In the past two weeks I've given two presentations for STC events. I enjoy having the subject of practical sketching take up my brain while I write and update these presentations, and it reminds me of how I feel when I teach a class. They both take up a part of my brain that I think is normally filled up with sketching, because when I teach and when I work on presentations or art talks, I do way less sketching.
These are the only sketches I've done since last Monday, plus this one below of the garbage can under my desk. This was inspired by an Instagram friend who reminding me that I said that anything becomes special when you draw it.
Now that I'm done with my presentations, I should test my theory and see if I do more sketching!
Maybe you already knew this, but we were surprised to find how many cool parks there are in Southern Illinois. We took another socially-distanced road trip and made the quick drive up to Anna, IL, where we stayed at the Davie School Inn. We HIGHLY recommend this sweet little place - it's an old school where the original eight classrooms are now hotel rooms! The owners cook a lovely breakfast and bring it to your room every day. And you can shoot hoops in the gym if you want! Here's a sketch I made of the deck, which looks onto a city park and a bunch of bird feeders, where we learned that brown-headed cowbirds are really greedy.
Little Grand Canyon is a hiking area in the Shawnee National Forest. We stopped there and found a picnic table for a snack, so I made a quick warm-up drawing with colored pencils. Then I took a short hike and stopped to sketch a downed tree and some mayapples.
When I joined my husband back at the picnic table we had staked out, I was struck by this angle and made a quick sketch to capture the different lines in the stairs and rails, the shadows, and the angle of that car. We really like doing these kinds of trips where we can drive around and stop when we feel like it, and hang out as long as we want. Toby whittled as I hiked and sketched.
Next we drove to Pomona Natural Bridge and walked around a bit. It's a lovely place! It was getting late but I wanted to make sure to get a sketch of the bridge, so Toby timed me for a seven-minute sketch and this was the result.
After another great breakfast at Davie School Inn, we drove to Garden of the Gods, a wilderness area in Shawnee National Forest for another hike and sketch. What a beautiful place! The (sort of crowded) observation trail hike has lovely views and really cool rock formations. I could have stayed there drawing all day, but I didn't have enough sunscreen on for that, plus there was more to see!
Of all of the parks we visited, we were surprised to find that Cave-in-Rock State Park was our favorite. It just didn't sound that interesting - so there's a cave? in a rock? But it is so pretty! It sits on a high bluff on the Ohio River, and there are picnic tables and pavilions with amazing views of the river. We stopped at one and had a VERY WINDY picnic lunch with an awesome view, then we moved lower on the bluff and under a pavilion for sketching (me) and cigar smoking and bird watching (him). We also got to watch the ferry that carries cars from the Illinois side to the Kentucky side of the river - I even included it in my sketch!
I walked down to see the cave and it turns out it's pretty cool, too!
Then we took the ferry! I've never taken a car ferry before, so I was pretty excited. It was a pretty quick ride, so this was all the sketching I had time for.
Then we were in Louisville without much to do, so we went to ToGo Sushi - a drive-through sushi place (It's so good! Go there if you're in Louisville!) and went to Cave Hill Cemetery for a little sushi picnic. We also visited the graves of Muhammed Ali and Colonel Sanders while we were there.
I sketched this at the cemetery. I like the way it looks, but my intention was to do more with ink after I got most of the watercolor down. I ran out of time because we got kicked out of the cemetery! But only because they were closing.
Next we went to Waterfront Park. I was having trouble focusing on what I wanted to sketch, so I drew some borders to work in (this is something I always recommend to my students!). And once I had these smaller areas and specific shapes, I got really inspired!
This is Big Four Pedestrian Bridge. I had so much fun sketching it! First I faced south, drawing the portion that was added for pedestrian access, then I turned completely around to the north and drew the bridge spanning the Ohio River. I started with a very very watered down sumi ink to establish the composition a bit, then just sketched it with a Pigma Graphic 1 pen. Sometimes it's fun to just make a black and white ink sketch.
After that we picked up dinner from Mashallah African Restaurant, which I also HIGHLY recommend. The service was excellent and the food was sooooo good!
Then we drove home! But we went through Paducah instead of driving south through Nashville, and we found a Taco John's! We discovered Taco John's on our fall trip out west - they have these tater-tot-like things called Potato Olés and they are quite good (but also quite salty). So we had a Taco John's picnic at a sweet little park and I sketched.
Then we drove home via Arkansas, by crossing two bridges at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers that had really interesting views - I would love to go back and sketch around there.
This trip reminded me that I need to go out in the world, and especially in nature, to sketch. It does something good to my brain and to my soul.
It doesn't snow much here in Memphis, TN, and when it does the whole place shuts down. It doesn't matter how much snow or ice we get, everything stops! But this year, over the course of 10 days we got ice, then snow, then more snow! We got up to 10 inches of snow and the temperature was below freezing for days and days.
I mostly stayed inside but I did venture out to sketch once - I had to sketch while wearing gloves, my sketchbook got snowed on and I dropped it in the snow, and I should have chosen a water-soluble material instead of the pen that was then ruined. But my sketchbook was very sturdy and I have plenty more pens! This is not my best sketch ever, but it is the best sketch I've done in below freezing weather while getting snowed on.
This is my writing process. I presented a talk about it at Spectrum 2021 - STC Rochester yesterday called Practical Sketching for Technical Communicators. The idea is that the action of sketching and annotating as part of your process helps you capture and understand information, think through problems, get unstuck, and spark new ideas. I was using this process to figure out what I wanted to write about in the blog post, and I thought I'd just share the process sketch instead of writing it. This is a blog about sketching, after all.
And here's a sketch I made while waiting for my presentation to start, to help calm my nerves!
When you take someone to the doctor now you get a little vacation in your car all by yourself while you wait for them. Of course I used my time to sketch! There was an area of random strip-mall-adjacent trees and shrubs with an electrical tower that perfectly captures some of the commercial landscape in the Memphis suburbs.
I did a super quick sketch of the car wash while I was getting gas, and later captured a dramatic coffee cup on my desk.
Today I went to pick up my groceries and had to wait for a spot in the pick-up area, which gave me a straight-on view of the fire station - what luck! I got the structure down and after I parked I added the details - trees, chainlink fence, more trees. Sketching can be such a joyful way to pass the time while waiting, and sometimes all you need is a one pen!
I did this watercolor sketch on a balmy December day. I just noticed I had not posted it yet, and it made me realize I haven't done any watercolor sketches in the month of February. It's weird how your focus can change from material to material, from subject to subject. It's been too cold here to sketch outside, but now it's warm again, but it's about to be rainy. Hopefully more outdoor sketching will resume in March.
I'm catching up on posting sketches I haven't posted yet and luckily a lot of them fall in the same category so I can post them all together!
Here's a progression of a couple of cups of peppermint tea, sketched in ink with a little spot color.
Waiting for water to boil is always a good time to sketch.
Mugs and cans are both fun to sketch - and so are beets! I don't like to eat beets, but I love to draw them.
More hot tea! These are a mix of a brush pen, a Mitsubishi two-sided pencil, and this last one is probably a Pigma Graphic 1 (my "fat pen"). I was probably waiting for water to boil when I sketched these vegetables I chopped.
Looks like I started this year with lots and lots of coffee! I did.
Coffee cups, mugs, drink cans, things on my desk, and food I'm preparing are always fun and easy subjects because they're always close at hand.
Who is up for a lot of Clark Tower sketches? Here are a bunch from the last few months.
I started doing these when the pandemic first started and I began picking up my groceries right across the street, always giving myself a few minutes for a sketch.
If you're wondering what the deal is with me and this building, check out this post on my old blog.
I've been carrying minimal sketch gear when I run out for groceries or to pick up a to-go order, and just carrying one or two pens and a double-color Mitsubishi pencil works well.
I refer to the Clark Tower as "my Devils Tower" because of that scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where Richard Dreyfuss sculpts the Devils Tower out of mashed potatoes. A friend suggested this when I made a four-foot tall painting of this building on wallpaper a few years ago. In the fall I got to see the real Devil's Tower for the first time and noticed some similarities, like the stripes made by the window arrangements are similar to the striations in the rock formation.
But I don't just sketch it! I'm making acrylic ink paintings of the Clark Tower in a sketchbook during my studio night. I've done 22 since I started almost a year ago - here are a few! It helps me to have an image I can come back to over and over again and work with in different ways.
On Saturday I went out solely for the purpose of sketching! Christina - administrator for Memphis Urban Sketchers - had a great idea for Covid-safe sketching. We met downtown on a stretch of N. Front St. behind a closed-off area of the street under construction, and parked next to each other and rolled our windows down so we could talk (6+ feet apart) while we sketched from our cars. It was a beautiful day - the sky was doing fun things!
This was my "warm-up" that evolved into a fully painted scene, which usually happens when I try to do a warm-up on-site. I'm just too excited not to sketch everything!
It's difficult to convey size in these posts, but this sketch is much bigger than the first. I did the first sketch (the "warm-up") in my small Laloran every day sketchbook - it's about 4.5" x 6.5". I did this in my 8" x 10" Stillman & Birn Alpha, so this spread is actually 8" x 16".
I enjoyed spending a lot of time on this one, building it up from light gray lines to black lines to watercolor and more ink. I got to play around with everything - perspective, shadows, sky, winter trees, even barbed wire and chain-link fence!
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