Refining My Scribbles

The COVID stuff has caused me to be somewhat apprehensive about spending a long time in one place while sketching and I’ve got to walk a lot each day as I build strength in my bad leg.  These two things combine to have me doing very quickly, fairly sloppy scribbles where I capture something in a couple minutes.

As time has gone by, however, I’ve gotten a bit more comfortable being out and about and so the other day I slowed down a bit.  I’m still capturing subjects quickly but I’m choosing smaller subjects so I can be a bit more careful with my lines.  On this day I drew a couple tree bases.  I think I’m going to draw a bunch of tree bases as these were fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m posting, here’s another one I did in my backyard.  Chantal tells me they are snowballs… in summer (grin).

It Was A Perfect Day

Weather for many of us is weird this year, but I suspect we need to get used to weird.  We’re in the middle of another heat wave, with records set in Montreal and everyone crying that their beaches are not open due to COVID.

Have you ever thought of how different a plein air artist views weather from the rest of the world?  I have a love/hate relationship with sun.  Love it for shadows.  Hate it for how it blinds me when it reflects off my sketchbook.  Gardeners, on the other hand, want every photon our stingy sun will give us.

Generally rain limits my sketching opportunities and right now we aren’t getting any (should be thunderstorm time), but farmers are in dire straits for the same reason that I’m happy.

Wind…yuck from my point of view, though a slight breeze on a hot day is welcome.  I doubt the the windsurfers being dragged across the Ste Lawrence River by brightly colored kites see it that way.

We’ve been a couple degrees luckier than Montreal and while it’s blistering hot today, we had an absolutely perfect day a couple days ago.  Jodie and I headed to the small park that’s just south of our house, her with a book and me with sketching gear.  It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve sat on my stool and let the world drift away for an hour or so.  From a nice, shady spot, I sketched this old brick residence.  I think the building complex may be part of the church that is behind it but I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I had a perfect day.  We even made milk shakes in the afternoon.

Fabriano Artistico (7×8), DeAtramentis Document Black, Platinum Plaisir

My Creativity Doldrums

I watched the old Moby Dick movie, starring Gregory Peck the other night.  There’s a part of the movie where the Pequod (his ship) can’t move because of a loss of wind… the doldrums as they are called by sailors.  I feel similarly stuck as I’m struggling to “find time” (code for being too lazy) to draw.

It’s easy to blame COVID isolation, the daily doses of bad news, and even (especially?) the feckless leadership from the White House on so many fronts.  The news is definitely overwhelms the senses.

But then I think of my own situation and, well, I can’t complain.  I live in a country that takes COVID seriously and our governments at all levels have treated it without politics.  The results have been very positive.  And the other day I watched as our Prime Minister stood, amidst throngs of Black Lives Matter protesters as a full participant, no walls built around him, no guns or amoured police – just the Prime Minister, knowing that he was safe.  I’m sure there were a couple secret service people nearby but…  So this is my world.  Why am I in the doldrums?

A bit more reflection, however, provided clues.  I just finished a list of stuff we have to buy at the garden center and renovation store today, though it’s supposed to rain a lot today so that might be put off until tomorrow.  That may be a good thing as my knees and wrist hurt quit a bit from a long day of building the first of two raised-bed gardens we’re building.  The wheelbarrow I restored a week ago got its first workout yesterday.  I thought about the front door lighting fixtures I’ve got to install, the set of stairs I’ve got to replace and the painting that needs to be done.  As George Takei is fond of saying, “Oh my.”  I think I’ve found the reason I’m not sketching more (grin).

Left: Bic pen; Right: DeAtramentis Document Black. The book is a FIeld Notes “Dime Novel” notebook.

Not wanting to post without pictures, here’s the last two “scribbles” I’ve done while out walking my arthritic leg back into shape.  Hopefully those creativity winds will start blowing real soon.

 

Mixed Media And Shari’s Wheelbarrow

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).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3009

 

Urban Sketching In Isolation

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.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black ink, gouache

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.