I just finished another sketchbook, six months of Sundays, literally. And because I can’t simply leave it at that, I had to go one step further and try to figure out:
1- how to shoot a one-handed video in a noisy cafe, and also
2- learn how the heck to upload it to this website!
This may be simple-stupid for anyone who grew up with a cell phone in their tiny hands, but since my childhood toys were office scrap paper and a Crayola Box o’ 64 (filthy rich kid, right?), I have a bit of learning to do. My good friend J. in “the other Hampshire” has my permission to have a good laugh here… I use technology every day, I even count on it, but please don’t make me learn new stuff. Mea culpa, I’m not always a willing student.
HAVING SAID ALL THAT…. here goes.
The video, at the end of this post, shows me flipping through pages rather fast because you don’t need to read what I wrote on every page. My notes are often about the weather (“my fingers are freezing!”) or the supplies used that day (“EA med. palette, R16 brush, collapsible pot”), or maybe notes about the lovely people who stopped to chat with us. You can try to decipher what I wrote on any given page, but I encourage you not to do that. Your time is better spent sketching, right?
After the Ste Marie Church spread (see above), I had only one two-page spread left. I could’ve taken the book with me sketching one last time, but decided instead to honor the previous 55 pages and write an extensive “What I Learned” summary at the end. Here it is. (This actually is worth reading.)
1- The large 55° Fude pen is Magic.
2- Rosemary & Co. R-12 and R-16 daggers are the brush eqivalents of the Fude pen. Serious learning curve, yes, but life-changing. (R-12 is best for smaller sketchbooks; the larger R-16 brush is better for larger areas, of course.)
3- A large mixing area on the palette is actually a mixed blessing. (No pun intended!) Better to “minimally-mix” on the paper itself. Like this.
4- Ink alone can be wonderful! Let it be!
5- Sometimes your “focal point” is the atmosphere itself, the temperature, the scent in the air, not an individual object. Trust your instincts!
6- Sketchbooks save Love! A long weekend in June spent with dear friends would’ve been lost in the back of my mind if I hadn’t asked my hosts if it was okay to sketch while we chatted. After no time at all your friends will see that you actually listen better when you’re sketching, that you are fully present every second, and that you’re also memorializing your time together. They will get to see what you see, and will thank you for it.
7- The Lamy Safari fountain pen still rocks for details. Love it!
8- ALL sketches improve in the dark. Finish your sketch, call it good even if it isn’t. Close the book. The next day, after the page has had time to steep like a good cup of tea, you’ll be amazed at how it’s improved. The wobbles will be minimized, the endearing bits become more endearing. (Note: Never let a cuppa steep ovenight. That was just a simile.)
9- Sketchbooks easily become storybooks if you add just a few notes to each expedition. Simple things like what artkit you used that day, was it hot or breezy, did you dump your coffee by mistake and then use the dregs in the bottom of the cup to finish off the stonewall in your sketch, did an elderly person walk by and say, “Nice day, isn’t it?” and smile at you? These details will warm your heart six months hence.
10- Giving up is sometimes wonderful! This sketch was so fiddly, drove me mad, especially that garden trellis fence in the back. I snarled aloud, sprayed it with a light mist of water, patted it just once with a tissue to lift some of the paint, and voila! Impressionism! Who knew!
11- Neutral Tint is relief for the eye after too much colorful eye-candy!
12- And finally, a direct quote from my sketchbook: “Sketching time is not merely sketching practice; it’s practice staying present. We met so many lovely people over the past six months. Homeowners, a professional gardener, a pre-schooler, and many dog-walkers. All storytellers, though they didn’t know it.”
This entire book is also thanks to my dear friend and Sunday afternoon companion, Patrick. Together we kept our sketching practice going rain or shine, restless or inspired. I’m proud of us.
And now, the video. If it crashes or malfunctions or in any other way gets snarly, you get the gist of it from all those notes above. Enjoy!
PS: And because I know you’ll ask, this delightful sketchbook is a Speedball Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal, Square, 8-1/4 x 8-1/4, 95lb / 200 GSM. Price is $25.99. Considerably more expensive than its only-slightly-smaller kid brother, the Large Portrait (8.25″ x 5.5″) at $16.99. Note also this 200gsm paper is plenty thick for watercolor. Okay, we’re getting into the weeds here…