Lunchtime virtual sketch-out

I had an impromptu sketching session today at lunch; had almost 50 minutes free, so I went virtually to Cape Town once again, as part of The Virtual Paintout.  After navigating for a while, I finally settled for the view.  As I hadn’t planned, I could only use the few items I had at hand at the office:  32 lbs. Hammermill Laser Printer paper, felt-tip pens, a Sharpie and a four or five almost-dried-out Prismacolor markers.  Really tempted into rendering with fluorescent highliters though…  I’ll definitely try that sometime.


Virtual Paintout @ Cape Town, South Africa



Yesterday @ Guajataca, PR and today @ Cape Town, South Africa

Yesterday I went on a family trip with my wife and son.  We took with us some snacks, a cooler with ice, water, some cheese, yogurt and home-made ceviche for lunch.  We drove to Guajataca, which is in between Quebradillas and Isabela, at the northwest part of the island.  It was a beautiful and breezy day.  We took turns driving, so both of us did our warm-up sketches on the freeway.  After we had lunch we spent some time sketching.  I managed to do just a few, as I wasn’t feeling that well, so we missed sketching at the most interesting spots.  We’ll be back then sometime.

I did something I’d never done, that is doing two versions of the same sketch.  In the first one I sketched directly with watercolors and in the second version I painted first with watercolors and then loosely sketched over the colors with ultra-fine Sharpie:

We wanted to sketch again today, but we were really tired to go out.  I remembered I had seen a blog that people used Google Street View as a resource for visiting interesting locations to paint.  We could have done it on our own and select any city we wanted, but decided it would be fun to participate with them, doing the same location as everybody else is doing this month, which is Cape Town, South Africa.  Here is my sketch, done with watercolors and a sepia Pigma Micron:

It felt a bit weird; first, I’m not used to drawing from pictures, second, Google’s Street View photographs are taken higher than eye-level and third, you don’t feel the space.  You don’t have the smells, sounds or the local coffee I like to enjoy wherever I visit.  But hey, I don’t know if I’ll ever go to South Africa, and if I go, probably wouldn’t find this view.  In short, it is not the real thing, but still fun to do it.  I guess I will be doing some more of these.

Ode to Hideous

Could somebody PLEASE incorporate Aesthetics 101 into Engineering Curricula? When an otherwise beautiful landscape is completely disregarded and desecrated with all sorts of “engineering marvels” we should really be offended.

Today I sketched the view from my work’s parking space. Not even mature trees can cover up and hide the magnificent display of towers, power cables, antennas, chimneys, cranes and transformers. It is like if they throw all the items listed on their catalog, shuffle them and place them all at once. I don’t even wanna talk about all the humongous signs that are sprouting (or pouring) across our island.

I know that bad taste is not a crime, but I’d bet anything that these people have to be in violation of at least one environment protection law. And, to make it worse, it also looks absolutely hideous…

Experimenting with Copics

Last Saturday Prof. Leytham lent me his Sailor brush pen so I could try it.  It is designed for Japanese calligraphy, which brush can produce beautiful lines of different widths.  I fell in love with it and will be purchasing one promptly.  Tonight I wanted to see if the brush tip of my Copic markers would work in a similar way.

I decided to try them on one of my sketchbooks, a Hand-book with heavyweight sheets.  These are supposed to take light watercolor washes, but as soon as the marker tip touched the paper, I got instant bleed-through.  I was disappointed; I haven’t found a sketchbook that can take markers with minimal bleed-through.  Well, in a very careless way I continued to try some of the colors.  All of a sudden, I could kind of see one of the armchairs I have in my living room.  So I went that way, trying to develop a bit of what I saw around me.  Behind the armchair there are two balloons still alive from my wife’s birthday party three weeks ago.  I kept experimenting with different colors with very fast strokes that barely touched the surface; I didn’t want to saturate the paper.

Well, the Copics’ tip won’t behave as the brush pen, but I still like the possibilities, even if this isn’t the right paper.

Having a little more fun with the sketches…

During the weekend, Andrew, one of the students from Norwich University had made a very bold and simple sketch.  I told him that it would look really nice on a t-shirt.  So I thought, why not?  I have been playing with the sketches as a graphic in various forms, and I think I will go ahead and order one for myself!  Check it out:

I will keep looking at different alternatives, but I really like this one…

The Sketching School 2011, San Juan, PR

This weekend I’ve was “kind of” invited to participate in a class called Sketching School. It is a class taught by Prof. Tom Leytham at Norwich University in Vermont, in which he travels with a group of architecture students for 9 intensive days devoted to sketching and watercolors. Prof. Manuel García Fonteboa told me that they were going to be in San Juan this week and he wanted me to meet Prof. Leytham, and that I may go ahead and sketch with them. To make a long story short, my wife and I ended going with them.

Prof. Leytham was so kind as working with us as if we were part of the class, and was I impressed. His method of teaching was very refreshing, as he let the students discover the results by themselves rather than instructing how it is “supposed to be done”. He says that there is no right or wrong way to do things, but whatever works. So I felt like I was searching inside myself rather than following a recipe that has worked for someone else. On Saturday morning we took the ferry to Old San Juan. The first exercise was drawing from the ferry.

He calls it a stretching exercise. It is a warm-up that loosens your hand, since for the first few minutes all you see around you is water and the mangrove swamps. We did 60 second sketches with a non-permanent ink flair he handed every one of us. I honestly didn’t think I was going to be sketching that much and that fast; it was an awesome exercise I will try with my students.

He talked about the energy those fast sketches had, and I think that I finally found what I’ve been searching for years. When you’re sketching, it only matters that you capture the vibrancy and energy of the places and spaces. Why worry about it being a perfect perspective, when all you need is to capture the feel of the space. We went today again to Old San Juan, starting with the same exercise but incorporating this time a water brush.

On Saturday we visited Castillo San Cristóbal and today Castillo San Felipe del Morro. I can’t believe I did sixty-four sketches in less than eight hours. I’m dead tired, but very pleased with an awesome experience. Here are some of the sketches done during the weekend, including one I did with my right hand (I’m a lefty…). I definitely had a blast.

Going back to school! Well, not exactly, but close enough…

This week I received a message from one my professors when I was studying architecture, Manuel García Fonteboa.   Through the years Manuel has become a very good friend of mine and my family. He was taking his first year design studio class to sketch nature at the Jardín Botánico de Rio Piedras, and he was inviting us because we might like joining them.  Of course we were! Also he invited another very good friend of ours and watercolorist, Rafael Félix.

It’s funny that the three former students were the first to get there this morning. It was a beautiful sunny and breezy morning, great to draw outdoors. We walked to an area called “The Palmetum” and Manuel gave the instructions to his students.  And… I stepped on a fire-ant hill!   I got stung by several of them… started getting kind of mad… but, I wasn’t going to waste the chance of spending a good few sketching hours. So I put on my iPod shuffle and went to work.

I had several media with me, but decided to sketch directly with watercolors, no pencil.  I have been practicing that exercise lately and I feel looser.  Also I set myself another challenge: I was only going to use 2 yellows, 2 blues and 2 reds to paint, no pre-mixed colors. I feel it helps me understand how the different pigments work and feel the degree of transparency each has.  This is my first sketch, which was done in around 50 minutes.  I used Sennelier half pans on a 5″x8″ Moleskin watercolor sketchbook.

Then Manuel asked all of us to place our sketches in the middle and he started commenting on them. I was really impressed with the quality of some of the drawings, but one of the sketches really caught my attention. It had a lot of expression, beautiful work of values… It was Manuel’s!  No wonder…  His comments in general were very helpful and some of the pointers he gave them really make me want to learn other media, as charcoal and pastels.  One of these days I’ll get myself a set of pastels to try to see how I like them. Anyways, we went back for a second round of sketching.

This time I switched to my Yarkas and decided to take a different approach regarding the color scheme. It was kind of liberating, and sketching is all about having fun, right? Well here it is.

I love the transparency most of the colors in my Yarka set have. The red is probably the only opaque one I used here. I think it still needs a couple of spots with the darker blue, as to define the various planes, but that is what practice if for.

Going back to school for half a day was really fun, I hope we can do it more often. Thank you, Manuel!