Month: August 2017

The Old Lift Bridge

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Stillwater bridge sketch

I was in Stillwater today and did a sketch at Lowell Park. The new beautiful bridge has everyone excited, but I haven’t had the chance to go over it yet. I have watched it months in the making, cement pylon after pylon, girder after girder, boats floating in the river, snow, ice, fall colors….and finally it is finished. But there is still something special about the old lift bridge. I watched as a large white and red paddleboat chugged under it, tooting to the passing town.

Right on the river, the beautiful blue water danced with light. I sat at a metal table with a green metal umbrella and began laying in the bridge. I liked the potted plants with red and white flowers waving in the breezes. Boaters and bikers went by, which included a group of retired ladies who decided to stop at a table near me for lunch break. Chatting about the bike trails, families, retirement, pets, and grand babies, they kept things interesting as I sat in silence and drew the river. They bought food at a local deli and smells of rice bowls and delicious other foods wafted my way.

It was a picture-perfect day to sketch—-sunny skies and warm. And of course, the old lift bridge!


Tools of the Trade

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Aug 27 3 blog

I thought I’d share a little about the supplies I use for urban sketching. My mainstay for the last 3 years (although I have deviated to other sketchbooks) is a cheap, Michael’s sketchbook, with a fake brown leather cover (above). I love it because it has no spiral binding in the middle and I can lay it flat for a bigger spread and it handles watercolor OK. It’s not the greatest paper, but does the job. I also have a new recent smaller book with cream-colored paper from Costa Rica which my aunt bought me (below). I think it is hand-bound, the pages are small and the paper is thin, so I’ve decided to use it more for everyday sketching with pen and light watercolor. It can’t handle much water. I use Koi travel watercolors, a Faber-Castill Pitt Ink pen, mechanical pencil, and a water brush. Sometimes I bring other watercolors in another palette, too. I used to use Prismacolor colored pencils, but have done less of that recently.

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As I traveled home from Michigan a few weeks ago, I started using the smaller sketchbook. I had finished up my first brown sketchbook (after 3 years) and wanted to start anew. I usually use a lot of color, but decided to do a simple ink drawing of the airplane seats in front of me and some passengers. I often journal too, so you may see my musings on the drawings as well. All these supplies can fit into a converted “sketch bag” (old blue purse) or my regular purse. I like that—I can work smaller and take my sketching supplies pretty much anywhere without much fuss. Sketching is so much fun!

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Minnesota State Fair!

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ferris wheel mailchimp

Today was a perfect day to go to the Minnesota State Fair! The weather was cool, sun and clouds, and comfortable. I did the Park and Ride and arrived at the crowded gates with many other fair-goers. As security finished searching my back pack, a man behind me with “#1 Drunk” on his T-shirt got his bottle of Jack Daniels confiscated. My first stop–the Fine Arts building. I like to see the work of my friends who got into the fair. After that, I began to wander around looking for something to sketch. This is my third year sketching at the fair. Last year I sketched Cafe Caribe and the Shrimp Shack. I find that color and strange shapes is what I gravitate to. I came upon the ferris wheel, and framed by some trees, it made a perfect sketch subject. I liked the crowds of people around the base of it, the green and white candy striping on the structure, and the colored cars moving slowly around. This was a complicated structure, so I sketched in pencil first until I was sure the sketch would work. Sometimes I go straight for pen, but not this time. I used watercolors and pen to finish the piece.

wacky shack mailchimp

My second piece was at the Wacky Shack. I was attracted to the colorful ice cream shop in front of it, and liked all the crazy designs with the structure, the flying pink and blue flags, and the park bench with a dad and double stroller. I sketched in pencil first, then inked it in and added watercolor. I listened to families and people, music, and noise. Sometimes I find sketching at the fair overwhelming due to noise and distraction, but today I just got in the zone and tuned things out. Everywhere people were stuffing their faces with popcorn, bananas on a stick, ice cream, fried onions, and Pronto Pups. The clouds moved in and I was sure it would rain, but it held off. After awhile, I got the sketch to where I wanted it, so packed up and followed the crowds across the busy street, complete with traffic cop with a whistle, and found my bus. Tired children, babies, and people were everywhere, as were newcomers ready to party the night away. I am glad I was able to sketch at the fair today, it was tons of fun!


St. Paul Food Truck Festival

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I joined the Urban Sketchers last Saturday for a super-fun event in St. Paul— the Food Truck Festival. Over 45 food trucks congregated in Mears Park, and arranged themselves bumper to bumper around the perimeter of the park. I wandered the perimeter, taking in sights, sounds, and smells of various foods, people, and events. After trying some tasty baklava at a Greek food truck and wandering past the musicians, yoga-goers, and crowds of people, I got down to business of finding a sketch-worthy sight. I saw the Turbo Taco truck, bright blue, against a backdrop of buildings, with people sitting on a small wall. I settled down in the shade and began to sketch. Despite getting too much sun on my feet and capturing the interest of a few yellow jackets, I sketched the chaos around me. Hordes of people walked up and down the sidewalk with dogs, children, strollers. Using a cheapie Michael’s sketchbook, Koi watercolors and Faber-Castell Pitt pens, I finished the sketch and went looking for something else to draw. I wandered past the bull-riding area, listening to the musicians on stage. I noticed large hanging planters of brilliant red flowers, round light bulbs on lampposts, and a bright orange food truck. The best part was a man was seated at a park bench a few feet away and stretched both arms back along the bench, basking in the sun. I furiously sketched him in, knowing he’d move, which he did. Once I got his gesture down, I could add the bench later, and everything else around it. That’s the challenge of urban sketching—-everything moves. People move, they walk away, the bus moves, everything is always changing on you. So you have to work hard and fast. Nothing poses for you. I had interested onlookers, including a middle-aged man, a few young men in their 20’s, and a teenage girl who talked a bit about her art and sketch projects. I always love talking to people too!


I met up with the sketchers for photos and to share our sketchbook drawings. It was such a beautiful summer day, and everyone around me appeared to be having a good time. I can’t wait to get out and sketch again!