Sketching My Stuff

Yvan and Claudette came to visit this week and we spent the afternoon sketching my stuff.  I’ve got a bunch of stuff, mostly obtained at flea markets for purposes of drawing and we put some of it to good use.  As is too often the case, my hand was hurting me but we nevertheless had a great day.

Yvan drew the front of a plaster rabbit so I drew the back and found it hard to make the foreshortened ears sufficient to give the rabbit a real rabbit look.  Some views are better than others I suppose.  Claudette did a really great drawing of a large Japanese woman’s head and it turned out great.

Arches cold press, DeAtramentis Document Black,

We took a break, had coffee and the obligatory talk of drawing and watercolors.  We decided to draw something else.  I have two really nice Japanese figures that I’ve drawn several times and Yvan chose to draw the male figure so I grabbed the female (that didn’t come out right).  I’d never drawn her from behind so I decided to do so, drawing in pencil in a Stillman & Birn Nova.  In the end I wish I’d used ink but this is the result.

Stillman & Birn Nova, mechanical pencil (2B)

Sketching Hands At Yvan’s House

Here in Quebec City we’re still waiting for the opportunity to get out of our igloos so we can sketch outside.  Until the snow starts melting, however, we get together at someone’s house and sketch.

Stillman & Birn Nova

 

Stillman & Birn Nova

A favorite in that regard is Yvan’s place because he has a great studio that’s filled with an artist’s version of a cabinet of curiosities so there’s lots of stuff to draw.  When several of us gathered there I chose to draw plaster casts of hands.  I had a lot of fun with these but I made the mistake of using a water-based felt pen to shade them.  I know lots of people love felt markers but I can’t understand why.  Whenever I use one the results are streaky and splotchy.

 

Sketching An Inukshuk

Inukshuks are common across northern Canada.  Seen principally as a product of the Inuits, other Native American groups also make them.  They are said to have been used as navigation markers, or markers of significant locations.  They commonly represent of Canada itself and some have deemed them a symbol of hope.  You can buy tiny inukshuks as souvenirs, sold right next to the beaver and moose figurines.

In any case their structure is meant to represent a human form and larger ones even have legs and arms.  Most have outward projections that represent arms in some way.  Mostly, though, they are a pile of rocks and I love drawing rocks.

We were at the museum the other day and in the Native American exhibit there is a small inukshuk that sits behind some large display cabinets.  You can see all of it if you’re standing in front of those display cabinets but I had to sit across the aisle from them so I would have light to see my paper.  This meant that I couldn’t see the bottom half of it.  I drew it anyway, direct with ink, and this is the result.

Stillman & Birn Nova (5.5x.8.5), J. Herbin Lie de Thé ink

I really had fun drawing this inukshuk and I remembered that I’d drawn one before, an inukshuk that resides on the Quebec Parliament grounds.  I decided to see if I could find that sketch.  I rarely look at my old sketches but  I did find it and I learned a couple things.  First is that this older sketch was done in 2012, only a few months after I decided to learn how to draw.  The second thing I learned is that I have actually improved as I’ve accumulated pen miles.  That made me happy.  Maybe inukshuks do represent hope.

Getting My Brain Back Into Sketching

My brain is rusty.  While I’m still having trouble with my drawing hand, it’s my brain that has fallen out of practice and needs some line miles to return my sketching to the miserable quality it once was.  So when Yvan and I made another trip to the hunting an fishing museum I was determined to make a lot of lines.

Instead of trying to create a detailed, well-proportioned drawing, I decided to sketch quickly (for me) so I could cover more ground – make more marks.  No pencil block in, no holding my pencil out to get proportions.  The goal was to make lines – lines that, hopefully, would look something like a duck.  Here’s what I managed to put to paper.

Stillman & Birn Nova (5.5×8.5), not sure what pens I used

Errors abound, of course, but they do look like ducks and generally they look like the ones I was looking at.  I label this a success with the caveat that I need to do a lot more of it to get my lines to flow better.  After a short break I decided to do the same thing with a bunch of fishing lures.  The drawing here was pretty “sketchy” (pun intended) so I added some color to add some life to the spread.

We say all the time that it’s the process, not the product.  Getting back into sketching is reward enough for me.

I Went Sketching – Yippee!

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.

Stillman & Birn Nova (5.5×8.5), Pilot Metropolitan, DeAtramentis Black

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.

Stillman & Birn Nova (5.5×8.5), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

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.

Off To Miriam’s Cottage Again

When faced with opportunity, a sketcher shouldn’t hesitate and Yvan and I are no exceptions.  Miriam invited us to sketch at her place on Ile d’Orleans and we jumped at the chance.  The location is beautiful and Miriam is there to sketch with us.  What’s not to like?

The day was delightful, though my hands seemed to have a mind of their own.  These days, straight lines are becoming hard to make.  But we had a lot of fun sketching together and enjoying the day.  Here are a couple of my sketches from the day.

 

 

A Bit Of Quick Sketchcrawling

People say that getting “out of your comfort zone” is a good idea.  So, I drive twice the speed limit, drink excessively and pick fights with NFL players.  Just kidding…maybe that isn’t what they mean, though in the art world these catch-all phrases are ill-defined and hold little real meaning.

But this week seems to be a week where I’m doing things different from my norm and a couple days ago Yvan suggested that we do a ‘real’ sketchcrawl, where we go to a spot, sketch something quickly and then move on to the next spot, repeating until the day got too hot to continue, or until Larry got completely frustrated (grin).

And that’s exactly what we did.  We hopped a bus and headed to a neighborhood where we’d never sketched and decided that we’d walk until one of us (took turns at that) decided it was time to stop.  There, we would choose a subject and spend only a few minutes capturing the scene.  Easy peasy, right?

For Yvan it was.  He’s a superb sketcher and with decades of experience, he’s also really quick when he needs to be.  Me, not so much.  I’m still vying for the “slowest sketcher on the planet” award and I think I’m still in the lead.

When I start sketching quickly all sorts of things go wrong as I lose control of linear perspective, proportions, and relationships.  These things cause my sketches to be barely recognizable as the scene before me.  But heck, I was out of my comfort zone.  That has to be good, right?  These are three sketches I came up with during our quick-sketchcrawl session.

Playing Through The Pain

In sports there are regular references to athletes who play through the pain.  I feel like I’m trying to do that right now with my sketching.  I’m at a point where I can walk and stand but doing so requires a lot of energy because of my pronounced limp.  Then, when I get on site, I further abuse my knee by sitting on my tripod stool.

At the same time, a star finally appeared over planet Quebec City, or at least that’s what the astronomers call it.  The result has been that we’ve got these things authorities are calling shadows and a lot more light than normal.  It has also gotten warm enough that we can sketch outdoors.

A fairly large group of us were downtown sketching.  I learned later that everyone thought I’d gone home, I suppose, because of the grimace on my face when I walked, but actually I’d limped down to the south side of city hall and drew a street view.

Normally I lose track of time when I sketch but on this day I knew every minute because my knee kept sending out tweets screaming about being harassed and abused.  But eventually I did finish the sketch.  I didn’t notice, until now, that I didn’t draw any of those shadow things I mentioned.  I guess I’ll get used to those in time.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Platinum 3776, DeAtramentis Document Black

When I finished I limped back to where everyone else was sketching.  They were finishing up sketches and starting to talk about getting coffee.  I sat down and with a couple minutes to fill, I started drawing some of the roof lines.  Then we went to get coffee and reflect on the day.  I think it’s going to be a long summer.  I think I should be on the disabled list but don’t tell coach.

The Scales Fall From My Eyes

I’ve watched Marc Taro Holmes smoosh color onto paper, shifting colors as he “built washes.”  I’ve heard Shari Blaukopf talk about creating mosaics of shifting colors on a surface.  And I’ve stared at hundreds of Liz Steel sketches (relevance later).  Apparently, I’ve got a pretty thick head because in spite of all this exposure to the concept, I didn’t get it.

No, it took a single comment in Liz Steel’s watercolour course (highly recommended) to get me to rethink watercolors.  I know little of watercolor use but the first thing shown in every watercolor book I’ve read is how to do a flat wash.  That’s how I’ve been applying watercolor…in flat, boring washes.  Apparently I learned that lesson well. But in a single statement, as Liz was discussing mixing on paper vs mixing on the palette, Liz said (paraphrasing), “I rarely use flat washes; I prefer adding texture in my washes.”  This simple statement somehow connected both of my neurons together and there was a flash of light, at least that’s how I remember it.

So, I started looking more closely and practicing the addition of variability into washes.  I still struggle with its application but I was pretty happy with this sketch.  It was an experiment to see if I could put a very textured, high contrast “wash” behind the focal point and sort of gradate both the texture and the color (lightening it) as I moved away from that focal point.  My table light was just an excuse for a background.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Platinum 3776, DeAtramentis Document Black

 

Cute Things Come In Small Packages

There are parts of Quebec City that were originally built in the early 20th Century but that have since been modernized, mostly by putting modern facades on the buildings.  The result is really boring.  But if you wander around in said neighborhoods you find the odd house that has been spruced up a bit but that retains its older shape and aesthetic.

Claudette found just such a house and we went to sketch it.  It was a bit cool but sunny but on the upside, we had a great place to sit as we sketched.  It was a small, simple house and didn’t take long to sketch but when I got out my watercolors I managed to dump half a bottle of water in my lap.  Suddenly it got very cool and I looked as though I’d wet my pants.  Life of a sketcher.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Platinum 3776, DeAtramentis Document Black