Sketching For No Reason

We’re all keen to tell newcomers that it’s “all about the process, not the product.”  And, we’re just as invested in being concerned that most newcomers find it difficult not to be concerned about the product.  But you know what?  The existence of the internet and all of the social infrastructure built around it by art groups, flies in the face of all that process, not product stuff.

Listen to nature journalists.  For them its all about “documenting” what they see, building a “record” of the places they go and coupled with it the “share it in our Facebook group” request.  I don’t know how many Facebook groups exist for the sole purpose of people displaying their work but it’s a lot.  And don’t even suggest those groups are social groups.  Facebook groups stopped being about talking a long time ago.  If you’re a member of these groups you will have experienced some bit of guilt if you haven’t posted sketches in them.  Ya gotta participate, right?  Heck, the Urban Sketchers require posting of your sketches if you’re going to call yourself an urban sketcher; it’s in the manifesto.  Any 30 day challenge or online workshop comes with a hashtag you’re supposed to use when you post your results.

Generally I think we see sharing sketches to be a good thing but it does change what we do and how we do it.  And I realized this morning that it has actually affected whether I feel productive (or not) as a sketcher.  I’ve mentioned a couple times recently that I haven’t been doing much sketching and this seems a direct response to not posting as much stuff.  I didn’t really realize this to be true.

But this morning was garbage day and so I emptied my studio garbage can and took it out to the recycling (it’s all sheets of paper).  For some unknown reason I thought about the bag in my hand and how it represented somewhere between 50 and 100 sheets of paper, each filled with scribbles and doodles, often on both sides of the paper.  It made me realize that I’m doing a LOT of sketching, though it’s done “for no reason” since it doesn’t appear on the internet.

Does that make any sense to anyone?  I don’t think so.  But I know I’m not alone in how the internet has changed how we make decisions and how we do our art.  It might be time to give a bit of thought to this, an introspection of sorts.  I know I’m going to ponder sketching for no reason and its virtues.

When I came in from the garbage trip I noticed these three sheets laying around on my desk.  Though they aren’t the most complete doodles, I thought they could illustrate what it means when I sketch for no reason.

Mother Nature’s Playing Jokes On Us

As in many places, high temps and humidities have been the norm.  Until yesterday.  I bopped out the door, heading for my walk and stopped.  It was COLD!!!  I had to change into long pants and put on a windbreaker to walk.  Mr Weather, a close friend of Mr. Google, told me that it was 58F.  During that day it barely cracked the 60s.  Today it’s very windy and rainy so I’m indoors.


Stillman & BIrn Alpha, Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black, Daniel Smith watercolors

I’ve decided to post a sketch I did last week.  I wasn’t going to share it because there are many things wrong with it, some due to my shortcomings and others due to the fact that it was so hot I had a hard time getting into it.

The sketch suffers a bit but the real problem is with the watercolor, which is too flat, with not enough contrast.  By the time the brush came out my shady perch had become open sun and I was burning up, so this was more slop and dash watercolor and it shows.

Good Year For Flowers In Quebec City

I don’t know if high humidity and almost daily rain is a new normal for Quebec City but this summer has been a frustration because of it.  That said, the plant world is having a great time.  Everything is more lush, a lot greener, and flowers are everywhere.

I’m trying to fit my powerwalks (old man power walks mean distance, not speed) into our renovation work and I found myself in Parc de l’Amerique Latin, which is a park that features a bunch of statues of famous people from Latin America.

It was hot and I needed a break so I sat down to practice drawing flower blossoms.  I love drawing plants where I try to draw an individual plant or flower, leaf by leaf or petal by petal.  This is great practice in size/orientation relationships of organic subjects.  Here’s what I came up with on that day.

Fabriano Bristol+ Paper

This spring/summer has been a real spoiler for my daily sketching habit.  Yes, I still “take a few minutes” and do daily doodles but since I’m retired, my “daily sketching habit” used to involve me spending a couple hours a day either sketching or going to/from sketching locations.  Not this year.

Instead, heat waves, almost daily rain and trying to renovate and organize our place have kept me from daily forays out sketching.  We’re also making up for several years where I couldn’t walk much and/or suffered too much “ennui” to do anything but watch reruns of old TV shows.  I don’t know where the blame lies here but I do know that I don’t have as much time to be sketching on location right now.  We do have a fully renovated front porch and are working on the back deck right now.  I have stairs to replace and a WHOLE lot of stuff that’s just piled up.

One such pile is an entire closet of art supplies and other junk.  This is not heavy work and some of it is fun but it’s eating a lot of time right now.  In that closet I found a pad of Fabriano Bristol+ paper.   This stuff is 145lb (250gsm) bristol board that is VERY smooth.  I love bristol but normally I use Strathmore series 300 bristol in its “vellum” form because it’s cheap and provides a smooth surface but with some tooth.  Ideal for pencil drawings if you want something cheaper than Stonehenge’s drawing papers.

I don’t know when I bought this but it doesn’t appear that I’ve ever used it.  Maybe I decided it was too smooth.  Art happens when an idea, time and materials come together.  I’ve been following some of France, aka @wagonized, Belleville-Van Stone‘s crosshatching workshops and thinking about papers for use with ballpoint pens.  So, an idea came to me.  I could continue sorting through old computer equipment, wiring, bottles, and art stuff, or I could give Fabriano Bristol+ a try.  The answer was obvious.

Like France, I used one of the 1.6mm Bic pens.  I used an orange one and quickly drew a pear.  It worked out ok but the Bristol+ is too slick and the ballpoint wasn’t as responsive as it should be.  Just not enough tooth in the paper to keep the ball rolling and this also limited the number of layers I could use to create tones.  I sort of made up for this a bit by being more heavy-handed but this detracts from the cross-hatching.  Anyways, this is the result and I got to do some sketching.  Now, back to work.

Sakura Somewhat Light Cool Gray Pens

I guess this isn’t a real review, but in some ways it is.  When I heard that Sakura was releasing its famous Micron pens in “Light Cool Gray” and “Cool Gray” versions I thought that was a neat idea.  Though I don’t use Microns very much I thought this might be a great way for sketchers to draw background lines in typical black sketches. No better way to get background mountains to recede than to draw them in a lighter color.

So, when I found sets of both versions in my local art craft store. I bought a set of the Light Cool Gray.  I could draw a bunch of lines, showing you that the colors were light cool gray and that they have the same permanent inks as their other pens but that stuff is a given with Sakura pens.  So, I’ll just get to the part that surprised me and (spoiler alert) made me very unhappy.

You see, in a set of 3, light cool gray pens, comes an 01, 05, and 10 pen.  That makes sense and provides a decent range of tip sizes.  What’s upsetting is that while the 01 and 10 pens are light cool gray the 05 pen is a much darker (I assume this is cool gray) ink.  This is more than my interpretation of the lines produced.  As you can see, the color markings on the end of the pen reflect this change of tone.  Note also that this fact is covered by the packaging so you only find this out after buying a set.  That’s just goofy to me.

I’ll have to wonder forever whether the “Cool Gray” set has a light cool gray version of the 05 pen as I’ll not be buying them.  I contacted Sakura, asking them about this but they have chosen not to reply to my query.  I’m glad I use fountain pens.