Still More Museum Sketching

A late snow storm and associated cold weather has kept us off the streets and in the museums.  I met with my buddies Yvan and Claudette on Wednesday and we headed into the Nigeria exhibit at the Musee de la Civilisation.  Claudette and Yvan set up to sketch different masks and I wandered, and wandered.  For some reason I wasn’t in the mood to do a single object.

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Then it occurred to me; I hadn’t sketched any of the museum interior.  I looked around and chose this view, because I hadn’t yet sketched the large statue and because Yvan was somewhat visible behind it.  I thought the background of display cabinets in the darkened room would balance the large statue nicely.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) with a Noodler’s Creaper flex pen and Lexington Gray ink.  I did the color with watercolor pencils but, when I got home, I went over most of it with a gray wash to highlight the display cabinets and to reflect the dark exhibit room.

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2013-03-22Nigeria2Today Yvan and I went back and I did these two objects.  Same S&B sketchbook, same tools.   Hope you like them.

Quick Sketching On The Bus

2013-03-17OnBus1I suffer from motion sickness when I read on the bus.  And the first couple times I tried to sketch on a bus, I had the same problem.  But I’ve persisted and, it seems, I’m becoming able to do quick sketches on the bus.  It’s a bumpy ride on a bus so I’m learning to study the subject as I bounce along, adding lines at the stops.

2013-03-14Bus1These are not great sketches, but I’m starting to have fun doing it.  Here are four I’ve done recently.  All were done in an inexpensive 4×6 notebook I bought from the dollar store, though it cost $2 (grin).  I used a Noodler’s Creaper flex pen to do the paper scratching.  A waterbrush with a few drops of fountain pen ink added was used for shading/color.

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Shapes Are Everything In Sketching

I continue to sketch at the Musée de la Civilisation here in Quebec City because it’s turned cold again.  Mother Nature seems to be reminding us that it’s too soon for spring.  We’re supposed to have a big snow storm at the beginning of next week 🙁

2013-03-12Nigeria1But the practice I’m getting at seeing and depicting shape couldn’t be better as the Nigerian artifacts are truly extraordinary when it comes to shape.  I’m starting to experiment a bit with technique, trying to do some more quickly than others, some less/more detailed.  This is fun to do, though it takes a certain amount of gymnastics on the part of my brain to break out of my penchant for detail and a slow pace.  I thought I’d share a few more with you.

2013-03-12Nigeria2I did these first two by creating a rough outline in pencil.  I followed this by the addition of color using a waterbrush with a few drops of J. Herbin Lie de thé.  Then I added the ink outlines and hatching.  These were also done more quickly than my normal snail pace and while not as precise, I like the results of this process.

2013-03-12Nigeria3This one was done in the same quick style but I did it in ink and then added the color, again from the waterbrush/ink pen.  It’s a large pestle used for smashing grain, or unruly husbands I suspect.

Finally, I’ve been waiting to do this helmet for a while.  It’s something 0f an anomaly in this exhibit as most of the items are created in wood and covered with mud of varying textures.  It seems cast in metal and is very detailed.  It called out for a detailed sketch and so I went back to my more typical approach.  I used a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray ink.  I added some shading using Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.  The more I use these the more I love them for adding color as you can get the lines to completely disappear with a waterbrush.  Very handy for shading.

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All four of these sketches were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) and I realized that I’ve never filled this one with just museum sketches this winter.  But I’m ready for spring…aren’t you?

Sketching Other People’s Art

Last Sunday Yvan, Pierre, Celine and I headed to the Musee de L’Amerique Francais because they were launching a new display of art done in Quebec long ago and donated to the Catholic church who kept the collection in their museum.  We didn’t know what to expect but since it’s still too cold for outdoor sketching, what the heck, we were going sketch art.

Much of the art in this collection is religious art, not my favorite way to use display space.  I find most of it too gawdy and repetitious.  But one room was filled with some amazing Quebecois pieces, many that would be considered ‘urban’ art today.  I was looking for a new challenge, something different… at least for me.

2013-03-10BronzeStatueAfter looking around, I settled down to sketch a bronze statue of a woman carrying a heavy bucket.  I was struck by how well the sculpture captured the physical effort and body/arm positioning to maintain balance with a heavy bucket in one hand.

This was a considerable leap for me as I’m not good at drawing human forms and I had no idea how to make one look like a bronze statue.  Still, it was fun.  I drew it in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) with a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray.  I used watercolor pencils to fake the bronze look.

There were many paintings that seemed worthy of turning them into a Larry sketch but one in particular caught my eye.  It was a painting of a 19th Century seminary courtyard, a courtyard that was actually just next door to the museum.  I went outside to look at the real thing and found what a hundred years can do.  The basic building layout remained.  In fact, on one edge of the courtyard, the end where the artist stood, there exists the remains of an old wall, clearly a very old wall.

Aside from that, everything had been remodeled and updated.  The two main buildings had an extra story added to them and all the windows had been modernized.  The stairway was gone adn the entries had modern doors.  It definitely looked cooler in the 19th Century so I went back indoors where it was warm.

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I’d never sketched an oil painting before and converting it to my cartoon sketching style did present some challenges, but it was fun, too.  Done in the same S&B sketchbook but with a Lamy Safari as my Prera ran out of ink .   I’m not sure I’ll add color to it as I like it au natural.

We’ve vowed to return to sketch some other pieces, particularly some of the sculptures.   A great day was had by all, but every sketching day is a great day, isn’t it?

Learn Sketching By Playing

I’ve been very lucky.  When I became interested in sketching last September I had the Internet.  I could surf from site to site; I got lots of great information and saw the work of lots of other sketchers.  I spent time looking at Monet’s sketchbooks too.

If you compare Monet’s sketchbooks to what you see modern sketchers posting on the Internet you see a big difference.  Monet’s not as good as those modern artists.

Well, that could be one interpretation.  Another is that modern sketchers use the Internet to post their good sketches and not posting the numerous sketches done in the act of learning, practicing, or investigating ideas.  I concluded this explanation was more likely, mostly because I’m a fan of Monet’s work.

After a year and a half of experience as a sketcher, I realize my own behavior validates that explanation.  I post sketches regularly, but only a small fraction of the sketches I actually do and none of the many scribbled pages where I learn and develop pretty much everything I can do with a pointy device.  It’s too bad the learning process isn’t more evident on the Internet and this post is an attempt to correct that biased view of at least one sketcher’s output.  Here’s your chance to see that ‘dark side’.  Clicking on the photos will let you see how I play to learn.

I confess that it’s hard to show my, shall we call them, lesser sketches.  The pages shown here belong to a pile of similar sketches that have one goal.  My urban sketches are typically done with constant-width lines and I’m trying to learn to vary the pressure on the pen to allow me to take advantage of variable line width.

2013-03-06FlexPenI begin with this one, mostly because of the right-hand page.  This is one of several that look like this.  As an aside, to those who don’t want to use good sketchbooks because you’re afraid to muck them up, this is one of my Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbooks (4×6).  I don’t use cheap paper even when doodling.  All I was trying to do was to get used to how hard I needed to press on a Noodler’s Creaper flex pen to get lines of different shapes and densities.  The sketch on the left was done from an existing sketch drawn by my buddy Yvan.  He was kind enough to give me a series of sketches he’d done from sketches of the masters.  Mine are less masterful than his but I’m learning a lot by copying these sketches.

2013-03-07FlexPenHere’s another spread of sketches copied from sketches.  Nothing much more to say about the technique of copying other people’s work except to say that it allows me to concentrate on the lines and let’s me ‘feel’ what it’s like to make them.

2013-03-05FlexPen_PolarBrownBut there are other ways of learning/practicing techniques.  I’m a building sketcher.  Here’s a quick sketch of one of the towers in old Quebec.  I did this one by copying a quick sketch I did of the area.  Copying my own work, but with a new look/technique, helps me see the difference in a special way because I know the original so well.

2013-03-05FlexPenI’ve also been doing a lot of museum sketching, sketching Nigerian masks and statues.  While there on Tuesday, I also did this quick sketch of a praying mantis on top of a pole with some gizmos supporting it.  Not anything like my typical cartoon style but I actually like how this one turned out.

I wondered how this varied line width stuff would affect quick sketching and so while waiting at to see my rheumatologist I started scribbling.  The page on the right are just pieces of people who were either sitting or standing, doing the same thing I was.

2013-03-05FlexPenDoctorOfficeThe left page was when I started thinking I’d be called any second so I was looking for tiny things to sketch.  The first thing I sketched was a McDonald’s burger box.  Then I sketched the backpack and then scribbled that poor excuse for a building sketch.  As I still hadn’t been called, and the guy had finished his hamburger, I sketched him, his head becoming the burger box.  Is this how Picasso’s cubist period started?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my dirty laundry.  I have a lot of it.  Much more, in fact, than the cleaner stuff  I post regularly here and in Facebook groups.  It’s fun.  It’s how I learn..  How about you?  Do you have sketchbooks full of stuff like this?  Monet does.