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.

2012_12-Samouri1_700

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.

 2012_12-Salvatore700

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.

 

 

Halloween – Urban Sketching Style

This is the time of year that sketchers post beautiful sketches of pumpkins.  I love them all.  I figure this to be my first Halloween as a sketcher.  Last October I’d just started try to move pointy objects across paper and I wasn’t up to the task of sketching pumpkins.  So, a year later, here’s my first set, done with a black ballpoint pen that blobbed on me more than a few times, adding “character” to my sketch.

Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (6×8), Pentel RSVP ballpoint, W&N watercolors

But I’m an urban sketcher.  I sketch buildings, lamposts and fire hydrants.  I guess a group of pumpkins sitting on my kitchen table is ‘urban’ but you have to mentally squint to see it.  So I thought I should do something else and I found the ideal subject as I walked the main street that runs through our port area.   What could be better than an orange building with some black Halloween decorations on it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7), Pilot Prera w/Noodler’s Lexington Gray, W&N watercolors

When I sat across the street to sketch it, though, I had an immediate problem.  There is considerable vehicle traffic on this street and when sitting low on my tripod stool, it was hard to see the lower front of the building.  I’m not good enough to sketch moving vehicles so I sat, looked and pondered.  Then I sat, looked and pondered some more.  What to do.

I got out a 3H pencil and started laying out where the building and stairwell would sit on the paper and marked out the door location.  Then I picked up my stool and walked down the street and found a place where I could sit the ‘right’ distance from a car.  I sketched it as though it was moving in front of my, as yet to be drawn, building.  Then I moved back to the building and sketched it.  I’m not sure I got car and building sized properly relative to one another but it’s close enough for me.  Hope you like it.  Happy Halloween.

Cheers — Larry

Sketching A Car

A couple weeks ago I was down at the Quebec City port and parked near the Louis Jolliet excursion boat dock sat a great little car, painted up as a race car.  I don’t know if it was really a race car or why it was parked there.  But I plucked my camera from my sketching bag and took a photo of it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Pilot Prera, Noodler’s Lexington Gray

Yesterday I couldn’t go out sketching and I remembered that car.  I brought the photo of it up on my computer and I sketched it.  Though I’m not an accomplished sketcher, I have to say that I like the sketch better than the photo.  Just a bit more personal I suppose, and now I know this car better than my own.  Ain’t she cute?  Are cars the ultimate ‘urban sketch’?

larry@larrydmarshall.com

Inuit Urban Sketching

Here’s something you won’t see in many urban sketcher’s sketchbooks, an Inukshuk.  The Inuit have used these for years to provide directions, mark locations, and even to aid in caribou hunts.  Because of this, you can find these human-like rock piles scattered across the northern parts of Canada… or in souvenir shops, as miniature versions are quite popular.

This one, however, is in downtown Quebec City, on the Parliament grounds.  I’d guess its height at ten feet.  Yesterday wasn’t the optimal time to sketch it as there are barriers up around the grounds due to construction so I couldn’t get as close as I’d like, nor could I view it from its front, the optimal way to sketch an inukshuk (“in-ooo-shuck”).  But, I was there; it was there; and I sketched it as, these days, I’m interested in rocks and how to depict them.

This sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8) sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink. Winsor & Newton artist watercolors provided the color.  I REALLY like the Beta sketchbook paper.  So thick, so friendly to both pen and watercolor.  I’ve become quite spoiled by my Alpha series sketchbooks but the Beta series is yet one step better for the kinds of sketching I do.

Any inukshuks in your town (grin)?

Esthetics Vs Cheap: What We Are Missing

One of the things I’ve noticed since since I became a sketcher is that most man-made objects have short lifespans, and getting shorter in our disposable economy.  We really need to do something about that.

But architecture is the big exception, largely because buildings built before the 50s and 60s were built to last a loooooong time.  Construction was brick, with thick walls and roofs covered with metal.  And oh do they last…and last.  There are hundreds of buildings in Quebec City that were built in the late 19th Century and hundreds more built during the first quarter of the 20th.  Many remain have not been torn down to make room for the square box buildings we build today for one simple reason.  These old buildings were built to be as attractive as they were functional.  As I compare the beauty of these old buildings and compare them to the more modern parts of our city, it’s not hard to conclude that we’re sacrificing a lot in the name of build it cheap.

The Fire House Example

As in every city, in Quebec City things occasionally catch on fire.  And like other cities, we have a fire department and their facilities scattered around the city.  And if you look at the fire engines that arrived at fires in the early part of the 20th Century they looked like this.  Very cool and people now visit museums to see them.

But today modern fire equipment are marvels of engineering, far more capable at quenching the flames.  Far more expensive too but we spend the money because they do a better job.  As a fire hydrant sketcher, I know there are some fire engine sketches in my future but it’s the fire houses that have caught my eye.  I’ve seen several here that can only be described with a single word – KEWL!

And so this past weekend I sat on the sidewalk across the street from this majestic building and sketched it.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn 10×7 Alpha sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera (fine) pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray.  Aren’t I right?  Isn’t it KEWL!  Why don’t we build buildings like this anymore?

 

 

My New Favorite Sketching Pen: The Pilot Prera

I’ve been married for 23 years.  Aside from my winning personality and my wife’s infinite patience and tolerance, there is one reason why this is so.  I’m not nearly as fickle about women as I am about fountain pens.  Once I found a wife that would tolerate me, even my cooking, I held on for dear life.  Not so my choice of fountain pens.

I’m new to journal sketching but not to fountain pens.  I’ve been using the later since high school, long enough ago that events of the time are showing up in history books.  But I’ve only been sketching for three months.  When I started my favorite pen for sketching was the Lamy Safari.  Inexpensive, more reliable than any other, and you can get it in a variety of colors for color-coding the inks you’re using.

Since October, however, I’ve purchased a Kaweco All-Sport, a really fine, tiny (short word for great portable sketch kit pen) reliable line-producer.  Not quite as fine a line as the Lamy but still a great pen.

Then I chased the notion of a “flex pen.”  I had nothing but trouble with my standard Noodler’s flex and while I’ve also had a few glitches with my Noodler’s Ahab, it’s a pretty nice sketching pen as well.  I have a hard time getting as thin a line as I’d like, however.

And so my quest continued.  At each of these junctures I returned to my Lamy but I was determined to find a fountain pen that would draw as fine a line as a Pigma Micron 01.  I avoid disposable pens; there are simply too many billions of them floating in the Atlantic for me to want to add to the pile.

And so it was when I sent off a paltry sum for a Pilot 78G.  In fact, I bought two of them because they were so cheap.  When they arrived I was impressed.  The 78G  produces a very fine line – just what I was after.  Using either Noodler’s Lexington Gray (my favorite waterproof sketching ink) or Platinum Carbon Black, the Pilot 78G writes very dry.  I wouldn’t say it skips on me as that wouldn’t be true, but it sure feels like it’s about to when I use it, particularly if I start cross-hatching.  The 78G is also an opaque body pen so I can’t see how much ink you’ve got which is a problem for me as I want to take itto do field sketching.  It doesn’t come with a converter so you have to add $6-7 to the price to get one (The Con-50 fits it).  I found the cap threads to be sloppy and some have reported the cap coming off.  Mine have certainly loosened on their own.

And so it was that I decided to bite the bullet and send my $50+ to Goulet Pens for a Pilot Prelude.  Of the pens I’ve mentioned, this is the most expensive.  And now that I’ve had it for a couple days I feel it’s worth the price.  Most say that the nib on the 78G and the Prera are the same.  I sure can’t see a visible difference except that the 78G is gold-plated.  But when I put them to paper, my Prera is much smoother than my 78Gs.  I leave it to pen experts to debate such things, though.

The Prera is much more solid in my hand than the 78G, which feels like the ultra-cheap pen that it is.  Some say the Prera is ‘too small’ but I’m a pretty big guy and find that with the cap posted, it feels very good in my hands.  I bought one of the “demonstrator” models to get a clear pen body, though Pilot is wise in coloring both ends of these pens so some ability to color-code multiple pens is still a possibility.  The Prera comes with a converter so there’s no extra purchase necessary.  At this point I’ve only put Noodler’s Lexington Gray through it and the Prera likes it just fine, whether I’m writing on Clairfontaine paper or drawing on watercolor paper.  It’s my new favorite pen.

So if you’re looking for a truly ‘fine’ line you could do worse than to look at Pilot pens.  A price comparison between the Prera and 78G favors the 78G  but the price you pay for cheap is significant in my opinion.

78G:  $14 + $7 for converter = $21 from Jet Pens

Prera:   $55 (clear models) from Goulet Pens and doing business with Rachel and Brian is priceless.

 

 

Fire Hydrant Addicts Anonymous

Me: “Hi, everyone.  This is my first meeting.  I’m am a fire hydrant addict.  I need help…”

Everyone: “Hi Larry.  Welcome to Fire Hydrant Addicts Anonymous.”

And so it went at my first meeting.  Nice bunch of folks, and an intimidating number of dogs.  All are very understanding of those who spend a lot of time looking for fire hydrants.

I reported on my sketching of fire hydrants here.  But that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Once I ‘discovered’ fire hydrants I started noticing their differences.  And now that it’s winter people watch with suspicion as I brush snow off a hydrant and take photos of it.  I think what freaks them out the most is that I act so excited.  Fortunately, they don’t see the time I’ve spent on firehydrant.org, a great site for fire hydrant addicts.  They haven’t seen me on hydrant manufacturer sites, looking at exploded parts diagrams of the various models.  Yes…I have a hydrant problem and I hope that Fire Hydrant Addicts Anonymous can help me.

Until the addiction intervention is accomplished, though, I’m compelled to draw them.  Quebec City provides some fun variation in shape, color and vintage and, well, they’re just cool.   Do you have a sketching obsession?

Drawn in a Stillman & Brin Alpha (5.5×8.5) using a Lamy Safari and Noodler’s Lexington Gray.  Winsor&Newton watercolors.

Cheers — Larry