By the Saugatuck River, Downtown Westport, CT

Monday, March 28, 2011

By the Saugatuck River in downtown Westport, Connecticut

Stopped in Westport after an event in Southington yesterday, just because. Once again, it was blustery. See a pattern in my posts? Apparently I go out and sketch only when the wind kicks up! Anyhow, I had a long, warm coat to shield me from most of it. Sat on one of the many benches near the Westport Library and sketched the view across the river.

(Lamy Safari w/ Noodler's Lexington Gray ink; watercolor added later.)

"Hudson River"

Biking and Sketching the Hudson in Nyack, NY

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Looking north on Haverstraw Trail, near Nyack, New York

After last weekend's successful bike-and-sketch excursion, we decided to do it again yesterday in a different locale, this time on two bikes. We drove across the Tappan Zee Bridge to Nyack, NY, and had lunch at the King and I Thai restaurant before heading to Nyack Beach State Park. (Aside: Really loved downtown Nyack -- will have to return to explore the little shops and cafes! And it's only a half-hour away! Hat tip to the Hudson Valley Painter blog for ideas on where to paint in the area.)

I toted my painting gear along in a small Tamrac camera bag -- found that it fits nicely on my bike rack with a net to hold it down. I went about 3/4 mile up the Haverstraw trail, found a flat rock to sit on, and took out my sketching materials to tackle the Hudson River view. M. went farther up the trail to explore the abandoned houses and structures.

It was warm-ish, but very, very windy as I painted -- the breeze dried the paint quickly but made it difficult to work nonetheless.

When M. got back, I took out my dip pens and ink for a quick 12-minute sketch of the view in the other direction. Yes, that's the Tappan Zee Bridge way back there in the distance.

View of Tappan Zee Bridge from Haverstraw Trail, Nyack, New York

I didn't bring along my custom drawing board this time, so handling the pen-and-ink outdoors got a bit messy. So M. had the idea of photographing/videotaping me while I work, to dissect the logistics and streamline the whole process. Can't wait to share what we find out -- and the solutions that MacGyver, I mean M., devises!

"Thimble Islands"

Sunday Scene: Stony Creek

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ever been to the Thimble Islands? I haven't yet, but this past weekend we got mighty close. A spring-weather forecast motivated us to take the tandem bike (newly geared up by M.) on a 16-mile ride through the shoreline town of Branford, CT.

We saw the ferry leave the dock at Stony Creek for the islands but were put off from boarding by the strong winds. I took out a pen and sketched the dock and islands beyond, but the whipping wind chilled me to the bone.

Looking toward Thimble Islands from the Stony Creek dock, Branford, Connecticut

(Sketched on the scene with black Pitt Artist pen; watercolor and watercolor pencil highlights added later.)

It was tough to get back on the bike to ride all the way back to the car -- the steep hills forced us to stop and catch our breath several times!

Another Handmade Crafternoon, This Time with Birds

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Went to another installment of the New York Public Library's Handmade Crafternoon series last weekend. The special guest was avian soft toy expert Abby Glassenberg, author of The Artful Bird.

The pattern provided was a bit small for my taste, so I just drew around it freehand and altered it. Loved the colorful scraps of batik they gave us to decorate our winged creatures!

Could also make a great Christmas tree ornament, of course, or Easter decor -- with some stuffed eggs, perhaps?

Tea at The Drawing Room, in Cos Cob, CT

Sunday, March 06, 2011

At The Drawing Room in Cos Cob, Connecticut

Aside: As I'm writing this, it's raining, and typing the word "tea" makes me want a cup!

A few days ago, M. and I had lunch at The Drawing Room, a boutique and cafe in Cos Cob, Conn., right off Route 1 on Suburban Avenue. The boutique is cute, though I find that many of the high-end home stores in this area tend to have a similar "shoreline preppy" aesthetic. I was interested more in their tea and light fare menu -- and how could I resist *drawing* in a place called The Drawing Room?

For some reason I brought along only a Moleskine sketchbook that I needed to complete. I just cannot bring myself to put away sketchbooks unfinished no matter how much I can't stand the paper. To draw with, I'd brought two Pilot Varsity fountain pens, refilled with Noodler's Golden Brown and Lexington Gray inks respectively.

My first sketch, with the Golden Brown, was atrocious -- the ink simply beaded on the paper's surface and refused to cooperate. I (sort of) salvaged it later with some Pitt Artist pens because I liked the subject -- the cafe's tiered Afternoon Tea. I've used the Golden Brown before quite successfully, so I'm pretty sure it's just this paper, which reminds me of elementary school oak tag or manila folders.

Afternoon tea at The Drawing Room, Cos Cob, Connecticut

My second sketch (shown at the top of this post), using the Lexington Gray, felt much better -- the ink responded with a nice, thick line. I did highlight it a bit with Pitt Artist pens, but not too much.

Anyone else refilling Pilot Varsity pens for drawing? What's your experience with them?

(Now I'm off to go make myself that cup of tea!)

How to Modify a Drawing Board for Portable Pen and Ink

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Overwintered geraniums

A few years ago, as I was trawling the web looking for inspiration, I came upon the drawings of George Butler and Studio 1482. I was attracted to the reportage style, yes, but was especially excited by the spidery, uneven quality of their pen-and-ink lines.

While beautiful, though, dip pen is not the easiest plein air medium for today's busy world -- it's inherently messy and a little awkward.

So, how could I make it a bit more user-friendly? Oh, do I love a challenge!

My first breakthrough was to look for a screw-top, clip-on metal palette cup (the kind used in oil painting, for mediums and such) that could be used as an inkwell. I figured I could just clip it onto my drawing board. Doesn't hold a ton of ink, but a little India ink goes a long way.

What I didn't realize, though, is that most of the cheap ones LEAK! It took forever (and many trips to various art supply stores) to find some whose welds were actually strong enough to make watertight seals. Finally I found a few that worked. Now, what to do with the lid while drawing?

Enter my personal MacGyver (who, by the way, has a great new blog). I told him what I needed: some way to keep the palette-cup cap from getting lost; some place to put the extra pens when I wasn't using them.

Here's what we came up with.


At the top left are two drilled holes filled with rare earth magnets and secured with adhesive (epoxy, I believe), to hold palette cup lids while drawing.



On the right are holes of different sizes, to hold pens:


Here's the setup in action in the back porch, where I drew the overwintered geraniums shown earlier in this post:


And yes, I have taken this setup out in the "field" -- I just put the tightly capped, ink-filled palette cup and pens in a quart-size zip-top baggie. (I'm going to investigate see-through dry bags for this purpose though -- the kind that kayakers use to stash their gear -- since regular ziptop bags get worn out pretty quickly.)

If I want clear water (for lightening the ink/cleaning the pen nibs) I use an Aquatote or similar container.

Can't wait for the weather to turn warm again so I can take my gear to the beach or park!

How about you? What methods do you use to keep your pen-and-ink materials tidy?