Thursday, May 16, 2019

Lab Work

5/8/19 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Last spring I started a series of sketches of Maple Leaf neighborhood houses. I’m back on it, and this is my first of the season, though I’m not very pleased with it. I decided to use it as my “lab work” (Gabi Campanario likes to say in his urban sketching workshops that his sketchbook is not a portfolio; it’s a laboratory) to try new approaches with two things I want to change.

One is my reliance on a dark gray marker as a grisaille for large areas of shading when I’m sketching architecture. While it’s handy and fast, the marker-y look has never been my favorite. For this sketch, I used my favorite cool gray Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle colored pencil, which I activated with water and then reapplied to darken. I also applied the local color of the house over it, but it doesn’t show much. (I think I prefer the Prussian blue I tried on Rainier Tower.)

The second thing I’m trying to change is the way I apply a streak of blue for the sky. The sizing on my former paper, Canson XL, was much more forgiving for my typical wet-on-wet approach. Sprayed water sinks much more quickly into Stillman & Birn Zeta’s surface, and I don’t like the mottled look I sometimes get when I try to compensate by spraying again. I can have the problem even when I apply water with a waterbrush, which was the compromise I started using when spritzing failed me. As a different approach for this sketch, I simply applied a generous scribble of dry pigment to the page and activated it. I don’t care for the results, so I’m going to keep looking for a better method.

As long as I’m complaining, here’s one more: What’s up with that roof? I was attracted to the complex, pyramid-like roofline that is mimicked over the porch, and I enjoyed the challenge of drawing it. But I didn’t even notice the weird piece of roof sticking out on the right until I was halfway done with the sketch. It’s not a dormer – it’s just a piece of roofing at a slightly different angle to the rest of the roof and causing confusing shadows.


  1. Nice shadows on this! Skies are so hard to do without streaking unless you have a lot of water and a lot of pigment. It will be interesting to see how you solve the problem.

    1. Yes, getting a smooth sky is a challenge, especially with watercolor pencils. I have to work on this...


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