Tuesday, January 21, 2020


1/19/20 Mastodon replica, Burke Museum

Somehow the mastodon always calls to me. I’ve sketched it at the Burke Museum numerous times, but I never seem to tire of it. At the old facility, the big guy stood at the end of a dark, narrow exhibit area, so it was difficult to get any angle but head-on. In the Burke’s new digs, the replica of the 10,000-year-old skeleton guards the museum’s lower-floor entrance flooded with natural light. Looking down from the lobby stairway, this was my first attempt at sketching its entire length and girth in profile.

I love drawing all those bones, for sure, but capturing the sheer scale of this formidable monster is the real challenge: I used a full spread in my sketchbook this time, but I still didn’t have room for the tail. But at least I managed to get Suzanne and David in.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Triads: Yellow Plays Well With Others

Some of the many triad swatches I made.

From my previous primary triadic studies, I noted that the aggressive players are red and blue, while yellow is an easy-going partner. I started working on the hypothesis that as long as the red/blue combo was playing happily together as purple, almost any yellow could join in without ruining the harmony.

Using Derwent Inktense pencils (at right and below), I first tried several combos of red and blue to mix a purple I liked. I settled on Peacock Blue (820) and Poppy Red (400). Then I tried several different yellows with that combo, one at a time, and couldn’t seem to mix a bad one. I chose Cadmium Yellow (220) to make the tomato sketch.
1/9/20 Derwent Inktense in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
(Peacock Blue 820, Poppy Red 400, Cadmium Yellow 220)
1/11/20 vintage Prismacolor Watercolor pencils in
S&B Beta (Crimson 2924, Violet Blue 2933, Canary
Yellow 2916)
Working with a small set of vintage Prismacolor watercolor pencils, I had fewer hue options, but I used the same principle (at left): First I combined Crimson Red (2924) and Violet Blue (2933) to make sure the resulting purple was strong, and then I threw Canary Yellow (2916) into the mix. Happy with that, I sketched the tomato and banana.

From a previous triad I had tried, I saw that Carmine (and other reds similar to it) often mixed well with others. Using the Caran d’Ache Supracolor line, I found that Ruby Red (280), which is Carmine-like, and Permanent Blue (670) made a lovely violet (below). All yellows I tried with it looked great, and I chose Gold Cadmium Yellow (530) for the apple sketch. I love this triad – clean and fresh with a strong purple. It makes me wish that the Cd’A Museum Aquarelle line included Ruby Red.

Experiments shown today were all done with watercolor pencils. I’m also working on triads using traditional pencils with a more systematic method: The red and blue remain the same in all trials, and only the yellow varies. Stay tuned!

Isn’t this thrilling?! (Yes, I’m easily amused, especially in the dead of winter.)

1/14/20 Supracolor pencils in S&B Beta (Ruby 280, Permanent Blue 670, Gold
Cadmium Yellow 530)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Cold Seat

1/15/20 Roosevelt neighborhood

Last week, after a hot tip from a friend, I found two couches on Roosevelt waiting to be sketched. After finishing one, I was too cold to get the second. Exactly a week later, I took a walk/sketch down Roosevelt again, and the couch I hadn’t sketched yet was still there – now covered with snow. With the windchill factor, it was 28 degrees, but I couldn’t resist. About 20 minutes later, my sketch was done, and none too soon – a truck came by and hauled the couch away.

Thawing my hands back at home, I was happy that I had gone out for my walk when I had. Shortly afterwards, snow started falling again – sideways. I hope you’re staying warm wherever you are!  
They didn't even bother to remove the snow
before hauling it away.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we like our
snow this way: Build one snowman, and
all the snow is used up.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Giving Epsilon a Shot

Out: Zeta; in: Epsilon (with some political commentary)

I just filled the Stillman & Birn Zeta that I started in October and had used intermittently with a S&B Beta. After the Beta was full, I continued in the Zeta, thinking I’d want to start the next Beta eventually, but by then the holiday colors were over, and it was graphite season again. I haven’t been using enough color to miss Beta’s surface, especially with my current minimal kit challenge, so Zeta worked out beautifully. In fact, it’s the ideal surface for the ArtGraf water-soluble graphite pencil I’ve been using a lot lately. On these dreary, colorless days, it’s my favorite ultra-minimal tool.

That brings me to Epsilon, which I use frequently at my desk but haven’t used as an everyday-carry. I often avoid sketching on the page that faces a graphite sketch because of the smudging that occurs. Epsilon has the same surface as Zeta, but the paper is thinner, so a book contains twice as many pages. As long as I’m using mostly dry media, the lighter pages are fine, and I can skip a facing page without regretting as much of the waste of the higher-price-per-page Zeta. I’m going to give Epsilon a try for the rest of my minimal challenge.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Green Lake Arch

1/14/20 Green Lake Park

The day after Monday’s dusting, we got a little more snow overnight, but not enough to write home about. The more significant difference for me was the drop in temperature. Although my weather app said it was 28 degrees, I was hoping that my walk down to Green Lake would have warmed me enough that I could stand to sketch outdoors as I had the day before. But my hands were freezing even with the mitten tops pulled over my fingerless gloves. I retreated to Starbucks.

Thawing my hands around a tall flat white, I picked a window seat facing a row of knotty old trees. It’s one of my favorite views of Green Lake Park, but it had been several years since I last sketched it. The darker areas are the grass already showing through the scant snow.

I’ll point out a bit of history: That classical fa├žade in the distant background at right is a piece of architecture taken from the Martha Washington School of Girls for “neglected and unfortunate young girls.” Built in 1921 near Lake Washington, the school closed in 1957, and the city bought the property in 1972. (Local trivia: Apparently ghosts have been sighted there.) The Green Lake Arch, as it is now called, was taken out of storage in 2009 and placed at the park. I always thought I hadn’t noticed the arch until recent years because so many things escaped my attention before I started sketching. But now that I’ve read this bit of local history, I realize it was erected only a couple of years before I started.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Dusting

1/13/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood

On Monday we woke to the snow that had been promised for more than a week. It wasn’t quite the storm we had been led to expect, however: At least in our neck of the woods, we got barely a couple of inches. When I went out for a walk/sketch in the lightly falling snow, the streets were dry, but the trees had the magical look that a dusting of snow always brings.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Bewick’s Wren

1/9/20 Bewick's wren

Last winter a Bewick’s wren visited our feeder only occasionally, and meals were extremely brief. Every time I spotted one, it would be gone by the time I picked up a pencil. The most I got were a couple of incomplete gestures last spring. Along with a nuthatch, which also visits rarely and briefly, a wren has been my sketching goal at the feeder this winter.

Hoping to attract more nuthatches, which like to hang upside-down to dine, we got a different feeder this year designed to accommodate birds that eat that way. It holds suet bricks instead of loose seeds. I guess wrens like suet, because one has been visiting more often, and last week I finally caught it! It’s still not much more than a gesture, but it’s the most complete sketch I’ve made so far.

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