Kicking The Year Off With A Croquistes De Quebec Sketchcrawl

We had a great sketchcrawl on Friday.  Yvan arranged for us to sketch at the Université Laval Collections and somewhere around a dozen sketchers showed up.  Some of us sketched stuffed birds, mammals and insects while others took advantage of the large collection of plaster heads.  Still others sketched items in the large display windows outside the facility.

It was made particularly special because some of the people who showed up were not using the typical pen & wash approach that so many of us use.  Johanne was using charcoal and a white pastel pencil to capture likenesses from the plaster heads, while others did beautiful renderings with pencil.  It was fun to talk with them about their approaches and to appreciate the results.

I did a lot of talking because, unfortunately, my arthritis flared up in my drawing hand.  It does this on occasion and is not only painful but it hampers my ability to draw.  I did do one sketch before it got the better of me though.  It is a tufted-ear squirrel.  I think it’s Sciurus vulgaris but I’m not certain of that as there was no label on the specimen.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon ink

In spite of my hand, I had a ball because of all the great people in attendance.  It’s hard for us to have sketchcrawls in winter because it’s so cold outside, so it’s special when one is as successful as this one.  Thanks to Yvan for organizing it and to Madame Wagner for hosting us.

The Best New Product Of 2016 – Stillman & Birn Softcovers

I was reflecting on my sketching adventures of 2016 and it occurred to me that one 2016 product changed how I approach location sketching and how weird it was.  You see, since 2011 I’ve been using Stillman & Birn sketchbooks almost exclusively as my quality sketchbook of choice.  I’ve written about why.  I’ve talked about my preference for 10×7 spiral-bound Alpha books and how great they were.  But I don’t use them any more.  I still have an empty one sitting on a shelf and it’s been there for over a year, untouched.

I’ve moved on… a better product came along in the spring of 2016.  It’s the new softcover books from Stillman & Birn.  Same fantastic papers but they’re thinner, lighter, and they hold up to my abusive nature.  These books also added 3.5×5.5 portrait format to their line.  I’m convinced that all my whining about the lack of a small portrait book with good quality paper (the Moleskine sketchbook is horrible) is why they are now producing this book.  They wanted to shut me up (grin).  I love these little books.

S&B also added an 8×10 softcover format that I’ve fallen in love with.  It fits better in my bags than the more typical 8.5×11 or 9×12 formats but more important, with Beta paper, it weighs only 412gm while a hardcover version weights 870gm, though the hardcover does have a few more pages.  What this means to me is that I now carry 3.5×5.5 and 8×10 (portrait), and an 8.5×5.5 landscape books with me and all three weigh less than a single 8.5×11 hardcover.

These are the S&B softcovers I’ve used in 2016.  The numbers are simply volume numbers that I assign chronologically to my sketchbooks.  And because someone will ask, I use S&B exclusively for my non-casual sketching but I do use cheap sketchbooks when I doodle while watching TV and when quick-sketching people on the street.  Number 52 is actually a 9×12 wire-bound S&B Beta book, but the others (53, 54, 56, 58) are those cheaper books.  I cut 60lb spiral-bound 9×12 sketchbooks in half on my bandsaw, creating two 6×9 books.  These provide me with LOTS of cheap drawing surface.  These are full and on the shelf, products of 2016, but #61 is still ‘in progress’ and rests next to where I put my butt when I watch TV.

But it’s the Stillman & Birn softcovers that are the subject of this blog post and, as Tony the tiger used to say, They’rrrre GREAT!  They should get a product of the year award, or something.

Various Thoughts At The End Of The Year

This post will seem a bit disorganized.  That’s cuz it’s a bit disorganized, or at least my thoughts about it are disorganized.  But I want to wrap up the year by talking about a couple things and I’ll throw in a sketch just to keep it interesting.

Stillman & Birn source for Canadians

Lots of people have asked me where to buy Stillman & Birn sketchbooks in Canada.  Sadly, Canadian suppliers are simply horrible when it comes to fulfilling the needs of urban sketchers and none of them are a reliable source for S&B sketchbooks.  Even Amazon.ca, who list them, do so at such ridiculous prices that nobody in their right mind would pay that for them.

Thus, I’ve never had an answer to give to those asking about S&B, until now.  I realized that Jackson Art Supplies in the UK has them… the entire S&B product line.  And what’s good about Jacksons is that they, like several UK online sellers, “get it.”  By that I mean they’ve figured out that if they sell to 7 billion of the Earth’s inhabitants, they are better off than selling only within their country.  If only the US would figure this out.  Anyways, Jackson Art Supplies will ship ANYWHERE for FREE if you buy 39GBR or more from them.  I’ve ordered from them a couple times and they’re great to deal with so if you want S&B, there’s a place where you can get them.

(ed note:  Susan King just informed me that Opus Art in Vancouver is not stocking the full line of Stillman & Birn softcovers which is really good news.)

New Year’s Resolution???

I’m probably notorious for doing a bah humbug when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions and each year I say as much in a blog post.  This year I won’t do that because, I guess, in a casual way, I’m making a resolution.

I’ve decided to talk more about my drawing process on the blog.  I’ve avoided that thus far because I don’t really know what I’m doing and a lot of other people are much better equipped than I when it comes to discussing drawing.  But I’ve realized that I have something they don’t.  Because I’m relatively new to this I’m able to remember the kinds of struggles I had when I started.  Besides I know what I do more than anyone else and that’s what people ask me about.  I don’t know how or what I’m going to talk about and I don’t know when. I just hope to do it.  See…it’s just like a resolution 🙂

Turning the page to 2017

I’m finishing up two more sketchbooks so I can start with a couple new ones in 2017.  I still have an Stillman and Birn 8.5×5.5 with about 15 pages left so that one will drift into 2017 but I’ll be starting new 8×10 Beta and 3.5×5.5 Alpha softcover books.

I did a bunch of small sketches to finish up the little one and I have one page left in the larger one.  There’s a guy on Instagram that does a lot of loose motorcycle sketches and he really impresses me with his simplicity of line and confidence of purpose.  I’ve tried to replicate some of his sketches but have never been successful.  I decided to draw a motorcycle from memory of his sketches.  The result isn’t as good as his and not nearly as loose, but that’s how Larry rolls after all.  And yes, I’m now talking about myself in the third person.  If it’s good enough for Trump, shouldn’t it be good enough for me?

I’m anxious to get started with 2017 sketching and I hope the year ahead is a productive and happy one for all of you.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776

 

Sketching In The Museum Attic

Currently there is an exhibit that is a set of rooms, each unique in its own way.  They form something of a ‘find _fill_in_the_blank’ treasure hunt for kids who are visiting the museum.

For the most part they are not worthy of a sketcher’s attention, with one exception.  One room is supposed to be an attic area, an accumulation of junk.  This ‘junk’ is so well spectacular, though, that it’s unconvincing as such.  What it is, however, is a small room with a whole lot of stuff packed into it and much of it is worth drawing.  The space is crowded however, and some things are more sketchable than others simply because you can find a place from which to sketch them.

I was there last Tuesday and sketched this little insect/curio cabinet and some stuff that was sitting on top of it.  I hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10) softcover, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Last Trip To The Museum Before Christmas

With my daughter coming home for Christmas, and Chantal getting a few days off, I won’t be doing any location sketching for a while.  But I did go with the gang to the museum for a pre-holiday sketching session.  They wanted to sketch some of the folk art nativity scene that is now in place there.  If nothing else, it demonstrates imagination on the part of its creator.  Have you ever seen a flying cow-fish?

I decided to sketch a wooden carving of a fusilier in another part of the museum.  It is fairly large, almost telephone pole diameter and quite black, as though it had been creosote treated.  In spite of this, it suffers from severe cracking in places.  Nevertheless, it’s an impressive carving, far more impressive than my sketch of it I’m afraid.  I got caught between wanting to include detail and the fact that the entire left side was in deep shadow, almost black.  Like every sketch, though, it was fun to do which is why I do them.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10) softcover, Platinum Carbon ink, Platinum 3776 pen

When I finished I headed up to the nativity scene and found everyone busy drawing.  They were talking about getting coffee, though, so I just sat down and waited for them.  The thing is, I can’t sit for very long without getting out a sketchbook and I did this quick sketch of Lisette, busy sketching some wooden guy (I think, but I was too far away to know for sure) in a large glass case.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5) softcover

 

I’ll probably put together some sort of post during the holidays but I’m not sure what.  I willl be spending lots of time eating and sketching, though, so there will probably be something to post.  In the meantime, and since it’s December 23rd,

Happy Festivas