Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Chris in Ink and Pencil


10/16/20 Chris, 2-min. poses

Although I prefer dry media for life-drawing poses of five minutes or longer, my recent explorations with sumi ink put me in the mood to use ink on some longer poses last week. Instead of sumi, though, I used waterbrushes filled with a variety of fountain pen inks. Sometimes I did the initial contour drawings in water-soluble pencil, then accented the shadows quickly with ink. It’s fun to mix dry and wet this way, getting the best qualities of each.

10/16/20 5-min. poses

10/16/20 10-min. pose

10/16/20 5-min. pose

When I had a full 20 minutes for a pose, I pulled out my slow but beloved Derwent colored pencils and Prismacolor Art Stix.

10/16/20 20-min. pose 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020



10/16/20 Friends on Zoom (to be fair, I included myself, too!)

I still get together several times a year with a small group of former co-workers from a job I left in 1996. It used to be leisurely lunches at restaurants halfway between Seattle and south King County where all of us are now spread. With most of this year taken up with the pandemic, the last time we had lunch together was around the holidays. It became clear that if we wanted to see each other, we would have to do the Zoom thing. Despite the shortcomings of technology compared to real life, it was still fun and reassuring to catch up with friends who go back decades.

While I would never dream of sketching non-sketcher friends during an actual meal together, something about Zoom is just too tempting to pass up. I knew that if I asked permission or announced my intention, everyone would stiffen and become self-conscious. I simply opened my sketchbook surreptitiously. No one noticed. At the end, I ‘fessed up and revealed my sketch, and they were all delighted! Whew! (Soon enough, all my friends will know that if they Zoom with me, they can expect to be sketched. Fair warning.)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Short Stories in Field Notes


10/8/20 The colors of fall
As fall gets under way in earnest, days have been cool, windy, rainy or all three (plus occasional happy windows of sunshine). Recent neighborhood sketches have been short stories made in various small Field Notes notebooks, depending on the weather. If it’s dry, I take a Signature or a red Sweet Tooth. If I put on my raincoat, then I grab a waterproof Expedition.

9/26/20 a cute Smart Car
10/5/20 houses with sunroofs

10/7/20 a tiny, pink bike

10/12/20 cell tower from Maple Leaf Park

Speaking of the waterproof Expedition, the sketch I made of the cell tower from drizzly Maple Leaf Park (at right) brought to light a serious omission in my sketch kit! A red maple was at the base of the tower. Sketching the scene with a Gekkoso 8B pencil (extremely soft graphite is my favorite medium on the Expedition’s plastic Yupo pages), I started to reach for a red pencil to draw the maple when I realized that all of the colored pencils in my bag are water-soluble! Not useful in the rain. I immediately went home to remedy that omission for next time.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Crush on Sumi

Sumi ink and Posca paint marker

I’m more than halfway through my month of exploring inks. As has happened almost every time I’ve participated in InkTober, I started the month with an intended direction, but I took an interesting detour. I had in mind becoming reacquainted with several fountain pens that I hadn’t used in a while. What I thought was going to be a minor flirtation with Boku-Undo sumi inks has turned into a full-blown crush! I’m quite enamored with how fast it is to make tonal studies using the inks with a white Posca brush pen. Fast, but not easy – not by any means. Watercolor sketchers probably wouldn’t find sumi inks to be much of a stretch, but for me, sumi is one of the most challenging media I’ve tried in a long time. It was exactly the kick in the pants I needed both for my hand series and for my annual ink explorations.

I am bringing out other pens occasionally, though, just to mix it up. This week I inked up my beloved Sailor Naginata Fude de Mannen. On the other end of the price and exoticism spectrum, I pulled out an underrated Bic ballpoint (which I fully explored and came to appreciate during InkTober 2018). So similar to pencil, it was comforting and reassuring to fall back into the comfort zone of slow, meditative strokes.

Sumi ink and Posca paint marker

Incidentally, while I was drawing my hand in ballpoint yesterday, I was listening to an interview with Chicago artist and urban sketcher Don Colley on the Sneaky Artist podcast. I’ve taken workshops from Don a couple of times when he has visited Seattle (most recently in 2017), and he has long been one of my urban sketching heroes, so I was already somewhat familiar with his philosophy of drawing on location. The interview, however, was full of insights about how drawing from life engages us with the activity of life.

“A pen is an extension of your hand,” Don says, and drawing is “an inquiry” about what we are seeing. For him, every drawing made on location – whether it’s a homeless man riding a bus, a Jeep parked at a friend’s house, or the faces of a defendant’s family member during a trial – is social commentary. Telling a story with every sketch, Don is an urban sketcher in every way that I admire most (not to mention an incredible draftsman). If you are interested in urban sketching, give it a listen – it’s well worth your time.

Sailor fude fountain pen and Sailor Doyou ink

Sumi ink and Posca paint marker

Sumi ink and Posca paint marker

Bic ballpoint and Sakura Gelly Roll
(Like the rest of the images on this page, this
one was scanned, but something weird 
happened to the Bic's fine ink lines, and they
appear reddish on the orange paper. At right,
I show the image I took with my phone, which
makes the ink appear black. Strange.)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

In Mid-Air

10/13/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Probably my longest-standing series of sketches has been trees that have been hacked, dismembered and otherwise poorly pruned to accommodate utility wires. Some have been humorous, while others have been ironic. This one must be among the most bizarre.

You can see its trunk at far right just behind the nearest car. But the branches shading the street have now grown their own pointy leader! From a block away, I thought the tree was floating in mid-air!

I could see that several wires were passing through the tree, so it’s likely that it will receive another hack job one of these days.

Friday, October 16, 2020

What Came After the Before Times


Back in July, I had talked about the first on-location sketchbook I filled during the pandemic. A few days ago, I filled the last page in my small, not-quite-daily-carry Field Notes Signature sketchbook. I don’t usually blog about sketchbooks just because I filled them, but like the one I finished in July, this Signature feels worth noting.

I started it on Dec. 26, 2019, to motivate my walk/sketch fitness program: The “carrot on the end of the stick” for fitness walking during inclement weather would be the opportunity to sketch. When I flip through its early pages, the book served this need well: I see several sketches made near Green Lake where I often walked in the winter, stopping at Starbucks along the way to warm my hands and grab a sketch before walking the rest of the way home.

Randomly, it also contains a sketch I had made during “half time,” as my friend jokingly called it, at an opera we attended in January. (She and I both know nothing about opera, but she had won free tickets and had invited me along.) Imagine attending an opera at McCaw Hall! That seems so far away now, both in time and in concept. We were all so innocent then.

2/25/20 Green Lake
1/22/20 Mc Caw Hall refreshment bar

On March 3, 2020, the small sketchbook was in my bag when we shopped at Costco for what turned out to be the last time. When I see the sketch I had made of a few people walking out with their shopping carts, I recall vividly that the toilet paper hoarding had just begun. The store had sold out of one brand, so we had waited with several other customers for a staff member to bring out another brand – and the pile had rapidly disappeared before our eyes.

3/3/20 Costco shoppers

3/11/20 My last sketch at Green Lake

Eight days later I made my last sketch at Green Lake (after that, I felt it was too crowded for comfort). The rest of the book is filled with sketches made no more than a mile from home in any direction – my current walking route. By June 4, I was utterly thrilled to capture a few gestures of a gardener trimming a hedge – I had so missed sketching people (and still do)! 

6/4/20 How I miss sketching people.

Before putting away the completed sketchbook, I did what I did in July: I slapped a masked Weather Bunny sticker on the cover. It’s now my ritual for marking sketchbooks I finish during the pandemic. This one, especially, is a poignant documentation of how the “Before Times” changed to the “during.”

Thursday, October 15, 2020


10/9/20 Gloria, 20-min. poses

During life drawing on Zoom, participants want the model to be close enough to the camera to see details, but if the model is too close, distortion is likely. In some of the seated poses, Gloria’s feet (closer to the camera) appeared huge while her head was tiny. In live life drawing, the same kind of foreshortening can happen, and it’s often the most challenging (and fun) kind of poses. But when the camera distorts the view even further, it can be frustrating.

10/9/20 10-min. pose
In the drawing at upper right, I realized halfway through the 20-minute pose that my proportions of the lower half of her figure were way off. Annoyed, I started thinking about whether I had time to fix it, but then I decided to exaggerate the distortion further, and then it became fun.

Video life drawing is never ideal, and yet I still prefer it to drawing from photos. On a two-dimensional screen, looking at a live pose shouldn’t be very different from a photo, but somehow it is. I can’t articulate why, though. I haven’t talked to anyone else who is doing this kind of life drawing, but it would be interesting to discuss this. If you’ve done both kinds of life drawing – in a studio and on a screen – what do you think? Is drawing from a live video pose different from a still photo?

10/9/20 5-min. poses

10/9/20 2-min. poses

10/9/20 10-min. pose

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