Here’s a new sketch, as my half-done projects (an elaborate embroidery, and another calendar repaint) remain stubbornly half-done. This is a good example of how the materials themselves shape what I’ll draw.
I sketched this while Alan learned the fine art of pour-over coffee at Barefoot Coffee, on a tabletop made of pennies suspended in resin. I’d forgotten to bring specific drawing materials to occupy myself, so fortunately he had a pencil & sharpener and kindly lent it to me to use. I usually keep a few “artist trading card”-sized pieces of bristol board with me, though I’ve also used the back of a business card in a pinch.
There’s an inverse proportion between paper size & level of detail for me–the smaller the paper, the higher the detail I want. I’ve drawn on a few with stubborn pens that dry out or blot at random, and been frustrated with the clumsy results. I will only use a pen now if I can get a relatively new micro ink (not gel), ballpoint (good for gradation), or brush pen. It’s been a while since I used a pencil, though, which is much more satisfying and less taxing for getting good shading.
I looked around for people or objects that I could surreptitiously draw, and wasn’t really seeing anything of interest so I started sketching curves and shadows until a character started forming. Using a pencil must have tapped into the high school portion of my brain when I would make pencil-shaded drawings of elaborate dragons, gargoyles, and demons. I decided I was in the mood to draw octopus tentacles, so here’s where it went.
After a failed attempt to get in on an advance screening of Unknown at the (no longer Sony) Metreon, Alan and I cut out to spend the remainder of the evening at Samovar Tea Lounge. I didn’t have any artist trading cards with me, so I sketched this on the back of a business card with a rapidly fading felt pen.
I have no explanation for the recent art hiatus other than a mental block. Been doing a little embroidery, a little drawing, a little pumpkin carving. Oh, and I ended up on a jury for a criminal case for almost a month. While in the courtroom, I got a notebook to keep track of details. During the little bits of downtime when the lawyers approached the bench, I started sketching things around the courtroom. Unfortunately the notebook has to stay in the custody of the court, so those handful of sketches are probably destroyed by now. But…it did get me sketching again, and it left me with a little free time during lunch.
The Hall of Justice is about seven or eight blocks from San Jose’s Japantown, so I had lots of lunches down there. It’s tiny–just a couple of blocks long–and just a cool little place with some great restaurants. I frequented a coffee shop called Roy’s Station which is in a remodeled auto service station, complete with original 50’s Coke machine. If you go, try the Spiced Dirty Chai (unsweetened chai + espresso). I’d had a few artist trading cards with me, so I started sketching the view from Roy’s. It was originally just the card on the right, but I felt it was a bit stark so I added another to make it a bit more complete.
It’s not quite accurate as I sat in three different spots, and it reminded me of how freaking hard it is to get perspective looking right. Even if I had a straight edge, get the vanishing points just a tad off and it’s going to look wrong. I like it as it looks, but when I was sitting in front of the real thing I winced at how torqued some of the distances ended up. Note to self: pick out the repeating patterns, like the flags, first and work from there…
That pointy thing on the far right is a sculpture. According to the guy that came and chatted with me for a bit during day 2 on this, represents how the lives of Japanese-American citizens were forced in a new direction during WWII. Fortunately, the local community was able to get re-established in the same spot after the war, and preserve a very cool part of SJ.
Last weekend Alan and I joined our friends Ted, Claire, and Brendan for a fine summer feast. While we waited for the smoker to do its thing, I remembered that I had some blank artist trading cards with me and set to sketching. In between tending the smoker, which was a bit finicky despite the extra holes drilled for added airflow, a nearby neighbor called over asking to borrow space in the green bin for tree trimmings…which ultimately turned into Brendan returning with a crateful of lemons, which I also sketched. I realized after I sketched it that the perspective was oddly orthogonal head-on. I think I prefer the angled view. It seemed like it needed a little something more, and not wanting to interfere by sketching something iffy in the background, I opted to borrow a highlighter to add some color.
I was in the mood for a little high-contrast inking yesterday, so I picked this pose is from the back of V for Vendetta DVD case.
The black ink from the brush pen was not very dark at all. Rather than try to black it out entirely, I added an extra layer of crosshatching which gives it a nice depth. The gray is from a Prismacolor art marker with a fantastically overpowering scent. My head hurts thinking about it.
It seemed unfinished with an empty background, so I decided to throw in a dramatically-angled Parliament building. After I drew it I realized you can see his hair hanging down. Hmm. Instead, image you’re looking at it from an angle, and it’s windy up there.
True size: 2.5″x3.5″. Completed over a leisurely two hours watching TV, including the much-needed-end to Heroes.
I admire inkers who can make beautiful gradations with such an unforgiving medium. I did a little pointilism in high school, and again in college, but not since then and have been nostalgic for the look of it. For one particularly large project in college, I bought eight or nine of the same kind of pen; there’s not only variation in the fluidity of ink from the pen nib, but also in the color of the ink itself between some batches. Laying down a consistent dot takes intense concentration, and I caught myself holding my breath while inking parts of this once I found the right rhythm.
This is a PlayStation 3 controller, a common fixture on our couch. I’ve been looking for something fun and artsy to do while watching TV, and pointilism, I’m afraid, is not it. I forgot how much concentration this style of drawing takes. This was drawn on an “artist trading card”-sized bristol paper, created during three TV-and-drawing sessions of 3-4 hours each.
Alan and I have been joining Ted, Claire, and friends for Monday Night Football recently, and tonight we were at the Round Table on Stevens Creek since Brendan was working. Post-pizza, I was looking for something to draw and worked on these artfully arranged pepperoncini ends that Alan left on his plate.
The stippling took longer than I thought, so I finished it during bits of Heroes. Maybe I should get those sheets of little dots and speed lines that they use for manga.
More sketching during a lovely evening of Monday Night Football with Ted, Claire, and Brendan. This was the little salt shaker on the wooden table, drawn actual size. Stippling with a brush pen is challenging. I need to see if I can trim and “re-sharpen” the tip of my brush pen, as it’s starting to get a bit frayed.
I’ve been doing a little more painting on that Spooky re-paint, and have a mechanical wooden dragon in progress (intrigued?) but neither is quite ready to show here yet. So, in the meantime, here’s a sketch I did on one of those artist trading cards while Alan and I were waiting for a show in SF. I’m pretty happy with the inking. I’m still impressed with comic artists that can achieve just the right balance of light, shadow, and detail with ink. I added the gray marker washes after the fact. Originally I considered filling in a bright solid color for the background, but thought that might look a bit cold with bright white highlights on the pole and lights. This was a good choice in hindsight as the darker gray helps the sign pop out.
At least by making myself sketch and paint more I’ve found that I no longer catching myself thinking “undo!” the instant I mess up a little. That’s one of the less-helpful learned behaviors I’d picked up over time from a career in front of a computer.
I went to University Art the other day to buy good acrylic paints (no more excuses now to finish a few paintings) and found these cute packs of paper. Plus I got a few plus a new brush pen in the color that appealed to me most, “sanguine”.
These bits of paper are the offshoot of a little crafty movement of Artist Trading Cards, which is essentially creating art at the standard trading card size, in the spirit of making them a constrained size for easy trading and collecting. I worked on this one during Monday Night Football. Connection = zero.