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.

Sketching Rabbit/Hare Structure

On Tuesday, Yvan, Claudette and myself headed to the hunting and fishing museum.  We’d just had a huge snowstorm that was a real struggle to clean up because the 11-12 feet of the stuff that has preceded it made it nearly impossible to find a place to put the new snow.  Anyways, it felt really good to head out for a day of sketching.

Unfortunately (for me), that same storm was beating up my joints.  I was limping a bit, but the real problem was my left hand and wrist which made it very hard (impossible?) to draw.  We had fun and I did three sketches, all of which were so full of errors and attempts to fix lines that went off willy-nilly that I’d be too embarrassed to share them.

We were drawing rabbits, however, and that got us discussing the structural underpinnings of a rabbit.  When they sit back on their hind legs, they start looking like a ball of fur and it’s hard to make out what’s really going on inside.  When we got home Yvan and I asked Mr. Google if he could provide us with a rabbit skeleton to study.  He obliged and this morning I drew a rabbit skeleton, well sort of.  My hand was a bit better this morning but it’s still hard to get my lines to flow.  But I do understand lagomorph anatomy just a bit better.

Stillman & Birn Beta (10×7), Pilot Falcon, Sketch Ink Thea (grey)

Sketching Bobinette

Long before Sesame Street, baby boomers cheered on puppets of one form or another as they came to our houses via television.  Television was new back then and we didn’t seem to mind that the shows were goofy, didn’t have any super-heros and not a single explosion upset the simplistic dialog of these shows.

Remember Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob?  The people of Quebec didn’t see them, but they had Bobino and Bobinette and I never saw the Bobino show, so never got to see the marionette Bobinette perform.

Bobinette now stands in our civilization museum, next to Bobino’s suit coat and bowler hat, and while a blizzard was dumping yet another foot of snow on us, I drew her.   I probably should have used color to show off her pink dress and big blue eyes but I settled for a Pilot Kakuno and a brown/black mix of DeAtramentis Document ink.  I hope she’ll make you smile.  We need more smiling these days.

 

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.

Spud Sketching In The Afternoon

Winter is tough on people who like to sketch on location.  We can go to museums, sketch people in coffee shops, and maybe even visit a mall, but there are days when the weather is so bad that we can’t even do that.  What to do, what to do.

Those of you who follow Tina Koyama might have an answer.  You draw fruits and vegetables and since Seattle agreed to take some of the snow headed to Quebec, that’s what she’s been doing.  Recently she ventured beyond bananas, apples and garlic and drew a potato.

I’ve drawn apples, bananas, garlic, pumpkins, peppers, etc. (we get lots of snow), but I’ve never drawn a potato.  Following in Tina’s footsteps, today I drew a potato, or rather two potatoes since that was the road less traveled.

Stillman & Birn Beta (10×7), Pilot Kakuna, DeAtramentis Document Black, Daniel Smith watercolors

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.

Sketching The Alleyways Again

The days are becoming cool and raining and between that and days when my hands won’t let me draw that coincide with the good days, I’m not getting a lot of opportunity to sketch on location.  But Yvan and I did get out and into the alleyways of old Quebec to do a bit of sketching.  This, and the smile on my face, was the result.

A Bit Of Eye Training

Training the eye to see relationships and proportions is tough business.  We tend to choose subjects based upon our current abilities and approach them with a ‘good enough’ fashion determined by limits of those abilities.  This is why everyone says that portraits are the ‘hardest’ form of drawing.  I see it rather tha portraits are the one place people worry about precision and accuracy.

For myself, I’m no different but I like to challenge myself sometimes, with the most important stages of a drawing being those early stages where I’m trying to nail down relationships and proportions.  Classical artists call this ‘blocking in.’  The best subjects for these exercises, for me, are those that are very organic as the relationships between one element and the others are not evident.

I found this sun-bleached stump while visiting the information center at Bic National Park, just south of Rimouski.  I didn’t have time to actually draw it but I snapped this photo and it served for the exercise I’ve described.

The first thing I did was use straight lines/angles to determine the outer boundaries of each of the arms of this hunk of tree.  Once this is done, double-checking the angles confirms the location of each of the arms, which will make it a lot easier to draw.  I continued a bit with the pencil, drawing cylinder-shaped blobs to represent each of the arms, mostly concerned about their angles.  Note that I didn’t worry much about what the actual outlines were and certainly none of the small details.  I increased the contrast on this graphic so you could see the lines; in practice they are very light.

With the location of all of the parts and their relative sizes, I can leave behind the cognitive functions of my brain, stop measuring, get “into the zone” and begin drawing with ink.   It wouldn’t matter whether I was drawing “loose” or “tight,” I could draw without worrying about where the parts were supposed to be.  It’s very liberating and fun.

I’m guessing here but the pencil portion took me no more than five minutes, probably less.  The ink portion was more like twenty minutes.   Could I do it faster if I’d skip all this and go ‘direct with pen’ as so many urban sketchers advocate.  Maybe, but in my experience it actually takes longer because as a ‘direct’ pen sketch progresses, I have to ‘adjust’ things to correct for small errors I’ve made along the way.  Besides, improving accuracy and precision doesn’t come from ignoring it.  Besides, it’s fun.  Here’s the result.  It’s just a stump, but it was a fun challenge.