The terrible thing about sunlight is it shows the dirt.
The terrible thing about sunlight is it shows the dirt.
We have deep depth.
When in doubt: sketch.
It’s a moment that I’m after, a fleeting moment,
but not a frozen moment.
Splash Pads are a great place to practice gesture drawing, because the activity is so frenetic there is no time to get fussy about perfect contour drawing. The human drama is also compelling: seeing people engage in a group activity even though most are strangers at first.
Tentative splashers hang back and observe. Those with brio go berserk roaring like monsters. There is the silent spoiler, who jams the jet with a bucket or foot. The malcontent screams to get wet and then screams to get dry.
July in the South is HOT.
Sitting in the shade near a splash pad will guarantee a cooler location for an urban sketcher! You can find one in the local park or in the middle of an upscale shopping mall, just a step away from STARBUCKS.
I have taught my students not to apply rules
or mechanical ways of seeing.
Back drawing the figure regularly after a hiatus of more than a decade.
Clocked a lot of time in dark studios in the past, mostly in New York: Spring Street Studio ( a.k.a. Minerva’s group ), SVA, PARSONS, ART STUDENTS LEAGUE, … the list goes on and on.
Back then, I was using CONTE CRAYON, pencil, or charcoal. Now I am using ink. If the drawing is not truthful in the first few meaningful strokes, all the erasure in the world probably won’t help. Ink keeps you honest. Ink forces you to be AWAKE: every moment, every stroke.
The best book: JAMES McMULLAN, HIGH FOCUS DRAWING
McMullan also has an OPINIONATER blog about approaches to drawing called LINE BY LINE.
Check him out!
Brevity is the soul of wit.
Using ten or twenty minutes to draw has really taught me a lot in the last two years. The amount of time it takes to wait for my entrée is often enough to quickly describe the moment. Now I have a greater appreciation of what can be accomplished in small increments. These snippets add up on the page and in positive experiences at the end of a week, month or year. Whether drawing from observation or illustrating an idea, sprints of practice can show progress rather rapidly. IMPORTANT NOTE: In general I wait a bit to let ANY INK dry into the paper, if the paper is sized.
Below are some tools I like to use for snippets. Sometimes I combine all 3 tools in the same sketch.
PENTEL HYBRID TECHNICA GEL PENS
These pens have a roller ball and are water resistant once dry. They come in several point widths. I like them particularly for really fast, scribbled sketches. A ballpoint pen is a really humble tool and is capable of great variety. I like to use pigment ink for longevity, so I prefer to use these pens rather than the kind used in most office supply. The gel ink gives a really smooth line and rarely develops the dreaded BLOB-ITIS I remember from high school. BLOB-ITIS creates greasy wads of ink on the edges of the rollerball, landing unpredictably on a sketch in defiance.
A scribbled sketch generally takes only a few minutes. I try to create a condition of light and emphasize the overall shape of objects or figures.
LAMY SAFARI FOUNTAIN PENS
These fountain pens are great because they are rugged, easy to use, and are relatively inexpensive. The marks have an expressive quality that is difficult to mimic with a technical pen, and the mess of carrying a dip pen is not a factor. I use Noodler’s BULLETPROOF INK for permanence or completely compromise and use a LAMY cartridge. The NOODLER’s ink is waterproof so I often prefer to use it if I want to place wash on top.
A fountain pen sketch really makes me conscious of the types of lines I am creating and reinforces the idea that all drawing is abstract.
FABER-CASTELL PITT ARTIST PENS
These pens are available in a full complement of gray tones, which are excellent for developing drawings on the go. I usually buy the BIG BRUSH pens because I like to cover a big area fast. The fine-line markers are really nice to render detail. I always have a large black BIG BRUSH pen to fill in large areas rather than crosshatch into madness.
Gray toned drawings can really conjure a sense of place and light quickly.
THE DEAD BRUSH
When you have a brush that has died you have nothing left to lose: bring a small bottle of ink and work with the dried old crusty hairs. You can throw it away if you choose when you are done!
A little color injection in a summer of B/W sketching. A view of WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, just under Mercer pier as the sun nears noon.
I was always a sucker for the theme to CHEERS:
” WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME…”
A brew pub has been established in town and with good dinner specials it seems that a local crowd is gathering on a regular basis. So it is nice to revisit a setting that reminds me a bit of the local pub in my hometown.
Coming from a place that had SERIOUS IRISH, the pub atmosphere was a part of life.
SERIOUS IRISH means that:
• There is a brogue in your immediate family.
• Green beer on ST. PATRICK’S DAY is not a possibility.
• You know what the word ‘egit’ means because you were dubbed so more than once for good cause. The time you dropped your brother down the laundry shoot would be one such time, for example.
• TRIFLE is not a small thing but a gelatinous- love it- or- hate it blob.
• When you landed in really hot water, the entire HOLY FAMILY is invoked by name…ending with JOSEPH. Dad’s are always the last to know.
• Your mother has made her own BAILEY’s, with more strange ingredients than a witch’s brew.
• Irish soda bread is a fiercely guarded recipe, committed to heart and rarely written for posterity.
• Stew is a lifestyle.
• Ham is as important as air.
TR’s ALL AMERICAN is the hometown pub in NY. If I showed up there today I would find classmates from grammar and high school. Stories at the bar chase a person from first grade well into middle-age. Nobody ever forgets anything in these places: the room is dark and the memory is long.
The decor has changed little over time. It reminds me of a funeral parlor with forest green wallpaper, lots of wood, and TEDDY ROOSEVELT memorabilia. There will be SERIOUS IRISH there, despite the numerous changes in management and menu.
There is no SERIOUS IRISH here and now in KANNAPOLIS, but I expect by this point I take it as a ‘ TRAVELER’ and bring it along on my own. At least there is a local place than can conjure the ambiance if I squint.
If I could find anything blacker than black, I’d use it.
JOHNNY MERCER PIER in the morning. © 2014 ELLEN WARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Noodlers ink in a LAMY SAFARI , watercolor wash ( lamp black, davy’s gray ).
Sunscreen, umbrella, hat, water, towels, t-shirt, beach book ( THE BEST UNREQUIRED READING edited by Dave Eggers. I give it 4 stars ).
The list is lengthy if you are on the pasty side and heading for the beach.
When I looked at my fully stocked pencil case, the large fistfull of PITT artist markers & the full palette of watercolors, I realized that the experience of “BEING THERE” should be primary and not the experience of ” DRAGGING THERE” all the bits and bobs one might WANT but does not NEED to describe the moment. The length of that sentence describes the feeling perfectly. TOO MUCH.
Doubt Faber-Castell designed the markers to bake on the sand anyway.
I filled 2 LAMY SAFARI pens with NOODLERS BLACK ink, carried a tiny palette with LAMP BLACK /DAVY’S GRAY, and a single flat brush. A paper cup held water for the limited washes on the beach. Less was definitely more.
One toddler was a sand-eater. He seemed to alternate between throwing gobs into the air and filling his mouth. I yelled to his mother “SAND-EATER” and she replied, ” Yeah. He does that.” Can’t stop the tide. Clearly can’t stop a dedicated sand eater. With at least 4 or 5 other boys under her charge, I guess she would know. No doubt a lot of sand has worked its way through them at one time or another. Probably puts ALL-BRAN to shame.
A tour of the harbor was full of facts about the history of Wilmington, but I was more interested in spotting some of the dolphins and sea turtles seen on the earlier trip. At 3 in the afternoon it was incredibly hot, so I wanted to capture the feeling of being in a fully shaded interior with intense daylight outside. Just a pen was enough to commit the experience to memory.
No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination.
Ink is a catalyst for seeing. It is definite and for the most part indelible. By drawing consistently with ink one learns to make clear decisions and develop better aim. I generally do not use a pencil underlay because it hobbles my responses and makes me lazy.
These drawings are done with ink but on 2 different papers by STILLMAN & BIRN.
ALPHA has a slight texture, which works very well when crosshatching. The paper helps to break up lines, and slow the movement of the pen. There are rabbits in the yard, so this piece was drawn in bits over time. Sometimes I will start one of these sketches and use it to focus, warm-up, or just meditate. It may be developed over weeks, with 5 or 10 minutes visits to build the image each time. Imagination comes into play combining different bits of landscape to develop a sense of space.
EPSILON has a smooth texture which I like a lot because it fosters a speedy line. The garden sketch combines marks made by both the PENTEL BRUSH PEN and a LAMY fountain pen. This is observational drawing. Navigating the chaos is the challenge when sketching. Challenging one’s skill level is the point!