Monday, September 29, 2014

National Caffeine-Fueled Sketching Day

9/29/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencil, Zig marker, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Today is National Coffee Day! With a blog called Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, how could I not make my favorite coffee shop my sketching destination on this drizzly, overcast day?

Settling into my favorite table at Zoka Coffee, I was feeling rusty; I hadn’t sketched in a coffee shop since April. I decided to warm up with a couple of sketches using a twig and India ink. KK’s technique is starting to grow on me. When I sketch people, I tend to focus on the details of their faces and stances, and it makes for great life drawing practice. But working on facial details can also make me lose sight of strong values. My twig, as slender as it is, won’t allow me to scratch in any level of detail, so I’m forced to see and sketch only the darks and lights plus some texture. It’s a different kind of practice that I’m starting to really enjoy.

9/29/14 India ink, twig
That done, I took out my favorite Sailor pens and went for the kind of sketches of people that can put me in the zone immediately. I’m sad to see summer’s sunshine and outdoor sketching weather end, but today is as good a day as any to celebrate going back to Zoka for more than one kind of fix.
9/29/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown and Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi inks
9/29/14 India ink, twig

Sunday, September 28, 2014


From the 19th century, a Japanese "shop box" with plenty
of history and character.
A few days ago I promised I would soon reveal the purchase I made at Kyoto Arts and Antiques. Ta-da: It’s a Japanese “shop box” (according to the tag) from the 19th century.

You may recall that about a year and a half ago, I found a Hello Kitty Pez dispenser set/lunch box for my (then) manageable ink collection. As you might guess, my collection almost immediately outgrew the box. Since then I’ve been using a variety of plastic storage bins, which are serviceable but not esthetically pleasing. I wanted something functional yet interesting – something with a little history and character.

I’m not an antique collector or shopper, but for the past year and half I’ve had my eye open for a box, small cabinet, set of drawers or something else that would be “just right.” My criteria for “just right” included a reasonable price, modest overall dimensions to fit in my small studio and, most important, the right interior dimensions to accommodate my collection of elegant yet relatively tall bottles of Pilot Iroshizuku inks.

Some of my favorite inks, including the
elegant yet relatively tall Pilot Iroshizuku
ink bottle.
That last criterion turned out to be the tough one. I spotted a number of small Japanese chests of drawers (shop boxes, stationery cases, sewing boxes, etc.) that appealed to me and that seemed ideal, but the drawers were often too shallow. I cut out a cardboard template the height of the Iroshizuku bottle and started carrying it around in my bag at all times, just in case I happened to stumble upon the just-right thing, so I could check the depth on the spot. (We all know the No. 1 rule for antique shopping: If you want it, you have to buy it then and there, or it will probably be gone later.)

My contemporary inks and pens filling ink-stained drawers
well-used by a kindred spirit.
Finally last Thursday I found it: a small chest that fits well in my studio and has drawers just deep enough to hold all my ink bottles (with some room to grow! But fortunately, not much). What’s more, the shallow top drawer is just right for my fountain pen collection. The finish is substantially worn and the top handle is missing, giving it wabi-sabi appeal (as well as an affordable price). Bonus: All the drawer interiors are ink-stained! This “shop box” was once used by a kindred spirit to hold ink, brushes and pens.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sunny Pike Place Market

9/27/14 Platinum Carbon, Diamine Grey and Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-rin inks, watercolor, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Zig markers, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

As much as I love to shop and sketch at farmers markets, I don’t spend much time doing either at Seattle’s most famous one – the Pike Place Market. When I go there, I’m usually playing tour guide to out-of-town guests; if I have time to sketch there, I tend to focus on buskers.

The first time I dared to sketch the iconic, overly-photographed Public Market Center sign was more than a year ago when I was there as part of Gail Wong and Frank Ching’s “Line to Color” workshop. Sketching well-known sights is intimidating; standing on a busy street corner to get that view makes it all the more difficult. But that bright blue sky behind the clock was too much of an invitation to ignore.

Best wishes to Ben Luk, urban sketcher from Hong Kong, now on his way to his next sketching destination!

Gail, Ben, Tina and Don at Pike Place Market

Friday, September 26, 2014

Breezy Jefferson Park

9/26/14 Platinum Carbon and Diamine Grey inks, watercolor, Caran d'Ache
Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Under breezy rainfall, only six diehard sketchers showed up at Jefferson Park this morning for our Friday ad hoc outing, but by the time we started sketching, the rain was barely spitting. Underdressed (my head is still in Brazil, I guess), I got chilled sketching this bright red sculpture, which doubles as a skateboarding structure. Apparently boarders aren’t as hardy as sketchers, because none came to use it while I was there.

After walking around the park twice trying to find a place that would block the wind while I sketched, I didn’t find anything, so I settled for a view of some wind-tossed trees. Using a twig and India ink again, I added a touch of color this time.

We welcomed Hong Kong urban sketcher Ben Luk, a first-time visitor to Seattle, who joined us. “Is it always like this here?” he asked about the weather. I let him know about our nearly-record-breaking beautiful summer that apparently ended on Monday.

9/26/14 India ink, twig, Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa ink, Museum pencils

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Antique Shopping

9/25/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi and Diamine
Grey inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencil, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
If you have any interest in Asian (mostly Japanese) antiques, you might want to check out Kyoto Art and Antiques, which is open to the public through Oct. 5 for its warehouse sale in Georgetown. These semi-annual sales last for only about 10 days each. Although I’m generally not an antique shopper, I’ve had something specific in mind for a while. When I went to Kyoto Art’s sale last spring, I saw lots of interesting antiques, but not quite what I was looking for.

Today I spotted this large devil-like stone sculpture dated 1773 (with a price tag of $510). As I sketched it, I had one of the strangest public sketching encounters yet. A man took out his phone and said, “Would you like me to take a photo of it for you?” assuming that I was sketching it because I had no camera!

No, I didn’t buy the devil. But I did find what I was looking for! And yes – it’s sketching-related! All will be revealed soon. (Don’t you love cliffhangers?)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Double-Theme Redux

9/24/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Canson XL
Last fall and winter I did a series of sketches of trees that had been mutilated to accommodate power lines. And every fall and spring I sketch plenty of “portraits” of trees wearing their seasonal colors. This afternoon as I drove home from an appointment in Ballard, I spotted a maple that qualified for both themes. Still more green than red, this tree wasn’t too badly hacked up for the power lines running down Northwest 85th

The last time I hit two themes in one sketch was last spring with a couple of blossoming cherries.

Edited after posting: I just realized that Ive also hit two sketching nemeses in one! (I dont play slot machines, but this must be like getting two cherries and two lemons, right?)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


9/23/14 Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook
It’s a sad day in September when rain finally keeps an urban sketcher indoors for the first time in literally months (according to’s weather blog, Seattle nearly broke a record from June 21 through Sept. 21 with an average high temperature of 79 degrees – the second hottest summer since 1945). I’m not complaining – it was an incredibly beautiful sketching summer – but it’s still sad to see it end.

At the Urban Sketching Symposium last month, I heard a lot of talk about going straight to watercolor with a sketch instead of making a line drawing first. Unfortunately, I missed Behzad Bagheri’s workshop and Kumi Matsukawa’s demo on the subject. But fortunately, I found a huge peach (yes, we still have fresh local peaches! Surely an outcome of all that sunshine) and a banana on the counter asking to be painted.

Technical note: I usually prefer white paper for watercolors and sketching in general. For two of these still lifes, I used my Stillman & Birn Delta book, which has a creamy ivory color. It might not be apparent in the scans, but I sure like the way the warm fruit hues came out on that Delta paper. The white Beta paper in the second still life gives the sketch a cooler tone. The same Van Gogh paints were used for all three.

9/23/14 Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
9/23/14 Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...