Do Sketchbooks Organize Your Art?

I’ve spent two years being “isolated” by an inability to run around because of a bad knee and rheumatoid arthritis.  You’d think I’d be used to it by now.  But the truth is, this new form of “isolation” is getting to me, probably because I can’t make pilgrimages to the local art and book stores (they’ve all been closed since Mid-March here in Quebec.

On the one hand, this isolation is nice as I have my family home so we’ve been baking/cooking more.  I made scones last night.  On the other hand, we’re watching and fretting over too much news, watching too many Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. movies and generally all discipline in out lives has gone to pot.  I hope you’re doing better on that score.

I may be learning something about my art production, or lack thereof.  On and off I’ve tossed around the idea of giving up sketchbooks in favor of working on single sheets of paper.  The later has always made more sense to me and for sure more convenient if you like to use different papers, different sizes of paper, and maybe different surfaces.  Sketchbooks have always remained big a part of my sketching, though, because I do (did) most of it on location.

With the isolation, however, I’ve been doing almost all my drawing on hunks of 6×9 paper, whether that be sketching paper, toned paper, or watercolor paper.  The darn things are everywhere and most of them end up in the trash.

I’m beginning to think that much of the reason for this is that I don’t value a single piece of paper like I do a sketchbook.  A sketchbook is a collection of sorts, a compendium of what I did over a time period.  These single sheets don’t do that.  Heck, I’m not even dating them.  I just draw something, set aside that piece of paper, and grab another sheet.

Another thing spins off of that for me.  If I’m not filling sketchbooks I don’t feel as much need to sketch and maybe more to the point, I have no direction.  Some of this may simply be the stressful situation these days.  I don’t know.  Anyways, I’m curious, do sketchbooks organize and/or provide discipline for your art?

I’ve been sketching a bunch of Schleich animal figures I have collected.  These are beautiful models.  While small, they don’t move.  Some of the sketches were done in pencil, some in pen.  Some have been done quickly, while others were done more carefully.  It’s been fun but more a matter of doodling than sketching.  Here’s a pig that I did with pen and gouache.  This one was done in a sketchbook I made from Strathmore Toned Tan (184lb) paper.

I wanted to post some of the others but realized that the garbage got taken out, along with all the rest of them.  Maybe I need to go back to using sketchbooks (grin).

Sketching “La Brou”

It seems that ‘back in the day’ there was a local TV show call “La Brou.”  As much I can assess, it was a low-budget show about a group of guys who met at a bar and talked.  There was swearing involved 🙂  There’s an exhibit about it at our museum but it’s not very sketch-a-genic.

But, in the museum cafe there are some support materials and it seemed like a great idea to add a cup of tea to a comfortable place to sit and sketch.  It proved to be a very enjoyable sketching session.

Strathmore 184lb Mixed Media paper, DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3008 fountain pen

Gone The Way Of The Dodo

Saturday was the last day of the “Curiosities Exhibition” at our civilisation museum.  It could have been one of the best for sketchers but the decision to put everything in the dark, unfortunately, made it one of the worst.  I’m both happy and sad to see it go because there were so many things worth sketching, but trying to see what you were sketching was such a frustration.

It seemed appropriate for me to do my last sketch there of the Dodo bird, a bird that was made extinct back in the 1600s.  Humans brought rats to their home island and then started turning their jungle-like habitats into pasture land by the logging of ebony.  As we’ve allowed 30% of our bird population to be eliminated from the Earth in the last 50 years, we should reflect on the Dodo and so I do here.

Sketching From The Car

Winter has grabbed hold of us in Quebec and right now I’m looking out the window at a foot of new snow, but the snow is going sideways due to 60-70km/h winds.  I can’t see across the street.  I’m praying for the winds to die down this afternoon so I can run my snowblower.  Something to look forward to I suppose.

So I’m writing to you about a short trip I took a few days ago with Yvan out to Miriam’s cottage on Ile d’Orleans.  It was a bright sunny day but also, how do you say it… nippy.  We picked up Miriam and headed to a town called St. Laurent on the island.  We arrived at the boulangerie which is one of my favorite places to visit during summer, because they sell the best pesto pizza and it’s great to sit on the balcony of this huge house, overlooking the St. Lawrence, and sketch.  I’ve drawn the church it faces a number of times.

Today, though, our target was a cute little building from which they sell crafty things to the tourists.  It’s snuggled into the forest edge behind the main building and looks to me like a ginger-bread house.  We parked at the end of the driveway (the place is closed during winter) and sketched the building from the car.  It was a bit cramped with three of us in the car, with our sketching bags close at hand.  We had to start the car several times to defrost the windows but we were out of the wind and plenty warm.

I tried to depict the ‘tucked away’ look of the place by including a bunch of the foreground but I struggled a bit with the snow since I was working on tan paper.  I was happy with my “cute” approach on this sketch, though I’ve got to get better creating snow with gouache.  It was either too white or not white enough 🙂

From there we ended up across the street in the parking lot behind the church.  Miriam and Yvan wanted to draw the big ice blocks that had started to accumulate along the bank of the St. Lawrence.  That didn’t really turn my crank and so I just started sketching random things I could see.  I enjoy doing this because I can just concentrate on the object, foresaking any semblance of scene-building.  Pickings were a bit slim in the parking lot but it was fun nevertheless.

Sketching from a car isn’t ideal, but there’s something cozy about doing it with a couple friends.  Sort of like drive-in movies for sketchers.

Preparing For 2020

At the end of each year I look at the sketchbooks I have in progress.  If I include my two practice sketchbooks there were six of them.  Two were almost filled, though, and I make an effort to fill those before we turned over the calendar to 2020 for I can get a fresh start on the year.  Besides, both of those books were portrait format and I find that I prefer working in landscape mode.

To replace one I grabbed a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) from my sketchbook stash.  I love this format and Stillman & Birn books are still my favorites.

For the second replacement, however, I decided to try something new.  Out of curiosity I’d picked up a pad of Strathmore 184lb Mixed Media paper.  I cut a bunch of 9×12 sheets in half and created a 26-sheet sketchbook.  I made covers from thick cardboard and took it to Bureau en Gros (Staples to those outside of Quebec) where they neatly spiral bound it for me.

The plan was to wait until 2020 to start using them but I couldn’t wait to try the Strathmore paper so I sketched the small support table that sits to the left of my drawing table.  I really like drawing on the paper and, at least for these light washes, the paper does fine.  I think I’m going to like it even if it isn’t S&B.

So I’m all set for 2020.  I want to thank everyone who followed my blog in 2019 and all who have taught me so much by posting their own work on their blogs, YouTube, Instagram, and the rest.  Happy New Year.