Getting Back To Normal?

Before COVID, and before all my leg problems, my life was simple and thus, returning to it should be equally simple.  I’m finding it hard, however.

My daughter did return to Montreal last week so we’re back to being empty nesters.  Chantal is still working from home, which I hope is a prelude to her retirement.  And I’m getting so that walking is actually fun again.  So it should be easy, right?

But my head isn’t in the “old” place right now.  I used to get up, eat breakfast and head out the door to sketch.  I’ve yet to do that simple behavior once.  Instead, Chantal and I are walking… a lot.  We’re getting in 6-8 kilometers a day and when we get back from that, exhaustion is near at hand.  So, we generally fix some lunch and I watch a recorded Blue Jays game or the Olympics.  Also, there are endless home maintenance tasks that were postponed because of all the limping I was doing.

So I haven’t been doing much sketching.  I have started carrying a small sketchbook when we walk and sometimes there’s time for a quick, 5-min sketch while we sit and take a break.  It’s good practice and it’s getting me back in the mood, but it’s like eating a single potato chip – not very satisfying.  Here’s a couple that I have done recently.

 

Hiking The Parks Of Chicoutimi

The prime directive for our family these days is walk, walk, and then walk some more.  Chantal has decided she needs to get more exercise and when she decides something, the actions are never small.  Me, I’m trying to learn to walk again.  I’ve spent nearly four years with knee pain and a limp that just got progressively worse.  Now that my operation is behind me, and COVID is being fought off by a successful vaccination program in Quebec, it’s walk, walk and then walk some more.

While stomping around the local neighborhoods provides the required steps, it lacks variety.  So, we decided to “go somewhere.”  I put that in quotes because we’ve forgotten how to decide things like where to go when you want to go somewhere.  But I got the bright idea for us to head to Chicoutimi, Quebec, a smallish town northeast of Quebec City by a couple hours.  I did the obligatory query to Mr. Google, found several parks there that would generate some steps and allow for a picnic and off we went.

As it turns out, Chicoutimi is a pretty nice place.  They have a boardwalk/park system that runs along the Saguenay fiord that is simply marvelous.  I could have spent several days sketching in this one place alone, but all we did was walk, walk, and then walk some more.

We late lunch at an idyllic park associated with a Chicoutimi landmark.  It sits below “La Maison Blanche,”  no relationship to another White House you might know.  This one is more akin to the Little Engine That Could.  You see, part of Chicoutimi history is a 1996 flood caused by lots of rain, a dam failed and mountains of water flooded into the city, literally removing the core of the town.  The recent floods in Germany are probably a good comparison.

Anyways, for some reason, a tiny house that had sat in the same place for generations remained, by itself, in the middle of the town.  It was damaged but it had survived.

It was decided to restore it as a memorial to the flood and the people who had lived there.  It now sits in its original place, with artificially induced waterfalls on both sides and with water being pumped from the doorway as though it were still being flooded.  Inside is a small museum and overall the place is a delight.

This is another place where one could draw forever but I only had time to do one sketch while we ate lunch in the park below the site.  Hope you like it.

I’m Back In The Game…Sort Of

Slowly but surely I’m getting back into sketching.  It’s amazing how out of practice once can get at normal walking after spending nearly four years with a limp (grin).  Yesterday I went on my training walk by walking with my daughter to an appointment she had not far from our home.  While she was doing her thing, I did this quick sketch, using a fude pen.

I sketched very quickly (some my say sloppily) and so I had time to throw a bit of color on it before she returned.  I suppose this is a landmark sketch for me as it’s the first in a very long time.  Hopefully I can get back to a daily routine.  If there’s one thins COVID and my bad knee has taught me it’s the power of routine to keep your skills up.  Mine are way down right now.  Feels real good, though, to click on Location Sketching as a tag for this sketch.

The “Forgot About It” Experiment

Outside the scientific community the most commonly executed “experiment” is the forgot-about-it experiment.  The experimenter places leftovers in the refrigerator and then forgets about it.  Alternative approaches are ignored pieces of fruit or vegetable.  Weeks later someone, finding the item, pulls it from the fridge with the exclamation of “Ewwww….yuck.”

We’ve all done these experiments and they don’t lead to much insight,but we’re prone to do it again…and again.  Today, however, I want to talk about a forgot-about-it experiment that did yield some interesting results.

First, an aside.  As reported here, my leg problems caused me to shut down my street sketcher activities and COVID resulted in multiple postponements of knee replacement surgery.  BUT, it finally happened and I have to say I’m thrilled with the results.  I’m regaining my energy levels and starting to walk, climb stairs, etc. like I haven’t done in years and to do it without pain.

Ok…what’s one got to do with the 0ther?  I started digging through my sketching stuff, trying to get things in order.  What I found initially scared me – my own forgot-about-it experiment.  In this case it was two of my fountain pens (my daily users) still sitting in my sketch bag.  They’d been there for SIX MONTHS.  Surely they were dried up beyond use.  These pens were:

Platinum 3776, fed from a Platinum Carbon Black cartridge

Wing Sung 3008, fed from its piston-filler with DeAtramentis Document Black ink

There has been a lot of digital ink spilled about how pigmented (ie waterproof) fountain pen inks require lots of maintenance.  I’ve always argued that this was not true, citing the fact that the only time I clean my sketching pens (with these pigmented inks) is when I’m going to store them or if I’m changing colors.

The rebuttal has always been “Well, you’re using them daily and that’s why you have no problems.”  That was true  and I was defeated by their logic.  Today I present some evidence to contrary.  I have two pens that haven’t even seen the light of day for six months and each carried one of the two most popular waterproof fountain pen inks used by sketchers.  And while only a quick scribble, here are the results when I opened each of these pens.

No dipping water or shaking was required.  Both of these pens just wrote.  How can that be?  There are two reasons, I think.  The first is that all the fears of using pigmented fountain pen inks are exaggerated.  I do think people have become less concerned about this than back when they were first introduced and so I’ll talk about the second reason.  Both of these pens seal VERY WELL.  Unlike pens that us a simple rubber washer seal, each of these pens have an inner seal that wraps around the nib.  In addition to that, the cap itself sports a fine-thread (screw on) attachment to the body of the pen.

I know we live in a “facts don’t matter” world and only opinions/beliefs are important, so take this observable evidence in whatever way suits you, but I want to make one more point.  You CAN buy pens that work like this.  These two pens cost me $150 and $4 respectively.

 

 

Book Review: Adebanji Alede’s Addictive

Here’s an interesting fact.  One in five Africans are Nigerian.  Nigeria is a big country. Its most lucrative export is oil, but they’ve exported something even better in the creative dynamo called Adebanji Alede.

Adebanji says he’s addicted to the creation of art.  He is fond of oil painting on location and loves sketching people on the streets and in trains.  He’s had a YouTube channel for many years where he presents his art and artistic ideas as well as energetic attempts to motivate others to be as addicted as he is to sketching.

Early in 2020 he published a book titled The Addictive Sketcher which is a superb text for anyone wanting to learn how to draw quickly and in a loose, but accurate style.  I’ve read it twice so far and highly recommend it.

This month he’s followed up with a second book titled Addictive.  This isn’t a traditional how-to book; it’s better.  Addictive is 275 pages (8.5″ x 8.5″) of Adebanji’s blood, sweat, and tears.  It’s the entire contents of his over-stuffed sketchbooks.  What makes it so useful, at least to me, is that he works with several mediums (ballpoint, pencil, fineliners, oil pencils) and adds color and shading using a small set of Tombow markers.  Studying the gazillion sketches in this book is a treat.

In true Adebanji style, though, that wasn’t enough.  He’s done a series of a dozen or more videos associated with the book where he takes an example from it and recreates it right before your eyes, discussing the order of events as well as the whys and wherefores of his creations.  So, if you’re even slightly interested in gaining the ability to draw people in the wild, you need this book.  Here’s some examples from his book.  Each of the 275 pages is like these.