We’re Having A Heat Wave

They say it’s not going to last but right now it’s warm, or rather what those of us who have been freezing for the last five months call warm.  Heck, it was 14C (57F) when I went out sketching on Monday.  Most important, though, there was no wind, which makes all the difference in the world.

It seems I”m out of fighting form, however.  I walked a lot and ended up with blisters on both feet.  Too much couch potato time this winter, I guess.  Anyways, I found myself downtown and when I saw this little convenience market (we call them depanneurs here) I had to sit down and sketch it.  What a thrill.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder even if you’re talking about street sketching.

At one point the guy who owned the store came across the street to see what I was up to and I was somewhat embarrassed as I wasn’t far enough along to give him much indication of the final result.  He didn’t seem to mind though, and the encounter underscored that I was back – sketching on the street.  Yippee!!!!

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10x7), Pilot Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10×7), Pilot Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black


Speed Drawing With Colored Pencil

Last Sunday I headed out to our museum.  We were in the midst of a blizzard and the snow was going sideways.  On a couple occasions wind gusts caused me to go sideways as well.  But I was walking through this mess because I’d told some friends I would meet them.  Later I found out that the only reason they didn’t cancel was because they’d promised me.  We humans are funny that way.

Previously I’ve expressed my boredom with drawing the heads of Olympus but there I was again, faced with numerous white, and now very familiar heads.  I decided to try something new.  I’d bought a Pentel 8-color mechanical pencil and decided to give it a try, using it while seeing how quickly I could grab a likeness of the heads.


It was a good plan with a couple flaws.  First, I have little ability to do this but on a more pragmatic level, my sketchbook has too much tooth for soft pencil and the points wear down very quickly and second, I couldn’t find my sharpener.  So a new experiment arose.  Could I draw with a dull pointy device.  The results are these 3″ heads drawn on Stillman & Birn Alpha paper.


Better drawings of marble heads have been drawn but I found this exercise fun and very helpful.  It was fun to work quickly and doing so with these subjects forced me to identify the big features, ignore the details, and to emphasize the dark/light relationships.  The dull point furthered that goal as it was impossible to get lost in detail when the drawing was 2″ square and the lead was rounded over 2mm colored pencil.  I will be repeating this experiment but hopefully on something other than Olympic gods.

Back To The Winter Sketching Sanctuary

I was back at the museum, trying to stay warm and looking for something to sketch.  I decided that I should try to sketch a plaster statue of a headless goddess, or more precisely, her heavily pleated dress.

For me, pencil sketching requires a smooth paper, like a Bristol paper, or maybe Stillman & Birn Epsilon series paper.  But what I had with me was my ‘standard’ Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook (10×7).  I almost decided to switch to pen but I started blocking in the drawing with pencil and just kept going.  This sketch was done with a 0.7mm mechanical pencil.  I think it was HB.  Regardless, it was fun and relaxing.


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Pen Review: Zebra 301A

This is the time of year where bloggers feel obligated to talk about New Year’s resolutions, emulate David Letterman’s Top 10 lists, and maybe reflect on 2014 in some other way.  I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because Jan 1 is just a day between Dec 31 and Jan 2 for me, but I’ll probably do a bit of reflecting in the next couple days just so I can be one of the cool kids.  But to quote Aragorn (Lord of the Rings), “It is not this day.”

Today I want to confess to being a complete sloth for the past few days.  Not only did I not do much, I believe I even started to move slowly.  In reflection the only things I recall doing was watching TV and eating…and eating…and eating.  But I did my annual obligatory penance and watched Miracle on 34th St, Elf and the Polar Express, though I confess to falling asleep during the Polar Express.  The upside is that I won’t have to endure them for another 360 days or so.

Zebra 301A ballpoint pen

Zebra 301A ballpoint pen

And, sadly, I didn’t do much on the sketching front.  This is not to say that I didn’t have a pen in my hand; I did.  It was a Zebra 301A, a pen I’ve been trying out as a potential quick-sketching tool that I can shove in a coat pocket.  In my opinion, this pen is special for a few reasons.  They are:

1) It’s cheap!!!  I bought them in a 2-pack for $2.50 at the local dollar store.  You can buy a fancy version of it (Zebra 701) which is shiny silver and a bit heavier (about $8)  but the 301 comes in silver, gray or blue anodized aluminum and I really prefer the feel of it in my hand.

2) It lays down a very fine line, finer than most fine ballpoint pens.

3) The ‘black’ is a dark grey, similar to Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

4) It’s a click pen so you can hide the tip and there’s no cap to lose.

5) Replacement cartridges are available from Jet Pens for a whopping $1 each.  Good for environment and wallet alike.

6) As it’s a ballpoint, the ink is oil-based and thus waterproof.  You can wash over it to your heart’s content.

7)  I suppose it’s due to the fine nature of the cartridge but this pen NEVER blobs, a problem that exists with most ballpoints.

8)  Did I mention that it’s cheap?  No worries over losing this one and you can ‘station’ them around your house, in purses, backpacks, or pockets so that there’s always one available.

My daughter, hiding herself under a blanket while watching movies.

My daughter, hiding herself under a blanket while watching movies.

Anyways, I’ve been playing with one over the past week, mostly just doodling while we watched movies and consumed the equivalent of a month’s food in a few days.  As I said, I didn’t do much sketching.  Here are a few smallish, quick sketches I did with this pen.  Twas not the fault of the pen that the sketches were, well, so sketchy 🙂


Just feeding my penchant for drawing buildings


Ya gotta draw a tree during Christmas, right?

Ya gotta draw a tree during Christmas, right?

This is the house across the street as seen from my window

This is the house across the street as seen from my window

I was out walking and tried to draw skaters on the rink in Place d’Youville in the old city.  Too cold for me.  I’m a sissy.  Not even the furious nature of quick-sketching could keep me warm.

2014-12-29Zebra301_skater1 2014-12-29Zebra301_skater2 2014-12-29Zebra301_skater3

That’s enough to give you an idea of how the Zebra pen looks in the hands of a sloth and maybe give you an indication of what I do when I’m not sketching.   These doodles were done in a small, 3×5 sketchbook.

**** Happy New Year everyone. ****