New #USkWorkshop in San Francisco, Oct. 10:

August 29, 2015

Trials and tribulations of tablet sketching, traveling in Turkey

Guest Post by Leslie Akchurin

This June, my husband and I set off to visit some wonderful old and new places during our annual visit to our extended family in Turkey. And I looked forward to sketching all along the way, having discovered the pleasures and ease of working on the iPad a few years ago. As it turned out, I encountered a significant app problem for the first time, but I returned home still devoted to this exciting artistic medium.

Until recently, I used Paper 53 exclusively because it’s intuitive and simple to use and can create nice pencil and watercolor-like effects. But recently, looking for more variation in pencil line quality, I switched to Tayasui Sketches. This application is still easy to use. It shares some capabilities with more complex programs, especially the use of different layers (so a background wash, for instance, can be erased or reworked without disturbing other lines and color) and the ease in adjusting width and density for most of the tools. The “watercolor” washes and infinite color palette are just as nice as Paper’s, plus Sketches has a crayon-like tool that I loved right away.

Antalya Beach
I used that crayon tool, for instance, on the bathing suits in this picture from the public beach in the port section of Antalya. The beach was full of Russians, who have recently been moving to this part of the city in large numbers. Thanks to the unobtrusive nature of my art kit, I sat under an umbrella right behind the bathing families and drew without being detected, achieving the kind of invisibility that those of us who find it difficult to concentrate when we’re being watched really value. As long as I have shade, I find I can draw, though it’s true that I sometimes need to adjust colors later because it can be difficult to determine their accuracy while outside.

Konya mosque
After a week in seaside Antalya, my husband and I traveled with his brother northeast into Anatolia, first to Konya, the city where Mevlevi whirling dervishes originated in the 13th century. Thirty-five years ago, I found this town to be very dusty, sleepy, and traditional, with the townsfolk wearing old-fashioned baggy clothing, caps, and shawls. Today, while still quite conservative, Konya has become a city of over a million people, with only a few landmarks that I could recognize. We happened to be there just a few days before the national elections, which meant that vans plastered with garish photos of candidates passed us every few minutes, blaring slogans and deafening folk music. But in the hush of the beautiful Selcuk-era Alaeddin Mosque, we found a rapt all-female tour group listening to their guide. Again, it was only the very discrete nature of my materials that allowed me to stand mere feet away without attracting much attention. I drew very quickly—the figures first and then the basic outlines of some architecture—and just as a larger tour was entering, I took a quick photo with my iPad to remind myself of the locations of some decorative detailing, which I later represented with some transfer dotting, one of the pre-made graphic elements available on the Sketches app.

Flock on plains
From Konya, we traveled further northeast, through the ever-shifting light and shapes of Anatolian mountains and plains. Although sensitivity to motion usually keeps me from even reading in a moving car, I found I was able to make this quick sketch of a distant shepherd with his flock. Having all your tools permanently at your fingertips sometimes makes drawing possible when you least expect it.

Balloons in Goreme
Our destination was the town of Goreme in the famous cave region of Cappadocia, where early each morning dozens of balloons carry tourists above the astonishingly shaped hills. I tried to convey the pervasive dawn glow of this scene outside our cave hotel room window by selecting a peach background color for the base layer; most iPad art apps allow you an almost limitless choice of “paper” colors and some choice of texture. I enjoyed the thrill of the chase as the light rapidly changed and the balloons floated off.

Both the visuals and the complicated history of Cappadocia were so much more varied and interesting than we’d anticipated, and I eagerly set to sketching—the scenery, buildings, international tourists, camels—but to my great dismay, my app crashed on the second afternoon, something that had never happened to me before, and I lost three or four promising drawings. I had made color notes but hadn’t added all the color and so hadn’t saved the drawings to my desktop “Photos” file. If I’d been near computers and equipment, I might have found a way to save that work, but we were only mid-trip and of course I wanted to continue sketching. So I just gnashed my teeth a bit and resolved to save, much more frequently, all future drawings in progress so that after a possible crash they can be re-imported to a Sketches layer and thus finished. My app has only crashed once since then, and that advice to myself allowed me to save the picture I was working on. I’ve also learned to plan my moves better and to shift a bit slower between tools, which I think has probably prevented more incidents.

After three days, we drove south, back over the Taurus mountain range, to the coast and enjoyed visiting Tarsus, where St. Paul was born and Cleopatra apparently used to meet Mark Antony. Then my brother-in-law expertly navigated us westward along the narrow, twisty mountain coastal roads to very windy Anamur, Turkey’s southernmost town and producer of most of its bananas. Its relative inaccessibility has prevented Anamur from growing into a big city in recent decades, unlike so many other Mediterranean towns that have acquired modern roads and airports. It largely retains the lazy backwater feel of a village, with a lovely if somewhat seedy beach mostly populated by locals.

Cirali Beach
After returning to Antalya for a week or so, my husband and I visited our favorite coastal town, which is about a 1½ -hour drive west into Lycia. Cirali is home to one of several cities and accompanying mountains in the ancient world that were named Olympus. But this one was the home of the fire-breathing monster, Chimera (eternally burning flames by that name can still be visited today), which Bellerophon slew while riding the flying horse Pegasus. Today, the town is quiet and turtles breed on the beach. I drew this picture in the breezy early evening, using some transfer dots and lines to suggest the grainy texture of rapidly waning sunlight.

Although I usually prefer a pencil or watercolor-like feel to my drawings, when I awoke to this scene outside our Cirali window, I wanted to use bold colors and shapes to express the brilliance and seeming flatness of the flowers overlapping the chickens and lemon trees. Naturally, the wide variety of tools in an iPad app like Sketches can easily accommodate this kind of change in style.

Family walking past ruins to beach
On our return to Antalya, we spent an afternoon at the gorgeous site of ancient Phaselis, which was once a major harbor city and now comfortably crumbles in a pinewood park. This was a quick sketch from my perch on a Roman wall, just before a line of ants drove me off. The figures are a bit awkward, but I think I conveyed something of the filtered sunlight romantically highlighting the ruined main boulevard.
Beach with ruins
On the edge of the woods, the extensive ruins of Phaselis give way to lovely beach views. You can see in the distance here one of the touristic “pirate ships” that have lately sprung up all over the Turkish coast.
Hagia Sophia
I had been wanting to take a stab at drawing Hagia Sophia for some time, and I got my chance during the one afternoon we were able to spend in Istanbul on our way home to Texas. I plunked down on the first shady bench I could find and fell to drawing whatever I could see, which at times seemed to be the population of the world – it being a spring Saturday in the Sultanahmet district, which must be the most popular tourist destination in all of Turkey. Once again, I reveled in the scene for an hour or so, capturing what I could and sitting virtually unnoticed by the throngs.

I love the iPad for onsite sketching, given that I have been an amateur artist who previously only rarely found the time or nerve for it and who would still find it overly cumbersome, time consuming, and disruptive to work out in the world with traditional art materials. The iPad makes some things a lot easier, but I would not like to leave the impression that an app is so magical that artistic ability and vision become irrelevant. In addition to the possibility of an app crash, there are some real difficulties involved in iPad creation as compared to traditional methods, for example its less accurate drawing capability, unusually smooth, specular, small, and sometimes annoyingly smudgy surface, and one’s inability to work in full sun or even the lightest of drizzles. As with any medium, if you want to succeed, you must accommodate or overcome its limitations and exploit its strengths. What I know is that as long as I’m still learning, enjoying, and feeling gratified by the results, I’ll remain an enthusiastic advocate!

Leslie Akchurin is a New Englander who currently resides in Lubbock, Texas, where she instructs in a university writing center.  More of her iPad work can be seen here.

*Readers – Do you sketch using Digital media? What app do you use and why?

August 28, 2015

The long road (mostly airborn) to northern Spain. Drawings by Sharon Frost.

My husband and I spend a lot of time on the road (and in the air). One of our major occupations since we retired from our day jobs, many years ago, has been travel to Spanish-speaking places and the study of the Spanish language that comes with that territory.

Both my husband and I lived for a time in Latin America when we were in our 20s, decades before we met.  The fascination with the language has persisted, and been renewed, through each trip.  We generally stay in one town or city for a month or so, renting an apartment. Being "there" is the fun part.  Getting "there" is arduous.

Our most recent trip was to northern Spain, hoping to escape some of Brooklyn's steamy summer.  (It worked.)  A month in Asturias and some fantastic exploration of Bilbao and Burgos.
A la playa sin filtro soler. (At the beach without sunscreen). Time stands still in Terminal 7 -- the state of waiting takes over..
On Iberia flight 6250. to Madrid.  Todas las pantallas en el avion brillan. (All the creens on the plane shine, only my husbands is in black & white.)

Renfe alvia tren de Madrid a Gijón. Es mejor leer. (Renfe alvia train from Madrid to Gilón.  As always, my husband is reading.
30 de junio, 2015. Gijón.  Desayuno -- siempre afuera.  (At last we're in Gijón.  Breakfast is always outdoors.)
Blog:  Day Books

Little Italys

Italy's a county where people stroll at a comfortable pace. I wish I could say the same. So often, I find myself huffing and puffing down the hot, sunny side of the street alone. The locals are all sauntering in shade across the way while I pant and squint and sweat. Typical American.

When I find a subject to draw, I'm extraordinarily patient. I can work on a single drawing for hours without interuption, and I'm known for those very works. But between those drawings I'm downright fidgety. So, this year, to fill the gaps, I brought a tiny sketchbook and some black colored pencils to draw when there was no time to draw. Here are the results.



Beach routines along the windy Baltic coast. Surprisingly, there are lots of sand diggers in the every age range.

August 27, 2015

San Clemente State Beach

By Lydia Velarde

Visiting with my oldest best friend at the beach. San Clemente is half way between San Diego County and Brea, Orange County. I thought it would be rude to sketch while visiting but she encouraged me.

old men talking in Mcdonalds

By Byung Hwa Yoo, Mcdonalds, Jongno, Seoul

It was a day when the extreme tension between south and north Korea was on for me to visit Mcdonalds Jongno 2-ga branch. The old men were talking in high tone about the intrusion of North Korea and the responding of South. They seemed like war veterans. Of course they were very upset about the urgent situation. I started this sketch caught by the right man's dignified appearance at his age with white mustache. And he was fanning himself with his fold fan. At first I wanted to draw his figure with fan. But he stopped and laid it on table. I failed to capture the scene. But his white mustache, blue T shirt and white pants was enough to be my subject in that place. 
pen, watercolor, A 4

While drawing there were two men.

One man came after line drawing and I finished washing without the third man.

August 26, 2015

Beating the Heat in Singapore

By Gail Wong visiting in Singapore
Back street in the Arab District

One of the ways to beat the heat in Singapore was getting up early in the morning to sketch, as you have heard from many other sketchers already.  The first morning after I arrived,  I sketched with Shari Blaukoph on Waterloo St.  That was my first time sketching in Singapore.  I won't show that sketch...the first day of sketching was awful.  I wasn't used to the humidity even in the morning.  Wet on wet did not work well for me and my palette was a muddy mess with my paints oozing out of the wells.  It was immediately discouraging and I was worried about how to handle that. I found out talking to Shari that everyone had a difficult time the first day out. I found that you  have to adjust how you approach painting in the humidity,  a little less wetness to control the paints. 

Here are some of my early morning sketches from Singapore.

Masjid Sultan

Back Alley in Little India

Church on the corner of Middle Road and Waterloo

Back Alley in Little India, Singapore. Virginia Hein Sketching
 Liz Steel, Suhita and Virginia Hein

Frank Ching, Liz Steel,  Suhita and another sketcher

August 25, 2015

Oceanside Village, Oceanside, California

By Lydia Velarde

 I sat at the harbor early this morning sketching the village. The only thing moving this was a fishing boat taking off from the dock.

Dark City

by Inma Serrano 

Sorry at first because I have not already scan all the sketches I made in Singapour during the symposium.
It really was an unforgettable experience for me,  for everyone, I think. I have to say thank you to the all people there, specially to the local team for their kindness. It was an incredible opportunity to be there. I promise to scan and share here soon. 

The reason why I didn´t do my homework is that at the end of my holidays I am working tirelessly in a set of illustrations for an art fair that will be placed in Seville in early September. It is called Blur Fair.

I'm working at home, so maybe it should not be appropriate to share here the drawings I am making. But there are some of them based on different nightly sketches I did in some old sketchbooks. So I hope it can serve as an excuse to share some more elaborate drawings that I'm doing.

Here are some of the original images:

  Dark City

And here is one of the illustration.. The album is called Dark City. More here.

Dark City

I think it is the first time I work with watercolor using a dark background. I know it does not sound very orthodox (sorry Shari).

Basically the process is this: I make a dark background with watercolor first, mixing blue and black, wait until it dries an then I make the lines and the shadows using Pentel brush pen and my dear Sailor calligraphy fountain pen. I manage mixing dark watercolor and lines choicely. The strokes of blue and turquoise are made with pencil over the background. I use some white gouache at the end for highlight some lines (road, streetlights...) 
It´s a different way to use the watercolor (again sorry Shari) and it seems to work for night sketches. 

Try and judge for yourselves. 

Mont Saint-Michel and Honfleur

Thanks to a very good friend I had the opportunity to visit these two amazing places. Mont Saint-Michel is out of a fairy tale. I can’t imagine there is another place on earth like it. Its abbey reaches so high to the sky as if it is literally reaching for God. I did a few quick drawings and this painting which really cannot capture what I saw. I feel like I’d need a week to figure out what to say and how to say it.
Honfleur is a small town in the Normandy region of France. This was my kind of European town. No matter where you turn there are picturesque buildings, a port, and limitless beauty in the details. I spent one chilly rainy morning making this series of black and white drawings. Again I wish I had a week to spend there.