A couple weeks ago I went to Stillwater to sketch with Urban Sketchers. The streets were jam-packed with tourists for the Harvest Festival and I had no where to park to meet up with them. I drove uphill, thinking I could park and walk, but ended up far away from the meeting spot. I found a quiet residential area and noticed this house not far from my car. I pulled up to a side street and parked, facing it, and did this sketch. I liked the architecture of this home and the colors of greens, yellows, and oranges. Later, I drove past it and noticed it was the William Sauntry Mansion, a B and B. Boy, that would have been fun to stay in!
In keeping with the fall theme, I went last week to a local preserve and sat on a rock at the edge of the parking lot. The wind was blowing all the trees around me, and they cascaded down around my head into the parking lot. I sketched these birches— swaying back and forth, yellow leaves brilliant agains the bright blue sky.
No doubt, we are in the clutches of fall! And there are signs all around us!
Yesterday I started an Urban Sketching Class at Wet Paint in St. Paul on Grand Avenue. Our instructor, Cris, is wonderful! We learned about supplies and papers, and worked on watercolor exercises with various washes. After that, we went out the door and across the street and set up. I noticed the displays of pumpkins outside Ace Hardware before I even went to class. I liked their shapes and colors set against the brick of the store. When we had to choose something to sketch, I knew I’d choose this scene. It was chilly and cold, and despite a hat and gloves the wind still got through my jeans. As I painted, I kept dropping my brushes due to their slippery surface. One guy reached down to help me pick it up! After an hour, we were ready to go in, and I had this fun sketch! I can’t wait to see what we sketch next week!
It was great fun yesterday to participate in Urban Sketchers and Open Streets. This was on Nicollet in Minneapolis, Kingsfield neighborhood, and many, many blocks were blocked off (I walked them) for a major community/family/party/music/everything else event. I went with some other sketchers to the historic fire house on 44th and Nicollet, which was now a Bruegger’s Bagels. Despite 90 degree heat, people roamed the streets, sampling food, drinks, listening to music, playing games, and looking at tents sponsored by various organizations. The fire station was further from the noise, which was good, but bikers, roller bladers, strollers, and families walked by while we sketched. The city noises permeated our thoughts—sirens, trucks, horns, and we were under the flight pattern, so jet engines whined and screamed above us. I think a C-130 went overhead, it’s 4 propellers buzzing noisily. I liked the bricks and architecture. I started out with a light pencil sketch of the main shapes, then did watercolor washes over those areas. With a pen, I began sketching details in. Then deeper washes over that to bring out the values. It was great sitting on a curb by a gas station, we had some shade too. I met some new sketchers and learned a little about them which was great. All in all, a very fun time!
Sometimes you find interesting things to sketch right out your front window. I have sketched pictures of my neighbor’s garage and house, fire hydrant and looking down another street, rocks in the front yard, etc… Yesterday I was on my back porch and smelled asphalt. I heard some loud noises, so went and looked out my front window, and right in front of me were road workers hanging around a man on a steam roller. Now that’s not something you see down by the curb every day!
I grabbed my pens and book and furiously began sketching. Luckily they were in a conversation, so despite them moving a little, they stayed put long enough to grab quick gestures. Once I penciled everything in, the scene changed—the fun broke up, the guys got to work. Soon the steam roller backed up and sped around over fresh asphalt in the road. I had captured enough. Later I added watercolor, then when dry, I inked in everything.
You never know what you might see out your front window. I later watched the men loading up big trailers with equipment, and finally the steam roller was put on a trailer and hauled away. There was nothing left to indicate they had been there except for an orange and white cone they left in the middle of the street.
That’s what I do. Capture moments. Moments that will never be the same ever again. It’s pretty awesome!
It’s always fun to sketch the seasons. I have done winter and summer sketches, spring, and fall. Yesterday I took my bike around the neighborhood and just sketched a few things I saw–ducks on a pond and a lone soccer ball deserted at a local park. It’s fun to ride around and see life—- stacked lounge chairs at the pool, closed for the season. Goldenrod and dried brown thistles blowing in the wind. Everywhere the season of change is in the air.
Last fall, I collected a group of leaves on the trail near my home. I brought them home and arranged them together, and sketched them. This sketch shows the finished result. It’s interesting to collect items from nature and study them more closely. I marvel at the veins of leaves—-so small and thin, such an important part of plant anatomy. When I sketch, I notice things I haven’t seen before. Drawing forces you to be a keen observer. The nuances of life speak to me and invite me to discover more. Always an adventure with sketching!
Today I went to Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. It is part of a chain of beautiful lakes, and one I passed by often this year. I enjoyed time with my family walking the pathways to the Tin Fish, a restaurant on the water, where we ate our lunch. We shared the path with people on green city bikes, joggers, walkers, and strollers. As we were eating, I noticed a woman with a small dog. She was dressed in a pink shirt, pink shoes, had pink frames on her glasses, and the dog had a pink leash and harness. I had to sketch all that pink! As she waited for her lunch, she talked to another person who stopped to admire her dog, and I was able to catch a few quick gestures. After lunch we walked past the canoe and kayak rental, watching as the line of people grew longer and longer. Hordes of small children, parents in swim suits, orange life jackets in tow…..It seemed everyone wanted to be on the water today!
Speaking of water, this lake is home to the Lake Calhoun Sailing school and I later saw the boats on ramps in the water, waiting for eager students. Other sizes and colors of sailboats bobbed up and down in the waves along the shoreline, anchored by large round buoys, their masts swaying and wires clanging on the metal. Souls braving the windy conditions sailed on the lake, colorful sails like large butterflies. Joggers, bicyclists, walkers, everyone it seemed, was enjoying the beachfront and trails around the lake. A fire truck and ambulance roared by, sirens screaming and lights flashing, and sometime later after we ate ice cream cones, I noticed they were near the trail by the restaurant. I think a hapless biker had an accident, but there didn’t seem to be any urgency once the responders had investigated the situation.
It was a fabulous time to be at the lake! I am glad we got this outing in today when the weather was still summery and warm. It was a perfect time for it. I can’t wait to go back another time!
I enjoy drawing whatever I see around me. Although lately I’ve been working on some more complicated scenes, yesterday I decided to sketch my dog. She is interesting to sketch, but hard too, because she gets up and moves around at a moments notice. But that can help sharpen my urban sketching skills since everyone and everything is rapidly moving around me and I have to work very quickly. I caught her laying on a rug, got the face and ears and a quick gesture of the body and the legs and tail. Then my husband drove in the driveway and she jumped up to go meet him. Ugh…. But when you draw, you remember, so I was able to get the colors and details in later. She came back and laid down, but in another position, which I knew wouldn’t last long, but I liked it, so I quickly got in the body shape and position, leg and face. Then she jumped up. But I got some quick sketches in pencil and watercolor, so I was happy.
The sketches with her and her dog bed were done in January. I liked the different positions I caught her in, and working fast, was able to capture a few. The challenge with live or on-location sketching is that nothing poses for you. Many artists take figure drawing classes where a model poses for you in the same position for many minutes, but not urban sketching. Your scene or subject is always on the brink of moving. A few tricks I have learned to deal with this challenge:
- First—-Practice, practice, practice, on things that DON’T move. Learn basics of figure drawing and basic drawing skills. Draw everything and anything—- your dinner, your house, shoes, vegetables, cars, what’s in your purse, your desk drawer contents, your closet, your patio furniture, anything. Break everything down into lines and shapes.
- When venturing outside, start small. Choose something that may not move on you. Or chose an object that may move and be OK with whatever you get done (ie. a person’s face instead of their whole body).
- If I see a person I want to sketch, I do that first and furiously, grabbing their gesture, rough shapes and features, then add the other elements (clothing, hair, accessories) second.
- Sometimes I start my sketches in pencil, especially if the scene is complex or has people. This allows me to erase things I don’t like or adjust the scene if needed.
- Don’t think about getting perfection, just look at it as practice and challenging yourself. Be OK with drawings that you don’t like because you can learn so much from them. Think about what you’d do differently next time. Know that drawing is a skill, just like cooking or playing the violin. You can’t get it perfect the first time.
- Have fun! Enjoy the process of sketching. Relax, accept what you draw, have a good time with it.