Frustrated January Sketcher And Other Stuff

I apologize for not posting much since Christmas.  I’m full of excuses if that will help.  You see, while most folks get to return to normal after January 1st, my holiday season is in full swing.  My daughter was home for the holidays.  Both Chantal and Jodie have birthdays in the first half of January and we just returned from Ottawa.  Oh…and it’s VERY cold, so for a street sketcher it’s a tough time of year.

I looked at my total sketching experiences from my Ottawa trip and two things happened.  First, I sighed and did a mental ‘woe is me.’  Then it occurred to me that it might be worth mentioning a couple things about the result, so here it is.

2015-11-OttawaClearly this isn’t a post about my great art.  Rather, I want to talk about some philosophical and pragmatic things that these two pages represent.  You see, this is a brand-spanking new Moleskine sketchbook.  Now I’m not a fan of these sketchbooks for ‘real’ drawing but I had the opportunity to get one cheap and so it’s going to serve as my daily ‘quick-sketchbook.’  I carry one of these with me at all times and not stuffed away in my man-bag (which holds my regular art stuff) but rather in my pocket, with some sort of quick-sketching pointy device tucked away with it.  It can be brought out in seconds and is often returned a couple minutes later with a new sketch between its covers.  I started doing this about two years ago when my buddy Yvan Breton convinced me of the power of such an approach.

Two things occurred when I started carrying such a sketchbook.  The first, and most important was that I started doing a LOT more sketching.  In the past couple years I’ve filled about 20 of these little 3×5 or 4×6 sketchbooks in addition to my regular sketchbooks.  Most of the pages are filled with quick sketches, though sometimes I’ll do something more complete.  No matter how you slice it, that means a lot more sketching fun and sketching practice and I can do it when no other kind of sketching is possible.  The other thing that has happened is that my ability to see shapes quickly has improved immensely and it allows me to be more loose with my line work than is my typical style.

The sketch on the right is typical.  I was sitting in a restaurant with my family and we were waiting for our food to arrive.  This woman was standing at a bus stop across the street.  I took out my sketchbook and pen, a Uniball Vision, and quickly sketched her.  I doubt that it took two minutes, which included having to wait for a large truck that blocked my view as it waited for a light.  Then the book went back in my pocket and I was ‘back’ with my family.

The left page is also interesting as it shows my lack of respect for the space so many treat as hallowed ground – the pages of a sketchbook.  When you worry about whether every page is worthy of posting on Facebook, you will lose many opportunities.  My small sketchbook is a place where ‘who cares’ rules.

In this case I’d started a sketch while leaning against the wall of my daughter’s apartment.  I was looking out the back window and had started drawing a nearby building.  I was using a Zebra 301A ballpoint.  It was announced by my boss…err..wife, that it was time to go so the book went into my pocket.  We were headed for Ikea.

We hadn’t been in an Ikea in a decade and acted like farmers in a big city for the first time.  We ate meatballs and wanted to buy everything in sight.  Realizing that we had to write numbers of stuff we might want to buy, I pulled out my Moleskine Sketchbook and started writing.  Would you do that with your sketchbook?  It’s to your advantage to be willing to do so as otherwise you won’t start a lot of sketches because you won’t feel you have time to ‘finish’ or ‘do the sketch justice.’  We did buy that kitchen island, by the way, and hauled it back to Quebec.

Now, do you need a Moleskine sketchbook for this?  Heck no, and in fact I’d advise against it.  The paper is ok for pen or pencil but it stinks for watercolor isn’t necessary for pen, and they’re ridiculously expensive.   Most of my small sketchbooks are 3×5 or 4×6 sketchbooks that I’ve bought at our dollar store, though they typically cost me $2.


Colder Than Mars, They Said

Have you noticed that the news exaggerates everything?  They no longer report.  Rather, they compete with Downton Abbey and football games for viewers and will do everything and anything to make their program entertaining.  I expect that soon, Captain America or Thor will replace Wolf Blitzer as anchor of CNN.

It’s really sad.  The week we were told about how Canada was “colder than Mars” a couple days ago.  While it’s true that, for a period of a few hours, a part of Canada was colder than where NASA’s robot was on Mars, but Canada didn’t get to -200C when the sun went down like it does on Mars.

Heck, we only got down to -40C and it had warmed all the way up to -36C by the time I got the bright idea to walk to the museum to meet my buddies for a sketching session.   For those who are Fahrenheit-challenged, -40C is -40F.  Warmer than Mars on a summer’s eve for sure, but still sort of cold by freeze your skin standards.

So off I went, the intrepid sketcher, walking as fast as I could on a 40-minute walk to the museum.  A smarter sketcher would have just hopped on a bus but no, I “needed the exercise.”

facehurtsBy the time I got there I realized that I’d been crazy.  I could no longer feel my fingers in spite of the heavy gloves I was wearing.  My face was on fire and the I was starting to think in terms of how much further I could walk before I’d fall over.

But I finally arrived…warmth.  Next problem was how to sketch when I couldn’t feel the pen.  I walked around for about 15 minutes before deciding to do a looser sketch than my typical approach, maybe as a result of Liz Steel’s course.  I sat down in front of the largest head in the Olympus display.  It’s at least two-feet tall and very impressive – more impressive than this sketch suggests.  My fountain pens were really cold so I used a Uniball Vision Fine hybrid gel pen, adding a hint of color with Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.  Of course, it was drawn in a Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook (10×7).

We took a break, had some tea, and then did a bit more sketching before calling it a day.  I took the bus home, a nice, warm bus.



Sketching an MGB

A tradition in my wife’s family is a late night party on December 25th.  This is relevant to today’s post because an inevitable result of this get together is that my wife and daughter sleep in the next day – which is today.

I got up this morning, sat around reading for a while and then decided to take advantage of the situation because the continual holiday scurry has been limiting my sketching time.  The near constant rain and high winds haven’t helped much either.

I started looking through some of my photos and came across a photo I’d taken at the end of a sketching day in Berthier, Quebec.  We were leaving the park and, in the parking lot, there was a gorgeous MGB (I think) so I took a photo of it with the thought that I’d like to sketch it.  That’s what I did this morning and it sure felt good to do a more formal sketch, even if it was from a photo.  I’ve probably done a dozen smallish quick-sketches over the past few days but while snacks are great, sometimes you need a meal.

This was done in a Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook (6×8) and, for a change, I used a Uniball Vision Fine pen rather than my more typical fountain pen.  It’s always fun to change it up once in a while.  Watercolors are Daniel Smith and, once again, I’ve told myself that I need to learn something about wielding a brush.  I’ll do that ‘real soon.’

yellow MGB

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Uniball Vision Fine pen.