Do You Sketch Small?

I’ve always carried a small sketchbook with me for doing quick-sketches of things.  But more and more I’ve been sketching in 5×8 or 10×7 sketchbooks. Working larger is fun and lets me ‘stretch’ my gaze a bit more.  The result is that my small sketchbook became a cheap dollar store sketchbook that wouldn’t tolerate watercolors while my larger sketchbooks are all Stillman & Birn, first-class sketchbooks. The ‘gap’ between small and large had become greater in my sketching.

So I tried one of Stillman & Birn’s 4×6 sketchbooks.  In fact, I’ve nearly filled two of them.  The paper is fantastic, as always, but a 4×6, thick sketchbook is too ‘big’ to be called a ‘small’ sketchbook, at least for this street sketcher.  I need something I can stuff in a pocket.

And so I bought a Moleskine watercolor book.  I don’t much like its landscape layout but it’s tolerable in this small size.  The larger one is almost painful to manage if you try to balance it on your knee while sitting on a stool, which is my typical approach.  I do wish they’d produce a portrait format sketchbook with their watercolor paper.  Heck, what I really wish is that Stillman & Birn would produce a thin (30pages?) 3×5 sketchbook with their Epsilon paper.  Then I’d be a very happy sketcher.

This is a Celtic Cross in Artillery Park. 3x5 and done with a Pilot Prera.

This is a Celtic Cross in Artillery Park. Done with a Pilot Prera.

Anyways, I’ve started doing small pen & ink watercolors again and I’m really enjoying it.  I thought I’d share some with you.  All of these were done in the tiny Moleskine.  I’ll mention the pen used in captions.

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Factory building along the Riviere St. Charles. Sakura Micron 01.

Lamp on Plains of Abraham. Uniball Signo UM-151 "brown-black" .28

Lamp on Plains of Abraham. Uniball Signo UM-151 “brown-black” .28

 

Cast metal fountain on Plains of Abraham.  Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black.

Cast metal fountain on Plains of Abraham. Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black.

Large light inside the Kent Gate. Pilot Prera.

Large light inside the Kent Gate. Pilot Prera.

Cartier-Brebeuf Park. Pilot Prera

Cartier-Brebeuf Park. Pilot Prera

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Pilot Prera w/Platinum Carbon Black

A Red Flag Will Stop A Sketcher Every Time

As an urban sketcher, with a penchant for the mundane, I couldn’t pass up this scene. The railroad track in the background feeds into the train station here in Quebec City. A passenger train was headed inbound. The track in the foreground is a seldom-used track that allows a connection between a huge cargo facility on one side of a river and another one on the other side. Not much traffic but they’re not interested in any at all when the passenger trains come and go (only a few times a day).

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And so, they clip this flag to the track, to let anyone thinking of taking their train engine for a spin, not to do it. The bright red flag created an interesting scene, at least to me. Done in my Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) with a Pilot Prera, PCB ink, W&N artist watercolors and limited skill.

Sketching On A Summer Morning

It’s fun to be out sketching early in the morning.  Quebec City wakes up slowly and if you are out walking at 7AM, you’re mostly alone.  Of course this morning I met up with my buddy Yvan and we found ourselves on Rue des Remparts, a great sketching street that skirts the upper portion of the old city.  We chose a scene, that was really the backyard and garage areas of several houses.  The location also provided a nice shade tree under which I could sit.

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The sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbooks using a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black.  W&N artist watercolors and a a waterbrush were used to add color.  Before it was done I was wishing I’d brought my real brushes along.

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Sketching Tiny Town

The Ursuline Convent in Quebec City was founded in 1639, which makes it the earliest learning institution for woman in North America.  It’s also seems that they owned half the old city at one point.  Ok…maybe that’s an exaggeration but they owned a lot of land and buildings and still do.  But most of the private residences and some of the other large buildings have been sold off.  The curent compound is home to the convent, a school, and it’s a popular tourist stop.

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One of the private residences still held by the Ursulines is this place.  I’m not sure how big it is but it’s got to have the smallest entrances of any on Quebec.  Its unique nature made it a great sketching subject, though gray on gray isn’t the ideal color scheme, I suppose.

The building on the left if the Ursuline library and museum.  If you get to Quebec City, be sure to visit, if only to talk to the very nice people who work there.  After we were done sketching, they let us browse through their library where we found several books used to teach drawing to students.  While I’ve yet to tour the museum, they told me that there is a section on how drawing was taught to students.  I’ve got to get back there to see that.

I did the sketch in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook using a TWSBI Mini with Platinum Carbon Black ink.  I added some color… well, gray… with W&N artist watercolors.

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Sketching Between Rain Days

We’re still getting more rain than we should and certainly more rain than I want.  But we got a weekend that only started under rain and high winds.  We ended up with slightly damp conditions and warm temperatures.  There was this scary yellow ball in the sky.  Not sure what that was but it seemed harmless enough.

Yvan and I took advantage and we went to Artillery Park, an area in old Quebec City that has a bunch of old military buildings and fortifications.  It’s also where a munitions factory operated until 1964.  Now the large buildings are museums surrounded with park areas, cannons and high walls – a great place to sketch.  And we did.

I sketched a building called Redoubte Dauphine.  It’s an impressive structure and I set up at the base of it, sitting on the edge of a parking lot.  I sort of botched the perspective by placing a couple lines incorrectly.  As I didn’t want to restate them in their correct locations, I made the best of it and finished it with the wonky angles.  Do me a favor and squint a lot when you look at the sketch.  Maybe you won’t notice (grin).  The sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook with a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray.

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It was very hazy and cloudy so I decided to return to add color/details, when there was some sun to provide contrast.  I packed up and went looking for Yvan.  I located him, sitting high above me on a wall.  In fact, I noticed that you can see him as a tiny orange blotch on the right of the photo above.  He was sketching something and I thought it’d be fun to do a quick sketch of him.  I did it in my Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black.

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I climbed the hill you see in the first sketch and entered a tiny park area associated with what was once an officer’s quarters.  I liked the shape of the end of that building and so quickly sketched it.  Same small sketchbook; same pen/ink.

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2013-06-29OldBuildingSiteThe eastern edge of Artillery Park is bordered by an old rock fence.  On the other side of it there’s a grand old apartment building that’s no longer inhabited and, sadly, it’s crumbling from neglect.  It pokes its second story above the rock wall and I liked the view, of the back of the building and so I sketched it.  Same sketchbook, same pen, same fun experience.  Every sketching day is a great day.

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The Summer Rush To Sketch

I waited so long for it to come.  Now summer is here and I’ve been sketching up a storm.  I’ve also forgotten to post anything on my blog so consider this a catch-up post.

2013-06-13on801I do some sketching on buses, though I find them too bumpy and bouncy for my untrained eye and hand.  Still, here’s one of the many sketches I’ve done of seated passengers.  I do these in a small, cheap sketchbook I buy at the dollar store.

I love boats and our marina is, once again, full of boats.  Most are sailboats but this one is one of my favorites.  This one was done in an S&B Alpha (10×7) with a TWSBI Mini and Platinum Carbon Black ink.

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I was at my mother-in-law’s 3rd floor apartment for dinner one night and after dinner I went out on the balcony and got this birds-eye view of a tall church steeple.  This church is going to be turned into an indoor skateboard place this fall.  S&B Alpha (4×6) with TWSBI Mini/Platinum Carbon Black.

This is a paper mill that’s near the old port area in Quebec City.  It’s been the center of brisk debate where one day it was going to close and the next it wasn’t.   So far it’s stayed open and they seem to be doing well.

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Those are a few of the sketches I’ve done recently.  I’ll try to remember to post some more but heck, it’s summer.  Around here, when the sun’s out, you go out cuz it doesn’t happen all that often.

Holiday Weekend Sketching

Last Friday was a crazy day, with trying to fit X hours of work into fewer than X hours of available time.  But I was desperate enough to get it done cuz Saturday was the beginning of three days of good weather and SKETCHING!!!!

2013-05-18MaisonGominSaturday I hopped a bus for the other side of town as I’d convinced my buddy Yvan that we ‘needed’ to sketch Maison Gomin.  This is a castle-like building that used to be a woman’s prison.  It’s now a funeral/crematorium place that drips money inside.  Seems there’s a lot of money in dead people.  Anyway, this sketch represents one end of the building.  The dragon sits on top of the other end, guarding the princess.  It was done in my Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook.  I used a TWSBI Mini and Platinum Carbon Black.

2013-05-19MoulinDesJesuites_siteSunday morning Yvan and I headed the the north part of the city and we sketched an old mill (17th Century) built and operated by Jesuits.  It’s now a historical landmark.

It was done in the same sketchbook with the same pen.  It suffers a bit from a change of heart on my part.  When I laid out the sketch I thought I’d let the end of the smaller building run off the page to the right.  But later I decided I wanted the end of it in the sketch and thought I could do that by simply shortening it.  I did that but the proportions of the building made it look odd, but then most of my sketches are odd so I guess it fits.

2013-05-19CadranSundialAs we were packing up I decided to do this quick sketch of a sundial which is unlike any I’d seen before.  It’s a tiny sketch, done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6).  I used Lexington Gray in a Noodler’s Creaper to draw it.   Color was quickly applied by waterbrushes filled with very, very dilute ink.

Monday I was going to stay home and work but I got the itch to sketch some more and so I wandered downtown.  I realized that I had never sketched the Musee de la Civilisation, where I spent the winter sketching.  So I took the opportunity and did this sketch of the left end of the museum complex.  Back to the S&B Alpha (10×7) for this one and the TWSBI Mini, though I switched to Noodler’s Lexington Gray for ink.  I prefer the dark gray lines to the stark black of Platinum Carbon Black.

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All and all, it was a great weekend, with good weather, good company, and a great time sketching.  I’m still thinking about it as this week it’s been raining almost constantly 🙁

A Bit of Urban Sketching

Just as spring had sprung and it was starting to be warm enough to sketch outdoors, yours truly decided it was time to get sick.  I spent more than a week feeling pretty bad, made all the worse by coming home one day to find water dripping from our first-floor ceiling.  I still have a hole in the ceiling to fix but the pipes are holding water again.

2013-04-27BeauportHouseBWBefore getting sick, though, I did get out with my buddy Yvan and we rode our bikes on an adventure into Beauport, a suburb of Quebec City.  We sketched this house, which I liked very much.  I used my Pilot Prera for this one.  Same Noodler’s Lexington Gray I normally use.

I did stop in the old city one day as I was returning from French school and I made this sketch in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (5.5×8.5) sketchbook, using a TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

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And so, as the weekend approached, and my energy had come back, I was chomping at the bit to go sketching.  Mother Nature had other ideas and it rained all day Saturday.  Yvan and I went sketching anyway.  We headed to the Musee de la Civilisation and while it’s between major exhibitions, it was at least warm and dry and we figured we could find something to sketch there.

2013-05-11CaberetLeChatWhat we found was a small exhibit of architectural models of classic structures that were part of old Paris.  I chose to sketch Cabaret Le Chat, one of the popular hot spots on the north side of Paris.  The model was about 15″ high and fairly well-done, though the building to the right of it lacked any detail, which is how I drew it.  Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook and TWSBI Mini fountain pen.  I had switched up the ink and was using Platinum Carbon Black.

When we finished there it was still raining and we decided that we should board the ferry that goes between Quebec City and Levis, across the St. Lawrence River.  The ferry has a nice, cozy passenger area with big windows and we figured we could sketch from there.  We hadn’t included the heavy mist/fog in our calculations as you could hardly see the other side of the river, only a few hundred yards away.

2013-05-11LevisStoreSo, we just rode across, got off, and decided to sketch out the windows of the ferry building, catching the next boat (30 minutes) for our return.  I still have problems sketching while holding a sketchbook in one hand, pen in the other.  I generally perch my sketchbook on my knee or on a table if one is available.  I also have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time so maybe it’s just too much for my brain to hold one item (sketchbook) still while moving another (pen) around.  This sketch suffers from a case of the wobbles and the fact that I was working quicker than my normal glacial pace.  I did this it in a small Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) with the same TWSBI Mini and Platinum Carbon Black.  Color comes from some quick swipes with Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.

I went sketching.  It was a wet day, but a good day.

Music, Friends and Sketching – A Very Good Day

One of the great things about Quebec City is that there are a lot of free concerts.  Many are associated with the conservatory here and are mostly students – really good students.

Another source of free concerts are the ‘mid-day’ concerts associated with the Grand Théâtre de Québec.  This venue is the site of operatic and symphonic programs, musical plays, and a bunch of big name but not big venue performers.  I saw B.B. King there.

The mid-day concerts are held on the second floor foyer, however, and once they’ve set up a stage and a bunch of chairs, it’s about the size of a decent sit-down night club without the booze, though you can get coffee and danish.

And that’s where I was today, to listen to a fantastic group of six jazz singers, all people too young to have so much talent.  2013_01-27TheatreTreeI arrived a little after ten AM and the concert didn’t start until eleven, though I got a mini-concert as the group went through a couple numbers, getting warmed up and checking equipment, I suppose.  With little to do besides look out the window, that’s what I did.  I got together with this pine tree, which also didn’t seem to have much to do, and we made this sketch together.  We had a good time together.

But when Yvan arrived, the fickle friend that I am completely ignored my pine tree friend.  Yvan and I talked about sketching, his new sketchbook, the Series 400 toned paper that Strathmore is selling and some other stuff.  When we could, we went up and staked out some primo sketching seats, saving one for Celine.

Celine and Yvan are quite comfortable doing really great sketches of singers and musicians.  Myself, I still struggle with people who are moving around a lot.  Heck, who am I kidding.  I still have trouble sketching people who are comatose.  Yvan has explained, in his patient manner that ALL I have to do is choose a position the person returns to frequently and sketch that position.  So far my brain hasn’t gotten the message as it can’t quite sift through all the movement.  Practice, practice, practice…

2013_01-27Spectator1While I tried to sketch the singers, I didn’t do so well.  So, I sketched people who were in the audience.  These were all very quick sketches – another problem my brain has when in a crowd of people moving around.  My brain goes into “you’ve only got a minute, dummy, go fast…blindingly fast.”  So, while these spectators were going to stay put for me for the duration of the concert, I was doing 1-2 minute quick sketches.  Darn brain.

2013_01-27Spectator2All of these sketches were done in a 3×5 sketchbook using a Platinum Carbon Black fountain pen, filled with PCB ink.  I’ve come to like this pen a lot for detail sketching as it’s really fine, like a .005 Micron.  I’m not so sure about it as a people sketching pen for the same reason – the lines are just too fine.

The music was fantastic, being with my sketching buddies always a good time, and there’s no such thing as a bad sketch if you view sketching fun as coming from the process, not the result.  I do.

2013-01-26GuyReadingAs long as I’m talking about people sketching, here’s a slightly better sketch I did the day before, of a cooperative guy who sat reading.  He changed his position only once in the 10 minutes or so I spent sketching him which I thought quite considerate.  This sketch was done with my Hero 578 “Chinese calligraphy” (tip bent upward) pen, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink, and a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.  You can see that I can get variable line thickness from this pen and I think it adds something to the sketch.

Quick Sketching: Trying Out The Platinum Carbon Pen

I just bought a Platinum Carbon Pen from Jet Pens.  I’m a fan of Platinum Carbon Black ink and this pen is supposed to have a feed sized specifically for this pigmented ink.  Most people say that it has a very fine nib.  Giving away the punch line, I think both of these things are true.

The pen comes from Jet Pens looking like this.  I carry my pens everywhere and this one is just way too long.  It’s designed to look and feel like a dip pen.PCarbonPenAnd so I “fixed” mine.  I cut it off long enough to allow the ink cartridge but short enough that I could post the cap while it was in use.  For anyone wanting to follow this approach, that’s 6cm from the gold ring around the pen body.

Once cut, I mixed up some epoxy and dabbed the pen up and down in the puddle of epoxy, filling the hole in the end of the pen.  Once dry I simply sanded everything smooth and the result looks like this:

PCPclosedPCPopen

 

 

 

 

Cut down like this, it makes a very comfortable sketching pen.  When capped it’s nearly as short as a Kaweco Classic Sport and when posted it’s nearly the length of my Pilot Prera.  The balance works out well also.

The pen really shines, though, because of its fine line, which is actually finer than my Pilot Prera (F), which is already finer than a Lamy (XF).  The Platinum Carbon lays down a line nearly as fine as a Gillot 303, if you’re familiar with dip pen nibs.  Hatching is a dream with this pen.2012_12-quick_sketch0

The Platinum Carbon Black ink cartridge that comes with it is nothing short of spectacular.  This ink is the definition of a true black and it’s absolutely waterproof.  You can buy this ink in cartridges or in a bottle.  I’ve always been a fan of Platinum cartridges because they have a small metal ball that keeps the ink mixed and so I just fill them from a bottle using a pen syringe.

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So I sat down and took the pen for a test drive.  I did some tonal hatching practice and several small sketches, just to get used to the feel of it.  I’ve included a few of those sketches here, all done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6).

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I like this pen a lot.  It’s a great compliment to my Pilot Prera and Metropolitan pens and may become my ‘go to’ pen for quick sketching due to its super-fine nib.2012_12-quick_sketch5