Sketching with Mariah in a Too Busy Week

Sketching Fruit with Mariah after Tacos

Sketching Fruit with Mariah, ink & watercolor

This afternoon I went for a hike with Jessica and Mariah in perfect autumn weather and then J made tacos for dinner. After dinner Mariah (age 10) plopped her sketchbook, watercolor pencils, and Niji waterbrush on the table, pulled the bowl of fruit over in front of us and said “Let’s sketch.” How could I resist!

Mariah’s sketchbooks are such treasures. When we first started sketching together a couple years ago she preferred drawing from her imagination but now avidly draws what she sees too. Watching her abilities and understanding of what she sees grow is such a pleasure. Especially since she’s around the age when many girls stop drawing when they realize they can’t do it perfectly.

I also really admire how she has many pages of “just practicing” as she called them in her sketchbook (pages someone else might tear out thinking they were “failed” drawings).  She doesn’t fear leaving them there or “wasting” the page. They’re just practice. Sometimes there are three pages in a row like that. No big deal. Such wisdom. I wanted to post her fruit sketch too but she turned the page while it was wet and it got all blurry. She just couldn’t wait to start the next sketch: the box of taco shells she said she really wanted to draw but didn’t know why.

I’ve managed to squeeze in a few other nothing-special sketches in the middle of a two-week, too-busy period (work, family, life!) and here they are:

Subway Ladies

Subway Ladies, ink and watercolor

Friday night my watercolor group came over and we painted together. I did a couple quick sketches of them while we sat around the table. Judith had a new shorter haircut.

Judith, ink in Niji waterbrush

Judith, ink in Niji waterbrush

Sharon worked in water-soluble oils instead of watercolor and somehow got yellow paint on the wall that wouldn’t come off until I tried my Magic Eraser and it came right off.

Sharon, ink in Niji waterbrush

Sharon, ink in Niji waterbrush

We were all so tired after a long week but it was great to get together and paint. By request, I demonstrated how to get a good “bead” of juicy paint when making a flat wash and everyone took turns doing a few rows of the wash down the page. Together we created a really nice even page of purple.

A few more days of craziness and things start settling down again. Can’t wait!

Subway Sketching: People on BART

BART People - Profiles

BART People - Profiles

When I’m sketching on BART on my way to work in the morning I’m always so delighted by how different each person’s features are. Yes they all have the same features but so many different nose tips, foreheads, lips. Some days everyone I can see is in profile like above.

BART People 2

BART People 2

Other days I can only see lots of backs of heads and a foot or two.

BART People 3

BART People 3

And then it’s all about the hair style (or lack thereof…hair…or style).

Sketchercizing My Grocery Shopping

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, Copic cobalt multiliner & Polychromos colored pencils

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, cobalt Copic multiliner and colored pencils

I had to make my morning coffee with the last drops of non-fat milk (yuck, 1% is OK but non-fat in coffee just doesn’t cut it) and there were no peaches or milk for my Cheerios. A trip to the market couldn’t be put off. But I had a full day of experiments in the studio planned and I needed some exercise. Easy solution:

  1. take the long way around, up and down big hills, to my favorite grocery store, El Cerrito Natural Grocery (cardio)
  2. sketch the market using the cobalt Copic Multiliner I wanted to experiment with (I think I prefer the sepia)
  3. shop
  4. carry groceries home in a loaded backpack plus another full bag (weight lifting)
  5. add colored pencil to the sketches to try out the new Polychromos colored pencils (LOVE THEM!)
BART riders, cobalt Copic Multiliner and colored pencils

Quick subway sketches with the cobalt Copic Multiliner and colored pencils

I’m trying to simplify my choices with my art supplies, wanting to narrow down the pens, ink, pencils and colored pencils to keep handy and those I’ll give away. I did tests today on drawing pencils, sepia liquid inks and sepia pens and will post them and my preferences tomorrow.

I’m also working on painting a grid of 16 different acrylic painting techniques to improve my understanding of acrylic techniques and possibilities. It became clear this was needed when I started a series of paintings in acrylic and realized I didn’t have the “chops” to accomplish what I wanted. I was trying to use oil painting techniques and was getting nowhere fast (and ruining brushes with all the scrubbing I was doing with them which seemed the only way to get the smooth transitions I wanted).

Each medium has its own capabilities and pitfalls. Why not make good use of the characteristics of the media instead of trying to force it to be something it’s not? Despite people claiming acrylic can be used like oils and like watercolor,  I’m going to try to learn to use it like acrylics instead and have fun with all the crazy stuff it can do. This series of large paintings wants to be in acrylic and so it shall, and soon I hope.

Sketching the Week Away

Palace Hotel Garden Court detail, Copic Multiliner

Palace Hotel Garden Court detail, Copic Multiliner

After an all day meeting in San Francisco on Wednesday I met art buddy Sonia for some sketching at the Palace Hotel’s Garden Court atrium. It’s a stunning and historical room but detail lover that I am, I chose one tiny spot across the room to draw and then spent an hour on it, while Sonia did 4 or 5 sketches.

Palace Hotel Garden Court

Palace Hotel Garden Court

I started with the furthest chandelier and the clock on the wall and just kept discovering more and more fun things to draw. If we weren’t so hungry and tired we could have stayed there all night sketching.

Chatting Over Coffee, ink

Two Ladies Chatting Over Coffee

The first lady just slid right off my pen, perfectly drawn (as I saw her) but her friend kept moving and I couldn’t get close to a  likeness.

Random subway sketches

Random BART Subway Sketches

More commuter sketches (and one eagle who adorns the top of the Oakland City Hall). My co-workers and I took advantage of a sunny and surprisingly quiet day at the office to walk to Oakland City Center for lunch (ergo the Bean and Cheese sticker) and I even had a moment to pull out my sketchbook.

That messy little boy top right was on a field trip but looked like he should have still been home in bed. And that’s where I should be too. It’s been a rocky week. Glad it’s over.

Goose (Poop) Park and Subway Sketches

Snow Park (Goose Park), ink & watercolor

Snow Park (Goose Park), ink & watercolor

I meant to take a walk at lunch today but when I saw this old lady feeding the geese I had to stop and sketch. This is a little park near my office in downtown Oakland called “Snow Park” but a better name would be “Goose Poop Park” since it’s home to the many Canadian geese who don’t seem to feel the need to head north or south any longer.

Bart faces and feet, ink & watercolor

Bart faces and feet, ink & watercolor

I drew the faces of these subway riders on my way to work this morning. I drew the feet on the way home. That guy was holding his juice on the floor with his feet.

Dignity, in New Fabriano Sketchbook

Dignity, ink, 9x10" in Fabriano sketchbook

Dignity, ink, 9x10" in Fabriano sketchbook

When I saw this woman reading on BART I had to draw her. She seemed to express the essence of dignity to me. She was carefully dressed and groomed, all in white,  grey and black, with her hair covered in a white crocheted net and that wrapped with a perfectly ironed bandana, tied in a tiny bow in front.

This was my first drawing in my new Fabriano Venezia sketchbook that Roz had tested and praised and that I bought in a couple of sizes from Wet Paint. This is in the 9×6″ size. I left the first page blank to serve as a title page/table of contents later and did this drawing on the next page. I was totally in love with the sketchbook, writing a little rave review on the page of this first sketch about how wonderfully smooth and thick the paper was, and how nicely it worked with the Micron Pigma .01.

I was a little concerned about how much larger and heavier to carry around it is than the Moleskine watercolor notebooks I’ve been using, but thought it would be worth it. BUT when I tried to scan my drawing and the book didn’t quite fit on the scanner, cropping off part of the image, and the middle seam caused half the image to blur and have a dark shadow, no matter what I tried.

Then tonight I tried adding a watered down ink wash to her jacket, which had been black. The paper acted very strangely, not at all like I’d expected. I knew it wasn’t watercolor paper, and thus wasn’t sized, but now I’m now worried how these books will react with watercolor. I guess I’ll find out soon.

Here’s the same image with the ink wash that went all splotchy.

Less Dignity with ink wash

Less Dignity with ink wash

She was so carefully groomed, with everything perfectly ironed and smooth and now she looks much less dignified with her splotchy jacket.  I don’t think the ink wash added anything positive to the drawing, do you? And I don’t think adding more ink to try to make it smoother or darker would be a good thing either.

Subway Sketches: Pigeons, People, Shoes

Shoes on subway, ink & watercolor in sketchbook

Shoes on subway, ink & watercolor in sketchbook

I’m really enjoying sketching anywhere and everywhere lately. Here are a few sketches with watercolor added later from BART stations and trains this week.

In His Own World, ink & gouache in sketchbook

In His Own World, ink & gouache in sketchbook

These pigeons were doing the Romeo and Juliet thing in the BART station. BART put up mean wire pigeon preventers everywhere that makes it hard for them to perch anywhere. But these two found a dark corner to bill and coo. I know next to nothing about birds, but Romeo was puffing up his (?) neck as he made his croohoo noise and canoodled with Juliet who kept sticking her feathered hiney up in the air.

BART Station Pigeons, ink & gouache in sketchbook

BART Station Pigeons, ink & gouache in sketchbook

I added the gouache on the last two at home, not on BART, since I usually only have a few minutes for each sketch.

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