Saturday, July 31, 2021

Triad Accompanied by Steller’s Jay


7/24/21 the backyard again

In my current explorations of primary triads based on the CMYK color model, I have lamented that my favorite Museum Aquarelle collection does not include a hue that corresponds to magenta. The closest I have found in the Caran d’Ache palette is Supracolor Purplish Red (350), which is certainly acceptable with Museum Aquarelle’s Lemon Yellow (240) and Phthalocyanine Blue (162) to complete the triad.

However, when I was comparing the five current Caran d’Ache water-soluble colored pencil lines, I made a curious discovery: Museum does include a color called Purplish Red with the same number 350, but it is entirely different from Supracolor’s! I never recognized it as the same hue as Supracolor’s because it’s a much darker shade, especially in its dry state. Wet, it’s quite a bit more intense – too intense, I thought, to mix well in the triad. But I’d never know for sure until I tried.

In the primary triad swatches below, the reference magenta color is shown at the top – Prismacolor Process Red (994). At left is the triad using Supracolor Purplish Red, and at right is the triad using Museum Aquarelle Purplish Red. The other two hues are the same in both triads.

The only difference between the two triads is the Supracolor and Museum Aquarelle Purplish Red (both 350). Prismacolor Process Red shown at top for reference.

The day after my frustrating sketch with the Lamy pencils, I needed to cleanse my palette, so to speak. I went out on the back deck again, and Museum’s Purplish Red was definitely intense. I like it, though, especially for this summer-bright scene.

Adding to my entertainment as I sketched was a Steller’s jay. I’ve been putting out in-shell peanuts while I’m out there. This piggy jay would stuff one down its gullet, then grab one more in its beak before flying off. A short time later, it would return and repeat – again and again until the peanuts were gone. It never stays long enough to sketch, but maybe I can capture a few quick gestures next time . . .

Sketch entertainment!

Friday, July 30, 2021

Caran d’Ache Water-Soluble Colored Pencil Comparison

In my ongoing quest to make historical sense of Caran d’Ache’s colored pencil lines, I’ve sometimes shown pigment comparisons between vintage and contemporary sets. I’ve also compared some contemporary lines in reviews. During a recent conversation, however, I realized I had never compared all the contemporary Caran d’Ache water-soluble lines in one place. This is as good a time as any to do so.

Above are Caran d’Ache’s five collections that are currently available and that I am aware of, ranked from lowest (Swisscolor) to highest (Museum Aquarelle) degree of pigment. (If I’m missing any, please do let me know!) Student-grade Swisscolor and Fancolor pencils do not include color numbers, but I tried to match the hues as closely as possible from the smallish sets I have. Prismalo and Supracolor lines were easiest to match with color numbers. The Museum line is narrower than Prismalo and Supracolor, but I matched the numbers when available and chose the closest hues when they were not.

I couldn’t fit all the swatches on one page, but they were all done in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook. My methodology was to apply three layers of dry pigment, then swipe each swatch with a waterbrush twice without scrubbing.

My only editorial commentary here is that I see no reason for Swisscolor to exist. Fancolor, which has a similar pigment level, is very slightly softer and is in a similar price range, is a perfectly adequate student-grade watercolor pencil. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Natalie at Red Arrow


7/26/21 Natalie sketching

Natalie, Ching and I enjoyed sketching on Red Arrow Coffee’s patio so much last week that we went back on Monday for more. In the direction my seat was facing, my sketching options were limited, but Natalie didn’t seem to mind about the subject I chose.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Cadman Mixer

7/27/21 Cadman in Renton

Our mini sketch outing!
First Kathleen, then Alice, and now Kate: My best concrete mixer sketching opportunities have come from friends getting their driveways redone! The one yesterday was the most fun because Kate sketched it, too. It’s always a challenge to scale a big machine like this Cadman and still have room for a bit of Kate’s house, too.

As Google was leading me to Kate’s cul de sac, I had noted the top of a water tower. After I was done with the concrete mixer, I went back to the spot to sketch the water tower, too. A subtle tree is painted on the tower, and an actual tree stands right in front of it. The challenge was to include both so that it was clear which was which!

7/27/21 Renton

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Review: Lamy Plus Colored Pencils


Two colored pencil lines from Lamy

Like many urban sketchers, I cut my teeth on fountain pen sketching with a Lamy Safari. A German manufacturer of various types of pens and other stationery items, Lamy makes a range of fountain pen models, and the Safari is its most basic. Apparently marketed to students with its triangular section, it is sturdy, inexpensive, versatile (with interchangeable nibs), easy to maintain and comes in lots of colors. Users of all ages like them for all of those features. Eventually I moved on to other fountain pens, but Lamy remains a popular choice for many sketchers.

Recently the Lamy name crossed my radar in a form I hadn’t seen before: colored pencils! The Plus and Colorplus series are student grade. I knew that Lamy made mechanical pencils, but I didn’t know whether Lamy made any woodcased graphite pencils (I still don’t), let alone colored pencils. Since the company makes such a stalwart, entry-level fountain pen, I wondered if Lamy’s colored pencils could be similarly reliable?

Plus and Colorplus are hard to find in the US, but a friend in the UK knew I was curious, so he generously sent me a set of each (Colorplus also comes in a separate set of neon colors). Both have triangular barrels for ease of use by young hands; the Plus set has a jumbo-sized barrel.

The Colorplus line has a metallic silver, standard-size, triangular barrel with a nicely finished end cap.

The Lamy Plus has an exposed end with a slightly tapered finish – a nice touch for a kids’ pencil.

Jumbo-sized Plus has an exposed, slightly tapered end.

In their tin, the Plus triangular barrels can be laid to show their silver logo side or their colored side (never mind the barcode side). Kids probably don’t care, but again, it’s an attractive feature that reminds me of the Lamy Safari: It might be made with students in mind, but its sophisticated design would appeal to adults.

Lamy Plus logo-side up... 

...or color side up.

From test swatches, the Plus pencils seemed softer than Colorplus, so I decided to take them for a spin with a sketch (made in a Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook). In the set of 12, I couldn’t find a primary triad that corresponded with the CMYK hues that I am obsessed with lately, so I used a more traditional triad.

7/25/21 Lamy Plus colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook

(Yes, it’s my uninspiring backyard again, which I can sketch so comfortably and delightfully from our shady back deck on summer afternoons. You may recall all the apples I sketched a few years ago whenever I reviewed colored pencils or wanted to try out a triad. My backyard in summer is the new apple: After sketching it repeatedly, I am familiar enough with it that I can focus on materials and hues. It’s better than an apple, though, because the light is different depending on the time I go out there, so each one is a new challenge, even when the subject is overly familiar.)

It’s a good thing I was enjoying an iced coffee, lovely sunshine and a cool breeze that day, because the pencils offered no pleasure. Almost immediately, the hard, dry cores produced gritty bits that got worse as I applied more layers. By “applying more layers,” I mean working hard to scrub the scant pigment on, since lighter pressure produced near invisibility. I realized early on that my triad choice was unfortunate. When I layered the three hues in the deepest shadow areas, I got pale mud, so I put in some black to darken them.

Gritty bits in the pigment -- bleah.

Overall, it was an unpleasant experience with terrible results that I wouldn’t want to inflict on adults, let alone children.

At this point, you may be thinking that I’m spoiled by high-quality, high-pigment Caran d’Ache pencils, which would certainly be an unfair comparison with any product intended for kids. Although you’d be right in thinking I’m spoiled, I’ve tried several student-grade colored pencils that I’m happy to use and recommend to budget-minded sketchers. Included are those by DOMS Industries, Crayola Signature and, on the water-soluble side, Faber-Castell Goldfaber Aqua. Even if pencils are not artist grade, they can be of decent quality and therefore a good value – neither of which the Lamy sets are. The price for the Plus set of 12 in the UK was about £10, or US $13.75. More than a buck each for these hard, dry sticks? No thanks.

Lamy, you make good fountain pens; stick to them.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Trees Near and Far


7/23/21 Green Lake (graphite on 98 lb. mixed media paper)

I had an easy commute by foot to Kristin Frost’s class last Friday: It was held at one of my own “home” parks, Green Lake. With trees all around and the lake shoreline easily visible from anywhere, it was an ideal location for her topic of the day: learning to “establish deep space” in a composition and differentiate between trees near and far.

As always, the first task at hand was to choose a scene and simplify what we see into a manageable composition. In her demo, Kristin drew an arching tree on the near shore with the distant shore in the background. I liked what she chose, so I found a different tree in a similar composition.

One idea she showed for pushing the background into the distance was to use a blending stump to blur out details. After putting in the values, I smudged away at the background trees, and I was amazed by how easy and effective that technique is. By contrast, she showed us how making the foreground elements as sharp and dark as possible would bring them forward.

To my eye, the distant shoreline, especially the horizontal line separating the shore from the water, was darker than the foreground shadows, so my first impulse was to make them darker in the drawing. To do so, however, would immediately attract attention to that area of strongest contrast, so unless the distant shoreline was where I wanted the viewer to focus, it was better to keep it lighter. Instead, I made the shadows of the rocks and other foreground elements the darkest, which pulls the eye to that part of the composition first. Hopefully, other elements in the drawing will lead the eye through the rest of the composition.

One of many things I appreciate about this in-person Gage class and about Kristin’s teaching style is that students receive multiple opportunities for feedback from her while the work is in progress. Although online Gage classes have their benefits, chiefly the ability to see demos easily and clearly (on the screen instead of peering over the instructor’s shoulder), one frustration was that we did all the work on our own, and instructor feedback came only after the piece was finished. What I learned from that feedback was still valuable when applied to the next piece, but then that piece would have its own challenges.

Working at the park with Kristin, I had the luxury of being able to ask her for help in real time – I’m struggling with this; what would you suggest? I’m considering this; would that be a bad idea? – and her feedback at that moment was enormously helpful because I could act on it immediately and see the results.

The excellent class was especially enjoyable on a beautifully sunny, not-too-hot afternoon.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Farewell, Reckless


7/22/21 Reckless Video in the Maple Leaf neighborhood

Greg and I have been renting movies from Reckless Video since the days of VHS more than 30 years ago. One night during those early years, the building where Reckless was a tenant burned to the ground (insurance arson was rumored). Not too long afterwards, Reckless rose like a phoenix across the street, and we continued to rent movies there throughout the DVD and BluRay eras.

A couple of years ago, owner Mike Kelley, who opened the store when he was 31, let his loyal customers know that he was operating in the red. Over the years, it had become increasingly difficult to compete with streaming services, and most video stores had closed years ago. Unless he had a turnaround, his shop would be going the way of the Beta format. Saddened and alarmed by this news, I sketched the shop, Seattle’s last family-owned video rental store. At the time, he had signs up that said, “Burn Netflix” and “The Internet is not a neighborhood.”

We didn’t think Reckless would make it through the pandemic, but it somehow managed to keep its doors open – until now. Mike announced in May that the store would be closing for good. In his farewell message to customers on Facebook, he wrote:

Reckless is where I met my wonderful wife Kathy and we started a home and a family for our boy Joe. The video industry held unprecedented excitement for the first 20 years. The annual conventions in Vegas (aka world’s best party) are where Kathy and I met stars like Leonard Nimoy, Mary Tyler Moore, Martin Sheen, John Voight, Dennis Miller, Jeff Goldblum, Ice T, Nina Hartley, and the Fourth Ghostbuster!

In addition to Reckless, Mike’s family owns the Maple Leaf Ace Hardware store next door. He donates all the ice cream bars for the neighborhood Ice Cream Social every summer and contributes in many other ways. He’s the kind of business owner who helps a neighborhood feel like a community.

Last month Reckless rented its last video (we still had a couple of punches left on our pass, so we sadly made our last rentals). It’s now open till the end of July to sell off its inventory of discs.

I decided to make one more sketch of Reckless before it closed, this time to give to Mike. That same day, we walked over to Reckless together and perused the shelves for the last time. We bought a stack of movies we haven’t seen, but mostly I wanted them as mementoes of Reckless.

Shown below are the sketch from 2019 and the first one I made in 2014.

Technical notes: I’ve sketched the building at various times of day and from different angles, and I always encounter the same issue: The front of the store is always deeply shaded by the overhang. This time, the whole building was backlit. Do I try to draw the details and local color? Or just make it dark and imply the Coke machine and posters? I chose the latter.

Typically I feel almost no pressure of any kind when I open my sketchbook to a blank page. But as soon as I decided that I would make this one as a gift, I suddenly felt enormous pressure that it had to be “right.” I took 90 minutes to make this – three times as much time and care as I would normally devote to a single sketch! Thank goodness I don’t have to sell my work for a living!



Saturday, July 24, 2021

Three Houses


7/21/21 More new houses in Maple Leaf

We’ve been watching three new houses go up in our ‘hood, right next to each other. I think there used to be only two, much shorter houses in that space. The new three are taller, but they are crammed up so close to each other that the new neighbors will be able to talk to each other through their windows using tin cans connected by string. Right across the alley are two other new houses that I sketched last summer.

Friday, July 23, 2021

When Does a Thumbnail Become a Sketch?


7/19/21 Ballard neighborhood

Enjoying a lovely sketching lunch with Natalie and Ching, the conversation turned to thumbnails, and I was asked how I approach them. Just beyond Ching’s shoulder and the boundaries of Red Arrow Coffee’s patio, I could see a street view: a few houses, cars, trash cans, utility lines, trees. Rather than explain, I thought I would make a thumbnail of the view, then talk about how I made it afterwards. My intention was to make a simple visual notation – a possible composition and values – which is my definition of a thumbnail.

We all got to chatting, and somewhere within the few minutes it took to draw this (at right), I forgot that it was supposed to be a thumbnail, and it turned into a sketch. So my attempted demo didn’t work.

7/19/21 thumbnail in Maple Leaf
Earlier on that same day, however, during our neighborhood walk, I had noticed that some new construction (three houses jammed into the space where two used to be) was at the point where I could see enough to sketch from the alley across the street. I wanted to come back another day to do a full sketch, but at that moment I took only a minute to make a thumbnail – a notation so that I would recall later what I was thinking about. This one really is nothing more than a thumbnail (at left).

What’s the difference? Visually, probably not much – they’re both fairly sparse, and neither took much time. In my mind, however, the top one has nothing left to think about – all the fun is done – so it’s a completed sketch. The one at left shows that the buildings are in full light, so it’s going to take some work to indicate their form. I still have some fun left.  

Below is Natalie’s beautiful pickled egg. I rarely sketch my own food because I’m too busy eating it, but I have no problem sketching other people’s food, especially when it’s bright pink. All the fun is done, and it was definitely fun.

7/19/21 Natalie's pickled egg at Red Arrow Coffee

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Prunus Cerasifera


7/14/21 Maple Leaf neighborhood

After a brief obsession last summer, I figured out the best pencils to use to represent the elusive near-black red of the ornamental plum (Prunus cerasifera, also called Thundercloud). Ubiquitous around here, these trees are, frankly, not especially attractive to me: Their foliage is dark like this most of the year, and even in spring, the tiny, pale pink blossoms can hardly hold their own against all that darkness. And the worst part is that it’s difficult to see the values and form in blackish leaves.

Yet I somehow find myself attracted to these trees, if only for that challenge: How do I show form in such darkness? This time I added a bit of Caran d’Ache Purplish Red (which I carry as part of my CMYK-based primary triad) to the top to try to capture the light, but I’m not sure it was successful. The base color is still Caran d’Ache Dark Plum, with Payne’s Grey for the darkest parts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Kubota Garden’s Masses of Foliage


7/16/21 Kubota Garden

On previous sketching visits to Kubota Garden, I have usually focused on manmade structures like the Moon Bridge or the Terrace Overlook. I’d like to say that’s because those subjects are appealing structures, and they are, but let’s be honest: The main reason to focus on them is that they are easier to draw than masses and masses of foliage. Another sketcher in a different but similarly intimidating location once looked around and said with exasperation, “It’s all everything! And nothing!”

Truer words haven’t been spoken about Kubota Garden. In Kristin Frost’s tree-drawing class last Friday, I guess I was feeling brave. Wanting to make a composition that included as many different foliage textures as possible, I knew I could choose a spot almost randomly to meet my requirement. I plunked myself down in front of this view and hoped for the best.

Although something solid and concrete would have anchored the composition, in some ways the dripping, vertical branches of the conifer in the foreground served that purpose. Flummoxed about how to make those light-colored branches stand out against the darker background, I asked Kristin for help. She suggested that I pick a few of the slender branches closest to the viewer and give each a consistently shaded side. Then darkening the background spaces between the wispy needles near the ground plane would pull them forward.

For previous graphite classes, I’ve usually chosen relatively smooth papers. For this one, I’ve been using a Canson XL 98-pound mixed media sketch pad. It has a medium tooth that suits foliage well. Sometimes I just use a soft-grade pencil and let the paper do the work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Urban Couch Twin Set


7/15/21 Lake City neighborhood

A few kids were playing nearby as I sketched on this quiet Lake City residential street. A boy was explaining the rules of the game, which he was clearly making up on the spot. The others sometimes questioned the rules, and negotiations would occur. As their play continued, the same boy would pontificate about one thing or another – a mansplainer in the making.

Meanwhile, chickens clucked softly from a nearby coop. The morning’s marine layer was burning off at last. An urban couch twin set with multiple trash cans in the same composition: Life is good.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Twelve Years and 50 Strong


7/18/21 Fishermen's Terminal

On July 19, 2009, Gabi Campanario invited anyone who wanted to sketch to join him at Fishermen’s Terminal. Thirteen showed up for that first outing of Urban Sketchers Seattle. In the ensuing 12 years, USk Seattle has met at least monthly (except for 14 months for that pesky COVID) and as often as weekly during the summer. Yesterday we had a record-breaking turnout at Fishermen’s Terminal to celebrate 12 years of sketching together. Fifty were counted at the throwdown!

Although I wasn’t at that first outing (it would still be three more years before I attended my first), I’ve sketched at the terminal at least a couple of other times with USk Seattle, including the group’s seventh anniversary celebration. As I sketched the bright yellow crane yesterday, I remembered that I had sketched it at the last celebration, too (apparently my eye goes to cranes before ships), from a different angle. Last time, Frank appeared in my sketch; this time, it’s Suzanne and Stephanie, as well as the fishing vessel Vernon.

Trying to screw up the gumption to take on all the gazillions of boats, I wandered around a while just enjoying the sunshine. That’s when I spotted Sue sitting at the end of a pier and decided I’d leave the boats for another time.

Sunny and with temps in the low 70s, it felt like heaven to be sketching with my tribe. Happy anniversary, USk Seattle! I’ll be there for many more to come.

Sue sittin' on a dock

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Real Change

7/17/21 Yemane Berhe selling Real Change

“Copy? Have a nice day.”

I recognized the quiet voice. Way back in 2013, I first sketched this seller of the Real Change newspaper, whom I remember for his distinctive cadence (even when most of his face is shrouded by a hoodie). I’ve seen him now and then around town since then, and yesterday he was at the U-District Farmers Market. It was an opportunity to sketch Yemane Berhe again.

Real Change is a voice for low-income and homeless people and an advocate for economic, social and racial justice. Part of its mission is to provide jobs such as selling the newspaper. Two dollars isn’t much, but it’s a small way to support independent journalism with values that I agree with.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Possibly the Coolest Colored Pencil Box Ever


1950s set of 24 A.W. Faber Polychromos

The boxes and tins that contemporary colored pencils are packaged in are generally so utilitarian that I don’t even bother mentioning them in most reviews (unless they are somehow unusual or especially beautiful). Some vintage pencils do come in lovely boxes that are both attractive as well as utilitarian. I believe, though, that this is the first time I purchased an old set of colored pencils strictly for the package: What a beaut!

According to the eBay seller, this set of A.W. Faber Polychromos is from the 1950s. Made in Germany, the pencils look identical to the ones in my other set, which had been used by the original owner in the ‘60s.


The German-made pencils are identical to my other set from the '60s or earlier.

Imprint on the back

While my first set came in a conventional cardboard box (with a design that makes it less than functional), this box is extraordinary.

Tall and narrow, the box is made of thick, sturdy cardboard with a textured fishnet surface. It seems rather special, even for a vintage item. (Perhaps it was a limited edition “gift” item for the holidays?) When the lid is pulled off, the pencils are revealed – each standing in its own slot! Be still, my heart!


The eBay vendor showed a few images similar to the one above with the lid opened, but what a surprise when I opened it myself: The two sides split apart on a hinge! I’m swooning!


One pencil missing from the set, but I don't mind...this set was well-loved and used.

Functional as well as gorgeous, this box is the height of colored pencil storage and display. Sigh . . . if only more pencils came in packages like this.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Neocolor II Primary Triad: Fun with Crayons

7/11/21 Same backyard scene, this time with Neocolor II water-soluble wax pastels

While working on a review of Rikagaku Kitpas Wet-Erase Crayons for the Well-Appointed Desk, I remembered how much fun I used to have with Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble wax pastels. They were a favorite years ago when I used to make abstract, mixed-media collages. I don’t use them for urban sketching because the broad sticks require larger paper than I want to carry, but otherwise they are much like my beloved Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle Pencils (in fact, the palette is identical).

On a lovely Sunday afternoon, I had brought the Kitpas crayons out on our back deck to make a sketch. Since I was still in the mood for fat crayons and had my large pad of watercolor paper out, I went to get my Neocolor IIs. And – you guessed it! – I already knew the Cd’A hues for the CMYK-based primary triad, so why not give the triad a shot with the Neocolors? I picked out Purplish Red (350), Canary Yellow (250) and Phthalocyanine Blue (162). For the darkest shadows, I used Payne’s Grey (508).

I know my natural tendency is to make sketches that are more tightly rendered and detailed than I sometimes want. Using crayons is a sure antidote to that kind of tightness – no tiny details possible – and it’s fun to make big scribbles. If you find yourself being too tight, get some water-soluble crayons and big paper!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Lake View Cemetery and Conservatory


7/12/21 Lake View Cemetery
Other than when I was there for a burial service last year right before the pandemic began, I hadn’t been to sketch at Lake View Cemetery since 2013. While adjacent Volunteer Park has some of the city’s oldest trees, the ones growing at Lake View tend to be more average sized, and some are decoratively pruned, like the flat-top shrub at the left edge of my sketch. I guess it makes it easier for visitors to find graves when they can look for distinctive plants nearby. The building in the distance is the back side of the park’s Conservatory framed by an interesting variety of soft foliage and hard stones.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Speed Watch Area


Whenever I run neighborhood errands in a southerly direction, I drive past this intersection. On a sunny Saturday morning, I left the car at home and walked to this corner, where tiny, red blossoms are growing on the boulevard. It’s a good spot to slow down and sketch the flowers.

“Are you Tina. . . ?” the approaching woman asked. It turned out that Ella, who lives close by, had been seeing my sketches in the USk Seattle Facebook group for a while! I invited her to join us at an outing sometime, and I hope she will.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Light Against Dark


7/9/21 Volunteer Park
Volunteer Park has many appealing attractions, including the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Conservatory and historic water tower, all of which I’ve sketched many times. The one thing I haven’t sketched there much is its trees – and the park has some of the largest and oldest trees in the city. Therefore, I was happy that instructor Kristin Frost chose Volunteer Park as the location for our Week 2 class in drawing trees.

Kristin began class with a demo on different ways to make marks to evoke a variety of foliage textures. She also showed us how she would approach simplifying masses of foliage and layers of trees into a manageable composition.

I tried various compositions for the same scene by changing the thumbnail.
A subject that is continually challenging for me is a sunlit tree in the foreground with a dark background, so I thought I’d tackle that. I looked around and found several examples. In retrospect, I wished I had chosen an easier foreground tree than this fir tree’s feathery branches, but Kristin was very helpful in giving me tips. For example, toward the end when I was refining details, I was having difficulty getting those branches to stand out distinctly. She suggested that I simply sharpen the soft 5B pencil I was using to a fresh point and darken the background only around the pointy parts of the branches. Just sharpening the pencil made a huge difference.

Although I am using a larger sketchbook for class than I typically would for urban sketching, I ended up making this drawing at roughly my usual A5 size because I’m comfortable with it. During the group critique, I noticed that most of my classmates had made much larger drawings. It occurred to me that I should probably push myself to go larger next time, since that would be new territory for me.

Here's a photo of the scene:
the challenge of organizing a messy mass of foliage!
Even so, I’m happy with what I accomplished at this size, and I don’t think I would have been able to finish a drawing from life with this level of value depth in the same length of time (about two hours) if I had chosen a larger composition. When I mentioned my ambivalence, Kristin pointed out that because my values are strong, it would be easy to make a new drawing at any size I choose by using the small one as a study. She said that a strong value study done from life contains more information and is therefore more useful than a photo of the same scene. Good to know!

Monday, July 12, 2021

At Last, Real Life Drawing


7/8/21 Randy (short warm-ups)

Meeting up with USk Seattle was the art-related activity that I missed most during the worst of the pandemic. But the thing I missed second-most was life drawing – real life drawing with a living, breathing model in the same room, not on a Zoom screen. The last time I had done that was December 2019 at Drawing Jam – more than a year and a half ago – so I was excited to find out about a plein air life-drawing opportunity. An informal group meets weekly at Gas Works Park with a clothed model, and I was happy to join them last Thursday on a cool and cloudy morning.

Most of the group’s members are painters, so the format is a single long pose for the entire three-hour session. Randy, whom I have drawn many times at Gage, was our model. Without timing them, I warmed up by making a couple of sketches that I figured were the equivalent of two- and five-minute poses (above). By then, I was already bored with that pose, so I made a larger sketch of all the artists focused on Randy. (Artists are nearly as motionless as the models they are painting, so it was like having lots of models simultaneously!)

The unpaid "models"

Randy (20-min. pose)
For the first of the next two 20-minute sessions, I walked around to the opposite side to draw Randy again (at left). Finally, I moved to the back of the group, where I could include Randy with painter Beatrice’s back (below).

Initially I felt rusty, but it was so good to get back into real life drawing again that I didn’t care. I hope to join this group as often as I can while the weather holds out.

Beatrice painting Randy

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Magnuson Park

7/6/21 Lake Washington bathers

Magnuson Park has a special place in my urban-sketching heart. Although it’s not my favorite park in other ways, it was the site of the very first Urban Sketchers Seattle outing I ever attended back in May 2012.

As far as reasons to go there, however, I don’t have many (dropping off our election ballots is one); there are plenty of other parks I prefer for sketching, walking and park-going. Nonetheless, Greg and I hadn’t been to Magnuson for recreational purposes in decades, so we decided to take our walk there on a recent morning.

Despite my fondness based on USk nostalgia, the park still doesn’t hold much interest for me. I managed to eke out a quick sketch of some bathers just as they had come out of Lake Washington and another of a family standing out on a pier.

Out on a pier

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Paired Trees


7/5/21 A postcard I made for a friend

The homework for last week’s tree-drawing class was to continue making thumbnails to experiment with compositions. I took a Field Notes Signature and a pencil for a walk around the neighborhood.

At the Arboretum during class, I had made a drawing of the contrast between a Madrone and a few branches of a fir tree next to it. Still thinking about that, I started looking around the neighborhood for more interesting pairings of trees – different shapes, sizes or textures. I started out small in the traditional thumbnail size, but the Signature page size is not much larger, so I decided to make one thumbnail per page (below). The results probably don’t look very different from my usual sketches, but in my mind the intention was different because I was focused only on composition and values, not details.

I had also brought along a pad of Strathmore Watercolor Postcards to make a card for a friend (at left). I chose my favorite from the several thumbnails – a tall, thin, Dr. Seuss-like weeping cypress and the broad Japanese maple below it – and sketched them again with a more finished intention.

(This is the same pad of postcards I carry every time I travel. Although I always have good intentions of making a few to send to friends, I haven’t done it consistently. Since it’s likely I won’t be traveling much again this year, maybe I’ll keep the pad in my bag and sketch a few from home this summer.)

A few compositional thumbnails

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