Friday, July 31, 2015

Shilshole in the Sunshine

7/31/15 inks, watercolor, colored pencils

Last summer when Urban Sketchers Seattle met at Shilshole Marina, the morning started out chilly and foggy, though that burned off quickly. Not so today for the Friday sketchers – we had full-on sun, clear, blue skies and excellent opportunities for shadows. Although I sketched Leif Erikson’s statue last time, the shadow opportunities prompted me to take a wider view this morning to capture the whole memorial to Nordic immigrants. On one side of each of the stone markers is a plaque engraved with individual immigrants’ names and the year they arrived.

I stood in full sun to make this sketch, and it took me longer than planned because the one you see above was the second try. The first (mis)try is shown below. Shortly after beginning, I saw that my proportions for Leif were all wrong – so I abandoned the sketch immediately.

Abandoned quickly.
Now that I’m going on my fourth year as a sketcher, I still think of myself as a beginner, though I’ve also gained much experience from daily sketching. It occurs to me that nearly four years of experience does not prevent me from making mistakes like the abandoned sketch. What four years of sketching has given me is the wisdom to realize (most of the time) that when proportions are wrong, no amount of futzing is going to make the sketch look right, so the best solution is to start over quickly. During my first couple of years, I would have kept going, not really understanding why the sketch didn’t look right. Even if I understood that, I would have continued anyway, trying to fix it. After wasting an hour or more, I’d come to the same conclusion: The sketch still didn’t look right.

If abandoning a bad sketch immediately is all I’ve learned in four years, I’m good with that!


  1. Congrats on knowing when to stop and start over! It doesn't matter how long you've been drawing -- everybody has to do this. I've been drawing more or less regularly for over 50 years and just yesterday had to abandon a sketch that had bad perspective. I love the shadows in your sketch, and Leif looks just right!

  2. It's alway tough to know when to give up on a sketch. I often find, somewhere in the middle, that a sketch looks horrible but in the end looks fine. But it is good to ensure that proportions are good early on in the process. As you say, if they're not right, or at least close, nothing will fix it.


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