What’s Up With Larry?

My last few posts haven’t generated a lot of comments on the blog itself but there’s been a flurry of msgs via email.  All but one have been from kind and gentle artists and most from people I’ve known, though never met, via the internet.

Most were of the nature of “if you’re having fun, that’s great” type, but others asked questions.  A couple wanted to know how oil painting could fit into urban sketching while others asked why I was leaving urban sketching.  Maybe those are all the same question (grin).

Anyways, I thought I’d clarify things a bit.  I am NOT leaving urban sketching and still expect to sketch on the streets to the extent that I can (more later).  All I’m doing right now is trying to learn some aspects of art that can’t be learned while concentrating on contours of objects.  Yes, you can do this with watercolors, but I felt I needed to get away from my pens AND watercolors because the two are currently tied together in my mind.  And no, I’m not selling my pens and won’t be ditching my watercolors anytime soon.  I love both too much.

As for whether oil painting can be done as an urban sketch, my interest in oils comes from an urban sketcher, Alvin Mark, who does watercolors, draws people with a fude pen, and does oil paintings, often during the same session.  He’s in the Singapore and I’ve followed him for years.

I’ve been playing with the idea of doing small, quick paintings too, either with gouache or oils, experimenting with the idea of replicating what I would normally do with watercolors but doing the paintings direct with paint.  Here’s one, based upon a watercolor done by Whee Teck Ong.   I did this one by drawing, with paint, a single line along the back of the two sheep to position them and then I jumped in with oils to complete the sketch in less than 10 minutes.  Not a milestone but this, and others, has convinced me that with red, yellow, blue, burnt sienna and white I can sketch on small panels once I gain better control over the medium.

I hope this clears things up a bit.  Oh…as for me continuing to be an “urban sketcher,” I’ve never completely understood what that meant as the definition has slipped and slided along, evolving to include pretty much anything done outdoors.  I remember watching as Marc Taro Holmes produced a two-panel 11×14 masterpiece while standing on the terrace in old Quebec.  As we walked I asked him what the difference was between plein air painting and urban sketching.  His response?  “I guess it’s Plein Air if you have a stop to pee.”  He nailed it.  These distinctions are mostly meaningless and questions about them even more so.

But on a more serious note, my operation was wildly successful but I am 73 years old.  I used to walk at least 45 minutes, each way, to do my urban sketching.  I’m getting to a stage in my life where that just isn’t going to happen every day as it once did.  So, I suppose I WILL be doing less urban sketching.  Maybe I’ll paint roses and onions more.  In any case, I’ll be putting pointy and fuzzy sticks to paper as often as I can.

One last thing.  I mentioned there was an exception to the nice bunch of emails I got.  Can you imagine someone feeling the need to call another person nasty names for “abandoning” urban sketching and for me suggesting that you can’t learn everything while drawing in pen?  Neither could I.. until I received that email.  Our society has gone mad.  I wonder if it will ever regain its sanity.

6 Responses to “What’s Up With Larry?”

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  1. Kate B says:

    A lot of people I know – Urban Sketchers – are exploring other media when their usual one is watercolor and/or ink. The most common seems to be gouache. There’s no reason not to explore new media! And we’ve had people paint in oils during our USk outings. What ever makes you happy and is fun!

    • Of course, Kate. Over the years I’ve watched them and, frankly, wondered why. I think that is more a reflection of my myopia than anything else. What I know is that right now I’m doing more experiments than art but having a ball.

  2. Tina Koyama says:

    I was going to say what Kate said! It’s all about fun. And whenever someone asks what the difference is between plein air painting and urban sketching, I always say, “About 50 pounds of equipment.” 😉

    • True, but when one shifts from drawing buildings to painting vegetables, it does raise some questions I suppose. I’m learning so much right now; it’s exhilarating. “about 50 pound of equipment,” is hilarious, and possibly true. One of the things I’m working on is a way to get all that stuff in my sketch bag. It’s not as hard as it seems if you keep your oil painting to the size of a 5×8 sketchbook (grin).

  3. Greg Gimlick says:

    Larry my old friend, how many years have I known you? I’ve never known you to stay within one discipline to the detriment of your fun and growth 🙂 In our previous life of aeromodeling, you exemplified the all round builder/flyer/writer/whatever. Everything I built looked better when you flew them 🙂 I can’t remember a genre you didn’t master. I’m glad to see you’ve survived the pandemic and are enjoying your current endeavors. We may actually be passing thru QC next summer…..maybe we can connect.

    • You just made my day. How the heck are you? I see that you made it through the pandemic as well. I suppose you’re now launching drones and watching them fly. The hobby has completely disintegrated from my view. Buy and fly…that’s about it.

      How are you guys doing? Still in NC? Still writing? Send me an email so we can chat a bit. As for “mastering”, oil painting is not one of those things. Everything is a “let’s try this…” affair at this point.

      Cheers — Larry

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