.  Here’s my take on this cute little chapel.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray ink

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray ink

Sketchcrawling Through The Garden

Yesterday I reported on our 44th Worldwide Sketchcrawl participation.  What I didn’t do was show you my sketches and talk a bit about them as that post became quite large because of all the photos.  Here be the follow up post on my sketchcrawl sketches.

The sketchcrawl was supposed to start at 10AM but I ended up getting there around 9:30.  As you enter the botanical gardens there is a large water feature amounting to several lily-pad-filled ponds with small water features between them.  I located shade, my first prerequisite for sketching on a sunny day, and started sketching next to the second of these ponds.  It was a great place to be as I could meet people as they arrived while sketching.  It breaks my meditative sketching state to have to get up ever few minutes to say hi but gosh… isn’t that what sketchcrawls are all about?  I think so.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray ink

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray ink

By the time I’d finished this sketch, I was sitting in the sun as at this time of year the sun swings across its southerly track across our sky fairly quickly.  So, I was once again hunting for a shady spot.

I found it on the other side of the entrance, with several sketching options.  I decided to draw the main kiosk that faces the entrance.  Lots of brightly-colored flowers, a nice shape and the girl who manned (womaned?) the kiosk obliged by wearing a red shirt.  I switched weapons for this sketch as I wanted to get some more experience with my Hero pens.  I’ve got several of them and I don’t use them enough.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), Hero 578, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Hero 578, Platinum Carbon Black

It was lunch time so we all met together to swap sketchbooks and wish we were as good as everyone else.  For me, this is the best part of sketchcrawls.  I do a lot of solo sketching and it’s really fun to get together with other sketchers, though my French is sufficiently bad that I’m more than a little bit limited in my ability to talk like an adult.  Quebecers are quite patient, however.

After lunch I decided I should draw flowers.  I don’t know flowers beyond red flowers, purple flowers, orange flowers, etc.  I can tell you the names of all their parts, discuss at length the mating ‘habits’ of plants, and all the rest, as in another life I was a research scientist but when it comes to naming flowers… I got nada, or as we say around here, rien.

2014-07-12flowers

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Penmanship XF, Lexington Gray

But flowers are cool.  Depending upon how accurate you want to be while drawing them, they can be quite challenging as the more you drill down into their details the more difficult they become to properly depict.  I’ve drawn very few, and it shows (grin).  Here’s a couple.  At least they look like flowers.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Catching Up On My Walking

Having lost a couple days to rain, I was running a walking deficit for the week.  I walk a lot and do so as my old man way of keeping my body from taking on the shape of an eggplant.  That translates to walking a couple hours every day.  With two days lost and the worldwide sketchcrawl coming up on Saturday, I’ve been living on the streets, hoofing everywhere and anywhere, trying to put in the miles.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), Pilot Prera, Lex Gray

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Pilot Prera, Lex Gray

This has gotten in the way of my sketching time.  I just didn’t feel I could stop to sketch if I was going to get caught up.  But I did stop to do this quick sketch.  It’s one of the many gables on our train station.

I can skip a day or two without sketching, but when I do I start to feel like something is missing.  My solution this time was to sit in the backyard and draw some flowers.

I rarely draw flowers but every time I do I think that I should do it more often.  The shapes are endless.

I started this sketch with a rudimentary pencil sketch but most of the shapes were formed directly with watercolors, something I’ve only done once before and, back then, things didn’t go so well.   Once done, I added some ink using a refillable Sharpie pen.  I did this in a Stillman & Birn Delta series sketchbook.  This is my first “ivory” sketchbook.  It was fun and provided me with some much needed sketching/meditation time.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8)

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8)