Un Petit Hommage: Vicky Williamson

I was hunting for something in my sketch bag and found one of those tiny Hahnemuhle fan-fold sketchbooks.  I’d never used it.  My first thought was of Vicky Williamson, a sketcher who has done some wonderful sketches in such a book and probably the reason I bought it.

Vicky has always been special to me.  I’ve never met her but I’ve followed her sketching for years.  She’s something of a “tiny” specialist.  She owns half of the small palettes on the planet and most of her sketches are small.  5×8 is a large sketch for her.

Each of her sketches is a little gem and she always has a story to tell about them, whether it’s of a hospital scene, travel sketch, or just a flower or two.  Each shines brightly.

And so I thought I would do a tiny sketch in her honor.  We were putting some odd-shaped (at least to me) marigolds in our garden so the subject was easily chosen.  Only one thing was missing, my Kaweco Lilliput pen.  Vicky uses one often. Hers is copper and mine aluminum, but it seemed appropriate for the task.  I loaded up some DeAtramentis Document Black into it and started drawing.

 

I used a Micro-Palette that I attach magnetically to my sketch bag drawing board and a simple clip to hold the sketchbook in place. This is my standard on-the-go system and it worked just as well with the tiny sketchbook as it does with my 8×10 S&B books.  I can see why she enjoys sketching small.  The results somehow seem brighter than if done in a larger size.

 

Vicky writes in her sketchbooks but I’ve always preferred doing that on my blog, so my sketch lacks the complete presentation like Vicky’s sketch pages.  Nevertheless, I was happy with the result and it was fun to walk in her shoes, if only for a while.  Here’s to you, Vicky, for all the inspiration you’ve provided over the years.  Say hi to Bill, Tater and Tot.

What Did We Do To Offend Little Miss Nina?

This spring and summer is rivaling COVID lockdowns for disrupting the flow of outdoor life.  Spring and summer for those of us living in a certain northern latitude continues to be a steady stream of rainy days.  We’re trying to get our garden planted, some house repairs done and, for the most part, we sit watching the rain.  The worst part is that weather has become completely unpredictable so it rains when sun is predicted and it’s sunny when it’s supposed to rain.  So, while we’re making some progress, it comes from saying “It looks like it’s not going to rain for the next few hours, I’m going to…”  Weird that.

Anyways, I sat on the deck, watching the rain (very pleasant) and decided to sketch one of an army of Impatiens that are destined to form a defense against grass invaders to a flock of hostas.

It’s been raining all day so I thought I’d write a blog post.  Hope you like the plant sketch.

Sketching Without Lines

I continue to try to use watercolors without an underpinning of a line drawing, mostly without success.  I can’t seem to figure out how to draw crisp edges with watercolors and, for complex drawings, I lose control over the drawing itself.  This is a good example of both of these problems.  This is a drawing (??) of a new pedestrian bridge over my river.  Great bridge, not so great sketch of it.  I added some pencil line buildings after the fact just to provide context.

Urban Sketching For International Nature Journal Week

I grew up in Arizona.  The standing joke there is that you don’t need weathermen.  All you need is a daily announcement of “Sunny and hot.”  I didn’t discover seasons until I moved north where I had a lot of difficulty dealing with the demands of “dressing for the weather.”  More than one kind of clothes?  Who’da thunk it?

Lately, though, our Quebec weatherman has had a limited offering of “It’s about to rain,” “It’s raining,” and “The rain is going to stop for a couple hours.”  So I’ve done little sketch wandering lately.

But yesterday we got a whole morning without rain so I headed out to to do a bunch of walking on my river.  It’s also International Nature Journal Week and I thought I might do something in honor of it.  Mostly, though, I wanted to spend time in nature, sitting on a rock or walking.

It occurred to me, however, that I was an urban sketcher and thus it seemed appropriate for me to select this common urban flower as my subject.  So, I sat on a rock and drew a dandelion.

It was very relaxing and enjoyable and after completing my walk I headed home my walk culminating in an old-man run/jog/slog.  It had started raining.

Stonehenge Oil Paper As A Sketching Platform

I know that a lot of you think I’m nuts for suggesting the use of oil paints as a sketching medium.  You’re probably right but the typical discussions of this is not the reason(s).

A sketching medium must:

  1. Be Light and portable
  2. Be easy to set up and take down
  3. Clean up must be simple.
  4. Must allow for relatively quick sketches

There may be other things but these are the major demands on a medium.

Numbers 2 and 3 are solved by using water-mixable oil paints.  I use Cobra paints that feel just like Rembrandt oils if you’ve used those.  No solvents or mediums beyond good old H2O.  Requirement one requires a easel-less approach and while I’ve listed 4 separately, this mostly comes from items 2 and 3.

But in addition to water-mixable oils, you need a substrate that’s light and that doesn’t need a lot of support.  And that’s where Legion’s new Stonehenge Oil paper comes in.  Here’s a really quick test to see how well it solves the problem of oil paint sketching.  Please excuse the horrible painting.  I spent only 15 minutes on this, probably using too large of a brush, but the painting is not the result here, it’s paper performance that’s important here.

I wanted to test how this paper accepts a pencil sketch.  Several of the “Canvas pads” typically sold for oils are horrible for drawing.  Stonehenge oil is the opposite.  Its 140lb paper surface feels like you’re drawing on Stonehenge drawing paper, which is wonderful.  Here’s my sketch and the subject.

My typical way of drawing is to use a 9×12 drawing board with a metal surface so I can use magnets to attach things like paint palettes and water containers.  So, it seemed natural to use the same thing for this test.  I also decided not to tape the paper down because I’m lazy and often I just clip my sketchbook to the board and draw.  I did the same here, with a single clip.

Several things to note here.  There was NO curling of the paper as I painted.  Whatever treatment Legion does to the paper causes it to remain flat and prevents any oil from penetrating through to the other side. Painting on it feels very similar to painting on a masonite panel covered with gesso.  It’s just a LOT lighter.  This is an amazing new product for oil painters in my view.

Will I become an oil paint sketcher?  Maybe?  Probably?  I like the idea and I prefer oils to gouache that some find a great sketching tool.  But I still look at paintings that lack ink lines and think that something is missing.  Time will tell.  What I do know is that I’ll be buying more Stonehenge Oil paper when it becomes available in Canada.