In your sketch kit: Summer 2017

I’m finally packing my sketch bag for the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Chicago. And I’m going with my smallest sketchbag to date.

It’s a small Timbuk 2 Messenger, and I’ll carry just 2 sketchbooks: A large 9×12 wirebound Beta book and a smaller Epsilon book, both from Stillman & Birn. Then there’s brushes, my bag of supplies and my palette.


The toothbrush holder holds my single-most-used brush, the Rosemary & Co Sable-blend dagger brush. Most sketches, I just use this one brush.

Here’s what I settled on for my palette of colors…If you can’t read my chicken-scratch, that’s French Ultramarine next to Burnt Sienna, which makes my go-to neutrals. Cobalt Teal Blue, which seems like an odd color to have, but once you use it, you see it in everything. Especially in glass and steel surfaces. Cerulean Blue (red shade), a color I pulled out of my palette for a while so I’d try more blues, but I miss it, so it’s back. Indrathene blue, for dark neutral mixes. Phthalo Green, which I am determined to learn to use well ( it’s tough to keep it quiet when you work quick and mix your colors on the paper, but I’ve seen so many sketchers make gorgeous foliage colors with it. Quin Gold. Green Gold. The”?” is the one color I have no clue about: I just don’t know what it is, but it’s orange and transparent which will be useful since I love painting traffic cones and safety jackets. Permanent Crimson. Hansa Yellow Light. New Gamboge. Potter’s Pink. Raw Umber, Sepia, Bloodstone Genuine, and Carbazole Violet, another color I have to be careful not to overdo, but works beautifully in the shadows.

In other supplies: Some Blackwings, my favorite pencil, a sketch-and wash watersoluble pencil, a rainbow pencil, a Pentel brushpen and a waterbrush with grey ink, both for the gesture drawing demos I’ll do in my workshop. A few options for white: a white wax crayon to use quickly like resist, and a colored pencil for subtler stuff later in the process.  Art Graf is watersoluble graphite in a tin I sometimes use with a waterbrush for greyscale studies. An Escoda travel brush, 2 Sailor Bent Nib Pens, a toothbrush for splatter, a scraping tool for mark making, and finally an exacto knife because I love to sharpen pencils with it. The last two items will be in check-in luggage ( along with my ink bottle and syringe for refilling my pens). At the very bottom, a small eraser and some clips.

That’s my sketch kit. There will also be a scrunched-up sunhat, a bottle of water and all my class materials and handouts (pictured below) in that Timbuk2 bag.

See you in Chicago, maybe? I’ll post sketches when I’m back.


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Kauai: The ocean and the sky

One last Kauai post. Oceans and skies. So hard to capture, but such a great challenge. If you look at the early posts with sketches from Day 1, you’ll see a timid, pretty ocean. But its’ never like that in Kauai. The oceans are alive and ever-changing in color. The skies have rain clouds gathering, even on the sunniest days and the trees are always blowing in the trade winds.

Here are my many second-half-of-the-trip attempts at the beach and beach life. You can see more and more sand make it to the page as I work through the week.







Here’s what my palette looked like at the end of 6 days.

I’m switching many of those blues out for more neutrals to take this palette to Chicago next week. And I’m trying to get most of the sand out too.

Here are all the other Kauai posts:

Part 1: Kauai, First Impressions
Part 2: Kauai in black and white
Part 3: Kauai: the little stuff in between
Part 4: Kauai: Flora and Fauna

That’s it from Kauai. Mahalo!


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Kauai: Flora and Fauna

If I were to spend a week sketching in Hawaii by myself, you might see a beach sketch or two. But what you’d mostly see is vegetation. I love the way trees and plants seem to grow an inch a day here.

One of my favorite trees is the Monkey Pod Tree. Growing up in India I called this tree a Rain Tree. It grows many places, including in temperate climates like where I live in San Jose, California. But give it warm weather and it really grows large.

These Monstera plants grow anywhere. I think I need one in my home to make it feel a little more tropical.

This sketch of my kids at the cottage we rented, playing cards on the daybed is my favorite sketch from the trip. It really speaks to the lazy vacation we had. Loved that the view from the window was all-palms.

Beach sketches coming up in my next post, but this one kinda fits this post. Do you know what these trees are called? They have thick, oval leaves and I’ve seen them in other warm-climate beaches like in Costa Rica…This is Anini Beach on the North Shore of Kauai

Here are my Kauai posts so far:

Part 1: Kauai, First Impressions

Part 2: Kauai in black and white

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Kauai: the little stuff in between

Little sketches that don’t really fit any big themes.

People on vacation.  Lots of flowered dresses and plumeria, real and fake, tucked behind ears.

See those phone numbers at the bottom of the sketch above? They’re numbers for doctors. My daughter got sick. An ear infection.

Hula dancers at a Luau. Yes, totally touristy. But we knew that before we signed up to go.


And more chickens. I loved all the wild chickens on the island.

More Kauai sketches coming up tomorrow.

And here are the previous Kauai posts:

Part 1: Kauai, First Impressions

Part 2: Kauai in black and white

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Kauai in black and white

I wasn’t really happy with the color sketches I was making: it’s always hard to wrap my head around a new place, new landscape and a new color palette all at once. And while I  was drawing the places I was seeing my sketches just weren’t capturing the feel of being there.

So I switched to smaller black and white studies for a bit. These below are watersoluble graphite pencil in a small Stillman & Birn Epsilon book

And then back to color, but on a smaller scale. Below are studies in color from my 9×12 Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook. Normally I paint full-page but keeping it small helped me figure my way around this new landscape and color palette on a more manageable scale and as I worked some vitality back into my sketches…Because it’s not Hawaii if you can’t feel the trade winds blowing through the palm trees.

Still more Kauai sketches coming up soon, of course.

If you missed my very first Kauai post, it’s here.

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Kauai, first impressions

It’s been 17 years since I last visited Kauai, Hawaii. And it’s nice to see that not much has changed.

Here’s an ‘at the airport’ sketch at Oakland airport, where we boarded our flight to Kauai.

First impressions? I knew I’d love the mountains and cliffs, but I’d forgotten about the wild chickens that are everywhere: How could I? They never let me forget them through the rest of the trip.

They did have competition, sometimes. From the nēnē or Hawaiian geese. Unlike our local loud, honking Canada Geese, these geese had a really gentle, almost polite call, and they came and inspected my sketchbook one day. I tried grabbing a second sketchbook and doing a quick capture… All I got was this one tagged goose, then they left…

This was the most laid-back vacationing I’ve done in a long time. No real plan for the day, lost of time to sit around and chat, collect plumeria.

Eat shave ice…( After a pretty tough hike along the Na Pali coast on  a super-hot day)

And then maybe swim a bit…

The most challenging bit of sketching in Kauai was the color: those skies, those seas: such unreal color, it was a struggle to do it all justice. This is one of my first sketches, and I thought it to be way too quiet and subdued a capture of the place and the vegetation.

My first response was to go looser and let the colors mix and do their own thing. This is the view from the first place we stayed in, on the north shore. It was a steep drop down from the cliffs where we were to the reef below.

More from Kauai coming up soon.

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Capturing Elusive gestures

More workshop prep for Chicago! Besides working on gestural people sketching, this time my workshop will focus on techniques and tactics for capturing more elusive gestures and postures to better tell a story.

Why just capture two women at a cafe table when you can capture one glugging down her water on a hot day? Makes a far better picture-story, doesn’t it?

Or that moment someone steps out to empty the trash? Sketch it, and don’t worry too much about exact proportions!

Even more detailed scenes benefit from more definitive action-captures. Like the man on the right, pouring himself a coffee at Big Basin Cafe in Saratoga, California.

Drawing from life is something I try to do atleast once a week. It’s not hard to see how this study relates to quick capture in urban sketching.

Lots of workshop prep going on. Some notes and tools below.

I’ll post the sketch kit I’m packing closer to the symposium. And, as always, I’ll post a link to my handout that you can download after the symposium is over.

But for right now, I’m going to take a few days off with my family and chill. Sketches from that trip coming up soon, of course.


Posted in Close to home, Everyday Sketches, Figure Drawing, How to, people, Silicon Valley, Summer, teaching, Workshop | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments