Uniball Signo UM-151 For Sketching

I’m a fountain pen guy but I’m a sucker for a new pointy device regardless of type.  Pete Scully, a well-known urban sketcher swears by Uniball Signo UM-151 pens and uses them regularly.  I’ve never found any of the fine tip versions in the stores around here but I finally decided to order a couple from Jet Pens.

And I’m glad I did!!  I’m a fan of Pilot’s Hitec-C3 and C4 pens as they’ve got very fine points, don’t wear down like the nylon-tip pens, and they have replacable cartridges.  Unfortunately, they’re not waterproof so I can’t use them when I want to use watercolors with my pen/ink sketches.

SignoUM151

The Uniball Signo UM-151 pens, in .28 and .38 mm sizes solve that problem as their inks are pigment-based and thus are waterproof.  I bought mine in ‘brown-black’ as I wanted a dark brown pen and haven’t been able to find a brown/waterproof fountain pen ink that makes me happy.  I should say, up front, that I don’t understand Uniball’s tip dimensions except to say that the line width is less than the size of the tip, which is fine but it’s hard for me to report the actual line width for comparison to other pens.

Mitsubishi, manufacturers of Uniball pens says that their .7mm pens produce a .4mm line.  I couldn’t find a similar description of the .28 and .38mm pens.  What I can say is that the .28mm line is significantly finer than that from a Micron 005, which is claimed to be .20mm.  In any case, it’s fine…and when hatching a small sketch, it’s just dandy…or ‘peachy’ as my dad used to say.

I’ve only had the pens a couple days so I can’t say much about long-term performance except to say that the rollerball should hold up better than the fine nylon tip pens, which I find wear down annoying fast.  As replacement cartridges cost only $1.65 from Jet Pens, ink capacity isn’t much of a problem either.

2013-07-05SignoTestHere’s my first test drive of the pen.  I used the .28mm on this tiny Rhodia pad (3×4).  The pen doesn’t skip a beat.  Stippling works better than I expected from a ball-tip pen, though if you stipple a lot, you need to roll it occasionally on a piece of scrap if the ball goes dry.  Otherwise it’s a point-and-shoot device.

I was sitting on my porch, waiting to head out for a day of sketching in the country, and I used the Pilot Signo to draw this Impatiens flower in a Strathmore Series 400 “Drawing” sketchbook.  Notice that even with the pink, there’s not bleed from the brown-black ink.  Makes me very happy.

2013-07-06Flower

These pens come in a bunch of colors and after seeing a couple sketched by Pete where he used the dark green, I can’t wait to get my hands on one of those.  For myself, the .38mm is a better pen for sketching 5×8 or larger but the .28mm is a treat for details, hatching, and when you’re working small (eg – 3×5).

The best part of these pens is that they’re CHEAP!!!  From Jet Pens they’re only $2.50 and replacement cartridges only $1.65.  The bad news is that individual cartridges are only available in blue, black, red and, blue-black.  I’m hoping they make brown-black available ‘real soon.’

2013-07-07Apartment

Today I went out for an early morning walk along the river.  I sat down on a bench to watch a family of ducks and before you could say ‘fanatical sketcher’ I had my little Strathmore doodle book in hand and I was scribbling out this sketch with the Uniball UM-151-28 pen.  It’s about 3×5 in size and all I had was a small waterbrush to add color.  Given the small amount of time consumed on this quick sketch, I like the result and my new UM-151 pen.

Sketching Tiny Town

The Ursuline Convent in Quebec City was founded in 1639, which makes it the earliest learning institution for woman in North America.  It’s also seems that they owned half the old city at one point.  Ok…maybe that’s an exaggeration but they owned a lot of land and buildings and still do.  But most of the private residences and some of the other large buildings have been sold off.  The curent compound is home to the convent, a school, and it’s a popular tourist stop.

2013-07-02UrsulinesSite

One of the private residences still held by the Ursulines is this place.  I’m not sure how big it is but it’s got to have the smallest entrances of any on Quebec.  Its unique nature made it a great sketching subject, though gray on gray isn’t the ideal color scheme, I suppose.

The building on the left if the Ursuline library and museum.  If you get to Quebec City, be sure to visit, if only to talk to the very nice people who work there.  After we were done sketching, they let us browse through their library where we found several books used to teach drawing to students.  While I’ve yet to tour the museum, they told me that there is a section on how drawing was taught to students.  I’ve got to get back there to see that.

I did the sketch in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook using a TWSBI Mini with Platinum Carbon Black ink.  I added some color… well, gray… with W&N artist watercolors.

2013-07-02Ursulines

 

Sketching Between Rain Days

We’re still getting more rain than we should and certainly more rain than I want.  But we got a weekend that only started under rain and high winds.  We ended up with slightly damp conditions and warm temperatures.  There was this scary yellow ball in the sky.  Not sure what that was but it seemed harmless enough.

Yvan and I took advantage and we went to Artillery Park, an area in old Quebec City that has a bunch of old military buildings and fortifications.  It’s also where a munitions factory operated until 1964.  Now the large buildings are museums surrounded with park areas, cannons and high walls – a great place to sketch.  And we did.

I sketched a building called Redoubte Dauphine.  It’s an impressive structure and I set up at the base of it, sitting on the edge of a parking lot.  I sort of botched the perspective by placing a couple lines incorrectly.  As I didn’t want to restate them in their correct locations, I made the best of it and finished it with the wonky angles.  Do me a favor and squint a lot when you look at the sketch.  Maybe you won’t notice (grin).  The sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook with a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray.

2013-06-29RedoubteDauphine1sm

It was very hazy and cloudy so I decided to return to add color/details, when there was some sun to provide contrast.  I packed up and went looking for Yvan.  I located him, sitting high above me on a wall.  In fact, I noticed that you can see him as a tiny orange blotch on the right of the photo above.  He was sketching something and I thought it’d be fun to do a quick sketch of him.  I did it in my Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black.

2013-06-29Yvan2

I climbed the hill you see in the first sketch and entered a tiny park area associated with what was once an officer’s quarters.  I liked the shape of the end of that building and so quickly sketched it.  Same small sketchbook; same pen/ink.

2013-06-29redoubteLogis

2013-06-29OldBuildingSiteThe eastern edge of Artillery Park is bordered by an old rock fence.  On the other side of it there’s a grand old apartment building that’s no longer inhabited and, sadly, it’s crumbling from neglect.  It pokes its second story above the rock wall and I liked the view, of the back of the building and so I sketched it.  Same sketchbook, same pen, same fun experience.  Every sketching day is a great day.

2013-06-29OldBuilding

 

Rain and Wind – Will It Ever Stop?

Yvan and I were supposed to go sketching but it was very windy and rain was threatening.  Since the new Paris exhibit had opened at our Musee de la Civilisation, we headed there instead.  They have some great vehicles there that I want to sketch but geez they’re complicated.

This one is a 3-wheeled steam-powered vehicle produced by Dion-Bouton in 1885.  It just oozes ‘cool’ in my opinion, but I’m sort of biased towards anything that’s steam-powered.  Clearly a vehicle that would be comfortable putting around in a steampunk novel.

2013-06-26Tricycle

This was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook using a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray ink.  It provided a great hour and a half of fun.  Hope you like it.

Cheers — Larry

Paris In Quebec City…Sort of.

The Musee de la Civilisation launched its new Paris 1889-1920s exhibit by holding a special grand opening on a Tuesday evening.  As I’m a member I got an invitation and Yvan and I decided to go.  We saw it more as a reconnoitering session than anything else so our plan was to quickly run through the exhibit, noting what would be good to sketch.  This exhibit will be one of our principle sketching subjects this winter.

We decided, though, that we should go early enough that we could sketch in the old port for a couple hours before the event and that’s what we did.  We sat in Place Royale, a tourist hot-spot and boy, were there tourists.  Because of our lousy weather it didn’t seem like summer to us until we looked at the sea of people.  So, we looked up and I sketched this roof line over the heads of the tourists.  Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7), Pilot Prera and Lex Gray ink.

2013-06-18PlaceRoyaleC

When we finished up we still had some time and we wandered into a place adjacent to Place Royale that has a cannon battery pointing out at the St. Lawrence, to protect Place Royale from the tourist and ferry boats.  This is the gate into the place but from the inside, looking out.  I felt a bit rushed so it got a bit wonky but I like the sketch nevertheless.   Same sketchbook and pen/ink combo for this one.

2013-06-18GateC

Downtown Sketching Event

There is a series of outdoor sketching events, in Quebec City, this year.  Time will tell how organized, or not, they are but Yvan and I attended on a week ago.

We were to meet downtown in a small park near the Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City’s challenge to Hogwarts.  It’s a grand hotel and there’s a huge fountain in the park next to it.

2013-06-14MesquiteWhile waiting to meet up with Yvan to walk downtown, I did this little sketch of a branch that caught my eye.  It doesn’t take much to get my pen moving.

When we arrived there were four other sketchers there and we all scattered about and got busy sketching.  Yvan and I took advantage of the fact that they’d been working on the fountain and it was dry.  We climbed into the fountain, sat on its perimeter and started sketching some of the fountain details.

2013-06-15Fountain copy

We broke for a quick lunch and then it was back to sketching.  I love this large steeple and so it became my target.  About half an hour into the sketch it started to rain so we hot-footed it to the Subway a block away.  We got lucky and got a seat by the window and we drank coffee and sketched through the window.  There was a bike race going on and the rain didn’t stop it so we had plenty to sketch.  I’ll spare you my quick sketches from that session as they’re particularly bad.

Once the rain stopped, though, we returned to finish our sketches.  Here’s the steeple.  Done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) using a TWSBI Mini and Platinum Carbon Black.

2013-06-15SteepleC

It was a great day, though I remember being particularly tired at the end of it.

The Summer Rush To Sketch

I waited so long for it to come.  Now summer is here and I’ve been sketching up a storm.  I’ve also forgotten to post anything on my blog so consider this a catch-up post.

2013-06-13on801I do some sketching on buses, though I find them too bumpy and bouncy for my untrained eye and hand.  Still, here’s one of the many sketches I’ve done of seated passengers.  I do these in a small, cheap sketchbook I buy at the dollar store.

I love boats and our marina is, once again, full of boats.  Most are sailboats but this one is one of my favorites.  This one was done in an S&B Alpha (10×7) with a TWSBI Mini and Platinum Carbon Black ink.

2013-06-14Boat2013-06-14EgliseAssiseC (1)

I was at my mother-in-law’s 3rd floor apartment for dinner one night and after dinner I went out on the balcony and got this birds-eye view of a tall church steeple.  This church is going to be turned into an indoor skateboard place this fall.  S&B Alpha (4×6) with TWSBI Mini/Platinum Carbon Black.

This is a paper mill that’s near the old port area in Quebec City.  It’s been the center of brisk debate where one day it was going to close and the next it wasn’t.   So far it’s stayed open and they seem to be doing well.

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Those are a few of the sketches I’ve done recently.  I’ll try to remember to post some more but heck, it’s summer.  Around here, when the sun’s out, you go out cuz it doesn’t happen all that often.

Have You Ever Gone Sketch Floating?

Saturday was 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl day and we held ours here in Quebec City.  Unlike most parts of the world we’re still cold this time of year.  In fact, we just got six inches of snow.  But we were fortunate to have anticipated an unfriendly weather and scheduled our sketchcrawl so that we could be inside or out and still have fun.

This is a model of the ferry boat we were on all day.

This is a model of the ferry boat we were on all day.

We all met at the ferry boat dock and then spent the day going back and forth across the St. Lawrence River (takes about 10 minutes) between Quebec City and Levis, the town on the other side.  There are actually two ferries and they change places from their respective sides of the St. Lawrence every 30 minutes.

Claudette, talking with one of the passengers

Claudette, talking with one of the passengers

And the situation couldn’t have been better for sketching.  It was too cold to go out onto the decks, at least for me, but inside the first-class passenger area it was warm and accommodating.  The area is complete with toilette facilities, drink and snack vending machines, and comfy chairs.  We were surrounded by large windows, complete with slightly sloped ‘shelves’ for us to rest our sketchbooks as we sketched outdoor scenes.  Both sides of the St. Lawrence present great views of interesting architecture and there were things nautical all around us.

Susanne, showing proper use of the window "studios" we were provided.

Susanne, showing proper use of the window “studios” we were provided.

The line up: Pierre, Celine, and Katherine

The line up: Pierre, Celine, and Catherine

Yvan, taking a break while talking with Peter.

Yvan, taking a break while talking with Jean-Marc.

We had ten people show up for the sketchcrawl and a lot of sketching got done.  The one sad thing, for me, is that some didn’t seem to ‘get’ the notion that group sketching is a social event that should include a sharing of sketches as well as conversations about them. Some left without even saying goodbye.  So, unfortunately, I don’t have the typical group-sketch photos and I don’t have sketches from other people to share.

ClaudetteSketches

Here’s a photo I took over Claudette’s shoulder.  The quality of her sketches is surpassed only by her bubbly personality.

2013-04-13TugBoatOf course, I do have my own sketches.  This first one is a small sketch I did as an experiment, which demonstrated that I didn’t know what I was doing (grin).  I tried to ‘draw’ the sketch using watercolors, adding some ink lines afterwards.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) sketchbook.  I have much to learn about using watercolors.

2013-04-13FromFerryI did two other sketches, one from the front and the other from the back of the boat.  Both were done with my new TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  I really enjoyed working in my new Stillman & Birn Zeta (5.5×8.5) sketchbook.  I hope these sketches reflect the cold, dreary day you see in the accompanying photo.DrearyDay2013-04-13FromFerry2

 

10 Favorite Sketches of 2012

2012 represents most of my sketching experience to date.  I started trying to draw cubes back in September of 2011 but I didn’t start doing any location sketching until spring of 2012 as the Quebec snow melted.  It’s been a fantastic journey as I’ve climbed the early stages of the sketching learning curve. I thought it might be fun to do a ‘ 10 favorites’ post, where I present what I think are some of my best sketches of the year.  I’m often accused of being ‘down’ on my sketches.  Here’s my chance to show people that I’m actually happy with some of them (grin).

Because 90% or more of my sketches have been done on the street and most have been buildings, I thought I should vary my choices by selecting one sketch from ten different categories, just to increase the variety.   So, here they are.  I hope you like them.

Building

This is, by far, the hardest selection.  I’ve done a LOT of building sketches and none of them really stand out as extraordinary, though many are personal ‘favorites’.  I’ve chosen this one because it, in the extreme, is the brightest (grin).

2012_10-MokaPlus800

Vehicle

2012_09-CarI’ve drawn a number of cars, trucks and even heavy equipment.  I chose this one, however, because the subject was so darn cute when it found it lounging in the old port area of Quebec.

 

Fire hydrant

Pete Scully, by example, caused me to notice and sketch fire hydrants.  I don’t know what it is about them but once you start looking at them you realize they vary considerably and that fire hydrants have oodles of personality.  I chose this one because I like the composition.

2012_01-FireHydrant2_sm

 Samurai helmet

2012_12-Samouri3_700I’ve tried drawing from photos and it’s ‘ok’ but sketching, for me, is about going places and seeing things.  But winter in Quebec City is just too cold to be outdoors so we’re all driven indoors.  At first I found that depressing but once I saw the Samurai exhibit at our museum of civilization, I was hooked on indoor sketching.  I started sketching Samurai helmets, which are amazing, serving to protect heads as well as indicate status, identity, and even to serve in ceremonial roles.  It’s hard to choose a single helmet sketch as I love these amazing pieces of hardware.  I chose this one as it nearly drove me nuts drawing all those flame thingies.

Human

52This was hard as I haven’t drawn many people.  It’s on my ‘to do’ list for 2013.  But I chose this one, a very simple sketch, because I liked the way I was lucky enough to capture the movement of this guy’s coat as he walked along.

Ship

2012_07-CHJColor800Quebec City has an active port so I’ve sketched several ships.  I chose this one because I remember struggling with all the decks and railings.  I also have memories of how much fun I had that day as I sketched with my buddy Pierre.

Steeple/Dome

Quebec City is heavily populated by domes and steeples projecting upward from their supporting structures.  I love sketching them and have done a bunch of them.  I chose this particular sketch because it features both domes and steeples in a single sketch.

2012_11-Domes800_site

Telephone pole

Maybe you have to be an urban sketcher to appreciate them, but I like telephone poles and all the wires, transformers and connectors that hang from them.  I did this sketch on blue paper and liked the way it turned out.

2012_04-3Transformer800

Tree

I’ve drawn a bunch of trees but mostly they’ve been ‘studies’ where it was just the tree and nothing for supporting material.  This one, however, was done one day when Pierre and I headed out one Sunday morning looking for things to sketch.  It was a crisp autumn day and the maples had started to change colors.  I decided to make the tree the main attraction, putting the building in the background.

2012_09-StAnneTree800

Vignette

To fulfill my promise of ten sketches, I’ve added this vignette to complete the set.  I was sketching with my friend Nicolas and we were sitting in a church yard, a church that has become a library.  I looked over my shoulder and could see part of this restaurant, liked the red umbrellas and so I drew it.  Again, it brings back memories of a good day.

2012_08-VeauD'OrC800

I’m looking forward to 2013 sketching.  For a while I’m going to have to work indoors but sometime around April we’ll start having a day or three where it’s tolerable to sketch outside and you’ll find me on the streets all summer.  Happy New Year, everyone.

 

Where The Dogs Run In Quebec City

The keepers of Quebec City have a sense of humor, or so it seems.  On every tourist map there is a pointer to Passage du Chiens, or Dog Passage and people flock to see it.  Well, maybe not flock as it’s down the street from lots of other stuff and they simply see it as they pass by.

But there it is, complete with official street sign – Passage du Chiens.  It is a passageway to a road/parking area for residents who live in the area and whose house fronts on a ‘street’ that is no longer a street but rather a walkway for pedestrians.  And the Passage du Cheins does sit between two art galleries that are quite photogenic and so many photos are taken of the spot.  I suspect dog lovers get a kick out of showing it to their friends.

Towards the end of our outdoor sketching season I was wandering around, trying to get in some last minute plein air sketching, and I decided to sketch this famous landmark.  The sun was bright, which was great because the temps were just above freezing.  Before I finished, though, the sun had moved behind the buildings, shading the entire area.  This, and the fact that I’d been sitting for an hour caused me to be quite cold so I quickly snapped this photo and moved on to find more sunny ground.

And then I completely forgot about the sketch, until today.  I decided it was time to add some color and this was the result.  Hope you like it.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7) and a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.