Fisherman Wood Carving

Canson XL Multi-media (7×10), Wing Sung 8008, DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, DS watercolors.

My hands were working Friday night so I decided to sketch a small wood carving we have.  The actual carving is of a grumpy old man like myself but decided to draw him younger.  In the end, it made me smile.

I was sketching while watching the Blue Jays so I was drawing in a Canson XL multimedia book that I use for scribbling during TV time.  This is not watercolor paper but if you go easy on the water, you can add some color.  I used a Portable Painter filled with Daniel Smith watercolors that I keep available for these purposes.

Sketching My Stuff

Yvan and Claudette came to visit this week and we spent the afternoon sketching my stuff.  I’ve got a bunch of stuff, mostly obtained at flea markets for purposes of drawing and we put some of it to good use.  As is too often the case, my hand was hurting me but we nevertheless had a great day.

Yvan drew the front of a plaster rabbit so I drew the back and found it hard to make the foreshortened ears sufficient to give the rabbit a real rabbit look.  Some views are better than others I suppose.  Claudette did a really great drawing of a large Japanese woman’s head and it turned out great.

Arches cold press, DeAtramentis Document Black,

We took a break, had coffee and the obligatory talk of drawing and watercolors.  We decided to draw something else.  I have two really nice Japanese figures that I’ve drawn several times and Yvan chose to draw the male figure so I grabbed the female (that didn’t come out right).  I’d never drawn her from behind so I decided to do so, drawing in pencil in a Stillman & Birn Nova.  In the end I wish I’d used ink but this is the result.

Stillman & Birn Nova, mechanical pencil (2B)

Some Fun Museum Sketching

I was at our civilisation museum the other day and my joints were bothering me.  It was hard to draw and, even more, it was hard to concentrate because of the pain.  But I sat, stared at, and drew an Inuit stone carving of an Inuit stalking a seal.  I loved how a complete scene was captured in the rock.

Book Review: Shari Blaukopf’s Working With Color

If you’re a sketcher you know something about the Urban Sketching Handbook series.  These books look like a 6×9 Moleskine sketchbook, complete with the elastic band holding its covers together.  There were five of them.  Now there are six, the latest written by Shari Blaukopf and titled “Working with Color.

If you’re a sketcher who uses watercolors, you probably also know that it would be great if you could spend time talking with Shari and asking her questions about watercolor.  Most don’t get that opportunity, so she’s written Working with Color and  owning a copy is the next best thing (grin).

I binge-read my copy, which means it took me three days to get through it.  No, I don’t read that slowly but Shari’s book is written, as are the other Urban Sketching Handbooks, as a bunch of small sections full of guidance and tips.  It seemed that each one had me doodling and pushing paint around, trying out the things she talks about.  Not only did I have a ball, I learned a lot.

Like most books on watercolor, the early pages cover materials.  This book emphasizes materials that facilitate sketching on location.  I confess that I rarely get anything from such sections but it was interesting to see Shari’s palette choices.

Very quickly, however, Shari moves on to color mixing and color and value in general.  Subjects covered include: mixing darks, mixing greens, shadow colors and a discussion of values.  Each of these subjects are supported by sketches that illustrate each subject.

There is a section on limiting your color(s), from selectively choosing a single color to discussions of the use of a limited palette.  This later subject was time-consuming for me as Shari suggests several triads and, of course, I had to try them all (grin).

There are a couple different sections on using color to express mood and atmosphere and I have to read them again as there is much to think about in these sections.

There’s also a large section on mixing and using neutrals.  This is an area that is important to the watercolorist, but an area where I understand very little.  Mixed into this section is the notion of using warm and cool grays in an urban setting and it all seems like its the core of what I should know.  Wish I did.  This book is helping quite a bit.  I need to do a bunch more doodles and neutrals mixing though.

I do think that if you just read all the tips and look at the pictures, very little will change in your art.  This is stuff that you have to do if you’re going to begin to incorporate the ideas and methods into your art.  But heck, that’s the fun part and I can’t recommend Working with Color enough to anyone wanting to better understand how watercolors work and how they can be used in a sketching environment.

 

 

Sketching Rabbit/Hare Structure

On Tuesday, Yvan, Claudette and myself headed to the hunting and fishing museum.  We’d just had a huge snowstorm that was a real struggle to clean up because the 11-12 feet of the stuff that has preceded it made it nearly impossible to find a place to put the new snow.  Anyways, it felt really good to head out for a day of sketching.

Unfortunately (for me), that same storm was beating up my joints.  I was limping a bit, but the real problem was my left hand and wrist which made it very hard (impossible?) to draw.  We had fun and I did three sketches, all of which were so full of errors and attempts to fix lines that went off willy-nilly that I’d be too embarrassed to share them.

We were drawing rabbits, however, and that got us discussing the structural underpinnings of a rabbit.  When they sit back on their hind legs, they start looking like a ball of fur and it’s hard to make out what’s really going on inside.  When we got home Yvan and I asked Mr. Google if he could provide us with a rabbit skeleton to study.  He obliged and this morning I drew a rabbit skeleton, well sort of.  My hand was a bit better this morning but it’s still hard to get my lines to flow.  But I do understand lagomorph anatomy just a bit better.

Stillman & Birn Beta (10×7), Pilot Falcon, Sketch Ink Thea (grey)

Spud Sketching In The Afternoon

Winter is tough on people who like to sketch on location.  We can go to museums, sketch people in coffee shops, and maybe even visit a mall, but there are days when the weather is so bad that we can’t even do that.  What to do, what to do.

Those of you who follow Tina Koyama might have an answer.  You draw fruits and vegetables and since Seattle agreed to take some of the snow headed to Quebec, that’s what she’s been doing.  Recently she ventured beyond bananas, apples and garlic and drew a potato.

I’ve drawn apples, bananas, garlic, pumpkins, peppers, etc. (we get lots of snow), but I’ve never drawn a potato.  Following in Tina’s footsteps, today I drew a potato, or rather two potatoes since that was the road less traveled.

Stillman & Birn Beta (10×7), Pilot Kakuna, DeAtramentis Document Black, Daniel Smith watercolors

I Went Sketching – Yippee!

As I look out my window I can only barely see the house across the street.  This is because we’ve got a rip-roaring blizzard going on.  This winter has been a doozy thus far.  We’ve already had 11-12 feet of snow and it’s only mid-February.

Many of us have gotten some chuckles listening to the people in Seattle and Vancouver try to deal with snowfall and I include myself among them.  Sure, they’re not used to it, aren’t equipped for it, and are even somewhat surprised by the snowfall, I suppose, but it’s fun to poke fun at them nevertheless.  I’m just glad they took some snow off our hands as we’ve got so much my snowblower is having a hard time throwing the snow to the top of the snowbanks that line my driveway.

But it wasn’t snowing on Monday and Yvan and I headed for the Quebec Federation of Hunters and Fishermen offices.  They have an amazing exhibit of taxidermy animals and it’s a delightful place to sketch.

My hand was hurting a bit, but my real problem was that I’d lost my ability to “see.”  Nothing was automatic and I struggled to see the shapes and volumes of the coyote skull I decided to draw.  I should have chosen something more simple.  I guess I should have known that “out of practice” would include all aspects of drawing, but I figured that once I trained my brain, it would stay trained.  Then again, I forget where I put my keys so…  Anyway, here’s my version of a coyote skull, which has an eye socket drawn way too small.

Stillman & Birn Nova (5.5×8.5), Pilot Metropolitan, DeAtramentis Black

I took a short break to get a drink and rub my hand a bit.  Then I sat down to draw a duck.  I felt a bit more confident by this point and I didn’t need to second guess myself so much.  We’d decided to stop at noon for lunch and so I rushed a bit to finish this one but I was happy, and a bit tired.

Stillman & Birn Nova (5.5×8.5), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

We ate lunch with the idea that we would return to sketching but we didn’t.  My hand was hurting and Yvan suggested that we call it a day since it was my first day back to location sketching.  Instead, we decided to go have coffee where we talked about composition, tactics for blocking in drawings and identifying simple shapes in a scene.  We topped off the day with a stop at an art store and then I got to look over a bunch of Yvan’s art.  The day couldn’t have been more perfect.

Learning To Draw Again

I’d like to begin by thanking all of you who take the time to post your sketches on the internet.  Without them, the last year would have been miserable for me.  I haven’t been able to draw myself and your art kept me inspired and hopeful that I would, some day, be able to return to creating sketches of my own.

Those of you who have followed my blog (both of you) know that I’ve been dealing with some health issues for the past year.  I’m happy to report that I may be seeing some light at the end of this long tunnel.

I’ve been poked and prodded endlessly, CT-scanned, eco-grammed, candy-grammed and other miscellaneous-grams in an attempt to find out why my inflammation blood factors were off the charts.  This has been terribly frustrating and it didn’t solve my problems, which amounted to me having no energy, loss of appetite, loss of 25 lbs, and joints that hurt constantly.  Many days I had a hard time walking but the real problem was that my left hand wouldn’t allow me to draw.

But after they eliminated every disease known to man (the silver lining is that I’ve had the most exhaustive physical imaginable and passed all test(ssssss), I was handed to a rheumatologist, a wonderful woman who is now my hero.  We spent two hours together as I received more prodding and a lot of joint squeezing, bending and stretching.  By my estimate a gazillion questions were asked and answered.  Then it was time for a cortisone shot in my particularly bad knee and fluid was drained for analysis.  Oh…and drugs were prescribed to knock down my general inflammation.

Roughly two weeks later, that’s working.  The annoying cane I’ve been hobbling around on is starting to collect dust and my hand(s) are getting so I can think about drawing again.  I still have a hard time using my thumb in any way to hold a pen though.  I’ve been drawing endless numbers of circles and ellipses in an attempt to eliminate an almost lumpy nature to those objects as I try to find a pen I can hold so those glitches don’t occur while I draw.

I’m also dabbling with painting shapes/volumes and relying less on line to sort of skirt around these problems, though I’m horrible at it and still confess to enjoy pen driving too much to be happy with that approach.  Nevertheless, my energy has returned, I’m walking and I’m ready to fly.  Yvan and I are heading for a sketching session Monday morning and I’m quite excited about it.

I’ll leave you with this simple, poor drawing of an onion.  I did a simple, lumpy outline and then did the paint, adding some more lines when everything was dry.  It was done in my quick-sketch (ie – cheap) notebook and it was like painting on a blotter but I enjoyed the fact that shapes were being made, which is the important thing.

Yet Another Tiny Palette

I don’t know why but we urban sketchers are almost obsessed with the notion of creating tiny palettes.  I’ve made a bunch of them, though each time I’m disappointed, mostly because there’s not enough mixing area and I find them difficult to hold compared to my larger palette that has a nifty ring on the back I can shove my thumb into.

And yet, here I am again… I just can’t help myself.  When my buddy Yvan made one of “these”, I had to follow suit and I thought I’d share it with you.

Unlike the traditional Altoids box, this one is made from a case for reading glasses.  As such, it’s long and thin and I think it might fit my particular needs.  To “create” it all I did was paint the lid with white acrylic paint and stick 8 half pans into it using blue-tack.  Instant tiny palette.

I did add one more thing, or maybe two things. You can see in the bottom view that I’ve glued a couple small seed magnets to the underside.  These are very handy because I often draw on a 8.5 x 11 surface of a thin, metal-wood surface.  It helps corral things into a unit I can hold with one hand, whether I’m standing or sitting.  I can attach single-sheets to it using magnets or, using a support board rest for landscape or portrait sketchbooks.  And now, I can attach my tiny palette to it as well.

 

 

 

Doodling My Way Into Winter

My sketching over the past month has been mostly doodles done out of desperation and then only when my hands are working.  I’ve put my free time to good use, however, revisiting art books I’ve wanted to re-read.  Don’t you find that second reads of art books reveal information you didn’t get the first time through?  I sure do, particularly if I wait several months worth of sketching experience before the re-read.

Anyways, it never seems that doodles are worthy of blog posts so my posts have become fewer and farther between.  I did get out a couple times this week, though, so I’m reporting that I finally got to sketch in a more formal way, though ‘formal’ is exaggerated here.

My first stop was the 3d mask exhibit I talked about at the beginning of the month.  I went there with our sketching group and while my hands were less than happy about it, I drew one of the masks.  I confess to a certain frustration drawing these masks and I think I’ve figured out why.  I’ve been trying to turn them into a real face, when in fact they are somewhat alien because the tops of the head are removed, the eyes closed, and in general they’re just too smooth everywhere.  So, I figured I’d go with the flow on this one, producing the alien creature that it is, exaggerating it a bit with watercolor.  The mask is lit from below and excepting that it’s white rather than blue, this is pretty much what it looks like.  Kinda spooky don’t you think?

Once  a year we all get together and draw holiday cards in one form or another.  This year was no exception though I confess that I wasn’t much in a holiday mood that day.  It was a lot of fun, though, because there were a bunch of us creating art so I could see what everyone else was doing while I puttered away myself.  For this I always use Strathmore’s Watercolor Cards, which are convenient.  I never did get around to writing the obligatory Merry Christmas or Happy New Year on them.