Sketching at Chinatown


Yesterday our group Urban Sketchers Philadelphia met at Chinatown Philadelphia. I had only driven by before, so it was my first actual visit. Even with the high temperatures it was a great outing. 

We met in front of the China Gate, an emblematic portal of Chinatown. It was a fantastic experience, great smells of the nearby restaurants, people stopping and talking to us, great subjects… 

One guy stopped, asked for my pen and started scribbling Chinese characters on the palm of his hand. He spoke no English, and kept pointing at the gate. I gave him my sketchbook and he wrote the characters on my page. 

Later I found out that it in fact translates to Philadelphia Chinatown. 

My YouTube Channel!

I am really excited to announce my new YouTube channel, SketchfullyYours, where I’ll publish sketching related videos.

And so, this is my first video ever! Although I recorded this video in my home studio, from a photo reference (totally the opposite of urban sketching), I just wanted to share the typical process I go through when sketching on location. You can have an idea of how I approach a subject with a loose and expressive style. I have five concepts in my mind when I’m sketching:

1. Keep a lively pen: I keep my pen (or pencil, fineliner, marker) constantly moving, never second-guessing myself, fixing any inaccuracies (nothing is an error) on the fly. I don’t mind if something is out of proportion, I leave that doodle as part of my process.

2. Keep it simple: Even with a complicated subject, I strip down most of the details. I suggest details with a few doodles and leave the rest to the imagination. I still make sure I have enough suggestive doodles as to capture the energy of the subject.

3. Different strokes: I like to use versatile instruments; I want to get different strokes with a single instrument. On this video, notice how I flip the fountain pen, as I get a thinner line when the nib is upside down. On this sketch I also used a brush pen with waterproof gray ink; the brush pen allows me to have calligraphic strokes of various widths, contrasting with the thinner fountain pen lines.

4. Boundless color: I don’t want to stay within the lines and paint evenly. This allows me to be free with my brush. Notice how I’m using fairly big brushes (1/2″ flat and No. 10 round) for a small sketch. The brushes do most of the work for me. Those are the only brushes I carry with me all the time and I normally use a 5.5″ x 8.5″ sketchbook. Sometimes I paint the color first, before drawing any lines. Maybe what catches my eye is how I see colors at a particular moment, so I capture those colors before the sun moves, a cloud sets in or a delivery truck parks in front of me.

5. Be bold: I don’t want to re-create the colors I’m looking at, I leave that to photographers. I still could be much bolder and use brighter colors (that’s an ongoing goal). I don’t mind having green skies or purple trees. This mindset allows me to always try different things. Another thing is that now I’m using less water. I want more pigment in my paint and it also dries faster.

Items used:

Platinum Preppy fountain pen

Platinum Carbon ink

Kuretake brush pen

Noodler’s Lexington Gray Ink

Daniel Smith Watercolors

Cotman watercolour brush- 1/2″ flat

DaVinci Cosmotop Spin Travel Brush- Round No. 10

I trimmed the video shorter and saved at twice the speed; the actual time was 15 minutes. That’s about how much time I spend on my lunchtime watercolor sketches.

Go ahead and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more upcoming videos. Let me know of any requests or suggestions.

 

Changing Skyline

  
Quick sketch of the new Comcast building in Philadelphia, currently under construction. This is the view from our conference room across the street. 

Will you marry me?

 
Today while at lunch, in Love Park, Philadelphia. I’ve sketched this a thousand times, but I started just another sketch of it. Then the guy kneels down! Had to capture this!

Life Size Tonka

  

Maybe it’s the childhood memories, but for some reason I’ve always wanted to sketch diggers, bulldozers and construction machinery and never had had the chance. This one was parked by JFK Boulevard and 17th, had 15 minutes to sketch it. 

Lost my sketchbook…

I always carry multiple sketchbooks in my bag… different sizes, different paper, different subjects. Well, today when I looked for the book I use to sketch people during my lunch break I found out I had lost it! My bag won’t close hermetically and apparently lost in on the train. Tomorrow I’ll go to the lost & found office, maybe someone found it and handed it to the conductor. 

I was kind of frustrated, but got out another sketchbook, just to not lose the habit of sketching Philadelphians in Center City. To my surprise, I ended up with one of my favorite sketches in a long time! Who would’ve thought! 

This was done with a Lamy Safari EF, Noodler’s Bulletproof Black, Pentel Pocket pen brush and watercolors with a flat brush I never use. 

 

Ink on the Train



Sketching on my commute has been challenging. Trains are full and they move a lot. Well, using ink is even more challenging! Especially a pen brush, which has very little friction on the paper. 

I had been under the impression that the Pentel Pocket Pen Brush had waterproof ink. But it melts with water! Don’t know if it happens when it hasn’t dried up completely, will have to do more testing. 

This sketch was done with a Lamy Safari EF, Noodler’s Bulletproof Black and the Pentel Pocket Brush. 

Trimming



Today at lunch there was this crew trimming the trees in front of Comcast Center. It was cold but managed to withstand the wind. Can’t imagine how this guy up there deals with the cold. Here apparently people think that because it’s March they can get away with shorts, sandals and skirts… It was snowing two days ago!