September 22, 2014

Eight Urban Sketchers, One mountain, Endless possibilities

On a clear, sunny day in early September, eight urban sketchers spent a day together on Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

By sharing our sketches and notes as a single post, we hope to share what we experienced: the excitement and the magic that comes from exchanging ideas, trying new things, being influenced by each other or just simply sketching on location together. Here they are, the sketchers, their sketches and their thoughts, in their own words.

OMAR JARAMILLO : Germany, Berlin
This was my first watercolor. The sky, clouds, mountains and water were fantastic and I wanted to get an atmospheric watercolor sketch. First blue wash, when still wet clear water to create clouds and the end a grey rose mix under that...

On this next one, I started by creating three different glazes for the sky. Liz and I were discussing mixing more pigment in the palette with little water to get intensive mix of colors. I was very interested in Suhita's drawing, trying to get rich darks. So I was trying to apply it in this piece. I am very proud of my little guy on the platform (bottom right). It shows the scale.

SHIHO NAZAKA : USA, Los  Angeles
This trip was all about trying new approaches and capturing the sense of place. I was inspired to take on new approaches - using a Moleskine watercolor book (which I usually don't like), working across the spread (which I normally don't do), and painting directly with watercolors (which I should do more of!)

The view of the city from Pão de Açucar is spectacular - Corcovado with Christ the Redeemer statue can be seen in the distance, overlooking the highrises by the bay with sailboats dotted throughout the sea. Turkey vultures were soaring in the wind, and the occasional helicopter and planes passed through. I tried to capture them all.

And this one is a sketch of Sugarloaf itself, before we take one more cable car to go to the very very top...

In this first sketch, I was trying to capture the depth in the mountains and the interesting relationship between the thick green growth of the trees and the flow of Favelas running down the hillside. I remember wondering where to start or what information to use and taking it slowly trying to choose what details were important for me (I love detail). For me it was the dark foliage which framed the white / bright buildings. I added in some shadows to represent the multitude of buildings but didn't want to overdo it.

The other two sketches of Sugarloaf were simple studies. With the one on the left, I may have layered up too many colours losing the spontaneity I was trying to capture. The second attempt was when we were enjoying lunch and it was more of a relaxed line study with a little bit of paint added to the sky and the foliage to frame Sugarloaf.

LIZ STEEL : Australia, Syndey
The view from the first level of Sugarloaf was breathtaking… but my eye was drawn to the dramatic cliff of Corcovado (I don't care too much for the statue on the top - it is all about the sheer cliff face for me). I ended up doing two quick panoramic sketches from our first sketching spot - using different media and with a slightly different emphasis each time.

The first sketch which started with Corcovado as my focus was done using a watercolour pencil outline and some quick watercolour washes. It was all about the geography of the city - how the smaller hills relate to the sheer vertical faces of Corcovado. I loved the soft calligraphic line of my pencil which because it was a little damp was giving me a hit and miss line. I was afraid to do too much to this sketch - so I stopped early and turned the page and started a second one. (one of my mottos is 'if in doubt…. stop and do another one')

The second sketch once again started with Corcovado as the focus but this time I was more interested in how the built form of the city interacted with the topography - the high rise in the plain and the favelas rising up the hillsides. My colour was a lot stronger and I got out my favourite sailor ink pen for the main edges.

Both of these sketches were worked very fast and spontaneously - I just started and went where the sketch took me. I don't do a lot of landscapes (wish I did more!) and vast panoramas like this one (how many panoramas are there like this in the world anyway?) but I was thinking about how to create depth by varying colour hue and temperature. I love the way that the two sketches tell such a different story.

I found it really hard at first, working out how on earth to paint so much information: how to squeeze all those mountains into a tiny Moleskine, and then the even trickier issue of how you ‘code’ so many shoulder-to-shoulder high-rises and the sprawling mass of favelas, trailing towards infinity along every valley. Someone in the group summed it up: ‘It’s like someone spilled their Lego out over everything’. I painted first, capturing an impression of the scene, then used ink to try and get a sense of the ‘clutter’ of the buildings. Spot the plane far right – we were above it!

There was so much drama in the setting, both vertical and horizontal, but the Moleskine flattened things out, so I began experimenting with different angles, to better capture the feel of the setting.

Working so closely alongside one another, all of us focused on this one task, created a dynamism, a kind of urgency to get it all down, again and again. It was a very special day: the peculiarly difficult but exciting challenge really bonded the group, until we felt like a team, a ‘band of sketchers’! 

CLAUDIA JARJOURA, Australia, Syndey 
Here are two sketches from Claudia, who is still enjoying her time in Brazil.

MARC HOLMES : Canada, Montreal
Looking to the west at Corcovado behind the city, my biggest concern was simplification of the amazing view. When you’re sketching in a group, I find myself wanting to adapt to the touring style of the people I’m with - in the sense that we’re trying to all take the same amount of time for each sitting, so nobody’s holding the others up. It’s common for someone to call out ‘how much time does everyone need?’ and there’s a little bargaining - "10 more minutes? no I need at least 15”. For this double page spread, I wanted to make myself see the simplest possible forms underneath all the detail. Just making it three shapes: land, sea and city.

This view of the headlands to the east, is my favorite sketch of the entire trip. The emerald hills, the turquoise sea, and the glittering city seem impossibly exotic. This is the one sketch that sums up our whole experience of Rio.

And lastly, some proof of how great it is to sketch with a group of talented friends. I’d been watching Omar work next to me, and really enjoying how he could reduce a scene to its essence. I had just finished a double page spread of the Sugarloaf dome, and I wasn't particularly happy with the results.

I was comfortably sitting at a table with a drink - apparently that's too comfortable! Things get overworked :)  His sketch was showing me how I'd lost my way. So I started again, and banged this one out in, I swear, about a minute.

It’s a perfect example of how one should do 10 sketches and throw away 9, in order to get a perfect impression. A watercolor sketch is only alive while the water is flowing. If it becomes too deliberate, too ‘finicky’, all is lost.

To me, working alongside other sketchers (something I very rarely ever do) is a chance to be open to ideas and influences and to try new things. This first sketch was especially challenging: not only was I trying to capture a truly overwhelming and spectacular view, but I was also trying a new approach of not putting all my line down first, something Liz and I had been discussing through the week. I really enjoyed the more abstract and pared-down shapes and forms I could see by working in this fashion. It's an approach I plan to play with a lot more.

By the time I was working on this sketch, I had sketched for a couple of hours and was finally wrapping my head around my "paint-first, less-line" approach.

The sketch on the right? Another rarity for me, working in monotones. This one was not inspired by a fellow sketcher up on Sugarloaf that day but by something Fred Lynch said to me the week before in Paraty: try working in just one or two colors.

Afraid of Colour? (or should that be 'Afraid of Water'?)

I'd like to tell you a bit about the Afraid of Colour? sketching workshops I ran for the Symposium, especially for those who weren't in Paraty, as we had rather more drama than anticipated... 

Even before I left the UK, the weather forecasters were saying that my first and main teaching day was going to be dreadful weather. They predicted heavy rain. I had one 3.5 hour workshop first thing and another all afternoon. My allocated spot was lovely - a grassy area by the harbour, with colourful boats...

...and of course, the lovely houses we found everywhere, with brightly coloured windows and doors. I guided my group there on Thursday morning and found a nice shady spot under a tree, where I briefed them in and did a very quick demo of simple colour-before-line sketch (you can read more about the specific exercises of the workshop in my post about the dry-run I did in Sheffield): 

People had just got settled and begun painting when it started - huge raindrops. One, two... then, all at once, a deluge!  

We were SO lucky. I was one of the few instructors whose workshop spot had a rain bolt-hole. There was a lot of flapping and squealing and scrabbling around, gathering up gear, but we all made it under the cover of the empty fish-market before any damage was done.

It was a bit grubby, but housed us all easily and we had views out, so that was fine.

All around us the rain came down and thunder boomed above our heads. It all added a certain drama and we had a great time. It was a lovely group. The 3 different colour exercises went well and everyone one worked really hard. I briefed in the last one with a slightly longer demo piece:

I had been concerned about having enough time, but my spot was so close to the Casa da Cultura that I even had a little time left over at the end of the workshop and so did a quick demo of how to use the watercolour pencils, by drawing Ievgen:

Then we took this lovely group shot. Big smiles all round. Excellent.

After lunch, I met group number 2 back at the Casa de Cultura. But as soon as we got outside, we realised we had a problem. Though my spot was just around the corner, there was no crossing the road - it was like Venice!

Now, we had already noticed that Paraty has an unusual relationship with the tides. The streets are all created from huge stones and dip in the middle, enabling the sea to flow in and out. This would originally have been a great way to clean the streets twice daily.

This is more how it usually looks at high tide, an easy paddle, with crossing places at high points: 

But that day there was a freak, extra-high tide and things went a bit crazy. All the instructors were in the same boat, trailing crocodiles of sketchers down the narrow pavements, trying to find a way to get to where they needed to be:

It took my group about 15 minutes and in the end involved us walking along the top of a narrow harbour wall, an inch under-water in places, with sea either side! The sky was about to burst again, so we headed back to the fish market. I did my quickie demo again, then people got painting. A few worked out on the grass, but we suddenly realised: the water was still rising and they were now cut off from the rest of us!

They paddled through to join us before things got worse but, 5 minutes later, we saw it was STILL rising and was about to inundate the floor of the fish market. So the whole group had to paddle back out onto the grass again, where we finished the workshop on our own island. Some people were fretting about ever getting back to civilisation! It was all a bit distracting, but I soldiered on, knowing the tide would go back out eventually. Luckily it wasn't raining, but it was now really windy and we were all freezing (dressed for Brazil, not Sheffield!!).

We managed to do all the exercises, despite everything (although I completely forgot to take photos) but, as soon as we were able, we got ourselves into a cafe to warm up. It was a slightly ragged end to the workshop, but quite an experience all round. 

Luckily my Saturday morning slot was normal - nice, sunny, Brazil weather, no floods. 

It was so lovely to sit on the grass to do my demo:

I had some really lovely feedback from people about the workshop and the handouts I'd created so, despite a certain amount of interesting adversity, in the end I think it was all a big success. Phew. 

Here I am with my 'sunshine' group: 

Thanks to everyone who opted for my workshop (I always worry slightly that nobody will...). I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did and picked up at least something from my package of colour tips. I miss you all!

On my street

These houses are just across the street where I live, I started for them and gave desire to draw the whole street :)

September 21, 2014

Liège, the last restaurant...

After for sketching days, after the opening of the the exhibition at the "Théâtre de Liège", the last restaurant together. Drawings by Emdé, Tazab, Joel Guevara and Rolf Schroeter.
With Lapin, Simonetta, Rolf Schroeter, Martine Kervagoret, Corinne Raes, Emdé, Joël, Rene Fijten, Fabien Denoël, Miguel Herranz, Roberta... and some others...

The Boats of Paraty, Rio de janeiro, Brazil

Historic Paraty  is a town of whitewashed homes and churches. Only the bright doors and windows and the terracotta roofs add spots of color. But the boats of Paraty are a different story. They are unabashedly colorful with equally colorful names. Painting those boats made me wish I had pepto bismol pink and bright baby blue in my palette. No amount of undiluted pigment could capture those colors. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try. Here are a few bright boats from my collection:

And some 'quieter' ones:

More from amazing Paraty, Brazil, coming soon. Or, all my sketches from my trip ( as I post them) here on flickr.

My Summer Location Drawing Class at AAU, San Francisco (Pt 9: the cable car museum)

Class starts at 8:30 and the museum doesn't open until ten, so we sketched the Nob Hill neighborhood outside for a while, and I set up across the street to draw this view of the San Francisco Cable Car Museum itself. Every so often, an actual cable car would come by and pause there for a few minutes before moving on, so what you see drawn here is actually a composite of three or four cars, taking details from each one as they went by. You can see some of my students in the view also sketching. Ink and brushpen drawn onsite with digital color added later.

Cable Cars are an iconic feature of San Francisco, often packed with tourists hanging out the sides as they go up and down the hilly streets. Of twenty-three cable lines established between 1873 and 1890, three remain today. The Cable Car Museum has historical exhibits and even whole cable cars on display, but its main feature and heart is the working floor of the Power House where these mighty spinning wheels drive the haulage cables that the cars grip as they wind their way through town. The names of the lines are written on the beam overhead: Hyde, California, and Mason. You can hear the underground cables rattle and hum with this energy as you cross the San Francisco streets all along these routes. Next: the Presidio.

D.C.'s Capitol Mall: The Ultimate Melting Pot

I was fortunate to be able to return to Washington D.C. this weekend for a brief but productive meeting at national headquarters of the American Society of Landscape Architects.  I timed my flight arrival to give me an hour or two of late afternoon sketching time before business began.  I was in awe of the number of people promenading on The Mall, where one could hear several languages at once as strollers passed my park bench.  Even with music from an antique carousel in front of the Smithsonian "Castle" filling the air, the majestic setting and the throngs of pilgrims to the site are awe-inspiring.

September 20, 2014

Old Cars and Surf Music at the Beach

The Wavecrest Woodie Fest was held at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas today. These are old cars from the 40s, 50's and on up. The cars are called Woodies because they have wood on the sides of them Many of the woodies were used to haul surfboards to the beach. This was the location of the San Diego Urban Sketchers Meetup and my sketching today.

We drew the cars while listening to surf tunes and oldies coming from the stage area.

Last ride in Buenos Aires and then, September: back to Brooklyn.

The 37 bus to Avellaneda, to go to the Cantina de Norbert
Flight 592, LANchile, Santiago to JFK.  Listening to Bill Evans, selecting movies.

My studio in Brooklyn: Through the windows: the end of summer. It's still September 11.

Sharon Frost. Blog: DayBooks

September 19, 2014

USK Flickr Digest 9/13- 9/19/2014

There is currently an unbridled intensity on USK Flickr that really requires attention. With a surge of impressive quality postings to the Flickr group, I would like to feature some of each weeks submissions. One of the interesting things about Flickr is the ability to scroll through the postings while comparing and contrasting hundreds of sketches all at once. The works can become great reminders of the potential for new formal explorations or technical ideas not being fully utilized. This week I was struck by the use of pattern in the images submitted, in particular the potential for patterns to activate the page and enhance the power of the image. Here are three of the many that stood out for their use of pattern.

Matt Wooding, Part of my commute, England  

Juan Maria, Vuelta al cole en Madrid, Spain

Take a few minutes and to look for that element or principle of art that can open new doors for your own work by checking in to USk Flickr here