Tag Archives: sketching

Sketchbook Peek: Morven Park

On a beautiful day in April, I drove out to Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia. I’d been going through a bit of a drawing drought and I was determined to draw something. Well, I ended up taking the tour of the Governor’s Mansion, which was lovely, then wandering around the carriage museum, which was empty save for me and had no chairs and I felt like I would have been conspicuous had I started sketching. However, I did draw this one picture of a small portion of the mansion. I had to sit a bit awkwardly – most of the benches are not within sight of the house, for some reason. Anyway, it was a good time and taught me that I really need to start keeping a pencil sharpener with me at all times, because the stubby gray pencil left scratch marks.

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Learning from Danny Gregory

In July and August of this year, I took an online course called Sketchbook Skool: Beginnings. I’ve always been enamored of the idea of keeping an art journal, and this course struck me as the perfect introduction. I was right.

Danny Gregory taught the first week. His was the name I primarily recognized, famous for Everyday Matters. He explained how he started art journaling, and probably had the most influence on me of any of the teachers. His technique of drawing the entire outline of an object (or objects) before filling in any of the interior details was not something I’d tried before. I also particularly liked his purpose in drawing: not so much to capture the image, but to connect with the subject of his drawing. His example was of drawing his son’s shoes, and how while he was drawing them he was thinking about his son.

For my first assignment, I drew a stained glass bird that my grandfather made. I’ve blurred out my writing, since this is still a journal, but I did find myself remembering Grandpa as I drew. I don’t always feel that connected to my subject, but drawing does teach me to see things in ways I never did before.

This was my first foray into drawing in ink. I’d always been a pencil kind of gal, but Danny’s reasoning – that it helps build confidence because you can’t go back and erase every little flaw – was sound, and I found it really helped me get more comfortable with finishing my drawings. It’s also easier on the paper to not keep erasing all the time.

Danny also introduced me to the idea of laying down a wash of color on the page before drawing anything. Sure, they’re kind of garish and it tints the rest of the objects on the page, but I find I really love these spreads.

It’s no wonder that Danny’s inspired so many people to start keeping a sketchbook of their lives.

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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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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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Draw ‘Til You Drop at VisArts (NSFW)

Warning: there’s a lot of nudity in this post. Just so you know.

Though I have not yet actually participated in a SketchCrawl, I am a member of SketchCrawl Washington DC. It was through this group I heard about Draw ’til you drop, a marathon drawing event put on by Visarts in Rockville, Maryland, this past Saturday, January 14. (Hat tip to the very talented Ricardo Pontes for letting me know about it!) I probably wouldn’t have gone but a friend went ahead and registered us both, and I’m so glad she did. It was quite the experience.

The format was simple: 12 hours, 6 models. Each model did five 5-minute poses, then one long pose for the other 90 minutes (minus some for breaks, of course). I figure I drew for about ten of those twelve hours, and by the end of it I was pretty spent.

I arrived an hour late, but that was more than enough time to capture the first model’s long pose.

I was still warming up, but she came out all right. I could have stood to redo her hands, though. They’re a touch on the small side.

A lot of people were doing amazing things with charcoal and conte crayon and heaven knows what else, but I found I was happiest with my plain old #2 pencil, and ended up sticking with it the entire day.

The second model was a man – the genders alternated all day, actually – and he did a lot of interesting short poses. I didn’t scan in most of my five-minute sketches because they came out pretty terrible, but I liked this one all right:

He was thin but had good muscle definition. His long pose was seated. I know we’re artists and aren’t supposed to care about these sorts of things, but I was kind of glad I didn’t get the full crotch view for this one.

Most of my drawings show people facing to the right because that was the front of the room, and few of the models faced the folks in the back. Which wasn’t a big deal – we were certainly allowed to move around the room – but I stayed put because I was comfortable. See, when I walked in I didn’t see any of the plastic folding chairs everybody else was sitting on, so I grabbed an upholstered divan from the corner that was probably meant for the models. I doubt I would have lasted half as long had I not been sitting on a cushion.

Anyway, by that point my friend and I were hungry so we grabbed a delicious lunch at Lebanese Taverna. When we got back, the next model was in the middle of her long pose:

I liked this pose. It was such an interesting angle to be drawing from. It’s kind of hard to tell from my drawing, but she was lying on a bunch of pillows. I hope I hadn’t inadvertently stolen her divan.

The next man was even thinner than the first. My husband said my drawing looks like Ricardo Montalban as Khan.

I replied, “Congratulations, you now know what he looks like naked.”

Now, I’m a very impatient speedy artist, so I routinely finished my drawing within the first or second session of the long pose, and I rarely feel like drawing the same thing twice in a row. So I did a close-up of his head:

His hair was a little strange, with long bangs starting from a very receded hairline and combed forward over his eyes, but I did my best.

The last woman of the day seemed new to the modeling world. Unfortunately, she was neither muscular enough nor curvy enough to provide much in the way of shadows, so I found her difficult and unsatisfying to draw. I started out drawing her long pose with pencil, then busted out my pen and watercolor pencils to pass the time. However, I wasn’t using watercolor paper, so my poor sketchbook got pretty wrinkled:

By that time I was getting a little bored with drawing and my energy was flagging in general. There was still another full session after I finished this, so I drew the guy next to me:

He did not actually look like Beethoven-as-a-gangster in real life. And his drawings were gorgeous.

The final model breathed life into the last two hours of the day. His short poses were interesting and athletic, and he did a seated long pose in a position I’m not sure I could have gotten out of:

He was interesting enough that I drew him a second time:

…and somehow managed to shave several years off his age. Very weird. But I think I did a little better on the hair this time around. He had very complicated – but awesome – hair.

And that was it! Afterward my friend and I headed over to Dogfish Head in Gaithersburg and ate way too much yummy food. Good times.

Final tally: 10 hours, 9 finished drawings, 20 five-minute sketches, and a whole heck of a lot of great practice.

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Sketch Crawls in DC

Local artist Elizabeth Graeber has organized a sketch crawl for this Saturday, July 17th, in Washington, DC. The itinerary is extensive, starting at the Washington Monument and ending at the National Zoo (via Dupont Circle). Registration is free; they just want to know how many people to expect.

I’m still waffling on whether or not to go. Ordinarily I’d be there in a heartbeat, but downtown Washington in mid-July isn’t the most comfortable of locales. That, and there’s a BC in DC meet in Silver Spring, MD, near a Moog Guitar Clinic in Wheaton that my husband is thinking of attending. So we’ll see.

However, I will definitely be attending another drawing event this month: Sketching in the Atrium at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washingon, DC. Registration is, again, free. It’s being held on July 31st, the same day as the next international SketchCrawl. (There’s another Corcoran event on September 4, which I may also attend.) Hope to see you there!

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Rapid Sketching

My husband specifically requested I scan and post more of my sketches, and I’m diving straight into the deep end with these.

Sometimes, for practice, I’ll grab a random pen and sketch quickly in some random notebook. No fancy pencils or sketchpads, just plain old ink and paper. I usually work from photographs, since they’re convenient and I feel more comfortable with them than drawing from life. (I know I just committed a major sin in the art world. Forgive me; I’m a novice.  If I don’t have a photo I usually end up just doodling aimlessly.) A few weeks ago I was at a coffee shop with a friend while she studied for her Physics exam. I was ostensibly there to answer questions, but she ended up not needing me (and later thanked me for providing my Aura of Science). So I decided to pull out a ballpoint pen and draw. What I drew was not what one would call polished or even particularly attractive, but it was fun.

weird cat logo

Simply terrifying.

Lesson learned: closer objects, like eyes, should be larger than those farther away

She's a man, baby!

This one sent my friend into paroxysms of laughter

Needless to say, these aren’t finished products.  I’ve never been very good about the whole “sketch something a few times before drawing it for real” practice either, so nothing like these will probably ever be seen ever again.  But you know, I’m actually kind of proud of them, since I was just using a crappy pen picked up for free at a convention and a $3 Target notebook.  I’ve been rather taken with Michael Nobbs’s inspirational (and free) e-book, and it’s made me think that maybe I should try to “draw my life” – or at least try combining quick sketching with life drawing – more often.

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