Ugly Sketchbook

Earlier this week, I posted a somewhat refined “urban sketch” of a Vespa scooter. As I had been taking increasing note of all of the scooters on the sidewalks of Washington, DC, I decided to grab my “Ugly Sketchbook”, and spend some time during a lunchtime stroll letting my pen run loose and free as I studied what the details of a scooter really are, and what it would take to sketch one.

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So after three years and almost six sketchbooks later, I finally bought a Moleskine! Do I really need one? Probably not, though I’ve always been intrigued by them, so when Moleskines went on sale at the local art supply store (they NEVER go on sale!), I pounced. Of course, as per my own rule, I need to first fill out my current sketchbooks before embarking on these premium 3″x5″ cream-colored pages. Stay tuned…


Cafe Night

As I slowly get back into blogging, here’s another look at what I’m working on, while sitting at one of the many Ethiopian cafés in the DC area (damn good coffee!). On the left is a new pro wrestling-themed drawing done with a 4-color BiC ballpoint pen – and yes; aside from pro cycling, pro wrestling is the greatest sport ever. To the right is an out-of-my head building, inspired by some of the different buildings that I’ve actually sketched here in DC. I have a little series of these going on; simple linear affairs on a singular plane of color to best match the feel of the structure.


Ugly Sketchbook

More pages from my cheap, anything-goes 3″ x 5″ pocket sketchpad, which I’ve dubbed “Ugly Sketchbook”: These little doodles were actually the first time I had decided to draw buildings out of my head after spending a year intensively sketching buildings and architecture in Washington, DC. The first page is significant; in the lower left corner, I quickly scrawled a building, then realized I did it so fast that the result was of no redeeming visual value. Over to the right of it, I slowed my pen down, gave a little more thought, and came up with a doodled building with a much better perspective and whimsical style.

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More Cowbell!

Recently, my wife and I stole away for a relaxing weekend – sans children – to the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania, where we spent the time sleeping, sleeping, reading, sleeping, napping, and sleeping. We stayed at the lovely Swiss Woods Inn, just north of the very charming town of Lititz. If you’re looking for an incredible and relaxing bed and breakfast in the Lancaster area, look no further than Swiss Woods. The grounds are absolutely lovely, the amenities cozy and clean, the people warm and friendly, and for us hyper-busy Washingtonians, secluded and peaceful.

While I didn’t plan to do any sketching for the that weekend, I did tote along two small sketchbooks and some supplies, and I managed to do two quick sketches. Below was a 20 minute study of an authentic Swiss cowbell, part of a nice little collection of cowbells in our room (we cyclocrossers love cowbells!), and underneath that, and even faster two-minute sketch of an Amish horse and buggy, which was quite fun because how often does an urban sketcher get to sketch horses?

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Ugly Sketchbook

It’s been a while since I posted anything from my Ugly Sketchbook. The Ugly Sketchbook, as you may remember – and I don’t blame you if you don’t, since I haven’t posted much lately – is the small 3″ x 5″ sketchpad that I keep on hand for quick drawings, scrawlings, doodles, and whatnots. The Ugly Sketchbook is not a Moleskine; it was the cheapest sketchpad in the whole art supply store, so it’s an anything-goes kind of sketchbook in regards to quality and content.

Here’s something that I scrawled while waiting for a massive Photoshop file to save. I wanted to play with my 4-color BiC ballpoint pen, and for some reason, this popped into my head.


I hate cigarettes, and how anybody can find them sexy is beyond me. The notion of kissing a cigarette smoker is akin to licking a nicotine and tar-stained ashtray.


The subject of Google Glass came up in a meeting, and I fear a future where hipsters get their hands of these…


Ugly Sketchbook

A while back, I added a new sketchbook to my collection; a 3″ x 5″ Clairfontaine Graf-It 909. The smallest and cheapest sketchbook in the art supply store, intended for quick cheap, drawings, I dubbed it the “ugly sketchbook”. I keep it next to my computer to doodle in while saving large files, or for when I just need a quick analog break from all things digital. Pocket-sized, I also keep it on hand for trips to the café or pub. This sketchbook is all about “bad drawing”; no pre-pencil sketching, no tearing-out pages, and no apologies or excuses for whatever ended up in it. However, as a direct “head to page” sketchbook, it also serves as an incubator for drawings and ideas that may end up being refined and developed in my larger sketchbooks.

Here’s the first page, done with a scratchy ballpoint pen:



I drew the same truck I drew obsessively decades ago as a little child, and hadn’t drawn since:


Glassware, barware, bottles, etc…


I listen to Pandora a lot, primarily punk rock. Every now and then, a band’s image or song sparks a thought that needs to quickly be drawn. One day, the infamous and absolutely uninhibited GG Allin came on, and I quickly drew GG’s iconic tattoos onto a seemingly normal person.


Creative Block Breaker

Here’s something I want to share with my fellow bloggers and beyond, especially the artists and artsy types.

I was having a slow day at work, and I wanted to doodle something quickly into the small sketchbook I keep next to my computer. However, I had no ideas in my head from which to work from. I looked at the blank page, thought to myself “Oh No; Blank Page!”, and without giving it a second thought, I spilled the whole notion onto the page.

The result was raw, impulsive, and productive. In a manner of minutes, I went from having a blank page and no idea of what to draw, to having a page of hand-drawn typography, illustrated elements, and a concept to work with. Looking at the end result, I wrote down “How fast can you shut up a blank page?”

We’ve all read countless articles about breaking the creative block, and without going into which suggestions work, this little exercise in “shutting up the blank page” works for me. I refer to my smallest sketchbooks as “ugly sketchbooks”; they’re where I let ideas and thoughts initially escape my head and land on paper for the first time, in raw form for further evaluation. These sketchbooks are not where I do highly refined, post-worthy, professional level work; they’re where I plant seeds to see if an idea is viable, and also what other thinking is sparked now that the thought is visual and not just mental.

So here’s the challenge: how fast can you shut up a blank page? How fast can you grab even the most remote thought in your head, place pen nib to paper, and doodle quickly and recklessly until the thought is visualized? Chances are the end result will be sloppy and not represent your “best work.” However, if you assume that opening to a blank page will spark that perfect idea for the perfect drawing, you may be in for a long and futile wait. That perfect idea may really just be a thought that is raw, rough, below the obvious surface, and only needs to be fearlessly extracted and ruthlessly visualized at first so that it can eventually develop into post-worthy, professional-level work (or at least, something that you’re really happy with!)


Trip to Israel, Part 4

These pages cover our last day in Yerushaluyim. We started at the Shuk Machane Yehuda, a large oriental-style open-air market where I sought the colorful spice stalls that are the money-shot for sketch artists and photographers alike. It’s also a great place to shop, meet, and eat some fantastic Israeli street food and café fare. Afterwards, it was off to the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim, where a I sketched a street corner scene, all the while drawing an audience of curious, yet very friendly haradim, and making friends with the surrounding merchants. Finally, as the daylight waned, we headed over to the beautiful new Mamilla Promenade overlooking the walls of the Old City. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right colors to capture the spectacular sunset skies, but I did get a nice drawing from Café Rimon, a great place for a lovely sunset dinner.

I highly recommend a trip to Israel; it’s really a lovely, vibrant, and very fun place. Be sure to bring a bathing suit for the warm Mediterranean beaches, an appetite for some of the finest foods, wines, and craft beers anywhere, and of course, cameras and sketchbooks to capture the visuals and aesthetics of this truly fascinating country.