Meet the Correspondent: Omar Jaramillo > Berlin$show=/search/label/Omar%20Jaramillo

"I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where I studied architecture. I moved to Kassel (Germany) in 1999 to accomplish a master degree. Although I have always drawn and paint, it was not until I started studying in the Uni-Kassel, that I started keeping a travel sketchbook. I had a teacher there who used to do a lot of sketches when he travelled on university excursions. When he retired, I helped to organize an exhibition of his sketches. He brought a huge box full of sketchbooks he had filled since he was an architecture student. I spent a whole day selecting the most interesting drawings. It was a wonderful experience that opened my eyes to a new world. In the last 10 years I have the feeling of being in a long journey. I like to discover the cities where I live, to understand why a place is the way it is and what makes it different and unique from others. Drawing is for me a way to learn to love a place, to become part of it. I like to draw architecture but I am more attracted to urban scenery, portraying how people live in the city. Since I’m a foreigner, everything that locals find normal and taken-for-granted, for me is exotic. I always carry a small watercolor travel set from Windsor and Newton and my sketchbook in my bag. I always thought that drawing was a solitary experience until I found Urban Sketchers. It was amazing to find so many people doing the same thing. It is a great place to share!" • Omar's blog. • Omar's art on flickr. • Omar's website.

Meet the Correspondent: Luis Ruiz > Malaga, Spain$show=/search/label/Luis%20Ruiz

Stéphane Kardos, drawing in L.A.

Santa Monica/Venice
Jan. 31, 2009, Santa Monica.

Stéphane Kardos is a French artist living in Los Angeles, where he works for the Walt Disney Company as an art director. He has traveled the world and sketched everywhere he's been. Gabi Campanario, a fellow European also transplanted to the West Coast, asked him about his drawings and the experience of sketching around L.A.

You've captured so many parts of the world with your drawings: Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, Croatia, Japan... How does L.A. compare? What is it like to sketch in Southern California?

Well, L.A. is very different than any cities around the world I’ve sketched. There is a quote I love from a friend’s wife, who’s also from Europe, she said:

"Every building in L.A. looks like the back of a building in Europe.”

I can’t agree more, L.A. looks like a giant suburb in Europe. It's much easier to sketch on location here. The buildings are simple (I’m generalizing here, some buildings are very beautiful and more complex), streets are straight and wide, and there are more cars than people in the streets.

I went back to Europe after almost a year here, last July, to London, and I forgot how much more difficult it is to sketch in the streets there, every single house/building is full of details, it’s busier, there are people everywhere. You really need to focus more; a 15-minute sketch in Europe is like two hours at the gym!

But I really love the urban landscape in L.A., all the electric poles, wires, road signs, neon signs… the big blue sky. I also love sketching all sorts of vehicles, and L.A. is great for that, as it’s full of vintage cars, trucks, I love it.

I’m still new to L.A and Southern California, it’s great for me to see everything with fresh eyes and I enjoy sketching it all. I have a lot to discover here, California is massive and an absolutely beautiful state; it’s very inspiring and exciting.

The light in Southern California is stunning, it’s very bright, this is one main difference compared to Europe, like Paris or London that can feel gray, gloomy sometimes. There's an amazing sense of space here.

We have the sun almost all year round, which is great, I can be out sketching more, the shadows are beautiful and very sharp, and the sunsets are gorgeous! I still can’t believe those sunsets. That pushed me to think in colors and shapes more than lines since I moved here. 

Dec. 1, 2008, Lake Avenue, Altadena.

Do you carry a stool to sit while you sketch or just sit or stand anywhere? Tell us about your technique and media.

I have a portable stool, but I forget it most of the time (I like traveling light when I go out sketching, to be able to get ready to sketch as quick as possible) so I end up sitting anywhere I can, it’s part of the fun of sketching on location.

I was sketching a lot in Moleskine sketchbooks back in Europe. I loved how convenient they are, but since I’ve been here, I started to sketch very big, 13" by 19" (33 by 48 cm.) or bigger, to cover more of the scenes I have around me.

In Europe I tend to focus more on details. Here, the big blue open sky, the sheer size of the city, the feel of space makes me want to sketch bigger.

I sketch on any kind of paper I have, sometimes in some of those big watercolor paper blocks (Arches, Canson) but anything will do really.

I use a simple waterproof ink ballpoint pen (uniball signo), and a pencil. I use the ballpoint pen for the foreground and pencil for everything in the background to create some depth. I also have a brush pen that I absolutely love (Kaimei Brush Pen). It’s totally worn out and this is how I love it. I love getting those dry brush effects, especially when I sketch vehicles, or people.

For the color, I use watercolors and gouache; I just started to use gouache again recently as it’s perfect for the rich colors of Southern California.

I sketch very quickly, I don’t like spending too much time on a subject, and I love spontaneity in a drawing. I love mistakes; they create life in a drawing. My goal is not to replicate exactly what I see, but to give a feeling of the location, giving the impression that everything is here, even if I don't draw all the details. I never retouch a sketch later. What I sketch on location is what I keep. I sometimes finish the color back in my studio. I take notes on location or a photo to help me remember it, but I treat it as if I was on location, I don't allow myself much time to finish it to avoid losing all the life in it. 

You're doing many iPhone sketches lately. How does it compare to using pen and paper?

Ocean LiquorDowntown L.A and the Ocean, from the Sam Merril TrailYes, I’ve done a lot of those in the past six months. This started because of the amazing sunsets in Southern California I was talking about earlier. The sunsets don't last long here, 5-10 minutes and they’re gone. I really wanted to catch this light on location, but I found it very tricky with traditional media. By the time I was ready to paint, set up my gouache/watercolors, the light was gone, or it was too dark to paint and see my palette. I didn’t want to paint them in my studio from a photo, so the iPhone came in handy. I love experimenting, so I gave it a go, using this application called Brushes and I loved it. My goal was to create only very quick color keys of L.A, 5 to 10 minutes each, sometimes very abstract, as I was only interested in the colors, the shapes, and putting them together as a mood of the city.

I love how convenient the iPhone is for this purpose, as you can paint very quickly in the dark or capture a sunset as it's going down on location; the screen is backlit, it’s perfect. I’m a bit frustrated though that I only end up with a print-out, no original painting.

But I love drawing with a pen and paper, or paint with traditional media, nothing replaces that. There’s a great feel to it, and the sense of recording what’s around me on paper makes me feel I’m home a bit more every day.

• Stef's blog.
• Stef's art on Flickr. 



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