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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Retro Sketch

Before the Washington, DC Metro became a big part of my life, I was a hardened New York City Subway rider. The sketchbook page below, done in 2000, includes a drawing I did showing a typical ride on the NYC Subway. I put myself into the drawing as well; can you figure out which one is me?


Retro Sketch

From a 2000 sketchbook: a page of random doodles, words, ink spots, and a few sketches done on the New York City Metro with sepia-toned fountain pen ink.

And no; I haven’t posted in two weeks. I got swallowed up by life’s general busyness, though I did kept the sketchbook open and the ink flowing. I’ve got some catching up to do, including admiring and commenting on all of the great artwork sitting in my WordPress Reader.


Delaware Beach Vacation Sketches

Here are some sketches from a recent quick trip to the beaches of the Delaware Shore. Though I was there just for some sun, sand, surf, and family fun, I did manage to do a few quick sketches. The first sketch is of the Atlantic View Hotel in Dewey Beach, Delaware. Located between the flashier beach towns of Bethany and Rehoboth, Dewey is smaller and quieter, and the Atlantic View, which was clean, quaint, and very friendly, is right on the beach and has everything you need to enjoy a true beach vacation. The second sketch is from the DogfishHead Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, where if you love great craft beer, you absolutely must visit. The third sketch was done by my kids to keep them busy while I enjoyed the beers in the second sketch.

Perfectionism and the Anatomy of the Bad Drawing

I am a perfectionist. Not an amateur perfectionist whom merely dots every “i” and crosses every “t”; I’m a pro whom makes sure that the dot above the “i” is perfectly round and the cross through the “t” extends out evenly on both sides. And to be sure, I zoom into the letters at 6400% in Illustrator just to check. It’s always served me well as a production artist, where exactitude and methodical perfectionism are mandatory for creative deliverables. It has, however, hampered me as an artist and illustrator.

I’ve always been a left-brained artist, not so much “creative” as technical. I don’t look to blow people away with out-of-the-box thinking; I just look to tantalize eyes with aesthetically-resonate artwork. Of course, artists are more animal than calculator, and in the past, I’ve had to fight against this perfectionism. In art school, I quickly became proficient in realistic oil painting, but the slow tediousness drove me crazy, and I took up watercolors just to have a degree of lost control. And as much as I love conceptual and quirkily-executed art, my pen always looks for the straight line and the 90-degree angle,  which is why the sketch featured here, a “bad” drawing, is for me a good drawing.

Much about this coffee cup, quickly scrawled in about ten minutes, is wrong, or in the lingo of perfectionism, “bad”. The proportions and perspectives are wrong, the circles on the lid are not concentric, and much of the detail is not perfectly recreated in relation to size, placement, and detail. But then again, how often do you think about the perspective of your coffee cup, the concentricity of the circles on the lid, or the placement of the most finite details? Instead, as you sip your overpriced coffee, you may just catch glimpse of the warnings around the cup lid, the corrugation of the cardboard sleeve, or the graphics here and there.

Perfectionism may be fine for InDesign layouts of a government proposal documents and branded marketing campaigns, but for sketchbook drawing, you have to decide where and when to halt perfectionism. For this drawing, all that really matters are the details that are unique to the subject, essentially telling its unique story. And I’ve always felt that when art like this goes wrong, it’s really just taking on a life of it’s own, and this is when it truly becomes alive. So if you’re a hopeless perfectionist like me, then buy a cheap sketchbook and draw badly, also known simply as “drawing”.

And drink more coffee!

New Drawing

Lately there’s been a few stories in the news about women’s issues involving violence and discrimination. This image popped into my head after reading a few of them. The drawing does not point to any particular situation or culture, but rather is just a broad, yet vague, visual compilation of them all (nor am I trying to make a particular statement). Below is the initial pencil sketch, followed by a color exploration:

Going Past Pencil Lines…

Having spent the past ten years pushing pixels instead of pencils, I’ve forgotten how much I love the look of sketchy pencil lines. The hard part, of course, is when you have to eventually cover those pencil lines with ink and color. I decided to do this drawing while listening to British punk bands on Pandora, and particularly, the stark orange-and-black color scheme of one band’s album cover. The though was of this image rendered simply and graphically in orange and black, so we’ll see where this drawing goes; do I stop at the pencil lines, or develop a final color rendering on top of them?

Visual Tasting Notes

Being on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to sample some of the fine Dogfish Head beers at the Dogfish Brewpub. Not only were the beers characteristic and delicious, but their colors begged to be drawn. However, being a hot and sunny day, this beer enthusiast dragged his tired wife and cranky kids in with him, so rather than taking the time to visually record the the beers in full colored-pencil glazing and the tasting notes in lovely script, I had to scrawl and drink fast to avoid full-kiddie meltdown.

Washing Machines

These are the washing machines in our laundry room. Word to the wise; fountain pens are poor sketching tools for steamy laundry rooms. I ended up with some pretty smudgy fingers on my right hand and ended up doing six loads of laundry with just my left hand. Also, I had to stand while doing this, so the combination of shaky hand, tiny sketchbook, and leaky fountain pen resulting in some rather interesting perspective.