Friday, February 27, 2015

Terrific Music and Foreshortened Limbs at Wintergrass

2/27/15 Diamine Sargasso Sea, Canson XL
140 lb. paper
While sketching most of the day at Wintergrass, the annual multi-day bluegrass festival, I discovered a particular challenge of sketching jammin’ musicians: all those foreshortened limbs! But I love bluegrass, and there’s nothing more fun on a drizzly winter day than sketching to terrific music in a comfortable indoor venue. Last year, it was one of my favorite Friday ad hoc Urban Sketchers outings, and this year was even better.

In addition to scheduled concerts and lots of impromptu jamming, the festival offers lots of booths where vendors are selling various stringed instruments, including some lovely mandolins I sketched. Shoppers were encouraged to sit and try out instruments, and thankfully those players were slightly slower-moving sketching targets than jammers.

After sharing our sketchbooks, most of us took a break for lunch, and then Natalie and I stayed for more sketching in the afternoon. It’s a good thing we did, because we bumped into Michele, who couldn’t come in the morning. Since a group of three sketchers constitutes a sketchcrawl, we took a selfie.

2/27/15 Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, Caran d'Ache Museum pencils
2/27/15 Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, Caran d'Ache Museum pencils
2/27/15 Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, Museum pencil
2/27/15 Diamine Sargasso Sea and Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun inks, Museum pencils
2/27/15 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Museum pencil
2/27/15 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink,
Museum pencil
2/27/15 Diamine Sargasso Sea and Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun inks,
Museum pencil
Natalie, Tina and Michele at the post-sketchcrawl mini-sketchcrawl.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two Blossoms

2/25/15 Diamine Sargasso Sea ink, Albrecht Durer colored
pencils, Baron Fig Apprentice notebook
Walking back to my car after a haircut, I passed two blossoming trees. One had brighter peachy-pink blossoms with cupped petals; the second had flatter, pale pink petals and dark reddish-brown leaves. I would have said the second was a cherry, but I always think of cherry petals as having a small, wedge-shaped cut on its outer edge. Perhaps it’s a different variety. I wanted to sketch a few more, but then it started raining again.

Yes, I did color these on location. Just like I always keep bright green and red markers in my bag during the holiday season (in case of an unexpected Santa sighting), I always keep a pink colored pencil in my bag as soon as I’ve spotted the first blossoming cherry. It never hurts to be prepared.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Side by Side

2/24/15 various inks, Caran d'Ache Museum
water-soluble colored pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Two trees side by side in Shoreline: one with the unfortunate “power line haircut,” the other full and proud. It just goes to show: It’s not who you know; it’s who you happen to be standing next to.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Top-Down Day

2/23/15 various inks, Kuretake brush pen, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
It’s not exactly what I would call “warm” out there (our thermometer reads 49 F), but the spotless blue sky – such a treat in these parts – called to me. I popped the top off my car, cranked up the heat and cruised over to the Wedgwood neighborhood. A bare tree, a couple of power poles, a few dark blue shadows in the street – it takes very little to make me happy on this otherwise ordinary February day.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Roastery Redux Plus Melrose Market

2/22/15 Diamine Chocolate Brown and Iroshizuku Tsukushi
inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencil,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
After biting off way more of a composition than I could chew the last time I sketched at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, today I took a smaller view. This time I think I managed to both chew and swallow – though barely.

In any case, it was an especially fun gathering of Urban Sketchers Seattle this morning with a huge turnout – at least 40 were counted! Sketchers were scattered all over the Roastery as well as on surrounding sidewalks. I didn’t have quite the fortitude to sketch outdoors like some brave souls, but I admire those who did.

After my sketch at the Roastery, I walked down the street to Melrose Market, a small collection of caf├ęs and retail shops housed in a cool old building. It, too, was filled with sketchers! I climbed the stairs to the upper level, and when I looked down over a railing, I got a bird’s-eye view of Bob sketching.

2/22/15 Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, Museum  pencils

Epic Pen Search and Discovery, Part 5: The L.A. Pen Show and

Eye candy galore at the L.A. Pen Show.
(This is part of a multi-post series about my ongoing search for the ultimate variable-line-width fountain pen. To read other posts in the series, choose “Epic Pen Search” in the label cloud at right, below.) 

Last weekend I was in L.A. visiting family, which I try to do at least once a year. But what a coincidence: The weekend I chose to visit just happened to be the same weekend as the annual Los Angeles International Pen Show! An uncanny coincidence, indeed. 

Held at the Manhattan Beach Marriott, the show was wall-to-wall (mostly fountain) pens, ink, paper and other stationery products as well as a variety of apparently peripherally related products such as pocket knives, cigar humidors and cuff links. (I’ve never figured out why fountain pens are such a male-dominated industry, but as a female in attendance, I was definitely in the minority.) Needless to say, fountain pen eye candy was everywhere! I have never seen so many gorgeous – and expensive – fountain pens at one time.

2/14/15 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Baron Fig
notebook (John Mottishaw autographed my sketch!)
My intention in attending the L.A. Pen Show, however, had nothing to do with shopping or ogling; I had a sole purpose: research! I was hell-bent on finding a vendor that carried unusual nibs, especially those made by Sailor, that would allow me to give those nibs a try. That vendor turned out to be Classic Fountain Pens, better known online as

Before visiting his booth, I had met proprietor and nibmeister John Mottishaw at his presentation, “Making a Nib Sing for You.” John talked about how he came to his 20-year career in fine-tuning fountain pen nibs and answered attendees’ questions about fixing troublesome nibs. In some cases, after hearing someone describe a problem, John would put on his super-magnifying eyewear or whip out a jeweler’s loupe to make a nib adjustment on the spot. His wit and sense of humor entertained us. Impressed with John’s knowledge and experience, I left the presentation with a higher regard for the craft in general.

John Mottishaw at his Classic Fountain Pens booth, where he made
adjustments to attendees' troublesome nibs.
The next day, after spending the first couple of hours blinded by the dazzle of all those pens, I finally stumbled upon Classic Fountain Pens’ booth, where I found what I came to L.A. for (other than my family, of course): offered a huge variety of pen nibs that attendees could try. In addition to most of Sailor’s exotic nibs, samples of John’s own custom nib variations (such as the famed Mottishaw Spencerian grind) were available to test.

At first I did what most other attendees did and simply made a few lines with the various pens. That was fun, but I’ve learned from experience that when it comes to looking for a drawing pen, scribbling and writing aren’t informative. I left for a lunch break, and when I came back, I brought along my sketchbook and a photo of a leopard that I had torn out of a magazine. (Although I hadn’t the forethought to bring along an appropriate photo to sketch from, the one I happened to find turned out to be a useful choice: The leopard’s eyes and markings were a good place to test a nib’s broad strokes, while its whiskers tested fine strokes.)

This time, with the staff’s encouraging permission and informative answers to my questions, I sat at’s booth for more than an hour making small sketches with each Sailor nib as well as some of the Mottishaw custom grinds. These nib tests were not only fun; they were immensely illuminating (see all samples at the bottom of this post).

I’d seen (in videos) and read so much about Sailor’s many specialty nibs that I had come to form opinions about their potential appropriateness for sketching without having touched them – and I was surprised by the reality in almost every case. For example, the 21kt gold fude that I have been lusting after for six months didn’t feel quite as smooth as I had expected, at least in some stroke directions (my beloved steel version isnt the smoothest pen either, but I had somehow expected the gold version to be smoother). A couple of other specialty nibs I hadn’t even considered, such as the King Cobra and Cross Point, blew me away with their varied line widths and smooth operation. Rather than confirming what I thought I knew, the nib tests gave me a whole new set of variables to consider!

Dying to know what I bought at the show? Amazingly, I managed to leave L.A. without making a single pen purchase. However, is now bookmarked on my browser, and my grail search suddenly has more (and more expensive!) possibilities.

Meanwhile, my epic series continues with the other pens I already own. Stay tuned for the Platinum music nib . . . 

Mottishaw "Architect's Point" (all samples done with Sheaffer blue ink
on Fabriano Studio 140 lb. hot-press paper)
Sailor fude nib (21kt gold)

Sailor King Cobra nib

Sailor Concord nib

Sailor King Eagle nib

Sailor Cross Point nib
Sailor Togi broad nib
Second test of Sailor fude nib (21kt gold)

Saturday, February 21, 2015


2/21/15 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Encouraged by the season’s first blossoming cherry tree on Tuesday, I went out today looking for more pink to sketch. I saw a few trees in bloom, but most were still full of buds tightly closed. I’ll give them another week or two.

When I got back home, I spotted another harbinger of spring, this time in yellow: our neighbors’ daffodils casting late-afternoon shadows on the rockery.

Technical note: After trying out a couple of signatures of Fabriano Studio hot-press paper, I decided to go back to cold-press Canson XL after all. Although I do like hot press for pen and ink sketches, I still prefer the texture of cold press with watercolor. Canson XL has definitely become toothier than I like, but I’m going with the devil I know.
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