Sketchcrawl With Le Collectif

Quebec’s Collectif mostly organizes life drawing and portraiture workshops,  but it does, occasionally organize sketchcrawls.  One such event took place last weekend when we all showed up at the Place Royale Information Center to sketch in its small museum.

This museum is mostly full of artifacts dug up during archeological exploration of Quebec’s old port area but the basement contains a couple rooms containing kitchen and bedroom furniture, as well as a large collection of traditional clothing.  I’m a sucker for old wood and so I ended up there, where I sketched an old kitchen cabinet and a butter churn.

Stillman & BIrn Alpha (10x7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & BIrn Alpha (10×7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

I took a short break and then turned my attention to a pre-digital age way of having fun, when imagination was the currency.  I’d suggest I’m old enough to remember these but this one has wheels, which were invented about the time I was finishing up high school so that would be a lie.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10x7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

We finished up the day comparing sketches over a nice lunch.  It was a great day.

Sketching At The Cafe Au Temps Perdu

Claudette and I decided to meet at the Café au temps perdu to draw people.  Literally translated, the name of this place means Lost Time Cafe, which probably is a subliminal message from those who say that doing anything that doesn’t make money is a waste of time.  But on this day, maybe it was a warning.

We arrived just after 9:30 to find the place closed.  What kind of coffee place doesn’t open until 10AM?  We got lucky and the woman running the place let us in early.  We got coffee and set up with a good view of the place, anticipating the throngs of people who inhabit coffee shops every morning.

But they never came.  Not one.  Nobody.  Besides us, the only person in the place was the woman who let us in and she was running around, placing silverware, placemats and menus on the tables and restocking the bar.

Yes, I did say bar.  As it turns out, Café au temps perdu is a bar/restaurant more than it is a coffee house.  A few people did straggle in about 11:30, as we were getting ready to leave.  They were ready for lunch.

So, what do you do when your subject doesn’t show up?  You switch subjects, of course.  After drinking our coffee and kibbitzing about coffee shops that aren’t, I drew this and we had fun anyway.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10x7), Sailor fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook, Sailor fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black

Sketching In A Baron Fig Apprentice Notebook

One of the highlights of this otherwise miserable winter was taking Marc Taro Holme’s People in Motion class.  During the class Marc suggests that you get a small, cheap notebook and sketch in it constantly.  He recommends the Moleskine Cahier (same paper as the Moleskine notebooks but without the hard cover).

I think the idea of a small, cheap notebook that facilitates sketching everywhere and all the time is a great one.  On recommendation from my mentor and buddy, Yvan Breton, I’ve been doing this for a couple years and it’s done more for my ability to draw than anything else I do.

What I hadn’t tried was the Moleskine Cahier so I bought some.  They come in a 3-pack for about $12 around here.  I was very disappointed because of bleed-through and lots of ghosting when I used my fountain pens.  I complained about this here, and included a bunch of sketches to illustrate the problems.

But what I really did like about these little books was how small they were.  My typical small book has a hard cover and 96 cheap-paper pages.  These books are 5.5 x 3.5 x 0.5″ while the Cahiers are only 48 pages with a thick paper cover and are thus about 1/8″ thick.  Very portable, very light in the hand.  If only….

There are alternatives and I’ve been trying them.  Tina Koyama motivated me to try Baron Fig‘s notebooks, and I think I might be falling in love with their little Apprentice notebooks.

While the typical small notebook is 3.5″ x 5.5″, the Baron Fig is 3.5″ x 5″.  When I received them this threw me off a bit as I was more used to the other size but now that I’ve used it a bit I find that I actually prefer it.  It fits my hand better and certainly fits in a pocket more easily.  Size does matter.

Baron Fig

The books are 48-pages of white (an improvement over Moleskine) paper and cardstock cover.  They are stitch-bound rather than stapled like most of their competition.  It’s a nice touch and the stitching is perfect.

While they can be had with lines, grid or blank paper, I bought a pack of their standard gray notebooks (3 per pack) and a pack of their “limited edition” Time Travel series.  They cost only $10 per pack so, $3.33 per notebook.  Not bad even if you do use a lot of them.

All this is great but the proof is in how they handle ink.  For me that means fountain pen ink.  Typically I use fine nib pens in my small notebooks because of the small format and a side benefit is that it places lower demands on the paper when it comes to bleed-through and ghosting.

But what happens if you do use a lot of ink on Baron Fig paper?  The results are better than I thought.  I decided to try Tina Koyama’s favorite pen, the Sailor Fude pen.  This pen can lay down a lot of ink or a little ink depending on the nib angle.  Here’s the result of this experiment.


Baron Fig Apprentice, Sailor Fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black

Of course the “proof in the puddin” is to look at the back of this sketch.  Here it is (on the left):


As you can see, there is some ghosting but not much in the way of bleed-through.  We’re not talking about doing drawings that you’re going to frame so, to me, this is acceptable.  The sketch on the right was done with a Namiki Falcon SEF.  This is my typical nib size for these and the ghosting on the back of this sketch is negligible.

But what if you wanted to use the Sailor pen and also wanted to draw on that ghosted page?  Could you do it?  Sure, the ghosting wouldn’t distract from your sketching.  It might, however, not look as nice as you’d like when you scanned it to send it to your favorite social media group.  But, with the magic of Photoshop (or some other graphics program), you can easily remove this ghosting so that it looks like this:


These results are the same as I’ve gotten from the paper in my cheap hardcover books so I’m thrilled and the paper in the Baron Fig as it looks better and feels better.

My cheap book sketches rarely see any color, simply because I’m generating lots of sketches as I wander through my day and so there’s no time for color.  But, for this post I decided to add a bit of color to see how that worked.  I kept the washes light and didn’t expect to move them around much.  I was surprised at how well it worked.


Baron Fig Apprentice, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

This is definitely not watercolor paper but I was happy with the results.  This does increase the ghosting a little bit but surprisingly little, as long as you wait for the paper to dry.  This definitely opens the door for me to use my gray and brown waterbrushes to shade drawings on the fly.  If you’re looking for a small, very portable, sketchbook solution, the Baron Fig Apprentice might be what you need.


Sometimes Sketching Isn’t About The Sketching

My daughter is home from school for a week and I got a late start as I headed to the museum to do some sketching.  By the time I got there it was nearly 11AM and I found that three of my friends had been there since opening time.  Two of them I hadn’t seen in quite a while so we spent some time ‘catching up.’  Ultimately we decided to meet in the cafeteria for some of their divine cremed turnip soup.  And so it was when I headed off to find something to draw.

Then I realized that soup time was only 25 minutes away.  Hmmm…  Rather than starting a long pencil drawing of one of the statues I decided to whip out the Namiki Falcon and use it to do a simple sketch of one of the glass cabinets and their contents.  These things are two huge sheets of glass set parallel to one another with a table inside.  The area above the table is encased in a big glass box.  Easy peasy, says I.  By the end my eyes had crossed trying to follow transparent sheets of glass inside of sheets of glass.  It was fun though.  The soup and company were better.  Sometimes sketching isn’t about the sketching.

Stillman & BIrn Alpha (10x7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black, Pentel brush  pen with Platinum Carbon ink

Stillman & BIrn Alpha (10×7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black, Pentel brush pen with Platinum Carbon ink

Hibernation’s Hidden Costs

It’s currently -13F outside.  This, they say, is a ‘warming trend’ and in reality it is warmer than it was just a few days ago.  But from the perspective of a street sketcher, it matters little whether it’s -13 or -30 outside, I stay inside.

Mid-winter depression is a real phenomenon in places like Quebec, where I live, but for me, it’s more like cabin fever.  I spend too much time looking out the windows, wishing for a place to sketch.  In previous years our Museum of Civilisation has been that place and the displays there have kept me busy throughout our long winters.

But this year, half of the museum is closed due to a fire that occurred just as winter was starting and what’s left are displays of early animation where you can watch endless series of cartoons and the Olympus exhibit which is filled with lots and lots and lots of plaster statues of Zeus, Aphrodite and their kin.
Sketching them was fun at the outset but I truly am a street sketcher that likes drawing buildings.  Yet another plaster head is just not cutting it anymore and so my sketching is floundering somewhat these days.  I doodle a lot but it’s just not the same.  So, I decided to draw a window.  It was just one lowly window, drawn in a 3×5 sketchbook, but it sure felt good (grin).


Moleskine watercolor notebook, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black ink