Mixing it up

For a long time I’ve been searching for the perfect sketching tool. I’ve been trying out different media, pencil, felt-tip pens, markers, fountain pens, dip pens, watercolors, pastels, charcoal, colored pencils… you name it. 

Last night I decided to take a different approach. All media have some qualities that I love and some that I don’t. So why not use each for the qualities that I love?

This was my first attempt, while in the courtyard of the Philadelphia Sketch Club. I started with markers, fast, loose and broad strokes. It’s difficult to replicate the color and shadows you’re seeing with markers, so didn’t care at all about it. Suggesting bricks was pretty easy with the broad tips. 

Then I switched to watercolors for greenery. I’ve always hated green markers, but watercolors are more flexible for this. I wanted to jump back to a felt tip pen but the one I had was dried out. I used a fountain pen, although I’m not happy with the results. I needed a broader tip to achieve what I was looking for. Then I jumped back to a couple dark markers for some shadows. 

I’m excited about the possibilities, so I’ll explore this much more. ;-)

Sketching at Spruce St. Harbor Park

This past Sunday we had a sketching meet up at this cool park in Philadelphia. Oversized games (chess, Connect Four, Jenga), hammocks and lots of people just relaxing and having a good time with their families. 

Cold again

It’s spring, but the winter cold is still here; I wanted to sketch today, but couldn’t feel my fingers. So decided to go indoors and share a sketch from Saturday, my son and wife swimming at the YMCA. It was really warm in there… 


The Battle of Brandywine

This morning we attended a re-enactment of the Battle of Brandywine at Sandy Hollow Park in Pennsylvania. Participants had fantastic costumes and were very much into their characters. It certainly was a very interesting outing.



The Fear of Failure


Here’s an image of a quick watercolor still life I did a few days ago. I’m really enjoying sketching directly with the paintbrush. I think it’s the best approach to painting free, loose and expressive.

Some time ago I had stopped sketching because I wasn’t doing perfect. Architecture school trains you to be a hybrid between technical and creative. I’d spend 90 minutes sketching something, it wasn’t perfect, I’d get frustrated and stop for months. This was the norm until a friend made me realize that it is just a piece of paper, we are not dealing with anything more than that. I haven’t stopped sketching since.

Over the years I’ve heard countless stories of people that don’t want to ruin their sketchbook. I also know of a very select few whose sketchbooks just need an ISBN. We can’t judge ourselves against these few. I wouldn’t have ever touched a basketball if I’d compared myself to Magic Johnson.

There was a workshop at a USK seminar that dealt with the fear of the blank page. I couldn’t attend to it, but I remember that participants were to get the pages dirty, footprints, smudges, paint beforehand, to avoid dealing with the neatness of the white page.

I have never got to that extreme, but I certainly sketch very dirty. In my everyday sketchbook I draw with HB, 3B and 5B pencils, so you can imagine how smudged pages can get. And I don’t carry erasers, so every line is there to stay.

I must admit that, even as a veteran of a thousand battles, I can’t get to use the first page. Don’t know why, it just feels weird.

Lately I’ve been only drawing on the left side pages. Being a leftie, I’ve always hated drawing across the spine. It is even worse with the wire bound sketchbooks I’m currently using. Or sometimes I start from the back pages. Anyway the other page gets so smudged that I don’t use it. So, it’s my sketchbook and it’s one of the few things in my life with which I can do whatever I want.

Sención Castillo

Today I stopped to sketch at the San Juan Cathedral while waiting for my class to start. Because of the lots of tourists passing by, there is a guy that takes this spot to sing along his guitar and harmonica.

He noticed me sketching him and took a break to see what I was doing. He liked it and asked me to write down his name: “Sención Castillo”. I had thought about leaving it in black and white, but he asked me: “Pero dale un brillito” (roughly translated “Give it a little shine”). So I did. And then he approved it.

I love when people stop by and chat; I get a lot of vibe from them. I wish it was more often. Well, Mr Sención Castillo, thanks for a nice moment.

Here is the sketch:


Garabateando#8@Parque Luis Muñoz Rivera

Today we went to sketch to Parque Luis Muñoz Rivera in San Juan.  It was a beautiful, bright day, lots of people in the park.  I had gone a couple times before but I never had seen so much energy in the place.  The park is well kept, with very nice shadows from trees and very colorful tropical plants.  I managed to do a few sketches while enjoying some great company and conversation with long time friends.  Then the rain cut our day a little short, again… but at least had a lot of fun.