Saturday, March 28, 2015


3/26/15 Diamine Chocolate Brown, Grey and Iroshizuku Tsukushi inks,
Caran d'Ache Museum pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
When I sketch at Zoka Coffee, my victims are most often deeply engrossed in their various devices and screens, oblivious to their surroundings. But every once in a while I’m able to catch a few actually engaged in conversation with other people. Socializing in a coffee shop – what a concept! (I’m not sure about the man in the brown chair . . . he seemed to be pressing on the Bluetooth device stuck to his ear, giving me the impression that he was on a phone call, but I think his conversation was with his laptop.)

Sketching people who are talking – usually with hand gestures and changing expressions – is more challenging than still-as-stone texters and typers. But the body language is definitely more interesting.

3/26/15 Diamine Grey and Iroshizuku Asa-gao inks, Museum pencil
3/26/15 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink
3/26/15 Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, Museum pencils

Friday, March 27, 2015

Overwhelmed Again at the Museum of Flight

3/27/15 DeAtramentis Document Brown and Diamine Grey inks, watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

Every time I visit the Museum of Flight, I imagine that it will be easier and less overwhelming than the last time, but somehow, that never comes true. (My very first time was with the Friday Seattle Urban Sketchers more than two years ago.) This morning with the Friday sketchers was no different. As soon as I walked into the enormous Great Gallery, I wandered around in a daze, trying to simplify the view – any view – enough to sketch it.

3/27/15 DeAtramentis Black Edition Blue ink, Caran d'Ache Museum pencils
After quite a while, I caught a glimpse of a Lockheed SR71 Blackbird and a couple of other stealthy-looking fighter planes between the wings of a Boeing 801-A (1929). That one sketch took me more than an hour – much longer than I usually take for any one sketch just because I had to keep talking myself out of putting in more!

After that lengthy sketch, I had only a few minutes before the meetup, so I went out to the main entrance area. Above the line of people waiting to get in was a reproduction of Leonardo DaVinci’s Il Cigno, a human-powered ornithopter.

After sharing sketches and having lunch al fresco, a few of us stayed behind for a little more sketching. The day had warmed up nicely, so I went back out to the café’s outdoor seating area to sketch Air Force One and a 787 Dreamliner in the Airpark.

Many thanks to Museum of Flight volunteer Kate Buike for sponsoring today’s USk sketchout!

3/27/15 DeAtramentis Document Brown ink, watercolor, Museum pencil

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Summer Teaser

3/26/15 Various inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, brush pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

The Maple Leaf water tower has been the subject of my sketches many times. Sometimes I enjoy getting into all the details of the complex, criss-crossed girding and the maple leaf motif going around the tower. Today, under a mostly clear blue sky and 70 (!) degrees, it felt like the best of summer, and my mood was just as lazy. On a shady bench but not too far from the sun, I sat on the opposite side of Maple Leaf Park to take in the long view of the water tower holding its own next to the cell tower.

To those of you still sloshing through snow, I’m sorry if I sound like I’m gloating. If it makes you feel any better, here’s what KING 5 weather shows for the next few days:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It's a Still Life Kind of Day

3/25/15 Platinum Carbon ink, VanGogh watercolors, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
I wanted something a bit more challenging than the oranges and bananas on our kitchen counter. First I grabbed my neti pot, which has a challenging shape, and then I looked around my desk and threw a few colorful items into the pot. But it needed one more thing: the Hello Kitty Pez dispenser filled it out nicely.

Little did I know that this particular collection of random stuff was more challenging than I had bargained for. First, the subtle shadows on the neti pot’s white ceramic surface were even more difficult to capture than its shape. Pens and pencils always come out a little crooked when I sketch them. But who knew that Hello Kitty’s transparent head would turn out to be such a bear!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


3/24/15 various inks, watercolor, colored pencils
Rain is in the forecast for the next two days. It was showering when I left for a meeting, but that had subsided to a sprinkle on my way home. Before I arrived, the sun broke through, so I stopped for a sketch of this tree silhouetted against an ominous sky.

Monday, March 23, 2015

DIY Rhodia Sketchbooklet

My DIY sketchbooklet, this time filled with Rhodia paper.
As I was running out of my stock of DIY sketchbooklets, I started grumbling anew about why even one of the plethora of manufacturers making small, thin pocket-sized notebooks doesn’t offer one that contains blank, fountain pen-friendly paper that could be used for casual sketching as well as writing. A couple of months ago I renewed my search for such a notebook and ended up trying Baron Fig’s Apprentice. The paper is not ideal, but at least it’s blank, and I still have hope that the company’s attitude about responding to customers’ needs might eventually result in a notebook with better paper.

This week my whining ran out of steam, and I needed a daily-carry sketchbooklet, so I had to resort to my previous solution: DIY. This time, instead of filling it with 100-pound watercolor paper, I used Rhodia paper, which is thin enough that I can bind it into a notebook with 48 pages. (Although 100-pound watercolor paper is much better for sketching, I can bind only about 20 pages into a sketchbooklet because of its thickness.)

3/21/15 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Rhodia paper
Rhodia paper, which I first experienced last summer in my travel journal/sketchbook, is a joy to write and sketch on with a fountain pen. It even holds up to a very light waterbrush wash. The see-through problem, common to all the notebook papers I’ve tried, is still there, as would be expected for 21.3-pound, “high-grade vellum” paper. More notable, though, is that I saw no bleed-through at all, even on spots where I had washed the ink on the other side (see below). And I’m pleased about the number of pages I can bind into a small, thin notebook, giving me more bang for the handbinding buck.

An 80-sheet pad of No. 18 (8 ¼ by 11 ¾ inches) Rhodia paper costs about $10 - $12 on Amazon (a little less at the University Bookstore where I bought mine), so that means my notebook cost about 80 cents, including the 100-pound cover and waxed linen binding thread. It took about 20 minutes to make (not counting carving the gingko leaf block, which I made a while back).
Back side of Rhodia paper showing ghosting
but not bleed-through of washed fountain
pen ink.

If I could buy it, I would. But to get what I want, DIY seems to be my destiny.

Product Review: Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album

3/22/15 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Pilot Petit1 fountain pen, Moleskine
Art Plus Sketch Album (sketched from Smithsonian magazine photo)
The University Bookstore (one of Seattle’s endangered breed of independent booksellers) probably has the largest brick-and-mortar Moleskine collection in the city. Back when I was using Moleskines regularly for journals and planners, it was great to have such a broad selection there. It’s been a long time since I’ve used or cared about anything with the Moleskine name, but I was at the store recently, so I thought I’d take a look.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album label
I spotted Moleskine’s relatively new “Art Plus” line, which includes a watercolor sketchbook that Liz Steel and other sketchers have already panned, so I didn’t even look at it. But a pocket-size softcover book called an Art Plus Sketch Album caught my eye. Its paper cover makes it very thin (1/4 inch) and lightweight. I’m not crazy about the landscape format, but it’s not available in the portrait format that I prefer. (I rarely sketch a double spread horizontally, and the format is awkward to hold in either direction when it’s bound on the short side.) Another anomaly is that every page is perforated. (I guess if I particularly liked a sketch or someone else did, I could tear it out easily and frame it or give it away! Not likely.) Though my expectations of its paper were very low, I thought its size and thin profile might have possibilities as an everyday-carry sketchbooklet.
Reverse side of sketch at top of page. The fountain pen ink
bled wherever I touched it with a waterbrush.

At least the paper met my expectations. It’s the typical Moleskine ivory color, blank and 81 pound in weight – definitely heavier than the stuff that’s in Moleskine’s traditional (non-art) notebooks and planners, but also much lighter than the weird, manila-folder-like stuff that’s in the classic “sketchbook” (which has been rebranded to be part of the Art Plus line). The smooth surface isn’t bad with a fountain pen – no bleeding or feathering evident. But as soon as I touched it with a waterbrush, the ink sank straight into the paper, leaving strange blotches (see top of page) instead of blurring into a pleasing wash. (The label says, “Ideal for pencils, pastels, charcoal, fountain pens, markers” – nothing about a wash or liquid – so I can’t accuse them of false advertising.) Wherever I put water on the ink, it bled through to the other side (see above).
3/23/15 Zebra brush pen (sketched from
Smithsonian magazine photo)

With a Zebra brush pen (sketch at right), which contains waterproof ink, it bled through slightly even without putting water on it (although that degree of bleeding is probably acceptable for the casual sketches I’d be likely to put in this sketchbook).

One positive thing I can say is that the paper is sufficiently opaque that there’s very little ghosting (in the image below, I’ve circled a spot where I can barely see the sketch on the next page showing through). It’s definitely acceptable for drawing on both sides – as long as I use dry media or ink without washing it. If I could simply get over my preference for shading ink drawings with a wash, or if I switch to pencil, this (and many other) pocket notebooks would easily meet my needs. Alas. . . .

If you look carefully inside the circle, you can barely see
ghosting from the sketch on the following page showing through.

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