Winter Plods Along… Forever

Didn’t the weather-makers get the memo?  It was declared spring on March 20th, ten days ago.  Yesterday I was running my snowblower around in response to a snow storm.  Predictions are for another six inches tomorrow.  When is this going to end?

2014-03-28rocksI’m getting mighty frustrated that I can be out sketching.  So much so that I sat in my office yesterday and drew rocks, probably channelling a mix of the many rock photos and paintings I’ve seen (9×6).  Very different for me but it calmed my frustrations a little bit.  A very little bit.  Please make it stop!!!

Shading Quick-Sketches Quickly

Many sketchers enjoy doing quick-sketches as they can be done while waiting in line, sitting in a doctor’s reception room, or in any food court.  You can do them while driving down the highway, though it’s best to have someone else driving.  I fill several sketchbooks a year with these kinds of sketches, each taking 1-3 minutes.

But one thing these simple line drawings lack is any sense of tonal variation – unless you add it.  As a couple people have asked about how I do it I thought I’d talk about my process, though I’m a rank amateur at quick-sketching.  The same technique can be used to color more complete drawings as well.

The most common form of shading quick sketches is to use an ink that isn’t waterproof.  Most fountain pen inks are not so you have a wide range of colors, brands, and pens to choose from.  I believe Goulet Pens say they stock 600 inks, and most of them are water-soluble.


Done in Strathmore “toned gray” sketchbook, using J.Herbin 1670 ink. Click to enlarge.

If you carry a waterbrush (with clear water), shading with water-soluble ink  is easy.  You simply run the pen along one side of the line, pulling color from the line and into a shape to indicate shading.

While this is, by far, the easiest approach there are a couple of potential drawbacks.  First, drawing ink away from the lines diminishs the lines and possibly makes them fuzzy.  This can be good or bad, of course.  The other limitation is that your shading is the same color as the lines.  Again, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

 Shading brushes

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Noodler's Lex Gray and brown & black waterbrushes

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Noodler’s Lex Gray and brown & black waterbrushes. Click to enlarge.

For nearly a year, now, in addition to a clear-water waterbrush I’ve carried a waterbrush where I’ve added a few drops of Noodler’s Lexington Gray and another with a few drops of Noodler’s Polar Brown.  This gives me the flexibility to use both a brown and a gray to shade my drawings and I can do it in seconds.  I keep the shade from the waterbrush very light so that I can apply multiple coats and obtain a range of colors.  I think the very dilute solution helps keep the brushes flowing properly.  I use a waterproof ink (Noodler’s Lexington Gray) for the linework so that it’s unaffected by the shading.

Stillman & Birn Alpha 4x6. Pilot Prera & gray waterbrush. Click to enlarge

Stillman & Birn Alpha 4×6. Pilot Prera & gray waterbrush. Click to enlarge

If you enjoy quick-sketching, give this approach a try.  Easy to carry, easy to apply when there’s no time for a full watercolor treatment.

Some quickies at the coffee shop.  Click to enlarge.

Some quickies at the coffee shop. Click to enlarge.

Using both color sometimes enhances the scene.  Click to enlarge.

Using both color sometimes enhances the scene. Click to enlarge.


Music For Nothing And Your Sketching For Free

Apologies to Dire Straits for the title of this post.  When MTV came along, Dire Straits did an animated video to their award-winning song Money For Nothing (and your chicks for free).  The song was great and the video hilarious.  Almost got me to watch MTV.  Now that I’m in Canada, however, I’m not allowed to see it because the song has a couple words in it that caused it to be banned by a hyper-conservative Canadian media police.

Pilot Prera, Platinum Sepia

Pilot Prera, Platinum Sepia

The title of this post pretty well describes my week.  I’ve heard some pretty spectacular music and I did some sketching at each of the events.  I’ve already reported on the special musical sketching event  last weekend and on Thursday I was at the art museum for a recital that included a bassoon/piano piece and several pieces for bass and piano.

On Saturday I attended what may have been the cello equivalent of a sketchcrawl, as a bunch of very skilled cellists met at the conservatory to play together, pass on trade secrets and enjoy one another’s company.   2014-03-01Cello2Remember the show Fame, where the dancers and musicians would dance/play in the lunch room?  That’s how it was at the cello-fest.  Imagine eating lunch to cello music.  One person or group would finish and another would take their seats.  It was amazing!  Much better than my sketches, by the way.

And then on Sunday I was at Le Grand Theatre to listen to Litania Projekt, a fantastic Montreal jazz quartet (bass, piano, drums and trumpet).

Prismacolor 005, purple, Strathmore 'toned gray' sketchbook

Prismacolor 005, purple, Strathmore ‘toned gray’ sketchbook

2014-03-02Jazz1And the best part is that all of these concerts were FREE!!!  I love Quebec.  Lots of sketching was committed while listening.  I’ll only bore you with a few of them.


Sketching The Past – Episode 3

I have a soft spot in my heart for trolleys.  Most often they were red, with bells that clanged to warn people of their arrival.  What’s not to like.  Unfortunately, by the time I was deposited on this Earth, they were disappearing from the landscape and I never got to see any of them in their native environment.  Maybe I should have gotten to San Francisco.

There used to be a lot of trolleys in Quebec City but the only evidence of them these days are long, low viaduct streets that allowed them climb the steep hill upon which sits “vieux Quebec”, the tourist money-maker and my favorite place.

So, this episode of Sketch the Past is a Quebec City trolley as it ran down rue St. Joseph back in 1947.  Hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), TWSBI MIni, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), TWSBI MIni, Platinum Carbon Black


Thick Lines and Quick Hands

One of the days that I was waiting for my hard drive to arrive it rained.  I’m not one for sketching from photos but desperation will drive me to such extremes.  My pointy device of choice is a very fine pen and I thought it might be an opportunity to play with pens that produce a heavier line and to use them in a more loose fashion than is my norm.

And so I did some quick sketches in a 3×5 sketchbook. Here are four of them.


Done with a Hero 578 ‘bent nib’ pen


Done with Sharpie ‘fine’ pen (not marker)


TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black


Done with Hero 578 “bent nib” pen in about five minutes.

The next day I went out sketching and continued the experiment.  I stopped to pick up a coffee and drew the car across the street.


Done with Hero 578 “bent nib” pen

I was walking along the St. Charles River and decided to stop and sketch these rudbeckia.  I’m not much of a flower sketcher but this was fun.

There is a large water regulation reservoir along the banks of the river and I decided to draw it as quickly as I could.  I spent less than 15 minutes on it, which is something of a world record for me when it comes to doing buildings.  I found the format too small for a building with all those fiddly bits.

Done with TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black

Done with TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black