Small Figures Make Great Sketching Subjects

Lots of us are dealing with COVID isolation by sketching our backyards and stuff in our kitchens.  We’re no longer locked down and it’s pretty safe to move around because people are reasonable and we’re all wearing masks.  Still, I’m reluctant to spend much time sketching on the streets.

I took advantage of the fact that I have a collection of Schleich animal figures.  If you’re unfamiliar with them, they are very detailed and well-painted figures and each if beautifully proportioned, unlike so many of the animal figures made for kids.  I’ve bought many of mine from art stores but the satisfying ones I got for pennies at local flea markets.  Here’s a batch that Chantal gave me for Christmas.

I was about to watch a baseball game and so I grabbed my panda bear and drew him while the Blue Jays played baseball.  A great combination.  This is in my Hahnemuehle Capuccino notebook and rather than using watercolor I grabbed a black and white colored pencil to add some “color.”  Pandas are very accommodating when it comes to color.

Sometimes It’s More Than Sketching

The change of seasons, for me, means transition from street sketcher to museum sketcher.  It’s a sad time, but also an exciting time. There’s so much shape variation in museum exhibitions.

Our Musee de la civilisation has a new exhibit just opened that presents Australian/New Zealand aboriginal art and as I play didjeridu and love aboriginal art, I’m quite excited about it.  Most of the exhibit is paintings, rugs, and such but there are some statues and masks that I’ll be taking advantage of this winter.

I was there a few days ago, drawing a large wall-hanging mask.  So were a bunch of kids on school outings.  The kids were great as they’d come to see what I was doing and when I talked to them I got half a dozen more coming to see what was going on.  This begat more and more kids to the point where I was mostly just talking to them about the watercolor pencils, waterbrushes, and how much fun it is to draw.  Kids “get it.”  They haven’t learned the feelings and emotions about art that adults somehow acquire.

Eventually they wandered away, though, and I got back to drawing.  I was really enjoying the music and serenity of the room.  A mother and her two young daughters (I’d guess they were 4 and 6) came by and, again, the kids were interested and, as is often the case with parents, the mother told them to leave me alone.  I told her it was fine and I showed them what I was doing.

The older girl had some sort of writing/sketching book with her and started to draw with me.  The younger one, of course, wanted to draw too, which sent mom scrambling for paper and pencil.  She found some paper but had only a Seattle Seahawks pencil with her and it needed sharpening.  I sharpened it and we chatted as I did.  They were on vacation from where some of my favorite urban sketchers live – Seattle.

The kids drew a bit and I finished my sketch.  The older girl came over to show me her drawing and I asked her if she wanted to use my watercolor pencils to color her drawing.  Her look was priceless and I loaned her one pencil at a time.  The same thing happened with the younger girl.  We had a regular sketchcrawl going on.

I wish I had been smart enough to take some photos.  Sadly, all I can share is the sketch I did, but it was the most insignificant thing that happened on this day.

aboriginal mask

Stillman & BIrn Beta (9×12), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black, Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils

Sketching With The Three Musketeers

2014-04-06Celine's House Snow has started to melt but it’s still piled high, so Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (the Three Musketeers) decided to meet and draw indoors at Celine’s house.  She has a studio full of plaster casts that provide fodder for sketching fanatics.  They invited me, d’Artagnan, along as the token anglophone of the group.

We had a great time sketching, looking at art books and talking about our upcoming road trip to Ottawa’s National Gallery.  More on that later.

2014-04-07HeadI sketched a couple smaller, painted plaster figurines in a Stillman & Birn sketchbook using a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray ink.  Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils were used to add a hint of color.  I love these pencils more everytime I use them as you can completely eliminate the lines made by the pencil.

It’s not location sketching but it’s sure good practice and goodness knows I need that.


Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

I have to confess up front that I’m not a pencil guy.  I might even want to be but I enjoy pushing pens across paper so much that it’s hard for me to use anything else.  And so I carry a single 0.5mm mechanical pencil with 2H or 3H lead that I use to quickly block in a subject before I start drawing it.  As I said…I’m not a pencil guy.

PerfectPencil_blisterSo it’s odd for me to be talking about a pencil but Faber-Castell’s Perfect Pencil snapped my head around when I heard about it and double-snapped it when I found one in an Ottawa art supply store last weekend.  It’s just plain cool, even if it is a pencil.

I also have to confess that I love wooden pencils.  They just feel good in my hand.  I also like that you can use the side of them, use them dull, or sharpen them up for fine details.

I don’t use them, though, for a couple reasons, mostly stemming from the fact that I do my drawing on the run as a street sketcher.  This, for me, makes (or made) wooden pencils impractical.  Here’s why:

1) You have to sharpen them and the tiny portable pencil sharpeners produce a short, stubby tip.  Yes, I can use my pen knife, which is very Bohemian, but also rather impractical when sitting in a music recital or riding a bus.

2) The tips break unless protected.  Yes, I can keep them in a case but then they’re not available.  A lot of my sketching is ‘grab the book and draw’ sorts of sketching.

3) The length becomes a problem as the pencil is used.  And yes, I could buy an extender.  Something else to carry.

What makes the Perfect Pencil so perfect is that it solves all THREE of these problems.  The Perfect Pencil comes with a sharpener, and not just any sharpener.  It’s a sharpener that produces a nice, long and sharp tip.  The Perfect Pencil has a cover for the pencil tip, a cover that has a clip just like my fountain pens so it’s easy to carry.  And when the pencil becomes short, you can stick its rear end into the cap, which acts as an extender.  Best of all, you get all this for the price of one of those high-priced coffees where you get to feel empowered while making all those mind-bending choices.

PerfectPencil_explodedI can’t say much about the pencil that comes with the Perfect Pencil.  It seems like a Faber-Castell HB pencil but it’s round rather than hexagonal.  That said, you can replace it with any standard-size pencil.  I’ve tried other Faber-Castell pencils (including watercolor pencils), Staedtler pencils, and Blackwing 602s.  The 602s defeat the extender function because of their square eraser but otherwise they work fine.  I might become a pencil guy yet.  In any case, I’ll be carrying my Perfect Pencil when you see me on the street.

Sketchcrawl Sketches And Then Some

We held our fall sketchcrawl last Saturday and I reported on it on Monday.  The post was getting so packed with graphics that I decided not to post the sketches I did during the sketchcrawl.

I did do a couple, however.  Being a fan of mundane urban accessories, I decided to draw one of a dying breed of accessory, the phone booth.  It was convenient as it was situated at the meeting place for the sketchcrawl so I could sketch and still meet people as they arrived.  I learned this trick from my buddy Yvan.  I did it in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9) using a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.  I found that I’d forgotten my watercolors so I did the color with Faber-Castell “Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils.  I like these as a substitute for watercolors because I can completely eliminate the lines made by the pencil.

2013-10-19-FarmersMarket-PhoneBooth_72In front of the Farmer’s Market was a large pile of pumpkins, stacked on hay bales.  I drew a portion of those in my Singapore special toned-brown sketchbook that was sent to me by Patrick Ng.  I’m still learning how to work with this paper but I’m really enjoying it.  I used the Pilot Prera and watercolor pencils on this one as well.

2013-10-19-FarmersMarket-Pumpkins_72I thought I’d throw in a couple other sketches I’ve done recently.  The garage sits at the end of a little park I sit in while waiting for a study group I run to convene.  I don’t think I ever posted it.  It was done in a 3×5 Moleskine watercolor book.

2013-10-09GarageWhen I was doing that sketch, they were tearing up the street in front of the park.  By the next week they were ready to re-pave it and they’d just finished laying new curbing along its length.  To do that, it seems, they had to remove the fire hydrant, which was hanging from a mechanized shovel.  I’m a fire hydrant afficionado and this was akin to a bird-watcher seeing a rare bird.  I had to sketch this and so I did, in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9) with my Pilot Prera.  This was the tenth fire hydrant sketch I’ve done and certainly the most unique.

2013-10-02HangingHydrant_72Hope you enjoy these.  I sure had fun creating them. — Larry