Adding a bit of color.

5 March, 2020.

Sitting at my drawing table, I added a bit of color the other night to my warm up sketch for #oneweek100people2020. I dug out my Caran d’Ache Neocolor II pastels. I’ve largely overlooked these very useful paints for the past few months, and that’s entirely on me.

These water-soluble crayons are a bit like oil pastels that literally melt with a brush and water, and make wonderful washes. Although I’ve had to experiment with different papers before finding surfaces I like, the crappy soft and toothy index paper I found in our District print shop worked well.

I don’t find these crayons especially useful for urban sketching. A box of them is not nearly as compact and transportable as a small paint kit or a pocketed pen. But they are great for adding touches of fresh looking color, and I like having the option of leaving some drawn marks in addition to the watery washes of color.


World Champions

7 February, 2020.

For the first time in half a century, our long suffering football fans are celebrating a Super Bowl win. The players have returned to Kansas City and the entire Metropolitan community has shut down for the day. A parade and rally for the team is taking place; every neighborhood has emptied and there are almost no cars on the streets… except for downtown.

The cold and threat of snow does nothing to dissuade this city from lining the parade route. One parking garage opened at 4 am; vehicles were lined up outside in wait six hours earlier: Everyone wanted a prime spot to shout themselves hoarse.

It would love to have attended, but had no desire to wait for several hours. Instead, we watched the festivities on television, comfortably seated at a bar and surrounded by those equally interested in warmth and comfort.

I’ve become such a sissy!

Uni-Ball Vision and Pitt Big Brush pens with watercolor wash in Stillman and Birn sketchbook.

Eatin’ right.

6 February, 2020.

One can only consume so many burgers and fries before one experiences a rebellion of the palate. Fried catfish, frog legs, alligator strips, hush puppies… now that’s eatin’ right!

The farmers bellied up to the various booths at the Fish Market crunch their fish quietly. It’s lunch time and they are catching up on the soaps, something I find curiously alien. But who am I to judge?

Pass the Louisiana Hot Sauce, please.

Duke 551 Confucius fude nib pen in Moleskin journal.


5 February, 2020.

One really nice thing about sketching people in a bar, is that if there’s a game on they simply don’t move. They are frozen solid. And that makes it much easier to sketch a likeness.

Duke 551 Confucius fude nib pen in Moleskin journal.

The Sound of Geese

3 February, 2020.

The clamor issuing from the frozen lake is ample. Thousands of geese huddle in fuzzy, gray bundles, nestled on the ice. Flocks periodically fly in, skimming the patches of open water as they drop from the sky and with a splash come to a floating stop; the noise as they do so is ear-piercing. For the first time ever, I can hear the flutter of their wings as they pass overhead. But as they land, there’s only a quiet whoosh.

I promise myself to return soon, and before the snow melts, a plein air kit in tow. I really want to make a painting of this scene, something solid. The sketches help though. And the geese – well, they feel solid, they feel real. An authentic part of the world.

(top sketch) Uni-Ball Vision pen; (bottom sketch) Watercolor and gouache on gray Stillman and Birn paper.


1 February, 2020.

We’ve managed to successfully meander our way one-twelfth of the way into a new year. For the most part, signature lines are now accompanied by “2020” rather than what had become an automated response of “2019.” For many, the month of January is a dreary reminder of our homebound and stir crazy condition – I tell myself I’ll drag my plein air kit out into the field, even as I nestle ever more deeply into the cushions of a Lazyboy recliner. Now and then I venture out in the futile hope that the sun will emerge for longer than two minutes: I find that light has a powerful influence on my mood and attitude. Over near the college, someone walks a dog – a Labrador like my own. The walker stops and sits on a park bench on the lower end of the campus, slumped over but for the support of one hand, one arm, one knee. His body language is downbeat, or perhaps his quiescence is merely a break, a rest from walking and I am projecting my mood over his image.

Ummm… what did I just drink?

27 January, 2020.

I love eateries. From high end atmospheres to burger dives, I love a restaurant with character – and populated with characters. One kind of place, however, I can take or leave: sports bars. They’re great if you want to watch a game, but kind of a silly choice for just dining out. The walls display row after row of televisions broadcasting football, baseball, basketball, soccer – maybe even a bicycle race or rugby. Conversation is difficult – or even impossible – because one’s attention is constantly being pulled toward one or more screens. And soon, like the couple at the bar in this sketch, one has transformed into a television zombie, eating in a trance. I’m confident they have no idea what they were drinking, and the memory of their meals will be non-existent.

Uni-Ball Vision and Pitt Big Brush pens in Canson 180 sketchbook.

I’m missing the green.

25 January, 2020

It’s funny. Underneath the snow, there are still patches of green grass.

Small patches.

But when the snow melts off in a few days it won’t be enough. Not for me, anyway. We’ll get more snow I’m sure, and right now I’m missing the color green.

A fellow sketcher shared a drawing challenge today, and I’m eager to participate. The idea is to create a large scene one piece at a time – a digital garden. One wall of the studio is home to my indoor garden of flowering plants and various foliage. Those plants grant me a bit of respite from the winter gloom, and I’m using them to inform my sketches for this challenge.

Which is how I found myself sketching these vines earlier this evening. I began with an ink sketch on paper. That drawing got scanned and I brought it into Procreate 5. My mind is firm on the digital drawing thing: I don’t want to use this tool to simply mimic what I can already do with pen and paint. The objective is to experiment, play, explore – essentially do what I can’t do with traditional media.


23 January, 2020.

I stopped the car to make some quick sketches in a fin de siècle neighborhood that I’ve always felt had a sort of abandoned charm. A friend asked me how I managed this, given how ridiculously cold that morning happened to be. I told her that I draw really, really, really fast … and that heated leather seats were the best automotive decision I’ve ever made.

Uni-Ball Vision pen in Stillman and Birn sketchbook.

Where’s my taste?

22 January, 2020.

Once again we’ve come to the end of Restaurant Week, and once again we’ve sampled some of the best fare the city has to offer: delicately prepared Ahi that cut like butter, exquisite creme brûlée, artistically considered seasonings. How then to explain a nicely plated Ribeye that was as bland and tasteless as I’ve ever experienced anywhere? In a city that boasts of the best barbecue and the best steaks on the planet, this is surely some sort of crime!

Uni-Ball Vision and Pitt Big Brush pens in Canson 180 sketchbook; shading created with Procreate 5.