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!
In the past couple of weeks I've ventured out farther than my neighborhood for a change of scenery. Last week we went to Greenbelt Park just to look at the river. That's the Mississippi River, the riverest of US rivers. It was cold and windy and overcast and absolutely perfect to refocus my attention away from the news of the day.
I was also excited to sketch a different view - even a barge! And I had just rearranged my watercolor palette and replaced a couple of colors from the Ultimate Sketching Palette (from art-toolkit.com) so I wanted to try it out. I quickly learned that I need those colors back - it is not called "Ultimate" for nothing. I couldn't get the right kind of winter yellow without Geothite.
This week I went to the other end of the city, to Shelby Farms, and took a walk around the lake with a few breaks to sketch. My palette was right again, and I was very happy to capture the subtle colors of winter.
And look! There's the Clark Tower (in the very middle top). I love that you can see it from Shelby Farms.
When we returned from our road trip, I dutifully sketched coffee cups and other everyday things. Even though I often say that tying sketching to the acquisition of knowledge or to understanding makes any subject potentially interesting to sketch, I got tired of drawing the vegetables in my produce delivery, and my beloved fatsia, and even coffee cups.
But I know that regularly working in a sketchbook connects your hand and brain and eyes and trains them to work together, keeps your hand in making art on a regular basis, and keeps you ready for any sketching opportunities. And I know that slumps don't last, but I wanted out of this one quickly so I thought of some things to help.
Sketching from Photos
I talk a lot about the importance of sketching from life, but sketching from photos is also a useful tool, and can be fun and relaxing.
Try timing yourself in order to get more spontaneous marks, like this grid of one-minute sketches.
Drawing from a Book
This was inspired by the artist Emma Carlisle (look for her on Instagram), who has a book of birds she works from when she's stuck. I did these from a guide book of trees - it's a fun way to play with materials.
Copying from art books, from comics, from other people's sketches is a good way to keep your hand in it, and to learn from others. Lynda Barry is big on copying and uses it when she teaches. She says, "Copying is good for you because it takes time and requires a certain sort of sustained concentration that invites a different sort of thinking."
Trying a Different Approach
Try changing something up from the way you usually sketch. I spent a week doing almost nothing but continuous line drawings (where you don't pick up your pen/pencil), and it really helped me to want to sketch more. You can also try different materials, different paper or cardboard or the backs of envelopes, or go back to a material you haven't used in a while.
Start a New Sketchbook / New Intentions
Starting a new sketchbook can bring a refreshing change. I have a couple of Laloran sketchbooks - super nice sketchbooks made by my friend Ketta Linhares in Portugal. It feels "too fancy" to use right now while I'm not going anywhere or doing anything, but I decided that's why I need it. My days might all be very similar right now, but each is still special.
So now I am celebrating the everyday things, rather than dutifully recording them. If you can't literally get a change of scene, you can change other things to freshen up your outlook.
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