Thursday, July 17, 2014


7/17/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku and Diamine Chocolate Brown inks, Sailor pen,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Craving more fresh corn for dinner tonight, I made a quick stop at Lake City Farmers Market on my way home from errands. I told myself I didn’t have time for a sketch, but then I heard Joel singing (while wearing a walking boot) and decided I had 10 minutes to spare after all.

Dog Day Afternoon

7/17/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku ink,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Not only is Cloud City Coffee good for an interesting sign to sketch, its outdoor seating on a sunny afternoon is an ideal place to sketch dogs. Two basset hounds (Annie and Bailey) sought shade under the table where their guy sipped an iced coffee, and a golden retriever waited patiently by the door for his lady to come back outside.
7/17/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku ink, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What is Summer?

7/16/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Canson XL
140 lb. paper
Sum·mer [suhm-er], noun. The sound of steel drums at Wallingford Farmer’s Market, my bag heavy with the first fresh corn of the season as I lick popsicle juice dripping down my wrist. 

Cloud City Coffee and Antenna

7/16/14 Platinum Carbon, Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa and Fuyu-syogun inks,
water-soluble colored pencils, Zig markers, opaque white gel pen
Rarely, very rarely, does sketching trump food, because if food is imminent, I’m probably hungry. I’m just not one of those sketchers who can delay a meal in order to sketch it.

This morning was one of those rare occasions. Walking the half-mile or so to Cloud City Coffee, I had every intention of getting a cup o’ joe and a delicious scone or muffin and then finding a table outside to sketch the neighborhood. (I fondly recalled the first time I sketched the Maple Leaf water tower from one of those tables more than two years ago on a warm, sunny morning just like this one.) But just as I was about to cross the street to the café, I spotted Cloud City’s distinctive art deco sign. (I had sketched the other side of this sign a couple of years ago, too, from the café.) I’m not sure the sign alone would have been enough to come between me and a muffin, but yesterday’s over-indulgence in power lines must have whetted my appetite, because then I spotted the cable antenna tower behind it. Cloud City Coffee and the antenna tower: two Maple Leaf neighborhood icons in one.

Even a muffin can’t trump that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Mother of All Power Lines

7/15/14 Platinum Carbon, Diamine Grey and Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Zig markers, Pitt Artist Pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

Power lines and poles are by no means attractive, and they have certainly marred scenic photos for many a photographer. But if they are a prominent part of a cityscape, I like to include them in my sketches. Ugly as they may be, they add a certain rhythm of lines, both vertical and horizontal.

A few blocks south of my house in the otherwise charming Maple Leaf neighborhood is Seattle City Light’s North Substation at around Eighth Avenue Northeast and Northeast 79th Street. Whenever I drive by (which I avoid if possible), I feel bad for the people who live right across the street and have to look at this eyesore through their windows every day.

This week’s Urban Sketchers Flickr group theme is “So Ugly it’s Beautiful,” and the North Substation was my ideal candidate. This mother of all power lines, which looks like a giant Erector Set, is unattractive, to say the least. Yet as I stood uphill from it to sketch its vast, regular rhythm of lines and transformers, I had to acknowledge a certain beauty. I even thought about how all those lines and transformers are hard at work bringing me electricity so that I can scan and blog about my sketches each day.

Thus acknowledged, I finished my sketch and was happy to turn my back on all that ugly beauty.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Final Answer: The Tote Wins

Simple tote on the left, trusty Rickshaw Zero messenger
bag on the right.
Shari Blaukopf’s two-day workshop was a very close approximation of conditions I’ll probably encounter during the symposium and general travel: Although I had my car with me, it was parked far enough away from the sketch locations that going back to it during the workshop would have been time-consuming and inconvenient, so I needed to have with me everything that I might need for a whole day. Temperatures were in the high 80s, so I had to have a hat, sunscreen and a large water bottle, plus a snack for the long days. In addition to my usual “Stefano” sketchbook, I wanted to have a large watercolor pad, a full-size watercolor palette recommended by Shari (not my usual tiny Trader Joe’s mint tin and tiny mixing tray) and a plastic cup to rinse out traditional brushes (I resisted using a waterbrush). I also needed my portable stool.

I shoved all of that (more stuff than I’ll be bringing to Brazil) into a simple muslin tote – the same one I used last week during a few dry runs. I had all my other sketch supplies and usual “purse stuff” in my Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag, as always. As the workshop moved from one sketch location to another and to and from lunch, I carried it all with comfort and ease. While sketching, I threw the tote down at my feet without caring whether it got dirty. Although its unstructured form has no pockets or dividers, the mostly large items it contained were easy to identify by touch.

Rickshaw Bagworks Velo backpack
During transport to Brazil, I’ll put my trusty Rickshaw Zero bag and all of its usual contents into my Rickshaw Velo backpack, along with my tablet, water bottle, snacks and other things I’ll want to have with me on the long flight. (My sketch supplies won’t be as conveniently accessible at my side as they usually are, but I don’t suppose I’ll encounter any goslings to sketch spontaneously while at the airport anyway.) Meanwhile, the empty tote will be folded or scrunched in the bottom of my rollerbag, awaiting my needs upon arrival.

That’s it. Come hell or high water, the Rickshaw/tote combo is what I’m taking to Brazil, and I declare my travel sketch bag issue officially resolved!

(No, I have no affiliation with Rickshaw Bagworks – I just love everything Ive bought from them!)

Supermoon and Reflex Sketch

7/12/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa and Diamine Grey inks, Stillman & Birn Gamma
During my busy weekend attending Shari Blaukopf’s workshop, I did a couple of sketches just to relax without the pressure of trying to apply concepts I was learning.

One was done around 10 p.m. Saturday night as the “supermoon” was rising. (Not exactly an urban sketch – I viewed it from our front deck, but it was too dark to sketch out there, so I went into the house and sketched it from memory.)

7/13/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Canson XL
140 lb. paper
The second was late yesterday afternoon after I finished my last workshop exercise. I sat back (well, as much as one can “sit back” on a three-legged camp stool!), took a couple of deep breaths and then sketched Ashley and Peggy finishing up their sketches before the final critique. I think this is the type of sketch that Liz Steel would call a “reflex sketch”: something that can be done without hurting my brain too much and that feels relaxing even when it’s challenging. 
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