Every collection must begin with a first and this teddy bear was the first of what would become a huge collection of stuffed animals that my daughter acquired (cuz her dad liked to buy them so much). There’s nothing special about this teddy bear except that it was her first. I guess that’s enough.
We’re finally experiencing outdoor temperatures. Normally this would mean that I’d be wandering the streets every day, drawing my old-man heart out. That behavior has been derailed by my bad knee. Just this morning I started out with the idea of taking the bus downtown to sketch, but I quickly realized that, today, my knee wasn’t going to allow that to happen. So, instead, I’m writing this blog post and thinking that maybe I’ll sketch a pepper plant we bought last weekend.
Last week I got to go to our Musee de la civilisation to see the new Curiosities du monde naturelle. This exhibit is reminiscent of the old natural history museums, before all the fancy displays and such intruded on a simpler time when museum managers thought people were more interested in seeing actual items than they were pictures and videos of them.
Our museum seems to have a new to this. They put everything in the dark. I’m not sure what that’s about but we have to draw with a light on our paper and half the items are too hard to see to draw at all. This is supposed to be good? We have two exhibits that are like that currently and it seems to be a trend. Anyone else seeing this in their museums?
Part of this exhibit is the head of a young giraffe and I decided to draw it. Where I had to sit was too close and I was looking upward at the head such that I couldn’t see things like its left ear so the sketch is a bit odd. Still, I had fun finally being out sketching and I enjoyed drawing this guy, or girl.
As I look out my window I can only barely see the house across the street. This is because we’ve got a rip-roaring blizzard going on. This winter has been a doozy thus far. We’ve already had 11-12 feet of snow and it’s only mid-February.
Many of us have gotten some chuckles listening to the people in Seattle and Vancouver try to deal with snowfall and I include myself among them. Sure, they’re not used to it, aren’t equipped for it, and are even somewhat surprised by the snowfall, I suppose, but it’s fun to poke fun at them nevertheless. I’m just glad they took some snow off our hands as we’ve got so much my snowblower is having a hard time throwing the snow to the top of the snowbanks that line my driveway.
But it wasn’t snowing on Monday and Yvan and I headed for the Quebec Federation of Hunters and Fishermen offices. They have an amazing exhibit of taxidermy animals and it’s a delightful place to sketch.
My hand was hurting a bit, but my real problem was that I’d lost my ability to “see.” Nothing was automatic and I struggled to see the shapes and volumes of the coyote skull I decided to draw. I should have chosen something more simple. I guess I should have known that “out of practice” would include all aspects of drawing, but I figured that once I trained my brain, it would stay trained. Then again, I forget where I put my keys so… Anyway, here’s my version of a coyote skull, which has an eye socket drawn way too small.
I took a short break to get a drink and rub my hand a bit. Then I sat down to draw a duck. I felt a bit more confident by this point and I didn’t need to second guess myself so much. We’d decided to stop at noon for lunch and so I rushed a bit to finish this one but I was happy, and a bit tired.
We ate lunch with the idea that we would return to sketching but we didn’t. My hand was hurting and Yvan suggested that we call it a day since it was my first day back to location sketching. Instead, we decided to go have coffee where we talked about composition, tactics for blocking in drawings and identifying simple shapes in a scene. We topped off the day with a stop at an art store and then I got to look over a bunch of Yvan’s art. The day couldn’t have been more perfect.
Training the eye to see relationships and proportions is tough business. We tend to choose subjects based upon our current abilities and approach them with a ‘good enough’ fashion determined by limits of those abilities. This is why everyone says that portraits are the ‘hardest’ form of drawing. I see it rather tha portraits are the one place people worry about precision and accuracy.
For myself, I’m no different but I like to challenge myself sometimes, with the most important stages of a drawing being those early stages where I’m trying to nail down relationships and proportions. Classical artists call this ‘blocking in.’ The best subjects for these exercises, for me, are those that are very organic as the relationships between one element and the others are not evident.
I found this sun-bleached stump while visiting the information center at Bic National Park, just south of Rimouski. I didn’t have time to actually draw it but I snapped this photo and it served for the exercise I’ve described.
The first thing I did was use straight lines/angles to determine the outer boundaries of each of the arms of this hunk of tree. Once this is done, double-checking the angles confirms the location of each of the arms, which will make it a lot easier to draw. I continued a bit with the pencil, drawing cylinder-shaped blobs to represent each of the arms, mostly concerned about their angles. Note that I didn’t worry much about what the actual outlines were and certainly none of the small details. I increased the contrast on this graphic so you could see the lines; in practice they are very light.
With the location of all of the parts and their relative sizes, I can leave behind the cognitive functions of my brain, stop measuring, get “into the zone” and begin drawing with ink. It wouldn’t matter whether I was drawing “loose” or “tight,” I could draw without worrying about where the parts were supposed to be. It’s very liberating and fun.
I’m guessing here but the pencil portion took me no more than five minutes, probably less. The ink portion was more like twenty minutes. Could I do it faster if I’d skip all this and go ‘direct with pen’ as so many urban sketchers advocate. Maybe, but in my experience it actually takes longer because as a ‘direct’ pen sketch progresses, I have to ‘adjust’ things to correct for small errors I’ve made along the way. Besides, improving accuracy and precision doesn’t come from ignoring it. Besides, it’s fun. Here’s the result. It’s just a stump, but it was a fun challenge.
The Artistes dans les Parcs leader, Denise Bujold arranged for us to spend a Thursday sketching at a winery on the Ile d’Orleans, not far from Quebec City. She surprised us by using her superpowers to give us ideal weather as well. There were sixteen of us scattered around the winery, drawing, painting or enjoying each other’s company. It was quite a day.
We all took a break for lunch, sitting at some picnic benches available for visitors to the winery. The sun was so inviting that I wanted to lay down in the grass and fall asleep. Ah…to be a kid again where that wouldn’t be seen as rude (grin).
Rejean had done a small vignette of a cluster of grapes and I decided I needed to do one too. I have a tough time walking down hills right now but I found I could walk along a road that wound its way around some buildings and served as a way for tractors to get to the lower level. Eventually I got to the head of one of the fields and found a cluster of grapes near an end post, creating an ideal subject. I was pretty happy with the result and the entire day.