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SKETCHBOOK: a creative tool and a way of life that celebrates design and drawing as vital ways to see and value culture, to discover ideas, and to envision a better world.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Commemorating a Milestone for Landscape Architecture

Wednesday, May 17 marked the opening of the long awaited Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, D.C. Housed in the historic headquarters building of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Center gives ASLA "a bright new home that embodies the mission, vision, and values of the Society, and is also a showcase for sustainable design excellence."

I'm deeply honored that the Society asked me to create a watercolor sketch (below) of the newly renovated building to commemorate the Center's opening. High quality prints were given as a gift to the project's major donors at a formal dinner and a VIP reception earlier this week.  I personalized most of the prints for the recipients on the spot.

The American Society of Landscape Architects was founded in 1899.  The opening of the Center is a major milestone for the Society.  Congratulations to ASLA, its staff, officers, membership, the donors, and all who have worked diligently to make this dream a reality!

My watercolor sketch to commemorate the opening of the new Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Another from San Miguel de Allende

It seems that there's a stunning building or landscape vista or lively cafe everywhere you turn in this town... This one was sketched on location in the early morning with a PITT Artists' Pen (brown ink).  I'm pleased with the watercolor...


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Following Ansel Adams' Footsteps in the Grand Tetons

Adams was hired by the National Park Service in 1941 to photograph several National Parks and surrounding wild areas.

The design sketching workshop we led for Washington State University's School of Design and Construction provided a springboard for Patti and I to tour some of the greatest landscapes of America's Mountain West, including the Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.  Jackson Hole and the jagged silhouette of the Grand Tetons have long held a special fascination for me, so we braved the last dregs of winter snow and some closed road conditions to see this incredible landscape. 

When we arrived at the Snake River Overlook, we learned from interpretive displays that Ansel Adams had photographed the river and the Tetons in 1942 from the spot we were standing as part of a project for the National Park Service. The influential artist Thomas Moran had painted this scene even earlier, in 1879. This fortuitous discovery called for pulling out the hat and fingerless gloves to stay warm and capture this particular viewpoint in my own way.  The cold kept me focused, and the ink line sketch came together quickly.  Watercolor washes were added later during the trip.  This experience was a high point of our ramble; we plan to return.



Adams made this photograph in 1942 from what is now the Snake River Overlook.



I'm in the same spot, with my ink line sketch completed on location.  Patti visited every 15 minutes to make sure I wasn't frostbitten.



Here's the finished piece, a two-page spread in a Moleskine A4 Watercolor Album, adding my voice to the creative conversation among the artists--Moran, Adams and others--who have seen and captured the view before me.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Step-by-Step Demo: San Miguel de Allende!

The previous post described some of the fun and adventure from our "Sketching the Energy of Places" workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with Meagan Burns and Art Leap Adventures.  While adding watercolor to this street scene sketched on location, I created a series of step-by-step photos to document my process.  I enjoyed putting this together very much; I hope you enjoy it, too!


Here I'm getting into the line sketch, while dodging cars in the narrow street.  Photo by Meagan Burns, the creative force behind our sponsor, Art Leap Adventures.

Here's the finished line sketch.  It's a "straight to ink" sketch (no pencil pre-drawing) using a PITT Artist Pen (permanent brown ink) in a Moleskine A4 Watercolor Album.


I usually begin with the sky--clear water first, then pigment applied "wet-in-wet" to achieve a soft, atmospheric effect.  I typically use W+N Prussian Blue for this technique; this time I chose Daniel Smith's Cobalt Teal Blue, just to see what happened--I like it!


Next, a wash of Naples Yellow over the areas where I intend to add more color.  This will act as an undercoat to brighten the whole scene and to help the subsequent colors relate to each other better.  At this point I've already decided to leave the street and cars in the center of the drawing as white space.


A richer orange on the central building, which will provide a nice complement to the Teal Blue sky.  I also added a little Alizarin Crimson accent to the tower while the Naples Yellow was still wet.


A graded wash, mostly Alizarin Crimson, on the building at left to pull the viewer's eye toward the central focal point.  The blue at bottom left is just wonky lighting in the photo.


Starting to add some color to details, remembering to leave the center of the drawing as white space.

This is the finished piece.  I added some bright "confetti colors" to the clothing of the pedestrians, as well as some black on some of the figures.  The color is a little richer on this image; that's because it's a hi-res scan rather than a quick iPhone photo in poor lighting like the previous images.  I'm very pleased with the balance of color to white space, and the way the complementary colors relate to each other.  There you have it!  Let me know if you'd like to see more of these step-by-steps in the coming weeks.  -Jim



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Workshop and Touring in San Miguel de Allende

Patti and I ventured into central Mexico last week with buddies Mike and Debbie Paolini to check out the charms of San Miguel de Allende, a beautiful colonial city long known as a magnet for artists, artisans and kindred spirits.  While there, Patti and I conducted an on-location sketching workshop called "Sketching the Energy of Places" at the invitation of Meagan Burns, owner of Art Leap Adventures, a very cool art and adventure-based tourism company.  Participants included local artists and architects, members of the local Urban Sketchers chapter, and other artists visiting the city.  Studio Antonelli provided space for an hour of classroom instruction, followed by 3 hours of sketching in the teeming streets and plazas.  Everyone had a blast, and we've already discussed the possibility of returning.  Here's some imagery:

Incredible view of the city at sunset from the Rosewood Hotel rooftop bar.


First night "insider's tour" by Meagan.  Clockwise from top left, Mike Paolini, your Humble Correspondent, Meagan Burns, Patti Richards and Debbie Paolini.

First sketch, first afternoon...in the forecourt of the cathedral.
Local musicians killin it with acoustic Cuban music in Los Milagros on the plaza.
My sketch of the killer view of the cathedral, just up the street from our hotel.
Some of the workshop participants gathering as we begin the on-location segment.

Sketching in the plaza.


A spirited and talented workshop group.  Organizer Meagan Burns (first row in pink) seems pleased. 








Jim's Sketching Workshop Comes to Fort Worth!

We've received many requests in recent months to bring one of our sketching workshops to the DFW area.  We're delighted to confirm our Spring workshop date:
When:  Saturday, May 6, 2017, 10:00am - 1:00pm
Where: Fort Worth (Location details TBA)
Class size:  Limited to 15 people, in order to allow for one-on-one interaction.  Class will be filled on first-come, first-served basis
Cost:  $75.00  Pay through PayPal (send through Friends and Family option to patti@townscape.com) or by check to James Richards, 3344 Hamilton Ave., Fort Worth, TX.  76107.

To register:  Send an email to patti@townscape.com to reserve a spot.
We will have 1 hour of classroom instruction, followed by 2 hours of sketching on location.  Walking to different venues will be involved.
The focus of this workshop is capturing "life between buildings," where architecture​ acts as a stage set, and the “players”—people in motion, vehicles, street furnishings, trees, birds—act in concert to bring life and energy to the scene.  We’ll explore a number of strategies and techniques to capture this exuberance in a sketch:
  • Dynamic composition
  • Drawing people first
  • Intensifying proportions and perspective
  • Connecting dark shapes to create rhythm and unity, and
  • Thoughtful use of color for emphasis and mood
Make plans to join us!  If there is sufficient interest, we can add workshops to Friday or Sunday of the same weekend.  Cheers!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Jim's Watercolor Palette du jour

On the eve of departing for teaching a workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I've had three people get in touch to ask about the palette of watercolors I use.  That, of course, changes occasionally, but I've been using the same 12 for a few months now.  Frankly most of the painting I do is accomplished with three--Naples Yellow, Prussian Blue and Alizarin Crimson.  But the others do come in handy, so I'm posting them here.  Some of my choices have been informed, with gratitude, by Paul Wang and Liz Steel.  I hope you find this helpful:

Winsor and Newton:  Naples Yellow, Prussian Blue, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Permanent Sap Green, Burnt Sienna.  Daniel Smith: Cobalt Teal Blue, Pyrol Crimson.  Schmincke:  Translucent Orange, Manganese Violet.

I keep these in a metal travel palette by Daniel Smith that has racked up a few miles over the years...keeps on truckin, though.  No, I don't use the waterbrush shown anymore; it's in there for structural reasons.  I carry a very nice set of Escoda travel brushes in a nifty leather wallet that i found in an art store in Girona, Spain.

That's all kids...keep dreaming...keep drawing!
Jim