Do You Experiment With Sketching Styles?

In the two years that I’ve been sketching I’ve actually developed a ‘style’, which surprises me somewhat as it seemed not long ago I was wondering if I would ever be able to draw anything, let alone have a ‘style.’

I like my style, which is more ‘illustrative’ than artistic.  Some might even claim it to be cartoonish.  I sometimes call it that.  In any case, when I sit down to draw something, the resultant sketch reflects that style.

My style has two drawbacks.  The first is that those who don’t speak sketcher try to fit it into ‘fine art’ and, well, it just doesn’t.  Some day ‘finished’ sketching will be acknowledged by the art community at large but so far, it’s tough slogging.   The other drawback to my style is that it’s not ‘fast’.  My sketches take longer than those done by people using looser, less detailed approaches.  This is not bad or good but sometimes it limits my ability to quickly capture a scene.

So, I sometimes experiment with quicker, looser ways of sketching.  Of course I do a fair amount of quick-sketching of people but here I’m talking about sketching things.  Here are a few examples of those attempts.

2013-07-30QuickBuildingsI did this little sketch of a piece of the Quebec City skyline, experimenting not only with very quick (only a couple minutes) sketch but also with a washable red ink.  I kinda-sorta liked the result.  It’s no more than two inches square.

Using the same pen/ink combo I decided to see if I could grab enough detail from a very complex hotel facade in 3-4 minutes to make me happy.  Can’t say this pleased me much but maybe…with lots of practice… naw…not working for me 🙂



Here’s another experiment.  It’s only about 2×2 and my thoughts were to do a quick, small sketch that could be part of a journal page.  I really would like to start adding annotations to some of my sketches and to that end I sketched this tiny house in about five minutes, including the watercolor.

I was sitting in a park in ‘lower town’ of Quebec City and there’s a row of buildings that look down on the park, trees filling the area in between.  I decided to quick-sketch it.  Probably took me 10-15 minutes, which for some is not ‘quick’ but if I were to do this with my ‘style’ it would take at least four times that long.

I sort of like the results.  The trees aren’t sufficiently developed for my taste and I hate restated lines on buildings (buildings aren’t supposed to look like they’re vibrating).  This one was done on two pages of a 3×5 notebook so it’s a bit larger than the others.


I’ll continue experimenting with different styles and approaches as I think I learn something every time I do it.  Who knows what my ‘style’ will be in another year.  Do you experiment with styles?

Sketching at Chute Montmorency

CMontmorencyChute Montmorency is a large waterfall just east of Quebec City.  It’s a major tourist attraction, a mini-Niagara Falls I suppose.  It has all the tourist amenities.  Large facility at the base of the falls greets tourists and there’s a large parking lot to accommodate a constant parade of vehicles.

There’s also a tram and a smiling attendant with their hand out.  You can pay the price or you can climb a veritable labyrinth of stairs up to the top of the falls.  We did neither.

Locals, wanting to get to the top take a metro bus that drops them near the top and next to a hotel that sits at the tram terminus.  There’s a wonderful boardwalk that tourists walk along to the falls and it provides spectacular views of the falls as well as the St. Lawrence River.  We took the bus.

I met my sketching buddy, Claudette, on the bus and we walked the short trail down to the west end of a large pedestrian bridge that runs right across the top of the falls.  The views are pretty spectacular from there.  So, what do a couple of urban sketchers do?  We set up at the end of the bridge and drew the bridge.  We’ll draw the trees, beautiful canyon, and the falls themselves some other day.  I guess it truly is a mindset as both of us did this without much thought.

I decided to work in a small format as I’ve been doing a series of smaller sketches.  I got out my little Moleskine watercolor sketchbook and started drawing.  Claudette did likewise with her 5×8 Strathmore 467-series sketchbook.  These are beautiful, brown-covered watercolor sketchbooks, though they are in landscape mode which is not idea in my view.

2013-08-24ClaudetteSketchingCIt seemed that we both finished our linework about the same time as I noticed that she was getting out her watercolors as I reached for mine.  She had hers. I did not.  I’d left my watercolor kit sitting on my desk.

While disappointing, it allowed me to stand up and move around, giving my old knees a stretch.  Then I sat down and did a quick, small sketch of Claudette working on her sketch.  Obviously, I added color to my sketches when I got home.

2013-08-24ChuteMontmorencyBridgeCClaudette composed an interesting view of the bridge, sort of zooming in on just the entrance area.  I decided to capture more of the entirety of the scene.  I like hers better.  I always do.


We wandered up Avenue Royale which is a very old street lined with older, though often completely renovated houses.  These are majestic houses with lots of what my dad used to call ‘gingerbread’ trim, large front doors and porch areas.

We only found a few dozen things we wanted to sketch but it was time for lunch.  Feeling recharged by good food and conversation, we returned to the falls area and I sketched this little snack kiosk, again in my 3×5 watercolor book.  Then, we hopped on the bus and came home.  Paraphrasing the Terminator…”we’ll be back.”


Taxi Guys Need A Place Too!

Firemen have their firehouse.  Policemen have donut shops. Sketchers have libraries, coffee shops, and street corners.  And taxi cab drivers need a place too.  In Quebec it looks like this:

2013-08-15TaxiStandCAt least the one not far from my house looks like this.  I’m not exactly sure what they do in there but they have a washing machine outside.  I suspect it’s something of an oasis that lets the drivers get out of the car once in a while.  The bright yellow building and the orange background wall conspired to insist that I draw them, and so I did.  Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) using a Uniball Signo UM151 pen.  It’s hard for a fountain pen guy to admit it, but I love these pens and their waterproof ink.


This Is The Back Of The Building?

I was downtown Sunday, waiting for the Festivale de Nouvelle France events to spool up.  I was sitting in the courtyard in front of the Trinity Anglican Church and from there I could see this view of the back of large government building.  I think it’s the finance building.  I decided to sketch it.

I took a somewhat different approach, experimenting a bit.  I spent more time with a pencil, adding more than just layout lines.  I used my typical 3H pencil, but from these light lines, I laid in light color washes before I added any ink to the sketch.  This allowed me, or so I think, to use a lighter hand with the ink lines, which I followed up with more watercolor.  I think, if I knew anything about watercolors, this would be a good approach.  I know it works well for many other sketchers and I’ll continue to pursue it.

I did it in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) sketchbook, with a Pilot Prera and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.


New Restaurant In Quebec

I don’t have an official count but I think Quebec City has more restaurants per capita than most cities on the planet.   I pass no less than 9 of them on my way to a new one that has just opened and I don’t live in what one might call a dining hotspot.

But open it has, a new Vietnamese restaurant named Ubong.  If the outside is any reflection of the inside, though, I’m sure it will be successful as they’ve completely remodeled the building and painted it with this stunning yellow and green paint and trim.

It’s on a well-traveled street and every once in a while I’d have to stop as a truck or bus blocked my view and there was a steady stream of pedestrians, some of whom stopped to say hello.  I really enjoy this part of street sketching.  It was sketched in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) and I used a Uniball Signo UM-151 (.38) in black, followed by drawing the window and door frames using a brown-black version of the same pen.  W&N artist watercolors added a bit of shadow and color.