Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wallingford Farmers Market

7/31/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
Whenever I visit farmers markets with a sketchbook (OK, I admit, I never visit farmers markets without a sketchbook), I usually head for buskers and other musicians to sketch. But today I wanted to sketch more of the market itself to contribute to the Urban Sketchers Flickr weekly theme thread, “Markets,” so I decided to take a wider view at Wallingford Farmers Market. I knew I wanted to capture the rows of tents and colorful produce, but I was having difficulty finding a compelling composition. On top of that, the flat, dark gray sky was keeping all the shadows away, which was also frustrating.

As I pondered all of this, I heard a voice repeatedly saying, “Copy? Have a nice day,” so I looked for its source. The voice belonged to a Real Change newspaper vendor hawking this week’s issue of Seattle’s advocacy publication for homeless and low-income people. A-ha! He was exactly what my composition needed.

When I bought a copy of the paper from him and showed him the sketch, Yemane Berhe, originally from West Africa, asked me to e-mail the sketch to him in care of the newspaper.

Shopping for organic corn, peaches and blueberries, I noticed the sky growing even flatter and darker. Thunder rumbled deeply in the distance. I made it home with the top down before the drops began to fall.

Meridian Playfield Entrance

7/31/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
Although I rarely visit the Wallingford neighborhood (mainly because of parking issues that I’ve complained about previously), one thing that always catches my eye when I’m driving east on North 50th Street is the stone archway at the entrance to Meridian Playfield. Since I was planning to go to the farmers market at the park anyway, I went a little early to get a jump on the parking situation, walked around the park to the 50th and Meridian intersection and crossed the street to get a good view. Until today, I didn’t realize that the zig-zagging stone wall visible through the arch opening is actually a gradually sloping wheelchair ramp.

Known for its pesticide-free grass and plants, Meridian park is home to the historic Good Shepherd Center as well as the Wallingford Farmers Market.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Green Lake Park

7/29/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, water-soluble colored pencils, Zig markers
As a frequent Green Lake walker and park visitor, I see this view often, and I’ve sketched it a few times, too. But I usually end up painting a mass of green trees that looks too dark. Today I took a cue from mixed media sketcher extraordinaire Inma Serrano and grabbed a couple of water-soluble colored pencils. And I also took a cue from both Inma and another mixed media sketcher diva, Lynne Chapman, and tossed realistic color to the wind. I don’t know if the sketch is better than previous attempts, but I definitely had more fun! (The benefits of the Barcelona Urban Sketching Symposium go on and on!)
Janine and Tina
P.S. Blog reader Janine was in town from the Bay Area, so we met for coffee to chat about sketching and life. It was great meeting you, Janine, and I’m inspired by your enthusiasm and passion for sketching!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Mate Was a Mighty Sailin’ Man

7/26/13 Take-Sumi ink, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
I regret that I didn’t get the name of this vocalist preforming in the best shady spot at Phinney Farmers Market. But anyone whose repertoire includes the theme songs to “The Brady Bunch,” “Gilligan’s Island” and “Green Acres” is OK by me.

Japanese Garden in the Arboretum

7/26/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

7/26/13 Platinum Carbon ink, Zig marker

As soon as you walk in, the shady trees, stone bridges and slowly moving koi make you feel serene and rested. I don’t visit the Arboretum’s Japanese Garden nearly as often as I’d like, and today it seemed like an essential way to come down from the high of traveling and appreciate the beauty of where I live. With lots of benches in shady spots along the walkways, it was an ideal garden for the Friday sketchers to spend the morning.
7/26/13 Platinum Carbon and Diamine Grey inks, Zig marker


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Last Thoughts: Prepping for a Symposium

Gail, Tina and Jackie

OK, I’m sure these aren’t the last thoughts I’ll ever have about a three-day international urban sketching symposium in Barcelona, Spain, that I had been fantasizing about for a year.  But they’re thoughts I had after writing my last blog post about what I learned, and I thought I’d offer some practical suggestions if you are planning to attend a future symposium:

1. Your No. 1 priority – way ahead of art materials – is having shoes you can comfortably walk several miles in. I never travel without such shoes, so I didn’t think much about them, but I didn’t realize how important they would become. Each workshop required walking some distance, usually no more than 15 or 20 minutes, but in one case, we walked for 40 minutes before we reached our destination. (One symposium participant in a different workshop decided, after her class had been walking for more than an hour without yet reaching their destination, that she didn’t want to walk anymore and took the subway back to her hotel, bagging the workshop altogether.) I heard several participants complaining about blisters or bad knees because they hadn’t realized how much walking would be required.

Kay, Tina and Nina
2. Have realistic expectations about the workshops. I attended the 4th International Urban Sketching Symposium with the same expectations that I have when I attend any art class: A workshop is an opportunity to get an overview of an instructor’s particular approach and techniques, and it’s up to me to apply them to my own work so that I can eventually find my own style. Taking a three-hour workshop might change one’s attitude (as Inma’s did mine!) or approach, which may eventually lead to significant changes in one’s sketching style. But the only improvements that come from workshops are the result of continual sketching practice long after the symposium is over.

Sketchers at Arc de Triomf

3. Manage your art materials. Unless there’s a specific medium or tool that a workshop instructor is requiring, and it’s clear from the description that that medium or tool will be the main focus of the work, don’t bother buying something new unless you want to try it anyway. As you saw in my photo of the swag we were given, you can get away without bringing any of your own materials if you’re not picky about paper or your favorite pens. If, like me, you are picky, then feel free to bring your own favorites. But often an instructor will suggest a specific paint color or a pen by brand name because it’s his or her personal favorite, and anything you use instead will work just as well.

Joao and Omar's workshop
4. Get to know other sketchers. My most memorable moments in Barcelona are about meeting sketchers I’ve long admired online; chatting with fellow participants about our local sketching communities, exchanging cards and promising to stay in touch; and sharing a common passion even when we barely shared a common spoken language. After the paint has dried and the last sketchbook page has been scanned, the Urban Sketching Symposium is ultimately about people.

5. Carry protein bars and water at all times. You never know when a compelling sketch (or getting lost) will keep you from your next meal.

Liz and Tina

Inma's workshop

What I Learned at the Urban Sketching Symposium

7/12/13 USK symposium panelists. Diamine Chocolate Brown ink.
What can I say about my first International Urban Sketching Symposium? I’ve already mentioned what an exhilarating, vibrant and intense city Barcelona is, so the symposium location alone was enough to make my heart race. Combine that with being with 200 people from around the world who are equally passionate about sketching as I am, and the collective energy we produced was probably enough to light up the Sagrada Familia! I feel fortunate and grateful to the all-volunteer symposium committee that brought us together. And as much as I learned from the workshops that formed the meat of the symposium, I think what I’ll remember most is being part of that amazing collective passion and the individuals I met there who contributed their unique energy.

7/11/13 Lynne Chapman's workshop exercise.
Ink, colored pencil, markers.
Of the four blog posts I planned to write about my sketching experiences in Europe, I saved this one for last because I’ve needed time to digest three intensive days of learning in five distinct workshops. I admire all the instructors for their willingness to teach bilingually (even with an interpreter, it’s a demanding requirement) and for tolerating conditions not under their control (like rain! And a local soccer game taking place where a workshop was planned!).

Lynne Chapman’s “Sketches that Sing: Creating Sketches with a Life of their Own” was my first workshop of the symposium, and she set the tone with her lively, colorful and entertaining teaching style. Her exercises focused on three areas – composition, using color to direct attention, and using playful patterns and marks to create shading and energy. My sketch of Placa Vicenc Martorell, a relatively quiet plaza, was the last one I finished in her workshop, incorporating mark-making techniques, mixed media and the dynamic composition style she presented.

7/11/13 Marion Rivolier's workshop exercise. Watercolor.
Marion Rivolier’s “Capturing Space through Form and Color” was my most challenging workshop, for a variety of reasons. For one, it started raining as we walked to our workshop location more than a half-hour away on foot, and the rain continued through most of the three hours, which made watercolor painting outdoors an “interesting” experience. With the waterfront landscape of Palau de Mar as our focus, we studied value and color contrasts to express forms using paint only.

Marc Taro Holmes was a particularly organized instructor who posted a PDF of his workshop handout weeks in advance so that we could study the concepts before we arrived at La Rambla – Barcelona’s bustling pedestrian mall. I found it very helpful to preview the lessons he presented in “Drawing People in Motion.” The first part of the workshop involved
7/12/13 Marc Taro Holmes' workshop exercise.
Pencil, brush pen, watercolor
frenetically making gesture studies in pencil of people’s faces and figures, spending no more than a couple minutes on each (usually no more than a few seconds each for me). I filled an entire signature in my sketchbook with dozens of gestural sketches. Later we refined lines and added detail with a pen and used a dark brush pen to emphasize shadows. Finally Marc demo’d his dynamic watercolor techniques. My sketch shown here was the last exercise of the workshop in which we pulled together techniques learned previously to create a “story board” of a person in action, attempting to capture a variety of their stances and movements.

7/13/13 Catarino & Jamarillo's workshop exercise. Watercolor.
Joao Catarino and Omar Jamarillo joined forces to present “Negative Forms and First Structures and Minimal Storytelling.” Forming negative shapes using paint only (no preliminary lines) during the first half of the workshop proved to be so challenging for me that I couldn’t find any examples from my sketchbook that sufficiently show the concepts being taught. I did a little better in the second part of the workshop: My sketch is an exercise in using layers of watercolor to evoke a crowd of people and to indicate depth by varying the scale.

7/12/13 Inma Serrano's workshop exercise. Tombow markers.
I’ve saved my summary of Inma Serrano’s workshop, “Rhythm in the City,” for last because, of all the workshops and other symposium experiences, I think her approach to sketching will have the strongest impact on my sketches going forward. If you have a couple minutes, take a look at her video, which I viewed shortly before registration for the symposium began. I found her sketching style to be engaging and vibrant, and I hoped her teaching style would be, too. I wasn’t disappointed!

Inma’s workshop focused on three concepts: “People Are Alive” – quickly turning human figures into abstract, organic gestures and forms that describe their energy rather than their appearance; “Buildings Are Alive” – imagining that architectural structures are living, dynamic, organic “monsters” or creatures rather than static, serious descriptions of perspective. (A-HA! The magic words!); and “Color is Alive” – using mixed-media color to drive the focus, composition and rhythm of a sketch.

7/12/13 Inma Serrano's workshop exercise. Diamine Chocolate
Brown ink, watercolor.
This comment she made (paraphrased; she taught in Spanish translated by an interpreter) resonated strongly for me: At one time, she used to studiously sketch an entire building accurately, even though only one part of it interested her and even though perspective was a pain. It wasn’t fun. Now she only sketches the part of a building that engages her – the part that brings it alive for her – and no longer cares about the rules of perspective or accuracy in scale. Watching her sketch a building during the demo, it was clear to everyone that she was having nothing but fun!

The sketch I did for the “Buildings Are Alive” section – the floral-shaped frontispiece on a Placa del Pi building – was a liberation! Only that frontispiece engaged me – why struggle through the rest that I’m not interested in?

The next day at Arc de Triomf, I felt the full impact of the workshop as I sketched the Arc – something I probably wouldn’t have even attempted before Inma liberated me! Even more important – it was the most fun I ever had sketching an architectural structure!

See my blog post on the 4th International Urban Sketching Symposium blog for a little more about what I experienced.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Most Memorable Sketches of Germany

7/14/13 Burg Stahleck. Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor
After the high humidity and intensity of Barcelona, Germany’s romantic Rhine region felt easy and relaxed (though not much cooler) – and it shows in my sketches. I was hard-pressed to select favorites from this group because I had many more to choose from, and they were all memorable in different ways.

Our week in Germany began in sleepy Bacharach (sleepy, that is, until you are trying to sleep, and then the trains that roar by every few minutes will wake you unless you wear good earplugs, which we fortunately had). Burg Stahleck, the town castle (every town in Germany seems to have one) perched high on a hill, was my first sketch.

7/16/13 A page of sketches made on a river cruise.
7/16/13 Kaiser Wilhelm monument. Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor.
We cruised down the Rhine River to Koblenz at a pace that matched our relaxed mood, and I discovered an amazing fact: As long as I don’t care about petty things like perspective, I can sketch stationary distant objects from a moving vehicle! Knowing from experience that sketching from a moving car or train is nearly impossible because things go by the window too fast, I hadn’t tried sketching from a boat. I discovered that it moves just slowly enough that if I choose, say, a castle in the distance, I can sketch it as the boat gets closer and continue sketching as it rounds a bend, revealing the other side of the castle or a tower previously obscured by trees. (It’s like drawing a flat map of the world – inaccurate only if you insist that the earth is round, even though you can’t see its roundness from where you stand.) Filling many sketchbook pages with small drawings, I never had so much fun on a boat.

Sketching Kaiser Wilhelm
At Deutsches Eck in Koblenz, two sketches stand out: One of the enormous monument of Kaiser Wilhelm on his steed, and the other of organ grinder “Onkel” Tom Willi. The latter spoke no English, but when he caught me sketching him, he came over to see what I was doing, and when I asked his name with my less-than-rudimentary German, he handed me a calling card. (If you look closely at the sketch of Wilhelm, you’ll see Greg wearing a hat. I sketched only the upper part of the monument; Greg had to climb quite a way up to get to that spot, from which he took the photo of me at right.)

7/16/13 Organ grinder at Deutsches Eck. Diamine Eclipse ink.

A couple of days later we traveled to Köln. When we first started talking about adding Köln to our itinerary, we weren’t sure we’d have enough to do there. Sure, there’s that cathedral, but what else? It turned out to be my favorite type of city: Urbane and sophisticated, but not too large or bustling to give me anxiety. And like the Sagrada Familia, I could have filled an entire sketchbook with nothing but “that cathedral.”

7/18/13 First sketch of Koln Cathedral. Platinum Carbon ink, Zig markers.

I only managed 10 sketches of it, but I could have sketched it a hundred times and still found new views to capture. Here are three of my favorites. The first one I did was also my most intense effort: Two hours in the early morning before the day got too hot. Shortly afterwards, I sketched the man playing steel drums in front of the cathedral, and it reminded me of all the buskers and other performers I enjoy sketching at farmers markets. Later that day, we climbed the cathedral’s 533 spiraling steps to the point marked on the first sketch (above).

Sketching Koln Cathedral.
7/18/13 Diamine Eclipse ink

That evening we walked along the Rhine, and I chose a distant view of the cathedral behind one of the arched bridges that cross the river. The next day I went back to the cathedral’s main plaza where I had sketched the first sketch and was surprised to find a line of people waiting for food from a soup kitchen. I liked the contrast of the enormous structure behind them.

7/18/13 Cathedral behind a Rhine River bridge. Kuretake brush pen.
My last sketch is of an historic tower on the property of friends in Mainz right next to their house. Romantic Turm Fort Stahlberg is available for rent by the day, and Greg and I were lucky enough to spend two nights in it. I woke early the first morning to sketch a 360-degree skyline view of Mainz from its very top. Then the next day I woke early again to sketch the tower, my very last sketch before we left for home. It felt like an appropriate closure to my sketchbook of a memorable trip.

To view more sketches and photos from my travels, please see this Flickr set.

7/19/13 Cathedral and soup kitchen line.
Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor.
7/22/13 Turm Fort Stahlberg. Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor.

Most Memorable Sketches of Barcelona

7/8/13 Diamine Eclipse ink, Zig marker, water-soluble colored pencil
When I first heard confirmation that the rumors of an urban sketching symposium in Barcelona were true, I was thrilled. Although I didn’t know much about this city except what I’d seen on Rick Steves’ show, I had an image of an exciting, vibrant city filled with old and new. My image was correct, except a hundredfold. I expected a large, bustling city, but its intensity nearly overwhelmed me. From the sheer extreme immensity and bodaciousness of the Sagrada Familia (probably the single most impressive manmade thing I’ve ever experienced) to the sea of humanity cruising down La Rambla at any given moment, everything about Barcelona felt intense, over-caffeinated and fully saturated. I loved it, and at the same time, it exhausted me.

Sketching Mirador de Colom.
Maybe that’s why, despite all the hours I spent sketching during the symposium, I made relatively few sketches of Barcelona on my own time. I became so full with the sights, sounds, tastes, sensations and smells of the city that I didn’t leave much room for sketching.

Most memorable is the very first sketch I made on our first day in Barcelona at the immense Mirador de Colom. As I sketched one of the many lions surrounding the monument at ground level, it suddenly struck me: “Hey, I’m sketching in Barcelona!”

7/10/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor
Another significant sketch in my memory is the one and only sketch I did at the Sagrada Familia. The type of place you could sketch every day of your life for a year and still find new things to capture, the Sagrada Familia took my breath away every time I turned. We spent all day there, yet I felt we had barely brushed the surface. By mid-afternoon, I realized I still hadn’t sketched it, so I braved the blazing sun, found an empty bench (empty only because it wasn’t shady) and took half an hour to sketch it (all the time I could stand that heat). It was the manmade equivalent of the Grand Canyon, and I sketched the equivalent of one rock.

Sketching Sagrada Familia.
My third most memorable sketch is one of the Arc de Triomf, for a couple of reasons. The Arc was the designated location of the group photo for all symposium participants preceded by a general sketchcrawl on the last symposium day. When I got there, the Arc itself was stunning to behold, but what caught my eye was all the sketchers. I think it was the only sketch opportunity that all symposium participants as well as ad hoc sketchers were available for, so literally hundreds of sketchers were scattered all over the grass, benches, everywhere I looked. As excited as I was to be part of the symposium, I hadn’t expected to feel so moved to see so many sketchers in one place – and to know that I was fortunate enough to be one of them. The collective energy of all those people engaged in their most passionate pastime must have been palpable even to casual passers-by.

7/13/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Zig markers
The second reason my sketch of the Arc is special to me is that it was my first after Inma Serrano’s workshop, “Rhythm in the City.” Before her workshop, I would have stood at the foot of the Arc in such awe and dismay that I probably would have chosen a small detail to sketch – not the Arc itself. But her approach toward sketching and her way of seeing architecture as living creatures gave me both the permission and the attitude to take on the whole Arc – or the part that engaged me most, and nothing more.

To view more sketches and photos from my travels, please see this Flickr set.  

What I Learned About Travel Sketching

My swag bag from the USK Symposium included eight sketchbooks
of various types and sizes, a Van Gogh watercolor set and several pens,
pencils and markers.
I’m back in town after 16 days of traveling in Barcelona, Spain, and the Rhine River region of Germany. It was an amazing adventure of sketching, feeling, seeing, smelling, sketching, sweating, listening, walking, sketching, eating, sleeping, not sleeping, sketching, learning, meeting people, sketching and experiencing. Although I’ve done a little international travel before (Italy in 2006 and Japan in 2001, 2007 and 2010) and certainly hope to do more in the future, this trip will always be special in my mind because it was my first “real” travel since I began sketching. Of course, it’s also special because the trip included attending the 4th International Urban Sketching Symposium in Barcelona. I could probably write a month of blog posts about everything I experienced, but I’ve decided to organize my thoughts and sketches this way:

1. What I learned about travel sketching (today’s post), including things I wish I had brought as well as those I wish I had left at home.
2. Most memorable sketches of Barcelona.
3. Most memorable sketches of Germany.
4. What I learned at the 4th International Urban Sketching Symposium.
5. Last Thoughts: Prepping for a Symposium.

To view the full collection of sketches (except most workshop exercises) and some photos, please see my Flickr set. If you saw some sketches I posted in Flickr while traveling, I’ve swapped out the poorly photographed ones for higher-quality scans, so they might be worth a second look.

And now – here are a few key things I learned about travel sketching that will improve my experience next time:

1. If you read my post Barcelona Symposium Prep, Part 2: Everything Else, you know that I packed a carefully selected supply of art materials that would meet my anticipated needs without weighing me down. As it turned out, I used everything I brought almost daily, with the following exceptions: The spare Platinum Preppy pen that I intended to fill with Platinum Carbon cartridges when my Lamy ran out (my three filled fountain pens lasted two weeks of daily sketching, so none of the cartridges were used); the charcoal pencil (recommended by one instructor); the eraser (recommended by one instructor). Since those unused items took up very little space in my bag, I’m pleased that I gauged my needs mostly accurately.

2. I was disappointed that I didn’t make better use of the second watercolor palette I had brought (as discussed in Barcelona Symposium Prep, Part 1: Watercolors). Although most of the paints in it were specifically recommended by one of my instructors, she hardly discussed the use of those colors, and I could have done all of the exercises with my usual palette. I suspected that that might happen; next time, I’m bringing only my favorite palette and calling it good.

3. My Stefano” sketchbook system worked out beautifully! (My thanks again to Mary Ann Moss, whose blog post initially prompted me to start thinking about such a system, and to Stefano Bramato for custom-making the sketchbook cover to my specifications.) Whether I was standing on the streets of Barcelona or sitting on the park benches of Köln, and carried with me all day, every day, for more than two weeks, its size and weight never hindered me. The sturdy leather cover held up well to typical urban sketching abuse (I once set it down on the ground in something nasty that took some scrubbing to clean off, and I dropped it several times), supported my clip-on watercolor palette and protected my sketches.

Each day I went out with the current signature in the cover, plus one or two spares in the side pockets. Whenever I filled a signature, I pulled it out and left it safely in my hotel room. After reading about the high risk of pickpocketing in Barcelona (at least three urban sketchers at the symposium fell victim to theft, including one who lost a bag containing his working sketchbook), being able to take sketches out of my daily bag turned out to be a significant benefit of the signature system that wouldn’t be an issue at home.

I had packed a total of 13 eight-sheet (16 pages each) signatures, which were all I could fit of the 16 I had stitched up. Even 13 seemed like overkill, but I brought them anyway. I ended up filling almost nine, so my excessiveness wasn’t extreme. Symposium participants received a generous swag bag (see photo above) filled with no less than eight sketchbooks of varying sizes and types (including three embossed or printed with the symposium logo and one with a cover designed by famed sketcher Lapin!). But other than the one Stillman & Birn and possibly the Moleskine filled with watercolor paper, I don’t care for the papers in the rest. It also didn’t appeal to me to put all my travel and workshop sketches randomly into numerous sketchbooks.

One other aspect of the signature system highly appeals to the A.R. side of me: I counted up the number of pages I filled, and they would have exceeded the number of pages in one Stillman & Birn (which would have been the alternative if I hadn’t committed to the Stefano). That means I would have had to start a second volume but not fill it, and then I’m left with a half-used sketchbook that I wouldn’t have wanted to continue filling with sketches unrelated to my travels, so the remaining pages would get wasted. With the signatures, I can now bind only the travel-related sketches into a single, complete volume (a few blank pages at the end of the last signature are available to hold memorabilia and other ephemera). That makes me dizzy with happiness!

My only ambivalence related to my sketchbook is that I used the signatures for workshop exercises as well as all my travel sketches. In a few cases, sketches I made during class felt spontaneous enough that they seem to belong with the rest of my travel sketches. But you know how workshop exercises go. Most are simply just that – exercises that follow the instructor’s directions and lack spontaneity, expression or even completion. A couple of the signatures are almost all workshop exercises, so I could leave them out of the final bound volume. On the other hand, the symposium was what prompted the travels in the first place; aren’t the workshop exercises part of the experience? (Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that a little longer.)
Edited 8/11/13: See "Sketchbook Binding Finally Done" to learn the outcome.

4. I occasionally regretted not having a stool. Early in my planning process, I had eliminated my portable camp stool from consideration because I was committed to using carry-on luggage only, and the stool would have taken up too much space. This decision wasn’t too hard to make, since I often prefer standing while sketching anyway. But during three-hour workshops, the streets of Barcelona can get pretty hard, both for standing and sitting. Maybe an inflatable cushion would have been a good compromise. (I’m putting that on my list for next time.)

5. My biggest equipment failure and regret took me by complete surprise: My Nomadic Wise Walker messenger bag. I had used this bag as my combination carry-on/daily sketch bag on several previous domestic trips, and it had worked out fine. But on the crowded sidewalks of Barcelona, I kept bumping into people with its bulk. All of its many compartments and pockets, while seemingly useful for organizing supplies, ended up being a confusing chaos of zippers when trying to do a quick sketch. And one of the primary recommendations for avoiding pickpockets is to blend in with the crowd and not stand out as a tourist. While this type of urban bag is popular in the U.S., I looked around me in Barcelona and didn’t see any. TOURIST was written across my forehead.

The Wise Walker lasted one day. The second day, I left it in my hotel room, where it remained unused for the full two weeks. I replaced it with a flimsy-looking nylon tote bag that scrunches up into its own case, which I keep in a corner of my travel roller bag as a shopping bag. On the opposite extreme as the Wise Walker, the tote has no pockets or structure at all, which drove me crazy, as all of my supplies ended up in a heap at the bottom (later sorted with a variety of plastic bags and such). But strangely enough, that bag blended in nicely with locals and other tourists, who seemed to favor such unstructured bags. Later in Germany, I replaced it with a smaller cotton shopping bag that we got free from a Koblenz train station sandwich shop.

Lesson learned! I’m now working on a replacement solution for a carry-on/daily bag combo that’s more structured than a dump-all tote but less bulky than the Wise Walker. Stay tuned.

Edited 8/21/13: The solution is a big sister to my everyday Rickshaw bag.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Barcelona and Germany, Here I Come!

My bags are packed, and I’m ready to go!

I have lofty aspirations to post sketches to this blog, my Flickr photostream,  the Urban Sketching Symposium blog, my Facebook page and the symposium Facebook page. But the reality might be different, based on my available time, level of energy and wi-fi reliability.

In case I don’t get around to all of those lofty aspirations, I’ll post sketches and photos first to my Flickr photostream set called “Barcelona & Germany 2013,” which you can get to by clicking the previous link, or simply view here. If I get around to the rest, good for me. On the other hand, I’m leaving home to see and sketch exciting new places; maybe the rest can wait until after July 22!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Colorful Singer in Monochrome

7/5/13 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi and Diamine Grey inks, Stillman & Birn sketchbook
Wouldn’t you know it.
Most of the musicians I’ve sketched at farmers markets have been dressed in dark, muted tones. This afternoon at Phinney Farmers Market, vocalist Alix Moren wore a brightly colored, floral-print dress that would have been fun to paint – if I’d had my paints! After yesterday’s dry run of my travel bag, I left all my watercolors and markers in that bag, knowing that I’d be doing my final packing today. So all I had with me today was black fountain pen ink and the waterbrush filled with Diamine Grey that I had taken out of the travel bag. Despite the monochrome sketch, Alix and guitarist Matt Williams performed a colorful rendition of some of my favorite ‘70s tunes, like Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.”
Strawberry season is almost over, so I picked up one last cup from Hayton Farms for tomorrow’s breakfast before we leave town. By the time we get back, the peaches may be in. As excited as I am to travel, I almost hate leaving Seattle at its very best time of year.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dry Run at Thornton Creek Channel

7/4/13 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
Needing a break from packing and prepping for our trip to Europe, we took a brief walk through Thornton Creek Channel. When I sketched the channel last month, I took a wide view. This time, I closed in on a culvert where a small waterfall pours into the channel. In the foreground were some fuzzy purple flowers that the fat bumblebees really seemed to like.
This walk was my dry run for my Nomadic Wise-Walker messenger bag fully packed with all my Urban Sketching Symposium art materials as well as other travel essentials. I sketched and painted this standing, with the bag on my shoulder, as I often do. As long as I’m not tempted to continue filling the bag’s plentiful pockets and compartments, I think I’ll be fine. (The only thing I took out was the water brush filled with Diamine Grey ink that I like to use for shading; it wouldn’t fit in my TSA-approved zip-lock bag.)
Have a safe and happy 4th!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Family of Cellists

7/3/13 Sailor pen, Diamine Eclipse ink, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
I hadn’t been to the Wallingford Farmers Market since it moved from Wallingford Center to Meridian Park, so I was eager to check it out on this warm and clear-blue-sky day. As soon as I got near the neighborhood, I remembered why I rarely visit this market: Traffic is bad there even when it’s not rush hour on the afternoon before the 4th of July holiday, and today it was both. Parking was even worse.
Feeling hot and frazzled when I finally got into the market, I wandered around a bit looking for a sketch. Hearing saxophone music in the distance, I walked closer to see who it was: the man who seems to know only five songs! I sketched him last year at Phinney Farmers Market, and today I would hear all five songs again.  
Just then a family carrying large instrument cases walked by, so I followed them to a shady tree on the other end of the market. After a few minutes, they set up stools in the grass and started tuning up – two parents, a boy and a girl, all with cellos. The boy (center), named Calun, said he’s been playing for five years, but he sounded like an adult with many more years of experience. One by one, the other family members sat in the grass and let Calun play solo.
I forgot all about my stress and frustration getting there and looking for parking. Sketching a cello concert in the grass will do that.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

High Noon at the Zoo

7/2/13 Pilot Namiki Black ink, Stillman & Birn sketchbook
Animals, people, trees and other plants, architecture, wide open spaces, interiors, still lifes – just about anything you want to sketch, you can find at the zoo. That’s why I spend so much time there. Admittedly, with all of those choices, I spend most of my zoo time sketching small portraits of individual animals.

7/2/13 Pilot Namiki Black ink, Stillman & Birn sketchbook
Today I decided to take a variety of approaches. I spent more time sketching larger spaces, such as a group of people looking at the penguin exhibit and a value study of picnickers under a tree. The one I sketched at the penguin exhibit was especially interesting because the sun was almost directly overhead, creating unusual shadows.

I also tried quick gesture sketches of a reindeer and penguins in different positions. Finally, on my way out, I did one portrait of a beautiful heron that likes to preen on the high wall of the penguin exhibit.

7/2/13 water-soluble colored pencils, Diamine Grey ink
7/2/13 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink
7/2/13 Pilot Namiki Black ink

Barcelona Symposium Prep, Part 2: Everything Else

Come hell or high water, this is it.
(See Barcelona Symposium Prep, Part 1: Watercolors for the paints I’m bringing.)

I could have procrastinated a few more days, but being the strong J on the Myers-Briggs that I am, I knew I wouldn’t be able to move on to the rest of my travel prep if I didn’t nail the lid on this one, so I did: I’ve made my final choices of art supplies to bring to Barcelona and Germany. (Anything else I need will be purchased, borrowed or stolen once I get there. Or I’ll do without – what a concept! – by substituting something else!)

Most of the supplies are either items I carry in my bag all the time anyway or rotate in occasionally, and everything fits comfortably in my travel bag, which is a Nomadic Wise-Walker messenger bag. (As much as I’d like to bring my beloved Rickshaw Bagworks bag that I use every day, it’s just not big enough for all the additional things I need in a travel carry-on.)

Numbers refer to the photo above. An asterisk * designates an item I am bringing specifically because a workshop instructor recommended it.

1. Glue stick for adhering mementoes and other ephemera to my journal and sketchbook.
2. A travel-size perfume atomizer that I fill with water to spritz my watercolors. I discovered this only recently while I was shopping at the Savvy Traveler in Edmonds for my small, RFID-blocking, slash-proof Pacsafe sling purse. (I couldn’t find it on Savvy Traveler’s site, so the link goes to Amazon.)
3. Four waterbrushes in various sizes. The short one fits in my TSA-required zip-lock plastic bag, so I carry it onboard filled with water for use on the flight. The others I leave empty until I arrive.
4. Two Escoda travel brushes (sizes 2 and 8). I was supposed to have three more sizes for one of my workshops, but I decided I could do without.
5. My “Stefano” sketchbook system (Not shown: Way more hand-stitched, eight-page, single-signature booklets of 100-pound watercolor paper than I can ever use on this trip. I’m going to take as many as will fit after I put other essentials in).

6. My usual mint tin watercolor kit, shown with palette attached and my current favorite paints.
*7. A second Trader Joe’s mint tin filled with colors I’m not very familiar with.
*8. Eraser.
9. Water brush filled with Diamine Grey ink for shading.
*10. Four Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers. I used to carry several of these in my bag regularly, but during my recent attempts to reduce my bag’s contents and weight, I took most of them out. But Lynne Chapman suggested we bring a variety of colored media capable of making big, bold marks, so I chose four high-contrast colors that would be useful in the urban environment.
11. Uniball Signo opaque white gel pen.
12. Two Albrecht Durer water-soluble colored pencils – one brown, one blue.
13. A trusty Lamy Safari fountain pen filled with PlatinumCarbon Black waterproof ink.
14. A very inexpensive and perhaps less trusty Platinum Preppy fountain pen containing a Platinum Carbon Black ink cartridge (see No. 21 below). The only reason I’m bringing this is that I know one pen-ful of Platinum Carbon (No. 13 above) won't last two weeks, but I don't want to pack a bottle of ink (it wouldn’t fit in my TSA zip-lock, nor would I want to risk permanent black ink spillage). This pen, which can be used with Platinum’s proprietary cartridges, writes amazingly well for a little more than 3 bucks. (I just hope it doesn’t leak on the flight.)
15. A Lamy Nexx fountain pen filled with my favorite water-soluble Diamine Chocolate Brown ink.
16. Sailor DE Brush Stroke Style Fountain Pen filled with water-soluble Diamine Eclipse ink. I know that Lynne Chapman uses one of these funky pens with the variable-width, ski-jump nib, so I hope to ask her for a demo during her workshop. I don’t have any cartridges that fit this pen, so when it goes dry, it goes dry.
*17. Kuretake Fountain Brush Pen filled with a Platinum Carbon Black ink cartridge (see No. 21 below). This pen works double-duty: It was recommended by Mark Taro Holmes, and it makes a bold mark (for Chapman’s workshop).
*18. A mechanical pencil.
*19. A charcoal pencil (this was a compromise – I hate using real charcoal sticks, which were recommended by Chapman).
20. Cretacolor Nero Extrasoft pencil.
21. Platinum Carbon Black ink cartridges (to refill No. 14 and 17 above).
22. Lamy water-soluble black ink cartridges (to refill No. 15 above).

That’s it. Have I omitted something crucial? Or can I stand to leave something out?

Edited 7/4/13: I made a dry-run sketch with my bag fully packed with all of the above as well as other travel essentials, and it worked out great! The only thing I had to take out was No. 9, the waterbrush filled with Diamine Grey ink, because it won't fit in my TSA-approved zip-lock bag.
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