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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Design Lessons from Past and Present

Parque Colon in Santo Domingo seems to have it all--an exemplary urban designer's case study!  It's a finely proportioned open space, ringed by fine buildings and anchored by a magnificent church.  Beautiful trees provide shade, color and a sense of scale.  The sculpture of Columbus and its pedestal function as art that doubles as seating for people watchers.   There's a selection of sidewalk cafes and benches at the edges for eating, drinking, seeing and being seen. The open areas, shaded areas and cafe tables offer plaza patrons varied experiences and the all-important aspect of choice. The one classic feature that seems to be missing is water in the form of a pool or fountain, though that doesn't seem to inhibit the park's use in the least.  It seemed full of both locals and tourists, even in the heat of the day.  I've seen contemporary plazas costing millions in cities all over the world that aren't nearly as loved or used.

I created this sketch quickly during the Sketchcrawl as a donation for the Urban Sketchers silent auction. I'm honored that it now lives with Shari Blaukopf!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Life from a Sidewalk Table

More from Santo Domingo...the second exercise of the "Improvising Lines and Colors workshop with Inma and Orling afforded us a chance to look further afield for subjects, though by late morning the heat was already oppressive.  I employed my cunning urban sketching skills to find a lively street scene that I could capture while enjoying an ice cold Presidente cerveza at a shady sidewalk table (one has to stay hydrated while working outdoors).  When Inma and Orling found me drawing from a table littered with pens, watercolors and beer bottles, Inma said, "You...you understand LIFE!" That's a critique i will always treasure.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Using Thumbnails

More cool ideas from the Urban Sketchers symposium...Reportage artists Veronica Lawlor and Jonathan Schmidt encouraged us to walk the site, observe and generate a lot of small thumbnail sketches, about 2 in. by 3 in., to collect and test visual ideas.  It was really a lot of fun to stroll through the square and streets like a visual junk man, collecting interesting bits and scraps that might be developed into something even more interesting.  I'd used thumbnails regularly in concept sketching, but not in location sketching, and it's a marvelous way to quickly generate a number of visual ideas on the spot.  Here I have a collection of those thumbnails, and the more substantial sketch developed from one of them.

Here a  a number of quick thumbnails, sketched quickly on the spot, and a larger version of one that showed potential.

The idea that intrigued me in this street view was the contrast between the more "touristy" block in the foreground and the rougher, more gritty block beyond.  The view was first doodled as a thumbnail (upper right).  I liked the composition, so found a comfortable sitting spot and developed the larger sketch.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jumping In



The 36th International Sketchcrawl coincided with the final day of the Urban Sketching Symposium in Santo Domingo. I completed a pretty good-sized sketch of the main plaza, and was looking for other subjects when I saw a crowd gathering around some high-energy musicians playing hot reggae and Latin music.  I've never even attempted to sketch such a scene before, but my new friend and reportage illustrator Veronica Lawlor was fearlessly capturing the scene with her dip pen and ink bottle.  I was inspired, and so jumped in.  None of these guys would recognize themselves in this image, but maybe they'd recognize the energy of their performance.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Back from Santo Domingo!

Just returned from the 3rd International Urban Sketching Symposium in the amazing Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, DR.  It was the first conference in a very long time in which I wasn't teaching or lecturing, which gave me the luxury of digging into the workshops and pushing WAY beyond my comfort zones. For example, take a look at the two sketches below.  The first was done before the symposium began, the second after inspired guidance by my instructors (and dear friends) Inma Serrano of Spain and Orling Dominguez of the Dominican Republic.  I think the results speak for themselves.  More to come...
Parque Colon "before."  20-minute sketch in the main plaza; drawn with a fine-line felt tip.  Watercolor added later.
Parque Colon "after." A 7 to 10-minute sketch drawn with Lamy Safari fountain pen.  A brush pen was used for the heavier lines.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Back from South America!

 Our 3-week tour took us across southeastern Brazil and Peru to stunning landscapes and cultural sites, as well as to iconic works of landscape architecture by Roberto Burle-Marx, one of the true Renaissance men of the 20th century.  I'll be posting a number of sketches from the trip in the coming days, as I scramble to prepare for next week's Urban Sketching Symposium in Santo Domingo...
This, I'm told, is a Kombi van.  These mobile vendors were ubiquitous across southeastern Brazil.  I was  particularly taken with the happy coconut drinks on the top of this one.
Capturing the lively street life in Lima, Peru...this is the amazing municipal building, across the street from Kennedy Park, which seems to be a center of Lima's public life.