Cold fog at dawn

9 February, 2019. If nothing else, this week of miserable weather has served as something of a muse.

Watercolor on 300# Arches Cold Press, 7 x 7 inches.


Simplicity, Restraint

8 February, 2019.

I love words.

I love how combinations of words we select enrich our use of language. The choice of one word of similar meaning over another can dramatically alter our communication and our choices may color the perception of one’s audience.

I think of sketches as a sort of parallel to language. One’s choice of color or mark are like words: yellow is yellow, right? Yes, except when it’s not. A cool yellow trends toward green and is reminiscent of spring and all the things that season implies, whereas the orange tones of a warm yellow creates a marked contrast against dark, cool shadows of winter. And like the difference between one word and another, the resulting messages are often different.

My sketches are intended to be a sharing of story… short stories actually, rather than a novel. These stories are slices of time, fleeting glimpses, slices of time. Encounters. The narrative of each sketch is intended to be easy to understand. They are most successful when I don’t succumb to busying detail.

I’m not especially fond of poetry, but I appreciate the brevity of haiku and the restraint of a well turned phrase. Elegance and simplicity evoke a banquet of emotions or ideas.

Sketches, like dialogue, shouldn’t be a compilation of flowery language, flash, dazzle, spectacle. Get to the core of the idea instead, and let’s all enjoy the conversation.

This small painting was in my head. It’s not any actual location, but it is a place I’ve walked through a thousand times in my imagination: A snow crusted hill, woods above and barren fields below, stiff and frozen mud – my breath a cloud. Time to go for a walk.

Watercolor and pencil on 300# Arches cold press, 7 x 7 inches.

Silly things.

7 February, 2019. I do a lot of silly things. Despite the fact that the sun is shining and at the moment the outside world looks rather enticing, a windchill of 2F is still awfully damn cold. And drawing from the front seat of a car, regardless of how warm the heater, would appear to some as a patently silly thing to do.

But as originally noted, my tendencies do lean toward the silly.

Silly, as in drawing an abandoned house on the edge of town on a day so miserably cold the streets are almost literally empty.

Bent nib fountain pen and white Signo pen on Stillman and Birn Nova Series gray paper; Liberty, Missouri.

Tonight, I painted quickly.

6 February, 2019. No school tomorrow – again. For three weeks in a row, Mother Nature has elected to hurl ice and snow and sub-zero temperatures our way, only to briefly rebound, then turn around and hit once more. For three weeks in a row, I’ve only taught four days out of five; today, in fact, I only led one single art class – and that for only thirty-five minutes: barely time enough to get out, then put away supplies.

Perhaps I was feeling the urgency to produce fast today, an urgency that was a reflection, no doubt, of my students scurrying around an art room and making a valiant, if somewhat doomed attempt at progress on this, day two of a four day assignment. The urgency I felt, therefore, was artificial. In fact, I had all evening to myself, and all day tomorrow, and the evening that follows. There was little need to rush through anything. Why not savor the opportunity, languish in this moment of unexpected freedom?

But I did not. There was an urgency to place paper on the board, quickly wet it, and just as quickly drag washes of color across the moist surface, haphazardly – but carefully and intentionally, mind you! – placing slightly differing hues of blue in such a way as to allow color to bleed softly into color.

I remember once in college being so affected, so overwhelmed by the beauty of a sudden thunderstorm that I painted in a near frenzy. My roommate thought I’d gone mad – and in a sense I suppose I had. My ability to use paint expressively was nil at the time, and the frustration I felt at an inability to express what I felt in that moment was keen. It is a frustration that to this day I can recall vividly.

Tonight, I painted quickly. The sketch took only minutes to express, and it seemed important that it happen in that way: quickly. To labor over the sky would be tantamount to sapping the life from the sketch.

Tonight I chose to let the sketch live or die by its own energy.

Or lack thereof.

“Sky before the rain and ice,” watercolor on Strathmore Aquarius II, approximately 6 x 6 inches.

Intersecting with life

2 February, 2019. One of the interesting things about Urban Sketching is the way that the act of drawing can sometimes very unexpectedly intersect with unsuspecting members of the general public. Let me give you an interesting example from this morning.

Today is the first Saturday of the month, the day our chapter congregates and descends upon a prearranged location. Our group of sketchers arrived at an unusual eatery called The Parlour with the intention of drawing what we eat, as well as those eating around us. The Parlour is a very casual, leisurely place comprised of several food vendors and bars, each with their own specialty product. Spread out over two floors in a sort of food court fashion are tables and arm chairs – exactly what the name implies, a place for patrons to “lounge” and visit. It’s definitely a “no pressure” vibe.

Our group was large today, with maybe forty of us dragging around bags full of sketching and painting supplies. We arrived early and claimed one end of the second floor, staking out numerous tables and arm chairs. Then we ordered food and proceeded to sketch our fare.

A couple in search of seating wandered through, not realizing we were all together. Sitting across from me they suddenly noticed everyone had sketchbooks and they made a move to leave. Before they could rise, one friendly member of our group greeted them and asked them to stay with us. They learned much about our chapter and Urban Sketchers. And within minutes they both had pens out and were making Artist Trading Cards with others in our band.

And while they sketched, I drew them drawing and munching on empanadas.