Monday, October 31, 2022



10/25/22 Maple Leaf neighborhood (9 minutes)

The online courses I’ve been taking with France Van Stone this month have got me thinking about speed – how long I take to make a sketch. France often talks about how her natural proclivity is to spend hours on a single drawing, meticulously and meditatively crosshatching every detail until she is satisfied with the result. The downside of this approach is that she would need a solid block of time (or several such blocks) to draw, but once she became a parent, those blocks of time were no longer possible. Frustrated, she began to develop faster drawing methods that would accommodate her busy life while still giving her the satisfaction of continuing a regular drawing habit. Even if the result wasn’t the same finished quality that she might have preferred, it was more important to her to draw regularly than to draw only when some chunk of time materialized.

Speed is not an aspect of drawing that I consciously thought about until I had been at it for a while. During my early years, I just took as long as I needed to, and sometimes that was frustrating when the subject (a car or a person, for example) disappeared before I could finish. But when I was a beginner, it didn’t do much good to try to draw faster – I only had one speed, and I didn’t know how to vary it. I also didnt have the experience to know that if I used smaller pages or different media or simplified the composition, I could save time.

11/2/11 Maple Leaf neighborhood. Made through my studio window only a month or so after I had begun sketching, this early urban sketch was an attempt to capture elusive sunrise colors in a 9x12 sketchbook. I recall clearly the frustration of seeing the light and colors change by the second and not knowing how to paint them on any scale, let alone in a large sketchbook.   

Maybe it was my experiences while traveling, especially in the company of non-sketchers, that made me conscious of how much time I took to make a sketch – and taught me to speed up when I wanted to.

Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but I think that anyone can work on a single drawing for many hours, continually correcting, fixing and changing, and eventually arrive at a result that looks resolved (though possibly overworked). I say this because I’ve seen the works of certain artists who are able to make a polished studio drawing, yet they have a much harder time making a spontaneous sketch in a short time, especially on location. I also know this from my own experience: When I’ve made carefully studied botanical drawings, I know the laborious hours I’ve put into them to make them look finished. It seems counter-intuitive, but to arrive at the point of being resolved in 15 or 30 minutes is much more difficult. By “resolved,” I mean the point when a sketch includes everything I wanted to include, and the page tells a complete story.

9/15/22 In a dental waiting room. Definitely an unresolved sketch.

In the 11 years that Ive been drawing, I’ve gained many skills, either from books, from instructors, or on my own. The one I value most and that serves me best every day is my ability to draw fast. Or more precisely, it’s my ability to adjust my drawing speed as desired – a skill that comes mostly from experience and that I am constantly refining.

That’s the main reason I’ve been focusing this month on making crosshatched portraits in 30 minutes or less. If I took more time, I know I could make them look better or at least more finished. But how much can I capture and still have the sketch look somewhat finished in a half-hour? That’s a much greater challenge. I’d like to be able to choose any subject I want to sketch, decide how long I want to (or can) spend on it, and still end up with something resolved on the page – not half done (or, for that matter, not overworked).

France is an ideal teacher for this goal, as she seems to set herself a time goal with every demo. “I think I can do this in about 20 minutes,” she’ll say, as she sets her timer. Indeed, when her timer goes off, her drawing has reached a stage that looks resolved. She knows her own sketching speed well enough to know when she’ll reach that stage. She also sometimes says she might keep going to darken some values or add details she’s interested in, but even without those additions, she finds the drawing acceptably finished. It took her many years of drawing to be able to gauge her own speed accurately.

7/30/19 An hour-and-a-half with graphite by a Delft canal: my choice.

Of course, I don’t always want to sketch quickly. After the extreme heat and hustle-bustle of the 2019 Amsterdam Urban Sketchers Symposium, I welcomed the cool, calm serenity of Delft a few days later. Sitting by a canal (yes, I actually brought out my stool – I knew I would be there a while), I took nearly an hour-and-a-half to make a sketch in graphite and enjoyed every minute (at right). Sometimes I take my time – but I want the speed to be my choice.

On a walk last week, it was cold and windy, and a dark gray wall above the horizon promised rain. I was thinking about how I hadn’t sketched any Halloween decorations or even a pumpkin (well, except the huge one, of course) yet this year when I spotted a house with a nice spider web across most of its front yard (top of post). On a warmer, sunny day, I might have wanted to spend a half-hour making this sketch. But on that chilly morning, I didn’t want to take more than 10 minutes. I was done in nine. It’s a handy skill.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Street of Color


10/27/22 Bryant neighborhood

The “atmospheric river” that the media had been warning us about was preceded by high winds last Thursday. I knew that many trees would be bare by the time all the wind and rain stopped, so I needed to get out there pronto if I wanted any more leaves to peep. The temperature was mild enough by afternoon that I could have stood on the sidewalk to sketch this brilliant street of color, but I stayed in my car against the strong gusts.

Later that afternoon, I took a walk through the ‘hood and counted no less than 13 empty trash cans that had blown over! I wish my FitBit would give me extra credit for walking against the wind – it’s quite a workout!

Trash can down!

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Rosita’s Tree


10/26/22 Green Lake

The trees in the Green Lake neighborhood are really showing off their colors. Walking through the neighborhood, I spotted several that I wanted to sketch, but often the best views required standing in the middle of an intersection or other awkward places (unlike Maple Leaf, where I have sketched by standing in the middle of the street, Green Lake has too much traffic for that).

Across the street from Rosita’s Mexican Restaurant (one of few Green Lake restaurants that haven’t changed in recent years), I spotted a brilliant tree whose top half caught the partly cloudy morning light – with bonus crane behind it.

I hope this isn’t the last of my leaf peeping/sketching, but we have the first “atmospheric river” of the season coming in.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Pencil Fix from France’s Critters


10/24/22 "Gavi" (Prismacolor in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook)

Although I’m thoroughly enjoying giving ballpoint crosshatching a solid workout for InkTober, I’ve also missed my pencils. Fortunately, just as this week’s rain has kept me indoors most of the time, France Van Stone released her newest course in drawing critters. Since the course is a follow-up to her three-part crosshatching series, the demos incorporate all the techniques taught previously with an emphasis on the quick-and-dirty methods of Part 3. Although she demos with her favorite Bic ballpoints, she encourages participants to use any medium and practice drawing from the same photo multiple times with different media. I appreciate her focus on the process of regular practice over results.

As a relaxing counterpoint to crosshatching human portraits with ballpoint, I decided to follow France’s critter lessons by crosshatching animal portraits with pencil – both colored and graphite. I say “relaxing,” but that doesn’t mean the exercises are less challenging – they definitely aren’t. Animal portraits are just as challenging as humans. The relaxing part is that there’s less pressure for the result to resemble the model (which is not the goal, France says, but the pressure is still there).

Many of the reference images come from France’s students. One is a beautiful photo of Gavi, a yellow lab, taken from below his chin. The lovely backlighting fringing one side of his head was challenging to capture. I wanted to spend only about 30 minutes on this exercise, but if I had taken more time, I would have put in a bit of dark background on that side of Gavi’s face to bring out the backlighting.

10/22/22 "Pixie" (Polychromos in S&B Zeta sketchbook)

Why didn’t I just take the time to do that? Maybe I will when I draw this dog again sometime; France encourages us to take as much time as we want to. Most of her demos are within 30 minutes, though, and I really enjoy pushing myself to finish small drawings (mine are all about 4 or 5 inches) within that timeframe. I’ve been doing that with all of my InkTober drawings too, and I can see that I’ve gotten better at blocking proportions and crosshatching darker values more quickly with practice. It’s remarkable how much France can accomplish in about 30 minutes, and I know she got there only with lots and lots of practice. I’m on it.

Pencil notes: These critter exercises are giving me my colored pencil fixes during InkTober, but I must say that it is not as satisfying as I would like. I made the same discovery when I tried crosshatching with graphite at the beginning of the month. One characteristic of using colored and graphite pencils that I love so much is the gorgeous tonal modulation that’s possible. The rigid marks of rapid crosshatching removes that beauty.

On “Pixie,” I used Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils. Their hardness made the crosshatching more visible and also made it difficult to build dark values. Polychromos pencils require more traditional (slow) layering of light pigment application for best effects.

To draw “Gavi,” I switched to a soft Prismacolor. I preferred the effect here with less visible crosshatching, and it was easier to build tones quickly with soft pencils (as I’m used to doing on location – slamming down color rapidly with super-soft Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles). The downside is that I had to sharpen frequently, which doesn’t bother me when I’m taking my leisurely time with a sketch, but it is annoying when I’m trying to work within a timeframe.

Images provided by France Van Stone

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Bic CMYK Colors (and Cristal UP Comments)


10/19/22 Bic 4-Color pens in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook
 (photo reference)

Does anyone remember my SuckUK incident? Early this year, I learned that a company with the unfortunate (and ultimately appropriate) name of SuckUK makes a ballpoint multi-pen containing the four CMYK colors: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. With my ongoing interest in CMYK primary triad mixing, I couldn’t resist giving the pen a try. While I applauded the company’s unique, innovative concept, my applause ended abruptly – as soon as I used it. After I wrote the review, I put the pen aside and dismissed it as another good idea poorly executed.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago when a thoughtful blog reader brought this tip to my attention: The turquoise, pink, yellow and black inks contained in special editions of Bic 4-Color pens are, in fact, CMYK hues! Cue the exploding brain emoji! I could make my own CMYK multi-pen by putting the four ink refills into the same body – the SuckUK concept but with my beloved Bic inks!

The cutest way to get the two necessary 4-Colors

Black is available in all standard Bic 4-Colors, but the other three colors are not. I immediately went to my collection of Bic 4-Colors for the inks I needed. If you want them, the one containing turquoise and pink (along with purple and lime) is the “fashion” edition. The one that includes yellow (with orange, purple and pink) is called the “Sun” edition. The easiest (and most adorable) way to get both is to spring for the Bic 4-Color pen holder collection that looks just like a giant 4-Color pen (the holder is as cheesy as the pens in material and construction; remember, we buy Bics for their inks, not for their bodies or cases). I just happen to have that holder assortment, so I was golden.

First, I made a mixing swatch and immediately liked the secondaries that the C, M and Y could make (below). But what impressed me was the black that came together with the three primaries – I didn’t even need the black refill!

Mixed Bic CMYK hues

Trapped in the house during our seemingly endless days of hazardous smoke, I made this sketch on a trash day – what an ironic heartbreaker to have to resort to using a reference photo! But I was instantly cheered up when I saw the brilliant mixes I could get from Bic’s version of cyan, magenta and yellow.

Just for fun, I also mixed the three secondary colors that
are included in the two 4-Color assortments shown above.

As much as I enjoy drawing with Bics, I use them mostly for layered tones and, just lately, crosshatching. It’s unlikely that I would use Bics much as a coloring medium. Still, it’s good to know I could use Bics for full color if I wanted to (like on my trips to Gilligan’s Island). And color geek that I am, I was tickled to learn of this potential of Bics that had not occurred to me, despite owning all the colors. (Thank you, Dee, for bringing this to my attention!)

Bic Cristal UPs

Since Bics are on my mind during InkTober, I’ll also briefly mention one that I learned about from members of the Bic Cristal Facebook group (yes, of course, there’s a Facebook group for that). Because France Van Stone favors “extra bold” 1.6mm Bic Cristals, I had used mine for several exercises in her crosshatching course. I appreciate the bold point that makes crosshatching faster, but the drooly, blobby ink is messy. I eventually switched to my favorite 4-Colors, which have 1mm “medium” points. That’s when I learned about the Bic Cristal UP, which is a separate line of Cristals with a 1.2mm point – just slightly larger than a standard 1mm Cristal and Bic 4-Colors.

I bought a pack, thinking that the Cristal UP might be a nice middle ground between the 1mm and 1.6mm. It is that; and the Cristal UP comes in nine colors (unfortunately, not yellow, or it would be another way to get the CMYK hues). However, its barrel is cheesier than a regular Cristal with a slightly rough texture. The feature I appreciate most about the 4-Color (other than being a multi-pen) is its thicker, more comfortable barrel. I’ll keep using the UPs for InkTober, but I’m not sure the cheesy barrel tradeoff is worth the slightly larger point size. It’s too bad the UP ink cartridges won’t fit into the 4-Color barrels.

Bic Cristal UP: Good point size; cheesy barrel

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Maple Leaf’s Big Pumpkin


10/23/22 "Magnus" waits to be weighed as neighbors join the festivities.

The Maple Leaf neighborhood is not the kind of place where big things happen. That’s why I was stunned to hear that two neighbors’ pumpkins had attracted media attention: King 5 Evening, a local TV program, had featured the humongous pumpkins that were growing next door to each other. The two gardeners had been having a friendly pumpkin-growing competition each year since the pandemic began. The one with the larger pumpkin this year publicized an event last Sunday to find out how much the pumpkin weighed. Kate and I decided it was an event worthy of sketch reportage!

Almost more amazing than the pumpkin was the huge crowd it drew. The two pumpkin neighbors had turned the weigh-in into a block party with beer and barbecue. Kids and dogs got their photos taken with the huge pumpkin suspended from a scaffold. Another neighbor walked around with a clipboard taking $1 wagers to guess the weight. The Maple Leaf community usually has an annual summertime ice cream social, but it didn’t happen this year, so neighbors were apparently craving an event.

Named Magnus, the pumpkin weighed in at 969 pounds! I had put my dollar on 798 pounds, so I was way off, although the scale was having issues, so it’s possible the weight isn’t quite accurate. But when a pumpkin is the biggest neighborhood event of the year, who cares about accuracy?

"Jack Skellington," the smaller pumpkin, attracted no attention at all, so we took our selfie with him.

You can buy Magnus' seeds and grow your own
humongous pumpkins next year.

The morning before the event, I went to see where
the pumpkin lived. Magnus was still asleep in his
sleeping bag.

I walked only 10 minutes to see the big pumpkin, but Kate drove up all the way from Renton! A dedicated sketch reporter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Breaking News: Rain in Seattle


10/21/22 Hallelujah! Raindrops on my sketch! 

After breaking all kinds of temperature records, this year also saw one of the driest stretches in Seattle’s history: Between June 18 and Oct. 20, we got only 0.55 inches of rain. Last Friday we could all breathe easier as rain finally arrived, taking away most of the smoke that had been darkening our days for weeks. Still more rain was in the forecast.

As a native and lifelong Seattle resident, I never thought I would greet rain with so much joy and relief. To celebrate, I grabbed my waterproof Field Notes Expedition notebook and raincoat and went out for a leisurely walk. It’s just another ordinary neighborhood scene (it wasn’t trash day, but luckily for me, some neighbors apparently leave their bins out all week), but to me, it felt like sketch reportage: For the first time in four months, we have enough precipitation to form actual puddles in the street!

That morning, I had to put on socks. Although the trees have been looking like fall for a while, it was finally feeling like fall. I’m sure I’ll be complaining about the weather soon enough, but for now, I’m joyful and grateful for rain.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Very Unhealthy


10/20/22 8:15 a.m., Maple Leaf neighborhood

On Tuesday as the thick cloud of smoke over the Puget Sound region grew heavier, the Air Quality Index kept going up, and the warning went from “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy.” By Wednesday, we had the worst air quality on the planet. In my neighborhood, the AQI was up to 249 just before sunset. (If you are fortunate enough not to have to think about the AQI, and you aren’t familiar with what that number means, a normal day in Seattle has an AQI of 15 or lower.) I made a quick sketch of the orange sun at 6:05 p.m. (at right). A few minutes after I sketched, the sun was completely obliterated by smoke.

By Thursday morning, it was still “very unhealthy.” From our bedroom window, I could barely see down the block. I started sketching, hoping that the sun would eventually appear somewhere. At 8:15 a.m., small cracks of yellow appeared faintly (top of post). For a short time, the sun looked like a pale white disc. Then it disappeared again. The AQI was 235 when I finished the sketch.

On Friday morning, the AQI was 16, and we could all breathe easily again. I will never take clean air for granted.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Rainier Arts Center


10/18/22 Rainier Arts Center in Columbia City

After meeting friends for lunch in Columbia City last week, I drove around the neighborhood peeping leaves. I saw a lot of color, but what caught my eye to sketch were the classic columns of the Rainier Arts Center. Built in 1921 as a church, the community performing arts center building is of the neoclassical style, according to the center’s website.

By mid-afternoon, Columbia Park, most of its trees and the front of the building were in shade. The city’s alert system had just pinged my phone to let me know that the air quality level was now “unhealthy” for all, not just those with respiratory sensitivities. Sketching hastily to avoid prolonged smoke exposure, I tried to capture what little light I could see in the tops of the trees. The tiny spritzer I carry in my fitness-walking bag puts out heavy blasts of water compared to my favorite sprayer, so the foreground tree got a bit out of control. However, I ended up liking the high contrast it has with the muted building pushed into the background.

Although I couldn’t really see smoke at close range, my secondary triad mixes tend to have a smoky look. It’s ironic: I chose a secondary triad for autumn because orange, purple and green are perfect for changing foliage. Who knew it would be right for smoke season, too?

Saturday, October 22, 2022


10/15/22 30 minutes, Bic ballpoint

 Years ago when I first learned about InkTober, I read an article by Jake Parker, creator of the annual drawing challenge, talking about his experience with the creative process. He had noticed that a couple of weeks into a daily challenge, something interesting happens. At first it might feel mechanical or contrived to keep doing something just because you’ve arbitrarily committed to it (or, from my perspective, just because there’s a hashtag for it). But if you are experimenting with something new and push through whatever boredom or resistance you may feel, after a certain period, something fresh kicks in. The light clicks on, and everything looks different. That’s the way the creative process works. I know I experienced that myself during InkTober 2016 when Weather Bunny evolved, and then again during my 100-Day Project earlier this year.

More than halfway through this month, it happened again.

Day 15 was similar to the previous two weeks. I thought this one was going to be about the extreme foreshortened view of the head, but it ended up being more about the glasses (top of post). In one of France Van Stone’s YouTube videos, she talks about looking for the tiny slivers of reflection on glasses between the lens and the frame, and if you catch them, they add realism. I didn’t draw them nearly as neatly as she did in her demo, but learning to observe them was very informative. Another challenge was making a distinction between shadows and dark hair (even when drawing in monochrome, the issue of local color vs. values remains).

On Day 16, just as I was feeling a need to take a break from human portraits, France saved the day: She sent a new demo video of herself drawing a Bassett hound. A canine portrait was just what I needed! It still has all the same challenges of form and proportion, but much less pressure to capture a resemblance. Not to mention an irresistible face!

10/16/22 30 minutes, Bic ballpoint

That evening, I decided that I loved drawing the hound so much that I wanted to do it again, except this time, I tried something different: Since the memory of its form was still fresh in my mind, I went straight in without my usual blocking and measuring of proportions. I knew the proportions weren’t exactly right, but I thought it would be fun to exaggerate them further. The dog’s delightful expression is almost cartoon-like – why not push that further? I had a ton of fun with it!

10/16/22 Bic ballpoint

The next morning, I was still thinking about the Bassett hound. Maybe I could draw in the same way – exaggerating and not paying attention to proportions – to draw human portraits in the way cartoonists develop characters? Day 17 was my first shot, which isn’t a badly drawn face – except that it bears no resemblance to my model (not measuring took its toll). I wouldn’t have cared about the lack of resemblance if I had exaggerated features more, but trying to draw a human face immediately locked my brain into “realism.” However, I was newly excited about InkTober because a light had clicked on!

10/17/22 15 minutes, Bic ballpoint

For Day 18, I worked from a photo reference that I had drawn from previously. I thought this man’s angular face and strong eyebrows would give me more to exaggerate and turn into a character of sorts. First I tried by simply not measuring proportions or angles (purple ink). It looks about the same as the version in which I carefully measured, so maybe that just means I’m getting better at drawing faces without measuring (at least this face). But I couldn’t seem to exaggerate at all. I tried again (red and black ink), and this one is a bit better, but I’m perplexed by how difficult the task is. I have been working hard for 11 years to train my brain to get out of the way so that my hand can draw what my eyes see. I apparently have more work to do to push my brain out of the way.

10/18/22 20 minutes, Bic ballpoint

10/18/22 20 minutes, Bic ballpoint

Early in my 100-Day Project, when I was learning to draw from memory and imagination, I speculated that I had focused so much on drawing from observation for most of a decade that it seemed to be hindering my ability to draw directly from my mind. By the end of that project, I had no doubt in the value of drawing from observation; a solid basis in those skills is necessary before I could hope to draw from memory or imagination. I was more grateful than ever for my observational drawing experience.

As I now struggle with exaggerating these portraits, I’m once again wondering if my strong reliance on drawing from observation is somehow hindering me. It’s not a struggle to draw so much as a struggle to turn my brain off! But not completely – I need to leave on the part that engages when I want to draw imaginatively.

Day 19 was a huge eye (and brain) opener! In my first attempt, I tried to exaggerate features, but I felt some resistance because it seemed disrespectful to deliberately distort or exaggerate features, especially after weeks of trying to capture resemblance.

25 minutes
In my second attempt, I followed a suggestion Sue Heston had made: Turn the reference photo upside-down to trick my brain into seeing only the shapes and values instead of “eyes” and “nose.” (Years ago, I tried a similar exercise from the classic book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and I was amazed at my results.) My efforts to exaggerate were so-so, but abstracting the model’s face liberated me – it was no longer a man’s face and was now just an exercise in shapes and values.
10 minutes, upside-down reference photo

Finally, on my third try, I turned the photo reference right-side up again. I got past my resistance even more, and this effort started to feel more like character development. Isn’t it fascinating? The model looks like he might be Latino, and my first attempt captures some Latino features. In my upside-down version, he morphed into a white man. And in the third, he turned black! None of which was conscious, of course. One more thing I learned from this series is that even if the reference photo is so dark that the pupils are barely visible, it’s important to put in catchlights. Otherwise, the pupils end up looking like creepy black holes (my first attempt).

15 minutes

On Day 20, I went straight in with exaggerated features – an attempt at caricature, I suppose. It’s getting easier, but none of these have been as fun as the Bassett hound. Maybe animals are just more fun, period.

10/20/22 30 minutes, Bic ballpoint

Material note: I had filled the Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook I was using for InkTober on Day 19, so I cracked open a brand new book for Day 20 – a Moleskine sketchbook. It’s the original kind with slightly heavy, manila-colored pages. During my first year of sketching when I was trying many different kinds of sketchbooks, I filled several of these and hoarded several more of the old stock when I had heard that the paper quality had changed. Soon after, I wanted to explore watercolor more, so I stopped using Moleskines. Seeing France use ballpoint in her Moleskine reminded me that the old Moleskine paper’s smooth, hard surface is ideal for ink. Since I still have a couple of these left, I may as well use them with Bics.

Day 21: I noticed that when I was focused on exaggeration and caricature, I started paying less attention to form. I’ll probably try caricatures again sometime, but right now it’s more interesting to keep working on capturing form and likeness with crude, messy crosshatching. If I were a painter, I would have been pleased to catch that bit of reflected blue light from the model’s shirt under his chin, so I noted that with a scribble.

10/21/22 30 minutes, Bic ballpoint

(All reference photos from Earthsworld except the Bassett hound, which was not credited.)

Friday, October 21, 2022

Crown Hill Zelkovas


10/17/22 Crown Hill neighborhood

For several blocks on Crown Hill, Zelkova trees grow in the center divide of Eighth Northwest. I’m always amused by how squared off they look on the street side where they have been “pruned” naturally by buses that whip by them repeatedly. I wish I could sketch them from the driving lane itself, which offers the best view of their odd shape. Though the afternoon was warm enough that I could have sketched from the sidewalk, I stayed in my car, where the view from the parking lane is second-best.

These Zelkovas are not always a stop on my leaf-peeping tour because they tend to fully color late in the season when it’s wet. This year, however, they seem to be later than ever, probably due to our wacky warm fall. I thought by mid-October they would certainly have more color than this (see my sketch from October 2015, sketched with ink for InkTober, no less). A few trees were turning, and I picked the brightest to sketch.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Backyard Leaf-Peeping


10/16/22 On the other side of the fence to the east

On Sunday the temperature got up to 82 – unheard of for mid-October in these parts. It’s been a scary year for broken weather records. But the good news was that the air quality index went from “unhealthy” to “moderate,” so we took our lunches out to the back deck. During the many days that we couldn’t go outdoors, the Japanese maple in the yard to our east had turned a dazzling red-orange.

Partial activation before spritzing.

Process notes: It’s unusual to sketch a tree at close enough range to see some leaf detail, so it was an opportunity to try something a little different. After my usual vigorous application of watercolor pencils with foliage and shadow colors, I used a waterbrush to activate only the shadow areas in the tree and on the fence (photo of this stage at right). My intention with that step was to keep the tree’s shadow areas from blurring too much into the foliage and muddying the warmer hues. 

When that was dry, I spritzed the foliage with my water sprayer as usual. Since the previously activated areas were dry, I knew they wouldnt reactivate much with additional spritzing, minimizing muddiness. As a final step, while the foliage was still wet, I used my Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle Cornelian (850) (the cool red-orange in my secondary triad palette) to draw the curved umbrella shapes that Japanese maple leaf clusters form.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Studies and Stories from My Walks


10/4/22 Green Lake neighborhood

The smoky skies we’ve been having the past month have put a crimp in my fitness walk-sketching. I’ve been taking shorter walks or avoiding sketching during my walks to reduce the length of time I’m exposed. You can imagine how cranky this makes me.

This post is a catch-up of my walk-sketches from late summer before the smoke came in and a few others that I did when the smoke was only “moderate” and not “unhealthy.” Most are nothing more than compositional or value studies.

One exception is the urban couch (top of post) I spotted near Green Lake. As I sketched, the owner (I presume) of the couch came out of the apartment building, took a photo of the couch, and went back inside – maybe to post the image somewhere in hopes of getting rid of it sooner? A bonus vacuum cleaner was behind the couch. He never noticed me sketching.

8/22/22 Green Lake

8/29/22 Green Lake

8/29/22 Green Lake

9/7/22 Green Lake

9/7/22 Green Lake

9/7/22 Maple Leaf

9/7/22 Green Lake

9/12/22 Green Lake

9/16/22 University of Washington campus

9/26/22 Green Lake

9/29/22 Green Lake

10/4/22 Green Lake
My favorite of the batch is the dog walker and dog – both checking their messages.

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