My first human figure drawing class

Since I arrived to Wilmington, DE I’ve been attending my first human figure drawing class at DCAD, Delaware College of Art and Design. I actually not enrolled in the class (my wife is) but the instructor has been kind enough to let me participate without the benefit of a full critique.

I’m enjoying sketching a new subject, new techniques and getting dirty with vine charcoal, compressed charcoal and Conte crayons. I’ve always wanted to understand how to draw the human figure and the class has been amazing.

Here are some of my sketches:





“Stick” figures

Today I sketched with sticks… I had a bamboo pen, kabob skewers and a sharpened chopstick, dipping into Noodler’s Bulletproof Black ink. I really like the primitive feeling of sketching with sticks, will need to use china ink; the Noodler’s won’t dry unless it has contact with paper, so it kind of messed up a bit while watercoloring.

By the way, this was in a very nice beachside eatery, El Salpicón in Barceloneta. So, beside enjoying the sketching, I spent a nice afternoon with my family.


My First Caricature

I had always admired caricaturists, how they instantly grasp the persons’ distinctive features, but I never had an interest in learning to draw them. That was until a couple of weeks ago, when in Orlando. There was a caricaturist booth at the hotel, and I spent some time watching them do their stuff, and it was almost like magic… Just a couple minutes, a few strokes and, bam! there appears the person in the middle of the page.

To make a long story short, I bought a “how-to-draw-caricatures” book at the booth, and read it once during the flight back home. Every once in a while I read a couple pages, but this past Sunday decided to try to draw one.

But who can I use as a model? I went through my Facebook friends and found the perfect one…what else is your “little” brother good for?

I took inspiration from three pictures, as to grasp his likeness, while not trying to reproduce any of the photographs. His fiancé says it really looks like him, so who better to say?

Here’s my take on my little bro:


Mesa Clumsy

This post may be a little distant from my regular theme, but as it is part of my artistic exploration I will give it a go; furthermore, it’s all part of a learning process of techniques I’m looking to incorporate into my sketching.

Three weeks ago I started taking serigraphy classes, also known as silkscreen or screen printing. I think it is a cool (although laborious) way to reproduce my artwork, without losing the handmade feel.

The technique I’ve been learning feels somewhat limiting, me being a loose, fast sketcher, having to carefully cut the film with a swivel knife to use as a stencil for each color I use. Probably I’m not gonna be doing that many prints this way, as the X-acto knife has never been among my favorite tools.  My professor is an accomplished veteran artist who saw some of my sketches and told me we could try blocking the silkscreen in other ways, as using wax crayons or tempera with a brush and I could achieve effects similar to what I do with the watercolors. And this really caught my attention.  Still, I don’t wanna get ahead of myself, I want to learn the rules now so I can bend them later…

We were asked to produce a simple graphic with four or five colors, to learn color separation, registration marks, blocking, printing and cleaning. He asked us to do nothing complicated, so we could learn the basics. Here’s the sketch I’m doing:

Yesterday I printed my first color. And what a mess! Mesa clumsy! When in middle school, I took aptitude tests and the results showed I wasn’t too good with repetitive routines. Evidently that is still true. I had to clean the squeegee twice in middle of a print, as somehow I dropped it onto the screen with paint, and that red kept appearing all over where it wasn’t supposed to… The paper, my hands, the frame, the table, my pants. In the end I think I got it, although probably less than half the prints are good.

I ended exhausted! I liked the process though in the future I want to try less “perfect” graphics. When I learn to block with tempera and crayons probably will enjoy it even more. Working with the exactitude of a knife is not my thing. There must be a way to be loose with the brush on silkscreen, so will update soon.


Lately I’ve been trying to do some more experimentation with other media. I found a pen brush I had bought a while ago next to my son’s box of crayons, so decided to take them for a test ride.

First of all, I’m in love (once again) with the pen brush; it’s responsiveness is unlike any other pen or marker I’ve tried. It’s barely controllable (at least at first) so it is a bit tricky. However, the range of lines I’ve been able to get with it, from broad strokes to hair-fine lines, is phenomenal.

Then the crayons… I thought that the contrast between the rough crayon and the smooth ink line would be very interesting. Maybe it’s the paper which isn’t rough enough, but I’m not thrilled about how the crayon came out. Maybe it’s a combination of the size and texture of the paper that isn’t helping, so I haven’t discarded the experiment yet. At this point I believe that a loose watercolor splash or a few selected marker strokes would’ve worked better.

Or with a high liter, perhaps? Hmm…



2011 Re-visited: Time for Some Reflection.

This is probably my last post until next year; 2011 has been, sketching-wise, my most prolific year to date. I have tried new media, practiced a lot with graphite and watercolors, have become much more confident with my sketching and, most of all, have had a lot of fun.

This year I have started some projects that I that, even though they are in very early stages and have lots to improve, I’m very proud of. First of all, it’s almost a year since I started my blog “Sketchfully Yours”. I’ve had a lot of unexpected support and encouragement from readers, the blogging community and fellow sketchers. Last March I joined The Sketching Forum, a very friendly community of international sketchers where we share our passion for sketching and help each other by sharing tips, reviews and techniques. I also joined Urban Sketchers, a respected international sketching community.

Early this year I met Prof. Tom Leytham and his Sketching School; I believe this experience was vital on my development as a sketcher. I submitted one of the sketches I made with him to the “Strokes of Genius 4 Competition”, being selected for an upcoming publication.

Also, last June my wife and I started our weekly sketching group, . We have lots of plans for next year. I also spent a morning sketching with my friends at Taller D Espacio. I even made the news, when I was interviewed for an article on artists who use devices such as iPhone or iPad, published in our most read newspaper, El Nuevo Día.

We participated in the artistic event La Campechada, in which I sold my first sketch. This led to me opening my Etsy store, which had lots of hits. From never selling a sketch, now I’ve sold around forty of my originals; it’s so satisfying when people like what you do.

As I said, this has been a very busy year, not counting all my other professional, academic and business endeavors. I also made several new friends from diverse artistic backgrounds. I know 2012 will be better, which means even busier. What’s important is that I’m enjoying sketching much more than ever.

For now, I just want to share a couple of watercolor sketches I did yesterday, while staying at a friend’s in Rio Mar, Rio Grande, PR.



To sell or not to sell.

I’m basically a self-taught artist.  Granted, in architecture school I did learn to draw, but not formally as part of a class.  I have learned from watching others, reading books and lately through the internet.  Until now, I hadn’t ever considered myself an artist.  Because I like to draw/paint/sketch what I see and not something from the imagination I had thought what I did wasn’t art.  A few weeks ago a youngster with a formal art degree convinced me that what I do is exactly art; I paint my interpretation of what I see… how I see my surroundings.  So yes, I’m calling myself now an artist.  I’ve accepted it.  And now what?

I have always done this just for fun, just as a hobby.  For quite some time various friends have told me to sell my sketches, but I never even considered it.  But I figured that artists also eat, right?  So decided to sell my art, a couple of weeks ago I went to my first artist event, La Campechada, held at Old San Juan.  The first day I didn’t sell a thing.  True, I was focused on painting and not selling, but by-passers didn’t even stop.  The second day I sold a few, but I didn’t even break-even.

I then opened an online store at Etsy (link), and have got lots of visitors, and a few faves.  I don’t actually like to sell reproductions, so I have been selling my original sketches.  I thought that if I managed to keep the price low that I would sell them quickly.  Wrong!  No sales… even when I’m selling my original pieces at what other artists are pricing their reproductions.  I figured that it’s too early to tell, but I just read an article that opened my eyes.  It says that if the price is too low, buyers could think that there is something wrong with my pieces that I’m not saying.  It also says that a low price is the equivalent of cheap, which could work against me, opposed to what the logic would tell us.  I read that if you are getting the views but not the sales that the pieces may be priced too low.  So, it’s apparent that the price ain’t right!

Well, I’m a man of my word, so I’m not gonna increase the price tags of the items I’ve already put online.  But I’ll definitely increase them for the ones else I put on the store from now on.  I still want to make it affordable, but if pricing it low means I don’t appreciate the pieces myself, it’s not gonna happen.  Let’s see how it goes.

Also I’ll be doing pieces larger than 9″x6″.  I just got in the store my latest “cavinela”, the term I made up for my paintings with coffee (café) and wine (vino) in a watercolor (acuarela) fashion.  Here it is:

"Boulevard des Lices", Coffee and Red Wine on 12"x 9" watercolor paper.

Doodling with Coffee, Wine and Watercolors at La Campechada

We spent this past weekend participating in the event called “La Campechada”, a multi-disciplinary union of artists, musicians, performers, urban artists and actors remembering José Campeche y Jordán, considered one of Americas most important artists of the 18th century. It was celebrated in Old San Juan, where Campeche spent his life. It was a very well planned event, so kudos to the creators from the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.

Our sketching group “” spent two wonderful days doodling, painting, sketching and enjoying the company of lots of artists. Although most artists were very friendly, I kind of got the feeling that we were looked down upon, probably mainly because our small format. Almost everyone else had several large format pieces for display or sale and most had even several easels. It is also strange that I didn’t see any other artists using watercolors. Our setup was also very low key, as we sketched sitting on the curb instead of standing up. My wife designed and fabricated some fabulous portable sketching tables I’ll show in a future post.

I did several watercolors, but I really enjoyed sketching with coffee and wine. It was my second time using coffee, but I was just trying out doing some wine washes. I liked the effect, so I will be exploring it furthermore.

I hope the event becomes a yearly celebration, as we had a lot of fun and even sold a few of our doodles. We made some friends and several were interested in joining our group. Although those were two very long days, it was worth it… It was a wonderful experience that we’ll remember for a very long time.

Here are some of my sketches for the weekend:

Cavinela, (9″x 6″). Pencil, coffee and wine.
Fish eye view of San Sebastián Street, Caferela (9"x 6"). Pencil and Coffee.
Caferela en la Campechada, (9"x6"), Pencil and Coffee.
San Sebastián Street ATC (3.5"x 2.5"). Pencil and watercolors.

They need a chance

Today it was my first day of a new lifestyle. When I moved back to the Metro area, my main interest was to be able to leave the car at home and use the train, ferry and buses as much as possible. Well, my partial layoff from work has finally forced me to leave the car and use the available means. I’ll have to walk a lot but that does me good, so, I’m embracing the change.

I decided to use the opportunity to practice sketching people. Usually when I’m doing quick sketches I like to pass as unnoticed as possible. But today a young lady noticed I what I was doing and started talking to me. She said she was a “street artist”.

Well, I thought that is also what I am… But no, she was a graffiti artist. As an architect I tend to despite graffiti, although I’ve met a few guys that can do some amazing stuff with a few spray cans. And to my surprise, she came out to be one of those few. She showed me a picture of one of her works and I was amazed. Then she stood up, wished me luck and left.

The chance of me seeing her work again is pretty slim. The odds heavily un-favor her becoming a known artist or even me meeting her again at the train. But she made me realize there is a lot of hidden talent in our youngsters, and will inspire me to work harder so that they can have a chance to show what they got.

These are the sketches I was doing when she noticed:


Garabateando@PR Coffee Expo 2011

Today we sketched at the Puerto Rico Coffee Expo, an event that is commemorating the 275th anniversary of the coffee industry in Puerto Rico.  It is being held at the PR Convention Center.  Tomorrow the organizers will be breaking the Guinness World Record for the biggest cup of coffee, which they were already brewing on several makers.  They will be serving 50 thousand cups of coffee!  It is a humongous cup, see the link.

A friend of mine is one of the organizers, so he welcomed us to attend.  I decided to give it a try to sketch with coffee, which I felt mandatory for the occasion.  Until late last night I hadn’t ever tried to do it, but hey, it’s all about enjoying the moment and having fun, so I did.

I knew I was going to get plenty of coffee there, but I wasn’t going to get an over-done, ink-like one, so I prepared one at home. I put it in the microwave to evaporate some of the water so it would yield me the darker tones. There at the expo I used some of my drinking coffee for the medium tones and clear water (with whatever coffee was still on the brush) for the lighter tones and let the paper do the highlights.  So I had at least 4 gradations which was good enough.

I sketched on Canson 140-lb watercolor paper, some at a 5″x7″ size and some at the Artist Trading Cards size, 2.5″x 3.5″.  I had never tried that size before, so it was all about experimentation today.  I did enjoy a lot the process, so I will be exploring the possibilities of the “medium”.  Watching people freak out when I licked the brush was priceless.  I did use a new brush, so no watercolor residues were ingested…

Here are some of my sketches today:

Batucada@PR Coffee Expo, 5"x7", Coffee on 140lb watercolor paper.
PR Coffee Expo, 3.5"x2.5", Coffee on watercolor paper
PR Coffee Expo, 3.5" x 2.5", Coffee on watercolor paper