Sunday, October 23, 2016

Green Lake Through Fresh Eyes

10/23/16 brush pen, colored pencils

I’ve lived near Green Lake for almost 30 years, walked around it at least weekly year-round, and sketched there more often than at any other park (164 results came up in my Flickr photostream search of “Green Lake”). When I see the same things day after day, they sometimes become invisible. That’s what made this morning’s Urban Sketchers outing in the Green Lake neighborhood especially rich for me: I had the opportunity to see very familiar places and things through other sketchers’ eyes, and they became fresh for me again.

10/23/16 brush pen, colored pencils
For my own sketches, I seemed to have been in a tree mood. Suzanne and I both set our stools down near Starbucks facing the two rows of magnificent old trees leading from the street to the community center. I’ve sketched those trees many times, but I never tire of them. This time I chose an angle with the playfield behind them.

After that I walked to the street next to the La Escuelita Bilingual School, where the cherry trees had lost most of their leaves. I was tempted to give them more color, but I am ever “truthful to the scenes I witness” (maybe to a fault).

I forgot to take a photo of our sketchbook throwdown, but at least a couple dozen sketchers must have made it today. We lucked out with mild weather and even sunshine by noon!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

#InkTober2016: A Theme Emerges

Three weeks into InkTober, I think my personal objective of making more sketches from imagination is finally taking hold. When I first started, I gave myself the theme of “adult coloring book,” thinking that would be general enough that I wouldn’t have to be tied to any specific subject matter. If I were sketching things I see in my daily life, I think that plan would have worked well. But it didn’t take me long to realize that when I’m sketching from imagination, having a wide-open theme with no specific subject is actually harder, not easier. It became clear that other InkTober participants already knew this; I am seeing several working from very specific themes that probably make it easier for them to begin their drawings each day.

As it turned out, a theme emerged on its own when the cartoon rabbit I had drawn sporadically the first two weeks started reporting on our daily weather conditions last weekend. I’m going to continue letting Weather Bunny report the weather when he wants to, and when he doesn’t, he can report on his lunch!

In addition, I’m discovering that the rabbits I drew as interpretations of photographs and the sketch I did yesterday at the Bruce Lee exhibit are another type of drawing. They are not fully imaginative, nor are they drawings from life. They’re somewhere in between in that I start with a visual prompt but have to let my imagination do some of the work while capturing nothing but the essence in a fluid brush pen line. Challenging in a very different way, this type of sketching is very enjoyable, too, and I plan to explore it further.

See all my InkTober2016 sketches in my Flickr album.


Friday, October 21, 2016

‘Always Be Yourself’: Bruce Lee Lives On

10/21/16 brush pen
Always be yourself. Express yourself. Have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.

The Wing Luke Museum is now showing Part 3 of a traveling exhibition honoring Bruce Lee’s life. While the previous parts focused on his TV and movie roles and family life, Part 3 of “Day in the Life of Bruce Lee” is more about the man’s internal life. Through facsimiles of journals, poems, letters and daily planners, visitors gain an intimate glimpse of his philosophy, desires and self-improvement regimen as well as mundane to-do lists and appointments.

Delicate drawings on wide-ruled school notebook paper and poems drafted on restaurant letterhead had an off-hand, bittersweet quality, as if nothing he put on paper was worth saving. As a lifelong journal writer and daily planner keeper, I found it fascinating and slightly voyeuristic to peek at the handwritten pages of his Day Timer and small memo books that were similar to what I use myself.

Particularly heartbreaking was a goals statement he had written through year 1980: Bruce Lee died in 1973 at the age of 32.

These were some of the other quotations found in his personal writings (advice to himself) that I jotted in my own notebook:

“Stop wasting time in playing a role or concept. Instead, learn to actualize yourself, your potential.”

“Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth.”

“It is compassion rather than the principle of justice that can guard us against being unjust to our fellow men.”

Since the exhibit consisted of two-dimensional photos and ephemeral papers, I couldn’t find anything to sketch. However, I used a brush pen to try to capture his iconic stance that was shown in an enlarged photograph on one wall of the exhibit. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016


10/19/16 brush pen, colored pencils

If you know what it is, then you’ll sympathize. Of course, the “prep” is the worst part, and mine happened to fall yesterday during the final Presidential debate. Knowing I would have to spend much of the evening there, I decided to set up camp with my laptop in one of our bathrooms so that I could sketch the candidates.

I also sketched the second debate last week. Unfortunately, we were eating dinner while viewing that one, and it killed my appetite. My GoLytely experience was more satisfying.

10/9/16 brush pen, colored pencil

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fall Has Fallen

10/19/16 water-soluble colored pencils, ink
Although our storm last weekend was lackluster compared to the Armageddon that the media had led us to expect, the wind was still strong enough to take down a lot of leaves (and even a few trees in some areas). This is the same aspen I sketched a couple weeks ago when it was still bright yellow.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Anniversary Bouquet (Plus Gabi’s Sketch)

1017/16 water-soluble colored pencils
If you’ve seen some of the fruit and vegetable still lifes I’ve been doing in colored pencils lately, you know that my approach has been to be fairly tight and detailed. I enjoy that approach when using colored pencils with some subjects, but this bouquet seemed to demand a looser, more painterly approach. It’s harder to be loose with colored pencils compared to watercolor, but I like that I can have some control over the looseness (Contradictory? Probably).

The bouquet was from Greg for our 27th anniversary last Friday. :-) And here’s something else that relates our anniversary to sketching:

Our wedding took place at the top of the Smith Tower, which has always been one of our favorite buildings in Seattle. Years ago the Seattle Sketcher sketched the tower (it appears on the cover of his book), and I once asked Gabi Campanario if I could buy that original sketch. Of course, the sketch belonged to the Seattle Times, so he couldn’t sell it to me, even though the original was just sitting in a flat file in his office. Undeterred, I went directly to the Times and asked if I could buy it; I was referred to the reproductions department, where I could buy a print. A print might have been OK, but by then I had my heart set on owning the original.

Fast-forward to a few months ago when I had noticed that Gabi was starting to sell both originals and prints of his personal work on his website. I decided I didn’t have to have the one that he had made several years ago – I would simply commission him to make me a new one! So I did, and just in time to surprise Greg with it on our anniversary, I received the beautiful sketch from Gabi. 

Sketch of the Smith Tower by Gabi Campanario

Saturday, October 15, 2016

#InkTober2016: Pushing Past Old Habits

10/9/16 Kuretake brush pen
Week 2 of InkTober2016 is done, and it was something of a struggle for me. The early part of the week began well with a pair of gestural sumi-e-like sketches of a running rabbit inspired by photos on the Internet. Then Sunday evening when I felt my blood pressure rise while watching the Presidential debate, I decided to bring it back down by sketching the candidates. I felt much better immediately, and sketching from the TV was something I’d never done before, so it fit with my InkTober goal to try new challenges.

But the next few days, especially when I was short on time, I found myself falling back on old habits again and simply sketching whatever birdbath or potted plant I happened to see. As an urban sketcher, drawing from life comes so easily to me that it’s almost second nature. I’m not saying the act of drawing itself is easy – that part is always a challenge on some level – but choosing something to sketch from life is the easy part and requires almost no thinking at all.

10/14/16 Copic Gasenfude brush pen
On Thursday I gave myself a swift kick in the rear to get back to my goal of making imaginary sketches, and I kept at it through today. Sometimes I managed to conjure up an image in my mind and get it out on the page. Other times when I had an image in mind but couldn’t quite get started with the sketch, I would search for photos on the Internet for something close, then work from that, which I found immensely helpful.

I was reminded of the article by Jake Parker, founder of InkTober, talking about how it takes him the first 10 days to get past his “old tricks” before he can get to new and exciting work. I’m not going so far as to hope for “new and exciting,” but I am finding that every time I make a sketch from imagination, the next one is a bit easier. I’m looking forward to the second half of the month to see where it takes me.

See all my InkTober2016 sketches in my Flickr album.

10/15/16 Kuretake brush pen 
Here's the photo from the Internet that helped get me started in making the sketch above.
(photo by Eric Isselee)
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