Sketching Is For The Birds

It was only five days ago that I reported that we hadn’t had high temps above 10C yet.  Times change.  For the next three days we’re going to experience temps around 30C, which is kinda-sorta abnormal for us.  We generally get a couple days like that in mid-summer but certainly not in May.  But I’m not complaining.  I went sketching.

Another bit of news that’s relevant to this post is that I just got a hearing aid.  It’s not a fancy programmable one but it has allowed me to discover a lot of sounds I haven’t heard in a long time.

I stopped at a park bench and decided to try to draw/paint directly with a brush.  I’ve been learning how to handle brushes and Marc Holmes’ 30 in 30days (direct to watercolor) event is coming up next month and I want to try it. I didn’t bring my watercolors but I had a waterbrush with some diluted ink and so I did this simple drawing.  Look ma, no lines.  I include it here only for the sake of completeness.

I was walking along my river and the first thing I experienced was birds singing.  I love birds and spend a considerable amount feeding them every year.  But I haven’t heard them in decades.  Well, I can hear crows, but none of the songbirds.  Anyways, the trees along my river had birds, chirping birds.  And so my first act wasn’t to sketch but to lay down in the grass, close my eyes, and just listen.  It was wonderful.  I spent half an hour doing only that.

But I did want to sketch and so I sat up, noticed a line of trees and started sketching.  The “scene” wasn’t that great so I added my own mountains and came up with this sketch.

It was time to walk so I headed up river and eventually came across some rocks to sketch.  These sit, among others, at the end of a new walk bridge the city built last year.  I’ll have to sketch that soon but for this day these rocks were just the thing.  Color got added when I got home.

It was sooooo good to get out sketching.  Maybe I’ll do it again tomorrow (grin).

Frustrated By Bad Paper Choices

I’m still working myself back into a sketching rhythm and that has meant a lot of spur of the moment decisions and results.  And so it went during the saga I am about to tell.

I’ve been doing a lot of my sketching on cheap paper, mostly card stock and copy paper as I try to get my eye back into shape.  Lots of sheets of ellipses, circles, cubes and spheres as well as sketches of anything in front of me.  That’s working great, lots of fun, and these sketcher calistenics me to get back in shape.  I feel like a baseball player, trying to get his “timing” back.  I know how, but something just isn’t quite right yet.

Anyhow, here’s a couple sketches that didn’t find their way into the garbage can.  The first came while I wandered around Pinterest.  I’m a long-standing train nut and I often ask myself why I don’t draw more of them.

Here’s one, which started as a quick sketch of the nose of a diesel engine I remember from my youth.  I did it on card stock and when I decided to turn it into a color sketch I got the msgs that watercolor provides when it hits paper without sizing.  Everything here is dull, somehow muddy, and I couldn’t add a lot of fine detail.  It’s about 4×6 and done with pencil.

On another day I drew this young girl.  Seems these days I’ve got a thing for little girls looking around corners.  This one was done on photocopy paper and I decided not to bother trying to do watercolor.  This, too, was done with a pencil.

 

 

I’ve just cut up some Fabriano Artistico sheets to provide me with some loose sketching paper.  That should solve this problem (grin).

 

Life Drawing And Sketching With Friends

I’m getting behind in my blogging to I’ve combined a couple things here.  We’re still in pre-spring here, with lots of rain and we have only rarely gotten to a temp of 10C.  Still, sketching season is upon us and it’s been wonderful so far.

It’s also been a bit weird.  I find myself distracted from sketching by a need to reconnect, to catch up, with friends.  And so it was when I went out to Miriam Blair’s house on the Ile D’Orleans with Yvan to sketch.  It was so good to be there, with fellow sketchers, that I had a hard time taking the actual sketching very seriously.  We sat around a table sketching because it was cold and rainy outdoors and much of the activity was done with mouths and ears, not with our pens and pencils.

I drew these pears, first as a pencil drawing but later with some color added.  Then I spied a Ball jar in the window that had something growing from it.  It was too far away to tell what it was (later found to be geranium starts) but I started sketching it anyway.  I find it both hard and easy to draw things I can’t really see.  Hard because it’s difficult to make out the objects being drawn but easy because it’s easy not to be distracted by details when you can’t see them (grin).

This week I had my first opportunity to do actual “life drawing.”  Most of my drawing is done from observation but being able to draw someone while they posed is, somehow special.  But the danse school put on such an event and I attended.  Dancers would do short poses and I would frantically try to scribble down their form.  In spite of a bad headache, I had a lot of fun.  Wish they’d do it every week.

Anyway, here’s three of the pages I did.  Note that I have no “technique.”  I drew on photocopy paper and drew on top of previous poses.  That’s something I will do differently if I ever get another chance as it sometimes became confusing. I worked with a colored pencil and then a plain old 0.7mm mechanical pencil.  Very basic.

Preparing For A Season Of Street Sketching

It’s -10C outside my window at the moment and the sidewalks here are full of ice, very lumpy ice.  But weather reports suggest that melting should commence in earnest starting tomorrow.  My daughter tells me that Montreal sidewalks are free of ice so that’s a hopeful sign.  Anyways, very soon I’ll be joining those of you who are currently scurrying about your cities drawing cherry blossoms and crocuses (grin).

I’ve been involved in learning to paint, or attempting to and because of that I haven’t been drawing much.  I decided that I should get some pointy sticks out and start pushing them about to see if I still can.  Also, in the recent past I made a comment about not posting my casual sketches and someone asked me why not and encouraged me to do so.

In answer to the first question I just don’t want my practice to feel like I’m “producing content.”  I confess that I sometimes think all the posting to the internet may be one of the worst things that has happened to artists though I confess to being addicted to look at sketches produced by others.  Those views cause me to keep a lot of what I do off the internet.  It’s also time consuming to scan/post every sketch I do.  In short, I’m lazy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alvin Mark posts a lot of great vlogs on his YouTube channel and he was doing a sketchbook tour.  I took that as an opportunity to quickly sketch some of the people he had sketched on the Singapore trains.

 

While sitting in my studio/office I just started drawing stuff, using ballpoint pens.  The red pen was giving me a lot of trouble and I made a mess of the scissors trying to chase the intermittent lines it was creating/

Here’s a page from the small scribble book I carry everywhere.

 

Last and probably least, I was enjoying a snack and quickly moved this stub of a pencil around until the page resembled something.

I’ve found that my time hiding from COVID and making messes with oil paints have left my pointy stick skills rusty.  I’m hoping to get lots of miles done this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Doing The 100 People Challenge

This week many people are drawing, or trying to draw, 100 people in five days.  Run every year by Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel, this is a popular annual event.  It’s no small coincidence that the two people leading this charge are two of the fastest sketchers I’ve seen and a pair that place a VERY high premium on sketching quickly.  I don’t say that as a negative, just a fact.

I still remember the first time someone suggested that I draw people on the move.  I was sketching with a couple people, both my betters, and they said, “Let’s go downtown and draw pedestrians waiting for the light to change.  I didn’t see my face at the time, but I’m sure my expression was “Are you nuts?”  The thought of drawing a person, a whole person, as 15-20 seconds was so far beyond my comprehension that I knew it was a joke.  And it was a joke… when I tried it that first time.

Sadly, the people who do this stuff regularly think it’s normal and so they don’t talk much about how people who don’t find it normal can do it.  I thought, rather than just another rally cry for the event, I’d mention a couple solutions that some use to do this.  I should preface this with the important fact.  All of these approaches are done by people who, if they have the time, can draw very detailed people.  There’s an old adage that if you can’t draw something slowly, you can’t draw it fast.  I think that’s true.

I’m going to describe “capturing” a character with the full knowledge that the results aren’t going to hang in the Louvre anytime soon (grin).  You’ve got to be ok with that before you launch into the 100 People Challenge.

Draw the bare minimum

The first thing you have to understand is that you’re not doing Sargent-level portraiture.  You don’t have time.  Many add two things together to accomplish the task.  They draw their people very small and do little more than draw lines for legs and arms with a round ball for a head.  I’d call this the stickman approach except that most grab for drawing something a bit more complete, where the arms and legs are positioned, bent appropriately, and so you can easily see what the character was doing.  This is a really good approach if you’re happy with these simple results.

Loosy Goosy approach

Artists throw around the term “loose” a lot.  With no solid defnition of the word it’s said that we should all be this, so we’re not “tight.”  My guess is that a lot of the great artists of our past would take issue with this but that’s how the modern world rolls.

Anyway, a lot of artists, realizing that there’s little time for drawing leg and arm musculature accurately in the few seconds they have simply abandon the idea entirely, drawing arms and legs heading off in the right direction but not necessarily with proper geometry.  They keep everything “loose” and are ok with that, no matter how “tight” they might do their next studio portrait.

Sweat the small stuff later approach

This takes on different forms depending upon the artist.  Some will draw an action line defining the subject’s orientation and then add only a few points defining joints, clothing boundaries, etc.  Some will go over these drawings with more ink later, correcting errors.  Others will do a complete contour of the subject while thinking about how color will help them complete the figure.

Still others will do a continuous, or nearly so, pencil sketch, all the time thinking of what they’re going to do with color to bring the character to life.  There is no one better at doing this approach than Marc Holmes.  He is so adept with both pencil and brush that it’s a joy to watch him draw characters.

All of these approaches require that you’re planning on working on your drawings later, probably at home.  The hard thing for many is drawing while thinking color, light and shade, etc. placing lines to indicate shadow borders, etc.

Make sure you’re drawing someone who will stay put for a couple minutes (grin)

The master of this approach is Alvin Mark.  His targets are people eating, people on buses, people on trains, anywhere that people stop.  His ability to draw precise contour drawings of people, reflecting not only their personality but their weight and its balance, is uncanny.  But he chooses his targets wisely.

So, these are some of the ways that people accomplish the task.  What I haven’t said is that it’s a LOT of fun and the more you do of it the easier it becomes.  I’m still not good at it and may never be.  I’m the slowest sketcher on the planet and so my “skills” aren’t amenable to quick sketching.  When sketching people I guess I’m closer to a “loosy goosy” sketcher than anything else.  I’ll let you decide.  These are the sketches I did yesterday, during the first day of the event.