"St Paul's Cathedral"

Playing with Color and Style: London - Delhi Sketchbook

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just back from a whirlwind two-week trip to London, Rotterdam, Delhi and Gurgaon for work -- and managed to cram lots of sketching into the mix! Started the night before we left, by sketching the twilight view from the Element New York Times Square West hotel.

Skyline from Elements Times Square Hotel, New York, NY

On the Sunday after we landed in London, I was lucky enough to be able to take the daylong workshop "Giving Life to Painting: Colour and Line" at Bankside Gallery with artist Salliann Putman. She gave us a few exercises to help us push our abstractions to the next level and then encouraged us to apply those techniques to subjects we often painted.

I'd never used charcoal pencils with watercolors before -- wow, what a revelation! I ran outside for a few minutes to look across the Thames and down the South Bank for urban landscape inspiration, and here are the results.

St Paul's Cathedral from near Bankside Gallery, London, UK

Looking East from the Bankside Gallery, London, UK

I think I'll have to add charcoal pencils and spontaneity to my usual kit -- what do you think?

Tuesday the 17th I went on a quick daytrip to Rotterdam to meet with my team there, and when I got back we had dinner at The Grazing Goat, near the Marble Arch station, in London. It has a cozy pub atmosphere -- with lots of goat-themed decor.

The Grazing Goat, London, UK

Then we were off to India! Saturday the 21st was the 35th Worldwide Sketchcrawl. I didn't hear back from anyone else in 95-degree Delhi so decided to crawl solo (why is it that this happens just about every time I am abroad for Sketchcrawl)?

Anyhow, started in the morning at Red Fort, the 17th century complex in Old Delhi built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal fame.

Birds at Red Fort, Delhi, India

Red Fort, Delhi, India

Next up was Jama Masjid, the mosque also built by the same ruler. As the courtyard gets quite hot, there are long strips of cloth crisscrossing it for those who don't shell out a few rupees for socks or slippers. I thought the cloth runners made an interesting contrast with the pink floor.

Jama Masjid, Delhi, India

Lunch was at the famed tourist trap Karim's in Old Delhi. Not sure I want to know exactly what was cooking in the large vats...

Karim's, Old Delhi, India

To get around the narrow bazaars of Old Delhi, a cycle rickshaw can't be beat. We hired one to explore the ancient winding market lanes, crammed with all kinds of goods for sale. Every street specializes in something -- stationery, hardware, bangles, etc. I clutched camera, pen and sketchbook as we hurtled through the streets, managing to draw whenever we stopped to let other rickshaws or carts pass.

Old Delhi street from a cycle rickshaw, India

Old Delhi as seen from a cycle rickshaw, India

We got off briefly in the spice market so I could sketch the heaping piles of nuts and spices. I attracted a crowd of onlookers, M. told me, but I was largely oblivious -- I just pulled my hat brim down and kept going.

Spice Market, Old Delhi, India

Sunday we went to Qutb Minar, where I sketched some of the details of the ruins in the complex. Again, there were many curious children peering over my shoulder as I drew, but I wasn't uncomfortable -- no one got too close or asked any questions.

At Qutb Minar, Delhi, India

I was proud of myself for not letting the weather be an excuse not to sketch on this trip -- it's easy for me to find excuses (too hot, too cold, too damp etc.) Hopefully our next trip to India will let us venture beyond Delhi -- perhaps to the desert so I can draw camels!

New York

Out of the Comfort Zone, Straight to the Page

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Last week I discovered, via Flickr, the spontaneous, energy-filled watercolors of New York City artist Anne Watkins. When I saw that she was starting a weekly plein air class, I jumped at the chance to join. After all, I've long been a fan of artists like her and Lucy Willis who are of the Who-Needs-Pencil-Drawings-When-You-Can-Go-Straight-To-Paint school. My own past attempts at it have been, shall we say, not ready for prime time.

As the sun slowly set in the Flatiron district, the building-tops glowed with an ethereal light. After a quick demo by Anne, it was time for us to take the plunge. I think I got more comfortable as the evening wore on -- do you agree?

Looking north from 23rd/Broadway, New York, NY

Looking north again from 23rd/Broadway, New York, NY

Looking toward Madison Square Park, New York, NY

As I painted, I realized I was doing three things outside my comfort zone -- all at once!

(1) Working with flat brushes. Anne encouraged us to use 3/4-inch and other flats to their advantage, allowing their shape and edges to define areas of light and dark in the urban environment.

(2) Sketching on Arches paper. I'd used it only for more studied plein air work and studio watercolor paintings. It sucks paint up quickly, so I found that it's very important to use lots of saturated color and keep lights light and darks dark.

(3) Omitting the initial ink or pencil drawing. Boy, was this hard! In my usual work, I obviously rely a great deal on defining edges with line instead of shapes. Whether or not I work in the direct-to-watercolor style going forward, it's certainly extremely valuable to do this exercise, as it's a reinforcement of how much painting is about value contrasts and the juxtaposition of shapes.

Can't wait to try this again!

"E. 4th Street"

Cleveland Sketchbook

Sunday, April 01, 2012

View from 19th floor, Marriott Key Center, Cleveland, Ohio
The weather in Cleveland kept yo-yoing from balmy to bitterly cold this past week. Monday, as the sun lingered in the late afternoon, I sketched the views from the 19th floor of the Marriott Key Center where I was staying.

View of roofs from 19th floor, Marriott Key Center, Cleveland, Ohio
Later in the week I spent a half-hour at Erie Island Coffee Company sipping iced tea and drawing what I saw out the window on E. 4th Street. View of E. 4th St. from Erie Island Coffee Co., Cleveland, Ohio

East 4th Street diners, Cleveland, Ohio