Where’s the color?

If you’ve seen my sketches before, you know I love color. But lately, I’ve been deliberately putting aside color every once in a while. I’m hoping it’ll help me focus more on value, something that often gets lost in my play with color.  (For a great exploration of value in sketches, I highly recommend Matthem Brehm’s book ‘Sketching on Location‘. )

Here are some of my recent sketches.

At the mechanic’s, waiting for my car.

Bananas in Noodler’s Bulletproof Ink.
inktober_bananasMy kids, reading ‘Captain Underpants’.
Rodin’s ‘Thinker’ at the Cantor Museum, Stanford.
Natural Bridges Beach,Santa Cruz, California. Ink and Brush.
natural7I’ve even tried doing a ‘value study’ before diving into a color sketch-except I don’t seem to use the first study when I dive into my color palette.
Palm trees and Mount Umunhum.


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A few quick sketches at Runnymede Sculpture Farm

Isn’t it amazing how you can live someplace for years and not know of incredible places right in your backyard? I discovered one of those a couple of weeks ago in Runnymede Sculpture Farm when Cathy McAuliffe  invited the local sketchers group to sketch.

I couldn’t stay long, but managed a few quick sketches while I was there. Runnymede is acre after acre of oak-covered rolling hills covered in outdoor sculptures by famous artists.

These are Celeste Roberge’s Rising Cairn and beyond it, Walking Cairn, both made from stone encased in wire.runnymede1

Charles Ginnever’s Kitsune, a large piece in steel set at the edge of a hill.runnymede2Kitsune again, with David Anderson’s Turbine in the foreground.
runnymede3And this is Hana and Jan Exnar’s – you guessed it- Horse, looking out towards my favorite sculpture from that daya majestic Mark di Suvero piece called Symbiosis.runnymede4

I had to sketch the Symbiosis next, it is really a majestic piece. I often get asked if I do line first or color, and until recently my answer was always “line first, then color” but I’ve been trying to vary my approach and go in with color first when I can. It helps me see masses before contours and gives me a chance to decide how much linework the final piece requires.

This was a pretty fast sketch- about 10 minutes- but I took some photographs while I did it, so here it is.
1: A photograph of the piece
2: I started by ‘building’ the piece in shades of orange: from deep orange red to egg yolk orange .
3: I did debate painting in a sky versus not, but I couldn’t resist playing the orange against the blue, so in went some sky: for contrast, and to carve out some of those inside spaces.
4: Line next to add dimension and depth to the beams on the structure.
5: Foliage to help define the horizon and unify the barn and the sculpture. And a wee bit of color on the sculpture itself to deepen the shadows on it.


I didn’t make it around even an acre of Runnymede and from looking at the map, I’m guessing the Farm is about a hundred acres. It would be wonderful to go back there again, to wander around and to sketch. Many thanks to Cathy and her friend Sam Perry, an artist and conservator at Runnymede, for making this trip possible.

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One last post from Brazil

One last post from Brazil. This one’s a little bit of a hodge-podge. Remembered bits and pieces, single-image memories, one long, sketch-filled day in the Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio and well, more bits and pieces…

Coming to Rio after a week in quiet Paraty is like taking the 6 train to Canal Street and getting spat out of the subway into the madness that is Chinatown. Rio was chaotic, frenzied and disorienting. I loved it.

This is the Church of Our Lady of the Candelaria, Centro, Rio. Sketched barely an hour after we arrived in Rio. The wobbly-lined, slightly crazy looking church sketch reflects how it felt to be in the city center after a week in Paraty.
Even crazier (if that is possible) was the Confeiteria Colombo, a pastry and tea shop near Centro. Packed with people, with an intricately patterned tiled floor and over-the-top architectural detailing, a wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors and liveried waiters. Oh, and with a million choices of pastries and cakes. Here we are, a table full of sketchers supposedly eating. I have to be super tired to sketch like I did, with the wire binding of my book on right (wrong?) side of the page.
tea_cake4Copacabana Beach. Big beaches with white sand have never held my attention much, so after a quick beach sketch, I sketched the sidewalk along the beach with it’s lovely wave-patterned mosaic.

The next day was spent around the neighborhood of Santa Barbara. We started by climbing the Escadaria Selarón, created by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón. They are a riot of color, and crazily difficult to draw because all that color flattens every sketch out into an abstract collage-like mess.

So after one attempt at the steps, I turned around and sketched the view looking down from the steps.ST_stepscombine

Climbing up to Santa Teresa, we paused to draw a view of the favelas spilling down the hillside with Sugarloaf mountain in the background.
ST_favella1Santa Teresa is a neighborhood packed with beautifully decrepit buildings on sloping streets. I drew a few over the course of the afternoon.
ST_hoes-combineA little sketch next, this one of the public phones around Rio. Funny shaped things in pairs around the city, designed to stick your head into and stand under while you use the phone.
rio_telephoneMore sketches, this time from a market I’ve forgotten the name to. These women held up signs saying “We buy Gold”: Old gold ornaments, family treasures to be resold or melted down.
More sketches near the market. More charmingly decrepit buildings.
rio_marketcombineAnd one last sketch of the beach, from my last afternoon in Rio. It was windy and the beach was almost deserted. I did a little sketch, but mostly I watched Stephanie Bower capture this vista so effortlessly in her moleskine sketchbook.
rio_beachTime to go home. Goodbye Rio. Goodbye Brazil. What a trip it was!

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Never Fear the People: A Workshop in Paraty (and a free download)

Teaching at the 5th Urban Sketchers Symposium in Paraty, Brazil was an incredible experience. The diverse mix of attendees, their shared passion for urban sketching, and a beautiful city made for a dream mix. Add in some rain, trekking across the cobblestones of Paraty, and standing right in the middle of Chafariz Square to capture it’s energy, and it felt like an adventure.

We started each workshop by drawing quick, almost-blind-contour sketches of “easy” (read “not moving”) people. We kept them loose and fluid, and didn’t sweat the details (or the proportions). It was all gesture and quick capture. Next, we moved into what was the most challenging segment of the workshop: drawing people on the move. To make it easier to capture the repeated motion of a person walking, we positioned ourselves in the middle of one of Paraty’s narrow roads, where we could observe crowds moving up and down the street.

It takes quite a bit of focus to look at and draw movement as it happens, to capture weight and posture and where each limb is in relationship to the others. And then, to keep it loose and moving! But you can see from the sketches below that we ended up with some really encouraging results.  paraty_worshop_day2participantsketchespart1

At this point, everyone got a break (drawing moving people is tiring!) while I did a demo sketch and talked through my thoughts on capturing people, place, light and color.
Here are some of a couple of my demo sketches.

For one final sketch everyone chose a spot from which to capture Chafariz Square: the place, it’s people and it’s sense of activity. Here are some engrossed sketchers, their sketches and some group shots .




And for those of you who asked for a copy of my workshop handout, here it is. Click here on the image below to go to dropbox and download it. (Wondering about the strange layout? You’ll need to print it double sided and fold it down the middle for it to make sense!)

click-to-downloadA big thank you: to all the participants who made this possible, to Urban Sketchers for the incredible opportunity. And to all those that gave me valuable feedback both before and after the workshop. I learnt so much from the experience!


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Paraty’s churches

Paraty is a little town, with only a handful of churches. Here are 4 I sketched over my stay. The Santa Rita church, the oldest one in the city. Drawings buildings is fun, but add in a scaffolding and a guy wheeling a barrow into the picture, and the scene really comes alive.


The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Benedict, a simpler, more rustic church. Made even simpler in my sketch because I ‘forgot’ to sketch in 2 big windows that are such an integral part of the facade. Still, I like the capture of the watery light that morning in this sketch.
Seen the the middle of my sketch: guy taking selfie in front of the church. I find myself sketching this selfie-taking pose more and more these days.


Probably the largest and grandest of Paraty’s churches is Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Remédios on Matriz Square. Sketched during the big sketchcrawl at the end of the symposium. Which means it was sketched quickly (so many people to chat with and say goodbye to) and in the fading light.paraty_church

And finally, the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows. Sketched from across the river, early one morning with this group. I loved those early morning sketch sessions.
paraty-across_waterMore sketches from Brazil coming soon. Or, all of them , as I post them, here on flickr.

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Paraty by the Sea

In Paraty, you never forget you are by the sea. There are, of course, the colorful fishing boats (which I  sketched a lot ). And then there is this fascinating flooding of the city. Paraty was designed so that the streets are flooded by the high tide when there is a full moon. Every month, for just a few hours, these floods turn the cobbled streets into reflecting pools that are great fun to sketch.

Here are my sketches from one afternoon’s flood.paraty_wet-street4
paraty_wet-street3And here are some photographs of the tide coming in through openings in the seawalls and of sketchers at work, capturing the phenomenon. We’ sketchers are a dedicated bunch, aren’t we?


This sketch was made as the water retreated, leaving little puddles for this boy to play in with his make-believe fishing rod.paraty_wet-street2My other tryst with the sea was on a boat excursion to the little islands that dot Paraty Bay. It was so relaxing to fill in a page with notes and tiny sketches while we cruised: no large image to capture before it was gone, and a page full of little notes and memories I would have lost if I hadn’t sketched… I really need to do more of these pages.

More sketches from the boat and from an island we docked at for lunch.paraty_islandday2


paraty_islandday4Still more from Paraty coming up soon. And all my sketches form Brazil, as I upload them, here on flickr.

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The streets of Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The streets in the historic part of Paraty are narrow, roughly cobbled and lined with whitewashed houses on both sides. The uniform white of these houses is broken by their colorful doors and windows and terracotta roofs.
I sketched them over and over. Here are a few from my collection:

Pousada do Cais, where I stayed for my first couple of days in Paraty.

Just for the record, not ALL the buildings in Paraty had blue doors and windows with a yellow trim- for some strange reason, all the ones I sketched seem to have just that one color combination- like the one below.


And this one with local artisans selling colorful woven baskets and bows and arrows.

This next sketch has my only record of the dogs of Paraty. How could I not have captured more of them when they were everywhere? Our pousada had a collection of black dogs who slept right at the doorstep and were invisible in the dark. I think I stepped on one atleast a couple of times.paraty_street2Did I mention that I rarely sketched alone? One of the most amazing things about being at an Urban Sketchers Symposium is that you step out into the street and find it littered with sketchers all sitting around and drawing. Here are some I caught ‘in action’.

Paraty by night. Whitewashed buildings and inky skies. Sketched with friends and a caipirinha. Which might explain the crazy Paynes grey sky.


More on Paraty coming soon. Meanwhile, all my Brazil sketches, as I upload them, here on flickr.

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