On The Dark Side

I was at the Musée de la Civilisation with Yvan on Sunday.  We were sketching.  We had decided, at the last minute, to meet there and we had a great time.  I suppose it’s somewhat redundant to say we were sketching and we having a good time as one thing means the other to me.  Nevertheless, we were sketching and having fun.

I decided to do something very different, at least for me, but first a bit of back story.  Albert Laliberté was a Québec sculptor who, like many Quebec artists at the time, headed to France to lead the Bohemian life and bask in the glow of the great French masters, and consume large quantities of wine.   While he was there, Albert attended the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts where he developed his skills.  One of the things I love about his work is that he sculpting people working with their hands, so he has created bronzes of blacksmiths, cobblers, and even painters.

What has this to do with Sunday sketching at the Musée de la Civilisation?  Well, as it happens, the Paris on Stage exhibit has a room devoted to Québec artists who went to Paris and then returned to have significant art careers, like good old Albert Laliberté and several of his bronzes are on display in that room.

From the “I’d like to draw that” point of view, however, the museum’s multiple light sources and always from above, make it difficult to sketch the details of the pieces as they are often in very dark shadow.   I thought this might be an opportunity to try something different, for me, and so I launched myself into high contrast mode, concentrating on the shadows as the major source for shape and relegating outline to a more minor role than most of my sketches.

As a first attempt, I was fairly satisfied with the result.  I still have much to learn about drawing and I’m REALLY a rookie when it comes to this approach.  But, here is Laliberté’s Paysagist (landscape artist).  Apologies to Monsieur Laliberté.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black, Tombow brush pens

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black, Tombow brush pens

From Oil Painting To Sketch

I’ve discovered something new to do – to practice my eye.  Being driven into museums by our cold weather, I’ve been staring at a bunch of oil paintings.  I tried sketching from them, trying to grasp the artist’s intent.  I’m not good at it and maybe it’s not even desirable to do so.

But I wondered what would happen if I didn’t try.  Instead, what would happen if I tried to look at the painting and “convert” it to my sketching style.  What would I learn?  I wish I could tell you what the answer is but I don’t really know yet, but I felt something while doing the following sketch.  I don’t know what it was but I think repeated treatments may change my sketching style, maybe even improve it.

Stillman & Birn (6x9) Zeta, TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn (6×9) Zeta, TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Muffin And Coffee At The Cafe Supreme

We had a mild day (it wasn’t windy) and so I thought I should take advantage of that fact and headed off for a long, very long walk.  It was 5F.  I walked to a mall that was a considerable distance away, the plan being that I’d hop a bus to get back.

The walk was fun and with my big fur-lined hat with flaps (the proverbial anti-chic magnet) and a coat that is heavy enough to be used as an anchor, I was toasty warm.  When I arrived at the mall, I decided to reward myself for my effort with a tasty muffin and a cup of coffee.

I thought about the Pat Ng and Liz Steel approach to restaurant drawing and decided that I would draw the sign for the Cafe Supreme before ordering.  So I sat down and did just that.  Then I got my muffin and coffee and, in spite of temptation, they remained intact while I drew them.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4x6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black ink

The coffee hadn’t even cooled; my approach was going well.  So, with a mouth full of muffin and a swig of coffee, I started drawing a portion of Cafe Supreme itself.  A bright red coat, wrapped around a woman walked up and started to order so I drew it, put a head and legs on it.  There need to be more red coats in our world.  I finished up by drawing the bits and pieces that make Cafe Supreme the place it is.  Winter sketching is sure different, but it’s fun too.


More Museum Sketching

I’m settling into a winter sketching regime which means I’m becoming a regular at Quebec’s Musee de la Civilisation  again.   I made over 50 museum visits last year and it’s likely I’ll do the same this year.  This day, I was with my new buddy, Fernande and we had a good time sketching in the Paris exhibition.  We followed up with a celebratory tea in Cafe 47, the museum cafeteria.

I nearly went cross-eyed trying to do a ‘proper’ drawing of this Delizy Brassart bicycle, which dates to 1889.  I was particularly interested in getting the frame organization ‘right’ as it’s very unique, with the crank being bolted on below the actual bicycle frame instead of being an integral part of it.  The solid rubber tires and carbide light are also very interesting.  Bicycling was a big deal at the turn of the century, with many innovations, the first Tour de France, and women wore bloomers so they could ride, showing off their ankles.  Ooo la la!

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), TWSBI Mini with Platinum Carbon Black ink

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9) sketchbook, TWSBI Mini with Platinum Carbon Black ink

I thought I should draw something a bit easier after that so I chose this vase with stopper.  Pretty little thing and, I fear, I didn’t do it justice.  I used a Uniball UM-151 brown-black pen to do the brown markings on the vase, which worked better than I thought it would.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9) sketchbook, TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black ink

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9) sketchbook, TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black ink

One thing about museum visits is that they challenge me to draw things I might not otherwise draw.  It really helps and there’s nothing better than a museum atmosphere to stimulate the creative neurons.


Drink And Sketch, Drink And Sketch

On my way back from a discussion with a bank manager I stopped into a place for a cup of tea and the possibility of sketching an interior scene.  It wasn’t the Taj Mahal but what the heck, it was great practice.  Here’s the result, done in a Stillman & Birn (4×6) Alpha sketchbook.  I used a TWSBI Mini as my pointy device.


While the counters, coffee and tea didn’t move, the people did as one after the other, a person came to the counter, paid for something, and left.  I’ve been asked several times about how I set up a sketch like this and I thought it might be time to oblige.

It’s fashionable in internet-land to proudly state that one doesn’t use pencil.  Ink is the only way to go.  Well, I’m an ink guy and most of my sketching is done in ink.  But I’ve also learned that laying down a few bones beforehand allows me to concentrate on the drawing of each section of a sketch and prevents my ideas from running off the page.

2013-11-20PicardieSillery_layourSo, I start with a pencil, a 3H pencil to be exact.  I draw lines to represent the major vertical and horizontal components.  I’ve indicated the pencil work for this sketch in red.  Once done, I can look at the paper space and compare it to the scene, ensuring that things are going in the right direction.  Note how few lines are actually required.  This is not drawing; it’s organization.

In this case I also wanted to place a person and I could use counter height and the verticals to locate her.  I’ve indicated three small pencil lines in yellow that define the top of her head, her shoulders as well as the bottom of ‘her’ coat.  The reality is that the coat was drawn mostly from the first customer but also the second, who contributed the legs/shoes.  A third provided the head, but as I had these little lines in place, it was easy to cobble together a person for my scene.  Given how light the pencil lines are, I rarely see a need to erase them when I finish so no eraser was harmed in the creation of this sketch.

Could I do this with dots from a pen?  Sure.  When I did Brenda Swenson’s 75-Day Challenge (limits you to ink only) that’s exactly what I did.  But it’s far easier to see the scene structure with some lines than with a few dots and a .5mm pencil isn’t that heavy so I carry one for this purpose.  Besides, if layout underpinnings was good enough for the master artists of the 18th and 19th Century, why shouldn’t it be good enough for me (grin)?

2013-11-21Brulerie3rdAve_72The next day I was meeting a friend for tea at one of my favorite haunts and this guy, all scrunched down in his chair caught my eye.  I sketched him and then just kept going, ending up with this scene.