Sketching the River
A couple of Saturdays ago my summer sketchbook and I joined the Memphis Urban Sketchers at Greenbelt Park. I love going to the river and sketching it, even though I don't do that often enough. When I first got there, I sketched a cottonwood to get myself warmed up.
Then I meant to do a thumbnail sketch, but ended up doing a two-page spread light & dark study for a larger sketch. One of the things I look for when I do a big sketch is rhythm, like the dark marks on the left side.
After all of that, I had less time to work on my big sketch, but I still got it done and am happy with it. Painting the river is always a challenge, and I like the way I did it this time - I used a mix of some colors I had already used. This one is in my 8x10 Stillman & Birn alpha that I like to use for painting out in the world.
It was a fun morning! Everyone pretty much sketched this same scene, except for one sketcher who sketched the sketchers!
When I started a new sketchbook on June 1, I decided to make it special by naming it my Summer Sketchbook. As a person who doesn't work in a school or have school-aged children but does live in a place where it is hot from April through October, "summer" doesn't have much of a special meaning unless I make it special for myself. Hence the Summer Sketchbook.
For my first sketch I was looking around thinking, "Okay, what around here is summery." And that's the thing about my summers, they are much like the rest of my year, so I drew fizzy water and desk flowers and coffee cups.
I will probably end up sketching a lot of books, maybe my patio and backyard, and some farmers market veggies. I'll be thinking of summery things to fill this sketchbook with, but also coffee cups and other everyday things.
Materials: Laloran sketchbook, Pigma Graphic 1, Pigma Micron 01, watercolor, sumi ink
More New Orleans Sketches
In my last post, I mentioned going to New Orleans and posted a few sketches. I was able to take some time for myself while we were there and go to a museum and see the city and, of course, sketch so I thought I'd give some of these sketches a post of their own.
These first two sketches are from the New Orleans Museum of Art, which was quite a treat! The museum is huge and full of great installations, including work by local artists. They also have an amazing sculpture garden - the perfect place to sit and sketch.
Can't not do food/drink related sketches in New Orleans! These are from a great restaurant called Seaworthy, where we had delicious oysters and drinks and chatted with the friendly bartenders.
I took the ferry to Algiers, just to see it and sketch it. In Algiers, I only had time for this very quick sketch of some cottonwoods and the Mississippi River industry behind them, because there was zero shade to be had. But this was a fun quick sketch!
The amazing part about taking the ferry is getting to see Jackson Square from the water. I struggle a bit with how to show the Mississippi River - is it a color? a shape? Here I opted for almost a shape, with marks to show the current.
I blinked and it was June 1st! Here are a few things I've been up to since you last heard from me in February.
Actually since January - I went to Maine at the end of January to visit a friend and we took many walks and ate lots of good food. It was weird/fun to be in an airport again, but I certainly stayed masked up.
Like many others in Memphis, in February my power was out for an extended period of time due to an ice storm. I ended up working from my mother-in-law's house for a couple of days.
In the same month that an ice storm knocked power out for half of the city for over a week, we also had some lovely warm-ish days. My friends Martha Kelly and Christina Huntington and I took advantage of one for some sketching and catching-up time at the Dixon Gardens.
March found me traveling again! We took our 14-year-old niece to New York and had the best time. We went to museums, a show, did some shopping, and ate some good food. As we do with every niece and nephew, we took the Staten Island Ferry, as it's their only chance to see the Statue of Liberty (because Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Toby aren't standing in that line.)
Had more quality sketching/catching up time with Christina during the April meeting of Memphis Urban Sketchers at Elmwood Cemetery. This is right outside of Elmwood's gates.
While I am getting out more and even traveling, I'm still working from home and sketching my surroundings here, mostly at my desk and in my studio. When I started a new sketchbook in April, I decided to start counting coffee cup sketches again, sort of to trick myself into sketching more. I ended up with 23 sketches of coffee cups!
Here are some more sketches of everyday things, including desk flowers. I started buying myself flowers to keep on my desk to cheer the place up a bit. And maybe to have something else to draw.
More travel?! That's right - went to New Orleans for a week.
While in New Orleans, the news hit that the Supreme Court is probably overturning Roe v Wade this summer, so I went to a rally and sketched all of the people and signs, and yelled and chanted with everyone gathered there.
And I went to another rally/march in Memphis when I got home and again sketched, and yelled and chanted and marched and donated to Planned Parenthood.
You're not going to believe this, but then I went out of town again! This time to Chicago for work. But I also got to go to the Art Institute and see the Cezanne show, and took an architectural boat tour.
During the conference, I sketched many many pages like this. Much coffee and fizzy water was consumed.
Then I went out of town again! This time I drove to Florida with my big brother to see my sister and my Mom. I sketched my sister's very Florida yard.
Thank you for sticking around this long! I am promising you, reader who made it to the end, to post more regularly!
Traveling is weird right now, right? Over Christmas, as we did last fall, my husband and I took a big road trip, where we camped and generally tried to stay away from other people as we saw new sites and put new information and experiences in our tired brains.
I always have big expectations of travel sketching because, in theory, I have more time to sketch. So I had time to document Robertson's Ham, a place we tried to stop during a roadtrip in 2008 - we were able to stop there and get ham sandwiches this time, finally! And I generally have time to sketch the places we stop and stay at, such as Villanueva State Park, NM, but only a quick sketch in the dark after setting up our tent.
The type of materials you bring with you for travel sketching are so important! I like to bring a small variety - a small watercolor set, some colored pencils, and favorite pens. This time I brought some fountain pens, but after this early sketch (still at Villanueva State Park) I wrapped them in a zipper bag and put them back in my backpack to stay, because fountain pens don't always do well with changing altitudes - we were at 8,000 feet! - and one of the fountain pens made a mess that I covered up with washi tape. Also, I know that I just tell a better story when I use my Sakura Pigma Graphic 1 pen, in combination with a Sakura Pigma Micron 01.
I also brought a brand new Stillman & Birn Alpha 8.5 x 5.5 as my Trip Sketchbook, as well as the same in 8x10 as an extra sketchbook. In the larger book, I made this big watercolor sketch at Villanueva, then never got it out again. Once again, I know I tell a better story in my "everyday" sketchbook.
Sketching outside can also be a tricky part of travel sketching. We camped in several places, so that's all outside in the cold, and only sketched after getting the tent set up, which means another sketch at dusk. The next morning I was able to take a little more time with some color, but the water in my waterbrush pen froze! That was a new experience for me. These sketches are from Bluewater Lake State Park in New Mexico, where we didn't realize until the next day that the overnight low was FIVE DEGREES. Brrr.
We also got to go into a few restaurants, aiming for when they weren't too crowded. Sketching in restaurants and sketching food are important parts of travel sketching - it adds so much life and character and memory to your travel sketches. Lil's Diner in Thoreau, NM, was small but not crowded and we had some delicious hot food there after our very cold night and morning of camping.
Another thing I like to do is sketch my coffee and whatever else I can at the beginning of my day as a warm-up for sketching for the day.
I love doing quick sketches as we make quick stops along the way, like the one above at the Painted Desert. I had to look at the scene first just long enough to take it all in and make some quick decisions about what types of marks I would make for each feature. It's such a workout for your brain and it's so fun!
Manzanita Campground, Coconino National Forest, AZ
After a few days of camping, we got to the Grand Canyon. It took me a while of looking at it to even attempt a sketch. I was so fascinated by all of the different textures, so I tried that first.
Then I tried color! I just kept layering colored pencil until I couldn't anymore - it was cold here, too!
We went again on Christmas day, and I had time for a couple of quick sketches and a couple of longer sketches. The watercolor sketch felt very fussy, but it was still fun. By the time I did the colored pencil sketch, I was totally relaxed, comfortable on my little sketching stool, and just had the best time getting to know these shapes.
I'm glad that I bring a bit of variety - watercolor and colored pencils - since watercolor just didn't come to me as easily on this trip. It's like that sometimes, and what I have success with varies.
Next up was Monument Valley! And more camping - I sketches this quickly as the sun was starting to set, hoping to catch some of the light. In order to quickly sketch a lot, I squished the landscape together.
Monument Valley was so fun to draw - there are pull-offs all along the highway, so we kept stopping and I would just sketch everything as quickly as I could. At this point there was no more thinking, just sketching.
The rest of the trip was mostly driving, but I managed a few more sketches while we were on the road and before returning to the real world.
I need these occasional breaks from everyday life to recharge my imagination. Looking at new things, putting new images and experiences in your brain and heart is good way to reconnect with yourself.
Using All the Materials
These are probably my two favorite materials right now - the Pigma Graphic 1 makes this great fat line, and I also love my (pink) Lamy filled with Rohrer & Klingner Sketch Ink in Vroni. Something about pink ink makes me very happy!
Sometimes I wish I could just be happy with carrying around one or two pens. Maybe a pen and an ink brush. Then all of my sketches would look like this quick sketch I did of the little shelf next to my desk.
Two common sites in my sketches, these are watercolor and ink, and watercolor and oil-based pencil. If I only carried a pen and an ink brush, I couldn't do a watercolor of the Clark Tower on the go!
When I sketch in my studio, I may end up using something totally different, like walnut ink and a dip pen.
When I sketch at my desk, I might grab whatever is at hand, like these Pilot Petit 1 fountain pens that my husband passed along to me. They are so fun to sketch with!
At my desk again, sketching a tower of snacks - there were snacks in each box! - at a virtual work event. Again grabbing what was close by - a Stabilo marker, and the oil-based pencil out of my sketch bag.
Later that same night I attended another virtual event, this time hosted by the Dixon, and sketched with another favorite, the Mitsubishi vermilion/prussian blue pencil. I keep these pencils everywhere because they are so handy and fun to sketch with!
Sketches from Today
Oh hello, typical workday sketch. This is stuff that was on or next to my desk today. I was listening to a meeting and I listen so much better when I'm drawing! Top left is planning for my little hydroponic herb farm.
More about Studio Exhibit
My show, Grounded, is now hanging in my studio! It's so nice to spin around in my desk chair (as I am semi-permanently working my day job from home) and say hi to all of these. You can see the paintings on my website.
I loved having an opening on Instagram Live and being joined by friends and relatives from all over the world! Everyone asked great questions and I was able to give an extensive tour of the work - exactly what I would like to do at in-person openings! You can watch the video here.
Studio Show and Studio Talk
I've been working on this show so hard I forgot to write a post about it! These oil on paper paintings of landscapes from the American West combined with houses from my neighborhood have been my big studio project for the past year and a half. I installed them as a show in my studio and tomorrow I'm giving a free studio talk sponsored by a Bridging the Distance grant from the Urban Art Commission. The talk is about my studio show, having a studio practice, and about making time and space for something creative in your life. It just might keep you sane during a pandemic!
Studio Talk: Wednesday, June 30, noon CST via Zoom
Registration Link: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIkc-uhqDIsHtESUN1jbCyoJ75KCSjDSrw3
I was inspired by trips out west - to Utah and Nevada in 2019 and to Yellowstone in 2020 - but felt compelled to include houses from my neighborhood to feel safe while I was working on these during the pandemic. Some include our tent from the camping we did on the way to Yellowstone, our temporary home for part of that trip.
I'd love to tell you more about my process and how it helped me survive the pandemic - join me for the talk tomorrow!
More About Outings
Here's how these outings are possible - I got the vaccine! It was really exciting and I'm so incredibly grateful to have gotten both of my shots.
I got both of my shots at the Pipkin Buildings at the Memphis Fairgrounds. It has garage-like doors on either side, so they directed people to drive right through the building to get their vaccines. On the right of the top sketch you can see the line waiting to drive in.
On the top left is the inside of the building, with the medical professionals giving the shots in front of the outside door. I think they must have had us wait in the building, but I can't remember now. I went to vaccination sites six times - I took my mother-in-law twice, my husband twice, and myself twice. Each time was a completely different process.
By the time I got my second shot, the National Guard had set up a temporary location next to the Pipkin building to accommodate more people, so here you can see some of the medical professionals preparing to give shots to everyone in the bus in front of us.
One of the National Guards asked if we wanted a sticker and he was surprised to get a loud and emphatic, "YES I WOULD LOVE A STICKER!"
I want to say again how grateful I am to have gotten a vaccine so easily. I am having so much fun hugging my friends again.
Sketchwork is sketches and work about sketching - teaching, making art, art supplies, books, sketchers, artists, Urban Sketchers, Memphis Urban Sketchers, and traveling.