Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bird’s Eye View

7/30/14 Platinum Carbon, Private Reserve Avocado,
Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun, Tsuyu-kusa and Chiku-rin inks,
Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Zig marker,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Kate invited a few sketchers to celebrate her birthday from the Columbia Center’s Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor. Last November when we celebrated my own birthday up there, it was wet and overcast, so the nearly 360-degree view, though no less impressive, was a bit dreary. On this gorgeous day without a cloud in sight, it was about as good as it gets.

Before going up to the top, I stood just outside at Fourth and Cherry to sketch the Smith Tower, which celebrated its 100th anniversary just a few weeks ago. I missed that celebration, but I still wanted to pay homage to this venerable old Seattle icon – the tallest building on the West Coast for its first 50 years.

Once upstairs, I sketched a northerly view similar to one I sketched last year with the Space Needle at its center. After our celebration lunch on one of the building’s sunny decks, I went back up for one more sketch – this time facing south for a bird’s eye view of CenturyLink Field, home of the Seahawks and probably some other men chasing balls. I am Seattle’s most ardent non-fan of any professional sport, so this is as close to the Clink as I will ever be. My sketch also shows a bit of Safeco Field behind the Clink. Two professional sports icons in one sketch – whew. That’s my sports quota for the rest of the year.

7/30/14 Platinum Carbon, Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun and
Tsuyu-kusa inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencils

7/30/14 Platinum Carbon and Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun inks, watercolor,
Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils

Happy birthday, Kate!
Kate, Lynne and Tina

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

June - July Sketchbook Bound

With sketches dated June 20 through July 16, the sketchbook I just finished binding has four signatures instead of the usual six or, more recently, five. I didn’t want to split up the sketches from my L.A. trip by putting in one more signature, and two more would have been too thick.

As I was considering last month, I’m definitely going to go back to using three sheets per signature instead of four. As much as I like having more double-page spreads per signature, I don’t think the binding is as sturdy when the signatures are thicker.

On the covers this time are Cloud City Coffee and geese at Green Lake.

Pianos in the Parks

7/29/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencil, Pitt Artist Pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Walking through the neighborhood the other day, I noticed some fliers promoting something called “Pianos in the Parks” with not much more information than a web address. Curious, I made a mental note to look it up later. (Aside: More than two years ago when I had barely begun urban sketching, I noted that an inherent benefit is that urban sketching “takes me out of the house and into the world.” There was a time when a flier about pianos in the park may have raised my curiosity, but probably not enough to look it up. Now my urban sketcher’s radar is always seeking out sketch opportunities, so following up on initial passive curiosity is a natural outcome.)

Pianos in the Parks is a project initiated by Laird Norton Wealth Management, Seattle Parks and Recreation, King County Parks and local arts and business organizations. Donated pianos have been “artistically enhanced” by Gage Academy of Art faculty and students (in the photos I saw online, some are quite elaborately enhanced). Among the more than a dozen participating parks is my own walking-distance neighborhood park, Maple Leaf Reservoir Park. I decided to head out there this morning before it got too hot.

7/29/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown and Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-gao
inks, Museum pencil
When I first arrived, I was disappointed that no one was playing the colorfully painted piano sheltered by a tent, but I started sketching it anyway. Halfway through my sketch, a preschool class came by, and the children sat down around their teacher. She led them in singing “Let it Go,” the very popular tune from the Disney movie “Frozen.” The kids enthusiastically joined in and, in fact, knew all the lyrics better than their teacher did. Given the attention span of typical preschoolers, this entire scene took place in less than five minutes – not much time for a sketch, but I was happy that I could capture the piano in use.

Pianos in the Parks continues through Aug. 17.

Product Review: Sailor Profit Fude De Mannen Pen

Top: Sailor DE Brush Stroke Style Calligraphy pen; bottom: Sailor Profit Fude De
Mannen fountain pen
When I was shopping at J-Subculture a few weeks ago, I discovered the Sailor Profit Fude De Mannen fountain pen which, based on its description, sounded similar to the Sailor DE Brush Stroke Style Calligraphy fountain pen that I have come to know and love very well the past year (see my recent review), although it looked quite different. The Profit is only a few dollars more than the very inexpensive Sailors I already have. Curious, I decided to spring for one and see how different it was, if at all.

Lo and behold, the dark blue Profit’s 55-degree nib is identical to the one on my other pens; they can even be interchanged. The only difference is that the Profit is designed to look more like a conventional fountain pen. It’s a standard 5 ¼-inch length, compared to the green “calligraphy” pen, which is a little longer and is supposed to look more like a brush (the longer length does give it a different balance that perhaps makes it perform more like a brush).
The Profit's 55-degree bent nib is identical to the calligraphy pen's nib.

Not surprisingly, for the $17 price (or about $23 from Amazon), the Profit looks and feels as plastic-y cheap as it is. (If I had that pen in my shirt pocket expecting to impress clients, they would have to stand at least 20 feet away not to see that it was made of cheesy plastic. Granted, the calligraphy pen is made of the same plastic and looks just as cheesy, but at less than $8 [$16.50 at JetPens.com], I’m not complaining.)

One significant difference is that the cap on the Profit posts securely, while the cap on the calligraphy pen does not. In fact, the calligraphy pen has a metallic trim ring near its end that has an annoying habit of coming off and getting stuck inside the posted cap. I’ve taken to putting a piece of tape over the trim ring (in the photo above, you can see the blue strip), which also keeps the cap securely posted. I don’t mind making minor fixes like this on such an inexpensive pen that gives me so much sketching bang for the buck, and if it’s worth it to have a pen that posts securely without such a fix, then I guess the Profit is worth springing for.

The bottom line is that I’m just as happy with the cheaper calligraphy pen, sloppy posting and all, because I’ve become accustomed to its longer length, which makes its balance pleasing in my hand (why one favors one pen over another is such a personal, idiosyncratic matter!). But now that I have the Profit, I’ll take advantage of the fact that it’s easily distinguishable from the multiple calligraphy pens I’ve started carrying and designate it as the one containing waterproof Platinum Carbon Black ink. (It has only been a few days, so the jury is still out, but so far, the Sailor calligraphy pen filled with Platinum Carbon is behaving exactly the same way as the ones filled with water-soluble inks.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Things are Moving at Roosevelt Station (Sketch No. 5)

7/28/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Zig markers,
Pitt Artist Pen, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The last time I sketched the Sound Transit Light Rail Roosevelt Station construction site, I complained that I didn’t see much change. Today, a month later, I still didn’t recognize progress, but I definitely saw a lot of activity – so much so that I had difficulty sketching the big digger on the right, which was moving all over the place. But as I’ve learned when sketching at the zoo and geese at the park, if I wait just a little while, the animal is likely to return to the same pose repeatedly. And so it was with the bright yellow Cat.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Little Free Library in Maple Leaf

7/27/14 Platinum Carbon and other inks, Zig markers, Caran d'Ache
Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The first I ever heard of the Little Free Library program was from the Seattle Sketcher a couple of years ago. Then I saw that Kate Buike had started sketching all the libraries in her neck of the woods. Although I knew I could look online for the addresses of libraries in my neighborhood, I never got around to taking that step. Last week when I was walking home from Cloud City Coffee, I suddenly stopped short: A Little Free Library stands only a few blocks from my house.

On the corner of Northeast 88th Street and Eighth Avenue Northeast, this library is very carefully crafted with a glass-front door and painted purple and blue (no doubt to coordinate with the large hydrangea bush still in blossom behind it). After sketching it, I took a book and left a book, just like the plaque invited me to. The plaque also reads, “In loving memory of Steve Cunetta.”

I finally did look up libraries in my neighborhood, and I found at least one that is within walking distance. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Obon

7/26/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-gao, Fuyu-syogun, Take-Sumi and Tsuyu-kusa inks,
Zig markers, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Canson XL
140 lb. paper
Obon is an annual summer Buddhist festival to honor ancestors and loved ones who have died. It’s been a long, long time since I was a practicing Buddhist (if attending Sunday school in my elementary years could be called “practicing”), but I still go to the Obon festival regularly, mainly for the food and dancing.

Back in the day, my girlfriends and I would go to nightly practice sessions the week before Obon to learn the choreographed folk dances (also known as gossiping and giggling while we pretended not to notice the boys, who were pretending not to notice us). On the big day, my mom would dress me up in a traditional kimono, and I’d join people of all ages, dancing in the street until it got dark. Casual attire such as shorts and T-shirts was strictly forbidden. After all, it is a religious event at its core.

Strict traditions have since given way to a more inclusive attitude, and community residents of all religions join in the fun. T-shirts, baseball caps and jeans dance right alongside brightly colored kimonos. You can still get traditional cold soba noodles and shaved ice, but you can also get a pulled pork sandwich and a strawberry sundae.

Since we missed the Obon celebration last weekend at the Seattle temple where I used to dance, we made the trek south to Auburn this afternoon to join the festivities at the White River Buddhist Temple instead. After getting my fill of rice balls, noodles and shaved ice, I joined in the dancing with a sketchbook instead of my feet.
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