Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Loony Over Lunacy

The crescent die-cut cover of Field Notes' Lunacy edition.
You’ve heard me whine about most of the papers in Field Notes. You’ve also heard me sing the praises of Field Notes’ Workshop Companion, the first edition to have paper I can use with all my favorite sketching media. And of course, my love for and use of the Sweet Tooth edition is practically legendary. :-)

I’ve come to learn that even notebook formats that seem unappealing at first glance turn out to be full of opportunities, as long as I’m open to them, so I’m no longer disappointed when these little notebooks don’t have exactly the right paper for my needs.

To my delight, Field Notes has come out with a limited edition that not only has sketch-friendly paper – its theme resonates deeply with me. It’s the Fall 2016 Lunacy edition, which celebrates the moon in all phases.

Even if the paper had been mediocre, I would have used these just because I love the die-cut covers exposing the moon’s image printed on the flysheet, its “dark side” embossed on the back cover, and the lunar factoids inside. So you can imagine my joy when, after testing the 60-pound paper with all my usual favorite sketching media, it turned out that it’s almost ideal for the kind of casual sketches I put into this type of notebook.

None of my juiciest fountain pens, brush pens or markers
feathered or bled through Lunacy's 60 lb. paper.
The reverse side shows no bleeding or ghosting,
even where I applied water.

Lunacy's sizing (left) is very similar to Workshop Companion's (right).

I say
almost because blank would have been better than the reticle graph ruling (but I know I’m in a very small minority of Field Notes users who prefer unruled pages; most use them for writing, not drawing). And white paper would be my preference over pale gray (too pale to use for toned drawings, which the red Sweet Tooth paper is excellent for). Still, the reticle marks are printed with such low contrast to the paper that they’re very easy to ignore; I hardly notice them at all (I’m not even sure how effective they would be in helping someone write straight).

Here's the reverse side of another Field Notes
edition with 60 lb. paper but a very different
sizing that allowed all my pens to bleed through.
When I first started InkTober, I used another Field Notes book containing a very smooth 60-pound paper, but all my markers bled right through (reverse side of paper shown at left). So it was with some trepidation on my first day with a Lunacy that I scribbled with my juiciest fountain pens, brush pens and other markers. Lunacy’s paper took all my inks well – none feathered or bled through. I’ve come to learn that a paper’s weight is not nearly as important as its sizing.

Then I gave it the ultimate test (for paper in simple notebooks like this, which obviously aren’t intended for wet media): I gave a few fountain pen lines a quick wash with a waterbrush. The ink not only washed beautifully – it still didn’t bleed through! The sizing compares favorably to Workshop Companion’s paper, which is actually an even heavier 70-pound weight.

Sailor fude fountain pen ink line washed lightly with water.

Lunacy's moderate tooth takes colored pencils beautifully.
Although some fountain pen users might find Lunacy’s surface toothier than would be ideal, I have no qualms with it. In fact, the bit of tooth takes colored pencils nicely (and probably graphite, though I’m not much of a graphite user).

Now that I’ve finished filling my first Lunacy, I’m convinced that it is as close to being the perfect pocket notebook for my needs as any I have tried. Let the hoarding begin.

My hacked "Sweet Companion" notebooks: alternating red
and cream pages!
In somewhat related Field Notes news, I was recently inspired by other creative Field Notes users who have disassembled and reassembled their notebooks to switch various covers and papers. I enjoy having both a toned (red) paper notebook and a white one, but I don’t want to have to carry two books. So I took apart a Workshop Companion and a red Sweet Tooth, and I reassembled them with alternating red and cream-colored pages. When I’m not using a Lunacy (or the elusive bright-orange-papered EEEK Field Notes, another favorite but much harder to come by), I’ll use one of my hacked “Sweet Companion” notebooks.

A couple of years ago I was ranting about how none of the Field Notes ever meets my sketching needs, and now I have several choices! My sketching life is indeed sweet.

Brush pen

I filled my first Lunacy with InkTober sketches and just started
a second one -- this time with a full moon!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Green Lake Through Fresh Eyes

10/23/16 brush pen, colored pencils

I’ve lived near Green Lake for almost 30 years, walked around it at least weekly year-round, and sketched there more often than at any other park (164 results came up in my Flickr photostream search of “Green Lake”). When I see the same things day after day, they sometimes become invisible. That’s what made this morning’s Urban Sketchers outing in the Green Lake neighborhood especially rich for me: I had the opportunity to see very familiar places and things through other sketchers’ eyes, and they became fresh for me again.

10/23/16 brush pen, colored pencils
For my own sketches, I seemed to have been in a tree mood. Suzanne and I both set our stools down near Starbucks facing the two rows of magnificent old trees leading from the street to the community center. I’ve sketched those trees many times, but I never tire of them. This time I chose an angle with the playfield behind them.

After that I walked to the street next to the La Escuelita Bilingual School, where the cherry trees had lost most of their leaves. I was tempted to give them more color, but I am ever “truthful to the scenes I witness” (maybe to a fault).

I forgot to take a photo of our sketchbook throwdown, but at least a couple dozen sketchers must have made it today. We lucked out with mild weather and even sunshine by noon!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

#InkTober2016: A Theme Emerges

Three weeks into InkTober, I think my personal objective of making more sketches from imagination is finally taking hold. When I first started, I gave myself the theme of “adult coloring book,” thinking that would be general enough that I wouldn’t have to be tied to any specific subject matter. If I were sketching things I see in my daily life, I think that plan would have worked well. But it didn’t take me long to realize that when I’m sketching from imagination, having a wide-open theme with no specific subject is actually harder, not easier. It became clear that other InkTober participants already knew this; I am seeing several working from very specific themes that probably make it easier for them to begin their drawings each day.

As it turned out, a theme emerged on its own when the cartoon rabbit I had drawn sporadically the first two weeks started reporting on our daily weather conditions last weekend. I’m going to continue letting Weather Bunny report the weather when he wants to, and when he doesn’t, he can report on his lunch!

In addition, I’m discovering that the rabbits I drew as interpretations of photographs and the sketch I did yesterday at the Bruce Lee exhibit are another type of drawing. They are not fully imaginative, nor are they drawings from life. They’re somewhere in between in that I start with a visual prompt but have to let my imagination do some of the work while capturing nothing but the essence in a fluid brush pen line. Challenging in a very different way, this type of sketching is very enjoyable, too, and I plan to explore it further.

See all my InkTober2016 sketches in my Flickr album.


Friday, October 21, 2016

‘Always Be Yourself’: Bruce Lee Lives On

10/21/16 brush pen
Always be yourself. Express yourself. Have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.

The Wing Luke Museum is now showing Part 3 of a traveling exhibition honoring Bruce Lee’s life. While the previous parts focused on his TV and movie roles and family life, Part 3 of “Day in the Life of Bruce Lee” is more about the man’s internal life. Through facsimiles of journals, poems, letters and daily planners, visitors gain an intimate glimpse of his philosophy, desires and self-improvement regimen as well as mundane to-do lists and appointments.

Delicate drawings on wide-ruled school notebook paper and poems drafted on restaurant letterhead had an off-hand, bittersweet quality, as if nothing he put on paper was worth saving. As a lifelong journal writer and daily planner keeper, I found it fascinating and slightly voyeuristic to peek at the handwritten pages of his Day Timer and small memo books that were similar to what I use myself.

Particularly heartbreaking was a goals statement he had written through year 1980: Bruce Lee died in 1973 at the age of 32.

These were some of the other quotations found in his personal writings (advice to himself) that I jotted in my own notebook:

“Stop wasting time in playing a role or concept. Instead, learn to actualize yourself, your potential.”

“Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth.”

“It is compassion rather than the principle of justice that can guard us against being unjust to our fellow men.”

Since the exhibit consisted of two-dimensional photos and ephemeral papers, I couldn’t find anything to sketch. However, I used a brush pen to try to capture his iconic stance that was shown in an enlarged photograph on one wall of the exhibit. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016


10/19/16 brush pen, colored pencils

If you know what it is, then you’ll sympathize. Of course, the “prep” is the worst part, and mine happened to fall yesterday during the final Presidential debate. Knowing I would have to spend much of the evening there, I decided to set up camp with my laptop in one of our bathrooms so that I could sketch the candidates.

I also sketched the second debate last week. Unfortunately, we were eating dinner while viewing that one, and it killed my appetite. My GoLytely experience was more satisfying.

10/9/16 brush pen, colored pencil

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fall Has Fallen

10/19/16 water-soluble colored pencils, ink
Although our storm last weekend was lackluster compared to the Armageddon that the media had led us to expect, the wind was still strong enough to take down a lot of leaves (and even a few trees in some areas). This is the same aspen I sketched a couple weeks ago when it was still bright yellow.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Anniversary Bouquet (Plus Gabi’s Sketch)

1017/16 water-soluble colored pencils
If you’ve seen some of the fruit and vegetable still lifes I’ve been doing in colored pencils lately, you know that my approach has been to be fairly tight and detailed. I enjoy that approach when using colored pencils with some subjects, but this bouquet seemed to demand a looser, more painterly approach. It’s harder to be loose with colored pencils compared to watercolor, but I like that I can have some control over the looseness (Contradictory? Probably).

The bouquet was from Greg for our 27th anniversary last Friday. :-) And here’s something else that relates our anniversary to sketching:

Our wedding took place at the top of the Smith Tower, which has always been one of our favorite buildings in Seattle. Years ago the Seattle Sketcher sketched the tower (it appears on the cover of his book), and I once asked Gabi Campanario if I could buy that original sketch. Of course, the sketch belonged to the Seattle Times, so he couldn’t sell it to me, even though the original was just sitting in a flat file in his office. Undeterred, I went directly to the Times and asked if I could buy it; I was referred to the reproductions department, where I could buy a print. A print might have been OK, but by then I had my heart set on owning the original.

Fast-forward to a few months ago when I had noticed that Gabi was starting to sell both originals and prints of his personal work on his website. I decided I didn’t have to have the one that he had made several years ago – I would simply commission him to make me a new one! So I did, and just in time to surprise Greg with it on our anniversary, I received the beautiful sketch from Gabi. 

Sketch of the Smith Tower by Gabi Campanario
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