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July 31, 2014

A sketch at the new National Stadium

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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

14June01_Terrebonne_Dyptich

[
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.

14June01_TerreBonne_Pano

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.

14June01_Terrebonne_Progress01

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.

14June01_Terrebonne_Progress02

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.

14June01_Terrebonne_Progress03

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.

14June01_Terrebonne_Progress04

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).

14June01_Terrebonne_Dyptich

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.

14June19_Terrebonne_GearShot_02

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.

14June19_Terrebonne_GearShot_01

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 and 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 mikesheehanstudio.com.

July 28, 2014

Praying for peace


A house for 3 Religions:

In Berlin at the site, where once stand the Petri Church, a house for 3 religions will be built. Christians, Jews and Muslims will share a space. In the frame of this interreligious dialog project representatives of this 3 religions met last Sunday under the shadow of a tree at the Petri Square to pray for peace in Israel & Palestine. Other religions groups like the Sikhs, Bahai & Sufis joined. It was also a nice gesture to remember the suffering of people in other conflict areas like Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Mali, Ukraine, etc.

Direct to Watercolor Part 2 of 4 : Field Studies

After my recent breakthrough pages from last Friday’s post. I went out and did some messing around. Stuff that I won't show you. About five pages of throw-away studies. Enough to confirm that I actually had a process locked down.

Then I went out and did two days of sketching on the mountain, up in Parc du Mont-Royal.

I was taking it easy, yet still doing  three or four sketches a day. There were a few false starts I didn't keep (the backs of those sheets get used for figure drawing class). One thing for sure, working direct-to-watercolor is faster that drawing-then-painting. It takes almost exactly half the time to do one of these. Go figure! Almost if it's true, that a line drawing is just as much work as a painting.

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[Maison Smith, Parc du Mont-Royal]

14June01_Maison_Smith_Dyptich
[Maison Smith Montreal, Back Yard]

14June01_Belvedere_Dyptich
[Panorama from the Chalet du Montreal]

14June01_Beaver Lake_Dyptich
[View of Beaver Lake]

So, I feel I've gone from a fairly tentative sketchbook exercise in brush drawing, to some paintings that I’m pretty proud of. So, how is this jump possible? Lets see....

Switching to natural sable brushes: 
I don’t like to talk a lot about tools. (Though you’d never know it reading this blog). I feel that asking ‘what brush did you use’ is a distraction from more significant questions. BUT – that being said – a nice fat sable with a belly full of paint and a needle fine point makes a real difference.
I am mostly using a #14 Escoda, #10 DaVinci, and #7 Winsor and Newton Artist Watercolor Sable (in the long hair version - similar to a rigger).

Doing Tea, Milk and Honey in smaller areas:
I’m still using the three step process I call ‘Tea, Milk, Honey’, but instead of systematically working the entire surface, I’m working sub-sections of the painting each on its own clock. Working in logical chunks like the silhouette of a tree or the ‘box’ of a building. I'm doing this so that I can get down to the darks sooner. While a patch is still wet.

More pigment!
I’m mixing the paint richer, wetter and with more pigment than I used to. My previous paintings, built out of layered series of stains, actually use very little paint in comparison to these more aggressive mixes. I'm using a mix of Winsor and Newton, Holbein, and Daniel Smith tubes. There's a list of colors in this post.

Investing in ‘direct’ drawing skills:
I've been talking a lot about this thing I call ‘The Dot Plot Method’ recently.  That approach evolved naturally out of drawing directly in pen and ink. I started working exclusively in washable ink a few months back, in order to wean myself off the pencil. The ability to erase an under drawing, to make multiple stages of corrections, was allowing me to make very detailed, delicate, (dare I say, finicky) paintings. Drawing, and then tinting over top, was a crucial phase in my development, but I have known for a while I wanted to be more spontaneous than that.

By working my way through a few sketchbooks of water-soluble direct-to-ink drawings, first by melting my drawings,  then later by washing color right into the water-soluble line, I've been training my ability to visualize space, and my brush handling, to the point where I can draw directly in color without the preparation of a pencil drawing.

Working medium size:
These odd compositions – 11x30" diptychs – are a thing I settled on so I can work a bit larger than sketchbook size, but not so big that packing the gear becomes a problem. I went through a phase where I was working way bigger. Up to 24x36”. But that’s simply unwieldy for urban sketching. A gust of wind and suddenly you’re Mary Poppins. Plus everything scales up. The weight of a bigger tripod, the unwieldy panel under your arm, the size of the brushes required, and the time it takes to cover all that paper. It wasn't something I could expect to take with me on a trip – such as the upcoming Urban Sketchers conference in Brazil.

Next post - a step-by-step process example!


The routine of difficult times

I hate politics and don't like to listen to the news. I always joke that if the news will be important enough, they will find their way to me. Unfortunately, now the news found me and I found myself surfing at the news sites all over the web, desperate to find the answer. Actually, I'm tired to think and speak about it. I just hope so much that this war will end as soon as possible, that both sides will find another language except the language of force to talk to each other, I do believe there is a way to live together side by side.
You can say that sketching is a kind of escapism, but we all need to go on, so here they are, pieces of my routine.
this weekend -  cease-fire on the beach


playing games at home  
everyday alarms get us everywhere and they are part of our routine...

July 27, 2014

Sketch done while less equipped

I sketched Ginza street, one of the most prestigious area in Tokyo. I brought better and bigger paper for watercolor and an easel too. Then I noticed I forgot to bring some of my favorite brushes and palette for larger piece. Well, I needed to do with my usual small sketch tool then. Luckily I had a few Pentel waterbrushes and a custom made small palette in my bag.

Ginza

Ginza Chuo street

I did this straight to watercolor manner. It took me just an hour, same period of time I will give demonstration in Paraty. Here this is some tips I wrote on the 5th Urban Sketching Symposium blog. Enjoy.
Greetings from Japan

Sun, wind, warm Atlantic water off the Galway coast - and a vivid imagination


Last evening I took the two younger kids to Killeenaran Pier for a dip. The tide was nearly high when we arrived, and the water was a beautiful greeny blue. When it's a spring tide, it rises right up over the pier, and when you wade to the edge you don't know when the ground is going to suddenly disappear beneath your feet, which is a lot of fun.

I really enjoyed the freedom of making a sketch without bothering to put things in the right place. Well, I would have, had they stayed still. But I still like the result - drawing like this is very good for control freaks. The lady in the blue top was the only person to stay still, so I drew her twice. The suntanned lad in the foreground is my son: I reminded myself once again that even if the subject moves before you've caught him, chances are he will resume the position and you'll get another chance, and he did.

I've always jumped off the pier without a care. But last Monday I called down for a brief minute, to orient my newly-arrived guests - my sister and her boyfriend - as to the whereabouts of the sea in relation to my house. There were a few dripping teenagers standing around, who had just finished their swim. As I looked at the mirror-calm water, I noticed something funny.

"Guys..." I said. "Are those dorsal fins I see? The ones going round and round in circles?"
We went to a better vantage spot a few feet away. My gut lurched and my heart sank as I realised that the fish weren't mackerel, and that the yokes sticking up out of the water were indeed dorsal fins.
"They're dogfish," I said.
"Basically tiny sharks," said my sister.
"Are they dangerous?" asked the lady looking after the teenagers.
"Not at all!" I said, with no idea whether they were or not. "Completely harmless!"
I didn't want anyone to think that our lovely pier was anything other than perfect.
"I'm going back in," said one of the girls, who was about fifteen or so. "I want to swim with them."
Her friend went with her. In they hopped, and swam towards the fish - I'd never seen anything like it for bravery. The dogfish swam away - very slowly - and I suddenly wondered if the girls were indeed safe, having basically been assured by me that they were.
"Can you eat dogfish?" asked a brother of one of the girls.
"Always thinking of your stomach!" laughed his mother.

Later, my brother, who doesn't trust anything in the sea, quickly Googled something he'd heard about a dogfish attack.
"This guy lost five toes in shallow surf off Northern Spain," he said. "Back in 1994. He was a doctor so he was able to make a tourniquet."
So now I'm nervous swimming off the pier. But I think numbers are on my side: there must be fifty people before me there every day - that's a lot of toes.

I joined my kids in the water there this evening.