Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoDrawMo Complete: 72 Sketches

11/30/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Sailor pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Today is Nov. 30, the last day of NaNoDrawMo. For those not yet familiar with it, the goal of NaNoDrawMo (patterned after National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo) participants is to make 50 drawings during the 30 days of November. How did I do? I hit 50 sketches on Nov. 19, and today I made my 72nd sketch (this very leafless tree at Green Lake). I’m going to call it good!

Visiting the NaNoDrawMo Flickr group to post my daily sketches introduced me to the work of some people that I would otherwise not have seen. I tend to spend most of my online time looking at urban sketches, so it broadened my view to see more life drawings, comics and “object portraits” (as Kate calls them) than I usually do. NaNoDrawMo “forced” me to sketch subject matter that I had previously deemed boring an activity that I discovered I enjoy. It also “forced” me to try to sketch every day, which has been a goal for me all along. There were still seven days in November that I didn’t sketch at all; it’s a goal, but I don’t beat myself up and quit if I don’t make it. After all, the most important thing about NaNoDrawMo is not the 30 days in November; it’s to keep going, drawing day after day, long after Nov. 30.

But I already knew that.

(Technical note: Now that most of the deciduous trees around here are leafless, I'm looking forward to sketching their fully visible shapes. I particularly like using my Sailor fountain pen to render bare trees. Although I have yet to master it, I like the way the pen makes thick and thin lines in a single stroke the way tree limbs taper.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

First Santa

11/29/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
I haven’t been out on Black Friday to shop in years, possibly decades, but I’ve found that it can be fun to be out in the hustle-bustle if I’m doing something other than shopping. This afternoon I went to Northgate Mall with a sole purpose: to sketch Santa. I had so much fun sketching Santa last year that I captured him twice – first at Northgate and then at Pacific Place. But surely I see more than two Santas in any given season; I’ve challenged myself to top that record this year.

Today might be the busiest day of the year for retailers, but Santa looked bored. I passed by him twice without any clients. On my third pass, a reluctant little girl was on his lap, refusing to smile, so I grabbed my opportunity. As has happened each time I’ve sketched Santa, his client was long gone before I finished sketching her, and then Santa went on a break.
11/29/13 Diamine Eclipse ink, Sailor pen,
Canson XL

On my way out of the mall, a young busker named Sarah Emerson was raising money for a trip to Ghana next summer to work in an orphanage. It felt good to know that the only money I spent at the mall today was the dollar I put in her bowl.

Still Life Y Z (and Still Life Reflections)

11/29/13 Platinum Carbon ink, Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
For the last in my series of alphabetical still lifes, I used a piece of food that didn’t fit into the casserole pan for last night’s feast and a candle saved from Greg’s birthday party a couple years ago.

Although I have never been much of still life enthusiast, the series I just completed taught me several things:

  • I discovered that I enjoy still lifes after all! Working in a series with rules made it much easier for me to decide what to sketch, which has always been one of my difficulties in following the Danny Gregory Everyday Matters principle of drawing “anything.” I’ll keep this in mind as I do more still lifes in the future: Make rules first to help narrow the field of sketching subjects, and work in series to make selection even easier.
  • Sketching still lifes gave me better practice in watercolor painting than most urban sketches do. On location, I always finish the sketch onsite, and if I have any constraints – bad weather, jostling crowds, distractions, insufficient time – I opt to paint haphazardly or not at all rather than save the painting for more ideal conditions (once I leave the location, the impetus to finish disappears). I learned more about watercolor painting these past few weeks, and I’ll apply what I’ve learned when I sketch in less-than-optimal field conditions.


11/27/13 X. Uniball Signo gel pen, gouache, Conte crayon,
Strathmore 400 Gray Scale paper
About halfway through my alphabetical still life series, which began with an idea I had for X, it occurred to me that X technically would not be a still life; it would be a drawing based on an image. But since I made the rules for my series, I can also bend them.

I’ve had an issue with my left rotator cuff for a while now, and a couple months ago I had an X-ray taken. Since I’d never had one before, I didn’t know what to expect, and I was delighted when the technician burned the image to a CD and handed it to me at the end of my appointment. I knew that someday I’d have a use for it.

The interesting challenge was deciding how to sketch a white, semi-opaque image on a dark background. When I saw David Hingtgen’s recent sketches in a black Moleskine sketchbook using a white Uniball Signo gel pen (my favorite white opaque pen) and gouache, I thought, “Bingo!” The Uniball Signo worked well, but the gouache turned out to be more difficult to use than I had imagined. I kept putting layer after layer on dark gray paper, but instead of staying opaque as it looks when it’s wet, it became transparent when it dried. I finally had to go over the areas that I wanted to be the most opaque with a white Conte crayon. I’ve sketched plenty of skeletons at the Burke Museum; who knew that sketching an X-ray would be so challenging? (With luck, I won’t have many more, at least from my own body, to practice on.)

Still Life V W

11/27/13 Still Life V W. Platinum Carbon ink, Van Gogh and Winsor Newton
watercolors, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
Since I surpassed my NaNoDrawMo goal a while ago (I was up to 65 sketches on Wednesday), I guess I don’t have to finish my series of alphabetical still lifes, but I’m having so much fun with it that I’m going to finish anyway.

Here’s V W. Why only two letters this time instead of three? My idea for X is what started this series, so I decided it deserved to be all by itself. See next post.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In the Kitchen, Thankfully

11/27/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
I’ve heard it said that the things most familiar to us are often the most difficult to draw accurately. The brain “knows” too much about these familiar things, preventing the eye from seeing them as they really are. Although I replace as much cooking time as possible with sketching time (admit it – you do, too!), so I probably spend less time cooking than most people, I’d have to say that this room in my home is quite familiar to me, and I found it extremely challenging to sketch.

When I saw that this week’s Urban Sketchers Flickr group theme was “Kitchens,” I groaned and put it off for a few days. Other than fruits and vegetables I take from the counter for still lifes, nothing in my kitchen inspires me to sketch it. Even over breakfast today, I grumbled to Greg that the kitchen is full of hard, straight lines, difficult perspective challenges and mostly nonexistent or uninteresting shadows. “All the more reason to sketch it,” he replied. Tomorrow the kitchen will be a huge mess of cooking activity, so if I was going to do something for the theme, it would have to be today. Grumble.

The one thing our kitchen has going for it is that our stairway runs along one wall of it, so when I stand in the stairway, I have an unusually high vantage point that makes it slightly more interesting to sketch.

It took me well over an hour to sketch this – way longer than I usually take for any one sketch. As familiar as the kitchen is to me, before this morning, I’m not sure I could have told you that the burners over our gas range have eight spider-like “legs” on them. (Sketching any object makes me learn something about it.)

As I sat on the comfy, carpeted stairs to paint this, the refrigerator full of food for tomorrow’s feast, the furnace circulating warm air all around me, I realized that if the only thing I have to grumble about is the subject of a sketch, I am, indeed, very fortunate, and I’m grateful for everything I have.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Still Life S T U

11/26/13 Still life S T U. Platinum Carbon ink, Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman & Birn
Delta sketchbook
I had exactly a half-hour before I had to leave for an appointment. Did I have enough time for a still life? Not really, but I had all the objects ready to go, so I decided to treat it the same way I often treat urban sketches – draw and paint to the level of detail that fits the amount of time available. (Tip: Having the space heater on full blast dries paint quickly.) Twenty-eight minutes later, I was done: Still life S T U in my alphabetical series.

(The U stumped me for a while. I could have used an umbrella, but I wanted something that would fit on the same scale as the other two objects. Of course, “Urban Sketchers” was the first thing that came to mind, but how to put that into a still life. . . ? A quick look around my studio was all it took.)

Monday, November 25, 2013


11/25/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Sailor pen, Sketchbook Project sketchbook
Merlin is a field golden retriever. I met him this afternoon at the 72nd Street Café near Green Lake, where I stopped for coffee on my way to yoga class. Quietly lying at his guy’s feet, he would occasionally perk up when offered a bite of a sandwich, then go right back to the same position, obliging my sketch very nicely.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Reindeer and Camel and Koi – Oh, My!

11/22/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
11/22/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown
11/22/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink
Swanson’s Nursery is popular among gardeners year-round, but during the holidays, the visiting reindeer and camel make it an extra-busy family place. The Friday ad hoc sketchers gathered there on a sub-freezing morning, where not even my extra-thick Freehand gloves could keep me from freezing my hands off. Last year when I sketched the reindeer, they were either dozing or snacking lazily. Today, Dasher and Blitzen were in constant motion, so sketching them was more like an exercise in blind contour drawing. Curley the camel was a different challenge – one of scale. Once I sketched Curley’s head, his immense body wouldn’t fit on the rest of the page.
11/22/13 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink

I lasted about a half-hour before my fingers went numb. Fortunately, Swanson’s delightful café is warm and surrounded by a jungle of plants and even a koi pond. I let my hands thaw around my cup of cappuccino before sketching the brightly colored fish.
11/22/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Sailor pen
The Friday ad hoc sketchers were out in full force at Swanson's!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sake Bottles, a Horse and Botched SAAM

11/21/13 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Zig markers, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
An errand on Capitol Hill gave me an opportunity for lunch at Aoki, a small, traditional Japanese restaurant that I don’t get to as often as I’d like. I know some sketchers have a penchant for sketching their food before they eat it (Matthew Midgeley and Liz Steel are among my favorites), so I actually had it in mind to try that – I really did. Japanese food is always so beautifully presented that I knew my meal would make a nice still life without having to do anything to it. But by the time my grilled mackerel, soup and rice came, I was so hungry that I cancelled my sketching plans and scarfed it all down. (Matthew and Liz obviously have more willpower than I do.) As penance, I sketched the colorful sake bottles lined up on the counter instead.

11/21/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Canson XL
Stuffed and happy, I finished my errand and then swung by the Seattle Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park. It was another sunny but very chilly day, and I managed to score an ideal parking spot facing the museum. (If I were to turn the car around 180 degrees, I would see a view of theSpace Needle that I had sketched earlier this year.) Although I’ve sketched at Volunteer Park several times, I’ve never been brave enough to take on the museum’s lovely art deco building. With that parking spot, I had no excuse. I started with a drawing that wasn’t half bad, but then I took out my paints and overdid the growing shadows.

Frustrated with that sketch, I went inside to use the restroom, but to be polite, I sketched a Tang Dynasty horse sculpture on my way out. (I don’t want them to think I buy an annual museum membership only to use their toilet.)

11/21/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Sailor pen, water-soluble pencil, Canson XL
I was so annoyed with my sketch of the museum that I drove home vowing to return sometime soon to try again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

39 Degrees

11/20/13 Copic Multiliner SP pen, Kuretake brush pen, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
Our outdoor digital thermometer read 39 degrees as I pulled on my down jacket and headed for Green Lake on this beautifully sunny afternoon. I knew it would be chilly, but we haven’t had sunshine for several weeks now, and I’ve been craving a hit of vitamin D.

Painting my favorite stand of maples exhibiting particularly uneven and peculiar tree pattern baldness, I lasted all of 22 minutes. My hands were numb, even with fingerless gloves on. I retreated to my car parked nearby to spend another 10 minutes finishing up. Then I hurried home for a cup of hot tea.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chatter and Hands

11/19/13 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
A woman at the Wedgwood neighborhood Starbucks was deeply engrossed in her book, but she couldn’t seem to get comfortable because she kept changing positions. Often she would hold the book up directly in front of her face, obstructing my view. Frustrated at first, I became fascinated by the many positions her hands took in holding the book and decided to make some small studies of her hands (still one of the hardest parts of the human body for me to draw – and often it’s a part that gets hidden during life drawing sessions).

11/19/13 Velvet Black ink, Canson XL paper
Eventually she settled into one position long enough for me to sketch her face. Just then, four teenage girls suddenly burst into Starbucks, a flurry of giggles and fast chattering. They climbed into the two stuffed chairs directly across from me (seated two per chair, endlessly amused by their creative seating arrangement), and although they were quite close, I was invisible to them. Fortunately, they did not block my sketch view. As engaged as I was in the sketch, I found myself equally engaged in their mile-a-minute conversation. (I use the term “conversation” loosely, since that implies that one person talks while the others listen.) In fact, their chatter became the soundtrack of my sketch.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Still Life P Q R (Back to Canson XL, Plus Handbinding Cost Comparison)

11/18/13 Still life P Q R. Platinum Carbon ink, Van Gogh watercolors, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The weather prediction of 100 percent chance of rain today became correct around 9 a.m. and has stayed correct all day, so it’s a good time for another still life in my alphabetical series – P Q R.

It’s also a good time to complete my review of Fabriano hot press, the signature of which I finished with the sketch of the Columbia Center on Saturday. Of the five 140-pound watercolor papers I’ve tested during the past few months – Strathmore 400 cold press, Canson Montval cold press, Canson XL cold press, Arches hot press (I couldnt find loose sheets online) and Fabriano hot press – the Fabriano delivers the best overall combination of a smooth ink-drawing surface and sufficient but not excessive sizing for the way I paint. But when I compare it to Canson XL, my favorite of the cold-press papers, I don’t experience enough significant difference in the quality to justify the price, which is four times that of XL. So for now (at least until I come across another paper I want to try!), my sketchbook paper of choice is Canson XL, which provides the paper qualities I want for the best value. (Canson Montval runs a close second.)

And as long as I’m on the subject of cost. . . Although I’ve considered paper prices as I’ve tried them, I haven’t been paying much attention to the cost of my handbound sketchbooks compared to purchased sketchbooks because saving money is not a primary motivator for handbinding my books. But now that I’ve bound three books and I’m halfway to filling a fourth, I thought it was a good time to at least run the numbers. Although many less-expensive sketchbooks are available, Stillman & Birn Beta and Alpha were my sketchbooks of choice before I began handbinding, so it makes sense for me use them in my comparison. I preferred hardbound S & B books, but I couldn’t find them online to get prices. However, their price per page is comparable to the spiralbound versions. All prices are from
  • Stillman & Birn 6” x 8” spiralbound Beta (180 pound paper) sketchbook:
  • 25 sheets (50 pages) for $16.19
  • Stillman & Birn 6” x 8”spiralbound Alpha (100 pound paper) sketchbook: 50 sheets (100 pages) for $16.19
  • Canson XL (140 pound) 9” x 12” paper pad, 30 sheets (yielding 120 6” x 9” sketchbook pages) for $4.92
(My handbound book also requires thread, chipboard, collage material, acrylic medium and acrylic paint, but per book, that cost is less than a dollar, so I’ll consider it negligible.)

Unfortunately, there’s no S & B paper of weight comparable to the 140-pound Canson XL, so I’m not really comparing apples and apples. But for the sake of a blog argument, here are the results: An equivalent-sized (dimensions and page quantity) handbound book is about one-fourth the price of an S & B Alpha and one-eighth the price of an S & B Beta.

(Whew! That was way more math than I’ve done in years. I gotta go eat a piece of birthday cake to recover.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

UW Botany Greenhouse with the Urban Sketchers

11/17/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
After all that late-night birthday carousing (last night’s concert ended after 10 p.m. – long past my bedtime!), I arrived late at the Seattle Urban Sketchers gathering at the University of Washington’s Botany Greenhouse. Fortunately, I’d sketched there in September with the Friday sketchers, so I didn’t feel like I’d missed as much.

Last time I focused on “portraits” of individual plants. Today, with about 15 seconds to select a subject and less than 30 minutes to sketch, I chose a larger view of the Miriam S. Buddress Cactus and Succulent Collection, where I had marveled at all the otherworldly looking species. In my rush, I forgot to note the name of this tall, palm-like succulent that looks like it needs to shave its legs.

Kronos Quartet (and Test of Book Light)

11/16/13 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The first time I tried sketching in the mostly-dark was at a concert by City Cantabile Choir last holiday season. It was challenging, but the stage was well-lighted, so I did OK with ambient light. To celebrate my birthday yesterday, my friend Linda invited me to a concert by Kronos Quartet performing at the Neptune Theatre. This time, I wanted to be better prepared for sketching in the dark, so I got a couple of book lights from to try out.

11/16/13 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
One is the GT Max LED Clip-on Light, which is so cheaply made that. . . let’s just say that it’s not worth discussing here. On the other hand, the Mighty Bright Ultra Thin Book Light, while not being of much higher quality, at least has a serviceable clip that attaches firmly to the cover of my “Stefano.” Very compact and lightweight, it can easily be carried in my bag without adding any noticeable weight or bulk. Its mighty brightness is so much so that I was afraid I’d annoy people sitting around me at the concert, so I applied two layers of white tape to the LED bulb, which dimmed it down to the appropriate level. Unfortunately, it casts such a narrow beam of light that I could only clearly see the top third of the page. Still, it was better than nothing, especially since my lighting issues were further exacerbated by the Kronos Quartet apparently preferring to perform on a mostly dark stage. Not to mention that the quartet members formed a semi-circle, and I could see only one member clearly – and only his back.

Nonetheless, the concert was fantastic – eclectic, Avant-garde music that defies categorization.

The Mighty Bright Ultra Thin Book Light was – less than fantastic. I’m going to keep looking. If you have a book light you love that would work while sketching in concert halls, I’m all ears.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

. . . and the Party Continues at the Smith Tower

11/16/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Fabriano hot press
Yesterday I began celebrating my birthweekend (why settle for a day when you can have the whole weekend?) by sketching the 38-story Smith Tower from the top of the Columbia Center. After Greg took me out for brunch this morning at the Dahlia Lounge, we were nearby the Smith Tower, so we went up to the Chinese Room observation deck near its top (the very top is a private residence). And guess what I sketched from there? The Columbia Center, of course! (In literature, I think that’s called parallelism. I don’t know what it’s called in art, but I like it.)

The Chinese Room is called that because, according to legend, it was furnished by gifts from the last Empress of China. The ornate décor includes bronze sculptures like this lion I sketched. 
11/16/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Sailor pen Canson XL 140 lb. paper

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Party on the 73rd Floor

11/15/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Fabriano hot-press 140 lb. paper
Two years ago I began what would become something of a personal tradition: Riding up to the Columbia Center’s 73rd floor Sky View Observatory on my birthday to sketch. This year I invited a few sketcher friends to join me up there for a (day-before) birthday party, urban sketching style: No booze, music or tiara – just our sketchbooks, pens, paints and a nearly-360-degree view of Seattle. On a wet and windy Friday morning, we practically had the place to ourselves.

The Smith Tower, the only building I sketched the previous two years, was my first target. It’s become my annual measuring stick of my architectural sketching chops. The last two times, I was staggered by the vast, overwhelming view for quite a while before I could put pen to paper. This time I simply walked up to the south side windows and began. Mind you – the view was no less vast and overwhelming; I just spent less time with my jaw on the floor before beginning. (See last year’s blog post to see sketches from 2012 and 2011.)

11/15/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Fabriano hot press
Then I moved over to the north side of the building to sketch the Space Needle surrounded by Belltown buildings and Queen Anne Hill. Most first-time visitors to Seattle stand in line and pay 19 bucks to see the view from the Needle, but we all agreed that the view from the Sky View Observatory is way better – and less than half the price (if you’re at least 55, as I will be tomorrow, but the ticket seller didn’t card me ;-)). 

After lunching in the lobby, we all went back upstairs for more sketching. This time I looked west toward the waterfront punctuated by the Seattle Great Wheel to the north, a ferry coming into the terminal and one of the Port of Seattle red cranes to the south. (The top of the Smith Tower is also visible in the lower-left corner.) I tried to pick out whatever tiny bits of color I could find on this otherwise very gray day.

11/15/13 Platinum Carbon and Diamine Grey inks, watercolor, Zig markers, Fabriano hot press
From left: the birthday girl, Peggy, Natalie, Lynne, Kate. (Photo by Kate Buike)

Corsets & Clockwork

11/14/13 Platinum Carbon and Diamine Grey inks, watercolor, Canson
mixed-media drawing pad (20-min. pose)
Last night’s Pinup Figure life drawing session at Artist & Craftsman had a steampunk theme called “Corsets and Clockwork.” Our model Lisa was excellent, and the ruffles and billowy fabric of her bloomers proved challenging. But my biggest difficulty last night was her impossibly long legs! I used the classic head-count method to gauge proportions, but I still don’t think I drew her legs long enough. In fact, I ran out of space on my page several times.

If I count all of my sketches from the one-minute poses, I’d be done with NaNoDrawMo now. But where’s the fun in that? I’m counting only the sketches from four five-minute poses and three 20-minute poses. Instead of different poses for the 20-minute sessions, the group decided on a single pose (broken into 20-minute sessions), so I decided to do three separate sketches using different media. (See the rest in my Flickr photostream.)

Technical notes: The five-minutes poses were done with an Akashiya brush pen (no longer stocked by, which I’d completely forgotten was in my life drawing pencil case until I was digging for something else and found it there. It turned out to be ideal for loose yet expressive five-minute sketches. I also tried using watercolor on my last 20-minute sketch of the evening. When I’m focused on sketching people in the field (such as at Zoka Coffee yesterday), I tend to reach for pen and ink, both for simplicity and because I love the subtle shading I can get on faces with water-soluble ink. But I’d like to start using watercolor more often on people, so this life drawing session was a good opportunity to practice.
11/14/13 Akashiya brush pen, Canson drawing pad
(5-min. pose)

11/14/13 Diamine Chocolate ink, Sailor pen, Canson
mixed-media drawing pad (20-min. pose)

11/14/13 Akashiya brush pen, Canson drawing pad
(5-min. pose)
11/14/13 Akashiya brush pen, Canson drawing pad
(5-min. pose)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ink on Fabriano (with a Side of Scone)

11/14/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Fabriano hot-press paper
Rain, gloom, overcast skies: It’s Zoka Coffee weather  and the season for their pumpkin scones. It was a good opportunity to give the Fabriano hot press a run with pen and ink: my favorite Sailors and water-soluble Diamine inks. As I expected, the smooth, hot-press finish is a dream under the nibs, and the inks wash beautifully on the surface.

The scone was pretty dang good, too.
11/14/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Fabriano
11/14/13 Diamine Eclipse ink, Fabriano

11/14/13 Diamine Eclipse ink, Fabriano

11/14/13 Diamine Eclipse ink, Sketchbook Project sketchbook

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Last Chance for Color and Bonus Utility Lines

11/13/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Fabriano hot-press paper
Driving through the Greenwood neighborhood, I was looking for an interesting church that I had seen on a previous visit, but I never made it there: This little maple growing in a traffic circle stopped me in my tracks. Every time I think all the trees have given up their color, I spot one that insists there’s still plenty of time to shine.

When I finished the tree, I still had about 15 minutes before I had to leave for an appointment, and then I remembered this week’s Urban Sketchers Flickr group theme: utility lines. Power poles and lines are so ubiquitous in Seattle that I barely had to turn my gaze from the tree to make my next sketch.
11/13/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Fabriano

Still Life M N O (and First Fabriano Test)

11/13/13 Still life M N O. Platinum Carbon ink, Van Gogh watercolors, Fabriano
hot-press paper
In my ongoing series of alphabetical still lifes, I present M N O.

Technical note: This is my first test of the 140-pound Fabriano hot-press paper I bought the other day. The sizing takes Platinum Carbon ink without incident, and the paints sink into the surface at about the same rate as all the cold-press papers I’m used to, so it behaved predictably based on my experience. I had to rewet the paper a couple times in one spot and lifted color in another spot, and all was well. So far, so good.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dry Pen

11/11/13 Lamy cartridge, 100 lb. paper
Whenever I go fitness walking around Green Lake, I always take an ultra-compact sketching kit (you can see it on my Current Favorite Art Materials page toward the bottom) in case I spot something interesting, but I don’t use it often. That means the pen – a Lamy Vista filled with a standard Lamy ink cartridge – gets a bit dried and clogged from lack of use.

This morning a heron was as close to shore as I’ve ever seen it, leisurely scanning the water and just asking to be sketched. Cursing the whole time, I eked out this one-minute sketch with the nearly dry Lamy. (Still, it counts as a drawing for NaNoDrawMo, so it wasn’t a total loss.) Lesson learned: I have to include that pen in my regular rotation of fountain pens to keep it running smoothly.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Still Life J K L

11/10/13 Still life J K L. Copic Multiliner SP pen, Van Gogh watercolors, Arches hot press 140 lb. paper
For still life J K L in my alphabetical series, I only had to walk as far as the kitchen.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Another Coupon

11/9/13 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Sketchbook Project sketchbook
I must be a marketer’s dream come true. Motivated by several things, not the least of which was another discount coupon that was burning a second hole in my purse, I stopped at Starbucks on my way home from the cemetery. Making my salted caramel mocha even more delicious were two other motivators: Wanting to make one more sketch today for NaNoDrawMo and also feeling like filling a couple more pages in my Sketchbook Project sketchbook.

I carry that little booklet in my bag daily, but it’s so thin and light that I often forget I have it with me and reach for my Stefano (with more desirable paper) instead. The Sketchbook Project sketchbook’s flimsy paper takes a little more motivation to lay a pen and wash on, because I know I won’t like the buckling that results. But the other day I realized I hadn’t used Private Reserve Velvet Black ink in a while, so I filled up a Lamy, and the joy of using that ink somewhat overcame my dismay over the paper (which, I admit, is nice and smooth under pen and ink – until I put the waterbrush on it, and it wrinkles like toilet paper).

Lake View Cemetery

11/9/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Arches 140 lb. hot-press paper
Bruce Lee fans would be disappointed.

On my way home from using the Blick Art Supplies discount coupon that was burning a hole in my purse (keep reading to find out what I bought), I drove around Capitol Hill looking for a sketch. I ended up at Lake View Cemetery, where a number of famous people are buried, including both Bruce Lee and his son Brandon. I’m not exactly a fan of the martial arts film star, so I skipped his gravesite, which is what many visitors to the cemetery come to see. Instead, I just drove slowly through the grounds looking for an interesting tree to sketch.

This time I remembered to take a Copic Multiliner SP pen to use on the last pages of my Arches signature – but wouldn’t you know it? I grabbed one that was out of ink! Argghh. But I was determined to use watercolor this time, so I struggled through the sketch with my usual Platinum Carbon ink. So much for Arches.

Now I’ll tell you what I bought at Blick (and you might be disappointed by this, too): a single sheet of hot-press Fabriano 140-pound paper. I probably should have thought of something more expensive to get a 30 percent discount on, but five bucks is a bit of a gulp for a single sheet of paper that I’m going to tear up to put in my sketchbook, so the coupon made it easier to swallow. Stay tuned for that test.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Like Pornography

11/8/13 Diamine Eclipse, 100 lb. paper
I often spend bus commuting time surreptitiously sketching fellow passengers. Today on my way to and from the Convention Center was no different, except I was particularly motivated to do as many as possible to catch up on my NaNoDrawMo deficit for the week (I think I’m caught up now, so if I sketch one or two a day for the rest of the month, Ill meet the goal).

Looking at the five very fast bus portraits (see the rest in my Flickr photostream), I noticed that in the one I did of a man looking at his phone (at right) I somehow managed to capture his essence, whatever that is. I’d venture to guess that his friends would recognize him in this sketch, as the resemblance is better than most of my people sketches. But resemblance is not what I mean when I say “essence.” The younger man that I sketched listening to his iPod (below) is also a reasonably good resemblance, but I don’t think I captured his essence. I wish I could quantify or articulate this concept more clearly. Its like pornography: I cant define it, but I know it when I see it.

11/8/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Sketchbook Project sketchbook

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