Confused Weather Makes For Confused Sketchers

“April showers bring May flowers.” – Thomas Tusser (1557)

I have a question.  If you get showers in April, and they continue through May, will there be LOTS of flowers in June?  I sure hope so because Quebecers’ moods, will need a boost.

By date and temperature, we have finally gotten to spring and we sketchers are chomping at the bit to get out sketching.  In fact I witnessed a bunch of them, including myself, wandering around in the rain, looking for stuff to draw.  It was quite a sight.

We were attending the first of a series of plein air painting gatherings organized by the great Denise Bujold – great because she’s done this and because she’s so darn good at it.  There are 16 events scheduled, one a week, throughout the summer and fall.  But for this first one, surprise, surprise, it rained.

It was held at an apple/vegetable farm on Ile d’Orleans, a large island near Quebec City.  When Yvan and I arrived we found a gaggle of sketchers huddled in a large space that houses an art gallery during summer tourist season.  Eventually this group spilled out into the garden adjacent to the building and we literally wandered in the rain, pointing at things we could sketch if the rain would stop.

Eventually we made our way to a place where there was an overhang and a few picnic benches and everyone set up shop to sketch.  Across a field there was this scene and I confess that I didn’t have my heart in it and it shows.  But I did get to sketch, outdoors, and with other people.  That has to count for something.  There was supposed to be another event today but it’s pouring rain so it was cancelled.  I’m in desperate need of some flowers.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document diluted black

 

Memories From Old Toys

We’re still waiting for spring to come to Quebec City.  It’s quite unbelievable that it’s mid-May and the best we can hope for is a rainy, dreary day.  But until things warm up a bit (we had a frost warning last week) we’re sort of stuck going to indoor venues to draw.

We were provided with a new one, though, as the Quebec Historial Society opened a small exhibit of old, mostly tin toys from the 40s to the 60s.  As a kid, I was playing with those produced in the 50s so some were quite familiar to me and brought back memories.  I love tin toys, mostly for this nostalgia I suppose, but they were always so brightly painted to mask their simplistic nature.

I spent much of our session viewing the exhibit and reading all the description cards.  It’s not every day that you get to see and Easy-Bake Oven after all.  But eventually I sat down to draw and I did a poor job of sketching an old wind-up race car from the 40s.  I really need to slow down as the quality of my sketches is directly correlated with the speed in which I do them.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10 softcover), DeAtramentis Document Brn/Blk ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

Hopping Down The Bunny Trail

I’ve been experimenting with using paint before I do any ink, using a brush and paint to do the actual drawing.  This is mostly as a way of getting my brain to realize that there’s value in color.  That’s probably an odd statement to most artists, but I’ve always been more enamoured with using a fountain pens/inks than I have been with “art.”

Anyways, I’ve decided to do more of this paint-first approach and as I also got a dose of drawing my daughter’s collection of stuffed animals with my recent sketch of Dudley the Dragon I grabbed a large rabbit with oversized feet and ears as my subject for the day.

To provide some guidance with respect to proportions and relationships I penciled in the locations/sizes of all the major masses and then started with paint.  Any self-respecting artist would chuckle to watch me sneaking up on the shapes and color patterns.  I started very light, improving the shapes as I went.  In this process I also started identifying tonal variations, trying to figure out how to create them in color.  I’m woefully ill-equipped to do this but I plowed ahead as if I were.  Eventually I added some ink lines just cuz my drawings need ink lines.  Hope you like the result.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10 softcover), Daniel Smith watercolors

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.