Sunday, December 10, 2017

Touch and Go

12/6/17 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Let me tell you: This was a high-risk situation. I could see the workers inside the building they were working on, and I could tell that they were on their lunch break. Every now and then one man or another would come out to use the porta-potty, so their break could end at any moment, and the excavator could move. I sketched furiously. Well trained as I am for touch-and-go operations like this one, I got in and got out, sketch intact. Whew. After that, I had to go home and take a nap.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Friday Anniversary at Gingerbread Village

12/8/17 With an emphasis on Seattle's waterfront, this exhibit includes the Big Wheel and an octopus.

Six years ago this month, five urban sketchers wanted to sketch the Sheraton’s annual Gingerbread Village exhibit, but we knew weekends would be mobbed, so we decided to have an ad hoc outing on a Friday. That was the first of what became the bimonthly ad hoc Friday USk meetups, and the group has been growing ever since. To celebrate our anniversary, we met at the event that initially inspired us: Gingerbread Village.

Kathleen sketches the exhibit featuring Ballard.
For this annual fundraiser, Seattle’s major architectural firms team up with local chefs to design elaborate, theme-based dioramas made of cookies and candies (voluntary donations to the event somewhat ironically benefit type 1 diabetes research). Now in its 25th year, Gingerbread Village moved from the Sheraton to US Bank City Centre – a much better venue. Instead of displaying the exhibits all in one row, the confectionary creations were spread throughout City Centre’s main floor, dispersing the crowds into small clusters instead of a single line, which made the displays easier to see (and sketch).

Although I had a better view, I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed. Unlike previous years that had strong visual themes like Harry Potter, Star Wars (my favorite), Christmas carols, sailing ships, and fairytale castles, this year’s theme was less defined: “25 Years of Cheer: A Celebration of Seattle.” Each exhibit focused on a geographic area of Seattle and included images of the nostalgic past or the imagined future. The most visually fun was a fat sailor riding an orca in an homage to Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage. While colorful and sometimes kinetic, most of the exhibits left me scratching my head as I tried to understand the theme’s interpretation.

I went up to the second floor to sketch this rotating
exhibit of downtown, including the Smith Tower.

Regardless, I enjoy sketching this event not so much for the elaborate sweet creations as for the people of all ages who come to see them. Although I had space to step up close to the exhibits, I decided to hang back as I usually do and focus on the viewers. 

Ummm. . . a Norwegian sailor in Salmon Bay?
A future Seattle waterfront.

Throwdown from a great turnout of Friday sketchers!
Rotating city!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Rock of Ages

12/5/17 Rock of Ages Lutheran Brethren Church, Phinney Ridge

As usual for this time of year, I make most of my urban sketches from my warm and comfy “mobile studio.” While it keeps me sheltered, views and compositions are limited to (mostly) legal parking places. On this sunny but chilly day, a street in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood offered a rare elevation view of a building. And not just any building: The Rock of Ages Lutheran Brethren Church had stained-glass windows, interesting shadows and a power pole right in front. I could hardly ask for more.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sun Break

12/4/17 Green Lake neighborhood
In my urban couches series, I’m usually fairly strict about sticking with the theme – no tables, no bookcases, certainly no mattresses. But when the sun finally broke through the thick fog the other day, I got so excited that I went crazy for a moment. And it’s a good thing I didn’t dawdle, because as soon as I finished sketching, a woman drove up, checked the chair out carefully (even sat in it for a few seconds to evaluate the cushion), and then took it home.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

To the Bone

12/4/17 Wedgwood neighborhood
It was foggy all morning with temps in the high 30s. It’s the kind of damp cold that reaches deep into my bones.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Jammin’, Part 2: Unwitting Models

12/2/17 Drawing Jam participants

Instructor giving a demo.
I had so much fun at Drawing Jam sketching the excellent models that I didn’t spend as much time looking for unwitting models – the other participants, instructors giving demos, musicians, and other live entertainment in every studio. But sometimes when I finished a drawing early and didn’t want to keep picking at it until the model’s time was up, I’d draw the other participants instead. 

Once I had an ideal situation: An instructor was giving a demo of portrait painting just behind me. Whenever the models took their five-minute breaks, I would turn my chair around to sketch the instructor. When the models were back, I’d turn back around again. I sketched the instructor a few minutes at a time over the course of an hour, and his pose was nearly as motionless as the models’!

Boots to the Moon performing for Jam participants.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Jammin’, Part 1: Models

12/2/17 Awkward foreshortened pose!

I probably say this every year, but Drawing Jam just keeps getting better and better! The annual all-day drawing festival sponsored by Gage Academy is something I look forward to all year (this was my sixth consecutive year participating). With nude and costumed models, demos by Gage instructors, live music, busts and still life arrangements, self-portrait stations and plenty of art exhibits by students and faculty, it’s the most fun a sketcher can have on a cold and rainy December day.

I spent most of my day at Skinner Auditorium sketching costumed models. Although I missed the Seattle Seafair Pirates and Comic Book Characters for a Cause who have modeled in previous years, this year we were treated to four drag queens instead! Fantastic dancers, they took turns performing for us while the others posed. 

The rest of the time, Gage’s usual lineup of stellar models posed two at a time on a platform, which made it easy for the large crowd to see one or the other from anywhere in the room.

Shown here are sketches of the program models (mostly 15-to-20-minute poses); tomorrow I’ll show sketches of the unwitting models.

Technical notes: I’m still thinking about minimalism and my personal challenge to slim down my kit again. As I was leaving for Drawing Jam, instead of my usual DIY sketchbook, I grabbed my tan Stillman & Birn Nova, which I knew would be a nice, warm color for life drawing. It wasn’t a true test of minimalism because I still had my usual full assortment of materials with me, but I consciously kept my choices narrow. At the end of the day, I reviewed what I had used: my Sailor fude fountain pen; a double-sided Akashiya brush pen containing water-soluble inks (black on one end; gray on the other – more about this handy pen sometime soon); a waterbrush; one graphite pencil; one water-soluble graphite pencil; one white colored pencil; one red water-soluble pencil. One sketchbook and seven tools – not bad for a full day of sketching. I think something like that easily could be my minimal sketch kit in January when I put myself to the full challenge. 

It’s been so long since I’ve done regular life drawing (either formally or while urban sketching) that I’d forgotten how much I like S&B’s paper sizing and texture (Alpha, Beta and now Nova) with a simple ink wash. That’s still one of my favorite ways of achieving soft shading on people’s faces.

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