Christmas at the Old Home Place

Merry Christmas everyone! We're at my folks' place outside Chicago, where I lived from the time I was 10 years old until I flew the coop after college. It's nice to be back, visiting with family, eating entirely too much, and not having much of anything to do. Though I'm not feeling particularly inspired to draw, I enjoyed doing this quick sketch of my Mom, who is almost constantly busy in the kitchen. It's obviously where she's most comfortable, with kids and grandkids coming and going, stopping to chat or grab a bite to eat. It's where I've had some of my best talks with her, sitting on the other side of the counter, just shooting the shit. Maybe this sketch will get me going, and I'll do more while I'm here. Or maybe not. It's very refreshing, all this sitting around in between indulgent meals. Perhaps I'll just enjoy it for a few days.


Faculty Exhibit 2010

This past Friday was the opening of the College of Art and Architecture Faculty Exhibit at the Prichard Gallery, which I've blogged about previously. As has been my custom, I'm showing sketches from the past summer in Italy. Links to what's on display:
In addition to the Italy sketches, I'm also showing the sketchbook from the 1st International Urban Sketchers Symposium, held in Portland this past July. I finished this book in early October (see the previous post), and examples of sketches can be seen here, here, here, and here.
The exhibit will be up until February, in case you're planning a visit to Moscow in the near future!


Return to Portland

Every time I visit this city, I like it a little more. Part of that is my growing familiarity with the place, and the accumulating experiences I've had with students, other sketchers, etc. But the physical space of the city is really growing on me - the small blocks (200' x 200') make it seem like a big US city that has been scaled-down just enough to favor the pedestrian, and enough to let in a lot of sunlight (when the sun is shining, anyway). I spent the weekend here with my third-year studio group, and also met up with a contingent of Portland Urban Sketchers like Alanna Randall and Kalina Wilson for a short sketchcrawl on Saturday. That's when I did this sketch of the Steel Bridge. I had seen several folks from the Symposium who drew this subject, and I had been meaning to take a stab at it ... and I also wanted to finish off at least half of the accordion Moleskine we all got at the symposium in July. More sketches from my weekend in Portland are on my Flickr page.


Sketching with Students

It was a nice afternoon here in Moscow, so I took my design studio group out for a little sketching. We were trying to focus on recording scenes and orthogonal sketches of architectural elements relevant to the project they're working on - Courtyard Housing. The project site is in Portland, and we're heading there for a field trip next week, so this was also an opportunity to get in a little location sketching practice before we go. I was using a new fountain pen (a gift from my wife on our 15th Anniversary yesterday!). I like the pen, though I had a little trouble with the water-soluble ink. Probably going to refill it with Noodler's Lexington Gray when I get a chance.  


"Three Days of Peace & Sketching"

Like a lot of people who were in attendance, I'm still smiling ear-to-ear after the Symposium. I knew it was going to be a great event, but I had no idea how great. Before I left for Portland, I had been following people's posts documenting their journeys from far and wide. I jokingly said to my wife, Patty, that it felt like the "Woodstock of Sketching" was about to happen. It was tongue-in-cheek when I said it, but I guess there was a grain of truth as well. And as Lapin was sitting beside me at dinner the final evening, drawing the phrase in his sketchbook, I couldn't stop chuckling about what a fantastic three days we'd all shared. It was refreshing and motivating to be around so many people who are passionate about sketching the world around them. I'm only sorry it didn't go on longer, and that I didn't have time to get to know even more fellow sketchers. I guess that's why I'm going to find a way to get to Lisbon for the next one!

This spread is from the Urban Sketcher's Moleskine. I had never tried this Japanese/Accordion format, and I wasn't crazy about the paper ... but in the spirit of trying new things, I gave it a shot and really enjoyed it. No watercolor, but I was in a pencil/pen mood anyway (almost all of my other sketches from the weekend were pencil). I even tried to blend a couple sketches, which is not something I do very often. But seeing other sketchers use this approach, I just had to give it a try - where the Clyde Common sketch sort of connects to the Freemont Bridge. It's not much, but it's a start!  

A big THANK YOU to everyone at the Symposium for making it such a wonderful experience. Thanks to Patrick and Kurt and everyone at PNCA - excellent venue and organization! Special thanks to the other presenters/instructors and fellow USK Correspondents - your work is inspiring, and your friendship is cherished. And extra-special thanks to Gabi, who really made everything come together and never appeared to break a sweat!

See you in Lisbon!


Final Rome Sketches for the Year

One more post of Rome sketches, from the last few days we were there. The first is the view from our studio, looking out into Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. This space, like most Roman piazze, changes its character throughout the day. When the sun is beating down, it can be very quiet. Only the sweaty tourists plod through looking for some shade. But in the evening, the piazza comes alive with all types of people, and the street entertainers begin their shows. By morning, it's back to a peaceful, pleasant space ... that's when I did this drawing.
Next up is the funerary monument designed by Gianlorenzo Bernini in 1643, for the Dominican nun named Maria Raggi. I started this sketch one morning, and didn't get very far before I was forced to quit, as there was a funeral just beginning in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. So I returned a few days before we left Rome to finish. The monument is attached to a column, but I left that out in favor of the monument itself.
The final two sketches are views of the street where we lived last year and this year (and perhaps again next year). The plan of the apartment, and a view of the front door, are here. It's a quiet street amid some very noisy streets in Trastevere, and I had been meaning to draw these views all summer. I finally got the chance, and the second sketch was the last page in my first Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, so it felt like a fitting end to the summer.


Leaving Rome

We head back to the states tomorrow morning, so this is one final post from Rome until next year. Certainly sad to be leaving, but the heat here during the past couple weeks has made it difficult to stay motivated for touring or sketching. I'm ready to get back to the cool nighttime temperatures of northern Idaho. It's been a fantastic summer, with a great group of students. I felt busier than I did last year for a variety of reasons, and I don't feel like I sketched as much as I would have liked. But I did accomplish quite a lot, so no complaints. Here are a few that I hadn't posted yet ... I may do another post in the next week with some other odds and ends. And then it's off to Portland for the Urban Sketchers Symposium! Can't believe that is coming up so fast, I'm really looking forward to seeing so many folks there.


More from the Moleskine

I keep finding myself in places where the subject for a sketch is clearly calling for a vertical approach. It's a little cumbersome to work with the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook in these situations, but I do love the paper. And perhaps I should push things even further in the vertical direction, like Matthew Cencich does here (great sketch!). I've got some more catching up to do, so here's a small collection from the past week. The first sketch here is from the Eremo delle Carceri outside Assisi. It's the hermitage where St. Francis used to hang out with his buddies and reconnect with nature. Beautiful spot ... my son Will and I walked up there from town - about 350 meters vertical over 4 kilometers of distance - and were rewarded by the beauty and cool temperatures of the small mountain valley. It's no wonder this was a place favored by St. Francis. 
The next sketch is from Perugia, at the cloister adjacent to San Domenico, which now houses the major archaeological museum of Umbria. This was a very quick drawing, done directly in watercolor.

This sketch is another one from Assisi, of the inside of the Porta San Giacomo ... I had intended to do a drawing of the facade of San Francesco, but was distracted by the sun in this quiet, sloping little street.

And finally, this was a watercolor I did just yesterday while I was out for sketching class with my students here in Rome. San Silvestro in Capite has a lovely small courtyard in front, dominated by the 12th century bell tower and a later facade. But my favorite aspects of this place are the building surrounding the space and the well-cared-for plants that help to make the space feel just a bit cooler on very hot days. And yesterday was very hot ... after enjoying spring-like weather from mid-May through almost the end of June, it seems as if the real heat of the summer has set in. Everyone is moving more slowly, and the demographics of our neighborhood have made a distinct change as Italians start heading for the sea and the tourists begin to take over in more evident fashion. Just two more weeks here, and then it's back to Moscow. A little more than a week after that, and I'll be in Portland for the Urban Sketcher's Symposium!


Still Trying to Catch Up ...

More sketches from the backlog I've developed in the past few weeks ... This time it's a few watercolors from various places. Sketching small, in something like a 5" x 8" Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, is certainly enjoyable. And keeping things small usually means keeping things quick and loose, which definitely has its advantages when sketching on location. But to really get into sketching with watercolor I feel like I need more space on the page, and it's easier to work on a 9" x 12" pad or block instead of in a book. Using a larger, better brush is also a nice change of pace from the waterbrush I typically use for small subjects. Waterbrushes are fantastic for the small stuff, but there's nothing like a good sable #6 to get the water and pigment flowing. This first sketch is in the center of Rome, the Via delle Vacche, just off of Piazza del Fico. This was done just after finishing my sketching colurse with students for the morning ... one of my favorite times to draw on my own is immediately after teaching people about drawing!
The second sketch is from Ostia Antica, the ancient port city of Rome. Like the first sketch in this post, I had just finished up with my students and had found a nice shady, quiet spot to settle in and paint. This is the "Case del Giardino" ... i.e., garden apartments.
This one is from Paestum, a Greco-Roman settlement south of Salerno, along the coast. It was founded in the 4th/5th Century BC, and is one of my favorite places to visit ... amazing ruins in an equally amazing landscape. This is the lone intact column around the ancient Forum. I got a little bit lost in the act of painting and paid for it with a painful sunburn on the right side of my neck.
The last of this little collection is from Piazza Umberto I in Atrani. I started this one in the upper-left, and was having fun with the landscape with the little monastery on the cliff ... but I have to admit I got a little lazy toward the end, and sort of gave up toward the bottom. My patience has its limits, I suppose. So perhaps it's back to the small-scale stuff for a while.


Galleria Borghese

I don't think I could say it better than Gabi Campanario did in his post on Urban Sketchers, so I'll just quote him: "I can't think of a better way to experience a museum visit than drawing whatever is on display. You're much more likely to remember what you learned if you sketched it." Ordinarily, I'm too much in awe to sketch when I visit the Galleria Borghese here in Rome, but since I've been doing more figure drawing lately I figured it was worth a try.
The Galleria Borghese was created by Scipione Borghese in the early 1600s. His uncle, Camillo, became Pope Paul V in 1605, and Scipione was elevated to Cardinal the same year. He was an avid art collector, and this gallery was his personal treasure trove for ancient sculpture and the contemporary works of his day. Scipione Borghese was Gian Lorenzo Bernini's first major patron, and the gallery houses some of his most impressive early works, including Aeneas and Anchises, Pluto and Proserpina, Apollo and Daphne ... 
... and also his version of David, which is likely a self-portrait of the artist and which shows the protagonist in the moment before he slings the stone to kill Goliath. This last sculpture is the one I decided to draw on this visit. Since you are only allowed into the museum in 2-hour shifts, your time there needs to be focused ... so I did my best to move through the picture galleries and made brief visits with the other Bernini sculptures before settling in and drawing for about 45 minutes. When I take on subjects like this, I'm not always happy with the results, but I was very happy about this one. I'm already looking forward to going back at some point to try other sculptures, or perhaps this one again from a different angle.


Small Sketches from Atrani, Part 1

A week ago we went to Paestum and Atrani for four days. Beautiful weater and fantastic sketching opportunities. Here are a few from the Moleskine. The first is the view of the western bluff above town, toward the sea.
This is the view from Piazza Maddelena, in front of the main church in town and looking along the coast to the east. I was experimenting with blue shadows ... seemed to work reasonably well.
And this last one is the view from my room. I got the idea for doing this sketch while I was on the phone with my wife, who had just arrived in Rome. The reflections looked interesting, and the bright sunshine outside contrasted well with the cool interior of the room ... more to follow!

Short Watercolor Studies

Another example from sketching class ... in this case I was trying to show my students how to do very small, quick studies in watercolor. And I was trying to get sort of loosened-up myself, by not taking on too much at one time. These were done around the Portico d' Ottavia.

Catching Up ...

I've been very busy, and doing a fair amount of sketching .... but I haven't been posting enough. So I have a backlog of drawings that I want to get up on the blog and Flickr. The next several posts will probably come fast and furious, with not a whole lot of storytelling to go along with the images.

These sketches were done in the early days of the program, during the sketching course I teach. The goal was to show students how to keep their drawings quick, small, and manageable. Each of these is just a few inches by a few inches, and only about 5 or 10 minutes. (Derwent Venetian Red pencil.)

Much more to come very soon ...


Sketching Gear

Here is my sketching kit at the moment ... I have a few drawers of materials in my office, but this is what I'm currently traveling with for a summer in Rome. For pencils, I'm carrying three Staedtler-Mars (B, 2B, and 4B), a Derwent Venetian Red, a Derwent Chocolate, and a General's Medium Charcoal ... and a pencil-extender one of my teachers gave me a very long time ago. I also have a kneaded eraser for basic cleanup - as a rule, I never erase any lines, so this is just for accidental smudges - and a Mars plastic eraser for major accidents, like if a pigeon should happen to dump on my sketch. A small General's sharpener has been working fine, but I need to replace my little pocket knife - it was confiscated by TSA as I was on my way to Rome a couple years back, and I just haven't found a new one yet. For pens, I have a Uniball Vision Exact Micro (although I haven't been using it very often), a Lamy Safari with an extra fine nib, and an old Yafa fountain pen my dad gave me many years ago. I like the Lamy because it's so rough-and-tumble, but the Yafa is easier to draw with - it feels softer and much more fluid. Noodler's Lexington Gray ink is in both fountain pens. I had searched far and wide for a dark brown (sepia) ink that wouldn't bleed when adding watercolor to a sketch ... but no such luck. So I followed Nina Johansson's lead and went with the Lexington, and I like it very much - thanks, Nina! My watercolor palette is the same one I bought as a student about 25 years ago - a good, solid, hinged enameled-metal one, with a removable plastic piece that has the wells (makes it very easy to clean, and I like a clean palette!). My colors are all from M.Graham, and I really can't recommend them highly enough. The specific colors are, top-to-bottom on the palette, in some cases with two colors in the same well: Sepia, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Gamboge, Cadmium Yellow Light, Hooker's Green, Viridian, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Rose, and Cadmium Red. Finally, my brushes ... I use a Koi waterbrush for small, on-the-go subjects, and one of two other brushes for larger watercolors, and for when I have more time. The red-handled one is a Princeton synthetic sable #6 round, and the clear-handled one is a Connoisseur Kolinsky sable #6 round (this is my favorite brush). Not pictured here is a small brass water reservoir that clips to my sketchpad when I'm not using the waterbrush. Also not pictured here are the paper towels essential for watercolors and the pencil case I use to carry all this stuff around. Portability is the prime limiting factor ... I have to be selective to get it all in the case, and being selective is good!


Quick Sketches

Here are a few quick sketches from last week - I have a slight backlog and I'm trying to catch up. Even though I've been trying to simplify things and move to just a single sketchbook ... well, that hasn't happened. The dinner sketches I recently posted were from my relatively new Handbook - which was the intended 'single sketchbook.' But the sketches in this post are from the Moleskine (5" x 8" watercolor). And I'm also using 9" x 12" pads of drawing paper and watercolor paper for larger drawings (will post some of those soon). So if anything I've just added to the confusion by adding the Handbook. Well, it's not really confusion. It's just a hassle sometimes to tote all this stuff around ... or, if I leave one of these books/pads at the apartment, then I always regret not having it with me. Not a big problem, I know, but these are the things that occupy the mind of a sketcher. The first one here, of the Piazza di Spagna, was another attempt at using watercolor as a sketch medium - i.e., not doing any sketching with pencil or pen and then watercolor, but just doing the sketch directly in watercolor. The second sketch, of a beautiful little space just off the Via Margutta, was done with a Derwent 'Chocolate' colored pencil (one of my students asked if it was made with real chocolate), and the last one - at the Villa Giulia - is the Lamy Safari, Lexington Gray ink, and watercolor. It was a nice day of touring with my students and sneaking in a few quick sketches along the way. I'm having good fun mixing it up with media over here!


Eating Alone in Rome

Since my family has yet to join me here in Rome, and since I haven't had the time (or made the time) to make myself dinner, I've been eating out on my own every couple of days. It can be lonely, and Italians often regard me as an oddity - I think it's uncommon for them to eat alone, and I must look a little sad sitting there by myself. But it's not so bad if I do a little sketching and writing in my journal before or after I devour the evening's pasta. The day's events, comments on the food, and assorted thoughts make up the writing ... and whatever happens to be in my view ends up as a sketch. For this reason, I usually try to grab a table with a view through the door, but that's not always possible.

I've been writing and drawing in this book, a Handbook Journal, with an old Yafa fountain pen, using Noodler's Lexington Gray ink ... and it would be nice if I could add a little watercolor, but that would make things a bit complicated at the restaurant table. So instead I've chosen to keep things simple and quick. This is a selection from a few of my favorite places here in Trastevere.



I arrived in Rome last Thursday evening, and almost all of my students were in town by the end of the day Saturday, ready to begin the fourth annual incarnation of the University of Idaho's Rome Architecture Program. On Sunday, we all went to the Pantheon for the Pentacost service, at the end of which the local firefighters dump rose petals down through the oculus at the peak of the dome. It's an incredible sight, and I spent most of the event shooting video that I'll need to edit later. After the fact, I did this sketch from memory, and as a sort of title page for this next chapter in my moleskine sketchbook.

Following the mass, we broke for lunch and then began an orientation tour around the center of town. This is a fairly casual and very random tour, where I attempt to lead the students into surprising urban situations - sudden vistas, curious spaces, hit-you-over-the-head Baroque moments. We talk about the history of the city, it's urban plan, it's monuments and personalities. We covered a lot of ground and the tour ended up going for about four hours, finishing at the Campidoglio, with its views over the Forum to the southeast and the Centro Storico to the north, where I did this quick sketch.

Getting to Rome

I arrived in Rome after the standard long flights and long layovers scenario. On one of the flights, I honestly can't recall which one, I started to work out a timeline that plotted Moscow time against Rome time, with time spent in the air (red) and time spent on the ground (green) on a bar down the center. Even after going through this little exercise, and creating what I thought would be a helpful graphic device, it was still a confusing process of travel. But I've been here almost a week now, and the trip over seems like a distant memory. Funny how time bends when you change so many time zones overnight.



I had way too much going on to plan/organize a sketchcrawl, as the semester is crashing to a close and I depart for Rome in just a few days. But one of my tasks before leaving was to do a sketch of our kids' elementary school as a gift for their principal, who is retiring this year. He's an amazing guy, and has helped our kids immensely, so this was really the least I could do. I hope he likes it! ... The next time I post will be from ROME.



Ordinarily, I'm not a big fan of making mindless doodles. I prefer to draw from observation, and I enjoy the practice of trying to represent what I see in a variety of media. But sometimes I fall out of practice or get too busy and don't make enough time to get out and sketch. Too many meetings can also be the culprit, and that was the case with these sketches ... mindless doodling, with watercolor added later. In both cases, I just went through my watercolor palette one color at a time, with no mixing involved. So in a way, these are useful little images in that they describe my palette at this point in time. They were both drawn using a new ink I'm trying out - Lexington Gray (with a Lamy Safari EF). I've been trying, without any luck, to find a dark brown waterproof fountain pen ink, and noticed that Nina Johansson (a fellow Urban Sketcher) frequently uses Lexington Gray with watercolor.

So I ordered a sample from Pear Tree Pens (these folks have been exceptionally helpful) ... and so far I like it - not as dark or warm-toned as I'd prefer, but it is certainly waterproof, so it's a keeper for now. Both of these sketches were done in my relatively new Handbook, which I'm trying to use for lists, lecture notes, journaling, meeting notes, and sketches. It's a great little book, with watercolor-like paper, but in a portrait format (unlike the Moleskine watercolor books, which still seem to be available only in landscape format).
See? For better or worse, I don't think I'm capable of a truly 'mindless' doodle.


Conference Sketching

Going to academic conferences can be great fun and very inspiring. This past weekend, I attended the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student (NCBDS) in Charlotte, NC, and had a fantastic time. Met lots of interesting people, learned all sorts of new approaches to teaching, and enjoyed many good conversations. The only drawback with most conferences is that I'm more or less forced to be inside all day listening to presentations. So even when the conference is in an interesting place, and when the weather is spectacular (as it was over the weekend), it's rare that I get a chance to walk around, discover, and sketch the location. My sketchbooks end up being a mix of airport scenes, auditorium interiors, and the occasional sketch of an image from someone's presentation. As evidence, here are a couple spreads and a few details from other pages.

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