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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.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Mike Daikubara's New Book Will Change How You Sketch!

Many of you have heard me say, "Don't aspire to be great.  Aspire to be prolific."  If that statement strikes a chord with you, then Mike Daikubara's "Sketch Now, Think Later" is the right book at the right time.  I received an advance copy, and can't help but grin as I read it.  Mike, a favorite Urban Sketchers instructor and correspondent, has taken his popular "Sketch Now, Think Later" workshop philosophy, ideas and lessons and expanded them into a book you'll want to keep in your sketch bag.  "Sketch Now, Think Later" is an important addition to the current canon of sketching books because it focuses on the issue fundamental to all sketchers--removing all the roadblocks to sketching every day, any time, in any situation.   There's a lot of great reading here on essential attitudes, but it's also rich in great tips, tools, techniques that are rooted in the thousands of hours Mike has devoted to location sketching, always with an eye to being more prolific and having more fun.  That's a hard combination to beat.

Another reason I love this new book is because every page reflects Mike's sense of generosity, good vibes and contagious enthusiasm for sketching.  The guy just can't help himself--he's a powerhouse of positive energy who loves what he does, and the reader reaps the reward.

I believe it always comes back to being prolific, and this book offers a wealth of shortcuts to that goal. I'm headed out for a week of sketching in Los Angeles, and I'm dropping Mike's book in my sketch bag to reread on the plane and for inspiration in the field.  I recommend it to you highly.




Monday, September 25, 2017

Life's a Beach: The Siesta Key Drum Circle

DATELINE: SIESTA KEY.  Every Sunday evening, lightening and hurricanes permitting, the Siesta Key Drum Circle gathers to celebrate the sunset.  Last night was my first attempt the sketch the gathering.  The line drawing was done on location in the midst of the action; the watercolor was added the next day.  I'm looking forward to many more opportunities..
Trying to let the spirit move the pen...
Just another guy in the circle...

Sharing the sketch with Boomer, one of the dancers in the drawing.


This pretty well captures the flavor of the evening...see you next week!

Friday, September 15, 2017

COME SKETCH WITH US IN TUSCANY!!


I can't tell you how excited I am to be teaching a 10-day location sketching workshop in Tuscany, October 4-14, 2018!  This opportunity provides the time, space, inspired surroundings and immersion in techniques to take your sketching experience to new heights.  The class is capped at 12 artists, so there will be plenty of one-on-one teaching and discussion in addition to group talks and demos. You'll also get to know the best of Tuscan food, culture, towns and countrysides with exceptional hosts and guides.  We'll be staying in our own villa, a relaxing departure point for the best of Tuscany.

Our partner in this exceptional travel experience is FollowYourSensesinTuscany.com.  I'm tremendously impressed with them, and am delighted to be working with such thorough and inspired professionals.

This workshop is filling up, but there's still room.  Don't miss this rare opportunity!  Every artist should go to Tuscany--and those who have been long to return.  Come with us--LET'S GO!!

HERE'S THE LINK:  Sketch Tuscany with James Richards

Thursday, September 14, 2017

On Location: Sketching Hurricane Irma

One month after relocating our home and business to Siesta Key, Florida, a barrier island off Sarasota, Patti and I found ourselves evacuating inland and upland to higher ground as Hurricane Irma churned across the Caribbean with Florida in her sights.   We found ourselves in a Lakeland, Florida hotel, a few miles east of Tampa, but well out of storm surge and flood danger.  Over the next 18 hours, we watched in shock and disbelief as the storm path moved westward from skirting Florida's Atlantic coast to a direct hit on the Tampa/Sarasota area.  A more southerly landfall spared us the full fury of the storm--it was a Category 1 by the time it reached Lakeland--but wind gusts to 100 mph and sideways blasts of rain and made for a harrowing 24 hours.

As Irma approached, I decided to create a series of sketches documenting the storm from the relative safety of our open hotel porte cochere.  This position allowed me to experience the wind and rain without being completely exposed to flying debris.  The first four sketches below capture four phases of my experience of the hurricane (the first three sketches were duly baptized in Irma’s rainwaters).  The fourth image is a photo of my open Stillman & Birn sketchbook, showing the raw double-page spread as drawn on location.

It was remarkable to me how sketching the storm robbed it of its power to terrify me--I had a job to do, and the hurricane became an opportunity rather than a bogeyman.  This was an invaluable lesson, and I extend special thanks to those who encouraged me.  So the beginning is over--here's to rebuilding--cheers!

This sketch, made Sunday at 10:10am, shows the calm before the storm.  The the sky has darkened.  All is dead quiet and the sky is still; even the birds have left.  

The second sketch captures the same view a little more than an hour later, when the first strong band of wind and rain circulated through.  



This image, sketched at 7:30pm, is made a couple of hours before the eye of the storm reached us.  Note the change in wind direction.  The rain is blasting sideways and the howling wind is shredding the palms, but we still have electricity (the parking lot lights are still burning). 

This sketch is drawn 9:30am Monday; the first sunlight and blue sky reappear.  The birds have returned.

This is the series as drawn in the 8 in. x 10 in. Stillman & Birn Beta series mixed media sketchbook, which held up well to the abuse of the situation.  All the images were drawn with PITT Artists' Pens (waterproof ink) and watercolor.  A white gel pen was used to help indicate the night lighting in the top right sketch.



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Jim's Reportage Sketching of Hurricane Irma Makes TV News

When I named my Craftsy class "Sketching the Energy of Places," the eye of a hurricane wasn't what I had in mind. But having evacuated about 40 miles inland from our home on the Florida coast, I took the opportunity to sketch views of Hurricane Irma as she passed through Lakeland, Florida. While sketching under our hotel porte cochere, a Tampa WFLA TV news crew drove up seeking shelter.  Reporter Melissa Marino took interest in my sketch documentation, and filed this story:  

Sketching Hurricane Irma on location

A screen photo of the news story.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Workshop Handout for the Chicago Symposium

If you weren't able to attend my workshop "The Grand Illusion:  Achieving a Dramatic Sense of Depth" for the 8th International Urban Sketching Symposium in Chicago (or even if you were), I've posted my handout here in PDF form for download...ENJOY!



Thursday, June 29, 2017

On Location: Bradenton Beach, Florida

The Sarasota area won't disappoint coastline explorers looking for cool community character with a sense of authenticity. After sketching on Coquina Beach (see previous post), we motored north to Bradenton Beach, a small island community with a quaint, compact village center.  The landmark clock tower shown here is visible from the main road, and pulled us off the highway (as it was designed to do) and through the village to the historic Bridge Street Pier.  We found some shade and cool drinks, and captured the scene shown here, while meeting a number of other travelers and local characters in the process.

The clock tower is on the waterfront at the foot of Bridge Street, making it a highly visible landmark for locals and travelers.






Monday, June 26, 2017

On location: Coquina Beach, Florida

For those who love the beach--Patti and I made a 30-minute drive north from Siesta Key to check out the Sunday morning market on Coquina Beach.  After several days of overcast skies, I was taken with the sunlight on the beach and the colorful mash-up of buildings, sand, umbrellas and beach patrons.  We found a table in the shade, and picked up a couple of pina coladas.  I proceeded to capture the scene I was so taken with, while Patti proceeded to capture me.  A near perfect way to spend an hour.

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The observer and the observed...

Laying down ink.  I still believe the combination of lively linework and watercolor best conveys my impressions of the energy of a place.


The frozen pina colada makes watercolor time even more creative...
Some days it  all comes together well.
Our work here is done--time to find the Star Fish Market for lunch on the working docks...and maybe another sketch.

Idaho Adventure: Hemingway's Silver Creek Preserve

On our recent Mountain West road trip, we found and hiked the Silver Creek Preserve near Ketchum, Idaho to see the unspoiled landscape and to locate a Hemingway Monument there.  We were told that if we wanted to see and understand Hemingway's Idaho, don't follow the tourists to Ketchum or Sun Valley.  Go to Silver Creek, which is virtually unchanged since the Nobel Prize-winning author hunted and fished there with his sons.   We parked along a dirt road in the preserve, and noticed the Bald Eagle overhead--a very good sign.  We hiked along the creek through grasses still wet with morning dew, and found open water with a view to the mountains beyond.  The air was cold and crisp, and the early morning sunlight gave everything a golden glow.  There we found the monument, and the perfect moment.   The sketch didn't take long, and Patti took some photos to capture the memory.

Hemingway at Silver Creek.

The elegant stone monument at the site is unobtrusive.  The timeless biblical quote opens Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises. 
Your humble correspondent at work.

In process...the snow-capped mountains in the distance appeared closer that they look in the photo.

Hemingway, Bobbi Powell and actor Gary Cooper (a Hemingway buddy) standing at virtually the same spot that the sketch captures.

Our Silver Creek memory, with the Bald Eagle keeping watch.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Part 2: Step-by-Step Fort Worth Workshop Demo

Today we'll complete the step-by-step demonstration started in the last post.  The location is the corner of Crockett and Currie Streets in the Crockett Row area about a mile west of downtown Fort Worth.  As mentioned in the previous post, this is the same sequence I used in my "Sketching the Energy" workshops May 5, 6 and 7, so if you weren't able to attend (or even if you were), enjoy!

This is where we left of yesterday (see the previous blog post).  We have a lively black and white line sketch with plenty of eye-catching detail and a strong pattern of darks to separate individual objects, add some needed contrast, and tie the composition together. 
I started with clear water washed over the entire sky area, then waited a bit for it to dry to a dull sheen.  Then I added some Cobalt Teal Blue (Daniel Smith), wet-in-wet, to the center of the sky area, careful not to spill over onto the center pole or rings. (Thanks to Paul Wang for turning me on to that color.)  I pulled the blue upwards in a kind of ragged pattern, until I was satisfied with the look of it.  Then I added some Naples Yellow (W&N) to the buildings, trees and sidewalks, applied wet on dry.  This yellow will show through subsequent washes of color, helping to unify the color scheme and lending a brightness to the whole scene.  The diagonal strokes on the building at left are intentional, to add some movement to the image. I've decided that the street and the vertical pole in the center of the scene will remain white.



Seduced by the freshness of that Cobalt Teal Blue, I used it to create shade and shadow on both buildings.  Again, some diagonal strokes on the left for a sense of movement.  Will it be enough to depict the shade and shadow?  We'll see.

Now for details.  First some W&N Permanent Sap Green (toned down with a touch of Cadmium Red) on the trees, careful to leave some yellow on the sunlit top of the canopies.  The red umbrellas create an important focal point, while balancing the cool blues and greens.  I repeated the color on clothes of pedestrians and people on the balconies.  This is another method to pull the composition together by having touches of the color "leap" into other areas of the sketch. I added a touch of the Cobalt Teal Blue to the rings hanging over the intersection, and a variety of "confetti colors" to the rest of the people's clothing.

I've noticed that I've inadvertently omitted the top shade canopy on the building to the left.  No worries; let's just add it now.  I've also decided that the Teal Blue for the shade and shadow doesn't lend enough depth and contrast to the scene.  So I've mixed some W&N Prussian Blue and W&N Alizarin Crimson into a rich purple/gray, in order to add darker shadows and shade to the buildings, the street in the middle ground and to the foreground.  For a final flourish, I used my trusty Uni-Ball Siglo white pen (UM153) to add some white for the twinkle lights.

That's all, folks!  If you enjoyed this 2-part series, leave a comment and let me know.  And consider showing some love by following the blog.  See you soon!   -Jim

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Step by Step: Fort Worth Workshop (Part 1)

Some of you may have seen photos of our "Sketching the Energy of Place" workshops in Fort Worth on May 5, 6 and 7 on Facebook.  We'll do another post with more photos here.  In the meantime, I wanted to show a step-by-step demo of the location we sketched on all three days. Today we'll focus on the black and white line sketch, and work the the watercolor in the next post.  This is the same sequence I demonstrated on location, so if you weren't able to attend (or even if you were), enjoy!



This is the finished demonstration sketch, to show you where we're headed.



And here's the scene as I photographed it on a Tuesday, late morning (meaning deserted).  There were plenty of people to sketch during our weekend workshop sessions.  


My typical starting point:  A frame to help me place the big shapes, and my eye-level line, about 5 feet off the ground.

I always add a few people first to establish the beginnings of a sense of depth, and to break the tension of the first marks on a white page.

Place the big shapes.  Here I have the major building outlines, and the support pole for cables in the middle.  I also added a car in the center.

Here I've added the decorative rings hanging over the center of the intersection.  Another car added on the right.

Next, have fun adding details...windows, signs, umbrellas, lights, and more people.

Finally, design with darks--use darker values to pop out elements, to add visually exciting contrasts, and to tie the composition together.

That's it for today.  Next I'll add a step-by-step demonstrating the watercolor sequence.  See you then!
Jim

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.