Monday, December 18, 2017

Seattle Center Winterfest

12/17/17 Seattle Center Winterfest miniature train and village

Although the Friday sketchers tend to end up in the Armory whenever we meet at the Seattle Center for one event or another, I think it’s been almost exactly five years since the main USk Seattle group has met there for Winterfest.

12/17/17 Shane the caricaturist
The Armory’s main visual Winterfest attraction is a miniature train and turn-of-the-previous-century village, whose centerpiece is a train station and clock tower that look remarkably similar to King Street Station (above).

I had a great table for sketching the train station scene that I didn’t want to lose as the Armory started filling. I looked behind me and spotted a caricaturist at work, so I simply swiveled my chair around. My intention was to include his client in the sketch, but he finished drawing her just as I had finished drawing him.

Although a little reluctant to give up my warm, cozy spot inside the Armory, I knew it wasn’t raining, so I pulled up my hood and ventured outside. Like that USk outing in 2012, it was bitterly cold and windy, so I spent no more than 15 minutes sketching the top of the Space Needle covered up with colorful tarps and scaffolding for remodeling. (Waiting at the bus stop for my ride home, I spotted the Space Needle from the opposite side, so I sketched it again as an inset. From that distance, I could see more of the construction equipment on top, plus the Christmas-tree-shaped lighting on the needle.)
12/17/17 Space Needle wearing its top-heavy hat

Even in my down coat, I was shivering and ready to retreat indoors again. At the Armory entrance, though, a pair of buskers called Fascinator Jazz Band was performing, and you know I can’t walk by buskers without sketching them. I decided that if these hardy musicians could play in the cold (the bass player kept stopping to rub her hand warmers between songs), I could shiver for another 10 minutes to sketch them. 

Considering that it’s the week before Christmas and probably the busiest weekend for holiday activities, we had a great turnout of sketchers, including Anya from Anchorage and Juliana from Londrina, Brazil! 

12/17/17 Fascinator Jazz Band

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Two Pencils

12/14/17 Wedgwood neighborhood
Readers of this blog know that I like buying, testing and using lots of different kinds of art stuff. But I also really enjoy the simplicity of what can be sketched with nothing more than two grades of pencil. 

(Yes, I’m mentally gearing up for my exercise in minimalism, and I’m actually looking forward to it.)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Caffe Fiore

12/15/17 Caffe Fiore patrons and Kathleen's painting of Elephant Car Wash
I’ve been meaning to get up to Caffe Fiore on Queen Anne Hill to see urban sketcher and painter Kathleen Keckler’s show, “Signs You Live in Seattle.” She has a lovely collection of sketches and acrylic paintings of city landmarks, including several places we’ve sketched together. The show is up the rest of the month.

Although Kathleen has managed to sketch the cafĂ©’s interior beautifully, I found the seating to be awkward and not particularly conducive to surreptitious sketching. The main seating in the small coffee shop are a few large community tables and a bar along one window. All the table seating was taken, so I sat at the bar and swiveled around to face the room, which made me feel a bit self-conscious, but everyone had their heads buried in laptops, so they didn’t pay me any mind.

12/15/17 Too close for comfort, and yet I dared.
I was sketching a couple of guys across the room when a man sat down right next to me at the bar. Although he was a little too close for comfort, nonetheless I couldn’t resist sketching him. Since I was already facing the room when he took his seat, he must have assumed I was still sketching in that direction. In any case, he was engrossed in his book and never noticed me, either. 

Invisibility: The urban sketcher’s super power.

Kathleen's sketches and paintings are on exhibit until Jan. 1. (This is the guy in
my sketch at the top of the page. I didn't see his man bun until I took this photo!
I wish I'd been able to sketch him from this angle.)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Orange Bikes

12/13/17 Green Lake Park parking lot

Like other major metropolitan areas, Seattle has several bike-sharing companies, and each uses bikes painted in a bright color – lime green, orange, yellow – to distinguish them. A couple of bright orange bikes left at Green Lake caught my eye when I pulled into the parking lot. In the foreground was a parked Volvo, and I thought the three vehicles together made an interesting composition.

Urban sketchers know the rule: Always sketch first the thing that’s most likely to leave. Hmmm, bikes or car? In all cases, I figured the driver/riders were walking around the lake, so I had some time. But the bikes might take me longer to draw, so I decided to quickly block in the Volvo first. That way I could mark the scale of the bikes, which were in the middle distance, against the car. I started doing that – and that’s when the pickup pulled into the space next to the Volvo, completely blocking my view of the bikes. 

Huh. I forgot the second rule: Never start sketching something if it can be blocked.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Late Start on Santa Season

12/12/17 Two kids stop to chat with Pacific Place's Santa.

My Santa “personal best” was in 2015, when I managed to sketch him four times. Last year I decided I couldn’t break my own record, so I settled for three (and twice it was the same Santa!). This year I’ve been a total slacker: Here we are halfway to Christmas, and I’ve only just begun!

Around noon Tuesday at Pacific Place, Santa didn’t have any customers, and his helper was so bored she was scrolling her phone. I circled the mall a couple of times to find a good angle, and the one I liked best was the one I used last year: from directly above.

I started sketching Santa, thinking that if he got some customers, they would sit next to him on his bench-like chair, and I could put them in. After I was nearly done, a couple of brothers came by, but they were there only to chat with Santa – no lap sitting, no photos. No other kids came by. 

It may have been a slow day for Santa, but at least I got a start on Santa Sketching Season.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Better Than Sliced Bread

12/12/17 Princi bakery's bread slicer and a case filled with croissants.

Starbucks has been in the news lately with its recent opening of a new Reserve Roastery in Shanghai, which is apparently many times larger than the one in Seattle. In addition, the Seattle Roastery recently added the Italian bakery Princi to its store, and from everything I’d heard, the pastries were worth a trip up the hill. So despite the many times I’ve sketched there, I decided it was time to make another visit.

With the addition of the bakery, more seating was also added, including a large community table and some stand-up tables, just like in Europe (where people don’t like to take their coffee “to go,” but they also don’t always take the time to sit). When I first came in, a large group was meeting at the community table, but they left just as I was thinking about starting a sketch from a stand-up table. I zipped in and grabbed a seat at the large table as soon as it opened. Luckily for me, the view I wanted was straight ahead: a bright red bread slicer behind rows and rows of croissants.

Yes, the Nutella-filled croissant I had was worth the trip up the hill. Worth the premium price I paid for it? I scarfed it down so fast that I didnt have time to ponder the price. 

And here’s one more thing I purchased there without much thought: A lovely wooden pencil box with a sliding top, filled with matte black pencils (stamped with silly coffee sayings). Alas, I’m a sucker for more than over-priced pastries.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How Many Ways Can a Sketch Go Bad?

12/11/17 Our Lady of the Lake Church, Wedgwood 
I drive through the Wedgwood neighborhood frequently because I run a lot of errands in that direction, so not much is new to me there. That’s why I was delightfully surprised to turn a corner and spot an unusual steeple I’d never seen before. Contemporary in design, it houses three bells that are exposed on four sides and all the way through. I pulled over for a sketch of Our Lady of the Lake Church.

Drawing the steeple was challenging but fun, and the utility pole and traffic signs in the foreground were straightforward. So far, so good. I wanted to show that you could see all the way through the steeple, so painting the sky in the background would be important (and I always like to show when the sky is bright blue, since it so often isn’t).

That’s when everything started going downhill. As I usually do, I first spritzed the upper half of the page with water – except that I hadn’t given the Platinum Carbon Black ink enough time to dry. I moved quickly into damage-control mode, trying to dab up the ink where it had bled. Meanwhile, I didn’t think about spraying the area inside the steeple that I had wanted to emphasize, so when I hit it with blue water-soluble colored pencil, the color was more intense than the rest of the sky, and I lost the see-through look I was going for.

Annoyed with all of that, I moved on to the utility pole in the foreground. It was almost completely in the shade but had some interesting spots of light on it that I hadn’t finished deciding whether to show or not. The light spots weren’t important to my composition, and might even be distracting . . . while I continued to think about that, I decided that the sky was dry, so I went in with my fountain pen again to draw the power lines – only to find that the paper, in fact, wasn’t quite dry. The nib scudded and skipped across the page.

More and more dismayed, I half-heartedly scribbled in some foliage, lost motivation to work on the utility pole (and forgot that I hadn’t made up my mind about the shading, either), and called it good. Or bad. 

In any case, I still think Our Lady of the Lake’s steeple is worthy of a better sketch, so I’ll go back again sometime.
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