Sketching in Seattle has a special significance for every Urban Sketcher since the movement was founded here by Spanish illustrator and journalist Gabi Campinario. And since I know I won’t have much time to visit the city I was pretty determined to get at least one sketch in, hopefully of the famous Pike Place Market. It’s so crowded in the vicinity that it seemed unlikely that I would find any seating nearby but there was a spot in the corner of a Starbucks with a table that was calling to me and my sketchbook. It wasn’t the original Starbucks with the bare-breasted siren logo (that one is way to crowded!) but a newer one just outside of the market. Good enough for me. It was worth every cent of the $5 juice I had to buy to sit there and have a glimpse into the interior where the fish mongers throw the big salmon in the air and giant bouquets of flowers fill the stalls.
I think that the last day of a workshop is when everything you have learned should start to come together. My students did not disappoint! Today I tried an exercise for the first time. We drew the town of La Conner from a park across the channel in the Swinomish Indian Reserve. And then we turned away from the scene to paint it. We weren’t allowed to look back at the scene (well maybe we each cheated once!) and the results were outstanding. It’s amazing but true —when you’re not looking at the scene it’s very hard to overwork your sketch. If the exercise works as predicted you are focused on good shapes and a great value plan. I think it helped that we had some good shade under the cedar hat shelters of the Swinomish park.
Whereas yesterday was all about slow observation, perspective and lines, today was about quick sketches and big shapes. In the third day of the Anacortes workshop we worked on simplifying those shapes. I confiscated all the pens and we went straight from pencil to paint without the structure of lots of little lines. I think it was a successful exercise because the results were quite impressive but the highlight of the day for me — city-dweller that I am — was watching a seal eat a fish in the harbour near where we sat.
In the window of Marine Supply & Hardware Co. there’s a stuffed bear’s head, a diving bell, ropes, buoys, floats, glass bottles, giant hooks, assorted brass objects, flags and so many other things that I would have had to take notes to remember them all. Inside there’s room upon room of more nautical stuff, and in fact I’m almost certain some of this has been there since the store opened four generations ago. The yellow facade was our drawing spot today and I can assure you that this was not an easy lesson in perspective and architecture drawing. Two-point perspective on a multi-facade structure like this is difficult to begin with, but add to that the hill that the building was situated on. It wasn’t easy! This is the kind of thing that needs lots of drawing time so as you can see below, we spent many hours huddled in front of the shipbuilding yard across the street. Many people stopped to look at what we were doing and someone even asked if we were having a picnic there! Tomorrow: boats. And after this scene I think those will be easy…
Foliage, architecture, boats and rolling farmland. These are the subjects we will be exploring in my four-day Anacortes workshop. Can you tell which one we started with? There isn’t really time between workshops to post photos from the locations so I will have to do a summary post when I get home, but I will say that so far the level of the participants both here and in Vancouver is exceptionally high. There are excellent sketchers in both cities and that makes for fabulous workshops. All I can really say for now is that there are no shortage of places to sketch in scenic Anacortes and I look forward to the next three days.
I didn’t quite get to finish the details of this demonstration but I thought I’d post it anyway. Today we worked with a limited palette of primary colours – in my case: alizarin, ultramarine and azo yellow. It’s amazing how much variety you can obtain with three hues. The scene I picked was fairly complex — the Vancouver Rowing Club is a busy place on a Saturday morning — so I probably could have worked on the ink drawing some more but the rain clouds were coming (always a concern at a plein aire workshop!) and we didn’t want to get soaked. Despite that I think I managed to express the essence of the Tudor style building set against the dark trees and mountains.
Would a workshop in Vancouver be complete without a bit of rain on my sketch? I doubt it. This demo was supposed to be a quick one on painting foliage but my painting rapidly accelerated when the rain drops started falling. The idea was to paint the foliage all in one pass and then go back to add darks when it dried. Well of course it never dried. It just kept getting wetter and wetter, but I don’t mind the effect achieved with the raindrops. Even if you tried, you could never plan anything like this and that’s why I love watercolour.