Searching For A Quicker Sketching Style

I’ve only been learning to draw for three years.  I have a long way to go but my goal has always been to achieve the ability to sketch in styles similar to those of Pete Scully, Gerard Michel, and others who sketch buildings in a realistic fashion.  My own semi-cartoony attempts lack their skill with line and color but I’m happy with my results because I sketch more for the enjoyment I get from the process than the actual product.

The one downside of my sketching is that I’m slow…really slow, and that limits the situations where I can apply that meditative, let the brain head off into never-never-land approach.  I spend a lot of time quick-sketching (2-minutes or less) everything and anything to help me learn to see proportions and angles more quickly but the results are far too rushed to satisfy me.

I need an intermediate method – a method that allows me to capture a building or scene in less than 20 minutes, sometimes much less.  And so I’ve been playing around with a quicker, looser style.  I study how people like Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel create their magnificent sketches and while my skills are not solid enough to completely mimic their approaches, they are providing me both inspiration and some mental targets for achieving a more loose style.  I’m convinced that I’m only a few thousand sketches away from solving this problem.

Until then, here is a sketch I did while out walking.  It was too cold and windy to sit still for very long and so I quickly sketched this monument that sits in the park near my river.   I did it in a cheap, 5×7 sketchbook of unknown origin.  It’s one that normally sits on my desk and I use it to scribble ideas.  I used my Sailor Profit calligraphy pen and De Atramentis Document Black ink.


Making Room For Carriage Wheels

Our weather is marginal for sketching outdoors but the long winter has me pressing the limits of my cold tolerance.  I’m also motivated by the knowledge that at this time of year, there are areas in the old city that are more conducive to sketching (ie – you can see what you want to sketch) than they are later in the year when the tourists are here.

So, I put on a couple layers and headed downtown, to an area near the port area called Place Royale.  The most important feature there is a gorgeous church but I was after smaller game.

I was going to draw the corner of a wall – a special corner of a wall.  Streets in Quebec City during the 18th Century were narrow.  Carriage wheels, on the other hand, were very large and protruded out from the carriage, making it difficult to negotiate a carriage around the corners.

The solution was to inset the corners of the buildings for the first eight feet of so, creating an odd-shaped corner with no explanation if you wander the streets in the 21st Century.  But now, when you come to Quebec, you’ll know why some of the corners look like this:


Stillman & BIrn Beta (6×8), Sailor Profit calligraphy pen, DeAtramentis Document Black, Daniel Smith watercolors


Sketching at Le Renard Et La Chouette

There’s a small, fun coffee/wine restaurant, Le Renard et La Chouette (the fox and the owl), on rue St. Vallier in Quebec City and I was there sketching on Thursday.  I was immediately attracted to a set of water bottles and glasses sitting on a very thick countertop and decided to draw it.  I was using my cheap tan paper sketchbook, which is not very happy to receive watercolors so I refrained from adding much color to these sketches.

tan paper sketchbook, Sailor calligraphy pen, De Atramentis Document Black

tan paper sketchbook, Sailor calligraphy pen, De Atramentis Document Black

I drank my now cold coffee and looked around for my next target.  I found it in a girl that was sort of twisted around so she could look at what her friend was showing her on her laptop.

Sailor calligraphy pen, De Atramentis Document Black.

Sailor calligraphy pen, De Atramentis Document Black.

I was nearly ready to leave but decided to do this really quick sketch of this watering can that was used to hold utensils.  Only spent five minutes on this one, and it shows (grin).


It was a fun sketching session but I really need to figure out how to drink my coffee while it’s warm.

The Surrey With The Fringe On Top

In my last blog post I talked about how dark it is in the museum exhibit room where the new carriage exhibit is displayed.  I bit the bullet and decided to try to draw one of them.  I took a sketchbook light with me and I needed it.  In fact, if I’d had three of them, I would have used them all.  It was so dark where I was sitting that I couldn’t see what pens I was pulling from my bag without shining the light onto the bag.

Here’s the sketch I generated before I just gave up.  I was sitting no more than 8-10 feet behind the rear wheel and yet I could not see the front of the carriage and had to walk up beside it to figure out what needed to be drawn.  You know how they tell you to spend 80% of your time looking at the subject and 20% at your paper so you can get the proportions correct?  Well, I’m sure I did that but I don’t think the advice assumes you have to walk around the room to see the subject.  What I’m certain of is that this sketch is wonky from all the movement.  In the light or in the dark, those big, thin, spoked wheels made me go cross-eyed.

And so, as I write this, I rely on the axiom, “Any day that includes sketching is better than a day without it.”  But I think our museum is taking photon austerity just a bit too far.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Sailor calligraphy pen , De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Sailor calligraphy pen , De Atramentis Document Black

Sketching At The Cafe Au Temps Perdu

Claudette and I decided to meet at the Café au temps perdu to draw people.  Literally translated, the name of this place means Lost Time Cafe, which probably is a subliminal message from those who say that doing anything that doesn’t make money is a waste of time.  But on this day, maybe it was a warning.

We arrived just after 9:30 to find the place closed.  What kind of coffee place doesn’t open until 10AM?  We got lucky and the woman running the place let us in early.  We got coffee and set up with a good view of the place, anticipating the throngs of people who inhabit coffee shops every morning.

But they never came.  Not one.  Nobody.  Besides us, the only person in the place was the woman who let us in and she was running around, placing silverware, placemats and menus on the tables and restocking the bar.

Yes, I did say bar.  As it turns out, Café au temps perdu is a bar/restaurant more than it is a coffee house.  A few people did straggle in about 11:30, as we were getting ready to leave.  They were ready for lunch.

So, what do you do when your subject doesn’t show up?  You switch subjects, of course.  After drinking our coffee and kibbitzing about coffee shops that aren’t, I drew this and we had fun anyway.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10x7), Sailor fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook, Sailor fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black