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Berkeley Firehouse Part II: Cathy’s Sketches

Hazardous Materials Truck Exhaust Hose,
Hazardous Materials Truck Exhaust Hose

When we go on our Tuesday night sketchcrawls I learn so much from seeing how Cathy approaches sketching, with her years of experience and vision as a graphic designer. This sketch is a good example of the way she designs a page, including both the detail and the context, while connecting elements to the edges of the page.

Firefighters' Jacket Rack
Firefighters' Jacket Rack

Cathy’s sketches often display groups of objects in interesting patterns. She also edits the subject to make a better composition, in this case removing a few jackets to simplify. She first draws a group of objects as one shape as in contour drawing and then adds the interior lines. Again in this sketch above she shows the context as well as the detail, so that it’s not just a rack of jackets and helmets, but with the bit of fire truck you know they’re firemen’s jackets. Notice also her wonderful sketchy and free lines, which she achieves by holding the pen closer to the end than to the point.

Engine No. 2
Engine No. 2

I love the way she got so much detail in the fire truck above but loosely, and with good perspective. Most of her sketches also include informative notes about the subject, placed in a location that adds to the good design. When I asked Cathy how she starts a sketch she said she always tries to start with the thing that interests her most to make sure it fits on the page and that it gets on the page. (It’s so easy to start drawing and run out of page before you ever get to the thing that attracted you first).

Engine No. 2 Side View

More cool details: all the gizmos on the side of the truck.

Gizmo close up
Gizmos close up

When she was sketching this (above), one of the firemen told her that when they are learning their equipment they also sketch all the gear and label it to help them study.

Boots and pants
Boots and pants

Here’s her version of the ready-to-step-into boots and pants.

Cathy sketches with ink in a spiral-bound 4×6″ Strathmore 400 Drawing notebook, focusing on making as many quick sketches as she can. She makes tiny pencil notes over the sketch about color to use when she adds¬†watercolor later in the studio.

All images copyright 2010 by Cathy McAuliffe, used with permission.

She sketches with ink in a 4×6″ Strathmore 400 Drawing Paper pad, focusing on making as many quick sketches as she can. She makes tiny pencil notes over the sketch about color to use when she adds¬†watercolor later in the studio.
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Berkeley Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Painting Sketchbook Pages

Sketching at Berkeley Firehouse, Part I

Fire Truck and Parking Receipt, ink & watercolor
Fire Truck and Parking Receipt, ink & watercolor

The Berkeley Fire Station #2 was the scene of our Tuesday night sketchcrawl two weeks ago. Cathy had requested permission for us to visit and sketch and they generously gave us access to the station, the vehicles and equipment. The firemen live at the firehouse during their long shifts and since it was a quiet night they came around to see what we were doing.  They all told us how much they love their jobs and were extremely helpful, earnestly answering all of our questions.

Fire, Flag, Boots Ready, ink & watercolor
Boots & Overalls Ready; Flag Flying

We loved seeing the boots and overalls, ready to jump into, by the doors of each truck (above). I know the requirements are very stringent for becoming a firefighter, but do they also have to qualify as centerfold models? These guys were simply gorgeous: tall, strong, handsome, and really nice too. (If only they would have posed for us!) Firefighters have one of the highest rates of job satisfaction of all careers.

Tiller Truck, ink & watercolor
Tiller Truck, ink & watercolor

This little Tiller Truck caboose steers the back of the fire truck while the steering wheel at the front steers the front wheels. We learned that a Fire Truck is “a big tool box” where they keep all their gear such as Jaws of Life and the Fire Engine carries the water and hoses.

Fire Helmet, ink & watercolor
Lieutenant's Helmet, ink & watercolor

I held off posting these sketches because I’d been really frustrated with the messy, helter-skelter way I laid them out in my sketchbook and the ones not posted that were just ugly (but which I made good use of, writing my notes to self for improvement on top of them). When I looked at Cathy’s sketches I really liked the way she approached the subjects and designed her pages. That set me off on a learning process that I will write about next time when I post her sketches from the evening.