Significant Event <-> Trivial Result

I’ve mentioned before that this blog is as much me documenting my sketching events as presenting great art work.  This is fortunate as I have very little great art work to present.  But here in Quebec we’ve lived through some of the most strict anti-COVID policies for two years.  We’re still partially limited in what we can/can’t do and still use vaccination passports and wear masks everywhere.  And, right or wrong, we’ve all become trained NOT to go anywhere.

But the last few days has brought relief from our bitter cold and so I’ve gone out walking, mostly in the snow and rain but as the temps have been right around freezing, I’ve enjoyed it.  Anyways, I walked through the farmer’s market that’s right down the street from where I live the other day.  The place is dead right now due to people not going out but also because there are no farmers there selling stuff so aside from a few permanent stores, there’s not much to be had there.

There is a place that sells coffee, though.  It’s located along a big hallway and there are some places to sit on the opposite side of the hallway.  There were two women sitting there when I showed up.  I decided to get a coffee and draw them.  I sat down, got my little 4×6 scribble book out, marked the top/bottom of her head and…they both got up to leave.  I quickly sketched a face from “memory” and that’s what you see in the middle of this sketch.

Then I was alone, nobody to sketch.  I was thinking of drawing one of the tables when a woman walked down the hallway.. so in the few seconds she was visible, I drew the back of her head.  Then another person walked by… another few seconds of scribbling.  Each of the people gave me 5-10 seconds to draw them so the results aren’t great.  But this was my first foray into a coffee place in two years and so this was downright exciting.  I had to post this miserable sketchbook page for posterity.

While I’m posting, here are some other quick sketches I’ve done.  There’s no rhyme or reason associated with them.  Done on the fly and on a whim.

Here I found an Indigo Prismacolor pencil, decided to sharpen it for some reason and this led me to draw a bit with it.

I’m quite excited about the prospects of getting out sketching again.  Hopefully spring is coming early this year.  I’ll be posting a massive oil paint project I’ve been doing soon.  Just need to turn everything into digital images and I’ll post them.

Quick Sketching In The Cold

I started posting my sketches to this blog as a way of maintaining a history of them.  It’s since morphed into a way of sharing with others but that original idea remains, although I long ago stopped posting everything I draw.

And this week has been a cold one.  The beginning of the week had us enjoying -32 to -38C temperatures.  The 58C difference between our inside and outside temps stretched our house heating system to its limits.  But on Wednesday is “warmed up” and we needed milk so I decided to walk to the store to get some.  It was -16C at the time but the walk is only 3-minutes in each direction and so I headed off.

And here’s the crazy part.  That morning I’d seen Alissa Duke’s post of some quickie sketches she’d done of the backs of cars and I couldn’t help but see every rear-end of a car as a target.  It was nuts but I drew several really quick, really frozen sketches.  By the time I got to the store I was frozen, though each sketch took less than 30s.

The funny thing is that you can actually see the shivering shakes in some of the lines.

But since pursuing the oil colors, purposely putting my pens down, it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed pen sketching.  When I got home and warmed up I drew this guy from a reference photos used by a YouTuber to do a very detailed charcoal drawing.  Let’s just say mine was less detailed.  Then again, mine only took a few minutes (grin).

It was fun to lay down some ink again.  We’re back to really cold and a blizzard is swirling outside.  What kind of stupid people choose to live in a place like this?

 

Sketching With Graphite

I’ve been doing a lot of drawing with graphite.  Mostly this has been done in a 4×6 book I carry everywhere.  I have come to a couple conclusions:

1) I think I prefer using graphite IF I approach a sketch as a watercolor, not a line drawing.

2) I don’t have enough patience to use graphite as an end product drawing tool.

Let me explain these one at a time.  I started running down this road because Shari Blaukopf showed me what is possible if you allow watercolor and not ink pen lines to define the edges of a drawing.  Clearly she is right.  She’s Shari Blaukopf after all (grin).  Thus, I won’t throw my pens away and I’ll use them to do line drawings, but if I’m going to do color, I’ll switch to pencil so I can take advantage of the power of watercolor/gouache.

Ok…number two.  I’ve done a few drawings where I’ve used pencil work to tonally create objects.  To do it right, it just takes too darn long for sketching.  Throw on top of that the fact that the graphite gets smeared either during sketch creation or while it sits inside your sketchbook.  I don’t like it, not at all.

So, what are the alternatives?  Well, there’s not much that can be done about the second problem as long as you want to stuff your sketchbooks in a pocket or backpack but it is possible to simply be faster in the sketch creation.  This means speeding up the toning process and accepting the compromises it entails.  Everyone has their own thresholds for when these compromises are unacceptable.

Here’s one such compromised drawing where I’ve added tones more quickly in a scribble fashion.  This produces a sketch more quickly but I’m not happy with the messy results.  And yes, I know that with practice I can get better at this but, why bother when watercolor over pencil layout brings so much more to my sketching.

I can always wield the pencil the way I do my fountain pens.  In my opinion, however, the results are not as nice as if I’d done them with a fountain pen.  Not bad, not good.  But if I’m going to do a line drawing, I will pick up a fountain pen.

Out Of My Comfort Zone

It seems that the art world is full of people saying “get out of your comfort zone” as a way of saying something, though I’m not sure what.  And for a decade I’ve pretty much ignored that advice.

When I came to sketching I was holding a fountain pen.  These days I’m still holding a fountain pen for most of my art.  Talk about a rut, but it is my rut and I like it.  Heck, everyone says that using a pen is the ONLY way to learn to draw.   I’ve never quite followed the logic of that claim, within limits, it has worked for me.  It’s those limits I want to talk about today.

Sketching with pen places a lot of emphasis on line and contour.  That’s ok, because we’ve always got watercolors to provide color, right?  The problem with all this is that the pen sketch becomes an end product.  You might think about watercolor while making a pen drawing but it’s still all about edges and contours.

Pencil drivers are different.  They shade their drawings.  In doing so they have to think more in three dimensions more than do pen drivers.  They discuss things like “turning the form” and other stuff like that.  So do all painters, including watercolorists, who don’t lay down lines as THE thing that defines their drawing.  Shari Blaukopf’s workshops taught me just how big a switch in mindset takes place when you to a pen and wash sketch but with a pencil instead.

I’m not talking here about right or wrong but rather about me “getting out of my comfort zone” for a reason, and that reason is to walk on the wild side of light and shade, turning forms, and gaining a better sense of creating 3D images.  It’s going to be a long and somewhat clumsy road for me I’m kind of excited about the prospects.

I did this rather quick (10 min) sketch of a basswood tree (3×5) while on a walk.  It was fun to scrumble in masses rather than drawing my typical Brillo pad trees.  I like the result and plan to draw a bunch more trees, though Quebec trees are dropping their leaves en masse right now.

I decided to draw a portrait.  I don’t draw portraits which is something of a Catch-22.  I don’t know how, they are never very good and so I don’t draw portraits.  More getting outside my comfort zone I guess.  I also learned something about pencil.  Stillman & Birn Beta is too textured to draw with pencil.  See…already learning.  Oh, and I can’t shade to save my life.  Guess that’s why I’m out here… out of my comfort zone.

Relaxing In St. Simeon

Late in August most of the lockdown stuff was over.  We’re still wearing masks because we’re not idiots, but back then we were like bears poking our head out of the cave, unsure if we wanted to come out.  Being a bit apprehensive about traveling anywhere, but also feeling like most and wanting a change from being sequestered at home, we decided to take a trip.

We didn’t need or want a big “see the sites” trip and most tourist things were shut down anyway, so we decided to go somewhere and sit, without our computers, without TV, and without an agenda.  I even made the decision to limit my sketching during the trip.

We chose St. Simeon, Quebec because there isn’t ANYTHING in St. Simeon except a coastline along the beginnings of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  When I say there isn’t anything I really mean it.  No good restaurants, no coffee shops, no nothing.  But we did have a hotel that looked out on the water and it was quiet enough.  We drove up a valley that holds the Black River and did a bit of sitting by the river.  I spent half an hour making a sketch of the tree-lined roadway.  I had a lot of fun doing it but I can’t show it to you.  I’d forgotten what a spiral-bound sketchbook can do to a pencil drawing and the sketch has become a cloud of smeared graphite.

On another day, however, we went to “Port au Persil,” which is a small town with a gorgeous cove area and a pier where you can sit and watch whales.  I got to see my first beluga whale which was exciting.  Actually, we saw lots of them during our trip.  By whale standards they’re quite small but they’re snow white and gorgeous.  My sketchbook came out around the cove though.  The cove is full of rounded sandstone rocks and I couldn’t resist.  This reflects those formations.

Mostly, though, we sat on the balcony of our hotel, or walked along the beach.  This involved a lot of whale watching, some beer drinking and a lot of salsa and chips.  It was delightful.  I decided that I should try to paint the coastline and I’m afraid I let the paint get away from me a bit but I’ll share it anyway.

The trip was a big success.  It seems that doing nothing appeals to both of us and we felt great as we headed for home.  I need to spend more time doing nothing.