Final Exam

Here's a quick sketch in response to the Weekly Challenge on the Urban Sketchers Flickr group: "Busy, Busy People." I had to give the final exam in one of my courses this morning, so I sketched while the students completed the exam. Now I just need to grade them all! (BTW, This sketch was done with an old Yafa fountain pen and Noodler's Walnut ink ... I've been trying a variety of pens/inks, and will hopefully do a blog post on that subject soon.)


Happy Thanksgiving!

Patty and Sam working on Thanksgiving dinner ... graffiti on Facebook.


SketchCrawl - Moscow!

It was a small turnout today, and it was cold - but sunny! - so here are my efforts.

Started at Sister's Brew and drew some folks enjoying a mellow Saturday morning in a very warm, cozy space. I really like this wine-colored Copic Multiliner ... might need to buy a fresh one soon.

From the same spot, near the windows, I did this sketch looking across Main Street. Wells Fargo, our bank, is on the left and The Red Door, one the very few decent restaurants in town, is on the right. This was the final sketch in my first Moleskine sketchbook ... it felt good to finish that one.

I broke in a new Moleskine pocket watercolor book for this sketch, of an alley off First Street. It was a nice view, with clear contrasts and a nice perspective, but my hands were freezing by the time I finished up.

So I retreated to the Moscow Bagel place for a sausage/egg/cheese bagel, and managed this quick watercolor. It was a nice morning of sketching, followed by a 2-hour figure drawing session in the afternoon. After all the work I've had to deal with in the past several weeks, it felt good to simply draw today. Now it's time to surf the SketchCrawl forum and see the other sketching that happened today all around the planet.


25th Worldwide SketchCrawl!

This is the 5th Anniversary of the first Worldwide SketchCrawl, instigated by Enrico Casarosa, and the 25th overall. People will be sketching where they live, in approximately 100 locations all around the world, and then sharing their sketches online in the SketchCrawl Forums.

SketchCrawlers in Mosocow - let's meet at Sisters' Brew Coffee House at 9am Saturday, November 21. Depending on the weather, we can either stay there and sketch for a while or head outside and sketch the town, or maybe it will turn into a coffeeshop crawl. Feel free to take part in the morning session as long as you like, continue sketching throughout the day, on your own or in groups. We'll meet up again at the end of the day, at Coeur d'Alene Brewing Co. at 5pm to share our sketches in person - then we'll share our sketches online in this forum. Let's hope for good weather - see you Saturday!!

Sisters' Brew Coffee House - 9:00am
Coeur d'Alene Brewing Co. - 5:00pm


Weekend Trip to Chicago

I made a brief trip to Chicago over the weekend for my 25-year high school reunion. Not much time devoted to sketching, though I did manage a couple while in-transit and another while in town. All three of these were in my small moleskine - I hadn't done much drawing in this book lately, mainly because I've been enjoying the watercolor moleskine so much, but I figured this wasn't the kind of trip where I'd be likely to do any painting, and it was nice to travel very light. So I used a few Copic Multiliner pens - the first sketch is 'Sepia' and the third is 'Wine' which I had never used before. This first sketch was made at the Salt Lake City airport, Terminal B, while waiting for the first delayed flight of the weekend. I say 'first' because it certainly wasn't the last.

This second sketch was done at the Art Institute, where Caravaggio's "Supper at Emmaus" is on loan from the National Gallery in London (info here, and a nice image here). Aside from seeing so many old friends, and visiting with some of my family, this was the major highlight of the weekend for me. I've loved Caravaggio's paintings for many years, and this was my first look at one of his most interesting works, which marks a sort of bridge between the early and middle segments of his career. Sketching this painting, while sitting on a bench in the gallery, was really a lot of fun and gave me the chance to patiently study an astounding work of art. I had originally intended to draw more of the room/people surrounding the painting, but I'm glad I left that stuff alone ... I like the way the surroundings are ghosted-in, almost as if the scene inside the painting is more 'real' than the space of the viewer, almost like looking through a window. This might actually contradict some of Caravaggio's intentions ... but I think it works in this sketch.

The final sketch of this group was made the day after I was scheduled to arrive home. Due to another delayed flight (two, actually), and a resulting missed connection, I was stuck overnight in Salt Lake City. The final flight was only an hour long, and while it started out smooth, it was very bumpy by the time I finished this sketch. This is the Copic 'Wine' color I mentioned already ... I like it a lot against the yellowish paper in the moleskine, and I like the multiliners because they just never seem to dry out. So while this was not the kind of trip where I was able to sketch very much, these three quick drawings hit the spot for me.


SketchCrawl in Portland, OR

I was in Portland with a large group of students for a field trip, and managed to do a few sketches. The 24th Worldwide SketchCrawl was happening on Saturday, but the Portland folks on the SketchCrawl Forum weren't planning on a get-together until Sunday and I was leaving before then. So a sketched a bit on Thursday and Friday. The first one here is a building at 12th and Alder, by Skylab Design Group - it's a retrofit of a 1905 building, and it won an AIA Honor Award when it was completed in 2006.

The second sketch is of the Blitz-Weinhard Brewery from 1908. This was part of a major real estate deal in 2002 that contributed to the development of the south edge of the Pearl District, a newly redeveloped area of condos, shops, restaurants, etc.

On Friday morning, we gathered at our design studio site in north Portland. The students will be designing a courtyard housing proposal along a light rail line just off Interstate 5. A couple blocks north of their project site is Patton Park, with a small historic fire station and a more recent water tower. It was a beautiful morning, sunny and a little chilly, and this view really caught my eye.

One of our final stops, after quite a lot of walking tours, was the Chinese Classical Garden (the main photo on their home page is roughly the same view as this sketch). It took some time to get this one set up and painted, but it was wonderfully peaceful and easily one of the finest sketching experiences I've had in some time.


Moscow Aquatic Center

This was the final weekend of the season at the Hamilton-Lowe Aquatic Center here in Moscow. Saturday was the Palouse Sprint Triathlon, and my 8-year-old son, Sam, competed in his age group. It was a beautiful day, a little hot in the sun, and it would have been nice to just spend the day swimming. Today, Sunday, they let people bring their dogs (ours included) for a canine free-for-all. It was a dog-lover's paradise, and while it might have been a good challenge to sketch the action, it was enough for me to shoot some video and enjoy the scene.


Back on campus again ...

School has been back in session for a couple weeks now, and I finally had enough breathing room to get out for a quick sketch. I was also inspired by a few books I received from Amazon yesterday: An Illustrated Life, The Venice Chronicles, and Drawn to Life. All three are fantastic, and I look forward to spending more time reading and being inspired about drawing. But for now, it's most important to just start drawing again! This sketch is of a building called Brink Hall, which used to be the Faculty Office Building ... some faculty still have their offices here, but it has become more of a mixed bag of department offices and other stuff. I hope the weather holds out for at least another few weeks, now that I have the bug to draw again.


Mapping the Summer

Late last night I finally arrived back in Moscow after a long summer away from home. To keep myself busy on the flight from Chicago, I sketched out a little map of the summer's travels, then added some color today during a break from unpacking. I wasn't looking at a map when I drew this, so my geography is a little off ... but it was a fun way to cap off this portion of the Moleskine.



Just before leaving Rome for the summer, I attended a conference in Venezia, and managed to do a few sketches there. It was a bit frustrating not having more time in a place so ideal for drawing, but I do hope to return sooner or later. This watercolor was done just off the Grand Canal, on the Fondamenta de L'Albero ...

The second sketch is the back side of Santa Maria della Salute, from a long narrow piazza called the Rio Terra dei Catecumeni ...

... and the third sketch is of the Ca D'Oro from across the Grand Canal. This last one was a repeat of a sketch I did as a student about 23 years ago, from almost the exact same vantage point (see the old sketch here). I remember that drawing being very enjoyable, despite the fact that it was very cold that day and my hands were numb by the time I finished. It was fun to draw the same subject so many years later, and this time it was heat that I had to deal with. Perhaps in another decade or two I'll get smart and visit this place in the spring or fall.


Another SketchCrawl in Roma

We did another sketchcrawl yesterday in Rome - mainly the same folks who got together for the 'official' sketchcrawl on July 11 - Marco Carloni, Marta Palazzo, and Manlio Vetri (and a few other folks for whom I unfortunately have no links!) - results from the previous crawl are here, and we'll likely post results from yesterday's efforts there as well. Also joining the group this time around was Benedetta Dossi, who is a fellow correspondent for Urban Sketchers. We met in the late afternoon at the Villa Torlonia, out along the Via Nomentana beyond the Porta Pia, a beautiful location to sketch for a few hours. This first sketch is of the main building, designed by Giuseppe Valadier in 1806 (Mussolini used this as his state residence from about 1920 onward).

The next sketch is of the Casina delle Civette ("House of the Owls"), designed as a 'Swiss Cabin' in 1840 by Giuseppe Jappelli, but later transformed into a 'Medieval Hamlet' under the direction of architect Enrico Gennari.

It was a fantastic time taking the breezes and sketching with new friends. I was especially impressed with Benedetta's sketching techniques, and we had some great conversation when we weren't so focused on drawing. Also, big thanks to Marco for giving me a lift back to Trastevere! It's a shame my time in Rome is almost done this time around, but I've been very fortunate to see many new places in this amazing city, and even more fortunate to connect with a wonderful group of folks who love to sketch as much as I do.


Bioparco & Meeting with Luc!

Wednesday the 22nd was my son Will's birthday, so we headed to the Bioparco (i.e., "Zoo") here in Roma. It was a great place, and it was fun to do a little sketching as we strolled around ... probably could have done more, but it was very hot and at some point I simply lost the motivation. Next year, I hope to go back there earlier in the summer, when the weather is more agreeable.

Also yesterday, I met up with a new friend and sketching partner, Luciano, for the first time - he had commented a few times here on my blog, so we got together at the Campidoglio to chat about our sketchbooks and then headed to San Giorgio Velabro for a quick sketch session before I had to get back to Trastevere for Will's birthday dinner. The temperature had come down somewhat, though we had to deal with a portiere that didn't want us sitting on his precious steps (this is the only time I can recall someone not letting me sit in a particular place to do a sketch - usually they are curious about the drawing and entirely accommodating). I hope to connect with Luc again next summer - his blog, with some really amazing drawings and watercolors, is here - go take a look!


FINA World Championships in Rome

The FINA World Championships, including swimming, water polo, diving, and synchronized swimming, have just gotten underway here in Rome. As a former water polo player (in high school and a couple years in college), I knew I had to go to yesterday evening's preliminaries, which had the USA vs. Italy as the final game of the session. The first two matches I watched were fairly close (Spain vs. Serbia, during which I made this sketch, and then Romania vs. Macedonia), and I was really enjoying the novelty of seeing world-class water polo in person. Then, at about 9pm, the lights came on and the place really filled up. There were just a few small groups of US fans scattered around - otherwise it was a very excited and vocal crowd favoring the home team. The US got off to an early but small lead, though the Italians kept it close throughout, eventually tying it up late in the game. Every time they scored a goal, the place absolutely erupted in wild cheers. There was a certain amount of jeering directed at the US team and the US fans, but it all seemed good-natured, even comical at times. The US team emerged victorious, with a score of 9-8, and now I'm considering going back for another of the preliminary rounds - when's the next time I'd be likely to see this level of water polo? ... A news report on the game can be found here.


Home in Rome

This is where we've been living for the summer in Rome. The first drawing is a plan of the apartment at Via del Cipresso 12 in Trastevere. I first had to set up a grid based on the floor tiles in order to figure out the slight angles of some of the walls, and then added watercolor to show the spaces with some shading. The area in grey is our little courtyard - more of a light well, really, but it's a good place to dry the laundry. The blue areas are the kitchen and bathrooms, which are finished in a blue tile.

I considered drawing a section to show the interior space, but instead did a quick sketch of the front door ... it had to be quick, because it's gotten very warm here! Just a couple more weeks before I head back to the states. It's been a great summer.


A Couple New Ones ...

I was trying to connect with my students this morning, as they had each gone to their various piazzas to sketch. Ordinarily we head out as a group, but they're in the final throes of collecting information and images for their piazza study projects (each student is assigned two small piazzas to document and analyze). It was an unsuccessful strategy, but I did manage to do a couple sketches myself. The first is the facade of Sant' Eustachio, sketched from the back side of the Pantheon. I was trying out a new pencil - a Faber-Castell "Pitt Oil-Base Extra-Soft." It was relatively smooth, with a nice dark tone, and a worthwhile change of pace from the Staedtler-Mars pencils I typically use.

The next sketch is Via degli Spagnoli, just off Piazza delle Coppelle. I was trying to be more patient with the watercolors, building up the darker tones as I went, and I think it paid off fairly well. I was a bit nervous about laying in the purple shadow on the left, but it was one of those instances where I knew immediately that it was the right thing to do to complete the drawing. So I celebrated a little with a frulatto (banana and pineapple) at Pascucci's on my way back to Tratevere.


SketchCrawl #23 - Roma

Yesterday was the 23rd Worldwide SketchCrawl. I first went to the Centrale Montemartini, where I really should have done some drawing, but the combination of early-twentieth century power plant with late-Republican Roman sculpture was just too much to process. Instead I took many photos of the collection, which I found to be more fascinating in some respects than the Capitoline Museum. Next it was off to the Cimitero Acottolico, aka the "Protestant Cemetery" - one of my favorite places in this city for its history and atmosphere. John Keats is buried here, and Percy Shelley, who said of the cemetery, "It might make one in love with death, to be buried in so sweet a place."

The cemetery is just inside the Aurelian Wall (first sketch) and adjacent to the Piramide di Caio Cestio (second sketch). I would have enjoyed spending more time there, and perhaps doing more drawing, but there was going to be a meeting of SketchCrawlers back in Trastevere, so I had to get moving in that direction.

The plan was to meet in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, very close to our apartment. I had never met any of them before, but by carrying my Moleskine where people could see it I managed to attract the attention of another sketcher who had arrived a little early. The rest of the folks showed up over the course of the next hour while a few of us got started. It was great to meet some new people and do a little sketching, but I had dinner plans with Patty and wasn't able to stay long. Nonetheless, contact info was exchanged and I look forward to meeting up again with Marco, Antonello, and the others before I have to leave Rome in a few weeks.


Barcelona ... Meeting with Lapin!

Barcelona was an amazing city, and I would have enjoyed my brief time there in any case. But the experience was made far more fascinating and memorable having a knowledgable guide and brilliant sketch partner. Lapin is a fellow Urban Sketchers correspondent and a very prolific sketcher and illustrator, as well as a fine host and guide to a city he obviously loves. We met on Friday evening for the first time for a brief sketch before continuing on to a small party and then dinner with "Lapinette" (i.e., Lapin's wife Isabelle). This first sketch was from the Placa del Rei, and the first time in a very long time that I had attempted a night sketch like this. Lapin works quickly, and I probably got too involved in the pen hatching, so I had to finish some of the watercolor later.

We had an excellent dinner, with delicious food and great rambling conversation about all sorts of things, and it was the perfect end to a long fulfilling day. We met again Sunday morning, and visited the cloister at the Catedral de Barcelona for some sketching. Throughout our walks around the city, Lapin had much to say about the buildings, designers, and general history of Barcelona.

We finished up that morning down at the end of La Rambla, sketching the Column of Christopher Columbus. It was fun to see the different approaches we each took with the same subject. All-in-all, a fantastic experience in a new city. A big THANK YOU to Lapin and Lapinette for their friendship and hospitality. I hope someday I can return the favor, whether it might be in Rome or Moscow (Idaho, that is)!

Barcelona ... July 4th Sketching

Had an odd 4th of July; odd in the sense that I was very far from the typical Independence Day involving bbq/baseball/beer/fireworks/etc. I had to spend a chunk of the day at the 16th International Conference on Learning, where I gave a presentation that went over well. Of the few other presentations I attended that morning, the one in this first sketch was the most interesting, focused on helping students learn to keep graphic journals of their experiences. So naturally, it was an opportunity to graphically record the experience.

Later that day, after my conference obligations were done, I headed off to find the "Barcelona Pavilion" aka the "German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition" aka the "Pavello de Mies van der Rohe" ... it was a long walk, but entirely worthwhile. Yet another architectural gem in Barcelona that lived up to - and in some ways exceeded - my expectations. It's strange how a building lacking any apparent program could be so captivating, but it's just pure series of spaces defined by walls (some clear, some translucent, some solid), roofs, floors, pools, and a smattering of columns. What surprised me was the evident role played by shadows and reflections, which accentuate the changing perspective of vertical and horizontal planes. Good stuff.

So it really didn't feel like the 4th until later, when I found a bar in the Barri Gotic that was playing Johnny Cash and had killer cheeseburgers and good cheap beer.


Barcelona ... La Pedrera

"La Pedrera" aka Casa Mila, designed by Antonio Gaudi in 1906 ... I've wanted to visit this place since studying it in my first architectural history course, circa 1985. It didn't disappoint, this place is really incredible. After taking several exterior photos, I settled in for a sketch, trying to capture the undulating lines of the facade. Really had to trust my eyes while laying out this drawing ... the changing scale, the perspective ... too much for my little brain to process. Wish I had another shot at the sky - the intention was for a rich, but clear wash - but it kind of got away from me somehow. That's watercolor for you - just when things feel like they're clicking along something goes awry. The facade is amazing, but not unexpectedly so ... I suppose I was prepared for it, having seen so many photos and drawings over the years.

The ROOF, on the other hand, really blew me away. Apart from the substructure of brick arches, which created a fascinating series of attic spaces, the culmination of the building (it hardly seems adequate to just call it a "roof") blasted my puny expectations out of the water. It's a crazy, elevated, roller-coaster landscape with gaping holes like volcanoes dropping into the courtyards, twisting marshmallow stair towers covered in white tile fragments, and chimneys that rise like little groups of medieval warriors. I spent far more time up there than I had anticipated, because I simply didn't want to go anywhere else. The views of the Barcelona skyline were tremendous, the breezes were wonderful, and there was even a little music playing, as they were setting up for what must have been an incredible and elegant party.

Barcelona ... Bars

I'm in Barcelona to present an academic paper at a conference, and though I've already had to spend too much time at the hotel working on my presentation, I've also managed to get out and see some of the city. After what felt like a long day of traveling, I headed into the Barri Gotic district in search of a beer. This first sketch is from "Los Alamos" - a good, dark, relatively quiet place with some interesting music and an indecipherable video montage projected on the back wall. It was a challenge to paint with very little light, but the beer helped.

The next evening, after lots of work and a great visit to Gaudi's La Pedrera, I found my way to La Ria Taberna for some excellent calamares. This place had a large, open window behind the bar with a view out into the darkened street. The two bartenders checked in occasionally on my progress, though the woman was laughing about how I drew her as being far too muscular.


Sketching Class

For sketching class this week, we took on some challenging subjects. On Wednesday, we started at Piazza di Sant' Ignazio, designed by Filippo Raguzzini in 1727-35. It's a wonderful series of spaces defined by elliptical shapes in plan, so my first sketches were done as a way to help the students see what happens to circular and elliptic forms when viewed in perspective, and to emphasize the utility of seeing and drawing the implied shapes themselves before trying to draw the buildings. From this piazza, we headed down the street to tackle the Pantheon, starting with some exterior views and finishing with interiors. Since most of my time in class is spent coaching the students, I rarely have a chance to spend more than 10 or 15 minutes on a drawing, and the drawings I do are intended to be instructive, so I try to keep them very small and quick. The two sketches of the Pantheon here were maybe 10 minutes each.

On Friday, we had 1pm reservations at the Galleria Borghese, so I decided to begin class at the Fontana di Trevi, which is roughly on the way to the Villa Borghese from Trastevere, where we're all living this summer. I arrived about 10 minutes early to crank out this drawing as a demonstration of very quickly trying to establish proportions on a complex subject such as this, and also to show how perspective can become "warped" depending on one's point of view. Though I failed to get the proportions right myself (the central bay of the triumphal arch is too narrow), I think seeing the drawing helped the students. The bit about warping a perspective, on the other hand, created more trouble than it was worth. I think I'll leave that out next time!

This final shot is some of the students in action at the Trevi. Sixteen students is a lot to handle, especially when they all fan out and find an attractive location from which to draw. For the start of this session I had them work from the same general area, mainly so they could assist each other on a common view. It seemed to work well.


Amalfi Field Trip

Had a good field trip to Atrani (along the Amalfi Coast) this past weekend. Here are just a few sketches from the Moleskine ... I'll try to post another blog with slightly more formal sketches soon.

The first two images were done as a pair. In the first, I was trying to see whether I could sketch a plan of a random intersection in Atrani, which has only one "street" running through the center of town.

The rest of the city is a maze of passageways, stairs, tunnels, etc. The second sketch is the same intersection in perspective. Trying to establish where to cut a horizontal plane is very confusing, to say the least, and trying to capture a perspective in such a confined, vertical space was also a challenge.

The third sketch is from our train ride back to Rome ... after getting on the wrong train in Salerno, we changed trains in Napoli, only to sit in the station for a solid two hours because of technical problems of some sort. It was hot, and dull, so I passed some of the time with this sketch. Those are my kids, Sam on the left and Will on the right.


Santa Maria in Trastevere

It was rainy for our sketching session last Monday, June 1, so we stayed very close to our studio in this piazza. I gave the students a challenge to sketch the plan of this church, called Santa Maria in Trastevere, and did my best to do the same as I walked around to help them. I think I drew the side chapels a bit too small, but otherwise it's reasonably accurate.

After class was over I decided to do a quick representational sketch from the piazza. After getting the drawing set up in pencil, it started to rain on me, so I took cover under the umbrellas of a restaurant before adding the pen work and watercolor. They were just getting set up for lunch at the restaurant, and each waiter (and eventually an old man who I figured must be the owner) took turns to stop by for a look at what I was up to. All of them were positive and enthusiastic, and it was a good opportunity to practice my Italian skills. All in all, a fine morning despite the rain.


Piazza del Popolo

Had another sketching session with the students yesterday morning, and I managed to do a couple quick drawings. This was the second one I did, directly in watercolor without any setup sketch in pencil. I only had about 15 or 20 minutes before we had to pop in for a visit to Santa Maria del Popolo before it closed at noon (wanted to show the students the Caravaggio paintings there), so I was having to paint quickly. I did this same view a year ago in charcoal (which can be seen here). I didn't have more time then, but not having to think about color and work with paints led to better results. But I'm really trying to do more watercolor this year, and I'm finding that setting up the drawing with pencil first is too tedious for me and leads to a paint-by-numbers approach that I'm rarely very happy with. So, while I think the charcoal version of this sketch is more interesting and effective somehow, this was a good effort as well and I look forward to furthering this approach to sketching with watercolor.
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