Have You Ever Gone Sketch Floating?

Saturday was 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl day and we held ours here in Quebec City.  Unlike most parts of the world we’re still cold this time of year.  In fact, we just got six inches of snow.  But we were fortunate to have anticipated an unfriendly weather and scheduled our sketchcrawl so that we could be inside or out and still have fun.

This is a model of the ferry boat we were on all day.

This is a model of the ferry boat we were on all day.

We all met at the ferry boat dock and then spent the day going back and forth across the St. Lawrence River (takes about 10 minutes) between Quebec City and Levis, the town on the other side.  There are actually two ferries and they change places from their respective sides of the St. Lawrence every 30 minutes.

Claudette, talking with one of the passengers

Claudette, talking with one of the passengers

And the situation couldn’t have been better for sketching.  It was too cold to go out onto the decks, at least for me, but inside the first-class passenger area it was warm and accommodating.  The area is complete with toilette facilities, drink and snack vending machines, and comfy chairs.  We were surrounded by large windows, complete with slightly sloped ‘shelves’ for us to rest our sketchbooks as we sketched outdoor scenes.  Both sides of the St. Lawrence present great views of interesting architecture and there were things nautical all around us.

Susanne, showing proper use of the window "studios" we were provided.

Susanne, showing proper use of the window “studios” we were provided.

The line up: Pierre, Celine, and Katherine

The line up: Pierre, Celine, and Catherine

Yvan, taking a break while talking with Peter.

Yvan, taking a break while talking with Jean-Marc.

We had ten people show up for the sketchcrawl and a lot of sketching got done.  The one sad thing, for me, is that some didn’t seem to ‘get’ the notion that group sketching is a social event that should include a sharing of sketches as well as conversations about them. Some left without even saying goodbye.  So, unfortunately, I don’t have the typical group-sketch photos and I don’t have sketches from other people to share.

ClaudetteSketches

Here’s a photo I took over Claudette’s shoulder.  The quality of her sketches is surpassed only by her bubbly personality.

2013-04-13TugBoatOf course, I do have my own sketches.  This first one is a small sketch I did as an experiment, which demonstrated that I didn’t know what I was doing (grin).  I tried to ‘draw’ the sketch using watercolors, adding some ink lines afterwards.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) sketchbook.  I have much to learn about using watercolors.

2013-04-13FromFerryI did two other sketches, one from the front and the other from the back of the boat.  Both were done with my new TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  I really enjoyed working in my new Stillman & Birn Zeta (5.5×8.5) sketchbook.  I hope these sketches reflect the cold, dreary day you see in the accompanying photo.DrearyDay2013-04-13FromFerry2

 

10 Favorite Sketches of 2012

2012 represents most of my sketching experience to date.  I started trying to draw cubes back in September of 2011 but I didn’t start doing any location sketching until spring of 2012 as the Quebec snow melted.  It’s been a fantastic journey as I’ve climbed the early stages of the sketching learning curve. I thought it might be fun to do a ‘ 10 favorites’ post, where I present what I think are some of my best sketches of the year.  I’m often accused of being ‘down’ on my sketches.  Here’s my chance to show people that I’m actually happy with some of them (grin).

Because 90% or more of my sketches have been done on the street and most have been buildings, I thought I should vary my choices by selecting one sketch from ten different categories, just to increase the variety.   So, here they are.  I hope you like them.

Building

This is, by far, the hardest selection.  I’ve done a LOT of building sketches and none of them really stand out as extraordinary, though many are personal ‘favorites’.  I’ve chosen this one because it, in the extreme, is the brightest (grin).

2012_10-MokaPlus800

Vehicle

2012_09-CarI’ve drawn a number of cars, trucks and even heavy equipment.  I chose this one, however, because the subject was so darn cute when it found it lounging in the old port area of Quebec.

 

Fire hydrant

Pete Scully, by example, caused me to notice and sketch fire hydrants.  I don’t know what it is about them but once you start looking at them you realize they vary considerably and that fire hydrants have oodles of personality.  I chose this one because I like the composition.

2012_01-FireHydrant2_sm

 Samurai helmet

2012_12-Samouri3_700I’ve tried drawing from photos and it’s ‘ok’ but sketching, for me, is about going places and seeing things.  But winter in Quebec City is just too cold to be outdoors so we’re all driven indoors.  At first I found that depressing but once I saw the Samurai exhibit at our museum of civilization, I was hooked on indoor sketching.  I started sketching Samurai helmets, which are amazing, serving to protect heads as well as indicate status, identity, and even to serve in ceremonial roles.  It’s hard to choose a single helmet sketch as I love these amazing pieces of hardware.  I chose this one as it nearly drove me nuts drawing all those flame thingies.

Human

52This was hard as I haven’t drawn many people.  It’s on my ‘to do’ list for 2013.  But I chose this one, a very simple sketch, because I liked the way I was lucky enough to capture the movement of this guy’s coat as he walked along.

Ship

2012_07-CHJColor800Quebec City has an active port so I’ve sketched several ships.  I chose this one because I remember struggling with all the decks and railings.  I also have memories of how much fun I had that day as I sketched with my buddy Pierre.

Steeple/Dome

Quebec City is heavily populated by domes and steeples projecting upward from their supporting structures.  I love sketching them and have done a bunch of them.  I chose this particular sketch because it features both domes and steeples in a single sketch.

2012_11-Domes800_site

Telephone pole

Maybe you have to be an urban sketcher to appreciate them, but I like telephone poles and all the wires, transformers and connectors that hang from them.  I did this sketch on blue paper and liked the way it turned out.

2012_04-3Transformer800

Tree

I’ve drawn a bunch of trees but mostly they’ve been ‘studies’ where it was just the tree and nothing for supporting material.  This one, however, was done one day when Pierre and I headed out one Sunday morning looking for things to sketch.  It was a crisp autumn day and the maples had started to change colors.  I decided to make the tree the main attraction, putting the building in the background.

2012_09-StAnneTree800

Vignette

To fulfill my promise of ten sketches, I’ve added this vignette to complete the set.  I was sketching with my friend Nicolas and we were sitting in a church yard, a church that has become a library.  I looked over my shoulder and could see part of this restaurant, liked the red umbrellas and so I drew it.  Again, it brings back memories of a good day.

2012_08-VeauD'OrC800

I’m looking forward to 2013 sketching.  For a while I’m going to have to work indoors but sometime around April we’ll start having a day or three where it’s tolerable to sketch outside and you’ll find me on the streets all summer.  Happy New Year, everyone.

 

Where The Dogs Run In Quebec City

The keepers of Quebec City have a sense of humor, or so it seems.  On every tourist map there is a pointer to Passage du Chiens, or Dog Passage and people flock to see it.  Well, maybe not flock as it’s down the street from lots of other stuff and they simply see it as they pass by.

But there it is, complete with official street sign – Passage du Chiens.  It is a passageway to a road/parking area for residents who live in the area and whose house fronts on a ‘street’ that is no longer a street but rather a walkway for pedestrians.  And the Passage du Cheins does sit between two art galleries that are quite photogenic and so many photos are taken of the spot.  I suspect dog lovers get a kick out of showing it to their friends.

Towards the end of our outdoor sketching season I was wandering around, trying to get in some last minute plein air sketching, and I decided to sketch this famous landmark.  The sun was bright, which was great because the temps were just above freezing.  Before I finished, though, the sun had moved behind the buildings, shading the entire area.  This, and the fact that I’d been sitting for an hour caused me to be quite cold so I quickly snapped this photo and moved on to find more sunny ground.

And then I completely forgot about the sketch, until today.  I decided it was time to add some color and this was the result.  Hope you like it.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7) and a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.

 

 

Halloween – Urban Sketching Style

This is the time of year that sketchers post beautiful sketches of pumpkins.  I love them all.  I figure this to be my first Halloween as a sketcher.  Last October I’d just started try to move pointy objects across paper and I wasn’t up to the task of sketching pumpkins.  So, a year later, here’s my first set, done with a black ballpoint pen that blobbed on me more than a few times, adding “character” to my sketch.

Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (6×8), Pentel RSVP ballpoint, W&N watercolors

But I’m an urban sketcher.  I sketch buildings, lamposts and fire hydrants.  I guess a group of pumpkins sitting on my kitchen table is ‘urban’ but you have to mentally squint to see it.  So I thought I should do something else and I found the ideal subject as I walked the main street that runs through our port area.   What could be better than an orange building with some black Halloween decorations on it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7), Pilot Prera w/Noodler’s Lexington Gray, W&N watercolors

When I sat across the street to sketch it, though, I had an immediate problem.  There is considerable vehicle traffic on this street and when sitting low on my tripod stool, it was hard to see the lower front of the building.  I’m not good enough to sketch moving vehicles so I sat, looked and pondered.  Then I sat, looked and pondered some more.  What to do.

I got out a 3H pencil and started laying out where the building and stairwell would sit on the paper and marked out the door location.  Then I picked up my stool and walked down the street and found a place where I could sit the ‘right’ distance from a car.  I sketched it as though it was moving in front of my, as yet to be drawn, building.  Then I moved back to the building and sketched it.  I’m not sure I got car and building sized properly relative to one another but it’s close enough for me.  Hope you like it.  Happy Halloween.

Cheers — Larry

Junk Journals, Trying Stuff, And Sketching Fun

I’m a lucky guy.  Laure Ferlita reads my blog.  If you don’t know Laure, she is a VERY talented artist/sketcher whose work I admire a lot.  She has her own blog and left a comment on my recent post about Stillman & Birn sketchbooks where she advocates the use of what she calls a ‘junk journal.’  You can, and should, read her blog post, titled “Pen Practice In My Junk Journal” on this subject.

In that post Laure advocates the use of a ‘junk journal’, a sketchbook that may be a cast off from buying an inadequate sketchbook, or maybe even bought as a ‘junk journal.’  While the name Laure gives to these sketchbooks comes from the notion that they might be otherwise thrown away, they are anything but junk, but rather a liberating and fun tool.  A junk journal, in my view, is a crucial part of a newbie’s arsenal.  While Laure, an accomplished artist, uses it to gain unfettered creativity in planning, playing, and enjoying her skills.  I think we newbies have an additional use for it, which is that we’re trying to figure out how to do stuff and a junk journal is the best place to do it in my view.

For myself, I have a ‘junk journal’, though it isn’t one of my rejects.  Instead, it’s a 9×12 Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook that sits, open on my desk, all the time.  It’s where I do tests of new materials.  It’s where I try to replicate a technique or idea I’ve gleaned from the many bright folks that inhabit the Internet.  It’s where I try to improve my drawing and painting techniques.  This sketchbook is crucial to my learning process as I feel the notion of learning by doing is a good one, there are different kinds of doing and separating my ‘learning’ (junk journal) from my ‘doing’ (creating the best sketch I can) helps me a lot.

Here I was trying to figure out how to draw cylinders, with a bit of 'quick building' thrown in for good measure.

When one tries to learn piano one doesn’t just try to play a Chopin sonata over and over again.  One plays scales, plays Chopsticks, Twinkle-Twinkle-Little-Star or whatever.  In short, if sketching buildings (my thing) is what you like, you don’t want to mess up a nice sketch of a building trying to figure out how to indicate snow against its wall.  You need a ‘junk journal’ to figure out that 1) drawing a line to indicate snow is a bad idea, 2) that negative painting that snow line is far superior and 3) get some practice doing it in small, insignificant vignette sketches.

I’ve made it pretty clear in my S&B post that I’m an advocate of using first class paper all the time.  I tried to indicate how little more it costs to do so in that post.  But I think Laure’s views on a junk journal and mine are not so different.  Rather, I think there are two components to ‘junk journal’ and they should be addressed separately.  They are:

1) You need a sketchbook where you can play, with no expectations of drawing anything you’re going to frame or post on the Internet – the junk journal that Laure advocates.

2) You need to decide whether you need cheap paper to be liberated as in 1) or not.

I think, without a doubt, Laure is right about the first thing for all the reasons she argues on her blog AND as I’ve just argued, it’s probably more important for new sketchers to have such a sketchbook.

Here I was responding to ideas from Artist's Journal Workshop on how to paint kitchen wall tiles and bricks, with some paint smears and smudges that I can't explain.

For the second thing, however, I think it’s not so clear.  While Laure’s idea of using an existing, and rejected sketchbook seems very logical, and certainly frugal, it was afterall, a rejected sketchbook.  You’ve said, “Yuck!” for a reason.  And if your junk journal is to be used to try new techniques, experiment with ideas, and generally aid in your learning the craft, wouldn’t it be better if the paper in that sketchbook be of a quality similar to what you use when you actually do a so-called ‘serious’ sketch or journal entry?

Of course this is true so the big problem is whether you can get past the notion that paying an extra few cents for a blank page on which to scribble is a good idea.

I find that by using a first class sketchbook is worth it to me because I’m testing techniques, not just ideas.  Further by using much larger journal than my carry-everywhere sketchbooks I cut the cost of the play even more.  I scatter experiments and sketches over a 8 1/2 x 11 page, done in the size I’d do in my normal sketchbooks, and I can fit 4-6 ideas on a page, sometimes more.  I’m not trying to produce a ‘real’ sketch, remember.  And so, while my large S&B Epsilon costs $22, there are 100 pages on which I can doodle/test/sketch and even at four ideas per page it’s only costing me a nickel per idea.   Pretty cheap to have the knowledge that the paper won’t bleed, buckle and that anything learned will translate well to my ‘real’ sketchbooks.

In summary, following Laure’s recommendation is probably the most important thing a newbie sketcher can do to help develop technique and style.  Whether it is ideally done on cheap paper, is, however, more a function of getting past the notion that you’re worth a few nickles (grin).

And now I’ve done something I thought I’d never do – show people pages from my junk journal.  I feel like Hagrid, in the Philosopher’s Stone movie when he kept giving privileged info to the kids, followed with “I shouldn’t have told you that.”