Dreaming About…

Dreaming about the color wheel?

Hopefully something no artist ever really does. Dream about color itself, perhaps – but the color wheel? Not a chance.

And this is the reason I am perplexed that so many art teachers spend weeks and weeks and weeks grinding the color wheel into their student’s heads, kids laboring all the while under the delusion that painting mixed hues into a circular format is somehow of greater importance than putting those colors to use to tell a story, or to communicate an emotion.

Winter Ride.

Just a quick sketch from yesterday’s rural ride from Liberty to Smithville Lake, passing through Paradise, Missouri along the way. It was a blustery day and I welcomed any diversion to pause for a moment before once again braving the headwinds.

January 19, and it’s 61 degrees? Damn right I’m going to take advantage of the weather! My sketchbook and I pedaled 17 miles out to Smithville Lake, then took the bike path another ten miles or so. I had to dodge ice on the northern-facing hillsides, which really translates out to: “push my bike and attempt to stay upright.” I took a break along the way to make this sketch, finding a bench that blocked the brutal winds coming across the water, then turned around and pedaled home.


I very much enjoy drawing from life. A couple months ago I found out that another artist in my neighborhood – literally, less than a quarter mile down the street from me – was hosting life drawing sessions. I attended a couple of times before the holiday crunch decimated all remaining free spots on my calendar, and plan to return this month. Drawing from life is a wonderful and refreshing challenge, and I really enjoy working with conte crayon.

I prefer to warm up with a lot of one and two minute gesture sketches before moving on to twenty minute contour sketches.

Pier 27

How weird. I was doing a little cleaning yesterday and arbitrarily grabbed a day pack I guess I haven’t used in a while. I say “a while” because I found a sketchbook in one pocket that I’d begun nearly two years ago, drew on one page, and then promptly forgot existed! (This is what happens when you have a couple dozen books working at any one time…)

This sketch is actually a “selfie.” (There. I used that stupid word. Now, I’ll never use it again.)

Brown and Missouri

Here I am at the corner of Brown and Missouri, an older and slightly rundown neighborhood in Liberty, Missouri. First I sketched things in with line using a Pilot Varsity.

Then I used a damp brush to activate the ink and begin to move things around in a wash. Some lines have to be re-drawn because the wash dissolves the original marks.

Railroad Building

This ramshackle and overgrown railroad structure lies directly across the road from the shack I sketched out yesterday. What was the purpose, I wonder? It doesn’t look like a depot at all – it strikes me as much more industrial. One set of tracks crosses the road to intersect with the main line, adjacent to this building. I’ve wandered a few feet into the trackside elevation, but it’s falling in on itself and definitely not safe to explore, much as my curiosity compels me to do so. Not far away, there are a couple of other dilapidated structures, one of which is the mouldering remains of a small covered bench, where I presume passengers must have once waited to board. Today, the line services freight; I’ve never once seen a passenger car.

Almost a shack, really.

House? Almost more of a shack, really. There are two “additions” to the structure, on either side of the main room, both of which couldn’t have been anywhere close to weather-tight. The walls of these rooms were cobbled together in a patchwork quilt of particle board, which (of course) is not moisture resistant. As a result, the exterior of those rooms is a warped and wavy surface with lots of gaps. The trees and brush are overgrown, hiding a disused railroad track so close that it must have made the building shudder when trains still ran its length.

Goodbye 2013

It was a beautiful way to end the year yesterday, with 46 degree temps and a light wind coming up out of the south. Using a Pilot Varsity, a tiny travel brush, and a dab of water out of my bike bottle, I quickly sketched out the stand of trees (above) during a short rest stop, riding through Missouri River Bottom farmlands. The sketch below came from a trip into Kansas City earlier in the day. I was dismayed to discover I only had one pen with me: a Sharpie that was nearly dry, and which I needed to coax every single drop of ink from.

A day of muted gray

Happily, I was able to get out for a ride today, despite the chill. I was bundled up in layers; as I pedaled I found myself peeling one layer after another – ten or fifteen miles from home I turned down a road I’ve passed before but never taken. Figuring to explore it, and perhaps shed one more garment, I came upon an abandoned house. As the light of day changed from cheery to gloom, I decide that here was a subject worth stopping for. The temps were in the upper 20’s or low 30’s, but I had to peel out of my gloves to have any dexterity whatsoever in my fingers.

At the moment I’m carrying a Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen (water soluble), a Pelikan Techno-Liner (permanent), a pencil and kneaded eraser, and a small travel brush. I’ve a water bottle on my bike that provides the minimal amount of moisture needed to activate the water soluble ink, and simply squirt a tiny bit onto the brush to move it around on the page. I love to experiment with various sketchbook papers; for my recent sketching, the pricey Moleskin watercolor book yields nice results that dry very quickly.

Nose running like a faucet, I hopped on my Boulder, kit stowed, and continued on my merry way.