Life Of A Sketchless Sketcher

I made another trip to our museum.  I’m still amazed at how tired I can become just getting there, but got there I did.  It’s the last week of the Hergé exhibition and I hadn’t actually viewed it seriously.  The exhibit emphasizes the process of creating Tin Tin, Herge’s famous comic series and so there’s lots to read and look at.  Not much to draw.

I hobbled around the exhibit, reading everything and studying the artwork.  It’s a really good exhibit in my opinion.  But finally I had to sit down, completely exhausted.  It must be the weight of the cane that’s wearing me out (grin).

After a while I decided that I needed to draw something, so I combined getting a cup of coffee with drawing one of the weather vanes on display in the cafeteria.  It’s not much and like eating a single Gummi bear, not quite enough, but it formed a satisfying end to yet another sketchless sketcher day.

Thursday Sketchers At The Museum

18th Century Armor

18th Century armor – Canson XL watercolor, Pilot Metropolitan, DeAtramentis Document Black

Our small group of “Thursday sketchers,” met at the Musee de La Civilisation.  I put the name in quotes because there’s nothing formal about us except that we meet at the museum on Thursdays.  Not surprisingly, we were there on Thursday (grin).

We scattered around the Quebec exhibition, which is part of the permanent collection, they’re planning on shutting it down for reorganision ‘real soon.’ Nothing motivates sketchers more than being told they weren’t going to lose access to something and so it went that day.

I’d made a short list of things I wanted to sketch before this happened so I set to work, not wanting to spend too much time on any one subject.  It was a great day and we had a lot of fun together.

2016-02-04rooster

This goofy-looking, sheetmetal rooster came from a Church Steeple.   Pilot Metropolitan, DeAtramentis Document Black

cannonball mold

Half of a cannonball mold. Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

A Sketching Challenge: Chapel Altar

I love drawing the ornaments and carvings in churches but confess that I find most churches to be pretentious.  Still, there I was, in the chapel associated with the Musée d’Amérique francophone when I got the bright idea to sketch the huge, monolithic, altar.  Because of the complicated nature of it, doing a proper, accurate drawing would have required many hours.  I only had two.

So I “steeled” myself (i.e. tried to channel Liz Steel) and set to work.  My eyes crossed several times as I tried to draw all the bits and details of this 30-foot high structure.  It was both fun and tiring, and it humbled me a bit, which I guess is the goal of such structures.

Musee d'Amerique chapel altar

Fabriano Artistico CP (7.5×11), Pilot Metropolitan, DeAtramentis Document Black

Collectif Rendevous At The Museum Of Civilisation

The Collectif group in Quebec City held its annual rendevous at Quebec’s Musée de la civilisation last Saturday.  Unfortunately, a bunch of the regulars were playing snowbirds in one for or another and so turnout was down from previous years.  Nevertheless, we had a great time.

I started sketching in the Egypt exhibit, where I drew this pharoah mask.  I used Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils for color.  It’s hard to deal with color in that exhibit because it’s so dark so it’s hard to know what you’ve got until you’re done and eating lunch (grin).

Pharoah mask, Egypt

Fabriano Artistico CP, DeAtramentis Document Black, Pilot Falcon

I took a short break by wandering around a bit and when I saw this large Australian aboriginal totem I had to translate it to paper.  Pretty simple drawing.  Lots of fun.  It’s good to be back out sketching.

Australian totem

Fabriano Artistico CP, DeAtramentis Document Black, Pilot Metropolitan

Cruising Down The Nile

Egyptian culture was inseparable from the Nile River.  It was a source of water, provided fertile soils for agriculture, fish were a ready protein supply, and the bullrushes that grew along its banks provided material for baskets, floor mats, and other Egyptian stuff.

But heck, you gotta suppose that Egyptians used it for fun too.  Swimming might not have been a great idea because the Nile was home to crocodiles but how about hopping in the family yacht and going for a cruise.  Egyptians must have done that.  And one of the objects in our museum’s Egyptian exhibit is a large (4-feet long) wooden model of an Egyptian boat, complete with several people standing on deck.  It seemed that sketching it was the right thing to do.  Hope you like it.

Fabriano Artistico cold-press, DeAtramentis Document Black, Pilot Metropolitan F

Fabriano Artistico cold-press, DeAtramentis Document Black, Pilot Metropolitan F

How To Get A Fine Nib Pilot Metropolitan

By most accounts, the Pilot Metropolitan is a pen that provides a lot of bang for the buck.  It writes smoothly, feels good in the hand, and it’s simply the best looking $15-20 pen I’ve seen.  It’s a metal-bodied pen which allows it to resemble a more expensive pen.

There’s one problem with it.  You can only buy it with a medium nib.  It’s unclear why as Pilot typically provides the fine and medium options for their pens and you can even get a stub italic Prera.

Metro above, 78G below

Metro above, 78G below

While the Pilot medium is finer than most European medium nibs, it’s not fine enough for my sketching needs.  It occurred to me that there might be a solution to this in the form of the Pilot 78G, which can be had via eBay for almost no money and it’s sold with fine, medium, or broad nibs.  And guess what?  These nibs are compatible with the Metropolitan feed, right down to the little indexing pin.  All you have to do is pull the 78G nib out and put it in the Metropolitan and, voila, a Metro with a fine nib.

Note the gold, 78G, fine nib

Note the gold, 78G, fine nib

So, why not just use the 78G?  There’s nothing wrong with the 78G that a better, heavier plastic wouldn’t cure.  But I can’t help shake the feeling that I’m using a really cheap pen when I’m using them.

Lamy Safari vs Pilot Metropolitan for Sketching

Since I posted my review of the Pilot Metropolitan and talked about its use in recent posts, I’ve had several people ask me questions that all relate to the same thing: how does it compare to the Lamy Safari?  I make no claims to doing exhaustive reviews of pens but I thought it might help some if I talked a bit about how I see the differences.  Obviously I can’t do that objectively; every word of such a discussion is steeped with personal opinion.  But maybe I can isolate some concepts and let you evaluate my biased analysis.

Esthetics and Feel

Metro-Safari-closedWhile esthetics and feel are mostly personal parameters, it is safe to say that the Metropolitan is a cleaner, more traditional design.  Some people complain about the triangular nature of the grip on the Lamy and while that’s not a problem for me, the Metropolitan grip is smooth and round.  Both pens are quite tail heavy when posted and both long enough to write with comfortably without posting.

The Safari offers more color choices, and availability of colors changes regularly.  Lamy is about to release a flourescent yellow version which has me saying “WHAT are they thinking?” but some might like it.  The Metropolitan comes in black, silver and gold, with some subtle trim choices.

The Lamy can be converted from cartridges using Lamy’s Z26 converter while the Pilot pen uses the CON-50.  In my opinion, The Z26 is a bit nicer but as I fill all my pens using a pen syringe it doesn’t really matter to me.  Any tube in a storm, to muck up a metaphor.

Metro-Safari-openThe Safari is a fatter pen which may make a difference for those with small hands.  The Metropolitan is made of brass while the Safari is plastic, though you can by Lamy’s All-Star if you want an aluminum pen.

One thing that might affect sketcher choices is that we like to turn our pens upside down to get a thinner line.  Doing this with the Safari completely changes the feel of the pen, but not at all for the Metro.

I own three Lamy pens and only on Metropolitan but the Pilot nib seems smoother on papers I use.

Operation/Internals

Safari can be bought with a variety of nibs and it’s easy to buy and replace nibs so you can have one pen and swap out the nibs if you like.  Metropolitans come in only medium, though from what I can see, Pilot also sells a Cocoon pen that seems identical to the Metropolitan but it’s available with a fine nib at more than twice the price of the Metropolitan.  I don’t know why.

A quick word about nibs is in order.  Lamy is a European manufacturer and uses a European sizing scale for its nibs.  Pilot is an Asian company and uses an Asian scale.  For any particular nib ‘name’ (eg – F), the Asian system will be finer than the European system.  When comparing my XF Safari nibs to the M nib of the Metropolitan, I find that the Metropolitan M lays down a line just a tiny bit THINNER than my Safari XF pens.  That said, my Lamys have been used a lot while the Metropolitan is fairly new.  The Metropolitan is very near that of a Sakura Micron 02 if you’re familiar with those.

It’s a small thing but I find Lamy pens to be a bit more ‘sloppy’ when filling them by dipping into an ink bottle.  They must be plunged deeper than Pilot pens.  As I don’t do this at all I simply avoid the problem.

Misc

Lastly, the Pilot Metropolitan ($20) is cheaper than the Lamy Safari ($25).  Thos prices are from Goulet Pens.  Converters for them are about the same price.  Safari has ubiquitous support; it’s every seller’s ‘beginner pen’.  While Pilot pens are readily available, the sheer numbers of Lamy users gives ‘support’ to the Lamy pen.

If you have any questions about either of these pens, or any pen for that matter, I’d be happy to discuss it with you.  I was a pen junky long before I became a sketcher.  You can also see how these pens write (in the nib nook) and even buy them at Goulet Pens.

Conclusion

In the end, choosing a pen comes down to a bunch of personal preferences.  For myself, I use a Pilot Prera (F) as my every day sketching pen.  I like its fine line, smooth and flawless operation, and I like the fact that I can post the pen and, being short, the balance works out ‘just right.’  This is a bonus to me as a street sketcher as I don’t have to worry about losing the cap.

But lately the Pilot Metropolitan has become my pen of choice for quick-sketching people, something I’m doing a lot of lately because it’s so cold outside.  Its slightly thicker line works better for this purpose and the fact that it’s inexpensive makes it a happy replacement for my Lamys, which remain in my arsenal but, by comparison, they’ve lost a bit of their charm for me.  Well, except for my lime green Lamy which is the greatest color ever (grin).

 

Urban Sketchers Always Have Things To Draw

If your interests lie in drawing naked people, you need a model.  If you paint landscapes, you need to go to pretty places.  If you’re into aviation art, you need to hang out at airports or aviation museums.  But if you’re an urban sketcher, all you have to do is live your life with a sketchbook in your hand.  There’s always something to sketch.   I’m an urban sketcher.

2013-02-20BloodTests1I went for some blood tests yesterday and, of course, I had my sketching stuff with me.  From past experience I knew I’d have 10-15 minutes to wait before Dracula called me to be poked and so I checked in, sat down, and got out my sketchbook.  I thought about sketching a wheelchair that was sitting in the corner, or the receptionist’s area.  But I noticed a steady flow of people walking up to the receptionist, where you have to shove our paperwork through a slot; they confirm who you are, and then the receptionist provides instructions which mostly amount to ‘go sit down and we’ll call you.’

2013-02-20BloodTests3So I started quick-sketching these people.  It was a study in quickly grabbing the outlines of coats, purses and legs because you couldn’t see their heads, which were behind partitions that divided the 3 reception windows.  And it was fun.  My waiting time went by too quickly.

2013-02-20BloodTests2Here are three examples of those sketches.  Simple, good practice, and fun.  Done in a Strathmore ‘toned’ paper sketchbook with a Pilot Metropolitan and Waterman Absolute Brown ink.  A bit of it was quickly washed into a form of shading using a waterbrush.

Sketching At The Library

One of my many struggles as a sketcher is that I am slow, very slow.  I love to get into a subject and spent an hour or two sketching something.  But many times, I just don’t have that much time, or the scene I want to sketch is just too transient, or I’m with other people who don’t want to wait around for me to spend an hour sketching.

So, one of the things I vowed to do this winter was to work on my quick sketching abilities.  Quick sketching people is a good way to improve (develop?) those skills, of course, and it fits well with our harsh winters because I can be do it inside.  I went with Yvan, an amazing quick-sketcher, to our main library and we sat for a couple hours doing quick sketches, or in my case attempting to quick sketch people who were sitting/standing in the library.

2013-02-15QS1

Here is one of two spreads of these sketches that I did.  You can see some abject failures.  You can see evidence of where I started to sketch someone just as they got up and walked away.  You may also see a sketch or two that actually looks, kinda-sorta like a person.  At least I hope you do (grin).

Of course, being the building guy that I am, I couldn’t resist doing a quick sketch of a piece of the building across the street too.  Very quick and about as loose as I’ve ever tried to sketch a building.

2013-02-15QS2_1

All of the sketches were done in a Strathmore Series 400 ‘gray’ sketchbook using a Pilot Metropolitan (M) with Waterman Absolute Brown or a Lamy Safari (XF) with Private Reserve Velvet Black.  Both of these are washable inks and I used a waterbrush to create a bit of shading here and there.

It’s interesting to compare the Pilot Metropolitan, with its “medium” nib to my Lamy Safari “extra fine” nib.  The Metropolitan is finer, illustrating clearly the differences between Asian and European sizing nomenclature.  Between the museums and the library I continue to be a busy location sketcher in spite of the wind and cold outside.

Museum Sketching With Claudette

What’s going on?  Last week it was so cold that it was fashionable to run outside with a bucket of hot water, throw it up in the air and watch it turn instantly to snow.  Those -30C temps are tough so mostly we just stay indoors.  But this week, we’re 40-degrees warmer than that and it’s RAINING!   This doesn’t happen in Quebec, in February.  These temps, however, are much easier to take.

And so it was, yesterday, when I walked in the rain to the Musee de l’Amerique francais to meet up with a new sketching buddy, Claudette Gauvreau, a very talented sketcher.  I met her at our last sketchcrawl and we agreed meet at the museum for a sketching session.

2013_01-30ChapelOrgan700I got there about half an hour or so before our scheduled meet time and decided to sketch an organ that sits high above the floor of a chapel associated with the museum.  I always struggle with perspective when I have to look up this much and this case was no exception.  I started with pencil, drawing and redrawing the basic columns and the ceiling curves.  I even drew a big cube where the organ sits before turning to pen to do the actual sketch.

When Claudette arrived she needed to do some work in the chapel as well so I continued working and finished up the pen work.  I did it in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook using Pilot Prera and Metropolitan pens filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray.  Shading was done with a Derwent Graphitone 8B pencil.  These pencils are great because once you hit them with a waterbrush they ‘set’ and you can put watercolor washes over it.

ClaudetteBalastradeClaudette finished up this great sketch of part of the railing around the main seating area, which holds a bunch of round banquet tables these days.  I can’t speak to materials used but isn’t it great?  The small bit at the bottom is an example of the flooring.

We headed into the museum where we sat in comfy sofas and sketched mannequins dressed in costumes used in movies and created by French costume designers.  She started sketching the cowboy character that Owen Wilson played in Night at the Museum, while I decided to do something I’d never done.  I sketched a Victorian dress using only a pen.  I’m fascinated by clothing folds and want to learn to draw them in ink.

2013_01-30VictorianDress700Anyways, in the time it took me to do this sketch, Claudette finished drawing her cowboy, then drew a security guard and an indian from the same movie.  Then she wandered off to look at the exhibits while I finished up my single figure.  Have I mentioned that I’m slow at sketching (grin)?  This sketch was done with a Pilot G-TEC-C3, hybrid ink pen on Strathmore Series 400 toned gray paper (5.5×8.5).  I wish I could show you Claudette’s sketches but I didn’t think to take a photo.

Next Wednesday, we’re meeting at the Musee de la Civilisation.  Want to join us?