Swim Meet Sketches

Swim Meet Sketches. Funnily, for someone who loves to stand in the middle of a busy street and sketch, I don’t enjoy being at large organized events with a lot of people: big weddings, huge parties, swim meets… Sketching makes it easier to be there – I get to stand back and observe, and draw. Which is always fun.

This sketch is me observing the observers: This is the Announcer’s Booth. Standing in front of the announcer , who watches every race very closely is the guy who blows the whistle for the start of the race. And next to him is the photographer. And then there are all the families gathered around the pool. All watching the action in the pool.swim_meet2

This is the tent where the Clerk-of-the-Course stands. The scene is always chaotic, with swimmers checking in and lining up for their races. It’s interesting to watch a  bunch of people forced to be in close proximity: some chat, some clown around and some stand aloof in the middle of all the chaos.swim_meet1

Here are sketches from a different week of swim meet. Much less time to sketch this week, and much quicker sketches. Starting in brushpen is my favorite very-fast way to sketch. With a super-short sketch, I never know how long I’ll have, so brushpen does the essential capture of the first gesture, and then I layer on other media depending on how long I have. Graphite pencil, watercolor, crayon and colored pencil all make their work into these pieces.


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Packing for Manchester

Packing for my trip to Manchester, and for my workshop  People and Places: Life in Contrast at 7th Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester.

I’m keeping my sketch kit simple, but adding in some extra stuff for my workshop.


My standard supplies:
Pens: An assortment of fountain pens  and brush pens, ( 2 Sailor Bent Nib, Lamy Safari and Pentel Brush pen) filled with DeAtramentis Document Ink.

Watercolors: I’m using a metal palette with the original clips removed and an assortment of halfpans and fullpans that I will refill with tubes I carry. And a little Nalgene container stuck on with a magnet.  Pans stuck down in that palette with Blu-Tack.

Brushes: A couple of brushes from Rosemary & Co: a small mop and a dagger brush. I may add another wide, flat brush to the mix…

Sketchbooks: I always carry the largest sized Stillman & Birn Beta book, but I’ve added a smaller Alpha and Delta book and a Strathmore Toned Tan paper book. Yes, I totally overdo it with how many sketchbooks I carry, and they weigh a ton.

Other supplies: The biggest difference to my kit is how many pencils I’m taking along: graphite pencils, a set of colored pencils, my two-sided red-blue pencil, and a rainbow pencil.

A lot of my workshop is about building little vignettes with both people and places, using a mix of different media, and it’s a great time work with materials that are easy and fun to use. Besides, it may be rainy in Manchester and there’s only so much patience I have with non-drying watercolor on a rainy day!

If you are taking my workshop, you don’t have to have all these supplies.
Here’s what would be great to bring along:
– a cheap paper sketchbook in which you can use a lot of pages to do gestural sketches
– a bigger book with nicer paper for a larger composition
– a brush pen for gestural drawing.
– other media that you can experiment with mixing in. Keep them easy and portable. I’m bringing colored pencils, pens, and watercolors.
– Keep your kit LIGHT. If it rains, we might stand/huddle someplace and sketch!
– Bring a waterproof jacket/poncho: it’s hard to sketch when holding an umbrella

If you aren’t coming to Manchester, I’ll be posting a workshop review and a downloadable version of the handout you see in the photo here when I get back in early August.

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Catch ’em before they’re gone

I’ve sketched the Burbank Theater before, but every time I drive past it I want to sketch it again, because it will be gone one day, very soon: you can see it in the boarded up windows and the dilapidated marquee. It still looks lovely, especially in the evening light.


Another fun little sign from not too far away: This backwards-Z shaped sign for The Bears, a dive bar and cocktail lounge on West San Carlos Street. vintage_thebears

And finally, from that same evening of sketching, a very quick sunset sketch of The Western Appliance sign.

The more beautiful the light, the more fleeting it is, and by the time I was halfway through this sketch I was painting in the dark.

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Red, White and Blue

There’s nothing particularly Fourth of July about these sketches, but they’re too perfectly color-themed to not be posted this weekend.

I can’t say I know what this pencil was originally designed for, but I’ve seen it reviewed as a pencil used by carpenters, engineers and dentists. Go figure. What I do know is that it is lovely to draw with, and I’m having a lot of fun with it.KN-redblue

Limited colors and fun tools have been the theme of what I’ve been working with for a while now. I plan to take a bunch of these and my rainbow pencils along for my workshop in Manchester this summer.

Here’s another red-blue pencil sketch. I drew in the basic figure and shadows with a soft graphite pencil to begin with. That left me free to play with the pattern of the dress with my new pencil. The nice thing about working that first step quickly is that if my ‘model’ were to leave, I’d still have a meaningful sketch. The longer she stays the more I can build on my basic graphite sketch. The red-blue pencil was followed up with some pen and then a white colored pencil.



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More from Yerba Buena Gardens

More from my afternoon at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. (These are sketches from earlier that same day)

Some serious chess games happening in the park this afternoon.


And to end the afternoon, a sketch from the top of the gardens by Samovar Tea Lounge, looking across at the SF MOMA building.
And a quick little study of shapes to end the afternoon.



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St. Patrick’s Church, San Francisco

St. Patricks’s Church looks tiny compared to the skyscrapers that surround it in San Francisco. But it sure stands out. These sketches are all from an unusually warm afternoon in Yerba Buena Park. Lunchtime on the grass seemed perfect.


Followed by post-lunch naps on the grass.Sometimes I’ll draw the same scene over and over. Usually, it means I’m trying to solve a visual problem that came up in sketch#1. Sometimes sketch #2 gets closer, sometimes not. Here I thought sketch #1 didn’t convey well enough that the church isn’t set against the sky but is surrounded by skyscrapers. I wanted to convey that but without bringing too much focus to the skyscrapers…


Looking back at these, I am not sure #2 quite gets there, but maybe it’s a step in the right direction?


And these are my fellow post-lunch-lawn-loungers.

More from Yerba Buena gardens in my next post.


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Rainbow Pencils

I’ve always been fascinated by those rainbow colored pencils that some artists use so beautifully, ( Do you know Lynne Chapman‘s work? She uses them a lot) but I never seem to find a pencil that works for me: most of them are hard and I really like a soft pencil. But I finally found one that works for me: This 7-colored pencil is a Japanese brand called Camel and it is a joy to use (although halfway through a sketch, I need to resharpen it because it is so soft and creamy and I tend to press on it pretty hard)

So these construction workers got sketched in Rainbow pencil and black Creatacolor pencil.construction

And then I turned my attention to this group of ladies at an outdoor cafe and I got plain lucky. When I started drawing the seated woman with her back to me, I thought I was doing yet another cafe sketch, and then the lady who is standing in the sketch arrived and the lady in the sunglasses got really excited to see her, which was fun to capture. Capturing those fleeting moments is a combination of just pure luck and always being ready for them to happen. I sketched the figures with the blue end of my duo-colored pencil and the umbrellas, tables and chairs with the red end. All darks here are a soft graphite pencil and then there’s a bit of that rainbow pencil, for good measure.

Changing up a sketching tool once in a while keeps sketching fresh for me, even when I’m sketching the same subjects over and over. Do you do that? Have you tried a new tool lately?


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