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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.

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.


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.