Sunday, 30 June 2019

Leading the Eye and Dark Darks

At the risk of adopting a formula, while in Zwolle I started to try to compose my sketches by leading the eye with a wedge shape and anchoring with some dark darks.  It is also a deliberate effort to not fill the page in my on-going effort of deciding when to stop.

This is an illustration technique used for magazines and often text is fit in around it effectively.  I was remembering the work of George Butler, a British reportage artist, who I had the pleasure to meet at Carnet de Voyage in France several years ago, who does dramatic pen and ink illustrations.  Aside from my respect for his work, I am also fascinated with the assignments he has taken in conflict zones for organizations such aMédecins Sans Frontières magazine.

Zarturdag Market

Although we were only in the Netherlands for a few days and people spoke to us in English, I started to notice that while words might look strange in print, I could guess at many when they were spoken. Zaturdag - Saturday, being a good example.

These were some of the market stalls set up on Mel Markt and Grote Markt streets in Zwolle.

As I write this I am remembering many of the other markets I've sketched in and realizing the irony that although I live blocks away from a wonderful farmer's market here in Ottawa, I haven't done a single drawing there.    ...note to self - bring a sketchbook next time.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Market Street in Zwolle

Mel Markt and Grote Markt streets in Zwolle are a pair of pedestrian streets lined by beautiful shops and restaurants with mature canopy trees in what once may have been a boulevard.

On a daily basis, the street is used effectively as cafe patios but undergoes a major conversion on Saturdays for a market.  What was interesting was to see the market stalls get dismantled and packed away in about an hour followed by street sweepers and rapid setting out and occupation of the patio tables.  The sketch was done mid-afternoon on a weekday, but by 5, it would have been difficult to find a seat at one of the several hundred tables.

Zwolle Barges

Barges are hardly unique to Amsterdam, as the Netherlands is crisscrossed with canals.  While barge transport is still very active the commercial ships are generally larger leaving older vessels affordable to individuals for recreational use or even homes.

I sketched these in Zwolle, which is about 80 km. from Amsterdam and a charming destination in its own right.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Amsterdam Barges

On the heels of my post about opening my sketching valves and letting the ink flow on the trip to Amsterdam, these individual boats were the next step.  I have never met a boat I didn't want to draw, but do recognize that they are much easier to draw as side-on elevations than in perspective.

I started into a few looking down from bridges and was not happy, so moved myself to a position just looking across the canals to the boats on the other side.  At this point, I wasn't even tempted to add the houses behind the canal and had fun knocking of a page of boats at a time, then painting the batch.

Warming Up my Sketch Hand

I hadn't drawn much more than a glass of water since my last trip more than a year ago and had to go through the painful warm-up phase for the first few days in Amsterdam before the valves open and the ink flowed.

I knew it would be frustrating but still didn't take a few minutes before leaving home to do some coffee shop or out the window throw-aways.  However, once on the ground, I had the sense to fall back on some less challenging formats to ease the re-entry.  When getting back into the groove, usually block out the sketch with pencil before inking - the progression to "looseness" involves less pencil and finally jumping straight to ink - often standing, not sitting.

Architectural elevations (face on, without perspective) are sort of second nature to me.  Start with the outline of the building, then break it into its proportional elements, deciding how much detail to add.  A couple of those, followed by a few frustrating perspectives, just to challenge my resolve, then a far less ambitious zoom in of an element - in this case a pollarded olive tree near our table in the outdoor cafe. Adding some paint would have been a good idea, but essentially after all my years of drafting, I'm, at heart, a line guy.

Shari's new book is out!

One evening this winter I came home to discover Shari Blaukopf's new book in my mailbox.  If you know her work, you will have recognized that she has a painterly approach - volumes, atmospheric depth, skillful colour composition and often a detailed description of paint colours.
Working With Color takes a deep dive into her extensive knowledge in an accessible, topic per page, format.  And true to Shari's graphic design roots, the production values are very high, including the Moleskin-like elastic band on the cover.  I highly recommend it!

Oh, and the reason I received it so early was because one of my sketches was included as an example of using a limited palette.  That sketch was from Spain, when I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostella several years ago.  In my book, Drawn Along The Way,  I described the limited palette I used and credited Sahri for the choice of the five tubes of watercolour I relied on for that whole month.

Oh, and for the editors out there.  Shari's book was published in America where there is a severe shortage of the letter "u".  Although somewhat humourous, I am honoured, nonetheless.