Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Tumbler



Our offices border on the rail yards and the industrial west side of Salt Lake. A perfect place for an Architect's 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.

Tabernacle Sketch


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

King Tut

National Geographic is such an awesome magazine. It has tons of interesting stories with fascinating photography each month. I can't help sketch the images into my visual journal. I did these sketches of King Tut while the kids were playing on the jungle gym at McDonalds after enjoying a treat for Family Night. The first sketch was a copy of a MRI scan of King Tut's mummy. It was quite horrific and made an interesting sketch. The second sketch was of an artist's perception of what the King might look like. I am unsatisfied with this sketch- it looks too hokey and flat- I plan to rework it but before I did I thought I might at least document the before and after; especially since I have a sinking feeling I'm going to destroy it. I feel I am constantly battling myself about experimenting and not feeling the sketch is too precious and also creating something that is worthwhile and memorable. Usually my best pieces are those I haven't worried about the outcome; I just did it and was pleasantly surprised at the results. Usually it was because I was mindful of all the critical thinking (ie, proportion, scale, light, shadow, value, color, and good seeing).

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

Our little Lady- Not so little anymore?

Our purrfect cat Lady had her first litter a couple of weeks ago- she only had two- although we wanted more she did just great. She had two male cats- one that looks a lot like her and the other has long black hair (his father's trait?). We thought the father was Tiger ( our other cat) but no orange hair in this mix (or does that matter?). Anyway the little guys are just trying to get around and starting to act like kittens. It is all we can do to keep the girls from mauling them with their insatiable energy and love.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Trip to San Francisco Part II

These next two sketches I did on top of the mechanical penthouse on top of the roof of the Buckelew House. Here in my Eagle's nest I sketched out the Coit Tower early one morning and then that evening I did a sketch of the Transamerica Building.


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.

050607-sk18 flamingos

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

Trip to San Francisco Part 1-

In the middle of May last month our family went to San Francisco to stay for the week. My company has an apartment on the 16th floor of the Buckelew House overlooking the Embarcadero and San Francisco Bay. We had a wonderful time and I got an opportunity to sketch a few things from our trip. As much as we love San Francisco..... this town is not a family town. We got a lot of looks and stares from a lot of people (especially in the apartment tower) because of our three children. I'm so used to the fact that little children create a lot of activity and energy that many San Franciscans (at least in the areas we visited) are a little uncomfortable with small active children; I guess the demographics in San Francisco favor more pets than children whereas in Utah... well, do I need to explain. Don't misunderstand me, we did get some sincere comments from many San Franciscans about our kids but it was a definite feeling of "...can't you control them better." Anyway, I shouldn't rant and rave too much- this city is definitely beautiful- we've been here before and we love it here.

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.

050607-sk15 breakfast

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

Civil War Vet


I sketched this while taking the kids to McDonalds one evening. I was reading an article about the disapearing lands of the Civil War- and this picture really intrigued me. His amputated right arm looked as if he were cut completely on his right side. (This sketch was originally made 3-17-05)

Tree in Spring- Elephant in the Yard



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.

Historic Tabernacle on Temple Square


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


Hobbits, originally uploaded by Puhiava.

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


sketchbook setup, originally uploaded by Puhiava.

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.