I’m used to working with the subject in front of me. I rely upon it to provide me with proportions and relationships. When I leave that world and rely only upon my imagination, I feel lost, needing something to grab onto that is simply not there.
This morning I sat down with a piece of hot-press watercolor paper. I’m trying to figure out how to use it so I thought I’d doodle a bit. This sketch started with an eye. Then I added some hairs around it. This led to the addition of a nose and I was off in never-never-land, trying to figure out how to draw a mouse.
I don’t know how to draw a mouse. I’m sure I got the proportions wrong but my serendipitous road took me to needing a mouse all scrunched up while trying to hold onto something. Where are a mouse’s feet anyways? I don’t really know. I was just doodling. Anyways, here it is. Mice, even poorly proportioned mice are cute.
My buddy Yvan has told me that I needed to spend more time drawing from imagination. According to him, if you do this you will never look at the world the same because you’ll always be building a vocabulary so you can draw from imagination. I think he’s right. I need to go look at some mice.
As a street sketcher, I’m used to coming to these blog posts with stories about where I went, what I saw, and why I drew what I drew. What do studio artists talk about anyways?
Here’s a little sketch from my imagination. I spent a few minutes trying out some Fabriano Artistico hot-press paper. Watercolor acts very differently than on cold-press paper and It’ll take a while to figure out how to use it.
My wife has been way too nice to me as I’ve hobbled through life for the past few weeks. I feel guilty about the burden I’ve placed upon her, but I’m grateful that she’s been there for me. She’s very special.
A couple days ago she came home with a wad of nature in her hand. She put it on the table and said, “I thought you might like to draw this.” She is a sly one. She knows I’ve been fighting motivation and energy levels but she also knows that when she gives me something I feel a compulsion to draw it. She also knew that it would only remain draw-worthy for a couple days.
And so, I drew it. I decided to skip pen hatching, one of my favorite things, and rely upon watercolor for shading and once again I demonstrated how little understanding of watercolor. I should stick with pen (grin).
Several weeks ago I got to meet a new sketcher. She and her husband had moved to Quebec City and she wanted to hook up with local sketchers. We met for a sketching session and had a great time.
Then I started having mobility problems and time after time, we couldn’t manage to get together for another session. I was both frustrated and embarrassed by this and so when she asked if we could go sketching last week I said yes and we agreed to meet near the large fountain in front of the Quebec Parliament. Yvan came along as well.
I limped my way to the site and sat on a bench. It was really great to be out in the fresh air and to get to talk with friends but I was hurting so much that sketching didn’t seem important. Still, there I was and so I started by drawing three young children who are part of the fountain.
I spent more time just sitting than I did drawing but I just kept adding small sketches of things I could see from my position. No rhyme or reason to it; I was just sketching, or trying. It wasn’t urban sketching at its best but it was urban sketching I suppose (grin). For what it’s worth, the guy in front of the lamp post wasn’t actually leaning against it; he was part of the fountain too. The lamp post was actually across the street from the fountain. While he is shirtless, we were wearing jackets.
Have you ever lost pens, paints, brushes, etc. while out urban sketching. I have. Several years ago I lost my entire paint kit somewhere between sketching site and home and that loss was traumatic. The palette was inexpensive, the case was a favorite, and that kit contained several Escoda sable travel brushes. I nearly cried. But all of it was replaceable and my sketching regime hardly skipped a beat.
I’m dealing with another loss, however, and I while I hope it’s temporary, it’s much harder to overcome. I’ve lost my ability to walk more than across the room. It started with my ankle and then my knee. Right now the leg between the two is the size of a telephone pole and I’m spending a lot of time with doctors.
If I were a “true” urban sketcher I suppose I’d be sharing lots of sketches of medical machinery but I’m not that kind of urban sketcher, I suppose. Besides, the pain and stress have been distracting. I won’t bore you with details but I’ve been diagnosed and I’ve just started some physiotherapy yesterday that sounds encouraging. The ramifications for this blog is that because I can’t wander the streets of Quebec City, I can’t draw the streets of Quebec City so the nature of my sketches will probably change, at least in the short term. Irony of ironies, I’ve waited all summer for decent weather and we’re finally getting a string of beautiful days. Such is my luck sometimes.
The upside is that this is a good opportunity to do some experimentation and maybe I can even convince myself that I can draw from a photograph and enjoy it. For now, I leave you with a sketch I did after hobbling along a beach on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River last week.
Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black