For the sake of simplicity.

6 May, 2017. Our local group of likeminded sketching, plein air, and doodling artists met to draw at the City Market this weekend. The place, normally bustling on a Saturday morning, was especially so on this day. The crowds of shoppers were teeming, the birds were in song, a light breeze played over the pavement and stalls of fruits and vegetables. Even the normally vacant spaces were occupied by additional sellers and street performers.

I was drawn to a quartet of older gentlemen playing stringed instruments and performing American folk music – Woody Guthrie, Pete Segar, and many others. From what I gathered, they’re not a “group,” per se. Individually, they play with other, more organized groups of musicians but thought it would be a hoot to play together on this morning. And what a treat it was that they decided to do so – they were wonderful! After standing and sketching them for a while, I eventually wandered over to a nearby park bench and claimed my stake so that I could draw and listen to their set.

My objective was to keep it simple, keep it loose, and really shoot for the “less is more” approach. Sometimes it takes me several pages to loosen up and shake the tight-ass scrawls, and this was to be the case today as well. In fact, the sketch above was my last of the morning. After having drawn the same guys several times, I finally got to the point that I “knew” my subject and could design the sketch. I really like how the black and white turned out, and I’m especially pleased to have remembered to get a good image of it before adding loose patches of watercolor wash. In almost every way, the color is there to create a more holistic image: there’s a bit of “push/pull” taking place in the interaction between cools and warms, and the placement of color and value helps to direct the eye in a circular motion, reinforcing what was begun with the linear composition.

Really. Is there anything more joyful sounding than the plucking of a banjo? And is there any musical instrument that can go from such joy to such intense melancholy in but the briefest of moments?

From my park bench seat, my view took in outside dining, architecture and a variety of architectural details, people shopping, performers performing, and sellers selling. In keeping with the idea of simplicity, I began this outdoor dining sketch by focusing on the silhouette “line” of people and objects that cuts through the bottom center horizon. Notice that it’s (mostly) a single, uninterrupted line. This is a great architectural exercise that I find works to tease out the most important elements of a skyline, or even a landscape. Turns out that it works well for people too – at least in this case. I really love it when a sketch gets distilled down into the barest minimum of essential elements, and for that reason alone I find myself incredibly happy with where this one wound up – not to mention the enjoyment of the process/path I took to get there. Once the sketch began, the rest was intuitive. It’s at such times, when using the pen is like riding a bicycle, that I’m often at my most content.

(Drawn on location in the Kansas City, Missouri City Market using an Omni-Ball Deluxe and watercolor wash on Strathmore Aquarius II paper.)


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