Today at my urban sketching class I did a demo for a few of my students. We had been talking about creating volume using 3-D shapes and I wanted to find a scene to demonstrate that. In a small cafe area near our classroom, I saw the red Coke machine. A rectangular solid shape if I’d ever seen one! As I got my supplies out and ready to sketch, a man came up to buy something. I quickly sketched in his figure on my page and that was the first thing I sketched. I have shared how I often find “sketch anchors”—those things that don’t move on you—- and sketch parts of those, then move to people, then when they move off, I go back to the sketch anchors. The Coke machine provided a good sketch anchor, as does the stainless steel counter and the ice cream machine on the far right. I sketched in the woman behind the counter eventually, as she was standing there long after the man left doing things at the cash register. Though there were plenty of things in the background like lights, machines, and other food items, I decided to keep it simple and bath it with a golden light. This was a fun little sketch and provided a segue into much of my lesson this morning. Sometimes things work out just right!
When I travel, I often try to get sketches of people at the airport. Here are a collection of 3 sketches done at different times. The first is my favorite. This woman in Jacksonville, FL, was sitting directly across from me at the gate. What attracted me to do a sketch was the huge yellow suitcase and blue handbag. Just the angles, her posture, plus the thermos hanging off, all grabbed me as well. She was so busy on her cell phone she didn’t even notice me!
This next sketch was done at a gate as well. I was traveling with my daughter and we came upon this sleeping man. I guess colors grab me because I knew I had to sketch his riotous green socks and bright orange suitcase. He was sleeping for a bit, so didn’t see me observing him.
Finally, a sketch done recently in Minneapolis. I was sitting at a cafe table and noticed three men—two on phones and computers dressed in almost identically-colored salmon pink shirts, just feet away at other tables. I also noticed a man reading a book, dressed in a sweatshirt. He turned the pages slowly, then eventually put it away and left. All sat still long enough for me to grab quick sketches. It’s fun to sketch people in airports, there are so many characters!
I had the opportunity to go to a fun antique store while visiting my mom. This store houses antiques and “primitive” furnishings and accessories, as well as things that look like the country. Outside their shop was this old shed, surrounded by flowers and bushes. I liked the textures in the wood and roofing. My mom and I had lunch inside in their cafe. The food was delicious, and we were in a small alcove with walls and a view behind a decorated gate into another room. A large cabinet with glass doors faced me, and I noticed something weird— doll heads were staring back at me from inside the cabinet. Sometimes I like to sketch strange things, and as these realistic doll heads stared back at me, it was like they were watching. I just had to sketch them!
These heads looked so strange, as if they were rising up out of the shelving, especially that lone one on top. Weirdness makes for fun sketching, so I hope you enjoy the sketch below!
Saturday was a glorious fall day, but hot, hot, HOT! Temps went into the low 90’s, but I decided to go to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. This beautiful place behind the Walker Art Museum hosts some of the most amazing sculptures. Made from stone, brass, steel, fiberglass, bronze, and other materials, they are sure to capture the hearts of many. The iconic Spoon and Cherry sculpture sits in a pond with water spraying out of the cherry stem. The ducks loved it and so did we! In the distance is a huge electric blue rooster on a gigantic pedestal. I only captured these two, as I sat on a bench in the shade, listening to the city sounds as well as the tinkling of wind chimes that were blowing in the hot wind. Despite the heat, it was enjoyable to see priceless sculptures and soak up the surroundings!
On Sunday I went to the St. Croix Vineyard for fall festivities. In addition to live music by Funktion Junction, food, wine tasting, and games, I noticed this little vintage VW bus, decked out to be a florist’s shop on wheels. I liked the pale greenish color, striped awning, shiny chrome and colorful flowers. While the crowd crooned to 70’s hits, my feet wiggled and I sang oldies but goodies while I sketched the bus. Luckily I finished before the Grape Stomping contest, as crowds gathered around and obscured my view of the bus as they cheered on their favorite stompers! One guy went wild and jumped up and down in the grapes, spraying his pants, shirt and face with purple juice!
I was recently in Chicago so sketched some things while on the move. This first sketch was of a couple things—- my daughter’s drink and snacks on the airplane tray table, and later, after a lot of walking—-sitting on the edge of Navy Pier. I saw a friendly sea gull and the dock we were at held excursion boats. The boat left before I could sketch it, but I liked the shape and color of the weight on the dock (what is that thing called?).
The next day found me rattling along on the CTA (train) as we headed to Adler’s Planetarium. The train is a great place to sketch, especially when your subject falls asleep. I often look for sleeping people and peeping furtively at them, I can grab a quick sketch. I also drew a pile driver that was sitting in a construction zone from the floor of my hotel.
Finally, I attempted to sketch in the car, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Lake Shore Drive. I was bored, we were going at a snail’s pace, so I opened the sketch book. I grabbed quick sketches and worked very loosely. First, a vegan hot dog stand and the umbrellas at Monroe street, then the back of a taxi, with a view of the Navy Pier ferris wheel, and finally a view of the northern shoreline. I observed tons of people out biking, jogging, walking, and on Segways speeding down the sidewalk. Past the beaches and there were tons of people out in the water and soaking up the sun. That’s for another day! Sometime I want to spend more time in Chicago and sketch even more of it!
Life is filled with stuff, and much of it is not rather beautiful. As an artist though, I see beauty in so many things that people would think are ugly. A line, a shape, a texture, a color….these things grab me. In July I sketched our old rusty wheelbarrow. Filled with sticks and water in an unattractive corner of our back yard, it could have sat in a junkyard. But the juxtaposition of the setting (getting a new fence and an old junky wheelbarrow) made me want to sketch it.
I visited my parents and sketched my dad’s old work area in the garage. Sitting on a John Deere riding lawn mower, I sketched objects that had interesting shapes and colors– containers, a car jack, and other stuff. My mom’s watering cans in her flower bed were an interesting gray color and I liked their shapes.
While at my parent’s house, I helped harvest peaches off their tree. Filled with greenish-orange peaches, many chewed up by shiny black beetles, they were not a picture of beauty. Yet they were created, and real. A tree produced them, and they had life. So I sketched them.
It’s amazing as you look around your life, there is always something to sketch, even the not-so-beautiful things can be things of great beauty!