Friday, November 30, 2018

Early Autumn Sketchbook Bound (Plus Biennial Sketchbook Angst)

My sketches from August through October are within.

I finally got around to binding my sketches from August through October. On the covers are the east side of Green Lake (one of my favorite fall color sketches this year) and the crazy cell tower on Queen Anne Hill.

It’s been a couple of years since the last time I went through sketchbook angst, and it seems to be that time again. I’ve been mostly happily binding my own sketchbooks since 2013. Hand binding meets all my sketchbook needs perfectly: I can use any papers I want while keeping my sketches roughly in chronological sequence; I can carry a slim signature at a time instead of a bulky, heavy commercial sketchbook; I enjoy the Coptic stitching process; it’s significantly less expensive than buying commercial sketchbooks. And yet . . .

Making the covers has become a tedious rather than an enjoyable process. I looked for alternative materials to the chipboard I’ve been using – something that could perhaps be painted with acrylic instead of covered with paper – but nothing has been quite right. If I could stitch the signatures without covers, I would, but the Coptic binding stitch needs some kind of support. I’ve even considered simply storing the completed signatures on a bookshelf as they are without binding them together, which would certainly be the fastest process of all. But I do love the bookness of collecting several months’ worth of sketches into a volume. It gives me a very satisfying sense of order and completion that a stack of loose signatures does not.

So here I am again considering switching to Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbooks. Carrying one is heavier and bulkier than a single signature, and I’ll have to constantly choose which book to take when I leave the house (Beta for watercolor pencil sketches? Epsilon for graphite? Nova for toned paper?). My sketches will be scattered among several books instead of in chronological order. And then there’s the mechanical issue I discovered two years ago that made me return to binding my own again: Although the softcover binding opens flat, I can’t fold back the side I’m not using – a major benefit of my DIY signatures when I’m sketching while standing.

I’ll soon be choosing one of the S & B softcovers for my annual winter minimal sketch kit challenge. That experience will refresh my memory of how it feels to use one on location again (I use them regularly in my studio). We’ll see if that increases my angst or leads to a resolution.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Beneath the Ramp

11/24/18 Under the First Avenue South ramp

Seattle’s best brick-and-mortar art supply store is Daniel Smith. Fortunately for my budget, the store is not convenient to me, so I don’t go there as often as I’d like. The email I received for the store’s Black Friday weekend sale, however, was more than I could resist – 20 percent off everything in the store!

A fresh stash of staples.
After stocking up on Stillman & Birn sketchbooks and a couple of Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Markers, I returned to my car, which was parked beneath the First Avenue South freeway ramp adjacent to the store. The triangle of light formed by the ramp, its support beams and the industrial buildings under it caught my eye.

About five minutes into the sketch, I regretted that I didn’t have my gray-toned S & B Nova sketchbook with me! It would have saved me quite a bit of time applying all that graphite to the white page. But isn’t that always the Catch-22 for every urban sketcher? Whichever book you want is the one that’s still at home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Product Review: Caran d’Ache Prismalo 100th Anniversary Edition and Vintage Comparison (Plus Bonus Insight)

100th anniversary Caran d'Ache Prismalo watercolor pencils

(Warning: In addition to being a standard product review, this post has some colored pencil history geekiness that might be a bit deep for most sketchers. However, it ends with a surprising insight about watercolor pencils. If you’re not interested in this particular pencil or its vintage comparison, but you are interested in what I learned, skip down to “Unexpected Insight.” Or bear with me for the full geeky ride! There’s a lesson here about art materials in general.)

A while back I spotted Caran d’Ache’s 100th anniversary Prismalo colored pencils at CW Pencils. Unlike the Supracolor set of 30 new colors to celebrate that line’s 30th anniversary, the Prismalo set didn’t seem to have any new colors (nor even a special mark on the pencils), so I assumed it was just the packaging that was commemorative. I resisted a set that was obviously intended mainly for collecting rather than using.

My interest, however, in Caran d’Ache’s product lines (especially water-soluble colored pencils, which the Swiss company invented and introduced with the Prismalo line in 1931) and their history continued to pique my curiosity about a few things. Earlier this year, I reviewed a vintage set of Prismalo pencils I found on eBay. In that review, I was puzzled about where Prismalos stand, in terms of quality, in Caran d’Ache’s product family. I concluded that the vintage set I have seems to line up more closely with student-grade Fancolor than with artist-quality Supracolor (and certainly Prismalo comes nowhere near premium-quality Museum Aquarelle). For a while, I thought Prismalo was no longer available, which led me to speculate that the contemporary Fancolor product might have taken its place. Later, though, readers and European colored pencil fans pointed out that Prismalo is still a current product (more easily found in Europe than in the US).

Two vintage boxes that look identical -- except one is called
"Prismalo" and the other is not.
A few months after writing that review, I found another small box on eBay that looked identical to my vintage box of Prismalos – except that it had no mention of the name “Prismalo” – only the term “water soluble.” The eBay vendor’s description was even more intriguing: She claimed that this set contained Supracolor I watercolor pencils, “which are harder than Supracolor II.” What?! This certainly sparked my curiosity; I have wondered many times why the Supracolor line had started out with a Roman numeral II and was later called Supracolor II Soft and finally just Supracolor Soft – what happened to Supracolor I? Would this box on eBay finally resolve that mystery?

Both vintage sets look similar, inside and out.
Disappointingly, neither the pencils nor the tin say Supracolor I anywhere, so I have only the eBay vendor’s claim. (When I pursued the question with the vendor, it turned out that she was quoting the person from whom she had acquired the used set, so she had no more information about the “I” designation and knew nothing about Caran d’Ache or pencils. Very frustrating for a colored pencil historian!)

The pencil bodies and tins look so similar that it’s hard to imagine that the Prismalos and the non-Prismalos are not the same product. Even the ages of my two sets look similar. Compared side by side in use, they are identical: Harder and less vibrant when water-activated than contemporary Supracolors, and all the hues (with matching color numbers) are identical. Was the water-soluble line later named “Prismalo”? But if so, why is Prismalo considered Caran d’Ache’s first water-soluble product? Another mystery!

All these frustrations led me to the inevitable: I bought the 100th anniversary set of Prismalo pencils! I didn’t really believe that owning the collectible set would resolve any questions, but I knew that they would make me happy (as nearly every colored pencil does).

Now that you have the backstory, here’s the review and comparison with the vintage Prismalos (followed by the interesting insight):

The lovely commemorative box (shown at top of post) includes an embossed portrait of the Matterhorn, the Prismalo line’s icon. The paper box (instead of a contemporary metal tin) has a vintage feeling (although sadly, my box got a bit crushed on one corner. Good thing I’m not a collector intending to keep this set in mint condition for future resale). Pulling the small red ribbon tab reveals the drawer of pencils.
The 100th anniversary Prismalo pencils.

A hinged kickstand behind the tray folds out, enabling the tray to stand on the desktop. This, too, is a charming, nostalgic touch that reminds me of Mongol, Venus and other vintage colored pencils that came in boxes with stands.
A hinged kickstand folds out.

For historical interest, I lined up an anniversary edition Prismalo alongside a vintage one and a vintage non-Prismalo pencil that looks just like it. Though with minor changes in typeface and branding, they are clearly of the same general design. All three have a white end cap.
From top: anniversary Prismalo; vintage Prismalo; vintage pencil that is not Prismalo
The top two vintage pencils' end caps show their
age, but are otherwise identical to the contemporary

As I swatched the anniversary edition colors, I immediately noticed something different: The contemporary Prismalos felt softer than I remembered the vintage ones being. I pulled out the vintage sets to refresh my memory, and I was right. While the contemporary Prismalos are still harder than Supracolors, they are distinctly softer than their ancestors.
100th anniversary Prismalo palette

The water-swipe test brought another surprise. The new Prismalos activated much more vibrantly than their vintage ancestors, indicating that they contain more pigment. In fact, I started wondering if they were closer to Supracolors. . . ? How would all four compare? Now things were getting interesting!

Picking out three colors (230 – yellow green, 70 – scarlet, 160 – cobalt blue) that are included in all four sets, I compared water-activated swatches side by side. In softness, pigment quality and vibrancy when activated, I’d say the contemporary Prismalos are closer to Supracolors than to either of the vintage sets.

I came to the same conclusion that I have several times now when I’ve been able to pit a contemporary product against its ancestors: Art material production processes continue to evolve and improve over time, and in general, newer products are better than older ones. We live in good times with many terrific options.

Unexpected Insight

If I had done nothing but the comparison swatch tests, I’d be ready to say that contemporary Prismalos are pretty darn good and could be considered a harder version of Supracolors. Given their conveniently matched color numbers, I’d be tempted to declare them the ideal pair of hard and soft water-soluble colored pencils to be used together. But here’s where the plot thickens:

As always, I ended my product review process by making a sample sketch. (In the past, I’ve consistently used apples, but I’ve moved on to the more challenging shape of pears.) Using a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, I initially applied a light layer of pigment and then activated it. After the paper was completely dry, I started applying the next layer – and the pigment was strangely difficult to apply. Although I knew I had not flattened the paper’s tooth (which can happen when too much pressure is applied with the initial layer), it almost felt that way – like the new pigment was simply skidding over a waxy surface instead of being captured by the paper’s tooth. It took significant effort to get the color down.
11/21/18 100th anniversary Prismalo pencils in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
As is my usual process, I activated this second layer, allowed it to dry, and then applied more pigment, intending it to be the final texture and detail layer that I would not activate. I wasn’t happy with the color intensity at this point, however, so I went through another cycle of pigment and activation before finishing. I didn’t remember having difficulty with the vintage Prismalos . . . I was a bit perplexed.

This is when my moment of insight came: Years ago when I first started dabbling in watercolor pencils, I used an inexpensive set that resulted in experiences similar to this: pigment applied after an initial layer of activation felt like it would not apply easily over the activated area. With my lack of experience or instruction (books I read at the time never seemed to address this), this experience led me to assume that dry pencil could not be reapplied after the previous layer had been activated. For years after, I always applied as much pigment as possible before activating it, thinking that once I applied water, I could not apply more. I often felt like I had taken an OK drawing of dry pencil and ruined it with water, but had no opportunity to fix it. I was frustrated regularly.

When I finally studied watercolor pencils formally with Suzanne Brooker last year, I was so surprised to learn that not only can you continue applying more pigment over previously water-activated areas; it’s actually a more effective way to build layers of color and value. And with the artist-grade pencils I was using in class, it was entirely possible. What a light bulb moment!

All of this came back to me as I struggled to use the Prismalos, and by the time I finished that sketch of the pears, I had to take the next step immediately: Make a comparison sketch, this time with Supracolors.
11/21/18 Caran d'Ache Supracolor pencils in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
Not surprisingly, artist-grade Supracolors behaved exactly as I expected them to: Subsequent dry layers of pigment could be applied easily over previously water-activated areas, and it was possible to go through several cycles of dry/wet applications without struggle. (This is the same experience I’ve had with artist-grade Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer and, of course, my favorite Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle.)

Conclusion: Even though Prismalos and Supracolors look and act the same when making small swatches, completing a sketch tells the full story. Perhaps Prismalos contain less pigment, or the type of binder used is less amenable to multiple applications. I wish I knew more about how watercolor pencils are made; I might be able to speculate more accurately on how they are different. After these sketches, though, I’d have to say that although Prismalos are of high quality, they are not artist grade.

I think one reason why this insight struck me is that, in recent years, I’ve gotten accustomed to using artist-grade watercolor pencils, and I don’t generally explore lower-quality ones. My early experiences with low-quality watercolor pencils led me to believe, for years, that all watercolor pencils behaved in a certain way which required me to use them in a certain way, and I didn’t know enough (until Suzanne’s class) to try using higher-quality pencils differently – even though I had switched to artist grade long before I began studying with her.
Pretty, but probably not artist grade.
The Moral of the Story

Beyond this personal insight (and far beyond this product review), the moral of this story is advice I’ve often heard: When learning a new medium, always use the highest quality materials you can afford – even if they seem “better than you need” at the time.

A couple of months ago, Liz Steel discussed this same issue as it relates to student-grade and artist-grade watercolor paints: “When you are starting out with watercolour it can seem like a good option to buy the cheaper kits because after all you don’t know if you will like watercolour painting. It’s also easy to think that you are not good enough to use the top quality paints. But in many respects this is false economy as the quality of some of these kits can be so inferior that you don’t really experience the magic of watercolour. . . . I think it’s much easier to get frustrated and discouraged when learning to paint with student grade watercolour.”

I agree with Liz completely. When you use low-quality products and bad paper (or good paper that’s inappropriate for the chosen medium), you are likely to get disappointing results – but those results are not the worst part. The worst part is that you won’t know whether the results are due to not using the materials appropriately or because those inferior materials will never give you better results even if you knew how to use them. In my case, even when I started using higher-quality pencils, I used them in the same way that the low-quality pencils had “taught” me to use them – not realizing how much more they can do and with better results when used appropriately.

Ironically, with some experience using an art material, it might be possible to get decent results with student-grade products, but as I discovered with the Prismalos, it takes more work and some struggle while I “reteach” myself how to use them. (This gives me a masochistic idea: Now that I have more experience with watercolor pencils, maybe I’ll dig out my old low-quality set and see what I can do with them! This reminds me of the old joke about wearing tight shoes because it feels so good to take them off.)

Edited 12/1/18: Here's the result of that masochistic exercise.

If you stayed with me for this whole geeky ride, thank you! And if you didn’t, but you read only the story’s moral, my job here is done.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Bluefin Buffet

11/22/18 Chocolate fountain at the Bluefin Buffet

Greg and I have only one family member in town, so our Thanksgiving tradition has become easy: We go to the Bluefin Buffet.

Between trips to the huge spreads of sushi, seafood, noodles, dim sum, salad and, of course, desserts, I like to take sketch breaks. First I sketched the maneki-neko who guarded the stacks of soup bowls. Later, after I had stuffed down another plateful of food, I turned around and spotted the mesmerizing chocolate fountain. Despite how cool it looks, it’s not the best chocolate in the world, and I found it more fun to sketch than taste.

Monday, November 26, 2018

White Party: White Pencil Comparison

In the past, I have disparaged white colored pencils as being mostly useless except when burnishing, which is a fairly sophisticated technique. I questioned why white is found in nearly every colored pencil set, even those intended for kids, who are probably not going to be using it for burnishing.

At the time (more than a year ago), I forgot about the one case when a white pencil is essential: with toned paper. I first started using white (both in pencil form and in a gel pen) a few years ago with my beloved red Field Notes. And then last winter when I challenged myself with a minimal sketch kit, a white pencil became an important pairing with a tan Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook. It has also become a key part of my life-drawing sketch kit. My favorite for that purpose is the Derwent Drawing pencil because of its exceptionally large, soft core.

Recently a colored pencil artist asked me if I had a white Derwent Lightfast pencil that I could compare with white Prismacolor and Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils – specifically for opacity on toned paper. You can imagine my delight in being of service to answer his query (requests like this help justify my rather, umm, extensive collection).

For each swatch below, I applied about three layers of pigment. Prismacolor is probably the most opaque, although Derwent Drawing, Caran d’Ache Luminance, Derwent Lightfast and Uni Pericia are all close runners-up. Polychromos is the hardest, which might account for its lower opacity with the same number of layers, but its hardness also covers the paper’s tooth more completely. (All swatch tests were done in Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbooks.)

Derwent’s Drawing pencil, purchased open stock, is a much better value than premium Luminance or Lightfast. But if you can find a vintage Prismacolor in white, it would be the best value of all – assuming that you find it in your own stash and not on eBay, where prices have gotten ridiculous for vintage Prismacolors. (Beware: contemporary Prismacolors are of dubious quality.)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

White as Snow But Without the Shoveling

11/20/18 Roosevelt neighborhood

I could barely see the headlights of other cars more than a half-block away. Arriving at my appointment about 20 minutes early, I stepped out of my car into a cold, white world. Fortunately for me, the “white” around here is fog, not snow.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Black Friday at the Fairmont

11/23/18 Fairmont Olympic Hotel lobby

The other admins and I were a bit nervous about scheduling a sketch outing on Black Friday in the downtown retail corridor, but we thought we’d give it a shot. We chose the venerable Fairmont Olympic Hotel, where the 41st annual Festival of Trees was certain to make its grand lobby ornate and colorful. Then we heard that Macy’s holiday parade was scheduled for the same time – right in front of the Fairmont! Commuting downtown could be a worse problem than usual.

With some trepidation, I hopped on the bus downtown, but traffic was fine and didn’t cause delays. When I arrived at the Fairmont in the pouring rain, the parade was in full swing. Leisurely viewing all the beautiful holiday trees, the other sketchers and I had the lobby nearly to ourselves. Then a few minutes later, the parade ended, and hundreds of wet, cold parade viewers poured into the Fairmont!

That was my cue. I dashed up the staircase to the upper floor, where I could look over the railing at the terrific view of the activities below. Families ducking into the hotel to get warm and pose for selfies negotiated floor space with hotel guests who were trying to check out. It was a lively, festive beginning to the holiday season.

After two sketches inside the hotel, I walked across the street to Starbucks. Scoring a window seat, my plan was to sketch a hotel entrance. Directly in front of me on the sidewalk, though, was a “homeless grand pa” and his rolling cart of belongings. I knew he could see me through the window, so I felt a bit intrusive sketching him, yet I also wanted to document what is probably a black day every day for so many Seattle residents. (Although I don’t think he caught me sketching him, to assuage my guilt, I gave him money afterwards the same way I always tip buskers that I sketch. I look at is as a model’s fee.)

11/23/18 a resident of 4th and University

A small but enthusiastic group of sketchers who braved Black Friday!

A soggy parade.

We had the lobby nearly to ourselves for a short time . . .

. . . .and then this happened!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Soft and Hard, Part 2: Water-Soluble Colored Pencils

11/10/18 Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle and Staedtler Karat Aquarell in
Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook

About a year ago when I was focused on learning to use colored pencils, I wrote about how I find it necessary to have both soft and hard colored pencils because they have different purposes. In that post, I was mainly referring to traditional colored pencils and the way I learned to use them in Suzanne Brooker’s Gage class. I concluded with musings about my idiosyncratic method of using water-soluble colored pencils on location, which requires a pencil with the softest possible core (which is how Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle became my hands-down favorite).

Now that the weather is no longer hospitable, and I’m spending more time indoors practicing color on still lives, I observed that I had started applying the same hard/soft pencil guidelines that I use with traditional colored pencils when I’m using water-soluble colored pencils, too.

My current go-to hard watercolor pencil is Staedtler Karat Aquarell. I had tried it initially because it’s the brand that my instructor Suzanne uses, but at first I didn’t like it because it’s much harder than I was accustomed to in a water-soluble pencil – harder than both Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer and Caran d’Ache Supracolor (which is a bit harder than Museum Aquarelle). But now I find it very useful for some purposes.

On this pear, I used Museum Aquarelles for most of the color application, but for small details, I needed a harder pencil that retains a point better, and that’s where the Staedtler pencils were handy. Stillman & Birn Beta, my favorite sketchbook for home use, is a heavy, toothy paper ideal for wet media. But the tooth isn’t always a good match for softer pencils, which skip over the low points in the paper’s surface. In addition to details, the Karat Aquarells are good for covering the surface where I decided not to activate with water, like on the pear’s shadow. I would have had even better results if I had used the harder pencils first (covering the paper texture better with the first layer), but I didn’t think of it until after I had started applying Museum Aquarelles. I seem to get the best coverage on toothy paper when I start with a hard pencil.

Thursday, November 22, 2018


11/21/18 Bartlett and Chelan pears

Over at the Well-Appointed Desk where I am a product reviewer, Ana and my other colleagues are writing about what we’re grateful for during this holiday season – things related to stationery and art materials and things that are not. Shared here are a few things I’m thankful for:
  • Fountain pen caps. We all fuss and swoon over the sexy nib, and even discuss at length the design of the clip. But if you lost the cap (as I’ve nearly done several times), how long would your pen be of use? Kiss a pen cap tonight.
  • We may love vintage products for the nostalgia they evoke, but the more I collect vintage colored pencils, the more I’m grateful for the improved quality of contemporary products. With only a few exceptions, art materials in general keep getting better and better.
  • The pleasure that sketching brings me every day. Even when I’m not happy with a sketch I’ve made, making it fills me with joy.
  • My warm, safe home. I so often take it for granted, but I should not. Many have recently lost theirs in devastating fires and other disasters, and many more never have one any day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Peacock in the Desert

11/16/18 Elephant model in wedding finery

Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India, is the Seattle Art Museum’s extraordinary exhibit spanning 500 years. In addition to paintings, the hundreds of pieces in the show include furnishings, jewelry and armor previously displayed in the Marwar-Jodhpur palace. Many of the paintings reminded me of a 2009 show at the Seattle Asian Art Museum called Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur. Both exhibits required walking around with a magnifying glass to view the tiny, exquisite details that looked like they were painted with eyelashes. The brilliant color palette of intense red, gold, purple, green and blue was dazzling!

I had only a short time to sketch right after the museum doors opened and before the crowds got too thick, but I couldn’t resist grabbing this quick capture of a life-size elephant model. Dressed up in wedding procession finery, the elephant had a painted face and was wearing gold earrings. A nearby video and photos showed how elephants would be used ceremonially to transport members of the wedding party.

Local friends: Don’t miss this exhibit! It’s at SAM through Jan. 21, 2019.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The New Nordic Museum

11/18/18 the new Nordic Museum

Back in 2013 in the early days of the Friday sketchers, we met at the old Nordic Heritage Museum. A bit dark and dingy, the old building in Ballard had a small selection of traditional artifacts and historic exhibits. In fact, the brightest spot was a large hallway display of architectural renderings by Stephanie Bower showing what the new Nordic Museum building would look like when it was completed in 2018.

11/18/18 Looking down on the main floor
That seemed like a long way off, but on Sunday we completed that circle when USk Seattle met at the newly reopened Nordic Museum near Salmon Bay. A far cry from the old one, the new building is large, modern and bright. Although brilliantly sunny that morning, the temperature was only in the high 30s, but Michele and I decided to bundle up for a sketch of the back of the building from the parking lot. Sketching dark glass and steel that met at sharp angles, I experienced strong déjà vu of last August when I sketched the newly reopened Bell Museum in St. Paul, which had also started out in a dark, dingy building.

In addition to the usual museum visitors crowd, many people were there for Julefest, a holiday tradition in its 41st year. Enjoying traditional music wafting out from the auditorium tent as we sketched, Michele and I were going to make that our next stop. Just as we found seats and pulled out our pens, though, the musicians stopped and took a break. We began wandering among the Julefest vendors and got distracted by all manner of cashmere scarves (which we bought!), grog, handcrafted ornaments and Viking horns, not to mention the museum exhibits themselves.

Whew! With all of that grabbing for my attention, it’s amazing that I got a second sketch done at all! Walkway bridges on the upper level connect opposite sides of the building. I picked one to peer over and sketched people queued up for food and shopping for scarves and hats.

I barely skimmed the surface of all that the Nordic Museum has to offer, so I’m definitely planning to return later for a more thorough look.

Edited 1/26/19: I finally went back to view the exhibits and enjoy a memory-evoking lunch at the museum's cafe. 

Architectural renderings by Stephanie Bower in the old Nordic Museum, April 2013.
(Photo by Carleen Zimmerman)

Interior of the new Nordic Museum

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rejuvenation at Cannon Beach

11/13/18 Cannon Beach from Ecola State Park

We’ve been returning to Cannon Beach, Oregon, nearly every year since we discovered it three decades ago. A small beach town that’s crowded in the summer, it’s deserted once the weather turns cold and stormy – which is our favorite time to go. February, May, October, November and even December are the months we choose, and the weather can change from sunny and chilly one moment to stormy and windy the next and back to sunny again. It’s best not to check the weather report – just pack a range of jackets and layers and see what you get.

11/13/18 The Needles through a rain-spattered window.
Last week we got the full range – sunshine, a little rain, a lot of rain, high winds, deep fog, overcast skies. During the pleasant weather, we walked on the beach for miles. During the less pleasant weather, we stayed in our hotel room, where Greg photographed from the deck and I sketched through the wide windows. That’s really all there is to do in Cannon Beach – and that’s all we need. A few days of that, and we return home with our spirits rejuvenated.

Sketching from our room, I pulled out the full arsenal of sketch supplies – even larger papers that I never take on location. When we walked on the beach, I stuck only a Field Notes and a couple of pens into my jacket pockets. It’s a nice balance between maximalism and minimalism.
 One goal for the trip was to make at least one 9-by-12-inch full-color sketch, possibly to frame if I liked it enough. A second goal was to take lots of photos to use for reference sometime during the long winter months. As you know, I’m not a fan of drawing from photos, but I would like to make one of Cannon Beach and practice the techniques I learned in class last year. 

I did make one sketch that might qualify for a frame, but it’s not my favorite of the visit. My favorite is the graphite-only sketch at the top of the post that I made in my usual DIY sketchbook signature. Because we always stay right on the beach in front of iconic Haystack Rock (and the smaller Needles surrounding it), I tend to focus on that up-close-and-personal view. But a mile or two north at Ecola State Park, the view of the same rocks takes on an entirely different dimension. From that distance, I realize that those ancient mammoth boulders are only tiny pebbles next to the mighty Pacific. And if we were walking next to Haystack, we would be smaller than grains of sand.

That’s how tiny we are in the grand picture. It’s reassuring.






11/15/18 On our last morning before we left for home, the sun was finally bright enough to make a full-color sketch with
plenty of light and shadows. I finished this hastily, even as housekeeping was knocking on our door (we were a bit late
for checkout).

11/14/18 sunset (9"x12" watercolor paper)

11/13/18 Sunset from Ecola State Park

11/14/18 beach dwellers

In the sunshine . . . 

. . . under overcast skies. . . 

. . . in the foggy cold. . . 

. . . Cannon Beach will always be one of our favorite places on earth.
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