Sketching Without Lines

I continue to try to use watercolors without an underpinning of a line drawing, mostly without success.  I can’t seem to figure out how to draw crisp edges with watercolors and, for complex drawings, I lose control over the drawing itself.  This is a good example of both of these problems.  This is a drawing (??) of a new pedestrian bridge over my river.  Great bridge, not so great sketch of it.  I added some pencil line buildings after the fact just to provide context.

Urban Sketching For International Nature Journal Week

I grew up in Arizona.  The standing joke there is that you don’t need weathermen.  All you need is a daily announcement of “Sunny and hot.”  I didn’t discover seasons until I moved north where I had a lot of difficulty dealing with the demands of “dressing for the weather.”  More than one kind of clothes?  Who’da thunk it?

Lately, though, our Quebec weatherman has had a limited offering of “It’s about to rain,” “It’s raining,” and “The rain is going to stop for a couple hours.”  So I’ve done little sketch wandering lately.

But yesterday we got a whole morning without rain so I headed out to to do a bunch of walking on my river.  It’s also International Nature Journal Week and I thought I might do something in honor of it.  Mostly, though, I wanted to spend time in nature, sitting on a rock or walking.

It occurred to me, however, that I was an urban sketcher and thus it seemed appropriate for me to select this common urban flower as my subject.  So, I sat on a rock and drew a dandelion.

It was very relaxing and enjoyable and after completing my walk I headed home my walk culminating in an old-man run/jog/slog.  It had started raining.

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).

 

Art And Life’s Little Cycles

The last big sketching adventure I took was back in 2017.  It was when Liz Steel came to Monatreal and I got lucky and spent an entire day trying to keep up with her and Marc Taro Holmes, a couple of the fastest sketchers on the planet.  I failed miserably but had the time of my life.

The next day Liz met with everyone to sketch in downtown Montreal, and we did.  But in the afternoon I had to leave early because my leg started hurting badly.  I wasn’t sure why.

And that was the beginning of a slide downward, to the point that I had a hard time walking around my house, let alone around the city.  The pandemic resulted in difficulty seeing doctors as the hospitals became overwhelmed with COVID patients.  My knee replacement surgery got cancelled twice but finally happened last year.

I’m older, not much wiser, but when Marc called me and said that she an Laurel Holmes would be driving back from Baie St. Paul and wondered if they could visit I was thrilled.  We all went sketching, though Laurel did it with a camera.  Her results were better too (grin).

Truth is, we spent far more time over coffee, talking about writing, doing art, and the world in general than we did sketching.  It was so cold that being outside for long wasn’t appealing.   The tale that follows was the most sketcher-battery charging event that I’ve had in several years.

Montreal meets Quebec City

I was to meet Marc and Laurel at the Marriot hotel Saturday morning.  I was there, where were they?  I texted Marc, he said they’d be right down, so I sat down and quickly sketched this large vase in the Marriot lobby.

Then Marc phoned with “Where are you?” and it turns out, there are TWO Marriots in Quebec City.  I was at the wrong one.  A bit of a windy walk/jog solved that problem and soon enough we were sitting in a cafe talking a mile a minute in an attempt to “catch up.”

Eventually, though we decided to go to the Plains of Abraham museum which celebrates a famous battle between the British and French, much of which took place on what is now a huge park outside the walled city that is Old Quebec.

Did I mention that Marc sketches fast?  I try to keep up but I’m just not worthy.  Nevertheless, it’s fun to try.  While I did this sketch, he did three of them (grin).  We worked mostly in pencil all day.

We continued sketching and, it seemed, my sketches got smaller and smaller.  Here’s one I did of a hand-carved head that was only two inches tall.

It became lunch time and we went to a restaurant and continued gabbing but ultimately decided we should go sketch.  It was bitter cold and windy so we walked across the street and quickly sketched a statue of Confucius.  I started it too small and ended the same way but my hands were frozen so I didn’t care.  Eventually we decided to regroup in the morning, hoping for better weather.

I met them at their hotel and we headed directly for the McDonalds for breakfast.  Again we couldn’t seem to get enough of art talk, but we decided to go to the Hotel Frontenac to sketch.  I was determined to do a larger (we were both working on 5×7 sheets of paper) sketch but I gave up on it because I’d gotten the organization of the building all wrong.  By then we were both very cold so I did this small sketch of a statue of Cartier that stands next to the hotel.

After lunch I suggested we go to a small park that overlooks the St. Lawrence and that has classic buildings around it.  I thought it might be out of the wind.

Marc has his annual 30×30 event coming up where you create one painting/sketch direct-to-watercolor every day for 30 days.  Thus, we talked a lot about that.  I tried it and learned a few things.  First, is that you’ve got to keep your work relatively dry or you’ll lose all your edges.  Second, never get impatient and try to add darks on top before the sketch is dry.  I did neither of these things, of course.  That’s how I learned them.  Oh, a third thing I learned is that I can’t talk while doing it like I can when I draw.  Better luck next time, Larry.

It’s funny how such a motley pile of sketches can bring so much joy.  I had a great time and I’m grateful that Marc and Laurel thought of me and stopped by.

Oh…before I go.  As if I haven’t embarrassed myself enough with these sketches, here’s an example of where artistic accidents aren’t so happy.  I decided to add some color to my uniformed manikin and while doing so dropped a brush full of pyrrol red onto the left side of the uniform.  I scrambled to fix/fake it but gave up after a while.