Sketching From Photos Is Hard

I really don’t understand those who suggest that sketching from photos is easier than sketching on location.  They say that the photo has already flattened the image to two dimensions and thus it’s easier.  I wonder if that’s because those advocates aren’t concerned about that missing third dimension.

If you do want to add depth to your sketch, the lack of information in a photograph is frustrating.  There’s a reason we have two eyes and I always have difficulty drawing from photos.  Unfortunately, if I’m going to draw outdoor things during Quebec winters, I’m forced to draw from photos.  Here’s a sketch I did of an odd-shaped apartment building at the convergence of two streets merging to one.

Still Drawing Pumpkins

Pumpkins are still everywhere I look, so I drew another pile of them.  I suppose, now that Halloween is over, that Christmas decorations will be all over the place.  The retail world has spread “celebration” (buy stuff you don’t need) of this holiday over two months and, for me, this has completely diluted the joyful atmosphere of the holiday.  I’m not sure I’ll do many Christmas sketches.  Maybe some cash registers (grin).

Sketching Over Coffee

I was at our farmer’s market the other day and one of the nice things about this place is that on one end of it there is a great coffee shop.  Great to me doesn’t mean the best coffee in the world because as long as it’s brown and hot, coffee is good enough for me.  No, I assess coffee shops based upon the seating arrangement and what is available to sketch when I’m sitting there.  This shop qualifies as great because of the view of the vegetable stands and the stream of people moving through.

This blog post smacks of ‘here’s a way to do it’ and I’m certainly not really qualified to teach art.  In this case I’m particularly not qualified as I’m really bad at sketching people on location.  First, it’s not my favorite subject and second, I draw too slow to keep up with moving targets.  BUT (Warning, warning, warning), I had an opportunity to take a couple photos of one process I’ve used with some success and I thought I’d share it.  It’s not a process that improves my drawing ability but it does provide a bit more time with the subject.

The process starts with me frantically drawing short line segments to capture the shape and position of the moving subject, in this case a mother and son.  The son is excited by the pumpkins and wants to pick up every one.  I had, maybe 15 seconds to do this:

Excuse the poor photos but the lighting was not great and I was in a hurry.  A good artist has great visual memory and can fill in all the details from the scene they’re trying to capture even if the subject has moved on.  I’m not a good artist.  This photo was actually taken after I took this one:

The mother and son continued along the row of pumpkin baskets, the mother doing her best to keep the son from grabbing pumpkins.  While she’d moved to the right from where I drew the lines above, I was able to quickly pick up my phone and snap her picture as she and her son looked at pumpkins.  This, and my quick gesture let me complete this:

Notice that I hadn’t drawn any background info until I’d captured the moving subject.  But having the photo of the two people let me judge their heights relative to the background of the location where I was drawing.  I could see where her purse hung.  I even noticed that I’d drawn her head too large in my gesture.  You can see evidence of that error in the final sketch as I corrected it.

This isn’t a master sketch by any means but I was happy with it.  Sometimes I don’t have to take a photo like this.  Sometimes I don’t even have that chance.  I do lots of quick-sketches that are terrible and others that are incomplete because the subject walks away.  But sometimes the photo trick helps so I thought I’d mention it.

 

Waiting For Trick Or Treaters

It’s that time of the year when we all get ready for groups of kids who will come in an attempt to extort candy from us in exchange for cuteness.  We don’t get many trick or treaters in our neighborhood because everyone who lives here is, shall we say, advanced in age.  But some parts of the city do get lots of young morsels…I mean kids coming to the doors.  This is what you see in THOSE neighborhoods.  Happy Halloween, everyone.

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

 

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

Our Grand Marche is awash in pumpkins.  I’m sure there are more apples in the building but pumpkins are a close second.  Not drawing some of them is simply out of the question.  Doing this drawing along with a cup of coffee made for a fun, even relaxing morning.

Then I added some color.  Pumpkins need color..lots of color

Stillman & BIrn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3009, Daniel Smith watercolors

Rushing Into Winter

We were having some wonderful late summer weather this year but when Quebec decides to head toward winter it does so in rapid fashion.  It seems that even the trees have a hard time keeping up as they try their best to turn bright colors and then lose their leaves.

The year change of seasons has put me into near-frantic mode.  I’m trying to build up my bad leg, having lost much of the muscle mass of my right leg.  That means walking all the time, or at least as much as I can.  Often I do two walks a day and this eats a lot of time but once the snow starts falling, long walks will be out of the question.

At the same time I’m in ‘it’s almost winter’ mode with my sketching.  Happens every year as I realize there are only so many days when I can sketch outdoors.  Honestly, this part of frantic is coming to an end as it’s becoming too cool for this ex-Arizona boy to be outside sitting on a stool.  Museum season will begin soon.

Because of this I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit.  Some of the neglect is because I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting rather than sketching for display.  My garbage can is well-fed, though.  I’ll probably talk about some of that stuff as we drop into winter.  My apologies.

Chantal made a pie the other day and I decided I should paint it.  This was one of those wacky experiments as I’m not much of a watercolorist.  I’d like to be but mostly I just color in the spaces of my ink sketches.  I was happy with my pie experiment though.  The pie was good too.

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

Artistes Dans Les Parcs Visits Parc des Fondateurs

It’s turning cold here and our outdoor location sketching season is nearing an end.  The last Artistes dans les parcs outing took place at the Parc des Fondateurs, which is a gorgeous park near Stoneham, Quebec.

The Huron River runs through this park and I was looking forward to drawing some rocks and rapids.  I was disappointed to find that the steep descents to the river kept me and my bad knee from fulfilling that goal so all I could do was look down and imagine it.  Denise did give me some photos she took so maybe I can draw from them this winter.

Instead I decided to draw the barn, which used to be a barn but it now seems to be a building where the nearby church holds banquets and parties.  It’s where we all gathered to eat lunch and to stay warm.  The large door openings are now large viewing windows and several people did their drawing from inside.  I should have because it was cold for a guy who grew up in Arizona.  I have to confess that I rushed this sketch because of this but here it is.  I hope to draw this building again some day, maybe when it’s a bit warmer.

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

I’d spent so much time wandering the park when we arrived that by the time I finished this sketch it was time for lunch.  We all gathered inside, sat around a big table and chatted.  Eventually, though, it was time to brave the cool, wet day and head back out.  I decided to walk out of the park and set up in a parking lot of some sort of municipal building so I could draw the church.

I was making good progress when it started to rain.  I persisted.  The rain continued, plopping drops of water onto wet ink.  I was using Platinum Carbon Black for this sketch (in a Hero fude pen) and PCB dries more slowly than DeAtramentis Document inks, particularly when it’s cold.  The combined slow-drying and wet water was creating little bomb-craters on my drawing, to say nothing of the discomfort I was beginning to feel while standing there with no protection.

Moleskine 5×8, Platinum Carbon Black, Hero 7 Horses fude pen.

So, I packed up walked to the parking lot and swapped my big sketching bag for a small ‘scribble’ book and a pen and I went wandering, looking for places to stand out of the rain and sketch.

Eventually the rain stopped and I sat down to quickly sketch this odd structure.  It was small and part of a children’s playground.  Its total height couldn’t have been more than eight feet and all it had available for kids were two shallow tables.  I assume that there are some toys to play with on those tables during the summer but none were in evidence when I was there.  Still, it was cute as could be so I did this quick sketch.

  All in all, it was a great day in spite of the cold and rain.  We talked about trying to do a couple indoor events this winter but since a lot of the members of this group are oil painters with easels and such it’s unclear what will happen.   I’m just thankful that Denise Bujold is such a nice person and willing to organize these events.

Thanksgiving Time In Canada

Thanksgiving comes in October here in Canada, the same month as Halloween.  This causes pumpkins and many displays of them to serve double duty.  At the beginning of October displays go up for Thanksgiving.  Hay Bales, pumpkins and such are everywhere.

When I saw this display I had to sketch it.  Great scene, though unfortunately it was placed into a shaded area next to the entrance of our farmers’ market.  This was not the most photogenic placement of a rustic cart so I didn’t draw any of the background.  Hope that’s ok (grin).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 8009, Daniel Smith watercolors

That was last week.  I walked by this week to find a bunch of additional pumpkins had been added.  Each had a black pumpkin face painted on it.  Happy Halloween everyone!

 

The Unwanted? Weed

Weed: A plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.

I’ve always thought that the word “weed” was a symbol of what’s wrong with human logic.  Mostly it says, “If I don’t want it there it must be labelled as undesirable and purged.”  This is our approach to nature, politics, social media, and a host of other things and the notion never yields good results.  The same is true when we spray the heck of out our lawns with poisons just to eliminate dandelions which are more beneficial and beautiful than the grass we’re supposedly protecting.  I bring this up because a “weed” showed up in our backyard.

Chantal has a big patch of day lilies growing next to the steps to our deck.  At this time of year, the flowers are gone but the long strings of foliage are still nice to look at… except for our weed.

Yes, it has encroached upon the garden, invaded our space.  It sits proudly, head up and says “What’cha gonna do about it?”  Well, we’ve adopted it and it’s one of our favorite features in the backyard, if only for its audacity.  I had to draw it – our single Rudbeckia.   Where it came from we do not know.  But it’s here and its our weed and we love her.

Moleskine watercolor book (A5 portrait), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009

Backyard Plants – They’re Always There

The thing about backyard plants is that they’re always there.  Chantal plants them, tends, them and I always say “I’m going to draw them.”  I never do because they’re always there.  But about this time a year, when the days are getting shorter and cooler, I realize that very soon, they won’t be there.  This happens every year but I’m a very slow learner.

And so I make the point of drawing some flowers.  I can’t possibly draw them all because, like a student waiting until the night of the exam to study, I don’t have enough time because I’ve ignored the task all summer.

The silly thing is that I thoroughly enjoy sitting in the yard with all my concentration directed at a bunch of leaves and flowers I know little about.  Chantal tells me these are anemone flowers.  I know nothing about cultivated plants except they’re fun to draw as long as you don’t have the attitude that they’re “always there.”

Moleskine watercolor book (A5 portrait), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009, Daniel Smith watercolors