Thursday, November 30, 2023

Late-Fall Backlighting


11/26/23 Wedgwood neighborhood

At various times of the year, I become more aware of the beauty of backlighting. When I look at my backlit sketches, it seems like I’ve caught it more often in spring and summer, but probably the best time is late fall and winter. The mid-day light might as well be mid-afternoon, and mid-afternoon already looks like the golden hour.

Before picking up a few groceries at Metropolitan Market, I pulled over a few blocks away where the yellow foliage in these trees stopped me in my tracks (at left). Or actually, it wasn’t so much the foliage as the low, “late” light (it was only 2:30 p.m.) that set the trees ablaze.

I usually take my walks before mid-morning, but the temps then have been in the low-to-mid 30s. Walking on either side of noon, the backlighting behind trees makes all the shadows reach toward me – an irresistible composition (below).

11/25/23 Roosevelt neighborhood

11/25/23 Green Lake neighborhood

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Expedition vs. Lifestyle

9/27/23 Maple Leaf neighborhood

9/289/23 Maple Leaf

 A member of Urban Sketchers recently commented on one of my posts in the Facebook group that my sketches seem to be made spontaneously wherever I happen to be rather than a specific location I went to with the purpose of sketching there. I have been sketching spontaneously for so much of my sketching life that I hardly think of any other way to do it, but her comment made me stop and consider.

9/29/23 Maple Leaf

10/9/23 Green Lake neighborhood

I do think that most urban sketchers can be sorted into two stacks: the “expedition” sketchers (who plan a place to go, then go there to sketch) and the “lifestyle” sketchers (who sketch wherever they happen to be). Many sketchers do both, of course, but each type takes a different mindset and, interestingly, a different type of sketch kit.

I can usually tell just by looking at someone’s sketch kit which type they are. If they have piles of different materials and media, multiple sketchbook formats, maybe an easel setup and portable stool, all packed into a humongous backpack or tote, I’d venture to guess that they are an expedition sketcher. Conversely, a lifestyle sketcher keeps a fairly basic sketch kit with them at all times in their daily-carry bag.

10/20/23 Maple Leaf

Less than a year after I began sketching, I realized I was a lifestyle sketcher.
I began honing my sketch kit so that it would be an integral part of my daily-carry bag – not a dedicated bag I used only when I went out specifically to sketch. I’ve been honing that kit ever since, and now it’s as slim as it has ever been (or is likely to be).

10/21/23 Maple Leaf

10/27/23 Maple Leaf

Ever since sketching became my incentive for daily fitness walks several years ago (a habit reinforced by the first pandemic year when I wasn’t going anywhere), most of my urban sketching has been spontaneous. Ironically, with my rekindled interest in watercolors this year (and, for that matter, other media besides my usual colored pencils), I find myself building a rapidly growing auxiliary sketch kit that looks a lot like something an expedition sketcher would use (yes, I’ll show it sometime soon). It’s definitely too much for daily-carry, which is a bit frustrating because it means I’m limited to using these other materials only on planned outings instead of spontaneously.

11/2/23 Maple Leaf

11/8/23 Maple Leaf

Regardless of how that auxiliary kit develops, my daily-carry/fitness-walking sketch kit will remain the same. After all, expeditions can happen only once in a while; life happens every day.

11/13/23 Maple Leaf

11/16/23 The Brothers from the NE 80th St. I-5 overpass, Maple Leaf

11/17/23 Maple Leaf

11/24/23 Maple Leaf

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Chirashi Test

11/22/23 Chirashi box from Seattle Fish Guys

Mike Daikubara is well known for both his urban sketches and prolific food sketches (the man seems to dine out nearly every day!). His colorfully depicted meals accompanied by written descriptions, commentary and overheard dialog often end up being mini restaurant reviews. Following him for many years, I discovered that we both use “the chirashi test” when trying unfamiliar Japanese restaurants, and it became a little joke between us. It’s an effective, economical way to sample the quality of the sashimi without investing in the sushi bar.

Thanks, Fish Guys!

As it has become our tradition (two years in a row is a tradition, right?), we let Seattle Fish Guys prepare most of our Thanksgiving meal this year. While there to pick up our big bag of eats, I spotted their grab-and-go chirashi box – something new that they had just started promoting. Since I’ve been buying from them for years, I obviously didn’t need to “test” the quality of their sashimi, but since it was my first chirashi there, it still qualified.

As you know, I rarely sketch my food (except for the occasional pastry), but in honor of Mike, I sketched my chirashi (which was delicious, colorful and a great value; the Fish Guys aced it).

Monday, November 27, 2023

Art, Pastries and Community


11/21/23 The Bridge Coffeehouse, my croissant and Roy

Urban sketcher David Hingtgen has a new show at The Bridge Coffeehouse. An eclectic mix of urban sketches, whimsical, imaginative pieces, car portraits and landscapes, his work has taken over all the walls of the north Seattle café. Roy and I met there to check out the show, chat and sketch.

One of many things we discussed was the importance of friendship and how much we value our sketching community. It was an apt topic that morning as we munched pastries, sipped coffee, sketched the other patrons and admired David’s art.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Hack Job

11/26/23 Northgate

Usually when I sketch trees that have been hacked to make way for utility lines, a big bite has been taken out of the middle, but otherwise, the tree stands at its full height. Driving home from an errand in Northgate, I spotted this poor tree that had simply been chopped off completely. From the breadth of its lowest limbs, it’s obvious that the tree had stood quite tall at one point. I suppose we should be grateful that it wasn’t cut down altogether, but seriously? That is one major hack job.

Technical note: In a sketch like this, I don’t make much effort to put in clouds and sky, since they don’t seem important to the story, but I must say I’m pleased with how they came out here. I’ve had mostly good results using the “licked” sky technique with Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles, and since I started using Hahnemühle 100-percent cotton watercolor sketchbooks, the results have been consistently good. It’s as close to a ”real” watercolor effect as I could ever hope to get using watercolor pencils.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Out of This World

11/18/23 Natalie and a friend performing

Last week I was invited to a unique event: an “out-of-this-world memorial service” for a friend. Alive and very well, Natalie (AKA Shambhavi) decided there was no time like the present to celebrate living, and she invited many creative, talented friends from around the world to sing, dance, recite poetry and tell stories on Zoom. Impressed by the performances, I tried to sketch as many as possible as they honored their friendship with Natalie in humorous, creative ways.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Pencilvember Going Strong

As most German pencils are, this one is a nail!
It's a 3B that feels more like an H!
11/12/23 vintage Staedtler Mars Lumograph 3B

By the third week of a month-long drawing challenge, I’m usually starting to look at the calendar to see how many days are left. But what started out almost as a whim is turning out to be one of my favorite challenge themes: Who knew that sketching an ear a day would be so much fun – and illuminating?

11/13/23 Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2

The pencil that most American kids used in
elementary school (though mine was never
neon pink back then). No nostalgia here...
happy that I have much better options now as
an adult.

It’s the combination of the subject matter (endlessly varied) and the material (also endlessly varied) that is making the challenge so compelling. Although graphite pencils are among my favorite drawing materials, I tend to use them sporadically, not daily, so this month is a fun opportunity to learn, compare and appreciate pencil qualities.

11/14/23 Pentonic

I know nothing about this Pentonic, but it was
very pleasant to use.

my previous Pencilvember post, I had mentioned the comment from a blog reader who had said ears can be used to identify individuals for genealogical purposes. Shortly after that, when I exclaimed my fascination with the uniqueness of ear shapes, an Instagram follower commented, “That’s why mug shots have a side view; before identifying individuals by their fingerprints, the ear was the identification.” I didn’t know this, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

11/15/23 Nataraj Trikone Super Black

Another India-made pencil, this one has a triangular barrel
and excellent dark graphite.

11/16/23 Musgrave 600 News

This US-made pencil is extremely dark yet retains a good point. It's apparently a favorite for doing crossword puzzles because the soft, dark graphite works well on newsprint. 

11/17/23 Faber-Castell Pitt Matt 4B
I wish I liked the innovative Matt more
(reviewed on this blog), but I just don't care
for the "stickiness" when applied.

11/18/23 Bic Criterium 4B

At least now I can say I have used a Bic that
wasn't a ballpoint.

11/19/23 Lyra Rembrandt 9B

Another nail-hard German pencil! 

11/20/23 vintage Eberhard Faber Microtomic 6B

Fabulous vintage graphite that is a joy to use.

11/21/23 Royal Sovereign Wolff 4B

Very soft for a 4B, this Royal Sovereign was difficult to
use when I wanted to apply lighter tones. I was tempted to 
switch to something harder for those areas, but my rule for 
this challenge is one pencil per drawing.

11/22/23 Tombow 2558 B

Predictably solid Japanese graphite with a surprising bit
of grit. Also, please note: In case it's confusing without context,
this is a LEFT ear. Must have been a painful incident!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Where My Father Is


11/17/23 Silhouetted Mt. Rainier from Maple Leaf Park

My appreciation for nature hasn’t been lifelong. When I was young, I was indifferent to nature unless it was of direct benefit to me (such as snow days). My parents, however, valued nature and expressed appreciation for it in many ways. My mother was a haiku poet and sumi painter, and most of her subject matter was based in nature. In his retirement, my father became a painter too, and a favorite subject was his beloved Mt. Rainier.

They bought the house I grew up in because of its splendid view of Lake Washington and, at least in winter, Mt. Rainier. The rest of the year, however, a huge maple tree’s foliage blocked much of the mountain, which annoyed my father greatly. He was not one to complain about problems he could solve, however; he was a man of action.

I don’t know if the tree was on public or private property. I’m guessing there was no discussion with my mom, as she would surely not have approved. All I know is that one day he left the house with a saw, and the next thing we knew, the maple was missing a large chunk of branches, giving us a more complete view of Her Majesty. My preteen self was not particularly impressed. Whatever, dad.

Later in life, he mentioned often that he wanted his ashes sprinkled on Mt. Rainier. The summer after he died, my family gathered there to fulfill his final wish.

I’m grateful that I eventually grew to appreciate nature as my parents did. No longer having the regular view of Rainier that I grew up with (I had no idea then how precious it was, nor did I give it any thought), I cherish whatever glimpse I can get.

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