Urban Sketcher

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How drawing is like making music, except less damaging

Posted on Mar 20, 2014 in Vancouver | 1 comment

I’ve rediscovered my piano this winter. It’s been neglected. I had lessons as a child and teenager and made it almost all the way up the 10 grade levels. But as I graduated high school and moved away to go to university, the piano stayed with my parents. I finally had it shipped to Vancouver some time after Jeff and I bought our first place.

For many years, I would only sit down to play once a month for an hour or two. But for a long time I had thought about taking piano lessons again, “one day when I’m older”. Well, I recently decided that I am older. I asked around for recommendations and by January I had found myself a teacher, Jade, whom I visit half an hour a week. I am bringing some old pieces that I played as a teenager and want to relearn, and I found some new pieces that I need to learn from scratch. It’s been so much fun; for the last three months my piano has gotten its biggest workout in three decades!

Jade says that I have preserved my full mobility and could tackle pretty much any piece I feel like playing. I think she might be wrong about that, but I like her positive outlook. And my hands feel stronger and less strained than they have in a few years; piano playing must be good for them.

I am learning to go at the pieces with more confidence and attitude than I ever did as a timid teenager, and that striking a key with panache helps. It also makes small insects scurry and my husband hide in his den. I may be a bit overenthusiastic with pent-up piano-playing, and my newfound love for sifflet satanique as requested by Rossini at about 2:06 in the fun piece above that I am learning. I play mostly during the day, usually at the exact time when small children in my neighbourhood should be napping. With all that hammering on the keyboard, I have somehow thrown the piano out of tune, some keys are getting a bit stuck, and something must be possibly loosening in there because there’s a new tinny sound.

It doesn’t sound all that great, does it? But my point is that going at something with confidence, whether it’s making a mark on paper, or striking a piano key, feels good, even though one may feel hesitant on the inside at first. The confidence starts to follow. Of course, to play the piano with confidence, one should hit the right keys, otherwise it’s pretty obviously misplaced confidence. But so what if there’s a few missed notes?

And when drawing, it’s even easier because nobody can tell you that “this is where your line should have gone”. You are the creator of the drawing, not the interpreter of someone else’s composition.

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12 days on Maui

Posted on Mar 17, 2014 in Maui | 0 comments

I was in Maui from March 5 – 17, visiting my parents who have rented a condo here for all of March. My sister joined us from March 6 – 13 as well. We left our husbands back in Canada; they couldn’t get the time off. And there’s only room for two on that sofabed anyway. We had a great time as a family, knowing that there may not be many chances to get together like this again.

Since it’s warm year round in Hawaii, it’s almost always perfect sketching weather (sitting in the shade helps, though). That together with lots of relaxation time meant that I had no excuses not to draw. Below are some of my drawings from this trip. You’d think I’d be tired of drawing palm trees, beaches and the ocean, but I am not.

Wailea, Maui

My sister and I went for a long walk from Kamaole III Beach to Wailea, where we stopped to draw. She worked on a stained glass design for her house, while I drew her doing that. She had found an interesting position in a gnarly tree. I am surprised that the groundskeepers at the fancy hotel right there didn’t come to shoo us away. But maybe I just always expect troubles with security these days, even though it’s not their job to protect the world from sketchers.

My sister, reading on Maui

It was raining, but my sister and I walked down to the beach and found a bench under a large tree. She wrapped herself in her beach towel and read, and I drew, while the warm tropical rain drizzled on us intermittently through the foliage. Things could be worse.

Kapalua Bay, Maui

Kapalua Bay. We spent a pleasant afternoon here, the weather was changing constantly. We had wind, rain, and lots of sun. And a good snorkle where my sister and I saw a giant sea turtle. That is always a highlight. What you don’t see in postcard photos of this bay is that there are condos right beside it. There is a walking path and a large lawn separating the beach from the development, but the scenery is not as natural as the advertisements make it look. Still, it’s beautiful.

Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm, Maui, Hawaii

We spent a bit of a rushed hour at the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm but managed to squeeze in drinking a lavender coffee, buying a bunch of products containing lavender, walking around the vast gardens with exotic plants, and I even did these two very quick sketches! Good thing I’ve been here before, otherwise I would have wanted more time.

Woman on Kamaole III Beach, Maui, Hawaii

I found a great unidentified model at Kamaole III, our “home” beach. Beaches are excellent for free (but unobtrusive) life drawing.

Pool at Kamaole Sands, Maui, Hawaii

Almost every morning at 8 a.m. when the pool at Kamaole Sands opens, we go for a swim, or else I go to yoga at the beach.

Kamaole Sands, Maui, Hawaii

The view towards the ocean from the condo rental complex, Kamaole Sands in Kihei, where we were staying.

Tree at Makena Landing, Maui

Snorkelling, drawing, reading, walking at Makena Landing: a beautiful, quiet, grassy spot with an easy and sandy entry to the bay, but no beach to speak of.

View from Makena Landing, Maui

The view across the bay at Makena Landing.

Maui beach abstract

Another one of my “maze” drawings, as I call them. I tried to sort of draw the beach I was sitting on, looking at a very nice rock.

Hibiscus abstract

And a hibiscus as a maze drawing. Goodbye, Maui!

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Follow the whales to Maui

Posted on Mar 16, 2014 in Maui | 0 comments

What do you do when your parents insist on renting a condo for a full month on Maui? You go visit them for 12 days and sleep on the sofabed, which doesn’t cost you anything. You bring your laptop to take care of as little work as possible, and only if absolutely necessary. You catch up on blogging. And on Campari sodas.

This breaching humpback whale animated gif is from a stop motion sequence of photos I took on a previous visit. There’s even a bonus whale doing a head lunge on the left. While I was taking the photos, I didn’t even notice him!

This is what it’s like on Maui from November to May. The humpback whales use Maui as their breeding grounds, and Alaska and the West Coast of North America as their feeding grounds. The waters around Maui are warm and like a giant, pleasant bath tub for baby whales.

The photos for this animated gif were taken from the beach. I can sit there and watch the whales for hours; definitely had to sit around with my trigger finger on the camera button for a long time to capture this full breach. Nobody really knows why whales breach; whether it’s play or a gesture of threat or dominance appears to be subject to debate. I like to think it’s an expression of joy and exuberance. The whale just wants to fly. And make a big splash. Who doesn’t?

Whale drawing on Maui

A continuous line/maze type drawing. This is a fun and meditative exercise I’ve invented. I start with a line and I have no idea where I will end up or what the drawing will look like, but the challenge is to just draw one single line and connect it to its starting point eventually. Then I start filling in the complex but single shape I’ve created. I was trying to capture the humpback whale’s playfulness here, not draw an anatomically correct representation.

Drawing on flight to Maui

Another example of a single-line drawing. I actually have a slight red-green colour blindness, which is probably why I go for intense colours.

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Vancouver International Airport observation level

Posted on Mar 15, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) observation level

On March 1, eight of us met in the domestic terminal of the Vancouver Airport. There is an observation level where you can see the airfield with its runways. There are informational screens and telescopes where you can watch planes take off and land. There is a food fair just below with sketching fuel such as coffee and donuts and hamburgers. I had never come out to the airport just for drawing, but it was great. When I’m catching a flight, I am usually tired because I am going on a vacation and have stayed up all night to finish work and pack.

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Our Town Cafe, East Vancouver

Posted on Mar 14, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Sketching at Our Town Cafe, Vancouver

The Vancouver Urban Sketchers meetup group got together on a sleety February 22 to sketch at a cafe in an old (for Vancouver) building with a sharp corner, not shown here. I was hoping to loop my view around even more to see said corner, but didn’t make it. I will just have to go back for that!

I’d be happy to come back here often, like Rick Tulka does in Paris, to sketch people or whatever I can see. Maybe I am just romanticizing my idea of the Viennese coffee house culture, where thinkers sat around philosophizing for hours without having to look at the clock, and artists could sketch and scribble in a similar fashion.

And that is my Flickr friend, ColourPixie , on the far right of the drawing! We have been following each other on Flickr for several years, and recently we finally met. Check out her great photography stream.

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Vancouver Convention Centre

Posted on Mar 13, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Sketchers as far as the eye can see

On February 15, we met at the Vancouver Convention Centre East to draw. A chilly, rainy day, but good times with nice people. We sat in a coffee shop looking over at the new Convention Centre West building. That grey blob on the far right is Stanley park in the background.

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At Lonsdale Quay Public Market, North Vancouver

Posted on Mar 12, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

At Lonsdale Quay Public Market, North Vancouver, BC

We had a Vancouver Urban Sketchers meetup here on February 8. I am not sure whether this drawing qualifies as a horizontal or vertical panorama, since I pretty much put the horizon line on a 45 degree angle. It could go either way.

I finally got around to adding some colour back into my sketches. Still, most of my January and February drawings remained black and white.

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Dr. Sketchy Vancouver on February 2

Posted on Mar 11, 2014 in Vancouver | 0 comments

Dr. Sketchy Vancouver, February 2, 2014

This was another great model, except the noisy soundtrack of some kind of Pulp Fiction type movie drove me crazy.

While I was focusing on getting her body drawn correctly, the chair back turned out weird. Drawing is like one big, vague puzzle. When you’re done, you hope it all fits properly, but it often doesn’t. It seems that you have to keep an eye on everything at once. That’s why quick gesture and proportion drawings are good. I could also try using a pencil first, but I don’t want to give myself the option of being tentative. With a pencil and an eraser, I would allow myself way too many “undos”. Question your drawing less = draw more.

My favourite part of this sketch are her hands.

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A week in colourless Mexico

Posted on Mar 9, 2014 in Playa del Carmen | 2 comments

We spent one week in Mexico with friends in late January in a resort south of Cancun. I think I mostly caught up on sleep, which was great.

Dive bar in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

The drawing above is of a dive bar in Playa Del Carmen. I am not sure it was really a dive bar, maybe it was just a bar made to look dive-y, but it was half a block away from the 5th Avenue shopping strip. What I liked were the cheap white plastic tables and chairs, and the two swings hanging from the ceiling in front of the bar. Jeff and G. played cards, while L. modelled for me on the swing.

Mexico vacation with friends

This pool-side drawing remained unfinished because it started raining while I was drawing this on our first day and didn’t stop much for three days. That was fine, but I never returned to this drawing. Now I like it; the edge of the pool trailing off into infinity. You just have to imagine the whole right-hand page there.

Again, no colour due to time constraints, although it’s a pity to not use colour while in Mexico.

I also painted 10 very colourful watercolour postcards which I mailed out. The paintings are mostly variations of palm trees. I was told at the resort that they will take up to three months to arrive at their destinations. Makes me think they’re personally walking them over to Canada.

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