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.

 

One Rock Leads To Another

As I’m prone to do these days, I was sitting around, listening to a podcast when a pen leaped into my hand and drew a rock.  I thought, that’s ok, but it needs a friend.  So I drew another rock.  Pretty soon I had a pile of rocks so I put a bit of sand in front of the pile, a bit of ocean and sky behind it, and I had a landscape…well, sort of.  In truth the rocks don’t go together as well as they would if I were drawing them on location but l’m ignoring that and sharing it with you.

I’m still walking, and still doing 2-min sketches.  I’m finding that while these are sloppy and unsatisfying, they have gone a long way to remove the “couped up” feeling that isolation was causing me.  Now I go out almost anticipating those couple minutes where I put pen to paper.  How are you adjusting to your new situation?  Any tricks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow In April Ain’t So Bad

We had a snow storm for about 24 hours and got, they say, about 15cm of the stuff.  I didn’t think I’d be able to walk today because of it but it seems our ground is sufficiently thawed and most of it has melted already, leaving the sidewalks suitable for walking.  So, I did.

This time I took a clip with me to hold my sketchbook open while I sketched.  That helped some.  Very low expectations helped more.  I think that if I can expect nothing from 2-3 minute sketches (maybe 5 for this one), done while standing, I won’t be disappointed and I’ll have a little fun.  It was only 1C when I was out and windy but I got to stand next to a wind break while I tried to scribble a likeness of this little Fiat.  I think the proportions are right but the shapes most certainly are not.  Oh well…it’s a generic car sketch 🙂

Platinum Plaisir, 4×6 hardcover sketchbook of unknown origin

Self-Distancing On The Street

As I’ve mentioned, we’re isolating right now, along with the rest of Quebec.  It’s been that way since March 12th.  But the ice is now off the sidewalks and while it’s still cool outside (2C when I went out this morning) it’s really nice to go out and walk around a bit.  The streets are rather empty but there is an occasional fellow walker out and about.  I’ve noticed that even though we’re all trying to distance ourselves from everyone (in Canada we have to be 2-meters apart rather than 6-feet as in the US 🙂 but we’re a lot friendlier than normal, saying hi and maybe saying “stay safe” or some other gesture to anyone within shouting distance.

I don’t feel comfortable hanging out in one place but I did stop today and scribbled a quick sketch (about 2 min).  Though crude, it sure felt good to “urban sketch.”  I think I will be doing more of these for the sake of my sanity.  Then again, we’re supposed to get 15cm of snow tomorrow so maybe not (grin)

4×6 sketchbook

 

Road Trip To Montreal – Part One

The last time I left home on a sketching trip was in 2017 when I went to meet Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel for the best sketching day of my life.  Since then health issues hobbled me (quite literally) for nearly two years, part of which I couldn’t hold a pencil, let alone draw with one.

So, it was no small thing for me to head to the bus depot and head down the road, thanks to my rheumatologist.  I was going to Montreal to see my daughter but also to meet up with Marc for a couple sketching sessions.  There would be lots of chatting involved as well since we hadn’t seen each other for so long.

The bus was to depart at 5AM so, a bit bleary-eyed I sat at the bus station at 4:45.  What’s a guy to do but draw.  I did a couple quick sketches before they started loading the bus.  Here they are.

I’m a look-y-lu when I travel and don’t have to drive.  I can’t wait to see the sights as we whiz along the highway.  Once the sun started to come up I saw turkeys, deer, a couple ravens, some ducks and a lot of landscape and architecture.

When I arrived in Montreal the first thing I had to do was coax my bum leg to climb a significant hill to get to my daughter’s apartment, and I did, albeit slowly.  The two of us had breakfast and then parted as I headed to meet Marc.  After a bit of a snafu (sp?) about which Starbucks we were going to meet in, we used the magic of our cell phones to find each other.

The day was amazing for the beginning of March in Quebec.  It wasn’t bitterly cold.  In fact, it was sunny and about 2C and for crazy sketchers, that’s sketching weather… almost.  Marc and I decided to draw the top of a large cathedral that’s downtown.  There’s a park right next to it, too close to draw the cathedral from, but we decided to find a bench and draw.  We found benches but they were covered in snow so we sat on the backs of a bench and drew.

This turned out to be an experiment on more than a leg-testing level.  Marc is always suggesting that I draw too slow.  It’s hard to argue because molasses runs downhill faster than I draw.  My problem is that if I start drawing fast I lose control of the proportions, leave important stuff out, etc.  Still, I was determined to try and, truth be told, I had to do this to keep up with Marc, who does magnificent drawings in mere minutes.

And so I drew two of the domes quickly, trying my best not to distort them too much.  It suited the winter weather conditions to sketch quickly.

With that sketch done, we started looking for something else to draw.  This was hard because of all the snow and the need to sit in the sun.  It was also starting to get breezy so we decided to go into the cathedral.  I made several quick sketches but when a church service started both Marc and I felt like interlopers and so we decided to leave.  Here’s one of my sketches.

Strathmore Mixed-Media (184lb), DeAtramentis Brown ink

Marc directed us to an observation area in, I think, the Bonaventure Hotel where we looked out over the city and the same cathedral we drew earlier.  Maintaining my frantic (for me) sketching pace, I quickly sketched a lot of the roof tops of the cathedral.  Something of a strange view but one, I’m sure, is familiar to the resident pigeon population.

Strathmore Mixed-Media (184lb), DeAtramentis Brown ink

I never did complete it because I also wanted to draw another church nearby.   We both were getting hungry so we headed for a nearby food court and spent the afternoon talking art and solving the world’s problems.  With the world’s problems solved, we headed to Marc’s house where I spent a spectacular evening with Marc and Laurel.  In spite of a lot of walking my leg held up pretty well.  Some limping did occur but it was not extreme.

This post has gotten pretty long so I’m going to stop here.  I’ll show you what I did on day two in the next post.  As Tigger says, Ta, Ta, For Now.