Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Portland Spring: Cherry Blossoms, Weird Figure Drawing, and Sumi Horses

On one of our first comfortably pleasant spring mornings, Portland Urban Sketchers joined up with one of our favorite repeat visitors Laura Frankstone to sketch cherry blossoms along the Waterfront.  I finished the last pages of my Canson sketchbook, working with pink ink and fountain pens and brushes...

Next I started into a watercolor sketchbook,  and it's taking a bit of work to get used to watercolor paper again after filling a Canson book; watercolor paper is just an entirely different beast. In this sketch, I tried to capture the two different paths existing next to each other: the road into daylight, and the shady path below the trees. You take the high road, and I'll take the low road.

As usual I attended the regular Dr. Sketchy figure drawing session, which this month had a theme of H.P. Lovecraft to go with the upcoming H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. You can click through to see more, but head's up, Not Safe For Work.

A few nights later I attended oil painter Michael Hussar's "Roadshow", at which he created a kind of sideshow figure art milieu for sketching purposes which he painted as we sketched and listed to music and drank alcoholic beverages.  Most impressive was that even the goth kids came armed with sketchbooks. Go, goth kids!

This was an unusual event; it took place in a small indie club and had some focus on the celebrity of the artist as the main attraction, but really it was about making art with props and live performance that were of Hussar's selection and style.  It would be wonderful to see more events like this, where the entertainment is based on an assumption that people will want to not only look at it and photograph it, but sketch it.

Earlier this month, I had a dream that I became excited about painting (as opposed to drawing or casual sketching) and was particularly obsessed with the moment of the brush touching the paper.  That was the moment in which I wanted to live.  As a result, when local art store Muse announced a sumi painting class taught by Yu Ming Zhu, it seemed like the perfect thing.  That class took place on Friday.

While most of my "art" from the day of the workshop is just repetitious attempts at brush strokes in which I tried to get my hand to hold the brush and move in a different way than it is accustomed, I did produce these horses (copies from a famous sumi work, though I've forgotten the name of the artist). The paper on the left was highly absorbent and sported gold flecks that are lovely in close-up; the paper on the right was machine made and held the strokes better but had a less interesting texture.

The workshop was great fun.  As a sketcher, my "specialty" is working fast and loose, but sometimes that means lazy as well, and it was satisfying to really focus on the properties of the brushes and the paper.  I think the ideas of center line strokes and side strokes, along with the basic intent with sumi of capturing physical action in the stroke, will stick with me for a while, and I'll integrate some new information into my normal, fast-moving urban sketches.

Towards the end of the workshop with Yu Ming Zhu, I mentioned Urban Sketchers and Yu Ming said, "oh, then maybe you know Don Colley!" Don Colley is an urban sketcher, and has visited our Portland group in the past. Yu Ming has met up with Don Colley to sketch on various occasions, and they have a presence in each other's sketchbooks.  We also discussed sketchbook work, and I was not surprised to learn Yu Ming uses a Pentel Pocket Brush in his accordion book (along with fountain pen, watercolors and various other materials).  It would be a pleasure to sketch with him some day, and I highly recommend his classes.


  1. What a feast for the eyes, Kalina! These are all wonderful. My favorite may be the cherry blossoms, in part because of the subject, but also because your calligraphic line work seems especially appropriate here.
    I love your 'fast and loose' style, but you have never struck me as a lazy sketcher! I hope you keep posting your paintings, too.

  2. I agree...a real feast and a pleasure! To start, I love the 'two paths' of the trees so finely interesting and thoughtful concept too.
    As usual the Dr Sketchy characters are beautifully done. And the Sumi Painting class sounds like a treat. Both of those horses have such strength and your brush lines tell it all.
    Love it.

  3. Your work with brushes always amazes me. I love these so much. Thank you for sharing. That workshop sounds like a great experience.