I spent the past year sketching buildings and street details all over the West End neighborhood of Washington, DC, during my lunchtime strolls. While this skill – “urban sketching” – eventually became relatively well-practiced over time, I still had some days where I was still very much in the experimental stages. Such is the case below, where I did a quick 20-minute sketch with ink and markers of a scene based on a construction crane. Not as well-developed as the sketches that I did after this one, but the goal was simple; sketch enough of a capture of the scene that whenever I look at it, my memories of the moment fill in the missing details.
When sketching on the Washington, DC Metro, I sometimes come away with a nice capture of a full person, their detailing and personality, or even a rich color study. Other days, though, I come away with bits and pieces of people, half-drawn poses, or a mangled-mess of heads, hands, and faces. I have a name for pages like these; I call them “practice”, and between every page containing a Behance-worty sketch, there are tons of pages that look like the ones below, with the former not being possible without the latter.
When I want to draw simply for the sake of drawing, I work from a few go-to subject matters that I always keep in mind. One of them is bicycles, which I’ll draw from my mind, completely freehand, and without the aid of rulers or protractors. I’ll start at a particular feature, like a brake lever or a crankset, and branch out from there. I’m not sure when I drew this bicycle, probably back in 2009. If you know (read: obsess over) bicycles, then you can probably tell that this is some townie singlespeed, and can pick out the Chris King headset.
Why do I choose to sketch certain buildings here in Washington, DC? Amongst several factors is whether the building can be sketched in small increments over several days, as I do these while out for quick strolls during my lunch breaks . This one particular building presented such an opportunity. Very modular, with a nice balance of symmetric and subtle asymmetric details, it was an easy building to draw to a certain identifiable point one day, and pick up from there the next day, as seen in the process shots below.
The name of this blog is Sketchbook Warrior, and while no heavy weaponry, explosives, or hand-to-hand combat is actually used in the service of this blog, the reality of making time to work in my sketchbooks is a real battle. In particular, it’s a battle for time and logistics. Between family, work, cycling, laundry, laundry, and laundry, I often find myself trying to create a 25th hour in the day just to work in my sketchbooks. Three years ago, I launched the opening salvos in this battle when, on my daily train commutes, I swapped reading the newspaper for picking up my sketchbook and sketching the people around me. Last year, I swapped surfing the web during lunch for going outside to sketch for a few minutes. While the train sketches became the “Metro Sketch” posts – daily exercises in life and figure drawing – the lunchtime sketches, a.k.a. “Lunchlines”, became multi-day studies of the local architecture here in Washington, DC as well as an intensive practices in location and urban sketching.
I’ll be posting a series of posts over the coming weeks showing the process of these sketches. The first is from a sketch of this house. I selected it for various features; the corner rotunda, the intricate door and balcony detailing, and what has turned out to be my favorite detail in local architecture: the roof tiles. The main goal of these sketches is not so much as to get everything right as it is simply to just get everything (and likewise, I really very limited time to do these each day). This particular sketch was done with a cheap gel pen; no pre-sketching with a pencil, and was finished with a collection of aging markers into my small 4″ x 6″ hardcover sketchbook.
Here’s a drawing I did during the “Great Recession” of 2008, when I – along with pretty much everybody else – was amongst the vast legions of the newly unemployed. These were trying times, and everybody in their best of intentions showed every bit of care and concern they could to others, and best as we could, we all did our best to hold our pride and constitutions together, challenging as it was.
BTW, you’ve probably noticed my sporadic frequency of posting sketches and interacting with all of the great blogs out here on WordPress. I’ve been pretty busy lately, all in good ways, but busy none the less. I’ll eventually get back on here more frequently.