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July 31, 2014

south west of france with the buddies

2 weeks ago, tazab, one of the usk france administrators invite the lapin family, and a few more sketchers, as gérard michel, to spend the holydays swimming in the dordogne, and sketching around the old medieval villages. that was a dreamy week, thanks dudes!

here is the portrait of tazab, I met 3 years ago at the clermont-ferrand travel book fair (the place to go if you wonder how the biggest travel book fair looks like):
and his famous 2cv we were riding all the week (did you spot the lapin?):
la tazab mobile
a sneak peak of martel and carennac:
gérard michel at work (I'm his personal fashion designer, in a short time, he will not only wear a hat, but some pink flowered shirts, I swear):
gérard michel
and some good cathes at a flea market there. look at this tiny watercolor box, I never saw such a small one before, that will be my new pocket kit:
les puces de gluges

more drawings of this peace of paradise on my blog!


By Carol Hsiung

Looking at my sketches, I realize that most of my sketches occur while I
am waiting....waiting for the train....waiting to see the doctor.....

I don’t like waiting.

As a mother, there seems to be more waiting.

I wait with the other parents.

My sketchbook has saved me from the agony of waiting.

Carol Hsiung is an architect in New York and you can see more of her work on Flickr.

The trees of Stanley Park

When I arrive on the West Coast from Montreal it's the trees that always make the biggest impression on me because they are so much grander than what we see back east. This time around I spent a bit of time in Vancouver's Stanley Park. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't venture too far into the park itself (you don't have to go far to see sketchable stuff), just spent a day painting around the Fish House at one entrance, and another in Coal Harbour where hundreds of cyclists pass on their rental bikes on their way to ride around the seawall, but it was enough time to make sure I got a few Western Red Cedars in my sketchbook. 

The backdrop of inky dark trees and mountains is what makes Coal Harbour so dramatic contrasted by the white boats and this tudor-style boathouse for the rowing club. On the day I sketched there were rain clouds in the distance, but that doesn't deter either the rowers or the cyclists who seem to go out in any weather.

A sketch at the new National Stadium



This is the new National Stadium at the new Sport Hub in Singapore. It is HUGE! The turnout was HUGE too.
It was a difficult subject so I told myself : "A sketch is a sketch, let's not get into the details." Looking at the final product, I felt that there is a potential to develop this into a nice painting by adding more details and colour contrast using a better quality pigments. I forgot to bring my colours. I left it on the table after squeezing some fresh yummy colours the night before. So I borrowed a set of colours from a sketcher's son and it was student grade quality. I made do with what I had and I was happy with the result.

size : 240 x 680mm

The train to mainland Europe

Unlike most of mainland Europe, the UK doesn't have a lot of choice of direct international rail getaways. The Eurostar from London heads under the Channel to France from St Pancras, a glorious cathedral of brick and ironwork that was lucky to survive demolition in the 1960s.

Last week we headed south to Avignon, with a change at Lille, travelling, it seems, at up to 200mph. I've been enjoying drawing from moving trains lately: subjects that are close up pass almost subliminally, gone almost before they are there. The drawing below was done south of Paris on our journey home. There are more drawings on my blog.

Direct to Watercolor Part 3 of 4 : Step By Step Process


Terrebonne Mill, L’ile des Moulins]

Ok, this is from the second week of this painting project. Now that I was more confident with this process, I took the time to make progress shots. These are just handheld snaps, so the quality is poor, but I think they will serve.


Here’s the location. Out in Terrebonne QC, at a historic site on L’ile des Moulins (Google Map).

There’s a big old mill here that makes for a dramatic subject. Water flows through a kind of sluice gate/pedestrian bridge thingy, and under the foundations of the old stone structure. It’s a great subject for this kind of painted sketch. The architecture and parkland behind lend themselves to graphic simplification.


At this point I’m not even seriously doing the Dot Plot method any longer. I used perhaps three marks to establish the placement of these two buildings. I one at the chimney, the roof line, and the base of the rightmost structure. Mostly I just visualized it all in my head – since the composition here is fairly simple.


I’m blocking in ‘logical chunks’. Not working all over the painting, just drawing each major shape as it interlocks into the next. I’m able to make some transitions by letting objects touch in small ways. And I can charge color into my wet shapes, making the interiors of the washes as interesting as possible. The paper is dry, so that the edges of each silhouette shape are clean and sharp.


Putting in the bridge was a bit nerve wracking. I was sorely tempted to get out a pencil and give myself a guideline.

Thankfully, I knew I’d have that moment of weakness, so I didn't bring one with me.

The only way I've been able to pull off this whole series, is by taking all drawing materials out of my bag, putting down the pens, and walking away from them. Honestly, if I had a pen, I’d have used it.
Since I had no choice, I had to figure the bridge out with the brush. Looking at the silhouette – finding the key shapes – the repeating piers that support the pedestrian deck, creating the gaps where the river flows down a concrete embankment.

It was important to me to drastically simplify things. There’s a lot of pipes and mechanics under the bridge – but this is not the focus of the painting. The eye is meant to go to the mill on the other panel. So I know I need to limit this to a calligraphic silhouette.

The river was comparatively easy - you can’t really go wrong painting water – it has no particular shape. Just keep it flowing and let the watercolor do the work.


The bridge comes to life when I put in the tree line. I create the sunlit upper deck simply by leaving it out. Just like the shiny tile roof of the mill. The bridge deck is drawn with negative space. I have to prevent myself from putting people on the bridge. It’s not the focus – so it doesn't deserve too much detail. I’m referring (yet again) to my foundation principle ‘The Gradient of Interest’. (There's at least three or four exercises on this topic in my upcoming book. To me, this is the essence of a 'quick' sketch. The strength of the composition, the control of where the eye goes).


The last step is the darkest darks. The semi-opaque touches, most visible in the windows on the mill. This stage is the closest to drawing in ink. The dark paint mix has a similar consistency. I usually use a mix like Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. Or these days, Shadow (Perylene) Green and Burnt Sienna. Warm and Cold, in varying proportions. I’m still using the relatively large #7 long hair W&N for this detail work.

I feel like this painting has come full circle, bringing back some of what I love about ink drawing, but in a subdued way, more suitable to plein air painting.


Here’s a better look at my diptych setup. Two watercolor quarter sheets, taped onto Coroplast panels clipped to my lightweight folding easel. Sort of like a giant sketchbook spread. You might say, why not one long panorama? Well, no great reason. Except that with two panels I can turn them face to face and put it all away into a large courier bag. If it was a single sheet, I’d have to carry the paper under my arm. I've certainly done that before – but I’m trying to field test how I might work on a long term trip –  and I don’t want to be travelling with big drawing boards.


Happy Accident at Lincoln Center

With only two weeks left until school starts, it is a bittersweet time. Beach days have given way to lesson plans, assessment, new faculty hires, tracking down paperwork, wah, wah, wah…Long, languorous days of drawing are now peppered with errands, meetings and all of that back to school prep that has that air of excitement and anticipation- but busy. So, when after a downtown meeting, I hopped off the bus, literally, into a free lunchtime jazz concert across from Lincoln Center, I thought, this is too good to be true! The sun was hot and the air was cool this day- and so was the music. Though I had missed the first hour forty, I had twenty minutes-I found myself a spot and got lost in the moment.

There you have it- drawing saved me again. Changed my whole day. 

July 30, 2014

Land of A Million Mosques

Indonesia merupakan salah satu negara dengan pemeluk agama Islam terbesar (mayoritas). Tak mengherankan bila Anda berkunjung ke Indonesia akan dengan mudah melihat sebuah masjid sebagai tempat ibadah kaum muslim. Majid-masjid ini akan mudah dijumpai, baik di kota-kota besar, pedesaan maupun dipelosok penjuru.
Posting saya kali ini mencoba mengangkat tema masjid yang pernah saya buat beberapa waktu silam, menyesuaikan dengan suasana saat ini. Happy Ied Mubarak 1435 H.
Hari pertama Lebaran; 28 juli 2014 saya melaksanakan Shalat Ied di Masjid Al-Ma'arif Cilandak Jakarta Selatan.
Sengaja saya datang lebih awal untuk bisa mendapatkan tempat duduk dengan view yang baik. Sketsa ini saya buat saat sebelum shalat Ied dilaksanakan kemudian saya lanjutkan saat kothib membacakan kothbah-nya.
Hari kedua Lebaran, saya pergi ke jalan raya TB Simatupang untuk menskets suasana yang lebih lengang dari biasanya.
Disini terlihat menara masjid Al-Maghfiroh yang nyaris tenggelam dengan bangunan baru menjulang.

Bila cuaca cerah, saya lebih memilih melaksanakan shalat Ied di udara terbuka.
Sungguh suasana akan sangat berbeda saat berada di dalam masjid.
Seperti sketsa yang saya buat ini. Ibadah ini dilaksanakan ditengah dengan menutup Jl Pamularsih I Semarang.

Sebuah masjid dengan warna kubah mencolok berdiri disebuah rest area di Palimanan Kanci Cirebon.
Masjid ini sengaja digunakan untuk mereka yang sedang dalam perjalanan.
Pada musim mudik lebaran, masjid ini pselalu penuh...
Menara Masjid Luar Batang Jakarta
Salah satu menara masjid tua yang keberadaanya agak memperihatinkan. Menara ini sengaja disisakan sedang menara serta bangunan utama lainnya sudah dirubuhkan dan diganti dengan bangunan masjid baru, lengkap dengan sepasang menara kembar yang tinggi menjulang.

Menara masjid yang cukup tua usianya ini berada di Jl Layur Semarang, sebelah barat Kali Berok.
Masjid Baiturrahman ini berada di pusat jantung kota Semarang.
Tepat di sisi barat Lapangan Pancasila - Simpang Lima Semarang

Sebuah masjid di daerah Cilember - Bogor, sangat dekat dengan tempat wisata Taman Matahari.

Masjib besar Kauman Semarang yang tak pernah sepi dari pengunjung, terlebih saat bulan Ramadhan.
Majid ini dulunya terletak di pinggir alun-alun yang kini sudah berubah menjadi kompleks Pasar Johar.

Menara Kudus, salah satu peninggalan penyebar islam di Jawa pada masa lampau.
Sayang saya tidak punya waktu banyak untuk lebih mengeksplor lagi obyek-obyek menarik untuk buku sketsa saya.
Suatu saat saya akan kembali...
Masjid di Desa Nuha ini terletak di tepi Danau Matano - Sorowako Sulawesi Selatan.
Suasana yang tenang ini sangat cocok untuk kontemplasi dan mendekatkan diri dengan sang khaliq.

Masjid Besar Kauman ini terletak di sebelah barat alun-alun Kota Magelang.
Suasana senja membuat siluet masjid ini tersa magis. Sayang suasana sudah mulai gelap saat outline saya selesaikan,
sedang coloring-nya saya buat setibanya di rumah...
Beberapa foto saat hunting...

July 29, 2014

Sketch artist Mike Sheehan brings new perspectives to Southern California Public Radio

Editor's note: Sketch artist Mike Sheehan is a regular contributor in Off Ramp, a radio show that broadcasts on 89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio. In this guest post, he shares some of his work and talks about his sketching process. The sketches are excerpted from his recent story: Immigration news: Sketches of Murrieta and the undocumented migrants debate.

By Mike Sheehan

When I go to cover one of these events I bring a big toolbag with wheels, like luggage, a small bag of acrylics and my everyday sketch bag that has a small watercolor set. I never know what the conditions will be and what I'll need. The immigration protests were a good example. The first sketch of the people on the corner is basically right when I got out of the car. It was a good opportunity to sit and warm up my hands and eyes. Sitting there I realized this would call for one of my smallest set-ups: a Moleskine folio sized sketchbook with an elastic caddy that fits over it. I would not get a chance to sit down the rest of the day.

I sketched the dancer when I got to the crowd. I had to balance my pen, sketchbook and waterbrush in the middle of a loud angry crowd while standing up. No shade anywhere so the pages really blind you. But I like this kind of dynamic situation. You get people unvarnished and I love sketching so it's a blast for me. The drawing on the opposite page is one of the corner protesters. He kept hitting these great poses with his flag, waiting to engage someone in debate.

The two with police tape in them are a good example of when you get a lucky gift, something that helps tell your story. In this case literally a dividing line between two schools of thought. I sketched it from one side, crossed over and sketched it from the other. Also got to overhear a lot of conversations that way.

The rest are of various people I saw throughout the day. The little notes next to them are what I heard or just observations.

A sneak peek inside Mike's sketching bag.

I use a lot of different techniques to speed up the process depending on where I am. In this case I used a water soluble pen and a waterbrush. I can get tone quickly and not have to waste a lot of time with as much line. Speed is so important doing this type of work. No one is posing. That man yelling and holding up the sign behind police tape only did that for maybe a minute. I want that moment, in the moment.

The last part of my process is scanning and putting the sketches together in a clean format. I have a blank image of all the sketchbooks I use so the final presentation is clear and uniform. Most of the time I just transfer the page as is onto a scan of the blank pages to show it as it looks in my sketchbook. It's much easier than color correcting and fixing every scan. It would be hard to keep the presentation consistent that way. When I'm in the middle of sketching a story I'm constantly moving between images. I'm never precious about a drawing. If it doesn't feel right I abandon it and start a new one. Also I never know what the story is going to be until I get there. I like the story to "present" itself. But as soon as it does I'm also starting to think about design.

Sheehan sketching the Los Angeles Opera rehearsing "Tosca" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
The actors were rehearsing on the scaffold.

When you sketch a lot you develop a sixth sense about what people are going to do. I know when someone is probably going to return to certain poses. I'll capture a flash of it, then move on to another person or part of the scene. I'll keep the first person in my peripheral vision and jump back and forth to capture things as they are moving. Sometimes I juggle three or four at a time.

At the end I'm editing the images out that didn't work, don't serve the story etc. That's what I keep my sketchbook templates for, editing. The sketches that take a whole page are designed on the spot and don't need anything but color correction. I don't edit the drawings themselves.

At the immigration protests it was hot so there are a lot of ink smudges. I like those, they are an artifact of the process. Something that digital images don't have. I miss the artifacts in film photography. I like that mark of the hand.

I don't use photo reference. If I don't get it there I don't get it. It always feels like a tightrope walk. I think I'm not going to get anything and I'm going to blow it. Then something catches my eye and leads me in and I'm off and running. It feels like a dance. If you can catch the rhythm of the place, you've got it.

I usually stop to eat on my way home and hit lines or add a splash of color here and there while it's still in my memory. I can never sleep after all this. I get too revved up.

Then I start the writing.

Listen to a radio interview with Mike Sheehan: Off-Ramp, the only radio show with a sketch artist: Mike Sheehan

Visit Sheehan's website at