Sometimes I find ways to sketch with other people, such as joining The Good Ship Illustration's Art Club on Instagram Live. They've been hosting almost every Friday at 8:00 PM UK time (that's 2:00 PM CDT). They offer prompts and general silliness and it's a lot of fun. I joined a few weeks ago for continuous line drawing and it was so much fun!
Today (September 25) they are hosting their last ever Art Club! You should join if you have a chance or at least follow them on Instagram.
That same day I was able to join Suhita and Paul for Sketch/Play Lab, which they host several times a week as a casual guided exploration of sketching and materials - check out their Instagrams for more information. It was fun to play with textures and patterns and to see people from all over the world sketching along.
And sometimes I sketch with a few friends via Zoom. Using mapcrunch.com is a great way to do this - it takes you to a different place in the world via Google street view. We "went" to Wales and Croatia and focused on mark-making.
I made this illustration of my voting plan as a way to help me think through why I want to vote for each of these candidates. I am especially pleased to be voting for three women from Memphis, especially Marquita Bradshaw and Erika Stotts Pearson because they are Black women from Memphis. We all need to listen to Black women, and I know from experience that Black women from Memphis work so hard and give so much. And I'm also excited about Gabby Salinas because she is a scientist, though it's sad that one of my reasons for voting for anyone would be "believes in science." But Gabby also supports Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, and sees the direct correlation between the lack of expansion and rural hospital closures. It's easy in this blue dot in the corner of Tennessee to think of the rest of Tennessee as separate, but we need to work hard for rural communities AND the citizens of South Memphis and Hickory Hill (etc.) AND the other big and medium cities. We're all in this together, folks.
So typical! Lots of produce around here, and I love it. I love eating it and I love sketching it. This spread in particular was a joy to work on. I sketched the peppers quickly because I was cooking them, then sketched the tomatoes quickly because I was still cooking the peppers. The joy came from just making this two-page spread. Drawing often makes me feel better.
I bought myself a pilea plant recently and it has been a fun object to sketch - the round leaves and wonky stems just begged to be drawn in different materials. In this sketch I drew in ink first, then added watercolor.
Another plant! Do I sketch them because I have them, or do I have them so I can sketch them?
We read this book for bookclub this month - I love Adichie's clear writing and smart arguments.
There's that pilea again, but this time I sketched with color first, then added the lines. I did that with the yarn, too. It's a method I often use when sketching architecture, because it gives me a nice base to start from, but it works great for organic shapes, too.
The fatsia outside my window begs to be sketched, and on this day I was looking for a different way to work on them. I often get caught up drawing every leaf, so I was going for a more general shape here, and the colored pencil helped that because I could still indicate the shape and direction of the leaves without drawing every outline.
And then I got another produce delivery and sketched some of it.
Yarn is a very typical sight around here lately, too. I have been crocheting A LOT. I started crocheting again late last year hoping to get back into making afghans, but all I've made are little animals and I can't stop. I have a lot of small balls of yarn that I can't do much with until I get the urge to make granny squares, so instead I've been sketching them.
I started both of these with watercolor - first the one on the left, then added the lines with fountain pen. The lines in the one on the right are with Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Aquarelle. I liked making the lines out of the color of the yarn - it gives it such a different feeling than black lines on color.
I just realized I sketched about half of these while on Zoom with friends, including this one. Being on Zoom with friends has become typical as of late, so I'm happy to combine that with sketching because my friends and sketching both bring me so much joy.
In always-looking-on-the-bright-side news, one good thing about being in a pandemic is the availability of great online workshops. Or, the time to spend on them might be more accurate. I took two recently that I really enjoyed.
The first was with Maria Coryell-Martin of Art Toolkit, focusing on the Essential Colors Palette. It really helped me think about mixing colors more because that palette is only six colors, so I tried to ignore all but my primary colors during the class.
We did some exercises about mixing paint and using your brush to create specific shapes. It was fun!
Since taking this class I've ordered yet another Art Toolkit palette. This time it's the Ultimate Sketching Palette with colors selected by Jane Blundell. Ever since I saw her on USk Talks earlier this year, I've been meaning to evaluate my watercolor colors, but she did it for me with this palette.
The other workshop I took was with my friend Suma CM, called Sketching the Places You've Been. We talked about shapes and using color to convey mood and to show distance. These are my notes and some thumbnails. I'm glad she had us do thumbnails because they are SO HELPFUL. And sometimes I forget that!
This was my final sketch from the workshop - I was quite pleased with it! The workshop helped me to remember how much I enjoy drawing from photos, taking information that is already there and simplifying it into a good composition. I think I'm going to make a larger version of this in acrylic ink, using this sketch as my guide.
I recently moved my studio around a bit to accommodate setting up an overhead camera for teaching sketching workshops, but it has been beneficial in so many other ways! I can keep my teaching stuff out while spreading out oil palettes on one side and acrylic ink on the other. And when I'm not doing either of those it is nearly covered sketchbooks and loose paper. It has also given me a different view of the room to sketch for Sunday Sketching.
And here is a different view from the outside of my house. This is the back of my driveway, where we have a large drop-off, then a fence and the neighbor's bamboo forest. I was trying to capture the darks back there, which can be difficult with watercolor. It was a hot evening, but I stayed out sketching until I couldn't see what I was doing anymore.
Two days later it was 70 degrees at 10 o'clock in the morning so I had to go outside and sketch, even though it was drizzling. I sat under an overhang out of the drizzle, trying to keep it quick by putting the paint down in a way that gave the impression of foliage but without painting every fatsia leaf. I often do this by putting color down first, but this time I started with pen to get the angles and lines of the house down. (Though that technique works well with architecture, too!)
We continue to receive produce from Rose Creek Farms every week, and I equally love sketching it and eating it. Lately we've gotten a lot of very sketchable peppers, and lots and lots of lettuce, which I guess is more difficult to sketch. Can't wait to see what we get this week!
A thing I've been able to do since I'm at home all the time is to spend more time on my sketches. When this all started I assumed I would be making more sketches, but what has happened is that I'm spending more time on probably the same amount of sketches. I've really been able to slow down and take my time and draw the objects that are right in front of me.
That gives me the time to notice all of the little details and features I can include in my sketches to make them more interesting and to make the process more meditative.
This is one of those sketches I did over a couple of hours while talking to sketcher friends for Sunday Sketching. It's such a nice mix of sketching and talking, but the length of time gives me an opportunity to get to the little details of my objects - the tomato vines, the vase shapes, the fatsia ribs.
I didn't take quite as much time with these two sketches, but I did do the second one while talking to friends on Zoom, so it probably took longer. I did these two specifically to concentrate on all of those little details, like the little freckles on tangerines and the little divots in the avocado.
I sketched this with my favorite fat pen, the Sakura Pigma Graphic 1, and brought in my favorite colored pencil to help. The Mitsubishi vermillion/prussian blue is always in my sketch gear - I love both of the colors and it's so handy to have two colors in one pencil.
This is also the start of a new sketchbook - I'm sticking with the Stillman & Birn Alpha 8x10.
Sketching the details doesn't have to take a long time, though. I made these quick sketches while preparing for the workshop I taught last month. In these quick sketches, I was still able to capture the little lines in the paint cap and some details in the plant.
Last week I took advantage of a random day off and not surface-of-the-sun temperatures and took a long walk and sketch at the Wolf River Greenway. For the past several months I've either sketched the outside world from my car, or very quickly in my own neighborhood. The difference? BUGS.
So in the interest of time and bugs, I needed to think about simplifying shapes and marks. I created shapes with the tree silhouettes and then worked specific marks and colors for specific foliage, the river, the ground, etc. It is a methodical way to work, but I like it. I did describe myself as a grid earlier this week.
There are a lot of bridges and I wanted to sketch every one of them, but just settled for this one. And bonus - it provided shade while I sketched!
I ended up walking nearly three miles even though I just wanted to plant myself down and sketch the whole time. But the bugs get to you more when you sit still, and I needed the exercise.
I'm also keeping up with my regular errand sketching, too. Gotta get those groceries, so I might as well sketch while I'm there. I was there earlier than usual and the shadow and reflection on the west side were a bit different.
I haven't sketched the Target parking lot in a while, but I talk about it a lot when I teach because it is one of those places that end up in my sketchbook often because I use parking there as an opportunity to sketch whatever is in front of me. On this day I was lucky because it was raining and I sat in my car and sketched until it lightened up a little.
All of these sketches are in a 5.5" x 3.5" Stillman & Birn Alpha. The first sketch was done with Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils and the rest with a Sakura Pigma Graphic 1 pen.
In the workshop I mentioned in my last post, I talked about sketches over two-page spreads by taking advantage of opportunities to sketch whatever is in front of me. Over time, the two-page spreads create a thread and show a pattern.
Staying home and mostly sketching here and using a bigger sketchbook (Stillman & Birn Alpha 8x10) have changed what the two-page spread looks like, but not by much.
In the sketch above I was playing with inks and working on understanding the elusive coffee cup shape. Then I had produce delivered from Rosecreek Farms, so I sketched it of course!
Last weekend was very social, but virtual, and I sketched on Zoom videos and while talking on the phone.
Still just sketching whatever is in front of me, I was able to get some variety on the page by using different materials. I do like to think about the layout of a page, but not too much. I do have a habit of crowding a lot of sketches onto a two-page spread, so using this larger sketchbook helps me to spread it out more.
My birthday gave me even more opportunities to sketch while talking on the phone. I sketched the plants on my kitchen table, which made me think of this quote from D.B. Dowd's book Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice, "Habits of casual assumption cannot survive an afternoon of drawing objects or plants on a table."
This week I taught my first virtual workshop, via Zoom, for the DePaul Art Museum. We had about 20 participants from around the country, and we talked about Sketching Your Day.
I introduced Sketching Your Day by talking about the three main points below. I feel like this is a magical combination for keeping up your practice.
These sketches of onions and lemons are from the run-throughs I did, first by myself and then with friends. First we talk about drawing to understand to get to know our subject. Drawing to record includes adding context to your sketch. In the sketch above, the color comes in when we talk about adding one or two colors for emphasis.
I sketched all of these with either a Pigma Graphic 1 or a Uni-ball Micro. I also sketched all of them at a more extreme angle than I normally would because of my camera setup - I used an overhead camera so that everyone could watch as a drew and could see the object. But I love the wonky angles I ended up with in the sketches.
These sketches are from the class - more onions and lemons, and, as always, a coffee cup. In the top coffee cup sketch, I was talking about laying out what you'll sketch with large, general shapes. I've been doing that recently and find that just a couple of seconds of thinking about placement and proportions keeps me from getting frustrated by running out of room or having too much room - especially since I'm using a larger sketchbook lately.
It was all such a fun experience, although I was surprisingly nervous just before the class. Luckily sketching also helps to calm my nerves - it's like sketching is the antidote for every bad thing!
Once I got on Zoom I was fine and enjoyed every minute of the class. It was fun to see friends and family as well as unfamiliar faces all studiously sketching onions and lemons with me!
I will definitely be doing more of these in some way, so stay tuned for more information about that once I figure it out. You can also check out the virtual "handout" for the class on Instagram - go to my account (@elizabethalley) and click on the story highlights titled Materials, Books, and Follow.
Visiting looks pretty different these days. Last Friday I visited with a sketcher friend in her backyard. I brought my own lunch and we ate about 10 feet apart while we caught up. It was so great to have another view to sketch, even if it was just a different East Memphis back yard! It was also nice to visit, but for me in-person visits are so fraught with worrying if we're doing the right thing.
That same week we had two surprise visits from out-of-town friends. We all sat outside, distanced, with masks on. It was nice to see them in person, but oh how I also wanted some hugs!
Another way I've been visiting is by phone. Last week my friend Andrea, who I've been friends with since our freshman year of high school, and I talked on the phone for two hours just like when we were teenagers. Only now instead of doing homework, I sketched as we talked. This is my updated studio setup.
A couple of days later I talked to my sister on the phone for nearly two hours. I had similar conversations with each of them, both of whom work in public schools and are rightly worried about returning to school in a few weeks.
This week I joined my husband as he took a cocktail class via Zoom, another alternative to visiting these days. I knew one person in the class, so it was also an alternative to meeting new people. And it was also mostly Memphis-based, so I recognized someone from work.
I'm also on the occasional Zoom call with friends, or we watch a movie together with Netflix party, but I'm very much missing the real thing. Even so, I'm taking a couple of weeks off from socially distanced visiting just to give myself a break from the anxiety of in-person visits.
I hope wherever you are, you are able to find a way to visit with people you love!
Sketchwork is sketches and work about sketching - teaching, making art, art supplies, books, sketchers, artists, Urban Sketchers, Memphis Urban Sketchers, and traveling.