Sunday, October 19, 2014

Summer in October on Capitol Hill

10/19/14 various inks, watercolor, Zig markers, Pitt Artist Pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

The October gatherings of Urban Sketchers Seattle the past two years have been at pumpkin farms – Craven Farm last year (which was really cold) and Fall City Farm (which was rainy) the year before. This year we broke from tradition and met in the Capitol Hill neighborhood near Seattle Central Community College, and someone must have danced the right sun dance, because we got summer – 70 degrees and a nearly cloudless sky! 

10/19/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Caran d'Ache
Museum water-soluble colored pencils
From the corner of Broadway and Pine, red and yellow cranes caught my eye. I could see no less than four, but I could fit only three into my composition.

At the Broadway Farmers Market, I captured a busker singing in the bright sunshine, but not before wandering slowly through the colorful produce and flower stalls, wishing summer were just starting.

In the last 15 minutes before our meet-up time, I sketched a line of trees growing on the SCCC campus grounds. Actually, what first caught my attention was the very top of the Space Needle hovering over a rooftop like a spaceship.

Rain is predicted for the rest of the week, and I can already see clouds gathering on the horizon, so today was a special treat right before we all get out our Polartecs and parkas for good.


10/19/14 various inks, Caran d'Ache Museum
water-soluble colored pencils

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Taking My Stegosaur for a Walk

10/18/14 Sailor Jentle Doyou ink, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Gamma

I’m enrolled in Sketchbook Skool this term.

As an urban sketcher, I think of every sketch I make as a story. Not necessarily a newsworthy one – I rarely sketch anything that would qualify as sketch reportage. The way I look at, a “story” can be as simple as a few coloring maples lighting up the parking lot of a grocery store where I shop; trees butchered to make way for power lines; the neighborhood store where I still rent videos. In other words, the “story” might be nothing more than something that caught my attention at a certain time and place.

The descriptions of the first two semesters of Sketchbook Skool didn’t interest me much, but the third one – “Storytelling” – felt like it would be right up my alley. Although I’ve enjoyed most of the video presentations of the first two instructors (especially watching Melanie Reim’s demo of the way she wields a conventional fountain pen in a most unconventional way! If I could figure out how to do that, I wouldn’t need my Sailor!), I wasn’t inspired enough to complete the homework assignments (I’m such a bad student!). The third and current instructor, however, is a different matter.

I’ve been a fan of Mattias Adolfsson’s amazingly imaginative drawings for a long time. Drawing from imagination has always felt like something that other people do – people with imaginations more vivid or at least more illustratable than mine. Imaginative storytelling is not even something I necessarily aspire to – I’m perfectly happy simply trying to sketch what I see in the real world – yet Mattias’ drawings are so strange and wondrous and his explanations so seemingly straightforward that I felt compelled by his invitation to give it a shot.

Bad student that I am, I didn’t exactly follow the first assignment, which was to sketch a childhood memory. Instead, I latched onto something else he said in a lesson: Take any real-life experience and use that memory to start the sketch.

I didn’t have to go too far back in my memory to dig up a real-life experience – just to last Tuesday, when I sketched a stegosaur skeleton at the Burke. With that skeletal structure still fresh in my mind, I sketched some flesh onto it, and voilĂ  – a fantasy childhood memory. It was much easier than I had expected – and, more important, it was fun! I’ll probably never be another Mattias, but it feels good to give myself a whack upside the brain once in a while.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review: Seattle Sketcher

Cover of Gabi's new book, which shows one of my most favorite
Seattle Sketcher sketches -- the Smith Tower.
Visitors to Gabi’s exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry earlier this year will feel like they are at the exhibit all over again when they view his new book, Seattle Sketcher: An Illustrated Journal by Seattle Times artist Gabriel Campanario. Most of the same sketches and accompanying text are included in the beautiful hardcover book published by the Times and organized in a similar way. And as in the sketch reproductions we saw in the exhibit, we can see the scribbled marginal notes and paint swipes that usually get cropped out when the sketches appear in the newspaper.


But while the exhibit had a literally larger-than-life quality – many sketches were reproduced to fill entire walls – the book gives you the opposite feeling: something you can curl up with on the couch with a cup of coffee, paged through slowly – like a sketchbook.

I’ve seen all of these sketches many times – first in the newspaper; then at the exhibit; and now in the book. But I never tire of Gabi’s fresh view of Seattle. Leonard Garfield, MOHAI Executive Director, said it best, as quoted on the back cover: “The work of Gabriel Campanario is both beautifully drawn and brilliantly observed, revealing Seattle in ways that allow us to see the city as if for the first time.”

Indeed, those who missed the exhibit and don’t have access to his column will be able to see Seattle for the first time in this delightful collection. The book publisher keeps saying it’s available in a “limited quantity.” I don’t know what that really means, but if you haven’t already, you might want to get a copy soon!

Multiple Models

10/17/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, Caran d'Ache
Museum water-soluble colored pencil, Canson Mixed
Media sketchbook
I hadn’t been to life drawing practice in nearly six months, so I was feeling rusty this morning as I drove over to Gage Academy in the drizzle. My preference is to attend short-pose sessions, but the session scheduled for today was an “Artist’s Choice” long pose, which means a painter has reserved the model and determines the pose, and the rest of us can sketch alongside that artist.

A couple of other surprises awaited me: The model was clothed (wearing a wedding gown), and the room was somewhat larger than the previous Gage life drawing sessions I’ve attended, so I had more space to choose a variety of positions. It brought to mind Thomas Thorspecken’s suggestion in his book, Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques: Use life-drawing sessions as an on-location sketch opportunity by drawing the other participants or the whole room, not just the model.

I spent most of the three-hour session sitting in the back sketching the other artists. They all stayed in the same positions, and the model stayed in the same (boring) pose, but I moved to a different location at every break. For my last sketch, I decided it was time to focus on the “bride,” so I sketched her with India ink and a twig. 

10/17/14 India ink, twig
10/17/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Museum pencil

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Ban Roll-on Building

10/16/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Canson XL paper
Safeco Center, affectionately known by locals as the “Ban Roll-on building” and the “R2-D2 building,” was on my list of downtown Seattle architecture that I really like and intend to sketch someday. An errand downtown this morning put me in the neighborhood of the former Washington Mutual Tower across the street, where I had a somewhat good view of R2-D2 from the lobby windows. I couldn’t see as much of the roll-on ball as I wanted to, though, so it’s going to stay on my list until I find another vantage point to sketch it, perhaps from up the hill.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Whole Stegosaur

10/14/14 Sailor Jentle Doyou ink, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper (stegosaur)

I hate to say it, but I think the outdoor-sketching season is over for the year. To initiate the start of indoor-sketching season, I headed over to one of my favorite places, the Burke Museum, where I had a long-delayed appointment with a stegosaur.

Back in March 2013, I took a 4-by-6-inch sketchbook to the Burke, so I sketched only the stegosaur’s head and one foot – all I could fit on those pages. I had vowed to return someday to sketch the whole cast replica of the huge, plant-eating beast. Although I’ve been back to the Burke several times since then, I got distracted by other, equally fascinating beasts, such as the elasmosaur I sketched last March. This morning I had the dinosaur exhibit nearly to myself, so I decided it was time.

The tip of the stegosaur's tail sketched
on another page.
I had my usual sketchbook paper, which opens out to a 9-by-12 spread. A couple of college-age art students joined me in the exhibit with their 18-by-24 drawing pads, and I started regretting that I didn’t bring something similar. Although I tried to scale my sketch carefully, I had a bad feeling I wouldn’t be able to fit the whole thing on the spread. Sure enough, when I got to the very tip of its tail, I ran out of space, so I had to use another page (one of these days I’ll learn how to stitch images together in Photoshop and make a complete skeleton).

I recall hearing a docent say that the plates on a stegosaur’s back are the size of a stop sign. As I sketched, I kept wondering how an animal so large could function with such a tiny, tiny head?

Pondering these and other thoughts, I was interrupted about 45 minutes into the sketch by a museum staff person who came by to let us know that in 15 minutes, about 90 fifth graders would be visiting the museum. “Thank you for the warning,” I said, and I made sure I was done by then!

10/14/14 Sailor Jentle Doyou and Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun inks
(pig's jaw)
I still had some time left on my parking meter. With the sound of 180 fifth-grade feet stampeding toward the exhibit, I made a beeline to a quieter room. As I sketched a pig’s jaw, I marveled at how similar its molars were to mine. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Color at Metro Market

10/13/14 Platinum Carbon and Pilot Iroshizuku Kiri-same
inks, watercolor, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencil, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
At the Sand Point Metropolitan Market where we were doing our weekly shopping this morning, I saw that the maples in the parking lot were still not quite at their peak of color, but at least one of them was already empty of leaves at its very top. I considered bringing my sketchbook next week, but I realized that might be too late. Time’s a wastin’!

I took an afternoon break and drove back to Metro Market. A heavy cloud cover threatened rain, but the temperature was still comfortable, so I brought my coffee to an outdoor table facing the lot. Just as I was hoping for some shadows, the clouds parted for a few seconds – exactly long enough. (I’ve lately had a knack for wishing for something to come into view for a sketch, and suddenly, there it is! At last, a useful superpower!)
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