I want to tell you all about the Urban Sketchers Symposium and my trip to Auckland, but first let me tell you about this hill.
It was a perfect day - we took the ferry to Devonport, found a nice restaurant for lunch, went to the park so I could sketch and Toby could watch boats. At this point I was working on getting out the awkward sketches that happen before a Symposium, when I typically forget how to draw.
After that, we had a drink at a pub, and then I walked up Takarunga / Mount Victoria, which is the highest volcano on that part of the shore at 217 feet. But don't worry, there was a nice paved road to walk up on.
There was nothing special about it and everything special about it - I love walking, I love discovering things while walking, and I love sitting and sketching a nice view - I sketched Rangitoto, a nearby volcanic island across the Hauraki Gulf.
It felt like so much more than just a walk.
The way I was getting to know the hill by walking up it and noticing every different kind of plant and bird sound, and the sound of the wind in the grass and the far-off views, is similar to how I think about observational drawing: I was getting to know things about the space by walking it that I couldn't have learned another way. The walking, the sitting and looking and listening felt like work of art in itself.
I kept reflecting on it over the two weeks of our trip to center myself and noticing how the feeling of it related to what I'm trying to capture in the studio: the (brief) moment in the space, and the place that it becomes for me through that experience.
This week I've been reacquainting myself with diary comics. I used to make them regularly - if I didn't ink them every day, I would at least jot something down and sketch something out every day. I followed Lynda Barry's suggestion of writing down things that you did, saw, heard, and then made things out of those.
You can see in the comic above and below how I experimented with different formats.
I used dedicated notebooks just for comics for most of 2018, and then went back to combining them into a daily notebook where I also kept track of daily notes about practical things and projects. But I kept doing them for a long time.
I have been looking through notebooks at how comics were a daily part of my life while assuming I would see a hard stop somewhere. My assumption was that I stopped at the beginning of the pandemic, but I kept going on and on, just not necessarily daily.
I'm going back to a daily practice. It helps me to notice things around me - it invites my attention.
If you are interested in this practice, read Lynda Barry! Start with Syllabus, and then read everything else she's written. I'm going to go reread her now.
What I sketched last week...
I keep wanting to do a blog post about what is new in the studio, but until I can gather my thoughts, here's what I sketched last week.
Last week I was thinking about the sketching workshop I'm teaching at the Dixon this week, and sketched out what I call drawing to understand (what's the shape of these cups, how do they intersect each other in my field of vision) vs. drawing to record (adding context of what I'm observing, what is it on or next to or near, what am I doing while observing). I did these with a Bic pen - I always forget how fun they are to draw with, then I love rediscovering them!
Still thinking about the workshop - sketching with two materials and using the green marker to add a bigger impact to my sketch.
These two people are the only ones I did for the One Week 100 People challenge - HA!
Tuesday afternoon was gorgeous, so I took my sketchbook and a few colored pencils outside with my while I talked on the phone. This isn't how I meant for this sketch to go - I had originally thought I would cover more of the page, but with these materials I preferred to focus on shapes and patterns. I like the sparseness of it and the rhythm of the chairs.
This was a weird one. I was waiting for some take-out on Thursday night and wanted to sketch these buildings (of course), but it was dark! I figured I would try my waterbrush pen with diluted sumi ink and just see what happened. The flag is lighted and there was this swirl of smoke moving in and out of it - it was fun to try to capture that with a white gel pen.
Even with that big drip, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.
Simple coffee cup sketch! Later, I saw this building with shadows and reflections of trees, and the trees were filled with crows, so I had to see what I could do to capture that in the few minutes I had.
New York Art Trip
Looking at art is a priority for me, and I'm fortunate to be able to sometimes travel to where I want to see some art. Last weekend, my husband and I went to New York so that I could see several shows.
First up was Edward Hopper's New York at The Whitney. The sketches above are typical of the notes and sketches I make when I'm looking at art - just jotting down some thoughts. The two photos are some of the more surprising works that I saw in the show. I love Hopper's paintings - seeing them all together reinforced the slight stiffness that is characteristic of his work, so these looser, more dramatic drawings and watercolors were a real treat.
Next up was Alex Katz, Gathering, at the Guggenheim. I went into this with a preconceived idea of it being an awkward show that I would not find very interesting. Boy was I wrong!
The scale of Katz's work was perfect for the way art is displayed in this (weird but wonderful) building. The best part, as I sketched above, was being able to see the work all together on different floors at the same time across the spiral.
After, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and looked at more American art.
Last was Just Above Midtown at MOMA - a show about a Black-owned gallery that opened in the early 70s, focusing on women and Black artists. It was refreshing after two days of old white dudes. But I went in not knowing any of these artists, so I just started writing down every artist's name, then as I went through and saw more, I would think, "Oh Senga Nengudi also did that piece in the front..." It was so useful in getting to know these artists! It was a gorgeous show.
After a break, I went to visit Matisse. He is probably my favorite old white dude at MOMA.
And that was it! Then we went home and I made some changes in the studio based on the thinking I did while looking at this work.
I started a new sketchbook this month - I usually go through about six sketchbooks a year, but last year I only used four. My goal this year is six to eight? Just to sketch more, because it brings me so much joy.
I've been sketching at home a lot lately because that is where I usually find myself. Often my sketchbook is next to me and I just pick up whatever pen or pencil is nearby to sketch with.
I love to sketch while waiting somewhere out in the world, too! Just making lines and seeing where they will intersect can keep me interested for a long time.
This page spans a few days last week. It was a weird week! Lots of late nights and early mornings. Lots of trucks on my street as neighbors get work done on their houses, which is fine with me because it just gives me more to draw!
Most of these were done with a Sakura Pigma Graphic 1, and my everyday sketchbook is a Stillman and Birn Alpha, 8.5x5.5.
Maine in January
Like 2022 and 2020, I went to Portland, Maine, in January. It turns out I love hiking and sketching in the cold!
It was fun to be traveling again - I love the traveling part of traveling. On the plane, I read, or I crochet while listening to a podcast. I people-watch in the airport and sketch and try to eat something decent with a cup of coffee.
I don't just go to Maine to hike and sketch, I go there to visit my friend Andrea! We've been friends for about 35 years and try to see each other at least twice a year. I like to sit in her kitchen and sketch while she cooks.
We went on two hikes on Saturday. One was both icy and muddy, and we turned back before reaching our destination. The other, Mackworth Island, was muddy but more manageable. But both were very cold and windy, so I made a sketch from a photo that I took.
While Andrea made breakfast on Sunday morning (French toast!), I sketched her dining room.
As we started a hike later that day, Andrea got a call so I did a quick sketch of trees and rocks and leaves - just a lot of fun mark-making in a short amount of time.
We reached the summit of Bradbury Mountain and I was excited to find a picnic table where I could sit and sketch while Andrea and I continued to talk (it's like one long four-day conversation when we visit!). I was so excited to be in a place and to have the time where I could make this kind of sketch - full page, from life, of nature.
This took about 20 to 25 minutes and I used ink and colored pencil - the blue/gray of the sky is a Rohrer & Klingner ink called Thea in a Kuretake water brush that I love having it on hand. I sketched it out with that ink and added some diluted sumi ink that I have in another Kuretake water brush, and layered on the colored pencil. It was very cold and that's all I could do!
I guess it's "fall" so i am going to wrap up these Summer Sketchbook posts. I went into summer wondering what summer really is when it's always hot where you live and no one in the house goes to school. But I forgot! I forgot that there's a moment in September when the light changes, the sun is lower in the sky and it starts getting dark earlier. I forgot that the heat breaks and there's a hint in the air that we're not actually hurtling into the sun. So here's the rest of my summer!
These bright, sunny, summery sketches are all from my birthday - I got lots of plants and flowers!
Waiting for food
This is from the taco truck at Summer Ave and Perkins - it's super good! I was just making a list of their meats while waiting, and decided to make a sketch out of it.
More protests. This one was at Poplar and Highland - first time I've ever joined a protest there. I felt like we got more supportive honks than middle fingers.
I ended my Summer Sketchbook with a trip to New Jersey and New York. I had to go to New Jersey for work, so of course I snuck off to Manhattan for some good art time.
I didn't do much sketching there, but I enjoyed it immensely. I usually run through The Met and just see a few things, but this time I wandered around for hours. It was just what I needed.
Summer in My Yard
We had trees trimmed this summer and, while I just could not watch them actually doing the work (because yikes), I did watch a huge pile of limbs just sit there for days. When they finally came to pick them up, I sketched it. Then I cleaned out the fatsia bushes and the view from my studio window changed a bit.
We had a drought in the middle of the summer. My poor fatsia were not only getting more sun due to the tree trimming, they were just super hot and dry, so I researched what to do to help them. Everything I read said that I can trim them between late winter and "late summer," and again I am wondering what that means for us here in this hot hot place. As I am writing this, the 10-day forecast is still in the 80s and 90s, so I will consider late September to be late summer.
The fatsia bushes are so big and old that they all grow together and it's hard to tell where one ends and another begins. To help me with watering them, I made quick sketches of where each individual plant starts.
I love using my sketchbook like this, as a place to explore and keep information. It enables me to capture not just what I am seeing but what I am doing.
Summer Around the House
When I started my summer sketchbook, I predicted that I would sketch a lot of coffee cups and other everyday things, and I was right! I ended up with 20 coffee cup sketches in this sketchbook. I like to see how many I can sketch - it encourages me to sketch everyday things.
But not just coffee cups! I sketch a lot around my house since I work from home now, so my summer sketchbook is also full of sketches of plants, yarn, books, and cooking.
We watched all of the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World movies and I tried sketching the dinosaurs.
I'm slowly working on a "stash buster" granny square afghan.
My boudin was not good. I will leave that to the professionals.
This is the kind of prep I have to do just to buy a lamp shade.
Fourth of July weekend I went to my sister's house in Gulf Breeze, FL. Isn't it cute? I drew this one nearly in the dark as we stood in the streets with some neighbor kids and went through our remaining fireworks, mostly sparklers but also maybe a bottle rocket or two.
I sketched this very Florida scene - Highway 98 in pink ink - when we stopped for gas one day. When I think of Florida, I think of Highway 98.
We hung out at home a lot - I worked there for a few days - so a lot of my sketches look like what I would sketch at home. We drank a lot of coffee and tea while I was there, and discussed and traded and read books.
I was there for part of Blue Angles weekend - my first time to experience it. We took the golf cart to the neighborhood boat ramp and watched the show over Pensacola Beach across Santa Rosa Sound.
It was such a lovely, relaxed, fun trip and I can't wait to go back!
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