Celebrating the Freehand Renaissance--sketching as a vital way to see and value culture, and to envision a better world.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Step by Step: My Manchester Workshop Demo

This is a step-by-step demonstration I prepared for my "Capturing the Crowd" workshop for the 7th International Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester, UK.  The idea was to include people in the near foreground, middle ground and background--all sharing a common eye--level line--to  to create a strong illusion of depth and to lend liveliness and energy to the scene.  For this technique, the City Hall building in the background is treated as a 2-dimensional stage set piece for the "actors" in the plaza.

Here's the scene on an overcast festival day.  My viewpoint was very similar, but from a little further back and left, which "flattened" the Albert Memorial (on the left) a little.
As usual, I begin with an eye-level line, and add foreground, middle ground and background figures for an immediate sense of depth.

Next, I start adding the "big shapes" without getting into detail--the Memorial, tree at right, more figures.

Here I 've added the City Hall building in the background, drawn in graphite (pencil) to allow it to recede into the background behind the Memorial (drawn in black ink).

Next come details, simplified as appropriate--more detail for foreground, less for middle ground, least for background.

Now adding darks for contrast and visual "punch."

Finally, color...sky first.

Next came a wash of Naples Yellow over the building and Memorial, flavored with Cad Red, French Ultramarine, and Alizaron Crimson.  Then, some bright colors were added on people and red banners for additional "sparkle."

Finished with darks, blacks in a few key spots.  I darkened the Memorial structure to pull it forward from the background building, and also darkened two of the foreground figures so they weren't so dominant in the picture.  Darks on the background building were left fairly light.

I hope you enjoyed this--it was part of a larger set of visuals and handouts that accompanied the workshop, and seemed to convey the key ideas effectively.  See you on the sidewalk--Jim.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Long layover in Los Angeles

Enroute to Vietnam, we extended our LAX layover to accomodate a couple of days in Santa Monica to shake the dust off and relax before the long flight overseas.  It was a very good idea...

Our "neighborhood" during our respite in Santa Monica.

The Georgian Hotel is a 1930s art deco masterpiece on Ocean Drive right across the street from Santa Monica Pier.  The Clark Gable Suite is highly recommended; breakfast and happy hour on the veranda were memorable. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Real Places: Morning market in Vietnam

Sketched on location last week in Hoi An, while having Vietnamese coffee at a sidewalk table...approximately 6:30am.  Wish I could add the sounds of voices, motorbikes and worried chickens, and the smell of the river and live seafood.  I miss Vietnam.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Kenya: A Transformational Experience

It has been a struggle, after returning from Africa, to find words to adequately describe the people, places, and experiences that Patti and I knew while in Kenya without resorting to long stories, and even then trying to capture the experience is elusive.  One word that keeps coming to me is transformational--that is, if you allow it, it changes you. After seeing it, you see the world through a different lens, in the same way that you see the world differently after some rite of passage.  I'd never set foot on the continent before, yet something about it felt like home, in the cities and in the wild places.  There was danger in Nairobi, to be sure, but we were consistently embraced and welcomed.  Dire poverty was juxtaposed with bright minds, dedication and eagerness to learn.  Sprawling new development was contrasted with ancient landscapes that were the common origin of all humans on the planet.

I'm profoundly grateful to architect and educator Gathogo Githatu of Jomo Kenyetta University in Nairobi, who invited me to provide a keynote speech, sketching workshop, and sketchwalk for the annual conference of the Africa Chapter of the International Federation of Landscape Architects in Nairobi.  It was a rare opportunity to meet kindred spirits, share common passions, and to grow in the process.  We followed our time in Nairobi with a week-long photo and sketch safari to Amboseli National Park (Kilimanjaro), Lake Naivasha, Lake Nukuru, and the Masai Mara. The following images offer just a glimpse of our experiences.  To get a more insights into the journey, prepare for those long stories.

JR sketch of street life in Peca Juja Township, during our sketchwalk with the group.

JR leading students, faculty and professional designers on their first on-location sketching outing.

Lots of local interest of my sketch (shown below).
A market stall in Peca Juja Township, just outside the gates of Jomo Kenyetta University.

Patti sharing the love with university students.

Sketchwalk participants outside the gates of Jomo Kenyetta University in Nairobi.

Slums across the ravine from our hotel in Nairobi.
Touring the tea country outside Nairobi, on the way to visit Gathogo's mother's home.

Narok, Kenya, a small town that serves as a stop on the highway between Nairobi and the great preserve Masai Mara.  I asked our driver to make a u-turn and go back up the hill in order to capture this view.

Elephants in the shadow of Kilimanjaro in Aboseli National Park. 
The great Rift Valley, which stretches the length of the the entire continent, served as the migration route out of Africa to the Middle East, Europe, Asian and beyond for the earliest humans. 
We were told we hadn't experienced a real African safari until our Land Cruiser had broken down.  Check that one off the list.  Here we are still 100 kilometers from our lodge at Masai Mara.
Our route took us from Nairobi to Amboseli National Park, to Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru, and finally the Masai Mara.
Wild flamingos in flight, spooked by our small boat, on Lake Naivasha.

Hippos congregating in Lake Naivasha.
Lone Cape Buffalo bull near Lake Nakuru.  We saw herds of hundreds of these buffalo, but the old bulls were frequently solo.

Kilimanjaro at sunset, Amboseli National Park.  For both Patti and I, Amboseli looms large in our memories.  I felt I was seeing this magnificent landscape through the eyes of ancient ancestors.  This was another instance where I asked our driver to backtrack to position me for this composition.  The sketch was done quickly standing through the roof of the Land Cruiser; watercolor added at our lodge later that night.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ghost Bridge of the Florida Keys

The Bahia Honda Rail Bridge was one of the highlights of our road trip through the Florida Keys.  See the story on the international Urban Sketchers blog:

The abandoned bridge sketched from Bahia Honda State Park, about midway between Miami and Key West.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Believe it or Not, It's Carnival Time!!

Right on the heels of the holidays, New Orleans' carnival season officially opened January 6, kicking off an unusually short 5-week season culminating in Mardi Gras on February 9.  Then, of course, the spring festival season begins, with favorites like French Quarter Festival (shown here), Voodoo Festival and Jazzfest keeping things hopping into early summer.  This almost non-stop revelry brings back memories of growing up in and around the Big Easy, and the scores of festivals Patti and I attended there since.

The pencil sketch below was drawn on-location at the kickoff of the French Quarter Festival Second Line Parade last spring.  Taking a lesson from legendary artist-reporter Franklin McMahon, I arrived early, and sketched in the city context before the action started, leaving enough blank space in the middle of the scene to add the revelers when they arrived.  As the parade approached, I quickly sketched a few quick figures and the placement of the signs.  Then, as colorful characters strutted past (like the man with the sash far left), I simply drew them into the crowd.  The sketch came together when I added darks in the foreground to separate people in the crowd and add some needed contrast. I did several pencil sketches that day, and added color was later in the studio.

Enjoy your parades and festivals wherever you are!

The French Quarter Festival Second Line Parade moving up Bourbon Street.

Buildings drawn before parade arrived, then paraders sketched in quickly as they passed.

Colors were added later, and tried to capture the festive spirit of the morning.

Monday, January 11, 2016

We all need a kick in the pants sometimes:

"William Blake is an example of total dedication to his art. You're just a sinner if you don't do it. If you are organized by the Divine to do it and you don't, then you're just a scumbag."
 -Kris Kristofferson