tag line

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.

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




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Jim to Teach at 2017 USk Symposium in Chicago!

THIS JUST IN: 
The faculty roster for the 8th International Urban Sketching Symposium in Chicago has been released, and I'm honored to be among this elite group.  The Symposium will be held July 26-29, 2017.  The annual event is the largest gathering of sketchers in the world; last year's symposium in Manchester, England drew 500 attendees from 44 countries.  Workshop faculty are chosen each year by a panel of educators in a juried proposal process.

My workshop will be offered three times during the symposium.  It's called The Grand Illusion:  Achieving a Dramatic Sense of Depth, where we'll focus on creating a convincing illusion of 3-dimensions on the 2-dimensional paper surface.  Creating this illusion is the essence of location drawing, yet it's one of the most consistent sources of questions in my workshops and online classes.  Abstract concepts will become clear with examples from the worlds of stage and film, followed by demonstrations of how those concepts can be translated to location sketching.  Participants will learn a range of classic, foundational techniques that demystify creating a sense of depth, as well as a number of cool tricks I’ve learned over decades of creating believable worlds on paper.  By workshop’s end, you will see city scenes in a different way, and will bring a new sense of believability to your urban sketches.

See more details on the 8th International Urban Sketching Symposium HERE.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sketching Workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!


    "Sketching the Energy of Places" with James Richards
    San Miguel de Allende
    ​Tuesday, March 14, 2017 10:00am-1:00pm

    I'm delighted to be doing a sketching workshop with Meagan Burns' travel company, Art Leap Adventures, in beautiful San Miguel de Allende, Mexico--Tuesday, March 14! Working with Meagan and teaching location sketching skills in such a stunning setting is as good as it gets! 

    See the workshop details here:  http://www.artleapadventures.com/sketchenergy.html
    Learn about Art Leap Adventures here:  http://www.artleapadventures.com/
    Follow Meagan Burns here:  https://www.facebook.com/meagan.burns

Friday, February 3, 2017

Workshops for Washington State University!

I'm very happy to have the opportunity to give a public lecture, a gallery exhibition and a series of design sketching workshops March 31-April 3 at the invitation of Washington State University's Landscape Architecture Program. These aren't public workshops, but rather a chance to interact with young design students in small groups, teaching techniques for rapid visualization of ideas.

As we often do, Patti and I will extend our time in the area with a road trip, this time through the Mountain West to explore the region's towns, majestic landscapes and national parks.  Ketchum, Idaho, another key setting in my continuing journey tracing Ernest Hemingway's footsteps around the globe, will also be on the itinerary.  High adventure indeed!



Friday, January 20, 2017

A Conversation for the Ages: JR Interviews Two Design Icons

On October 22, 2016, it was my distinct privilege to moderate a very rare conversation between William "Bill" Johnson and Peter Walker, two legendary designers whose ideas and work had a profound influence on the field of landscape architecture over six decades.  From their early days as Harvard classmates to the present, their work pushed the boundaries of the profession outward to embrace broad contextual concerns and inward to new artistic heights.  As collaborators, they have sought to explore the potentially rich interface between these areas.  They expanded our vision, and continue to challenge and inspire us.

The interview was the Opening General Session of the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), held in New Orleans, before an audience of over three thousand.  ASLA had the foresight to record the session as a high quality video, which can now be made available to design professionals, students and scholars now and it perpetuity.  I'm very grateful to ASLA for the opportunity, and excited to share this remarkable conversation with all of you.

HERE'S THE LINK:  Shared Wisdom: Legacy, Practice and Partnership

James Richards, Bill Johnson and Peter Walker in New Orleans for "Shared Wisdom" interview.

Awesome Sketching Workshops in Canada!

Patti and I have just completed three days of our concept sketching, location sketching and rapid visualization workshops for the Northern Alberta School of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton.  Sub-zero temperatures didn't slow things down in the least! The majority of attendees were landscape architecture students, but we also had graphic design, interior design, architecture, languages and journalism students.  Some faculty and a local Urban Sketcher attended as well.  This was our third year at NAIT; it's an honor to have been invited and to leave students who are inspired and excited about sketching as a path to discovery! Thanks to all who attended, and to the leadership team who planned the event--it was a blast!





MANY THANKS TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN STUDENT SOCIETY LEADERSHIP!