11 February, 2018. This morning I’m reflecting on a couple of things that interest me – wine, sketching, experimentation, and storytelling.
Having been attendees of the Cellar Rat wine club for more than a few years, we finally availed ourselves of a previously untapped membership perk: a wine class. Mark, the personable and very knowledgeable Cellar Rat manager has led many a varied such event. This theme of this particular evening was wines from unusual places, featuring bottles from spots around the globe one might not immediately associate with grape growing. There were, for instance, bottles from Macedonia, Mexican Baja, and the Canary Islands, all of which were part of an interesting and fun evening of exploration.
Good wines – to me at least – are a natural accompaniment to food and companionship. The magic of this evening was bringing together a dozen strangers around a long, simple table to enjoy the fellowship of the palate (as opposed to the palette I more usually concern myself with.) We sampled from eight bottles, and marveled at the variety of changes taking place on the tongue as we paired each with different harder cheeses – an interesting locally produced white Cheddar, a wonderful Spanish Manchego, and a slightly pungent and very tasty Sardinian goat cheese.
An elderly woman who sat across the table from me had been to many such classes, not only with this evening’s host, but across the country and in other lands. As with others around our table, one of the best things was the sharing of personal experiences and tastes – an unexpected supplement to the informative nature of Mark’s presentation of the samples. And this brings me round to one of the other things I mentioned reflecting upon: story. I always enjoy making sketches in which a story – or at least part of a story – is present. In fact, it’s not unusual for me to feel some internally driven obligation to add “field notes” or a caption to a sketch. Sometimes the words are design additions or help to otherwise visually balance a drawing as they do in the sketch above.
I also enjoy being open to using my sketches to share a part of what I experience by being present in a particular place at a particular time. Yes, in many ways my sketches can be very journalistic, kind of visual diaries – and in some sense they are rather autobiographical.
To that end, these scribbles are more journalistic or narrative in nature than artistic.
I enjoy experimenting with line and color; with expression and the expressive qualities of the materials at hand. Attempting to sketch on site often presents challenges, so “being there” and making my marks on paper requires a certain degree of dexterity and innovation. “Dexterity,” because I’m hesitant to allow my act of sketching to influence the conversation or story that may be unfolding. And “innovation,” because no matter what degree of forethought I seldom have in my hand the exact tool I’d like for that particular moment.
These sketches are simple and (I hope) the simplicity is driving an expressive nature. The tools are simple: a Uni-Ball Deluxe rollerball pen, a water brush and gouache, a Sailor Fude de Mannen fountain pen for adding a few weighted strokes.
Earlier this week I had some large format color prints delivered to me untrimmed. The paper stock is about a 65# cover weight, and a very bright white matte. Trimming off the excess, I stopped myself as I prepared to place the scraps into the recycle bin. This is nice stuff, I said to myself. I wonder how it would take a fountain pen stroke. So instead of recycling the paper, I trimmed it down to a common size and pulled aside a sheet from the stack to test out. At my drawing table I worked quickly – after all, I’d know almost immediately if the paper and my ink weren’t going to be compatible. My first sketch was simple and very gestural, and I liked how the ink flowed across the surface of the paper. My watercolor kit was across the room and a kit of gouache I’ve been playing with recently was ready at hand. Too lazy to walk across the studio, I dipped my water brush into the paint, ready for the paper to cockle once water was on it. Yet, the surface remained flat. Hmm, I thought to myself. This needs a field test.
And that’s how I came to have ink jet printer paper with me for sketching the wine class last night. At the moment I have generated about two dozen 10 x 10 inch sheets, saved from trimmings. If it turns out that I like working with this material, there’s a nearly unlimited supply of it on hand in the form of trimmings from my printer. And if not, nothing has been lost.