Thursday, November 03, 2016

Urban Sketching Catch-up

Hilary asked on the previous post what's next - more sketching or back to quilting? Well, I intended to go right into some textile work but remembered that one of the reasons I took on the sketch challenge was because I'd not been making time to work on a couple of sketches either already in the works or that I wanted to get into my comforts sketchbook. So while a yummy cranberry raisin pie was baking this morning, I tackled this partially finished sketch from late August. Oh my, so much wrong with this and did not anticipate the struggles I would have with it, especially because I'd just done so well on the lifeguard station sketch of a few days before. Perhaps a bit overconfident! Perhaps I could have done better were I not standing. The final straw was trying to draw the close lines representing the slats on the bench - the pencil was not sharp or hard enough and I really did need a nice fine-tip pen which just happened to be at home.

I knew I'd be adding color at home anyway, so finally gave in and finished my walk. And then never got back to it until today. The reason I wanted to sketch this, which is in the little park slowly developing along my walking route, is because of the color. I was so surprised when benches and trash receptacles and water fountains and bike racks started appearing, all in bright blue! I'd seen nothing like it elsewhere and it intrigued me.

So what might I have on hand that would produce that bright blue? I'd been thinking about my little travel set of watercolor paints with the tiny brush. After inking in the outlines of the bench, receptacle and their slats, I indeed got out the paints and worked to fill in the spaces. I'm on a medication right now that has affected the steadiness of my hands so perhaps this was not the best time to do this, but I really didn't want to put it off any longer. Makes for a great excuse for my wavering lines! Not quite the brilliant blue of the real thing, but I enjoyed playing with the watercolors, especially in adding the bit of tansy that covered the little rise behind the bench. Great art it is not, but a humbling experience that still captures a moment and a place.

Speaking of capturing a moment and a place, one of the reasons stated by the Urban Sketchers movement for sketching urban scenes is to create a bit of historical record. Buildings come and go, undergo changes, get added to and painted over. In the short time I've been sketching some of the buildings in my area, I have seen such changes happen. One of my first sketches was of the Bongo Brew Hut, which now has had a (boringly modern) facelift and is called The Brim. I knew it was only a matter of time before this boarded up roadhouse would be razed and sure enough, this summer it disappeared leaving only an empty lot. The Mexican Restaurant sustained damage around the front entry due to a small fire, and the whole building was repainted brown rather than the yellow I drew. And I'm pretty sure that a few interesting old sheds I'd planned to sketch are now gone before I got to them. 

I was reminded of this when reading a recent post by Pete Scully to the Urban Sketchers blog. In it he shares his documentation of the tearing down of a building on the UC Davis campus to make way for "something shinier". It's a great story with great sketches that makes the case for this kind of sketching. Could the same documentation been done with a camera? But of course. But there is a certain charm to these sketches that a camera simply would not capture, perhaps a bit of the artist himself in there as well as his feelings and viewpoints. I hope you will take a look and read what he has to say: From the Boiler to the Pitzer.  


Charlton Stitcher said...

These are such difficult shapes with legs and arms and the back of the seat all going at tricky angles and I don't envy you! I think though that you've captured the spirit of the the thing which is the most important aspect. After all, you have your photo for the realism and the accuracy!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thank you, Margaret. You are so right about the accuracy bit - that's for photos! It was mostly that blue that led me to want to sketch this in the first place and I appreciate that you agree I've managed to capture the spirit, as you say. But I guess I was surprised at the struggle with the bench since I'd done a different kind of bench several years ago with quite good results. But then, I was sitting that time around, and didn't have those curvy armrests to deal with - here it is: