Thursday, March 31, 2022

Strathmore Paper Presentation


Lots of paper samples, pencils, crayon, brush, erasers, brush pen and even a tube of paint in the free goodie bag from Strathmore.

Gage Academy recently hosted a free live webinar on Zoom by artist Jamee Linton. Sponsored by Strathmore, the presentation also included a nice goodie bag of free art materials for the first 50 registrants. Well known for its high-quality art papers, Strathmore also owns a number of other art supply makers. The informative presentation, however, focused mostly on Strathmore’s bread and butter – paper. (There was, however, a short video of Lyra pencil production, which of course I enjoyed.)

Viewing several short videos showing the inner workings of Strathmore’s paper mills, participants learned all about how different types of art papers are made. Most of the basic information about paper qualities was not new to me, but I learned a few things about paper sizing and how it affects various media.

The presenter asked, “Can you name a paper that you have probably already used today that contains no sizing at all?” The answer was toilet paper (which I got right 😉). TP contains no sizing at all, so it’s highly absorbent and disintegrates quickly in water. It’s an effective way to remember how sizing affects paper: The more sizing it contains, the less absorbent it is.

All art papers contain some internal sizing that helps paper pulp bind together. Papers also have varying degrees of external sizing on the surface, depending on the paper’s intended media.

For example, printmaking paper has very little surface sizing so that ink can grab onto the paper fibers and sink in quickly under pressure. But if you try to use watercolor on printmaking paper, it will sink immediately and unevenly into the surface, which may not be desirable. However, that same unsized, slightly toothy surface can be wonderful to draw on because the graphite or pigment layers so nicely. For example, I love to draw with colored pencils on Legion Stonehenge White, which is a printmaking paper. That also means the surface will be difficult to erase, since the graphite or pigment will immediately grab onto the tooth and begin to bind with it.

Artist quality drawing paper is heavily sized so that it is strong enough to withstand erasing, which also makes it relatively easy to erase. And of course, watercolor paper is the most heavily sized to slow absorption and allow paint to float a while. The heavy sizing also helps the surface absorb water more evenly.

For a long time, Strathmore Bristol papers were my go-to drawing papers, mainly because instructors always seem to recommend it with graphite or colored pencils. I have always wondered what made “Bristol” papers so expensive – what was special about them? I learned at the webinar that Bristol paper must go through an additional finishing process that laminates two or three sheets of paper together under pressure so that the paper will have the same surface texture on both sides and will be thicker. That is what is meant by 2-ply and 3-ply Bristol board.

Watercolor papers also go through an additional finishing process to give them rough, cold press or hot press surfaces. The smoother the texture, the greater degree of pressure is used to flatten the natural hills and valleys in the surface.

Linton also discussed paper’s archival qualities, various fiber contents, and the potentially confusing aspect of paper weights (pounds or grams per square meter). Finally, she described all of Strathmore’s paper lines and which art media each was intended for. Although I’m familiar with Strathmore’s many papers for dry media and watercolor, I was surprised to learn that it also makes papers for oil and acrylic paints.

Overall, it was an enjoyable, informative webinar. And did I mention the free art supplies?

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

More Pink


3/25/22 Wedding photo shoot at UW Quad

In case the weather changed and all the blossoms disappeared, we thought last Friday might be our last chance to see the fleeting sakura at the UW Quad. This time I made only one quick sketch that I couldn’t resist: a wedding photo shoot.

If you’re wondering about the pink notebook, it’s my current whatever journal in a Nomad Notebooks limited edition Sakura notebook. Sadly, it has been sold out for a long time, and this one was a gift, so it’s the only one I have. I wish I had hoarded a few packs when they came out!

While I’m showing off pink things, I can’t forget my new Rickshaw Bagworks bag. I bought it last fall when both the weather and reports of omicron were getting bleak, and I needed something to look forward to. I’m happy that it’s time to bring it out. It’s the same “small” size Zero Messenger Bag style that I’ve been using for years – just a new custom color combination. (I buy bags the way some women buy shoes: One for every outfit, need and season.)

My new spring bag from Rickshaw!

Spring flair (counter-clockwise from left): Urban Sketchers Seattle logo, fountain pen pin from the Well-Appointed Desk, Blackwing pencil pin, rainbow pencil pin (a gift)

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Kim’s Trees


3/25/22 Bryant neighborhood

When I saw Kim’s sketch and photo of cherry trees, I had to know where they were so that I could add the location to my annual petal-peeping tour! The two blocks of cherries, growing on both sides of the street, are right where she lives. In fact, organized by a neighbor, residents on both blocks planted those cherries themselves decades ago. They still spread pink delight every spring.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Remind Me Again: Why Am I Doing This?


Blocking-in marks shown in blue; memory sketch
made in pink.

After 40 days of drawing from my mind and especially my memory, I’m still not seeing a trend of improvement, but I continue to learn more about what I need to do to recall the most information.

Since Day 34, I have been giving myself assistance with a modified technique: I block in the proportions and main shapes from observation, then complete the drawing from memory. For the first several days, I drew immediately after making the block-in, thinking that if very little time elapsed between observation and drawing, I would retain more. That turned out to be a big fail. In fact, the duration between observation and drawing seems to have less effect on the outcome than the time spent in focused observation. The latter seems to be the single most important part of the process. (You already saw the humiliating results of Day 35 and how I had to save my ego afterwards!)

The main reason I came up with the idea of allowing myself to make block-in marks from observation is that I thought this tactic would be most applicable to real-life urban sketching: If I quickly put in enough basic information while a car or person is in sight, I am more likely to be able to fill in details later from memory, even if they disappear.

Most of the details of this napkin ring were from imagination, not memory. I did not observe it closely enough.

An unintended real-life urban sketching scenario!

My most amusing moment during my 100 Day Project so far was on Day 38 when I practiced in a real urban sketching scenario: I started to block in our neighbors’ car across the street. I was just beginning to focus on observing details so that I could draw it from memory when they came out of their house and drove away! Even though I didn’t get all the details right, somehow that was less frustrating than the other exercises because I’m used to that happening on the street all the time. I also found it relatively easy to fill in generic car details, but I don’t think they were from recent memory of the actual car – probably more from all my years of sketching other cars from life.

Schematic diagrams and notes during observation (top) and drawing from memory (lower page).

A comment on Instagram prompted me to change tactics again on Day 39: Now I am giving myself more assistance from observation in the way of schematic diagrams of views other than the one I intend to draw from memory. I am also taking written notes about anything that will help me remember shapes or details. This process also forces me to take more time with observation. The stapler on Day 39 didn’t go very well, but I know I was distracted and got interrupted during my observation process.

Day 40 went much better. Again, I made schematics from three angles and took a lot of notes about anything that might help me visualize the Comet bottle. More time elapsed between observation and drawing compared to Day 39, but I was more focused during observation, and I also spent more time making the schematic drawings.

Day 40: schematic diagrams and extensive notes during observation

Of course, I have to ask myself what the purpose is of this very contrived structure? In any real drawing scenario, I could have easily finished the sketch of the bottle from direct observation in less time than it took to make all the schematics and take copious notes! I can’t think of any real-life scenario in which this type of practice would help me! And yet I have to believe that some benefit will come from these exercises. (I must believe it because I still have 60 long days to go!)

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Convenient Pink (and Winner!)


3/23/22 Maple Leaf neighborhood

I was getting ready to go out for some petal peeping and sketching when it started to rain. Disappointed, I looked out the front window and saw that our neighbor David’s cherry tree across the street was suddenly in full bloom. It seems to happen overnight with that tree, and then it’s over just as quickly. In any case, it was fortuitous for me: I could sketch it from the comfort of my livingroom.

Despite its convenience, I don’t sketch David’s cherry every year because his car or his neighbor’s car often blocks it. I did catch it a couple of years ago (on March 26) and in 2018 (though not till April 6). As I do every fall with the same maples, I enjoy sketching the same blossoming trees in different years to track the dates when they are at peak.

Giveaway Winner!

Hetty, entrant No. 9, is the winner of my blog’s 10th anniversary giveaway! (Congratulations, Hetty! Please email me at tina.k(at)juno(dot)com with your shipping address!) Thank you to all who left comments (and also to those who read but remain silent)! I appreciate your encouragement and feedback!

Saturday, March 26, 2022



3/22/22 Seen through our bathroom window

“Look out your window!” Greg shouted from downstairs, and then I heard him rush out the door (camera in hand, I later realized). A bald eagle was atop a tall tree! I dashed to our downstairs bathroom, where I knew the view would be better, grabbing binoculars from the kitchen on my way.

As I sketched through the binocs, a crow appeared on a higher branch. It made no hostile or aggressive gestures, but they watched each other with mutual wary respect. They stayed that way long after I finished my hasty sketch – maybe as long as 45 minutes. (If I’d known they would stay that long, I would have taken my time!) The part I didn’t witness was what Greg had seen earlier – quite a few hostile dive-bombings by the crow and its mate (see his photo below). Obviously they had a nest nearby and were making sure the eagle wouldn’t get near it.

The eagle is probably one of a pair that live at Green Lake, where I have spotted them occasionally. They don’t often visit Maple Leaf, though!

Photo by Greg Mullin

Friday, March 25, 2022

One Cherry on Dibble

3/21/22 Crown Hill neighborhood

 The cherry-blooming schedule can be irregular and unpredictable. Dibble Avenue Northwest, one of my regular stops on my annual petal-peeping tour, can be as early as mid-March or as late as early April. Although I had a feeling those cherries would be late this year, given the unusually cold winter we had, the equinox made me restless for spring. Besides, some cherry varieties bloom earlier than others. As soon as the rain stopped on Monday, I took a drive to Crown Hill.

As expected, most of the buds on the trees lining both sides of the block were still tightly closed. One sakura, however, once pruned in the traditional umbrella shape but now a bit overgrown, had her arms spread wide with pink splendor in a front yard. By the time her slower sisters got around to blooming (probably not for a couple more weeks), she would be done. I pulled over, hopped out, and caught her in her prime.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

In the Pink at the Quad


3/22/22 University of Washington Quad

Do we know how to pick ‘em, or what?

We’d been watching the University of Washington cherry blossom live cam for weeks and the weather report for several days. Tuesday seemed ideal for both the weather and peak blooms – USk Seattle’s cherry blossom outing was on!

The last time the group met at the Quad was in 2019. Knowing that the fleeting blossoming of the iconic sakura trees draws crowds of thousands, the UW had discouraged visitors the last two springs when most people were still unvaccinated. This year, the UW welcomed petal peepers back – and it was truly wonderful to be back.

Most years, I’ve shied away from the Quad’s buildings and stayed close to the trees. This time I pulled back – partly for a different view and partly to stay out of the dense crowd. It was a good opportunity to put in some of the campus’s oldest and most beautiful buildings.

I daresay spring has sprung!

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

A Sketch for My Ego


3/19/22 How does this crank handle work?

On Day 34 of my 100 Day Project, I began a new tactic: Instead of observing closely and then drawing entirely from memory several hours later, I am making a few guiding marks from observation – proportions and angles – then turning away to finish the drawing immediately from memory. This change was mostly to relieve (at least temporarily) my frustration of the difficulty of drawing entirely from memory (I’ll probably go back to that later in the project). But on a practical level, it also seems like a more useful skill to learn. As urban sketchers, we have all had the experience of being in the middle of drawing a person or car when it decides to leave. I can fake it just to finish the sketch, but I’d really prefer to improve my ability to freeze the image in my memory just long enough to finish.

The first day went OK (I’ll show you that one later), but the second day was terrible. I chose the same yellow pencil sharpener I drew entirely from memory on Day 20, which I thought would be easy this time since I had observed and drawn it previously. The first time, I botched the proportions, but I got most of the details right. This time, after quickly blocking in the proportions, I did not observe the sharpener for long. I turned away to finish the drawing and realized I had already forgotten important shapes and details. The result was well-proportioned but otherwise hilarious (how does that crank handle work?)!

3/19/22 The ego-soothing follow-up

In Nishant Jain’s SneakyArt podcast interview with David Morales, the latter talks about the importance of avoiding frustration (in continuing his daily drawing habit). He said that if one’s experience in learning to draw is nothing but frustration day after day, it’s likely that one will quit. So when he has had a frustrating drawing experience, the next day he would draw something very simply “just to feel awesome.”

Listening to the interview right after my humbling and frustrating sharpener sketch, I could relate! Although I still make many sketches that I’m not entirely happy with, I usually get over them quickly and move on. The level of frustration, however, of knowing I could draw the sharpener “better” if I could just look at it was new to me! I immediately drew the sharpener again – this time completely from observation. My ego demanded it!

If you’re looking for inspiration or motivation to start or maintain a daily drawing habit, the interview with Morales is excellent. Many things he and Jain talked about resonated deeply with me. It’s worth a listen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022



3/18/22 Capitol Hill neighborhood

After an errand on Capitol Hill, I cruised around the neighborhood hoping to do some petal peeping. The neighborhood is known for its huge, old trees – most of the oldest in Seattle grow there. Although I spotted bits of pink, I didn’t find many blossoming trees ready for sketching – most were still premature.

What I did find, though, was this huge maple on the end of a dead-end street. Pruned long ago in this outrageous, unnatural manner to accommodate utility wires, the tree was growing lots and lots of slender branches pointing straight up toward the sky. At first it looked winter-bare, but I could see that all those tiny branches were covered with reddish seed pods which appear before leaves.

When current events fill me with despair, seeing a tree like this gives me hope – its tenacity and persistence in living and growing, despite what has been done to it.

Monday, March 21, 2022



3/13/22 Learning the hexagonal shape of the faucet handle in a previous exercise
helped when I drew the matching faucet.

My 100 Day Project of drawing from memory continues, and it’s frustrating. I don’t really know how to measure improvement. The longer I wait between observing and sketching, the worse I do, so if I wait a shorter length of time, my results usually look better. If I choose a simpler subject, it’s easier to draw, of course, so it might look more successful, but that’s not necessarily an accurate measure of my memory retention. I also do better if I call up a mental image of the subject periodically between the initial observation and the time when I draw, but that takes a lot of focus (and more memory!) to remember to do that.

In general, my results have been OK, some better than others, but it’s disappointing not to see a trend of improvement (like I did when I practiced drawing with my non-dominant hand for 63 consecutive days) or more insights. Perhaps my only clear insight was the one I made last week about my weakness in proportions. That was useful in helping me target my learning.

3/14/22 The curvy, organic shape of these scissors was especially difficult --
I couldn't name it for myself as a memory aid. 

Although I have found it difficult to draw from memory even when the subject is something I see and use daily, it apparently does help to view the subject regularly. The stapler is a good example (see below): It resides on Greg’s desk, so I don’t see it regularly. I also waited more than six hours to draw it after observation, and I got many parts wrong. That leads me to believe that regular, ongoing viewing, even if I don’t think I’m paying attention, probably does help in drawing from memory.

Beginning with Day 34, I changed my tactic for this project. I’m still drawing from memory, but in a way that I think will be more directly applicable to real-life scenarios. Will report in soon on whether that’s true.


3/15/22 Not a bad design for a stapler... but it's not this stapler (below)!


Sunday, March 20, 2022

Pre-Peak Petal Peeping


3/17/22 Maple Leaf neighborhood

This classically pruned sakura is one that I see regularly on my walks. For the past two years, I’ve wanted to sketch it, but its peak lasts about five minutes, and my timing has always been off. This year I decided not to wait until it peaks; instead, I caught it early. Interestingly, if you catch a cherry early, its buds are a darker pink than its blossoms, so you can use more pink. That’s easier than trying to capture the near-white pink of full blooms.

I was going to add a few more things to this sketch, but it started raining, so I called it good. Such is early spring urban sketching.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Early Pink


3/15/22 Green Lake neighborhood

Spotting those early cherries last week in Ballard encouraged me to go petal peeping in the Green Lake neighborhood during a dry moment on Tuesday. I saw quite a few pink blossoms, though most were just beginning to open. I think these are plums, and I chose them to sketch because the large dark trees behind them were a good background to make the pink pop. These plums still have a way to go before they are fully open, too.

What a beautiful time of year – we’ve sprung ahead to more hours of late-afternoon daylight, all the spring joy has yet to happen, and it’s often warm enough to sketch from the sidewalk (although this day was so windy that I stayed in my car).

This year's pinks

Technical notes: The more I use the Hahnemühle watercolor sketchbook, the more I love the paper’s texture. It does all the work for me when I’m sketching foliage – all I have to do is apply soft pencils and spritz lightly.

If you’re wondering which pink pencils I’m using this season, see at right. In past years, I’ve used Caran d’Ache Supracolor Light Purple (091) as my primary pink, but this year I’m trying Supracolor Pink (031) and Prismacolor Watercolor Pink (2929). Both seem too warm for cherries, but I’m cooling them down with Cd’A Museum Aquarelle Purplish Red (350), which is my CMYK magenta. Museum Aquarelle Dark Plum (106), which is also the color I use for plum trees after the blossoms are gone and only the dark red leaves remain, is my blossom shadow color.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Long Live Blogging

5/26/12 Gas Works Park

The day I began Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, trendsetters and others in the know had already declared blogging dead. Facebook, Twitter and other stuff called “social media” had been gaining ground for years. Not conducive to continual, real-time interaction, blogs were deemed too slow, too wordy, too 20th century. I had only recently become aware of blogs shortly before I started mine. Always on the leading edge – that’s me.

That day was March 18, 2012 – ten years ago today. I had thought about it for quite a while before I launched. What would be the purpose of my blog? How would it be different from what I do on Facebook? And if blogging was already dead and everyone was moving on to the next cool thing, why start now?

First, I’m a writer by vocation. I express myself best with written words – not clumsily truncated words to meet a 140-character limit or words riddled with typos because they were typed with thumbs on a phone – but carefully considered, crafted, edited and proofread words. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s the way I like my words to be presented.

By 2012, I had been on Facebook for several years, and I had noticed how difficult it was to find items others had posted. The search function was unusable (and hasn’t improved much since). I was even having difficulty finding things I had posted myself. If I had something worth saying or showing, then I wanted it to be easy to find on a platform I could manage to some degree.

Finally and foremost, I had just started learning to draw about six months prior. It was the first time in my life that I had the opportunity to document my own creative process nearly from the beginning. Blogging seemed like the appropriate medium for a visual practice.

3/12/13 Zoka Coffee

As I began drafting my first posts, I felt like I had plenty to say. Since I was trying to draw daily, I thought I would be able to create new content regularly. Even so, I gave myself full permission to stop blogging any time I wanted to. If I got bored, or the process gave me more pressure than pleasure, I could end it without apology or excuse. It would be nothing more than an experiment.

As the months went on, I saw that a few people were visiting my blog, but comments were rare. I figured I was mostly talking to myself, and I was OK with that. I truly enjoyed analyzing and articulating process thoughts or telling the stories that went along with my urban sketches. To my surprise, the blog itself began motivating me to keep sketching every day – not because I thought I had an “audience” to entertain but because I enjoyed the habit and process. In that way, it was like the written journal I had been keeping most of my life – except now I had to use my professional editing chops to clean up my writing for public consumption (which I do not do in my personal journal).

In addition to process documentation and storytelling, I knew that I would talk about art materials (because who doesn’t like to talk about art materials?). I didn’t realize, however, how much I would enjoy writing product reviews. Obviously, I sometimes have strong opinions about the materials I use, and it’s fun to pontificate. (My product reviews are always the most popular posts, so I have to assume readers are interested in my pontifications.)

2/5/14 Forza Cafe

The longer I blog, the more readers I “meet” through occasional comments and private email conversations, and I realize that I’m not always talking only to myself. Many readers have told me that they are on a similar drawing journey and appreciate what I share. It’s gratifying to know that others might be benefitting from whatever I learn and write about. It adds to my motivation to keep blogging.

I have only one regret: That I did not pay for a more robust and flexible blog platform instead of using free (and limited, inflexible and increasingly buggy) Blogger. When I began, Blogger seemed good enough for what I had in mind. Now I’d like a better platform, and I’m certainly willing to pay for it. But migrating 10 years’ worth of blog posts with tons of images and links seems burdensome and fraught with peril for a non-techy person like me. I’d rather use the time to sketch. (I’m still considering moving it someday, though.)

So here I am today, still using a medium declared dead a decade ago. To celebrate my 10th anniversary, I thought I’d cite some blog statistics. Since March 18, 2012, I have published:

  • 3,289 posts (including 274 product reviews or other posts focused on product information, observation or opinion)
  • 11,421 sketches and other images (I don’t have a count of the number of sketches I’ve made because I don’t scan everything, but a quick look at my folders of the scanned sketches I’ve posted shows an average of 900 per year.)
  • 994,196 words (Whoa, that’s close to a million words! I guess I do have a lot to say! My most verbose year was 2021 . . . a global pandemic will do that.)

12/24/15 Pike Place Market

According to Blogger’s statistics (as of March 16, 2022), Fueled by Clouds & Coffee has received an all-time total of 1,519,591 views (page views? home page landings? Not sure; unclear stats is another Blogger weakness). Google searches are my top referrer. Most of my readers are in the US, but a surprising number come from Germany.

My most-viewed page is Favorite Art Materials (15,800). My most-viewed post is How Many Colored Pencils Do You Really Need? (4,500) followed by The Colors of Autumn (3,720) and Book Review: Mike Daikubara’s Sketch Now Think Later (2,590). For the longest time, the review of Mike’s book was my most-read post ever (I think I got a lot of click-throughs from the global USk Facebook page). I can understand why How Many Colored Pencils took the lead eventually (hits on my product reviews and other product-related posts far exceed other posts), but why so many hits on The Colors of Autumn? That sketch and story certainly aren’t anything extraordinary, nor did it get reposted anywhere that could have led to more clicks. Maybe that’s just a Blogger glitch. (I don’t care enough about stats to investigate.)

Whenever The Well-Appointed Desk links to one of my posts, the views on that post go through the roof. Thank you, Ana – I always appreciate your boosts!

12/30/16 Grand Central Arcade

I have written a couple of other retrospective posts about my blog on the milestones of my 2,000th post and my 1,000th post (I meant to do a retrospective for the 3,000th post, but I forgot). As I did for my 2,000th post, I’m showing old sketches here that have nothing to do with anything except that they were in a folder of scanned sketches that I never got around to blogging about. Although my thoughts today are not random, please indulge me in some random sketches.

Blogging is dead. Long live blogging. 

10-Year Anniversary Giveaway

If you have read this far, then you are one of the readers I want to thank for your visits, whether occasional or regular. Even if you are silent, I appreciate your companionship on this journey. Knowing you are out there has helped keep me posting regularly (which I will continue indefinitely, even if my blog is the last one standing).

3/12/18 Green Lake

To thank you for your readership, I am offering a first-ever giveaway! If I reviewed a product here, then I purchased it myself (this is not nor has it ever been a sponsored blog). I also review products for the Well-Appointed Desk, where supplies are provided to me for the purpose of review. In any case, I have accumulated quite a few art supplies that were only lightly used, and even if I like them, I may not get around to using them up in this lifetime. It’s time to share!

11/4/19 Green Lake Starbucks

If the winner is in the US, I will put whatever will fit into a medium-size flat rate Priority Mail box. If the winner is in any other country that the US Postal Service will ship to, he or she will receive 8 ounces of art materials. To enter, please comment once below. The winner will be drawn on Friday, March 25 (selected by Random Number Generator), and announced shortly thereafter.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Messing Around (Literally) with Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils


3/14/22 Caran d'Ache Pastel Pencils in Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook

Although I enjoy using a white General Primo Bianco chalk pastel pencil on dark paper for highlights and other effects, I have not used other dry pastels much. A few samples were in a symposium swag bag once and in an ArtSnacks box years ago, but I used them only for a few sketches. The dusty messiness always puts me off.

And yet, during my recent late-night, winter-doldrums, retail-therapy binge, one of my purchases was a small set of Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils. (I’m likely to eventually succumb to any medium that comes in pencil form, I suppose, and it was the pastel pencil’s turn.)

On a recent wet and blustery morning, I gave them a spin with my now-favorite media-testing view out the studio window. The messiness is still there, but these Cd’A pastel pencils are so opaque and high in pigment that very little needs to be applied to cover the paper. (I used a gray Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook page here.) This was a nice surprise compared to colored pencils, which take quite a lot of application for the same degree of coverage. Using a blending stump made spreading the pastel a breeze (and kept the stuff off my fingers).

Not exactly blending.
It was also a delight to be able to apply light colors over dark and see them show up. I guess I must feel like a transparent watercolor painter who gives gouache or oils a try!

Blending pastels is a bit weird, especially since I don’t know what I’m doing. My set of 12 doesn’t include a true blue, only a very pale Light Blue (161) (which would probably be good for sky), so I couldn’t try my usual primary triad mix, but I did my best with the colors included. Very opaque, they just cover each other up instead of blending. Maybe with more proper stump action, the pigments would get a chance to mix. I havent done much of that yet, but I’ll try it another time.


I’m sure there’s potential here for more messability and even mixability with other media. If I get up early enough (which is possible, now that we’ve sprung ahead), it would definitely be fun to try a nocturne with these on black paper. Maybe this set will kill the rest of winter for me.

Although this post isn’t a review in which I usually show the product itself, I couldn’t resist one glam shot. The design of Caran d’Ache pastel pencils matches that of Museum Aquarelles except that the barrel is a natural, unfinished wood instead of matte dark gray paint. One of my favorite contemporary pencil esthetics is natural wood with a block of solid color (see the red Blackwing and the non-photo blue Blackwing). The color block here is barely more than an end cap, yet it’s still very pretty.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Imaginative Doodling While Listening


I read an interesting article about how the act of drawing, even so-called mindless doodling, affects how the brain processes information. Some evidence indicates that doodling can improve memory while listening to lectures. “Rather than think of drawing as a talent that some creative people are gifted in, we should consider it as a tool for seeing and understanding the world better — one that just so happens to double as an art form.”

As I’ve mentioned here recently, I’ve been trying to develop my skills in drawing more from my mind instead of from sight. For my current 100 Day Project, I’ve decided to focus on drawing from memory after focused observation. That’s very different from what I would call imaginative drawing, which is more along the lines of some types of cartooning: Drawing what is not observed at all.

I haven’t actively practiced that type of imaginative drawing since I took Taylor Dow’s Observational Cartooning workshop last fall, but the article I read made me recall the type of doodling I sometimes do while listening to podcasts. That type of doodling seems “mindless” in that it has no conscious content, but I do think I listen better and retain more of what I’m hearing when I sketch at the same time. I also like taking notes on the same page. The two acts together – taking written notes and doodling –seem to be a strong combo for improved information processing and retention.

The page shown here is an example of my doodly notetaking while I was listening to an interview with Felix Scheinberger on the SneakyArt Podcast.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Petal-Peeping Tour Has Begun!


3/12/22 Ballard neighborhood

Ever since a few local friends had reported seeing bits of pink here and there, I put my seasonal pink pencils into my bag. It seemed too early, especially with the unusually cold winter we had (and are still having), but I decided to be optimistic.

Saturday dawned mostly clear, and by afternoon, it was warm enough to sketch outside my car, so I took a drive to Ballard. Thinking I’d find some interesting industrial buildings or structures on “the other side of the tracks,” I suddenly spotted a huge cherry in full bloom! I was certainly happy to have pink in my bag – and happier still that spring really seems to be on its way.

Monday, March 14, 2022


3/9/22 I did well on the proportions here.


I’m more than a quarter way through The 100 Day Project, and I’m beginning to learn more about what kinds of visual information my brain has more difficulty remembering than others.

For all of the sketches shown here, I waited about two to four hours to draw from memory after observing the subject. In most cases, I got the important details and shapes right (so I’m improving in that regard), but getting accurate proportions is difficult for me – even when I have roughly measured while observing and even when I think I have a visual image firmly planted in my mind as I draw.

3/8/22 Proportions are way off

The nut chopper is the best example: While observing, I mentally noted that the lower compartment was larger than the upper, and I measured with my finger to confirm that. My drawing does reflect that, but then I didn’t make the overall height proportional to the width. Even when drawing from direct observation, getting accurate proportions can be challenging, so I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising. But when drawing while observing, I usually block in proportions with small tick marks, then measure to confirm, and then correct as necessary. If it’s a complex subject, I will measure first before blocking in, make marks, then check again afterwards. When drawing from memory, I can’t make any confirmation measurements by observing. 

The bathroom sink faucet handle was the most interesting to draw. After looking at and using this handle multiple times daily for nearly 20 years, I noticed for the first time that it’s completely built of hexagonals – like a pencil! 

3/7/22 Almost everything on this faucet handle is a hexagon.

A few days later I drew the toilet paper holder, which has hexagonal escutcheons that match the faucet handles. The shape was familiar, so I did better on that this time. The harder part was getting the perspective and foreshortening on the toilet paper roll right. It occurs to me that I have been training myself for a decade to draw what I see and not what my brain thinks it knows. Now I have nothing to look at, so I have to rely on my brain, which is back to thinking it knows!

3/12/22 The escutcheon that matches the faucet handle wasn't difficult
compared to the toilet paper roll itself!

I am deliberately choosing common objects in my home that I use and look at regularly. It’s amazing how much I don’t see every day. Every minute. And it’s fascinating to see what’s going on (or not) in my brain!


3/11/22 I did well on this one... except that I put the top opening on the wrong side!

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