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September 2013



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Sketching in Weston till my fingers smoked!

We had a brilliant weekend in the little town of Weston, Missouri--though actually it was more like 17 hours!

We got a late start, and since it had turned wet and chilly, we didn't stay as long as we normally would have Sunday morning.

It was the latest in our Progressive Honeymoon nights, as kateslover calls them. We really haven't been able to afford the time OR the money for what most people think of as a honeymoon, but what has resulted from that is much, much nicer. We just take a night here, a night there, whenever we can. It may be a night to ourselves when we go to visit family, it can be a stay in a tiny mountain cabin when I was helping Joseph move, it might be an overnight like this one, deliberately chosen and close to home. Wherever it is, we seem to be able to make magic.

I had much more time with the man in the background on the sketch above. I could see him clearly, and he didn't move nearly as much as the young couple, nor was he as animated. The lighting, directly overhead, was dramatic, and it was fun trying to capture the planes of his face using only a fine Pitt pen in sepia.

I had plenty of chances to sketch, though our time was shorter than we'd intended--this time from direct observation rather than memory sketches. That, too, is a technique artists have used forever.

I believe, really, that the way most artists work is more a combination of contour, gesture, memory and observation. You get down the main lines or shapes as quickly as you can, notice shapes, details, and relationships and then add as much as you need to from direct observation, glancing back and forth from your subject to your paper.

Betty Edwards covers most of these techniques in The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence (a book I've given to a lot of artists who tell me they can't draw!) though of course you'll find many of the same techniques in classic drawing texts through the ages.

I still swear by The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study by Kimon Nicolaides, who was reluctant to make drawing ideas set in stone in a published work, during his lifetime--it was published only after his death in 1939. My copy of the book was bought shortly after 1961, but it's an indication of how good and useful it is that it's still available today!

I teach many of these classic methods in my online classes at cathyjohnson.info, and of course covered them in The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature, Revised Edition as well. They WORK.

Well. They do if YOU do. It takes practice, like anything else!

I did get to sketch outdoors Saturday afternoon, and I was immediately taken by this building, opposite the St. George Hotel where we stayed. My dad would have LOVED the brickwork on this building, the old Masonic lodge--he was a bricklayer, if not a Mason, and I've always appreciated such wonderful craftsmanship.

I sketched it, mostly, Saturday afternoon, then finished it from the window of our room, adding color from the light that filtered in at the windowseat--the storm knocked out the power from 1:30. The storm started about 7 pm, and lasted off and on all night long. The electricity went off a couple of times, but for good around 1:30. No food or coffee in the morning, of course, till they got the lights back on around 10 am--it looked amazing to look out that window at night and see no lights at all, unless an occasional car came by...it's a hilly town, so it was all spread out before us on the top floor of the hotel. The only other light source was the occasional lightning bolt! Very, very pretty, and rather like the town must have looked at night when it was built in the 1840s.

So not much to do but sit in the window and sketch! You can see what I did Sunday morning here on the Urban Sketchers group blog, where I try to post different things: www.urbansketchers.com/2009/03/weston-again.html 

(And that one was done using another classic technique, sketching in the perspective guidelines lightly with pencil, first, then adding ink and all the detail I had time for!)



Wonderful sketches AND text! I learned the Nicolaides method, too--it's brilliant. Never picked up the Edwards book, though.
Good stuff,Miss Kate!
Thanks, sweet girl! Isn't Nicolaides marvelous? I never did all the exercises in Edwards' book, but it IS inspiring to see how people progressed so quickly.

And we had SUCH a good time. Wish I were back there, today's been NUTS.
Thanks, Miss Vicky! We did have a great time...wish we'd made it to O'Malley's too, but what we did was just fine!


Nicolaides was my first real art book, recommended by a family friend who taught commercial art, Cathy Kate, many years ago. And I still use it, too.
It's really a classic, isn't it? I get it out every few years, just for inspiration.


P.S. I meant to say that your honeymoons sound like the very best kind. If one plans a one-or two-week honeymoon, a lot can go wrong as well as right over 14 days. This way you have a lot of special days linked together in your memories, each one unique, a little gem.
You're absolutely right, Annie, I wouldn't have it any other way! It's very special to us...