Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Four Kitties and a Pup


5/11/24 Cooper (reference photos for Cooper, CJ
and Zoey by Ana Reinert)

5/10/24 CJ

5/8/24 Zoey

Although I’m taking a break from my fundraising project for Dog Gone Seattle, I still look for opportunities to keep up my pet-sketching chops (and obviously because I enjoy drawing animals so much). If you read the Well-Appointed Desk, you may have seen my review of some fine-point pens I’ve used for whiskers and other fine details. The test sketches were three of Ana Reinert’s seven (at last count) cats, Zoey, CJ and Cooper, who look identical (to me . . . I’m sure mama has no problem telling those tabbies apart).

5/20/24 Luigi (reference photo by Bob Lazzari)

A fourth kitty, Luigi, was a pet recently lost by a Facebook friend. Luigi’s photos captured my heart, so I drew from one on a Field Notes notebook to surprise my friend with.

The lone pup who made it into this bunch is aging but still adorable Fritzie, whom I sketched while his human and I chatted in their apartment one afternoon. Patient and polite, Fritzie mostly napped on the carpet – until I started sketching, and then he wandered all over the room. (Another Murphy’s Law of urban sketching: Pets sleep until you pull out your sketchbook.) Nonetheless, this sketch was the most fun of these because I got to do it from life.

5/15/24 Fritzie, sketched in his livingroom

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

New Brain Buster: Haiku Comics


5/26/24 Wedgwood neighborhood (I love sketching with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, but I'm having difficulty writing tiny and legibly with it, which is essential for comics.) 

A lot of good things have been happening serendipitously in my life lately, and one of them is haiku comics. What?? Putting haiku poems together with comics is something I had never heard of until Kim put out a notice in the USk Facebook group about an exhibition at Push/Pull Gallery. I let my comics compadre Roy know about the concept, and that sent us both down the rabbit hole.

Our first stop was Old Pond Comics, which teaches haiku through whimsical comics. This article in the South Seattle Emerald explains why haiku and comics go together so well: “Haiku in comic strip form really works, in part because three lines of poetry and three or four panels of comics have similar rhythms and goals,” says Justin Rueff, illustrator of Shin Yu Pai’s book Less Desolate. “Comic strips usually consist of a set-up and a punchline, while haiku often begin with an observation and end with a surprise, a reveal, or an ‘ah’ moment.”

“Ah moment,” indeed!

Although I have two degrees in creative writing, and my master’s thesis was a collection of poems, I had not written poetry in decades. My mom, however, was a lifelong haiku poet (she wrote her last one only a couple weeks before she passed away), so I do have haiku in my genes. Learning about haiku comics fanned the flame of my current interest in comics while also introducing a new twist to an already challenging form. I was in!

With on-location comics, I literally sketch as I go. I don’t know how much space to leave for more sketches on the page, nor do I know what the orientation of the compositions might be for sketches I haven’t made yet. Writing haiku to go with a page of comics adds a new layer of complexity, because the sequence of the sketches on the page might affect the arrangement of lines in the poem. It’s a double brain buster, for sure! 

I find haiku to be an especially appropriate addition to diary comics as a method for linking seemingly unrelated images. In my attempts so far, I’ve loosened the structure of the haiku on the page so that each poem line doesn’t necessarily correspond to an individual comic panel (most examples of haiku comics I’ve seen are three-panel comics that align with the three lines of haiku). 

5/24/24 Green Lake neighborhood bus shelter

Although I’ve made only a few haiku comics so far, my current process is to make the sketches first, then write the haiku later. I’m often thinking about potential haiku as I sketch, and sometimes the lines come easily because I’ve already done most of the writing in my head.

As suggested by Old Pond Comics, I’m not sticking rigidly to the 5/7/5 syllabic structure of traditional Japanese haiku, which doesn’t work well in English anyway. (Years ago after our mom died, my siblings and I hired a translator to translate a volume of her haiku, and we discovered what a clumsy language English can be compared to the delicate nuances available in Japanese.) Instead, I’m following a short/long/short line structure that still captures the intention and spirit of the haiku form.

You’ve already seen a couple of examples of my haiku comics; this post shows a couple more. You’ll see more sporadically as I continue exploring this new creative challenge! 

Monday, May 27, 2024

Aljoya Art Show


5/22/24 Aljoya Thornton Place retirement community, Northgate neighborhood

In my previous life when I had made and occasionally shown my fiber and mixed-media artworks, I was fortunate to have been included in a few curated exhibitions sponsored by ERA Living, a network of local retirement communities. Each facility curates new art every quarter and invites the general public to join residents at the opening receptions. While most group art shows require the exhibiting artists to help pay for the refreshments, ERA hosts the openings with wine and tasty hors d’oeuvres.

Although I remained on their promotional mailing list, it had been years since I went to any of these events. When an invitation to an opening appeared, and I saw that it would be at ERA’s Aljoya community within walking distance, I decided it was a good time to start attending again. The exhibit included a wide variety of art and, as expected, the noshes were excellent, too.

After enjoying the art, I heard music, so I followed it into the library, where a man was playing guitar. Finishing up my snacks and wine, I chatted with a few residents who noticed I was sketching. It’s always fun to be around other people who love and appreciate art. I’m looking forward to attending more of these openings.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Soggy Folklife


5/24/24 KEXP/Cafe Vita at Seattle Center

As rain dripped off our heads, Kim and I wondered whether we would be the only ones who showed up for the USk outing at the Northwest Folklife Festival. Before the pandemic, USk Seattle used to sketch at Folklife nearly every year. Although Memorial Day weekend weather is always iffy, I don’t recall rain ever falling on our Folklife outings. Well, there’s a first time for everything.

Busking drummer
Apparently the only sketchers intrepid enough to show up in the rain (never mind that we’re both admins leading the event), Kim and I retreated to KEXP radio station’s Café Vita on the Seattle Center grounds. In addition to being the actual broadcasting studio, it’s a huge venue that also hosts town halls and other community gatherings. As part of Folklife, the station was holding a panel discussion to help performing musicians, “Financial Fitness for Gigging Artists.” As I sketched, I learned a lot about business and financial issues that musicians face and how to resolve them.

Near the throwdown time, the rain had stopped, so we ventured back out to the Armory meetup location. I had a few minutes to fill, so I followed the sound of drumming and found a drum soloist busker. Listening to music through his headphones, he drummed along with it.

Kim and I were delighted that a few other sketchers did show up, and we high-fived for being among the USk Seattle hardcore.

It was good to be back at Folklife, 
despite the weather.

Where da heck are the rest of the sketchers??!

Saturday, May 25, 2024

No Flags


5/22/24 Sunset Hills Memorial Park

Although my family members were not in military service, my personal tradition has always been to use Memorial Day as an opportunity to pay respects to those I’ve lost. Since I was already on the Eastside Wednesday to ride the light rail (and I avoid driving across the lake unnecessarily), I made a quick stop at Sunset Hills Memorial Park.

I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of sketching the display of flags along the main entryway, so I was disappointed to find that they hadn’t yet been put out for Memorial Day observances this weekend. The lawn maintenance staff, however, were busily mowing the grass and removing old flowers for all the expected visitors.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Riding the Rails with Kate and Roy


5/22/24 LINK light rail, Wilburton Station

The latest extension to Sound Transit’s regional light rail line, which just opened a few weeks ago, connects south Bellevue with Microsoft’s core campus in Redmond on the Eastside. Since it doesn’t cross the lake yet, ridership is low, which was expected – but I didn’t expect the trains and southern-most station to be entirely empty when I boarded! It felt a bit post-apocalyptic. A few minutes into the ride, the lonely, eerie feeling didn’t improve when an announcement was made that the line was experiencing a power outage. “For your safety, please remain seated,” a looped message warned me.

When I had boarded, I thought I would be arriving at the Whole Foods near Wilburton Station within a few minutes to meet Kate and Roy, so I wasn’t concerned that I needed to use a restroom. To distract myself from the delay, I sketched a selfie from my reflection. To my relief, power was restored by the time I finished, and we were on our way again (by “we,” I mean myself and the driver, since I still saw no other riders on platforms or trains).

I arrived at Whole Foods in a few minutes as planned, and then our big adventure began (after I used the restroom, of course): Ride the rail route, getting off at various stations along the way to sketch. Although the post-apocalyptic status never changed – except for the very last leg of our trip when two women joined us, the only other humans we saw were security staff – we all had a great time sketching the stations and each other.

Spring District and Overlake Village stations

My favorite part of the new rail line was our final stop at the northern-most Redmond Technology Station that mainly serves Microsoft employees. The company paid for a pedestrian overpass connecting the station to the two sides of Microsoft divided by the 520 highway. Expecting a sterile concrete bridge, I was delighted to see a white, tent-like structure that evokes the Sydney Opera House (well, it’s not quite as cool as that architectural wonder, but it makes a similar sail-like impression). Flowering plants and greenery are planted all along the bridge. Sheltered but full of natural light, it’s one of the more attractive walkways I’ve used.

Redmond Technology Station pedestrian walkway and the ride back

After riding end-to-end and back again, we agreed that the new light rail line would make a great USk outing this summer.

By the way, you’ll notice that a couple of pages include loose haiku related to the sketches. An upcoming post about haiku comics will talk more about this fun and challenging addition to my urban sketches; these can serve as teasers.

Ridin' and sketchin' the Eastside rails!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Paint Marker Updates: Omiowl Acrylic, Posca


5/14/24 Maple Leaf neighborhood during the golden hour 
(This is why I can't give up on my worst bad-boy art material --
 Posca markers. It's hard to beat this easy opaque color!)

It’s been more than a month since I reviewed the Omiowl White Acrylic Marker, and I’ve been using it regularly since early April, so it’s time for an update. First off, the paint itself is still the best opaque white I’ve used. It covers large areas easily with solid opacity, it requires no agitating, shaking, priming, wiping or other annoying high maintenance practices, and it’s inexpensive.

The downside is that I’ve figured out why it is sold only in bulk packs of eight: The paint runs out quickly, and the brush tip mushes down a bit with regular use (although not before the paint runs out). I’ve gone through three pens already, so that’s a lot of plastic rapidly going into the landfill. After I’ve used up my supply, I won’t be buying more. It’s a shame, but it’s encouraging to know that it’s possible to make a decent white acrylic marker with low maintenance (but now someone needs to make a refillable version).

Great paint; bad value.

The next update is not news; I’ve known all along that Posca paint markers are prone to this issue, but now I have graphic evidence of Posca’s worst annoying trait. Sketching one day, I gave a Posca a vigorous, rattly shaking with the cap on (which is essential). When I pulled the cap off, paint exploded from the tip, leaving a spray of yellow dots on the sidewalk (exhibit A, below right).
Exhibit A: Italy and the sidewalk

Relieved that the spray had landed on the sidewalk and not on my sketch, I tried to use the pen, but paint wasn’t flowing, despite the explosion. I primed the pen by pumping the point on the last page of my book that I reserve for this purpose. The abstract map of Italy resulted (I admit, the yellow and blue look nice together) when the priming suddenly released more paint. I closed the sketchbook’s back cover quickly, resulting in the colorful Rorschach (exhibit B below; photo taken after I had filled the sketchbook). The Posca finally under control, I proceeded to finish my sketch.

Exhibit B: Posca Rorschach on the last page of my Uglybook.

What I didn’t think about was that the initial paint explosion had left a puddle of paint inside the cap, which I had posted. So when I recapped the pen, all the paint from inside the cap had transferred to the end of the pen – and then to my hand. (I apologize that I have no exhibit photo for that – I didn’t want to further transfer yellow paint to my phone.)

Exhibit C: Posca is permanent on favorite T-shirts.
When I got home after my walk, I realized that the sidewalk was not the only place where excess paint had landed; the splatters had also hit my T-shirt. Exhibit C at left shows the shirt after laundering.

Never trust a Posca. If it is behaving well, it is just waiting for you to become complacent before it turns on you again.

Will I keep using Poscas? Yes, of course (see sketch at top of post). It’s an ongoing, tumultuous relationship that I know is bad for me, yet I can’t seem to tear myself away. [Cue theme song to the TV show “Cops.”]

While I’ve been generally happy with the Omiowl acrylic marker, its brush tip is too thick for making fine lines in my small sketchbook, so I’m still on the hunt for a fine line opaque white pen. (Yes, I did give up on the white Posca 0.7mm “pin type” pen, three of which I used serially before each clogged in turn; other colors do not clog nearly as badly.) My current contenders are a Kuretake Zig ultra-fine brush pen and a Deleter Neopiko Line Drawing Pen (0.5), both containing white water-based pigment ink. I’m also giving my old standby, the Sakura Gelly Roll gel pen, another try, this time in the 1.0mm size. In the past, I have typically used the 0.8mm size, but Kathleen Moore recommends the 1.0mm size to use with watercolors, so I got one for her classes. I might as well give it a fair shake.

Hope springs eternal.

Jaded as I am, I’m not holding my breath that any of these will blow my socks off, but hope springs eternal, even among the jaded. Stay tuned.

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