Friday, May 31, 2013

Minimalism at the Zoo

5/31/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor
A week of dreary, wet weather and an unusually heavy work load kept me trapped indoors with my PC for five sketchless days (the longest I've gone without sketching in the past year and a half). You can imagine how grumpy that made me. But this afternoon was a respite, both in the weather and my tedious toil, so I escaped to one of my favorite nearby getaways – the Woodland Park Zoo.
In my ongoing quest to lighten my sketching load, today was an ideal opportunity to give my sketch vest another try. Something I first tried more than a year ago, it seemed like a good idea, but it’s not ideal in several ways. For one, the temperature has to be just right – if it’s cold out, it’s too bulky to wear under a jacket, and it won’t fit over a jacket; if it’s hot, the added layer makes me too warm. In addition, if I fill all of its many pockets with everything I’d like to carry, I look lumpy and bumpy like a squirrel with its jaws full of nuts.
5/31/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
So as a test of true minimalism, I carried only the following: my watercolor kit, two waterbrushes, one Lamy pen with Platinum Carbon ink, and one Lamy pen with water-soluble Diamine Chocolate Brown ink. Plus an 8½” x 5½” Stillman & Birn sketchbook, of course, which doesn’t fit in any of the pockets, so I tucked it under my arm (another way in which the sketch vest isn’t ideal, but the temperature was just right for it).
After unsuccessfully trying to sketch a pair of rambunctious sloth bear cubs, I went into the Tropical House, where I could sketch a completely motionless emerald tree boa at my leisure. A preening Toco toucan was more of a challenge, especially when the paint wouldn’t dry in the tropical humidity. As soon as I tried another version of the toucan with ink only, I missed my black Zig marker (and missed it again as I sketched a black and white colobus and its impossibly long tail).
5/31/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink
Stopping for an iced Americano outside the Rain Forest Food Pavilion, I sketched the Homo Sapiens species – a male and its young.
(If I’d had my black Zig marker with me today, my minimalist kit would have been perfect. But if I’d had it, I’m sure I would have missed something else. Sigh. The quest continues.)

5/31/13 Platinum Carbon ink

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sunset Hills Memorial Park

No sun, no shadows, not much breeze. No sound except the silence of thousands of flags.

5/25/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

Northwest Folklife Festival

5/24/13 Sailor pen, Diamine Eclipse ink, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
After sketching at the King Street Station, the sun came out, and the afternoon looked promising for more. Kate and I decided to hop on a bus to the Seattle Center, where the Northwest Folklife Festival was just beginning its annual Memorial Day weekend of music, art and general celebration of the unofficial start of summer. Although Folklife is known for bringing big-name musicians to its main stages, I prefer to simply walk through and enjoy the many casual street performers who set up in the grass throughout the grounds.
5/24/13 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ink, Stillman & Birn sketchbook
I admit, I haven’t been attending Folklife regularly in recent years. In general, I prefer to stay far away from wherever everyone else will be on holiday weekends, and if the weather is even a teensy bit pleasant, the mobs at Folklife are intolerable to me. But on a Friday afternoon, the mobs hadn’t quite made it out there yet, so Kate and I could walk through the main thoroughfares without having to swim upstream. To my delight, I was able to spend a couple hours sketching one of my favorite subjects without being jostled: street performers jamming in the sunshine. I even caught a diaphanous mime (Sheri Brown) waiting for someone to wind her up.
5/24/13 Sailor pen, Diamine Eclipse ink
The past few weeks I’ve been working more hours than I usually do, and although I like the check I’m going to get from the work, the inconvenience of earning an income has been cutting into my sketching time, which makes me cranky. Spending all day yesterday sketching was just what I needed to reset my mood and gear up for a three-day weekend.

King Street Station

5/24/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
Seattle’s King Street Station, after years of dreary shabbiness, was recently renovated inside to restore its grand turn-of- the-20th-century style. I got together with a few sketchers yesterday to check it out. Overwhelmed by all that symmetry, perspective and white marble from the lobby floor, I went upstairs to the second floor level that seems to have no other purpose than to show off more of its beautiful detailing. Looking down over the lobby where train passengers queued up for their ride, I chose one of the many chandeliers as a focal point.

Monday, May 20, 2013


5/20/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
After a good night’s sleep, I had recovered from the intensive weekend of nearly non-stop sketching during the “Line to Color” workshop, and I was ready to take on challenging subjects again.
Last week I mentioned Tubs in the University District when I sketched a nearby construction site. Tubs, a long-closed and embarrassing reminder of the hot tub ‘80s, has turned into an ever-changing gallery of street art (check out this video of time-lapse photography of how the façade has changed over time). For a while the graffiti appeared surreptitiously at night, as most graffiti does, but at some point the property owner began allowing street artists to paint the building’s walls “officially.” Soon to be torn down, the building is now fenced in front, but the graffiti continues to evolve.
With all the cranes and wrecking balls all over town, I didn’t want to drive by one day and realize it had been demolished without my sketching it. Some think it’s an eyesore; I’m going to miss it when it’s gone.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Farmer’s Market Season: Open!

5/19/13 Platinum Carbon ink, Zig markers, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
As far as I’m concerned, the farmer’s market season officially opened today with my first visit of the year to Pike Place Market. With so many sketching subjects everywhere – interesting architecture, a sweeping view of Puget Sound and the Great Wheel, colorful produce and flower stands, lots of people – I was weary of challenging myself all weekend at Frank and Gail’s workshop and decided to go for sketching comfort food: musicians and other street performers.
Near the main Market entrance, vocalist Lohan Prado sang all my favorite Beatles tunes as well as other classics from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
5/19/13 Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ink, Zig marker, S & B Alpha
A block north, Phinneas, a 20-year-old Congo African parrot, performed astonishing tricks of voice and acrobatics with his human, who has been bringing Phinneas to the Market for the past 12 years. Phinneas prefers to perch on the newspaper box next to the curb, but he obliged me while I sketched by perching on his human’s hand.
Nearby, Ron Duncan gave an equally amazing performance of – well, I’m not sure how to categorize it. His repertoire consisted mostly of comedy and card tricks, but his grand finale was noteworthy: He hoola-hooped while solving a Rubik’s Cube with one hand and juggling a large book with the other. (Unfortunately, my sketching skills weren’t up to capturing his impressive finale.)
My last sketch before it was time for the sketchbook sharing was of a violinist with a unique style: He wore a fanny pack with a pocket that supported his violin. I sketched him from an upper landing as he played in the stairwell that leads down to Western Avenue.
5/19/13 Take-Sumi ink, Zig marker, S & B Alpha
Ah, the Market! So what if the temperature was only in the 60s, and I wore my raincoat, just in case. Today might as well be the first day of summer!

5/19/13 Take-Sumi ink

A Tour of Seattle, Urban Sketcher Style

5/18/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
A day in Mount Vernon with the venerable Frank Ching and Gail Wong wasn’t enough for me; I went back for a whole weekend of their “Line to Color” Urban Sketchers workshop, this time in Seattle. Sketchers from as far away as Idaho and California joined local sketchers for what turned out to be a whirlwind tour of some of Seattle’s most sketch-worthy neighborhoods and attractions: Ballard, Fremont, Gas Works Park and the Pike Place Market.

The highlight of our Friday evening meet-and-greet over Ballard Pizza Company pizza was hearing guest and MC Gabi Campanario talk about the birth of the Urban Sketchers movement and how local workshops like “Line to Color” have become an ongoing adjunct to the annual international Urban Sketchers symposia.
5/18/13 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ink, S & B sketchbook

In Ballard on Friday and Fremont Saturday morning, workshop participants practiced perspective and composition under Frank and Gail’s watchful eyes and thoughtful critique. As one participant kiddingly said, “I thought I was my own worst critic until I met Frank.” I worked hard practicing the exercises they recommended, but when they weren’t looking, I snuck in another sketch of Lenin (actually, my third, although he’s barely visible in the second).

By the time we got to Gas Works Park on Saturday afternoon, we were adding color to our lines. I finally got to practice wet-on-wet clouds over the Seattle skyline using the technique I’ve long admired in Gail’s sketches.

Sunday morning’s class at the Market was combined with the regular monthly Seattle Urban Sketchers meet-up, which brought out a record number of sketchers! (As far as social urban sketching goes, this sketchcrawl was an anniversary for me: A year ago this weekend I went to my very first.) I did one class exercise, a value study with selective color of the iconic Public Market Center sign. But after that, I decided class was over, and I spent the rest of the meet-up sketching my favorite farmer’s market subject: street performers (see next blog post).
5/19/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

By the end of the workshop, I came to the same conclusion I always come to: Learning from the masters helps; hearing their critiques of my sketches helps the most. But the only way to become a better sketcher is to practice, practice, practice.

Thanks, Gail and Frank, for another great workshop!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Orange Komatsu

5/16/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
The afternoon turned out unexpectedly sunny, so I dashed out to the U-District, thinking I’d sketch the Seattle Public Library’s University Branch. But after I parked near the fire station on 11th Avenue Northeast and started to turn the corner at Northeast 50th, I saw it: Yet another bunch of big machines digging up earth. This time they were on the lot next to the old Tubs (which has lately turned into an ever-changing gallery of street art).
5/16/13 Platinum Carbon ink
Heavy equipment seems to be calling to me lately. Unlike the earth movers I sketched at the light rail station, these were moving constantly and fast. I made a few quick studies to get the main shapes and proportions before starting a larger composition. Then I had to pick a position for the Komatsu and wait for it to return to that position several times before I could finish. (This is similar to what I do at the zoo when I’m sketching large mammals like bears, which walk around a lot but also return continually to the same positions.)
Piercing the sky in the background behind some trees is the Blessed Sacrament Church’s steeple, which I sketched last September.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pedestrian Bridge Over Aurora

5/14/13 Diamine Grey ink, watercolor, Zig marker, Uniball pen, Stillman & Birn sketchbook
Northbound on Aurora Avenue North, I passed under a pedestrian bridge at around 157th, and a light bulb turned on: “Bridges” is this week’s Urban Sketchers Flickr group theme. I didn’t think I would be near any bridges over water this week, but I was thinking too narrowly.
I quickly pulled into Sears’ upper-level parking lot, hoping to see what I saw: a good view of the bridge’s blue span. While I sketched, I kept hoping some pedestrians would cross over so that I could put them in for scale, but none did.
In the meantime, some ominously black clouds gathered on the horizon behind tall firs, even as the sun shone brilliantly in another part of the sky. Our weather has been crazy-fickle lately.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sketching in the Center of the Universe

5/10/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
With ideal – no, pluperfect – sketching conditions (for me, that means wearing a T-shirt and sandals but not breaking a sweat while sitting in the sunshine), a good turnout of Seattle sketchers showed up for an ad hoc meet-up in the Center of the Universe.
My first stop was the Fremont Troll, long on my list of favorite Seattle sights to show out-of-towners. The Troll, who lives under the Aurora Bridge, was created in 1990 by Ross Whitehead, Steve Badanes, Will Martin and Donna Walter. When I started my sketch, the only other person there was sketcher/photographer Gordon, who climbed behind the Troll’s shoulder to take a picture of me across the street. But by the time I was finishing up less than an hour later, I had lost track of the number of tourists who came by – some in taxis with the meter still running; others on tour buses; still others on foot. I know the Troll is supposed to be scary, ominously clutching a hapless VW Bug. But as I sketched him, I realized he has very human hands and seems more curious than scary.
5/10/13 Platinum Carbon, watercolor, Zig marker, S&B sketchbook
A few weeks ago I sketched the statue of Lenin, prompted by the Urban Sketchers Flickr weekly theme, “Oddities in Your Town.” I couldn’t resist sketching him again, although this time I let him take a back seat to an elegant tree, nearly in full leaf, offering shade to Lenin and passersby.
After the sketchbook sharing and lunch at the PCC with Peggy, Susan and Nilda, I wandered over near the Fremont Bridge to sketch the popularly accessorized sculpture, “Waiting for the Interurban” (made by local artist Richard Beyer). Today some of the cast aluminum sculpture’s characters were dressed in T-shirts promoting “Team Josh.” One wore a few fizzled balloons, perhaps from a previous decorating. To get that full frontal view, I had to sit across the street near the Old School Frozen Custard shop, an exercise in frustration. Traffic was continually going by on North 34th Street, and every few minutes cars would stop for a red light, completely obliterating my view. Giving up the fight, I finally put one of those cars into my sketch.
5/10/13 Platinum Carbon, watercolor, Zig markers, Stillman & Birn sketchbook
My parking meter had only a few minutes left on it – not enough time for another sketch. What to do, what to do. . . ? Eat frozen custard, of course.

My Bag Gets 15 Minutes of Fame

It’s a good thing I put my bag on a diet: It’s featured in an article I wrote for the summer issue of Studios magazine. It certainly got a bigger photo than I did! In part, here’s what I wrote:

"Urban sketching is taking the world by storm! Unlike traditional plein air painters – who are often portrayed in fields with easel, palette and beret – contemporary urban sketchers take a more portable approach. For these thousands of sporadically nomadic artists worldwide, their 'studios' have to fit in pockets, backpacks, purses or everyday bags.

"That’s because, at least for this urban sketcher, a sketching opportunity can occur at any time – during a lunch break, while waiting in a dental office, or at a brief stop between errands. So I like to have my gear with me wherever I go."

The article includes photos of the contents of my bag, my attachable watercolor kit and a couple examples of my sketches.

I wrap up the article with how I came to be an urban sketcher:

"By now you’re probably wondering if I even have a 'real' studio at all. For the past 10 years, I have worked as an abstract artist in a variety of media that require traditional studio work, so I do have a small home studio.

"But the other side of the story is that for most of my life, I simultaneously felt both the fear of drawing as well as the desire to learn how to draw. In 2011, partly because of my desire to learn and partly because the Urban Sketchers movement resonated so strongly with me, I decided to overcome my fear.

"In particular, I was inspired by Urban Sketchers founder Gabriel Campanario and his weekly column in The Seattle Times. His sketches of Seattle – my birthplace and lifelong home – depicted sites I had been to many times yet had never truly seen. I wanted to learn to see and experience those places more thoroughly. And I couldn’t do that if I never left my studio.

"Now my studio comes with me wherever I go, and I’ve never looked back."

The Summer 2013 issue of Studios magazine can be purchased digitally or in hard copy. Interweave Press also offers discount coupons

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Another Piece of Big Equipment

5/9/13 Noodler's Lexington Grey ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
Whenever I go to my weekly class at Green Lake Yogalife, I have to encounter a huge construction project in progress at Northeast 72nd and Fifth Northeast. Part of it is going to be a new PCC store, scheduled to open next year. I don’t know what all the rest is going to be – maybe more condos and "mixed use" buildings. 
The traffic impediment is a nuisance, but I have to admit I’m always fascinated by that orange crane that swings so smoothly and relatively quietly across the sky. I found a good place to stand where I could see most of the crane, and as soon as I roughed in its lines, I heard a humming sound, and its long arm swung over my head – amazingly fast.
(I seem to be on a construction and heavy equipment roll lately. Or maybe the sight of big machines is so unavoidable in the urban landscape that I’m just going with it.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Third Season of Maples

5/7/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
Last fall these particular maple trees at Green Lake were glorious in their full color for so long that I sketched them twice – once in October and again in November. Then they took so long to lose all their leaves that I didn’t get around to (nor was I inclined to, given the cold and rain) sketching them in winter mode until early March.
Since then, I’ve been impatiently waiting to see the first buds. Spring officially began months ago, but it’s taken until this week for these maples to get the memo – and it seemed to have happened overnight. It probably didn’t hurt that we’ve had temperatures in the 70s and even 80s the past week. Suddenly the barely visible buds have turned into tiny serrated leaves halfway between green and yellow.
I’ll wait a month or two and sketch them again at the peak of summer.

Monday, May 6, 2013

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church

5/6/13 Noodler's Lexington Grey ink, watercolor,
Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook

Whenever I drive west on my way to the zoo, I see a beautiful church tower on North 80th that looks like the Pope’s miter. I took an extended lunch break today and dashed over to Greenwood to sketch it. I learned that its name is the St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
Wanting to apply what I learned from Gail Wong last week, I tried to follow her tea/coffee/milk/cream metaphor. Unfortunately, I did it backwards, applying the darks first. One lesson I did listen to very carefully, though, is “selective painting.” I have ruined otherwise decent sketches by painting trees or bushes around a focal point – and the trees end up becoming the focal point with their messiness. Today after I painted the church and sky, I was about to mix some dark green for the trees – and I stopped.
Whew, that was close.

Putting My Bag on a Diet

Out (left to right): Kuretake fountain brush pen, Cretacolor pencil,
5 water-soluble pencils, 8 Zig markers, 3 fountain pens
To prep for our 15-day trip to Europe in July, when I want to keep my baggage as light as possible (we always travel with carry-on only), I decided to put my daily bag on a diet. We all know how body weight sneaks up on us, a little at a time. It’s the same with my sketch bag: A new pen added one day, a pencil the next, and eventually my bag that was once comfortable to carry everywhere was starting to drag on my shoulder.
My sketching friends like to tease me about the number of pens I carry. I admit, it was getting a bit ridiculous. I realized that I tend to use certain art materials seasonally – in the cold months when I spend more of my sketching time in coffee shops and life drawing studios, I tend to use pencil, pen and ink more; in warm months when I sketch outdoors, I use watercolor more. So last night I took a long, hard look into my bag and pulled out most of the Zig markers, most of the water-soluble pencils and a few fountain pens (see above). I weighed them, and my bag is now 200 grams lighter (close to a half-pound). The items that made the final cut are what I consider the bare essentials (below). (I took out the pen with Private Reserve Velvet Black – ouch – but at least Iroshizuku Take-Sumi stays in.)
The final cut (left to right): 3 Zig markers, 1 water-soluble pencil,
Lamy Nexx, Sailor fountain pen, opaque Uniball pen, 2 Lamy Safaris,
4 waterbrushes, watercolor kit
Of course, when I pack for my Barcelona Urban Sketchers workshops, I’ll have to rethink everything. But over the next few weeks, I’ll give my smaller selection a try to see if there’s anything else I can’t bear to live without.
For more on my bag and its continually changing contents, see Current Favorite Art Materials.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Review: Freehand Drawing & Discovery

4/22/13 Diamine Eclipse ink, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
When I first heard about the new book Freehand Drawing & Discovery: Urban Sketching and Concept Drawing for Designers, by James Richards, the “urban sketching” part of the title grabbed my attention, but I was uncertain about the “for designers” part. If the intended audience was architects and other professional designers, I didn’t think it would apply to me, and at $56, I didn’t want to take a chance. But as soon as I saw that it was available at the public library, I snapped it up.
Both an urban designer and an urban sketcher, James Richards offers many practical suggestions on perspective (using just enough to convey the scene realistically without being so technically accurate that the sketch loses spontaneity), composition, staying loose, depicting scale, the strategic as well as esthetic use of color, and other aspects of sketching that would be useful to any hobby sketcher, not just pros. Especially in the first section called “Learning a Language,” the author shows how sketching freehand with paper and pencil is, for him, an expressive, essential form of visual communication that can serve both the professional and hobby sketcher.
The second and shortest section, “Urban Sketching,” is filled with the author’s own delightful travel sketches. In addition, the work of two of my favorite urban sketchers, Gabi Campanario and Liz Steel, is also featured. In the first chapter, “Urban Sketching as Creative Fuel,” Richards discusses the philosophy behind urban sketching, his personal experiences sketching while traveling and the portable tools he uses. In “Capturing the Place,” he shows, in seven explicit steps, how he sketched a vast, complex landscape in Turkey in a short time by applying the same principles he uses in drawings intended for design work. The scene depicted in this remarkable example is exactly the type that would completely paralyze me, yet he broke it down into steps that I felt even I could follow and apply.
The final section, “Concept Sketching,” applied most directly to urban designers and other professionals, including chapters on incorporating freehand drawings with digital work. I ended up skimming most of the text in this section, but the beautiful drawings by the author and other designers are worth an appreciative look.
As a hobby urban sketcher without intentions of becoming a designer, I’m not sure I would pay $56 for the book. But if you love looking at pages and pages of beautiful urban sketches while also learning practical sketching tips, it’s definitely worth a trip to your public library.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Watercolor Palette Redux

In preparation for Gail Wong’s portion of the Line to Color Mt. Vernon workshop last week, I swapped out a few colors in my portable paint box, but in the short time we had to practice, I hardly got a chance to use the colors she recommended during class. But I intend to give them a full workout in a couple weeks during Frank and Gail’s Seattle workshop.
For the record, here are the colors currently in my box. Indigo, Quinacridone Gold and Quinacridone Sienna are the latest additions, based on Gail’s recommended palette. I don’t miss the Naples Yellow and Brown Ochre (which I had to take out to make room for the two Quins) I had been experimenting with after seeing those colors in Marion Rivolier’s recommended palette for her Capturing Space Through Form and Color workshop in Barcelona. She seems to favor more opaque colors like Naples and Cadmium Red, while Gail prefers the transparents.
I’m not as fickle about colors as it may seem. After taking a couple of watercolor classes and reading numerous watercolor books, it’s apparent that every artist and instructor has a favorite palette that they tend to recommend, since they understand the mixing behaviors of those colors well. Eventually, I intend to figure out what my own palette is (edited 4/18/14: A year later, I think I'm close), but for now, I’m trying to learn what I can from each instructor by using the recommended colors. So when I go to Barcelona, I’ll put back in the colors Marion recommends.
One thing is certain: I love the flexibility of easily swapping out half pans of paints in my mint tin! No wonder this type of setup is so popular with sketchers.

Small Lot, Big Equipment

5/4/13 Platinum Sepia ink, watercolor, Zig markers, pencil, Stillman & Birn sketchbook
On our way to the Sand Point Metropolitan Market this morning, we saw a disproportional number of heavy machinery moving slowly around a small lot on the corner of 25th Northeast and Northeast 75th in Wedgwood. I think the lot has been empty for a while – perhaps a gas station stood there at some point. It didn’t look like anything was being built, nor being torn down, and there were so many pieces of equipment in such a small space that it seemed to me that they could hardly maneuver.
Curious, and with this week’s Urban Sketchers Flickr group theme “People on the Job” on my mind, I went back this afternoon to find out what was going on. It turned out to be environmental cleanup activity, according to the worker I asked.
Technical note: I’m constantly switching out various art materials in my daily bag to minimize its weight and bulk while maximizing my sketching options. Since I had rarely used it, I recently replaced an orange Zig marker with something else. As I stood on a noisy, dusty, highly trafficked street corner, I regretted not having that bright orange marker, which would have enabled me to add the important color to this sketch quickly without having to get out my watercolors to mix the orange. Given that “construction orange” is always a prominent color in the urban landscape, I guess I’d better put that marker back into my bag.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Statue of Jimi Hendrix

5/3/13 Sailor pen, Private Reserve Ultra Black ink, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
I’ve never been much of a rock fan, but I know the influence that Jimi Hendrix has had on rock music, and even I can listen to his riffs and appreciate his innovation.
The bronze statue of Hendrix on the corner of Broadway and Pine on Capitol Hill has been on my list of memorials and monuments that I want to sketch. Sculpted by local artist Daryl Smith, the statue captures the intense passion that I imagine Hendrix must have expressed during concerts. Leaning up against a wall of the Blick Art Materials store as I sketched, I felt that passion, too.

Frappuccino Happy Hour

5/3/13 Private Reserve Ultra Black ink, Zig marker, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
Sucking chocolate cookie crumbs through a straw isn’t as wonderful as it should be. Pondering my first world problem, I sat in the sunshine at Starbucks on 65th and Roosevelt, sketching this girl.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Museum of History and Industry

5/2/13 Noodler's Lexington Grey ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Alpha
I took advantage of free admission on first Thursday to visit the Museum of History and Industry at its new location on Lake Union. As an occasional visitor of MOHAI at its old location, I was familiar with some exhibits, but many other artifacts were able to come out of MOHAI’s archives in the larger facility. The new spacious, well-lighted building is a well-deserved home for Puget Sound-area history.
Although I hadn’t planned it, my visit turned out to be more than one lesson in composition (Frank Ching, I was paying attention during your lecture at last Saturday’s workshop!), though I could have saved myself time if I had spent more time seeing and less time drawing as Frank had recommended.

5/2/13 Lexington Grey ink, watercolor, S&B Alpha
A Seattle native, I was immediately drawn to a couple of colorful and nostalgic icons from my childhood. One was the large red neon R that had been a landmark above the Rainier Brewery in south Seattle for decades. First I sketched the R by itself from the main lobby (at left), but after I finished I realized the composition was blah and gave the R no context. A little later as I was climbing the stairs to the third floor, I saw a more interesting composition of the R (at bottom) behind an ancient Boeing B-1 mail carrier (I learned from a docent that the small plane was made of ship parts).
5/2/13 Lexington Grey ink, water-soluble colored pencils, Zig markers

The bright pink Lincoln’s Toe Truck is another familiar icon from parades and other public events. I started sketching it from the second floor railing directly over the toes, but I realized quickly that I didn’t leave space on the page for any context, so the composition was strange. Fortunately, I saw this before I had wasted more than a few minutes, so I abandoned the line drawing right away and started over. This time I put in some people nearby for both context and scale: a better composition (at top).
After a grilled caprese sandwich at MOHAI’s Compass Café, I sketched three figureheads leaning out from the second floor near the ceiling (at right). I couldn’t find a placard about them, and the docent I asked didn’t know, so I have no idea what ships these figureheads originally sailed with.
I had given myself four hours on the parking meter, so it was time to go, but I’ll be going back again sometime soon – there’s plenty to sketch at MOHAI as well as plenty to learn and enjoy.
5/2/13 Iroshizuku Take-Sumi and Sailor inks, Zig markers

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

As Seen from Seattle’s Oldest Staircase

5/1/13 Platinum Carbon ink, Zig markers, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
I had a heckuva time finding it.
Built in 1904, a short, stairway in the upper Queen Anne neighborhood (at Warren Avenue North and Ward) is on record as being Seattle’s oldest steps. I expected them to be made of craggy, crumbling stones or bricks, perhaps moss-encrusted, or at least narrow and crooked. But they look quite ordinary, probably rebuilt with standard concrete for safety at some point, and not even particularly long (42 steps). (I seem to be making a habit of finding underwhelming sights.)
I read about them in the book Seattle Stairway Walks – An Up-and-Down Guide to City Neighborhoods, by Jake Jaramillo and Cathy Jaramillo. Ostensibly, I got the book to find interesting fitness walking routes. But my ulterior motive was that I figured the book would lead me to sketching opportunities that I might not otherwise know about.
So I skipped the 3.7-mile walking route that would have brought me to this stairway and instead drove directly to the steps. It took me a while to find it, tucked away in the middle of a narrow, one-way street. When I finally spotted the stairs, I rolled my eyes to myself, unimpressed. Then I got out of the car and looked out over the stairs – at a quintessential view of Seattle: Space Needle, Mt. Rainier tucked behind it, and the downtown skyline all around. If you look to the very far right of the sketch, you’ll see the Pacific Science Center's arches, which I sketched the other day.
I’m sure many postcard photographers have captured this view, assuming they have found it.
(Technical note: I have several landscape-oriented sketchbooks, but since I hardly ever sketch actual landscapes, I never think to bring one with me. It would have come in handy today.)

Not to Gloat or Anything. . .

OK, maybe I will.

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