A little (color) goes a long way

I love color. I also like the challenge of fitting in a sketch in whatever time I have available and that can be at odds with a full-color sketch. Sometimes I’ll use a simplified approach to color that gives the effect of a full-color sketch but is much quicker to execute.

This sketch is from Tom’s Burnt Down Cafe on Madeline Island in Wisconsin: a monotone sketch with just a wee bit of colored accents added in with crayon.

And the sketch below is on a page I had pre-colored in my sketchbook with no idea of what I would sketch over it. (But it being a blazing hot summer day, I used colors to cue it) The sketch is in pen and pencil with colored pencils accents in select areas to highlight the chilis and tomatoes.

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If you love the idea of drawing people but aren’t confident about sketching them. Or if you’d love for the people in your sketches to look less wooden, you might want to sign up for my 4-week online class “People Alive! Sketches Full of Life” which starts in November.

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Continuous Line Drawing? Or Not?

One of the most common questions I get asked (besides “What pen is that?”) is “Do you draw in/recommend continuous line drawing?”

The simple answer is yes: I draw using it, and it’s great fun. But I don’t draw exclusively in it. In fact, most of my drawings aren’t technically continuous line drawing. I just don’t lift my pen off the page too much unless I feel the need to. Here are three drawings made back-to-back at Crema Coffee on the Alameda in San Jose, and the tools they are drawn with.

This is the first one of the morning. It’s a bit awkward, a warm-up drawing.

Fude, Brushpen, graphite pencil and colored pencil

With this next one, I wanted to slow down and take my time, so I switched to a pen that I am less familiar with, a single-width pen, the Derwent Line Maker.

And then there’s drawing three of the morning, made quickly before I left. Perhaps it was that I had had two coffees already. Or, that I had only a few minutes left before I had to leave. Or maybe I just needed a change of pace. I switched back to my favorite pen, the Sailor Fude pen, and did some continuous line drawings.

This is the only one of the three that is deliberately continuous line drawing. I guess you can call what I usually do contour drawing? Or maybe just drawing because labels really don’t matter. And nor does technique, really.

To me, continuous line drawing is one of many techniques and a fun exercise that can do many things: help you loosen up, draw quickly, and see connections and relationships. But when I’m drawing it isn’t about technique, it’s about capturing a feeling, a place, a person, a story…and technique and medium just help me get there.

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If you love the idea of drawing people but aren’t confident about sketching them. Or you’d love to try different techniques for drawing people, you might want to sign up for my 4-week online class “People Alive! Sketches Full of Life” which starts in November.

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Faces of Recovery: Donald Ray Wallace

“Faces of Recovery” is an ongoing project with members of Recovery Cafe, San Jose.  

Meet Donald Ray Wallace, a man who reminds himself every day that he alone chooses the path he takes. 

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You can read every story recorded so far here. You can read more about and support the amazing work of Recovery Cafe San Jose here.

Posted in Activism, california, Close to home, Faces Of Recovery, people, Portrait, reportage | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Keeping it simple

Lately I’ve been keeping it simple, taking only the bare minimum of tools with me when I go sketching. It’s freeing to do this, and I’m seeing myself pull out my sketchbook more often for a quick sketch.

This spread is drawn with my Sailor Fude pen and a blue ball point pen. Sire, I could sketch with just one tool. But I tend to enjoy the contrast and color/value variety of two.

This spread of little observations was made at the airport using a fude pen and graphite pencil. Since the pencil happened to be water soluble, I mushed up some of the strokes with a waterbrush.

The sketch below is as minimalist in its use of media: still, a few colored pencils and a pen are all it took.

I find a minimalistic approach particularly useful when I am out drawing people in public: a small sketch kit is one way to be more nimble, less self-conscious, and less conspicuous. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you love the idea of drawing people but aren’t confident about sketching them. Or if you’d love for the people in your sketches to look less wooden, you might want to sign up for my 4-week online class “People Alive! Sketches Full of Life” which starts in November.

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Sketches from Madeline Island: Sketching People

This is post #4 in a series of posts from Madeline Island where I taught a workshop with Maru Godas and Santi Salles.

On day 4 of our workshop, all three instructors taught a short Masterclass: Maru focussed on monochromatic media for landscapes, Santi on food sketching and I did a session on people drawing. I’ll admit to being skeptical about teaching a short ((just an hour!) masterclass: How much of a change would it make to the participant’s confidence and ability to draw people?

I’m happy to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely sketches the group turned out within the hour!

We got to take those skills on location the next day when we sketched in the town of Bayfield with summer tourists milling around town.

And an ice cream place that was doing brisk business.

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If you love the idea of drawing people but aren’t confident about sketching them. Or if you’d love for the people in your sketches to look less wooden, you might want to sign up for my 4-week online class “People Alive! Sketches Full of Life” which starts in November.

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Sketches from Madeline Island: Museum Vignettes

This is post #3 in a series of posts from Madeline Island where I taught a wonderful workshop with Maru Godas and Santi Salles. My group drew at the museum in the afternoons. Each group created a spread or an accordion fold of vignettes that “collected” a story of the museum. It was fun to see the range of objects and views that struck different participants, even when we all sketched at one small museum.

I started my accordion fold with a little sketch of the museum building but soon filled it up with lots of objects and stories that caught my interest.

The next day, I looked at the museum afresh and did this set of sketches across a sketchbook spread, mixing in museum stamps and new objects that fascinated me.

Here’s a small selection of the array of pieces the participants produced that day.

You can see I was clearly inspired by them on day 3 when I sketched the collection below.. That’s the bit I love most about teaching. Pushing each other to do new things and being inspired goes both ways.

Here are some more lovely pieces from my class participants, each collecting a page of memories of this gem of a museum.

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Sketches from Madeline Island: Barns

This is the second in a series of posts from Madeline Island where I taught a wonderful workshop with Maru Godas and Santi Salles. These sketches were done on campus as demos in my workshop. And this location? Right outside my front door, the view I woke up to every morning!

We sketched the view before us s vignettes as an exercise in my workshop. One day I did the sketch above and the next day I decided to go for a panoramic view. At 14×17 inches, it was a big piece and a fun one to work on.

This next piece is on the opposite side of the size scale: a postcard created as part of an exchange all the participants did during the week.

More from that workshop coming up tomorrow.

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Sketches from Madeline Island

The next few posts are from a wonderful workshop I taught with Maru Godas and Santi Salles at Madeline Island in Wisconsin. These first two sketches are from a day of scouting for locations. We visited many sites and then each picked one each, making sure we covered different aspects of the island. This gorgeous location, at Big Bay Town Park, we all agreed, was best suited for what Maru was teaching. But it was such a beautiful spot, I am glad we stopped long enough to sketch that day.

One of the most wonderful things about sketching together at a location is seeing the range of expression and different captures of the same place through different eyes. Here are my two takes alongside Maru and Santi’s pieces.

It was just the start of what was to be a busy and super inspiring week in a gorgeous location. The next few posts will cover more from that workshop.

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A Plethora of People (Part 2)

More people, this time drawn from reference photos as Zainab and I prepare for our big workshop in India in Jan 2023. (and the three Zoom sessions we will teach to prepare participants for the adventure.)

It’s always nice to have a few ways to approach a subject: when drawing on location, you never know which method will work best for you: a single tool approach for super quick action, a more shape-based and full-color approach another time… Might as well practice them all, right?

That workshop is now totally full and we’re starting to plan the next one already. If you’d like to hear about that one, sign up for my newsletter, where I announce all workshops first!

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A Plethora of People (Part 1)

A subset of the little sketches that have appeared in my books over the last few weeks. This first one while my son had a haircut (finally!) a couple of weeks before school began.

And this one, on the last peaceful weekend before the school year. I had a lazy day. This kid was working, I think.

Minimal tool sketch at Starbucks: One pen, one graphite pencil, and one green colored pencil.

And a summertime fruit sketch at my local farmers’ market.

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I’m off to teach at an Urban Sketching Summer Camp next week with Spanish sketchers Santi and Maru at Madeline Island in Wisconsin. I know some of you are joining us there. I’m excited… See you soon!

Posted in california, people, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments