Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Rainy UW, Cozy Suzzallo (and Inktense Blocks Discovery)


11/19/23 Gerberding Hall, UW campus

Other than my weather app lying, USk Seattle had a terrific outing Sunday afternoon at Suzzallo Library and the University of Washington campus. Seeing that it would be dry all afternoon, I took a confident walk around campus to see what color I could still catch in the trees. As soon as I found a composition I liked, it started sprinkling. Taking cover, I looked around for something to sketch and spotted Gerberding Hall’s tower behind a tree with some yellow leaves remaining (above).

It stopped raining, so I ventured out again to the composition I had been attracted to first – University of Washington Tower peeking behind some yellow and orange trees. Halfway through, it started raining again, and this time it was serious. In denial (“It’s not supposed to rain today!” I shouted to no one in particular), I kept going until more of my sketch was running off the page than staying on (below).

UW Tower and campus trees

Holding the book open but cover side up so that the wet sketch wouldn’t smear the one on the opposite page, I dashed into Suzzallo Library, where smarter sketchers had been all along.

While my drenched book and I dried off, I sketched a few students in the graduate reading room, where an impressive number of brave sketchers were taking on the room’s daunting Gothic vaulted ceiling. I stayed with the relatively safe stained glass window and a few of the beautiful chandeliers.

Suzzallo Library's graduate reading room

Suzzallo window

Even when the weather app lies, it’s hard to complain: With possibly one of the best turnouts of the year, USk Seattle filled two large tables with their sketchbooks at the throwdown. And with four A5-ish size sketches, it was one of my most productive USk outings.

Inktense Blocks discovery: 

I ended yesterday’s post about Derwent Inktense Blocks saying that the need for a large sketchbook with the chunky sticks would limit my use to sketching from my car or where I’d have a table. Knowing that I’d have a table at the library, I grabbed a few Blocks and an A5-size Hahnemühle sketchbook. I was going to wait until I was in the library to use them, but when I was about to start my first sketch of Gerberding Hall, the yellow tree cried out for Blocks! And I could use them while standing just fine: The A5 page size was large enough to accommodate the broad marks, and the Blocks were just as easy to use as colored pencils. Double win!

That’s not the discovery, however; that happened next. By the time I started the second sketch on the facing page, the first one was completely dry. As I have skeptically mentioned more than once, Derwent likes to call its Inktense line of products “permanent,” but my own tests have shown that additional water can move the color, especially if a brush is used a bit aggressively. Here’s what happened: As it started raining harder, the second sketch was being activated more by rain than by my waterbrush, yet the first sketch on the facing page remained almost as it had when I finished it! Although as much rain had fallen on it as on the new sketch, the dried color was “permanent” enough to stay put. That would definitely not be the case if I had used typical watercolor pencils.

Skeptical before, now I’m impressed: As long as a sketch gets a chance to fully dry before it gets wet again, I don’t have to worry about protecting it while I sketch on the facing page in the rain (where non-soluble colored pencils would have been a better option).

One more reason to get excited about Inktense Blocks: Their broad strokes cover a lot of paper quickly. Each of my A5 sketches above took only about 20 minutes each, which is how I was able to be so productive during the outing. Hmmm… Inktense Blocks are becoming more and more interesting by the day…

This lovely handmade pouch that I recently received as a gift is the perfect carrying case for a few Inktense Blocks.

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