Category Archives: art

Northern Neck Excursion

This is my first ever crosspost between this here blog, my personal journal, and the Glue Stick Tourist blog. So if you subscribe to all three, there will be a lot of repeats, but there’s some stuff here that’s not on either of those other places.

Travel sketch journaling is a new activity for me. I’ve always kept a written journal, and more recently I’ve been gluebooking my travels (and sharing them on the GST blog), but drawing my travels is new. And I still haven’t quite managed to merge the three into a single journal – except for special journals dedicated to specific trips, and even those contain little to no drawing.

This was my first expedition where I actually spent some time sketching my experiences. I always intend to, but this time I actually did. Nothing too extravagant – I’m still a bit shy about drawing in public – but I captured the memories. Below is a description of my adventures with their respective gluebook and sketchbook pages.

I spent Veterans Day exploring the Northern Neck of Virginia, the peninsula between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. I’d never been, which is apparently a strange reason for visiting somewhere, but that’s what exploring is all about, right? The first page above is my entire route for the day.

The second stage comprises a few stops, including the Westmoreland County Historical Museum and Lancaster Tavern, where I stopped for lunch. The Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library was closed, but I wandered around the buildings outside a bit.

My first real tourism stop of the day was the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. The houses were closed due to some kind of mechanical failure, rendering them unsafe, but I learned a lot at the visitor center and got to see the graves and the obelisk. I also stopped by the beach, where I picked up an oyster shell, one of the eleventy billion collected in the sand. Where I grew up, rivers don’t have sandy beaches, so it’s still novel. (Okay, where I grew up we didn’t have any river, but I certainly spent more time by them than the ocean.)

Since the buildings were closed, I drew a little bit on the river, then sketched the graves and my oyster shell (which is still in the cup holder in my car). I’d been excited about the National Park stamps, but I think I went a bit overboard in my sketchbook, especially since I also stamped them on a piece of scrap paper to include in my gluebook. In the future, I’ll just put one or two in my sketchbook and leave the rest to cut out later.

I spent Veterans Day in the Northern Neck of Virginia. After some meandering, I ended up in Weems at Christ Church, one of the oldest original colonial churches in the state.

Built in 1735 by horrible people (sorry, but when you successfully petition the colonial government for permission to cut off your slaves’ toes, you don’t get any praise from me, regardless of your other accomplishments), Christ Church is a simple but very lovely little Anglican chapel. I was raised Catholic, so having the pulpit in the exact center of the church and pews in little cubicles, facing all directions, is foreign to me.

The docents were marvelous. I appreciate anyone who thinks of me as “young,” but given that these women were easily twice my age, that’s their prerogative. The one who gave me the tour of the church was especially funny. She mentioned that the Carsons – the folks who built the church – had their own special cubicle of pews directly across from the pulpit, within which the pews were two inches deeper than the rest of the church. The docent whispered to me, “We think the Carsons had big butts.”

She also kept asking me where I was staying for the night, and didn’t seem to understand that driving home that night wasn’t a big deal. I was roughly two hours from home, and it was only midafternoon. But I guess when you’re older that becomes a very long drive.

It was getting pretty gloomy and rainy by that point, so I drove out to Windmill Point, snapped a quick photo, then headed across the bridge on Route 3 (shown in the second page above). Oi, Virginia river bridges are terrifying. I don’t generally have issues with heights, and this wasn’t nearly as scary as the Bay Bridge, but the two-way, no-median traffic was a touch unnerving.

I drew the light fixture from the Lancaster Tavern. I thought about drawing my food, but it was already getting cold as I ate it, so I’m glad I didn’t take any extra time. The pulpit from Christ Church was drawn from the brochure; I didn’t feel comfortable stopping to draw while my tour guide was there. This is one of those times when it’s good that the sketches and the collages aren’t in the same book, since my sketch is clearly inferior to the photo included on the gluebook page.

As a bonus, one more sketch page. The next evening, we journeyed into DC to see Amanda Palmer, who was on tour promoting her memoir, The Art of Asking.

We had dinner at Rosa Mexicano, home of some of the best guacamole ever, before heading to the show at the Sixth & I Synagogue, which was gorgeous. The main design on the page is a detail from the ceiling. As usual, my husband took tons of great pictures.

All in all, a truly lovely 48 hours. And utterly exhausting, but sometimes that’s just how it goes.

How do you record your memories?

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Sketch Field Trip: Udvar-Hazy Center

My husband loves photography, so we decided to try an outing where we don’t actually spend much time together: I go sketch, and he wanders off to take pictures. Ordinarily, we would experience things together, but we decided to revisit somewhere close to home: the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center. We’d both been there before multiple times, but it had been a while.

I started in a seat next to the Enola Gay, facing away from it. I did a fairly quick sketch in ink of some of the people.

Next, I wandered over to the early aircraft exhibit to sketch a Caudron G.4. I am still working on slowing down and paying attention to the relative positions of each part of the scene. With pen it’s even more noticeable because you can’t erase: once it’s there, it’s there, congratulations it’s weird-looking. But all drawing is drawing practice, and drawing in public is its own unique challenge. I can’t be sure, but it felt like a lot of people were stopping to look at the plane behind me.  They didn’t really need to be standing directly beside me to see it, either.

My final stop was the space room, at the back end of the space shuttle Discovery. I’d wanted to draw the engines but it turned out I’d have needed to draw the people half of even a quarter of the size in order to fit the engines – the shuttle is just so massive! But it was a fun experiment all the same. Sketching people in real life is difficult, as they tend not to stand still for very long.

In all, this was a fun little trip. I didn’t produce the best drawings or the ones I’m most proud of, but it’s all part of the process. The more you draw, the better you get, so I keep right on drawing.

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Pumpkin Pie

One of my assignments in Sketchbook Skool was to illustrate a recipe. I’m no cook, so I wanted to do hard-boiled eggs. My husband said that was a cop-out, and made me draw pumpkin pie. So here it is, the recipe off the side of the can of pumpkin:

If I were to do this over, I’d make the ingredients larger. I underestimated the amount of space I had to work with.

Happily, while I finished up coloring this, my husband actually made the pie. It was delicious.

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Art Journals, Sketchbooks, and Diaries

I’ve kept a regular paper diary since 1991, and in that time I’ve never really varied in format: handwritten, text only. For years I even used a special ten-color pen, using a different color of ink each day, though these days I use whatever pen is handy. It’s rare for me to paste something into it, with the exception of the occasional random sticker. When I do paste things into journals, it’s a special book, like a journal set aside for a single trip, or my current GST book. When I draw, that goes into sketchbooks, some of which are separated into specific types. For example, I have one book dedicated entirely to faces drawn with #2 pencil. Everything has its place.

I’m torn on the matter, however. Separate books work well when you only want to do one thing at a time, but that often means packing a bunch of stuff when going somewhere, just on the off chance that I might want to do one thing or the other. And I really love the idea of art journals. I like the idea of writing about your day/life amidst the doodles and collage. I like the pages created by Daisy Yellow, Seaweed Kisses, and iHanna. I’ve even gone so far as to sign up for the gorgeous weekly prompts from Journal52 (and have as of yet completed only one of them).

Some people combine their art journals with commonplace books – collections of interesting quotes and information encountered in books and everyday life. These are usually worked into the art in some fashion, rather than organized into a repository of wisdom, but they share the notion of saving these sorts of things in a central location.

I also like artifact journals, like those of my friend KateKintail, where she glues in one item from her day, as a memento, with often no more than a few lines describing the story behind it. Often she doesn’t even cut it up – just pastes in the whole brochure or whatever in a way so you can still unfold it. No Tetris-esque collages necessary, and there’s still plenty of room to write more if that’s what you want to do. It also doesn’t face the limitation that my GST book has: that is, if there isn’t enough to fill a page, it doesn’t make it into the book at all.

A while back, I came across a nifty set of scans from Austin Kleon’s tour sketchbook (hat tip to Notebook Stories for the link). This in particular really struck me:

I’m on the move a lot, so I don’t have a lot of time to sketch while I’m walking around, but I do have time to collage when I’m back in the hotel room, so I’ve started carrying transparent tape, Japanese Washi tape that my wife gave me, and a pair of safety scissors (TSA says under 4 inches is okay).

This probably sounds strange, but it never occurred to me to just carry around the tape and scissors with you and do your journaling on the go. If you look at his pages, they’re a mixture of writing, clippings, and sketches. The only time I’ve ever come close to this sort of beautiful hodgepodge is in my trip journals, and even with those I only did the collage at the very end, after I got back home. My Japan journal is a good example. I also made journals for my trip to Amsterdam in 2010, Disney World in 2012, and this past April’s Eurotrip. At Disney World in particular I did a fair amount of drawing, something I almost never do in my regular diary.

I think my biggest issue is a feeling of required perfection. The only place I ever feel comfortable in freewriting or doodling or jotting down little notes is in whatever beat-up old spiral notebook I have going at the moment. Diaries are for the chronology of my life; sketchbooks are for completed drawings (not even, perhaps ironically, unfinished sketches); gluebooks are for collages of clippings. And yet, I don’t want to glue stuff into the spiral notebooks because they are so ephemeral (and often too fally-aparty). That’s the place for my first drafts, for straightening out my whirling thoughts, for mock-ups and grocery lists and calculating my hours. If there’s anything worth keeping, I copy it out elsewhere.

So now I’m trying something new. I’ve signed up for the first “kourse” of Sketchbook Skool. Aside from their somewhat irritating obsession with the letter K, it looks like a neat concept: lots of well-known art journalers, such as Danny Gregory and Andrea Joseph (from whom I learned about this), are teaching about illustrated journals and drawing more often in general. I hope it’ll help me figure out what works best for me, as well as give me the kick in the pants I need to get out of this creative rut I’ve been stuck in.

Do you keep any kind of journal? How do you organize things?

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My First Sketchcrawl

I attended my very first official sketchcrawl this past Saturday. We started at the Maine Avenue Fish Market, then moved a little way down the shoreline to the Capital Yacht Club.

Drawing objects from a distance is very hard for me; I’m used to drawing still life mere feet away, or even photographs right in front of me. Plein air sketching is a new challenge. So because I have a tendency to over-explain/defend my drawings, I’m just going to present them without comment.

In conclusion: I had a good time and enjoyed the company of the artists very much, even if I felt more than a little bit intimidated when we all shared sketchbooks at lunch. Oh well – everybody has to begin somewhere!

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Takoma Park Folk Festival

A week ago, my husband and I attended the Takoma Park Folk Festival for the second time. We saw some really great groups: ilyAIMY, Lulu’s Fate, Urban Funk, 50 Man Machine, and others. I’m really bad at sitting still, so I brought my sketchbook and a regular #2 pencil and drew some of the musicians.

I think I don’t like drawing musicians. The hands are awkward (and hands are tough to begin with) and guitars defeat me. Still, I suppose this counts as urban sketching, which I’ve been trying to do more of in general.

Anyway, if you’d like to see photos from our day, my husband has posted a bunch here. Enjoy! Just don’t compare them to my drawings. I’m not so good at lifelike portraiture.

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Art-o-mat Adventures

Once upon a time, some enterprising artists decided to repurpose old cigarette vending machines to create art vending machines, and thus the art-o-mat was born. As badly as I wanted to visit one of these novelties, I knew I’d never get around to it until I added it to my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days. After a couple of failed attempts to find the DC machine (long story), I made a pilgrimage to Cumberland, Maryland, to visit the Saville Gallery. It was easy to find and fun to do. You purchase a token for $5.00, then use the token to make your purchase. The hardest part was deciding which to get! I ended up with a lovely pin by Freaks, Geeks & Beauties, but then had to do it again and ended up with an adorable Patron Saint for Modern Times created by Mike Goodwin. (I got Saint Hoopty, the patron saint for good parking.)

Art-o-mat Machine

Close-up of machine

Close-up of machine

The token

Freaks, Geeks, and Beauties

 

Patron Saints for Modern Times

Patron Saints for Modern Times

Later I finally (finally!) made it to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and once again purchased two pieces. The first was a rather puzzling, er, object by Scarab Art, then an itty bitty watercolor painting by Trish Randall.

Art-o-mat Machine

 

Trish Randall

Scarab Art

It’s probably good there aren’t any super close to me, because I evidently have no willpower whatsoever when it comes to these things. MUST BUY ART!

Have you ever visited an artomat machine? Maybe there’s one near you!

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On Composition and Negative Space

When drawing something simple like a stark still-life, composition – that is, the placement of the object in the frame – becomes very important. For example, when drawing an iris, it would be wise not to create something that looks more like a wilted cabbage in the process of fainting.

Just sayin’.

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Anthropomorphization

When I was a kid, I anthropomorphized everything. Seriously: I even attributed personalities to the cards on computer solitaire. These days, inanimate objects tend to take on my current mood. For example, drawing boxes bores me to tears:

And drawing round objects in perspective frustrates me to no end:

I wasn’t really going anywhere with this. Just wanted to share. Do you anthropomorphize inanimate objects in your life?

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Meta-Art

You can certainly do worse than copying the masters, but sometimes it feels a little weird to create art of other art in a different medium. For example, while the rest of my Basic Drawing class at The Art League in summer 2010 was creating spheres and cubes, my instructor wisely gave me (who alone had experience with charcoal, evidently) something a little bit more interesting to render:

My first attempt didn’t turn out too well, so I rotated it and tried again:

That was a little better, but the sad truth is that no matter how faithfully I copied it, it remained a pretty ugly statue.

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