It got pretty windy when during our sketching session and because our temperatures are still cooler than normal, it got uncomfortable. We all started looking for a place to draw while out of the wind and I chose the leeward end of Maison Dorion, a large house that is the headquarters for the St. Charles River Society. I drew this scene.
I’m convinced that I’m the slowest sketcher on the planet. I’m not proud of being number one, but a man has to know who he is. Sketching isn’t a race but nevertheless, this is often a problem for me because I’d like to capture a scene without growing a beard at the same time.
I figure that the only way to crack this problem is to force the issue so this morning, I went to a park near “my river,” sat down and started drawing trees as quickly as I could. I did the pen work for this scene in about 25 minutes and reached for my color tools.
Oops…I’d forgotten my watercolor stuff. What I did have was a handful of watercolor pencils and the smallest waterbrush known to man. The pencils were ok for the color source but that waterbrush… yuck. It was woefully inadequate for the task. Nevertheless, I worked quickly and in less than 40 minutes I had this sketch.
This doesn’t compare well to Liz Steel doing a painting in the blink of an eye and it’s not even close to how long it takes me to do a one-minute sketch a’la Marc Taro Holmes, but for a scene with this many trees, I feel it was pretty quick.
I’m hoping to do a bunch of one-minute sketches and another bunch of continuous line drawings this summer. They won’t be as detailed as my normal drawings and certainly not as accurate. But I’m hoping these exercises will speed up my hand. Wish me luck.
I tend to be fairly pragmatic about my successes and failures when I sketch. I don’t make a big deal out of succeeding and it doesn’t bother me if I fail. In fact, failure is an opportunity to learn. It’s this last thing that gets me in trouble as I also don’t mind saying I’ve failed because I don’t see that as a bad thing.
And so it was when I posted this sketch on my blog and on Instagram. I voiced the opinion that it wasn’t my best and this caused Cheryl Wright to ask, “What’s wrong with it?”
Rather than give her a brief answer it seemed her question presented an opportunity to talk about the analysis I do when sketches don’t meet even my low standards.
Composition & Esthetics
I tend to do building portraits so composition generally takes a backseat to showing off whatever it is that causes me to draw the building in the first place. But if I did this one again, I’d move my point of view so that the streetlight wasn’t directly in line with the ductwork on the side of the building and I’d ensure that the globe of the light wasn’t hidden within the crown of the tree. These things completely negated the raison d’etre for including the light in the sketch in the first place.
Also, the window treatments are sloppy in this sketch. I wanted to keep them simple but I hatched them carelessly. Generally I’m still very clumsy with color but clumsy is where I’m at right now with color so I hardly ever assess it. Maybe some day.
This building is little more than a box. What makes it interesting is that the entrance and display windows cut across a diagonal of the building, but the building itself is square, creating a ceiling over the entrance and windows.
I completely obfuscated that reality by painting the signs and entrance a dark black, completely flattening this feature of the building. I’ve tried to play with it in Photoshop to indicate a better way, lightening the signs but I’d messed up the sketch so badly that it was hard to make it look good. I hope the graphic demonstrates what I am talking about, however.
Keeping Things In Perspective
This is where things really went south, though. It seems I let my horizon line wander. I’m not a stickler for perspective and don’t generally think in terms of vanishing points and such. But it should be the case that the farther one gets from the horizon line, the more steep should be the angle downward or upward towards a horizon line – AND the horizon line needs to be kept constant. If you are consistent in this way, it won’t matter much whether each is accurate. Here, I wasn’t consistent and you can see that the angles go all over the place, crossing in places and being parallel in others. Shouldn’t be like that and the sketch suffered.
So this is why I said what I said about this sketch. I agree with what Cheryl said in the rest of her message, “I love its quiet simplicity.” I only wish I’d done a better job of depicting it. Thanks to Cheryl for asking a great question.
Once upon a time the Field Notes company released an edition of their small sketchbooks called Sweet Tooth and it contained a red, a yellow and a blue notebook as a three pack. Several of us started drawing in the red ones because it creates a bright mid-tone between our black and white pens. Tina Koyama has become queen of the Sweet Tooth, using mostly red but sometimes blue notebooks.
Me, while I did some “serious” sketches in a couple red books, I’ve mostly relegated these books to really quick-n-dirty sketches, done while waiting for someone or small sketches from my imagination while I watch baseball. I don’t scan these sketches as there’s just too many of them, none worthy of consideration but they help train my brain to draw, which is the reason I do them.
I’m posting a couple of them here so I’ll have an excuse to post a nod to Tina’s ‘abandoned couch’ series. I was waiting for our gang to show up to draw and across the street was an abandoned couch with a couple matching chairs piled up on top of it. I thought immediately of Tina.
We are starting to get some outdoor sketching days and so you’ll start hearing me talk about my river as it’s one of my favorite places to be. Its real name is Riviere St. Charles and it’s only minutes from my house, though the river is at least 50 kilometers long, running from Lac Beauport down to the St. Lawrence River.
Yvan and I were there on Saturday, at a spot that’s no more than a 15 minute walk from my house. I was practicing sketching standing up. This probably sounds crazy to many of you but I really struggle with it, though I may be getting closer to wrestling this bugaboo to its knees. The thing is, I enjoy sketching while standing up. It’s a more natural point of view than sitting low on a stool.
It’s also the case, because I hold the sketchbook relatively high and shoved into my chest, I do a lot less head-bobbing than when I sit on a stool with the book resting on my legs. I think this improves my accuracy because the sketchbook is easier to compare to the subject because the sight line is nearly the same for both. I also find this approach easier on my back, though my legs get tired. Win some, lose some.
Some other benefits to sketching standing up is that I don’t have to carry around that stool, cutting the weight I’m carrying in half. I also feel more free to choose sketching positions.
You’ll think this next reason silly but people say it’s good to take a break every 15-20 minutes, just to remain fresh while sketching. This is easier to do if all you have to do is start walking. If I’ve got to get up from a stool, walk around and then sit back down, both my brain and my knees are reluctant to take a break. I told you that you’d think it was silly.
I was also practicing the idea of drawing landscapes. I don’t do it enough and I need a lot of practice with forest textures and such. Anyways, this is what I did and I was generally happy with the results. It’s sort of looking down on the river and up at the building, which made for an interesting scene. I may add color but generally, once a sketch is a couple days old, I rarely go back to it.
There’s a superb piece of architecture in Limoilou that used to be a firehouse. While I’ve lived in Quebec it’s been used as a daycare center, some sort of base for a charitable organization and has probably had other uses as well. Right now, it’s undergoing some exterior restoration and interior remodeling. I drew the top portion of one end of it because below this view are all sorts of machines, dumpsters and debris.
Chantal: “Where are you going?
Me: “I’m meeting Yvan and Claudette on 3rd Avenue.”
Chantal: “Ok. Don’t sit on your stool.”
That’s the conversation that took place following my “banging head against the wall” day on Tuesday. She needn’t worry. My Walkstool has worked flawlessly for years and excepting the need to replace the rubber feet that just wore out, it has been a reliable companion. The calamity was all on me; I screwed up… again.
Anyways, I did meet “the guys” and drew this little scene. Not my best but I am trying to recoup my blood supply after all. I did another sketch, a more complete one, but I didn’t get to put color on it so I’ll post that one tomorrow. Great day but REALLY cold.
This little scene is in Victoria Park, near my home in Quebec City. As it’s my favorite subject, I had to sketch it. The sign on the tall post is to let people know where the hydrant is when everything is covered in snow.
Here it is, the middle of May, and we’re still having a hard time getting outdoors in Quebec City because of cool weather and a lot of rain. But it happened. In fact, we had a bright, hot summer day on the 16th and our little sketching group took advantage of it. We headed to an older part of the city where they have alleyways.
Alleyways provide sort of grungy views but views with lots of shapes that make for great sketching subjects. I just love them. In this scene you’ll find two large “towers.” These are actually enclosed stairways, loosely constructed but effective in keeping the snow off the stairs. They are very common in these neighborhoods. I had a lot of fun doing this one.
When I was a kid I remember Howdy-Doody and Buffalo Bob, Captain Kangaroo, and Sheri Lewis and Lamp Chop. When my daughter was little she watched Mister Rogers and Sesame Street. Kid shows with a mix of adult and puppet characters have always been popular.
A show I never did see was very popular in Quebec and involved Bobinette, a wooden-headed puppet, and Bobino, a guy sporting a vest and bowler hat. I’d heard of Bobinette but never seen her until, because of rain (again) we were forced into the museum. A new display provided some insight into this early TV show and provided a chance to draw her. The show was called Bobino and ran from 1957 to 1985. Bobinette was Bobino’s sister. Isn’t she a doll?