Thursday, November 10, 2022

Bovines and Bassett


11/5/22 Graphite in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook

My next three crosshatched sketches from France Van Stone’s “critters” course were especially challenging because the reference photos were taken in flat light: Neither strong shadows nor highlights could be seen easily. I did my best to squint out the values. It was informative to see where France pushed the darks in her demo drawings made from the same photos.

I took longer (45 minutes) than I typically would with the first cow (at right) because I drew it during another live draw-along session with France. It’s a bit fragmented to observe her while also trying to draw, but it’s fun to be “there” with other participants. I appreciate the effort she makes to interact with her students, some of whom have been drawing along with her since the early pandemic days. Then on the Sktchy platform, France used to offer weekly live draw-along sessions, which I can imagine were a wonderful opportunity to connect with a community during those difficult, isolated times.

For the Bassett hound, I tried using a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook, which has a lot more tooth than the Moleskine I have been using with ballpoint. I didnt notice a signficant difference in the result, but France encourages us to try various papers and media.

11/7/22 Bic ballpoint in S&B Alpha sketchbook

11/8/22 Bic ballpoint in Moleskine sketchbook

When I began the purple cow, I started to measure in my usual way, but I stopped and challenged myself to eyeball the proportions. (I’m not brave enough to do this with portraits of people, but cows are more forgiving.) I know there’s nothing wrong with measuring for accuracy, but I think it’s also good practice to be able to do this only with my eyes.

After a nice run of graphite and colored pencils, I switched back to Bic ballpoints. As good as pencils feel, my results look less like crosshatching and more like sloppy penciling. On the other hand, France’s messy crosshatching techniques have shown me how to use a Bic in a way that I enjoy more than other ways I’ve tried with ballpoint. It has taken me a while, but I have a better appreciation for using this humble medium in a satisfying way.


  1. I think that the hatching with the graphite and the ballpoint both come out really well. I like both!

  2. I think you do lovely with both! Been a silent follower for a few years and just wanted to pop in and thank you for your blog. I recently bought some mitsubishi vermilion/prussian blue checking pencils because of you and I am loving them for sketching! They are my new obsession! Also, I was wondering if by any chance you are a Carly Simon fan? I was listening to a mix of 70s/80s that I grew up with on Spotify, and You're So Vain came on and I was actually paying attention to the lyrics for once! When she sang "clouds in my coffee" I immediately thought of you! Hah! Anyhow, just curious if there is correlation?

    1. Thanks so much for commenting! I'm happy to hear that you are enjoying the blog. I know that song, and I've often wondered what it means to have clouds in one's coffee! But the name of my blog is actually in reference to sketching outdoors (where it's usually cloudy here ;-) ) and sketching in coffee shops in the winter. :-)

    2. Thanks for the reply! I figured it was a long shot, but no harm in asking a quirky/curious question!

  3. Pretty impressive work for 25 minutes ! The hatching is very evocative.


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