It was our first nice fall day of the year, or so it seemed, so I finally got a chance to search for some fall colors to paint. I found some muted ones on Norfolk Street, in Bethesda. My ink sketch was promising, but I dithered too long with the oil painting, and by the time I had settled on a composition, everything was basically in shadow. It’s a lot easier to convey form when things have both a light side and a shadow side! So this is one case in which I prefer my 5-minute sketch to my 3-hour painting.
I did a number of fast sketches while I was at Yale for Family Weekend. Here’s a quick depiction of the Old Campus, looking west toward Connecticut Hall. It took about 5-10 minutes.
It was the first nice day in months, or so it seemed, so I got out to do some drawing and painting. I started with an ink sketch of a nearby house, and then I sketched it in oils. This was my first session with my tiny new “Thumbbox,” a pochade box that holds only 6” x 8” panels. I hadn’t painted this small in a while, so it was an adjustment, but I still had fun. Here’s the ink study:
We moved our daughter into Yale this past Friday -- almost exactly 40 years to the day after my parents moved me into Yale. Friday also happened to be my birthday, which was cool too. We stayed for much of the weekend, and we enjoyed the opening ceremony in Woolsey Hall.
I found a few spare minutes to draw on Yale's Old Campus. What a glorious abundance of subject-matter to choose from! I wish I'd had time to do more. I hope I will have more time in October, when I return for Family Weekend -- maybe this time with watercolors or even oils.
I bought a jar of Noodler's Cactus Fruit Eel ink. Just typing "cactus fruit eel" is fun, so imagine how much fun it is to draw with this stuff! I put the ink into my new Duke 209 fountain pen. Here are some results.
I did a little urban sketching while in New York last weekend: street scenes, subway riders.
"Something tells me it's all happening at the zoo." Simon & Garfunkel were right! On Saturday I visited the Central Park Zoo with my family, and the place was hopping! Here are some sketches.
Today I did some urban sketches at two markets in Washington, DC. The first is a neighborhood store called the Broad Branch Market, on Broad Branch Street, NW. A good friend recommended it, and I'm glad she did! I was struck by the friendliness of the place. The customers all seemed to know each other, and several ate snacks on picnic benches in front of the shop. Teenagers hung out with friends, and parents brought kids to the soda fountain and deli. This isn't my best drawing because I was struggling to adjust to a new fountain pen, but I still like it.
I then went to check out another recommendation, the Circle Yoga building, but I had trouble finding a spot with a good vantage point. Instead I sat in my car at the parking lot behind Magruder's liquor store and sketched that. I was struck by how quickly patrons arrived, purchased, and departed. There was little of the interaction I saw at the Broad Branch Market. I suppose you don't go to a liquor store to socialize. I freely admit I bungled the lettering on this one! I was going to paint over it with gouache but didn't get around to it.
I voted and then spent a couple days hanging out at my polling place, talking to campaign volunteers and a couple candidates -- and sketching the proceedings. Here are some of the political signs in the parking lot:
And here's the entrance to the polling place. There was a steady trickle of people arriving to vote, but at any given moment, there were more campaigners than voters.
This is too late for Memorial Day, so we'll consider it a warm-up for Independence Day! I just felt like painting the U.S. flag today, so I did. I had to wait for the breeze to die down so that I could draw it correctly. I used ink and gouache -- opaque watercolor.
I went swimming today, and I noticed this group of women by the baby pool. One dad did show up for a brief time, but other than him it was all women. I did this quick pen-and-watercolor sketch of the scene.
The highlight of this swim practice was when the coaches insisted that little kids demonstrate dance moves while standing on the starter block. It was so cute! But dancers are tough to draw, so I focused instead on the coaches, who mostly stayed still.
Today my son graduated from The Catholic University of America at its 129th Commencement ceremony! Because I'm on the faculty at Catholic, I had the honor of greeting my son on stage and handing him his diploma. That was great!
Also, the theme of the ceremony was remarkable. It was about immigration, and about welcoming. First the University awarded several honorary degrees to immigrants from Cuba, Syria, Pakistan, Italy, and Lebanon. Then we heard from the main speaker, Archbishop Jose Gomez, who spoke movingly of immigration's role in American history and culture. President John Garvey described a painting he hangs in his home that welcomes guests, and he urged graduates to welcome guests into their own lives. And one of the closing speakers quoted Emma Lazarus: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
I brought my sketchbook but forgot a writing implement. My new best friend from the Drama Department loaned me a pen, and I drew the sketch below with it. I'm pleased with it, though I got hot and tired by the time I reached the right half of the page, and my vertical lines there wandered off in the wrong direction. Still and all, the picture captures the essence of the thing. Hats off to CUA for a great Commencement!
More softball! This time I sketched the whole field across two pages of my sketchbook. The game ended before I finished; I wanted to darken the darks, for example. Still fun!
I've been using my new fountain pen all over the place -- in the doctor's waiting room, on the softball field, at the shopping mall. Here are a few more examples.
I bought a Sailor fountain pen and decided to give it a whirl at Mazza Gallerie, in the Friendship Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. I brought along a waterbrush so that I could create ink washes -- diluted areas of ink used for shading and blending. I started in the lobby area, which features big comfy chairs. Lots of people flop in them to snooze or, more commonly, to use their phones.
The fellow below didn't notice me, but his companion did. They liked my drawing.
Here are a couple more guys with phones.
I then wandered over to a nearby McDonald's and has a small order of fries. While eating, I sketched a group of boisterous friends at the table next to mine.
I also sketched people waiting in line to order.
Then I wandered into TJ Max and sketched a few folks shopping. Shoppers move around more than I expected, so this was more of a challenge. Here's a shoe-shopper.
Finally I wandered back to my starting point and sketched one more person in a chair. It was a nice afternoon!