Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Still Seeing Red

5/3/16 non-hairy brush pen, gel pen
One of many reasons why I enjoy Liz Steel’s blog is that she is as interested in the creative process as I am. Much of what she says about her sketching process resonates with me about my own, and she often prompts me to explore my thoughts more thoroughly. Just as I had been thinking about how a chosen sketchbook format heavily influences the sketches in them, Liz blogged about this very issue.

Like Liz, I’ve tried many different sizes and formats of sketchbooks since I began sketching, and each one had its benefits and drawbacks. Size (portability, spontaneity, discretion), paper type (media), format, binding, cover stability – all have a significant impact on the subject matter and compositions I choose and whether I’m encouraged to or hindered from sketching. I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about pens, inks and colored pencils, but I’d venture to say that my choice of sketchbook is the single-most influential part of my sketch kit.

If you’ve kept up with me for a while, you know that after trying all those commercial sketchbooks, I eventually settled on binding my own, because it was the only way to get as many as possible of the qualities I want and need in a sketchbook. It’s still not the ideal sketchbook, but it’s as close as I’ll probably ever come, and I’m happy.

That’s why I’ve been so surprised by how my little red Field Notes notebook has influenced my attitude toward the sketches I put in it. As of today, I’ve filled two 48-page booklets in a little more than a month while also filling my regular sketchbook at the normal rate, so the red books are not replacing those pages. They’re filling a different need.

5/3/16 hairy brush pen, white colored pencil
At first I thought the brightly colored Field Notes would be nothing more than a novelty; after all, how versatile can red paper be? I didn’t see it fulfilling the role of my pocket-size, catch-all sketchbooklet (which is more of a smaller-sized extension of my usual sketchbook) because I wouldn’t be able to use ink wash, colored pencils, watercolor or other favorite media.

But always having a little red booklet in my bag has done something that I wasn’t expecting at all. Since I can’t use color, I don’t even think about it – all I use is a black brush pen and add highlights with a white pencil or gel pen. The page is so small that I can’t bite off more of a composition than I can chew. It takes only a couple of minutes to fill a page, especially with broad brush pens, so I always have time for a sketch. I don’t even scan those red pages; taking a “trophy” photo with my phone matches the spontaneity and ease with which the sketch was made.

5/3/16 hairy brush pen, gel pen
While using my main sketchbook for all my “normal” sketches, I find myself looking for different types of subject matter just to put in the Field Notes. My main sketchbook records the visual stories of my daily life; my red notebook shows the mundanity that happens in between. These are often my most uninspired, unambitious sketches, and I’m pleased as punch to have a place to put them. Even the pages themselves, which are perforated for easy removal, seem to confirm the sketches’ ephemeral nature. In short, a red Field Notes notebook liberates me from expectations and lowers my standards to nothing. Previously I had always tried different sketchbook formats to meet various needs; this may be the first time that a sketchbook has shown me what I need.

The big question is whether a little notebook containing white paper would serve the same need. Now that my mind has been opened, perhaps the paper doesn’t have to be red. It’s an experiment worth doing for a process-oriented sketcher like me. But maybe not for a while – I’m having too much fun seeing red.

P.S. Many of my Field Notes sketches have not appeared on my blog, but you can see them all in this Flickr album.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Slice of Sky

5/1/16 ink, watercolor

This May Day is amazingly gorgeous: 73 degrees, according to my weather app, and not a cloud to be seen. Walking through my neighborhood, I turned the corner onto busy Roosevelt Way Northeast and looked up at a slice of sky. It was as good a celebration of this day as any.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mallow Plant

4/30/16 ink, colored pencils
A neighbor up the street has an amazing jungle of a garden filled with beautiful exotic plants. On my walk this afternoon, I was attracted to some huge plants near the sidewalk with broad leaves that looked like they were covered with frost. As I sketched one, another neighbor taking a walk came by and told me it’s a mallow plant. I tried Googling for images to see if I could determine the variety, but there are lots of them, apparently. I could just barely see a few tiny spots of yellow where the blooms will be one day soon.

A little less exotic was this Kymco scooter parked on the street. With Texas plates, it must have had a long ride to Seattle!

4/30/16 brush pen, white gel pen

Friday, April 29, 2016

Amazon’s Spheres

4/29/16 inks, colored pencils, Zig marker

Spheres, domes, bubbles, fly eyeballs – they’ve been called many things by locals and tourists alike. (Native “of a certain age” that I am, I can’t help but think of the Bubbleator from the Seattle World’s Fair.) They are definitely a head-turning addition to the north downtown area that is otherwise a canyon of mostly boring, glassy highrises. The spheres are part of Amazon’s brand-new campus of buildings. According to GeekWire, “the unusual buildings will be filled with more than 300 plants, including full-grown trees. It’s designed as a place for Amazon workers to meet, hangout and share ideas.”

After seeing the partially constructed domes in photos and David Chamnesss sketches, I figured I’d better get over there if I wanted to catch them still under construction. Strange as they are, they look quite cool compared to all the ordinary buildings around them. I predict they will be among the most-sketched structures around here in the summer months because they sure are fun to draw! 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Glass on Creativity

4/28/16 brush pen, gel pen
Ira Glass, producer and host of the radio program This American Life, says something in this one-minute audio clip that explains why I sketch every day (even when I’m not particularly inspired or ambitious).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Heads and Faces

4/27/16 charcoal (10-min. pose)
Today in Bill Evans’ Quick Sketch class, we practiced drawing a model. He gave several 5-minute demos that were especially informative because he described every mark he made, as he made it, and explained what his intention was with each. I am always impressed by instructors who can articulate what they are doing during demos (I can barely mutter my way through casual conversation while I’m drawing).

While I’ve sketched the full figure often enough in life-drawing sessions, I almost never focus only on the head. Today’s lesson included practicing the portrait in five- and 10-minute poses. I enjoyed making these challenging sketches, and I decided I’d try doing more portraits next time I go to life drawing.

Speaking of portraits, Gabi Campanario passed along a very interesting exercise he learned from Gary Faigin during a recent lecture at Gage about portraiture. As practice for life drawing, Faigin recommends drawing heads and faces from imagination – attempting to make them look like actual people, not generic. As soon as I saw Gabi’s imaginary portraits on Facebook and heard about the exercise, I wanted to try it, too. I think my attempts below are OK as far as not looking generic, but some verge on being cartoonish or caricatures. Still, I had so much fun doing these that I’m going to try this exercise more often. 

4/27/16 inks, brush pen (from imagination)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Surprises in Maple Leaf

4/26/16 colored pencils, ink
This afternoon the temperature was just warm enough for a sketchabout in the ‘hood. On the same block of Northeast 85th were two unexpected sights. The first was a small forsythia tree still in blossom – with a slender trunk tied in a knot!

As if that weren’t enough, I walked a few yards east and spotted a bear holding a salmon. I think it may have been a chainsaw-carved sculpture.

Who knew little ol’ Maple Leaf was so full of surprises.

4/26/16 brush pen, gel pen
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