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.

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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.

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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)

 

Sketchbook Skool And Rainy Days

The last couple days have been rainy and windy and I haven’t been able to walk and sketch like I normally do this time of year.  So I thought I’d talk a bit about something new in my sketching life.

It’s called Sketchbook Skool and if you’re part of the social media crowd, you’ve probably heard of it.  Operated by Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene, it’s a school that’s as much about motivation and ideas as it is about teaching techniques.  This is the second session they’ve held and it’s called “Seeing”, with emphasis on how artists see and communicate what they see in their art.  It brings together Liz Steel, Cathy Johnson, Danny Gregory, Brenda Swenson, Andrea Joseph, and Koosje Koene as instructors.

It seemed ideal for me, and comes at an ideal time.  I’ve been very myopic in my approach to sketching thus far.  When I started sketching, 2 1/2 years ago, I couldn’t draw anything.  So I set out with a single goal – to learn to draw something… anything.  I didn’t worry about watercolors, compositions, or any of the myriad of details that one can be involved with in art.  I just wanted to draw stuff.

While I still have a lot to learn about drawing, I’ve gotten to the point where I can make scratches on paper that people at least recognize as the thing I was looking at so it seems to me that now is the time to start thinking of some of those other things that make an artist actually be an artist.  And I think Sketchbook Skool is going to help me in that.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), Pilot Prera

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

So far we’ve had two assignments from our first teacher, Danny Gregory.  We were to draw a piece of toast, with emphasis on drawing all the details of the surface.   It was an interesting sketch as I nearly went cross-eyed trying to ensure that I got all the little holes and crevices in the right places.  I want to do it again with a small section of grass or some other heavily textured surface.

Our second assignment was an investigation of how we see when drawing quickly vs slowly.  We were supposed to draw something in a minute and then draw right on top of that drawing, but more slowly, trying to do a detailed drawing.  Danny’s example used color for the first, fast rendition and pen for the second, slower version.

I drew our vacuum cleaner using yellow and gray Tombow brush pens.  We were to spend one minute on this.  I then spent 10 minutes drawing the machine using a Pilot Prera.  I really like this idea and hope to do a bunch of them.

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

So far, I’m having a ball in Sketchbook Skool.  The video instruction is first class and interactions with other students is providing a bunch of great ideas.  Maybe I will be an artist some day.

 

Sketching On The Montmorency River

CMontmorencyOne of the tourist spectacles around Quebec City is Montmorency Falls.  The falls themselves are nice but the tourist areas around it are equally nice so it’s fun to go sketching there.  To make it even better, I can hop a bus that will take me there, which is what I did this morning.

Yvan and I met very early  and headed for the Montmorency Falls area.  The falls weren’t our target though.  Our quary was rocks.  I’m tempted to make a quary/quarry joke here but I won’t.

Suffice it to say that when we got to the falls we crossed the bridge above them and headed north, up the river.  It was much cooler than I’d expected and my shorts and t-shirt left me shaking in my boots, almost literally.  Yvan was smarter, wore long pants and even brought a windbreaker.  Even so, he said he was cold.  I was colder.  I win…errr…lose.

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

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

But we’re tough sketchers and had fun anyways.  I got to break in a new Stillman & Birn sketchbook. This one is a 6×8 spiral-bound Delta series book.  It’s the first time I’ve used their ivory paper but I thought I should try it.  I think I like the ivory color.  It’s probably better for some things than for others but this morning’s subjects seemed to like it just fine.  The paper itself goes without saying as it’s one of the best watercolor sketchbook papers in existence.  For those who may wonder, the Delta is the equivalent of S&B’s Beta series which is very popular with the watercolor crowd.

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

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

 

We’re Having A Heat Wave

We’re having a heat wave.  In French it’s called a canicule.  Regardless of what language you use, it means hot and humid and we’ve certainly got that.  I blame myself.  I spent so much time whining that I couldn’t go sketching because winter wouldn’t end that, it seems, someone from down south sent us a dose of hot.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Pilot Prera, Lex Gray ink

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Pilot Prera, Lex Gray ink

In spite of the heat, though, this sketcher marches onward.  I was to meet sketching buddy Claudette at Place d’Youville, a busy area just outside the St. Jean Gate into the old city.  While I waited for her I did this sketch of the entrance toan Italian restaurant.

When Claudette arrived we headed into the old city to find something to sketch.  Our goals were a bit atypical because what to sketch took a back seat to finding a shady, cool place to sit.  It wasn’t easy.

Eventually, though, we found ourselves in Carmel Park, a tiny little park (you can easily throw a stone across it) that’s up on a hill within the walled city.  Trees gave us shade and our altitude gave us access to a nice breeze that kept us comfortable.  Claudette sketched church steeples while I fixated on the back porch of an apartment building that was probably 30-40 feet below me.  Mostly I got caught up in the gorgeous flowers, flowers I didn’t do justice to I’m afraid.  Nevertheless, we had fun and stayed cool.

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

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

Sketching “Around Back”

I wander my town, sketching the older buildings of our fine city.  They remain my favorite sketching subject.  I try to avoid the touristy buildings; their spirits have been stolen by the gazillion photographs taken of them annually.  I’ve been doing building portraits it for about 2 1/2 years.

It may be, however, that I’ve missed the best subjects because I’ve always drawn the front doors, the facade, the part of the building designed to invite you in.  Here in Quebec, however, some of the older areas of the city present challenging and interesting subjects if you walk “around back” where some of the age and development of the city are more visible.

In these neighborhoods you see porches, old garage areas, tiny apartments and sheds, all scrunched together such that no space is underutilized.  It’s as though the logic was that ‘Here’s a wall.  We only need three more and we can…’   Quebecers refer to it as “rebouter”, which I think translates to “tied together” or something similar.  All I know is that it’s in these rear spaces you can find unrenovated structures that must date back to the 1800s.

Claudette and I were out on a sketching adventure when we came across this opportunity.  Across from this scene is a nice little park area with lots of shade.  Guess where we sat as we drew this scene.

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

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

Pencil Before Ink: Another Approach

In my last blog post I admitted that I often commit the deadly sin of using a pencil in advance of my fountain pens.  This is a sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t thing but I suggested that there are two ways/reasons why I use a pencil.  In that post I showed one of those reasons, where I simply drew some blobs to give me some indication of the location of the various objects tht make up a scene.  The reason is that by doing this I can draw any of the objects while knowing how it relates to the other objects as the preliminary pencil work, that represent my thinking about those relationships, has already been done.

The other reason that causes me to do some basic pencil work before moving on to ink arises when I draw man-made objects, like buildings, cars, etc.  I could just start drawing, of course, but I prefer to analyze these objects separate from the actual drawing.  I want to spend time ‘seeing’ the relative sizes, locations and orientations and I want to do it with a higher level of precision than the example in the previous blog post.

2014-06-21deAuteuilResidencePencilTake a look at this preliminary pencil sketch.  You’ll notice that there is no detail.  It’s mostly about boxes but those boxes represent the windows and door of the building.  While drawing those boxes I paid close attention to their relative alignment and sizes.  I didn’t fuss over whether the lines were straight or the corners square as I was more interested in whether the two windows on the left were the same size (the third window is different) and to ensure that the windows would be lined up with one another when I drew them.  Notice that I also drew a few lines to represent the front of a car.  Here I was only interested in the windshield and hood angles, where the car sat relative to the bottom left window, and where the curb line met the front of the car.

Is this necessary?  Of course not.  In fact, Marc Taro Holmes just did a great blog post on using ink dots to organize a drawing.  I’ve used that method myself.  Still do.  But by using a pencil,  I end up with boxes that I can look at, compare to the building I was sketching, and, for me, it provides better visualization of how the sketch will look when finished.

Regardless of how you do it, the important thing, I think is that you do this sort of organizational step before you start your actual drawing.  Too many sketches are less than they could be simply because the drawing step was started too soon, leaving the sketcher to discover, major misalignments, a lack of space for a particular object, and other dilemmas that are easily avoided.

Another advantage of pencil use it that a pencil is a tool separate from my actual drawing tool.  By using it, it’s easier for my feeble brain to understand that I’m ‘organizing’, and not ‘drawing.’  It causes me to take the time to actually see the organization of my subject and causes me to organize it on the page.  Often, if I work directly with pen, I’m inclined to skip this step or rush through it too quickly.  Give it a try.  It might work for you in the same way.

In any case, here’s the result after I add ink.  Once again, the pencil lines are so light (I increased the contrast for the post) that there was no need for an eraser of any kind.

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Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Pilot Prera, Noodler’s Lexington Gray

 

Quick Sketching My River

Yesterday was the day before the official beginning of summer and so, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I headed out on a long walk and sketching session.  The sun was shining and I was whistling a happy tune.  Ok…ok… so I wandered into writing the opening for a musical.  Suffice it to say, it was a nice day.

But as I walked I noticed the clouds moving in.  I noticed the winds pick up.  I noticed my happy tune whistling had stopped.  I decided to sit on a fake log chair along my river and sketch a bit.  I also noticed that I was bordering on being cold and that I would need clips to keep the sketchbook paper from rattling in the wind.  So much for a summer day.

I’ve received a couple emails asking me what, exactly, I do with a pencil as a precursor to my ink drawing so I decided to try to illustrate the couple ways I use one.  Here is one of them.

This sketch was to be a large-scale, for me, urban nature sketch so I started with a very lightly drawn bunch of scribbles just to locate the various bushes, river, and building.  I shot a photo of the pencil layout with my cell phone and later manipulated the heck out of it to get the lines dark enough so you can see them….kinda.  This pencil work took 20-30 seconds.

2014-06-20 Pencil

You’ll notice that there’s no detail, not much more than vague lines that locate the various components.  All I’m thinking about is location and size of the various shapes and their relationship to one another.  By identifying these things I’m then free to concentrate on any part of the sketch without having to think about whether that part will connect to other parts.  For instance, because I know where both sides of the river will be in my sketch, I can draw the foreground plants, knowing where they should hide the river.

So out came the pens.  I started drawing the foreground using my TWSBI Mini filled with Platinum Carbon Black.  The rest of the sketch was done with a Pilot Prera and Noodler’s Lexington Gray.  No eraser was abused in the creation of this sketch.  Those light pencil lines just disappear behind ink and color.

I worked quickly and admit this is not my best work as, quite frankly, I was getting cold.  Yes, that’s right – cold – in middle of June.  Who’da thunk it.  Total time for this sketch was 23 minutes.  I kept track so I could report that as well.   I’m sure glad that tomorrow will be summer.  I’m getting tired of the cold.

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Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Pilot Prera and TWSBI MIni