Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Burgermaster on Aurora

8/19/14 Platinum Carbon, Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa, Diamine Grey and Red Dragon inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Zig markers, Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook

When I was a kid, our neighborhood didn’t have any drive-in restaurants, so when I visited cousins out in the ‘burbs, it was a serious treat to go to places like Triple XXX Root Beer, order from the car and then eat in the car. (Why parents thought this was a good idea is beyond me, but I sure thought it was fun.) I think carhops on rollerskates was a little before my time; I recall waitresses bringing our orders in shoes.

Most drive-in restaurants have been gone for decades, but the Seattle area still has five Burgermaster locations, including one just north of me on 100th and Aurora (only a couple of blocks from where I sketched a tree a few months ago as I got blasted with grit and bus fumes). I’ve been mostly vegetarian for 30 years, so burgers are not on my radar, but driving by the other day, it suddenly occurred to me: It’s still there! According to its website, “A Northwest landmark since 1952, BURGERMASTER offers quality, cooked-to-order food from fresh ingredients, for those who value great taste and excellent service.”

Certainly there are restaurants that have been around as long or longer, but that drive-in part is a rare novelty. It looked like most of the diners this afternoon had parked their cars and eaten inside, but I did see a few cars parked out in the stalls where orders are still brought out for in-car dining. I don’t know how long the “Home of the Baconmaster” and its drive-in booths are going to be around, so I thought today was as good a day as any to sketch them.

(Technical note: I finished a signature of my usual sketchbook paper on Sunday, and I didn’t want to start the next signature before I leave town because I’d like to start a new one in Brazil, so I’ve been using an old Stillman & Birn Beta book this week. I’m still fond of the paper (I’d still be using Betas now if I hadn’t discovered bookbinding), but I was surprised that I felt confined by the page size. I’d gotten used to double-page spreads on 9-by-12-inch paper in my Stefano. The hardbound Beta, which is 8.5-by-10.75 inches opened up, is only an inch or so narrower, but I noticed the difference. It’s funny how you get used to a certain format, and anything smaller seems cramped.)

Monday, August 18, 2014


8/18/14 Platinum Carbon ink, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils,
Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
My hair was on fire today with a bunch of errands and appointments that I had to get done before I leave town at the end of the week. I didn’t really have time for a sketch, nor did I have a subject in mind. Then on my way to an appointment, I spotted this on the sidewalk outside a church I pass frequently in my neighborhood: The sad shell of an old piano missing all of its keys, its cover, its front face and one of its pedals. Strings, hammers and all the rest of its intricate innards were entirely exposed. The finish was almost completely worn away, and parts of its once-ornate legs were broken off.

If I had thought about it for more than two seconds, I would have realized that a piano is a perspective study that requires more than 15 minutes to sketch. I would also have realized that if I had taken the hour or so I needed to sketch it carefully, it would have been a nice way to honor an old piano that had probably given many years of musical service to the church – and was now on its way to the dump. But all that had occurred to me was that the piano might be gone by tomorrow, and 15 minutes was all I had to give it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shilshole Marina

8/17/14 Platinum Carbon and Diamine Grey inks, watercolor, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, Zig marker, Pitt Artist Pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

Thick and white with fog, the sky over Shilshole Marina felt a bit chilly this morning for mid-August, but a strong showing of Seattle Urban Sketchers was undaunted. Sure enough, the sun came out within the hour, giving everyone good shadows and warmth.

8/17/14 Platinum Carbon, Pilot Iroshizuku
Tsuyu-kusa and Diamine Grey inks, Zig marker
Before the fog lifted, I started with a sketch of “Son of Iceland, Grandson of Norway” Leif Erikson. The original statue was a gift to Seattle from the Norwegian American community during the 1962 World’s Fair. A new base and tribute were unveiled in 2007. His helmet looked a bit Pope-ish until I corrected its tilt.

By the time the sky cleared, I had procrastinated long enough: It was time to take on the formidable marina with its gazillions of masts. I propped my stool up on top of a picnic table to get a better line of sight. Putting Harris (sketching in the foreground) in first helped to ground me. Then I put in the trawler, and then all the other masts behind it. Piece o’ cake! (Ha-ha.)

I had 10 minutes to kill before the sketchbook sharing, so I sketched Peggy sketching between her bike and a food truck.

8/17/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi and Diamine Grey inks

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Season of Denial

8/16/14 Platinum Carbon and Diamine Grey inks, watercolor,
Zig marker, Pitt Artist Pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Last year at about this time, I coined a term for the season that comes between summer and fall: Denial. It starts in early August when I first notice the leaves starting to turn. It lasts for as long as possible.

These slender maples growing in a traffic circle in the Greenwood neighborhood are surely a fluke. Actually, the one on the left and the one mostly hidden behind it are still fully green, so I think it’s only the tree on the right that is a fluke. Clearly, it didn’t take enough vitamins or skipped too many yoga classes this summer.

My Mini Sketchbooklets Hit the Big Time

No, that's not my bag shown in the photo. If I had known they wanted to show the
sketchbooklets in a bag, I would have offered to send a photo of my beloved
Rickshaw Bagworks bag!
The instructions for making my pocket-sized sketchbooklets have been published in the Fall 2014 issue of Paper Art magazine! Here’s how the article begins:

As an urban sketcher, I never know where I will be when the urge to draw hits: running an errand, riding public transportation, or waiting between appointments. To prepare for those times, I wanted to have a small, lightweight sketchbook with me. I tried using premade pocket-sized notebooks, but most couldn’t hold up to wet media. I realized that if I wanted a wet-media sketchbooklet, I would have to make it myself.

Here are the steps for making them (the published article shortened the steps somewhat; appearing here are the director’s cut, unabridged edition):

  1. Note: The dimensions of my sketchbooklet were based on the 8 ½" x 11" cardstock I had on hand. If you are using paper or cardstock of a different size, you may want to change the dimensions of your booklet to avoid waste. Cut one sheet of cardstock, 8 ½" x 5 ½", to make the cover. Fold it in half to 4 ¼" x 5 ½".
  2. Decorate the cover as desired.
  3. Cut five sheets of sketching paper, 8" x 5 ¼" each. Fold each in half to 4" x 5 ¼".
  4. Optional: Use a corner rounder punch to round all corners on the sheets and cover. (Rounded corners are not purely esthetic; they also keep the sketchbooklet from becoming dog-eared and ragged.)
  5. Place one folded sheet of paper on a catalog, and open the folded sheet. Make three marks for holes along the crease about 1 ¼", 2 5/8" and 4" from one edge. (Tip: I never measure – I just eyeball it.) Using the awl, punch a hole at each mark.
  6. Use the paper you punched in the previous step as a template: Place the template sheet over one sheet, align the sheets carefully at the folds, and punch through the template holes to the sheet underneath. Repeat with each remaining sheet. (Tip: You can punch all the sheets at one time, but it’s harder to keep them aligned at the fold.)
  7. The cover is slightly larger than the pages. Align your template sheet over the cover at the folds so that the margin of exposed cover is the same on either side of the sheet (again, I just eyeball this rather than measure). Punch the cover holes.
  8. Stack all sheets together at the folds. Be sure to keep all the sheets in the same orientation as when you punched them so that the holes align. Place the cover around the sheets.
  9. Cut a 10" length of bookbinding thread, and thread the needle.
  10. From the inside of the stack, sew through the center hole of all sheets and the cover to the outside, and pull the thread until about 2" remain inside the book (you will tie this tail later).
  11. The needle is now outside the book cover. Sew into either of the remaining holes through the cover and all sheets. Pull until there’s no slack in the thread, and then sew back through the center hole from inside to outside. Pull the thread taut.
  12. The needle is now outside the book cover again. Sew into the last hole that has no thread in it yet. Pull taut. Tie a square knot with the thread and the tail you left in Step 10. Trim the threads.
The Fall 2014 issue of Paper Art magazine

Friday, August 15, 2014

Soggy Morning at Gas Works Park

8/15/14 Platinum Carbon and Diamine Grey ink, watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

After all those consecutive days of beautiful sunshine, I had deluded myself into thinking it was the new normal. I woke to drizzle, but weather.com had predicted that the rain would stop by mid-morning, when the ad hoc Friday sketchers were meeting at Gas Works Park.

Perched on my stool under a tree for my first sketch of some of the gas works, I was still in denial as increasingly frequent raindrops blurred my Platinum Carbon Black lines. By 11 it was barely spitting, so a few of us walked over to the marina on the east side of the park to sketch the houseboats, and I insisted that the rain would be stopping soon. I looked out over Lake Union and immediately saw a challenging Shari Blaukopf assignment for myself: the reflections of the moored houseboats and dappled water. The rain did let up as I was drawing the houseboat on the right, but within minutes I had to pull my hood on again, and my sketch was starting to take on that dreamy look (or perhaps nightmare, depending on your perspective). The wet-on-wet-on-wet approach isn’t one of my favorite watercolor techniques.

8/15/14 Platinum Carbon, Diamine Grey, Diamine Chocolate Brown and Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-rin inks, watercolor, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils

Thursday, August 14, 2014


My DIY Moo-like cards printed on my inkjet printer.
I first learned about Moo last year when bloggers preparing for the Urban Sketching Symposium in Barcelona were showing off the cards they had printed by the online company. Especially popular were the double-sided, 2.75-by-1.10-inch Moo MiniCards. I was tempted to do the same, but I never got around to it. Instead, I simply printed a stack of conventional-size business cards with my self-portrait, contact information and Urban Sketchers info (the same cards I hand out when I’m sketching and someone asks me about Urban Sketchers). They didn’t have sketches printed on them, so they weren’t as cool as MiniCards, but it was still fun to exchange them at the symposium.

This year I recently started seeing Moo cards again on blogs I read, and I felt tempted again. Why not order a stack of Moo MiniCards, too? I picked out several sketches that I thought would reproduce relatively well in a tiny format and started going through the Moo site. Then it struck me: Why don’t I print them myself the same way I print my usual cards?

Shown at lower right is the front of the cards (I have both portrait and landscape formats) printed with my Bitstrips-like self-portrait (done without the app, of course) and contact info. The backs are printed with several sketches that best represent my hometown and the kind of sketching I like to do. It took me only a few minutes to print them on my inkjet printer (although cutting them apart with my paper trimmer took quite a few more minutes). I used matte-finish card stock that I bought at Office Depot.

A friend (you know who you are) once affectionately called me “the Martha Stewart of urban sketching.” I wanted to deny it. But I guess I can’t.
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