I sometimes enjoy trying to draw a plant by carefully drawing each leaf while capturing the relationships between them. It’s a real challenge in relationships and proportions but it’s good training for my visual cortex. This was my attempt to do just that with a basil plant.
Recently I decided to work in a different medium, in fact a couple of them. Now that my arthritis is kinda-sorta under control we’re doing more gardening this year and it was time for me to restore and old, rusty wheelbarrow we have. It got sidelined with a broken wheel and it was left outside our cave.
Here’s the result. I painted with most of it with Rustoleum, but used Minwax oil-stain on the wooden parts. Once I fashioned a new axle it was smooth sailing. Much easier than watercolor.
Most urban sketchers know Shari Blaukopf, or at least her art and most of those people know about her wheelbarrow sketches. Most of us really enjoy them and I was quite disappointed when she announced that her wheelbarrow had broken. Funny how you can get attached to things you’ve never seen in person.
Anyways, now that I have a wheelbarrow it seemed only proper for me to lean it against a tree, Shari style, and draw it. It was fun to sit in the back yard with a pen in my hand. It’s blistering hot here right now but the breeze kept it tolerable as I drew. Urban.. + Sketch…, yep, this is a real live urban sketch (grin).
For many one result of COVID isolation has been housing reorganization and behavioral adjustment. Some households have seniors who have been moved home by the kids while others have adjusted their family situation by having kids move home with us seniors. Pro and con, adjustment is the best descriptor of what we all must do in such situations.
When the virus hit Quebec and we shut down our activities, the first thing we did was a rapid drive to Montreal to pick up of our daughter. Given that Montreal is the hot spot in Canada for COVID right now, we’re feeling pretty smug about our decision.
The result has been a social adjustment to having a 22-year old living with us. Truthfully, it’s mostly positive but it means spending more time talking, cooking, baking, and generally doing family stuff… and fewer alone activities like art.
My daughter wasn’t the only thing we brought back from Montreal though. We crammed the car full of her plants and together with our plants they turned our house into a jungle. Every flat surface is covered with plants and we rarely eat dinner at our dining table because it’s just too darn much trouble moving all the plants (grin).
I see this as a good thing because I have new sketching subjects. One of her plants was a sad little Fiddle Leaf Fig. It only had two leaves, hanging onto a single short stem. But, we’ve been in isolation now for nearly forever and so it’s grown. It now has four leaves and a fifth is beginning to sprout. I decided I should draw it. I probably did it too quickly but heck, it only has four leaves. Here she is, in all her youthful glory.
Aside from isolation, how has your family life changed? We don’t talk about that enough. Has it affected your art in any way?
Many of us have lamented that our urban sketching lifestyles have been disrupted by COVID-19. We sit in houses thinking of better days when we sat in public places drawing the scenes before us. And some of us have reported our “solutions” to this. Tina Koyama talks about standing in a street circle and drawing what’s around her. I’ve mentioned my 2-min sketches while on walks. Others have succumbed to looking out their windows for subjects.
I may have found a way to up my game as an isolated urban sketcher. Maybe you’ll think I’m not urban sketching at all, but it feels like urban sketching to me. Here’s what I did.
1) I went for my daily walk and found a scene worthy of sketching (are there any that aren’t)?
2) I stood, leaning against a tree, while I studied the scene, thinking about drawing it. I noted the relative locations of all the major objects and ‘saw’ the major angles and proportions that related the objects to one another. I thought about what I’d eliminate from the scene, where the center of focus would be. I even mentally traced around one of the cars and some of the major tree branches just to etch them into my mind a bit. I probably spent 5-min doing this, just as though I was actually going to sketch the scene.
3) Then I took a couple photos and rushed home.
4) I cropped a photo to reflect what I’d been thinking while on the street and drew some organizational lines and blobs to organize the paper and then started sketching from my laptop screen. This is what it looked like when I finished the ink.
5) I’m still experimenting with gouache and still stumbling over myself with it. Nevertheless, I decided to use gouache on this sketch and had some fun trying to move back and forth between transparent and opaque approaches. Very confusing but lots of promise. I got James Gurney’s new course yesterday and, shazaam, that’s exactly what he starts the course talking about. Can’t wait to try some of the things he talks about.
BUT, excepting that I was sitting at a table rather than on my stool, it felt like urban sketching because of the immediate translation of a scene I’d just looked at and the one I was putting on paper.
I won’t split hairs whether this is “real” urban sketching or not as I don’t much care. But if I can repeat this process during my isolation, I’m going to be a happy camper. The only thing I miss is meeting up with friends after the sketching session. I have to settle with bugging my wife and daughter with “Hey, look at this.” Give it a try. You just might like it.
I met Marc Taro Holmes on day two of my Montreal trip at the Pointe a Calliere. This is primarily and archeology museum, built on top of a large excavation of early Montreal habitations. We were there to sketch in a natural history exhibition that’s going on now.
I admit that I was tired from the day before. Now that I’m officially old I don’t hold up like I used to but I was excited to sketch some animals. We wandered around, looked at everything and then I started drawing this spoonbill. It was a magnificent specimen. I tried the ‘draw fast’ approach and that cost me some accuracy but I was pleased by the result.
I was getting tired and Marc graciously agreed to walking across the street so I could sit, drink some coffee and have a muffin. That was fun and I needed it, but eventually we headed back to capture some more of the museum.
I decided to press the ‘draw fast’ method even more and tried to capture a bunch of birds on one page. I felt I’d went too small and I certainly drew too fast, but I had fun doing these quick captures. Maybe this will help me sketch pigeons on the street this summer.
Unfortunately I was running out of gas and just couldn’t bring myself to start another sketch. I decided at that point that I was done for the day and so I said goodbye to Marc and headed off to meet my daughter. I’m not sure that ‘draw fast’ is for me. Maybe I’m destined to forever be a slow sketcher.