Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Workshop with the Seattle Sketcher

What sketcher could resist taking a workshop from the Seattle Sketcher himself? Not me, so as soon as I heard that the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden was offering it, I signed up.

7/29/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, S & B sketchbook
Three hours isn’t much time, but Gabi packed a lot into a fun workshop. First, we made small thumbnail sketches of large spaces to help gain control of huge masses of information and to get a sense of composition. I told him I am especially interested in understanding the whole "perspective thing," so he gave me pointers about finding the horizon line at eye level and working out the perspective from there.

7/29/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, watercolor

Then we worked from the opposite end – zoomed in on small details with particular attention to values. I was already painting the pots and leaves in this composition when Gabi pointed out the large areas of darker values behind the plants and in the shadows. He suggested that painting in the darker negative shapes around the plants would help to make the lighter plants stand out by contrast.

Finally, we put the two views together in the last assignment: Choose a detail to focus on, but give it spatial context to suggest the larger whole. I sketched a couple of my classmates first and gave less detail to the plants, trees and building behind them, making the human subjects the focal point of the composition.
7/29/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, S & B sketchbook

After class I went to my neighborhood Maple Leaf Park and tried to apply what I had learned (a panorama across two pages of a landscape sketchbook scanned in two pieces). 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Five Songs

7/27/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, watercolor, Hand Book sketchbook
I had been sketching the saxophonist at Phinney Farmer’s Market for a while when I sensed someone looking over my shoulder. I glanced up, and the woman watching me asked if I came to the market regularly to sketch. “I try to come every week,” I said with a smile, then went back to painting the busker. (He knows only about five songs, and in the hour that I spent at the market, I heard each of them at least three times. But I like jazz, so who’s complaining?)

When I looked up again at the woman watching me, she wore an expression I couldn’t quite read. Wistfulness? Sadness? Just lost in thought? She admired my sketch and said quietly, incompletely, “I want to do that, too. . . I should. . .I guess I. . .” Chewing a lip, she let her words fade away, and soon she walked off.

As I finished my sketch, I wanted to say to her, “You can! You should! Come and sketch!” I understood her expression then, because for most of my life, I think I wore my own version of it.

Saxophonist who knows only five tunes – play on, play on.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Glasses are Over-rated

7/21/12, fountain pen

7/21/12, fountain pen
We were headed for Seattle Bon Odori, our local Japanese community festival, where I knew the fair weather would bring huge, pressing crowds that would make sketching awkward. An absolutely minimalist sketch kit was called for. I grabbed a pocket Moleskine and my tiny Kaweco ICE Sport fountain pen – that’s all. Unfortunately, I omitted the third essential component to the sketch kit: My glasses.

7/21/12, fountain pen
Every book on drawing I’ve ever read advises spending more time looking at the subject than at one’s drawing. So who needs glasses? I decided presbyopia was an ideal condition for practicing gestural sketches. That’s how I captured these jazz band members playing in the beer garden and taiko drummers performing.

7/21/12, fountain pen

Tacoma is Under-rated

7/21/12, F-C Pitt Artist pen, watercolor
At one point, Tacoma may have been seen as Seattle’s homely step-sister, but no longer. Rich with museums, beautiful architecture and other attractions and yet not over-built and full of traffic congestion like Seattle is, it was a natural gathering place for a regional Urban Sketchers sketchcrawl. (I found free all-day street parking only blocks from the museum district! Whaaaat!!) Around 30 sketchers from Tacoma, Seattle, Portland, Whidbey Island and the Tri-Cities area gathered for an afternoon of lively sketching, and sketch we did. What an amazing bunch of sketchers! I’m awed by their talent and enthusiasm. Here are my sketches of the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus, the Tacoma Museum of Glass, and the nearby marina.

Over lunch I met Kalina Wilson, intrepid urban sketcher of Portland, who told us all about her recent participation in the Santo Domingo Urban Sketchers Symposium, and her enthusiasm was infectious. There’s no official word on the location of next year’s symposium – only a rumor (and my personal integrity and conscientiousness won’t allow me to spread unconfirmed rumors. OK, you’ve twisted my arm – the rumor is Spain! But you didn’t hear it from me) – but wherever it is, I’m going to try my hardest to be there!
7/21/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, watercolor
7/21/12, F-C Pitt Artist pen, watercolor

Friday, July 20, 2012

Painting Faces

7/20/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, watercolor, Pentalic Aqua Journal
I hope this face painter had as much fun painting children’s faces today at the Phinney Farmer’s Market as I had painting her.

Does summer get any better than this?

Zoo Compositions

7/19/12 F-C Pitt Artist Pen, watercolor, Hand Book sketchbook

I’ve mentioned previously my attempts to sketch like a photographer – to crop an image in my mind and move in closer to the subject with my eyes. I was back at Woodland Park Zoo’s flamingoes, which I’ve sketched several times before. This time I made a conscious effort to compose the sketch – not just draw the birds.

A little later I stopped for a snack break, but I ended up not taking a break from sketching because the outdoor seating area of the food pavilion had its own “animals” to offer as subjects. Again, I tried to compose this sketch the way a photographer might.

7/19/12 F-C Pitt Artist Pen, watercolor, Hand Book sketchbook

Overcast Exuberance

6/18/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, watercolor, Hand Book sketchbook
I had 15 minutes to fill before my yoga class, so I dashed into the Green Lake Starbucks for a new Cool Lime Refresher (OK, I’m a sucker for marketing; so shoot me) and went up to the café’s rooftop patio. On that overcast afternoon, it was nearly deserted up there. After five days in the Midwest with temperatures near 100, enhanced by high humidity, all I could think about was how happy I was to be back in Seattle. I sketched this planter box of flowers as nothing more than an expression of my exuberance to be back under overcast skies. Hallelujah for clouds and 67 degrees! Hooray for not sweating! Seattle, I will never leave you in the summer again!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Inspiration in the Mundane

7/14/12, Kuretake Brush Writer, Akashiya Thin Line, Hand Book sketchbook
I’ve heard it said that the subject of a sketch doesn’t have to be initially inspiring, because it’s the sketcher’s job to find the inspiration in the subject, no matter how banal. Driving through a Midwestern suburb, I tried to keep this in mind. While my spouse-man shopped at Target, I waited in the car to find inspiration in parking lot trees and a pickup. Fifteen minutes later, the pickup pulled away, and so did we.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gaining Perspective

7/9/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, watercolor
In the urban landscape, buildings are almost unavoidable, yet I find myself running from them (sometimes literally) when I have a sketchbook in hand. While some sketchers shy away from drawing people, I have the same reaction toward architectural structures – all those parallel lines that don’t look parallel and all that perspective stuff that if you don’t get right, the whole building looks wrong, even when your brain can’t figure out why.

So I’ve checked out a few library books on architectural sketching and have challenged myself to stop running from buildings. Here’s our neighbor’s house across the street, sketched from our upstairs bedroom window. Let’s just call this a baseline against which I’ll evaluate my progress.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another Day, Another Market

7/8/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, watercolor
Maybe buskers will become my favorite farmer’s market sketching subjects. Market visitors stroll past me too quickly to capture, and even busy vendors tend to move around too much in their stalls. But buskers stay in one spot, and I get musical entertainment while I sketch: Does a sunny summer Sunday get any better? I caught this guitarist/vocalist at the Ballard Market, where I also spotted the same ukulele player that I sketched Friday at the Phinney Market. He gets around, just as I do.

(Compare this sketch with one I did two months ago, also at the Ballard Market, when I struggled with trying to evoke the crowd without drawing each individual I saw. Did I manage to indicate the crowd back there behind the busker this time?)

“It’s Just a Ford, but it’s Chevy-Powered!”

7/8/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, watercolor

That’s what it says inside the hood of this ’40 Ford. I’m usually intimidated by cars as a sketching subject, but this beautiful vintage vehicle caught my attention at a small Classic Car Show in my neighborhood. My skill with watercolors couldn’t capture the gorgeous gloss on the sensuously curved vehicle, nor could I draw small enough to indicate the tiny dice attached to the wheels (nor the larger, fuzzy ones hanging from the rearview mirror). But sketching it made me appreciate the loving care its owner has given it.

Memorializing Memorials

7/7/12, Copic Multiliner SP pen, watercolor
After seeing my sketches of the Boston Irish Famine Memorial, a reader in the Sketching Forum commented that he had lived in Boston for 22 years yet had never seen or even knew about that memorial. I started thinking about all the monuments and memorials in Seattle that I may not know about. I also thought about all the many memorials I’ve seen while traveling and probably even photographed, yet if I were to look at those photos now, would I even remember that I actually visited?

Sketching the Boston Irish Famine Memorial has left an indelible image in my memory. Sketching anything always does.

I’ve decided to make it a goal to sketch as many monuments and memorials as possible, wherever I go. I started yesterday with a quick sketch of the Sadako Sasaki memorial in Peace Park just a couple miles from my home. It had been a while since I last visited, and I was moved by the number of folded paper cranes decorating the memorial.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Home Again

7/6/12, Copic Multiliner SP, watercolor, Moleskine sketchbook
After sweating in high humidity and being eaten alive by mosquitoes in Boston and its suburbs all week, it was a relief to come home to dry sunshine and temperatures in the mid-70s. I head over to the Phinney Farmer’s Market, which is rapidly becoming my favorite summer sketching place. Listening to a busker play his ukulele, watching kids dance to his music and looking forward to strawberry shortcake made with the fresh organic berries I just bought, I could not think of a single place I’d rather be.

A New Bedford Church

6/30/12, Copic Multiliner SP, watercolor
Boston and its environs are so full of old, revered architecture that I felt too overwhelmed and intimidated to tackle most of it. To kill an hour before attending a family wedding in Acushnet, we decided to explore a New Bedford neighborhood, where we spotted the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church. The whole church was too much to bite off, so I decided to sketch a single tower. I walked across the street to a small parking lot and found a space to stand between two cars. With nowhere to sit or even squat, it was the ideal opportunity to try out my new mint tin sketch kit that attaches directly to my sketchbook so that I can draw and paint standing up. Lightweight and easy to set up, it worked beautifully.

Boston in Bronze

7/5/12, General Hooker. Copic Multiliner SP, watercolor

7/3/12, Ben Franklin. Copic Multiliner SP, watercolor

Boston is an impressive city of history, culture and architecture – where does a sketcher begin, especially when that sketcher has only a few days? I decided to focus on statues and sculptures, many of which there are on any downtown street. Getting up early each morning while family members slept in, I would hit Starbucks first for my grande, then seek out a stately bronze. I discovered that statues are challenging studies in both perspective and figure drawing. Unlike live models, however, statues never tire or walk away.

The statue of General Hooker mounted on his horse was a particularly challenging exercise in sketching a foreshortened figure from where I sat on a bench, looking straight up.

7/5/12, Boston Irish Famine Memorial. Copic Multiliner SP
7/4/12, Josiah Quincy. Copic Multiliner SP

7/6/12, Boston Irish Famine Memorial. Copic Multiliner SP, watercolor

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