Monday, December 05, 2005
I admit it. I am a sucker for Landscape paintings. Although most of my free time, it seems, I find myself inside waiting for this or that or sitting in a boring meeting with thoughts escaping to one of these pastoral images. I have several colleagues and friends (those I can talk to about art and more cerebral topics) who are enamored with modern art. I appreciate modern art but to me they affect me like a color study affects me; it is interesting and somehow I come away smarter but it doesn't make a connection to my heart. Not like a landscape or a figure study of a friend, my children or my wife- it connects to my heart- brings back incredible feelings to the time I first laid paint to paper- it captures for me a moment in time and the feelings I felt when I was carried away to that unforgettable place where time stops and all I can hear is the beating of my heart and that which is in front of me.
This scene which is becoming more and more rare in our backyard. More and more faceless and soulless homes are filling in around us and they seem not only more of them but incomprehensibly larger. I think minimalists like D. Price go a little too far in living so simply that they erase themselves from existence. But I would rather be a neighbor to a million D. Price's out there than the 6,000 sf McMansions that are sprouting up everywhere around us- being purchased by those who really can't afford it and who eventually lose it to bankruptcy. I think the Joneses should be locked up.
There probably only 4 colors used in this sketch but they convey what I saw and felt. My pallete of paints are increasing in the earth tones and decreasing on the primaries.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Here I am sketching from the National Geographic again. I can't help but become absorbed in some of these images. I was really intrigued by this particular image, it is of an elephant in an Elephant Hospital (who would of thought) recovering from stepping on a landmine. His one leg became in an instant a clump of flesh.
The colors in this sketch came off really well. The combination of grays, red and yellow make a good complement. Go figure that I'm working with Ultramarine blue and Burnt Sienna again (my favorite color mixing duo) and some cad yellow and burnt sienna as highlights. Sometimes less is more- working with a palette of a few colors makes all of the difference.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Sketching people is hard enough without having them move all over the place as you are sketching them. I've been reading a lot lately about how to get the spirit of the sketch without worrying about getting all the details. Gesture drawings.
I have a tendacy to be very detail oriented so it was a bit of a challenge to be able to let go and just capture the basics and move on. I have much more to go
This is a sketch I did outside of our office a few weeks ago just as the trees were turning. I have been thinking a lot about landscape as architecture. Landscapes can surround and protect and give a similar feeling of enclosure that buildings do. Most of us only think how pretty a good landscaped urban area is without thinking that someone took the time to think how people could interact with the space and get pleasure from interacting with it.
Most of us think that the natural world around us is that way because God had a hand in bringing everything together. Occasionally man may attain similar success but unfortunately people think it was always that way and discount the benefits of excellent landscape design in the built environment.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
I am an architect and our firm is working on the restoration/seismic upgrade of the historic Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah. A truly great and unique building.
I have written about it in the past and have made several sketches of it as it takes shape during the construction process. There is something about the construction process a building goes through that is so fascinating to me. Especially on a restoration/remodel type project you get to see many glimpses of how a building looks and appreciate the great skill and ability the craftsman has in putting it all together. I happen to really feed off of the constant problem discovery, research and resolution process that happens when the project hits a snag which is almost every day.
Resolving design problems is such an exhilaration and it is one of the most appreciative talents the Architect possesses when faced with new challenges. If the architect truly understands the building and construction process he is highly valued when new problems arise. Conversely, if the architect doesn't understand the construction process then he is quickly criticized and ineffective in carrying the project forward. Not all architects posses all of the talents to see through the project from inception to completion. Most find their niche. Some are design gurus that only live in the theoretical and are the ones most people are accustomed to seeing in glossy architectural journals and in the media. Some are highly technical and they end up either writing specifications or developing construction documents ("blueprints"). Others are very people oriented and they deal very well with the client and end up as project managers and principal owners of architectural firms. And then there are those who really understand the construction process and excel at putting the project together after the drawings are published- they end up administrating the construction process. I happen to do well on all levels- (my least favorite is putting together the construction documents). But I find in excelling in all areas leaves me relatively flat because I am not a specialist. In our society today we are constantly refining and creating new specialists who end up highly trained in one specific trait- the "widget". I am very fortunate that I am involved heavily from inception to completion- seeing a building project through this way is highly satisfying.
One of the most fascinating parts of my profession is that I can be involved at all levels and stages of the project and can expect to do such different things almost every day. When people ask what it is that I do I tell them I'm a problem solver. From solving the clients building needs at the beginning of a project, to resolving construction issues at the end of the project we are constantly looking at different ways to solve the issues of the built environment. Most people think I draft all day- which sometimes might be the case but not for the most part it is the least of my activities.
Unfortunately, I secretly desire to be a watercolor artist and this blog is my outlet. Drawing and creating art is a very similar process as in creating architecture. Some of it is very esoteric and theoretical, some is technical, some of it is just plain hard work. But going through the entire process and seeing the completed product creates such intense joy and satisfaction. I am convinced that no matter what it is whether it is art, craft, architecture, music composition or even gardening- the act of creating and seeing that creation through completion is a feeling like no other.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I sketched this awhile back on a Sunday Afternoon while she slept. I love the way she sleeps as she is always in the most interesting positions. Another tahitian friend told me recently after seeing this sketch said that some artists she met in tahiti said that polynesians sleep in the most unconventional positions. We all postulated that it is because of their love of life and lack of insecurities that allow them to be totally relaxed without care. They are a care-free people with a love of life and of all people which love and trust have allowed them to be taken advantage of.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Here I am taking a dream trip in the National Geographic again- This time it is September's issue on Africa.
So many troubling things about Africa- All of the riches and resources are being constantly plundered by the corrupt and ruthless. Even corporate giants like BP and Shell are making truckloads of money with all of the land-use proceeds going to only a few corrupt government officials like Niger. It really appears that greed and corruption are what is keeping this continent from emerging from its third world status. But beyond the nagging problems it always has such a exotic appeal and beauty.
I really like the vignettes of different aerial shots of regions in Africa. They come off as a collage of color. This was a fairly quick sketch and watercolor of about 40 minutes.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Here is the last sketch I'll share for today. It was done at the same time as "Deep Thoughts". As the evening was dying down I spotted someone's electronic toys on the counter and thought I'd do a high tech still life- what a contrast to a bowl of fruit......
Thursday, August 11, 2005
I have previously shared sketches that I've taken from the National Geographic. I have been told it is illegal to copy images from other people other than my own without giving credit; or maybe it was getting their permission.... oh well, I will just play it easy unless told otherwise- everyone is so sensitive anymore. The above image was taken from the June issue of National Geographic-
I love National Geographic as it has the most interesting articles and images I've ever seen. This was an interesting article about the threatened area in Brazil known as the Pantanal. How large is the "giant" sea otter anyway? I liked how the burnt sienna and ultramarine blue started to separate to reveal more individual qualities when it was on the page starting to dry- BS and UB are my favorite watercolor combination- it gives the most interesting color range - and the best mixed neutral gray I've yet mixed.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
I have been fascinated by drawing the human figure for the longest time, probably because I don't do it very well. They aren't as easy as drawing a building or a salt shaker on your kitchen counter; these things you can miss slightly when you sketch them but not a human figure. We humans have had a lot of experience seeing and understanding the figure. We understand the slight nuances of a smile, smirk or playful banter. And if you mess up the direction of a line or draw too much you destroy the outcome.
It is easier to draw my kids when they sleep as they aren't burning pure energy or looking at what I'm drawing and asking me to prepare their paints for them so they can sketch with me (which I love doing). I felt I got it somewhat right when I asked each of them who it was and they answered correctly!! (I paid them off accordingly). Still I feel I have more to learn.
Above is my daughter Miriama (Mimi for short). The drawing on the left Jenny disliked as I missed the proportions on her upper shoulder. Underscoring the great acuity we have for those we know intimately. Had I sketched our car or bicycle she would've not seen I had misdrawn the wheels or fender. But miss the nuance of the eyes or how the nose sits on the face or the cute rounded cheeks then it is immediately picked up on. Maybe it is easier to draw caricatures or cartoons then we can take more liberties. I like the drawings on the right side of the page better. Joshua liked the one of Mimi drinking her bottle- which I thought I goofed up on as well. It is amazing that what we like or think is good are different from everyone else at times.
Above is my middle beauty Ariana- she is four years old and is already worrying Mom & Dad about the hearts she'll break. Applying watercolor to her face is more abstract.
I think I'm going to go back to what Charles Reid said about applying color. He stressed the importance of not only seeing correct value but applying paint in terms of color shapes. His paintings don't have the subtleties of color but are rather applied quite boldly using correct value although he imagineers his color schemes. I don't know if he said this exactly but it is what I understood and want to explore; and that is the most important part- experimentation. You won't know unless you tried it.
Try mixing color on the paper instead of on the pallete like Mr. Reid does- it is a nerve shattering experience- although you get some interesting and sometimes horrifying results.
Friday, July 29, 2005
I quickly sketched this one evening as I came home from work to pick up Jenny and the kids. These kids of ours are enjoying the benefit of happy genes in that their wonderfully olive skin are going deep tan; even our little blondie. Anyway I didn't get much time to sketch this but I got the main ideas down.
I did these sketches two weeks ago but I haven't had the opportunity to upload these- (so my excuse goes...) I sat down and sketched a portrait of Patricia Routlege- the famous British actress who gave us such wonderful characters as "Hyacinth Bucket" and "Hetty Wainthrop". Jenny and I love her shows. Anyway here is our homage to her.
The other sketch is of a man in our local ward. I sketched it during the priesthood meeting as he taught our lesson Sunday. I guess I was more interested in his caricature than his message (not really true... but so goes the excuse to sketch).
Sunday, July 03, 2005
It is interesting that seeing a animal dead on the road usually brings eewww, gross or even awww like "that is so sad" but the other day I came upon three young Owlings each dead within a 100 feet of each other. I couldn't help think of what a tragedy it was. I was really torn over it. I even stopped at each dead carcass and looked over it eyeing the beauty of its empty shell. I couldn't of imagined what it was that struck down these beautiful raptors. It looked too coincidental like some foul play was involved. It isn't a well traveled road but was coincidentally a few miles away from a pheasant hunting refuge. I have no qualms about hunting for food, but this seemed malicious and unnecessary. Owls are quite rare to see in Utah- so three dead in one area seemed huge. I tried to look up the species online but I only got as close to identifying it as the Spotted Owl- but they only live in Southern Utah in this area.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Our offices border on the rail yards and the industrial west side of Salt Lake. A perfect place for an Architect's office....er.... well, it does have panache and a sense of adventurous spirit to reclaim forgotten and discarded buildings and transform them into beautiful and stylish new neighborhoods. That is what skill and ability we bring to society isn't it?
One of our neighbors is a stone masons yard. This piece of equipment takes cut and rough pieces and tumbles them around in this steel cylinder. It gives a distressed and interesting look to stone and smoothes sharp and abrupt edges.
I wanted to approach this sketch differently. I've been reading two books on painting by Bob Wade and Charles Reid; two veteran watercolorists that are also great teachers. Bob Wade encourages to make value sketches of the subject before painting to get your seeing eye to understand what values you need to represent. He also suggests squinting your eyes to really begin to see values. He feels if you get the values right you are on the way to having a successful painting. Bad paintings happen when the values are off. Charles Reid suggests to mix color right on your paper and concentrate on representing the values and colors as "shapes". That is, visualizing color, light, and value change as shapes that tend to create a sort of collage on your page. I tried some of both and came up with this sketch. I used a purple/yellow complement (ultramarine blue + carmine red & yellow ochre) color scheme to create its own mood and quality. I really liked the shadow shape on the dirt pile on the right. I didn't follow everything they suggested but hey.. I'm trying to find my voice, aren't I.
A pitfall I think I fell into that Bob Wade discourages is creating a value that may be too dark and creates a hole on the page. I think the value (although lighter than what I saw) of the opening of the tumbler is too strong. It focuses me into that area too much and in effect creates a hole on the page.
Using ink as a complement to watercolor is a nice combination and has always appealed to me. It also covers a multitude of sins as the ink adds to what the quick watercolor application can't. This sketch took 30 minutes from start to finish and falls under the limitations I've placed on myself when I sketch. I find if I limit my sketching time the more often I am likely to sketch. If I start churning out 2-3 hour or more sketches I'm less likely to sketch often. I hope I can find more time to sketch so my sketches can be more refined and then I can also do more larger and more time consuming paintings. A goal.....when children are older and work is less demanding; who knows.
On a earlier post I uploaded two other Tabernacle sketches I did. I am a architect working on this project and this building has a lot of emotion for those living in Utah and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a building that was originally built in 1867 and was the first large building the pioneers built when they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. We are involved in a seismic upgrade of the structure with some major remodel work of the basement. The main hall is the space everyone knows and has seen on TV but I've been interested in sketching the spaces in the basement as they are easier to sketch and show some abstract historical qualities that are enchanting. Also, these spaces will be completely remodeled and much of the building fabric from the early 1900's will be removed to allow for new structure and spaces for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir offices. Although these spaces aren't original to the building they do have their place in a historical context.
This sketch tries to capture the ongoing process- namely the insertion of new steel beams and how they are juxtaposed by the masonry and timber structures the steel will be replacing soon.
It has a few problems with it because I tired to rush the drawing. The colors were put down too quick for me to really have thought through the color scheme. I was rushed because of the working activity around me and the dust and diesel fumes were really aggravating; It was also getting close to leaving for an appointment. It goes to prove that even if you don't have the time you should get the essentials and finish it later so there isn't a possibility of hurting the sketch. My values were off but later I reworked it and hopefully it worked out better. The ink linework was a little heavy in the background and focuses too much on this area more than I wanted. But in the long run I'm glad of mistakes I make because I can improve on future sketches. I happened to show my sketchbook to a friend and he singled this one out as one he really liked- go figure; sometimes the rushed sketches turn out better than ones you nurture and work over a long time.
Monday, June 20, 2005
I have been going through Robert Wade's Workshop book and he feels every drawing, painting, sketch (whatever) can be salvaged. One of the main problems is value. Most paintings are unsuccessful because they miss the values- I really have to agree with that. There are several other factors that contribute to a successful painting but they can be subjective and personal- value is a very objective criteria that can be equally judged across the board. The sketch on the right is flat and lacks vibrancy; we'll see if I can fix it. :-(
Monday, June 13, 2005
Thursday, June 09, 2005
One of the day's we were there we visited the San Francisco Zoo- at lunch I had a little time to myself while the kids were digesting their lunch by running around trying to catch pigeons. I sat down at a bench and captured these flamingos sunbathing themselves.
At the end of the day Jenny, Joshua and Ariana went to get some souvenirs in the gift shop while I stayed outside and watched Miriama as she was sleeping in her stroller. I was inspired by the beautiful acacia trees that were all over the park. The new African Safari exhibit was absolutely beautiful- watching the giraffes eat the leafs of the acacia tree is a memory I won't forget. I tried to capture the beauty of this giant umbrella.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
We decided to make this trip by car- after taking much preparation to insure the comfort and pleasure of the kids (to insure our comfort) - DVD's, activities and snacks- we made our way to Reno for our first nights stay. The sketch below was a comfort stop in Winnemucca to fuel up and stretch our legs- This was an extremely quick sketch (about 10 minutes)- the quality isn't the best but again it is surprising how much you can get down and communicate even in the shortest amount of time. Much of my sketching tries to make best the amount of time I have or don't have but it fulfills my strong desire to sketch- even if my sketches aren't the best. I hope I'm comfortable enough to show all my sketches even the bad ones. (Most of these sketches were erroneously labeled march instead of May)
Here is my breakfast the next morning at a Fairfield Inn in Reno, Nevada. From Reno- we went through Virginia City, Carson City, Lake Tahoe, Sacramento and then finally later that evening San Francisco.
We finally made it.- I stayed up that night and sketched the ferry building. This sketch doesn't do justice on the beauty of the view but....
The next day we walked all over San Francisco- later in the afternoon we finally stopped off at a local library- the kids read some books and relaxed for awhile and then we played at the playground next door. The sketch of Coit Tower was from this playground. I made the best out of this sketch but it was rushed as well as I was infringing on pushing the kids in the swing. So while they played on the play tower I quickly sketched the Coit Tower.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
This is a combination of entries I made on 4-6-05 and 5-4-05- The tree was sketched as I waited for a bus home ( I have a 35 minute commute home). After making the pen sketch I watercolored the sketch on the bus on the way home- sketch took 35 minutes total.
The "elephant" is really a large boondoggle of a machine piece that we found at our office while we excavating during our remodel. This thing is about 4 feet tall and weighs several ton. It now sits as a sculpture in our yard gathering rust and decay. It is a great subject. I made a series of sketches. The first two sketches are on 140# HP watercolor paper using watercolors and ink on the first sketch and a 314 berol graphite pencil on the other. The second two were made on 140# CP watercolor paper using charcoal pencil on the top sketch and watercolor on the bottom. (Each sketch took about 10-20 minutes each- fully rendered.
I like doing these sketches in series - one, I can improve on mistakes of earlier sketches and I also find different strengths of different media combined with the paper used. For example, charcoal pencil seemed hard to control on cold press water color paper- it wouldn't work too well for detail but probably better for strong gestural strokes. I like how watercolor works on cold press paper but using mixed media works better for me on hot press paper. Watercolor on hot press can backfire on you as it sits more on top of the paper rather being absorbed by the paper as on cold press; it takes a little work to make the watercolor work well on hot press but right now I like it better.
These sketches were made on 3-10-05 and 5-3-05 respectively. We are working on the historic tabernacle on temple square. We are doing a seismic retrofit of the entire structure and some extensive remodel to lower basement areas as well. It has been an extremely complex task to design a seismic system that can strengthen the wood structure built in 1867; the early saints had very little resources available to them but a large amount of ingenuity to accomplish such an incredible feat. Much of our task is to maintain the integrity of the original structural system that can be described as hemisphically shaped lattice trusses; made of multiple layers of raw timber milled locally and all attached with wood dowels (no nails here). It is an ingenius system that not only has stood the test of time but is beautiful to look at. The LDS Church is concerned that if we have a large earthquake along the wasatch front it would uterly destroy this importatnt structure (an 8.0+ size earthquake is building up ready to blow within the next 10-100 years).
The first sketch documents the red oxide paint and built up masonry joints of the stone columns that was orignally placed on the building. Most who have seen this building know the stone columns are a mish mash of sandstone, quartzite, and granite. But the original finish to the stone columns and the stucco finish between the columns was a red oxide paint and then the grout joints were built out dimensionsly over the joint line and painted gray. This was surprise to many.
The second sketch shows the organ vault under the tabernacle showing early 1900's masonry piers that supported the floor and structure above. This is a complex view that doesn't rely on sense of place but rather a memory of the historic finishes and materials that will be taken out completely when the new remodel is complete.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
This is a sketch I did 1 April 2005 - it was an image I took from National Geographic about a new species of hominid they found in Indonesia that stands only 3'-6" tall. They dubbed it a Hobbit.
I used two different media types to see what kind of look I would get. I used my favorite graphite pencil Berol 314 on the upper image- on the lower image is a watercolor using WN burnt sienna glazes with a touch of Quin Red.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
I have been keeping a sketch book for many years- more seriously since Graduate School. Unfortunately after graduating with my Masters Degree in Architecture in 1994 I haven't seemed "to find time".
I have a beautiful wife and three beautiful children that need my time when I'm not working and taking time for sketching conflicted with my responsibilities as husband and father. So I had to find something that could work with my family schedule but allow me to sketch. Within the last 4 years I got used to taking a small sketchbook (6 x 8) around with me but I always struggled how to make the most of my time. Most of my sketches were done with my fountain pen collection using beautiful J. Herbin ink and a water brush to manipulate the line and shading of the sketches. But my heart yearned to work with water colors but I couldn't find a setup that would allow me to be productive. I would have to carry water, towels, brushes besides a pencil or a pen. If I planned an outing to paint plein air this would take time and I would be forced to doing this every so often instead of daily. So I took my sketchbook, fountain pen and water brush as my standby kit and it fulfilled my need to sketch.
Two years ago my wife gave me a small travel watercolor palette made by Winsor Newton for Christmas that is small enough to place in my pocket. It would hold 12 half pans and came with a little brush. This was a great addition but instead of just taking my sketchbook, pen and water brush- I had to now take my paint box, brushes, water and towels as well. Now I couldn't inconspicuously put everything on my person but would have to lug around a sketch bag with me. Not to mention I was struggling to learn how to really use watercolor. So I left my watercolor box at home.
Last year I really made a huge discovery. I finally figured out I didn't have to have my red sable Isabey travel brushes to really be effective when painting. My trusty waterbrush does an excellent job at working with watercolors- it was an ingenious discovery (until I found out many other sketchers had already discovered this as well- and to think I made a huge discovery). The problem was I thought only the best brushes make proper paintings- the cheap $7 water bursh works perfectly. Now my sketch kit consists of my 6 x 8 sketchbook, my Lamy fine point Safari fountain pen filled with Platnium Carbon Ink (waterproof), my Niji waterbrush, and my WN travel box (with a paper towel cut to fit inside the box).
Since last yearI have really made a lot of discoveries experimenting with different mediums and making sometimes wonderful sketches and a lot of bowsers in between. The sketchbook has now become a visual journal and although I write a few words besides the sketch it is amazing how much memory and sense of place the sketch creates. I can remember an incredible amount of detail from what I was doing at the time I was sketching it to where I was- what I felt and other sensory memories.
Now I want to share my drawings with everyone else. I have been inspired by Russ Stutler; an american living in Japan who shares a love for fountain pens, watercolors and sketching as an expression of art. Also, by Danny Gregory a New Yorker who found out a few years ago he could draw and he hasn't stopped since- now he has written several books (based on his sketches) and has inspired a following to draw from everyday life. Since they had an online expression it has inspired me to creates this web log of my sketch journal. I hope you enjoy it.
Besides the future entries of new sketches I will post. I would also like to post some of the sketches I have made in the recent past to see where I've come from to where I will be going.