Wednesday, April 25, 2018


4/23/18 Maple Leaf neighborhood

The American Craftsman style of architecture is common in the Maple Leaf ‘hood. Before we added an upstairs, our frame house looked very much like this one – simple details and a small porch flanked by plain, round columns. Greg calls this type “the poor man’s Craftsman home,” as we’ve certainly seen much larger ones with exposed rafters and big porches. If I’d had my choice back when we were house hunting eons ago, I would have picked a brick Tudor over a Craftsman, but I do like the clean, classic look of this house (and ours).

I think Reckless Video, which I sketched several years ago, is also in the Craftsman style.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Big Yellow Bugs

4/22/18 Roosevelt Way NE in Maple Leaf

On Sunday afternoon I took a walk in the sunshine through the neighborhood. My goal was to make note of architectural styles that I want to sketch for my series on Maple Leaf houses. I didn’t get very far, though, because I found this pair of excavators, which look like yellow praying mantises, resting on Roosevelt Way. Somehow heavy equipment is always more seductive than houses.

By the way, despite the sunshine, those trees behind the excavators were still as bleak and bare as winter. Id feel more confident that spring were really here if all the trees were leafed. Maybe this weeks expected warm temperatures (77 on Thursday?!) will help.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Conical Tudor

4/20/18 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Last week when I started to criticize a new house under construction for not fitting in with our neighborhood’s architectural style, I realized I should let you judge for yourself by showing you some of that style. This is the first of what I intend to be a series of sketches of typical home styles in the Maple Leaf neighborhood.

This is one of my favorite houses on our street. I walk by whenever I catch the bus, and I always admire that lovely conical-shaped roof over the porch which gives it a storybook cottage look. Thirty years ago when we were house hunting in the neighborhood, we hoped to find a Tudor-style house like this, but there weren’t any available in our price range. It looks serene, doesn’t it? However. . .

Just behind me as I sketched next to a huge dumpster, a house was being totally gutted by several men who were shouting to each other as well as into their phones (set on speaker) while music blared from a radio. Every now and then that cacophony was further punctuated by a pneumatic hammer. Someday I’ll sketch what’s going on over there, too.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sketchin’ and Chillin’ with Andika

Andika shows us how he makes confident lines.
(Photo by Jane Wingfield)
“Sketch ‘n’ Chill,” the title of Andika Murandi’s USk Seattle 10x10 workshop, is irresistible: Who doesn’t enjoy sketchin’ and chillin’? And the subtitle is even better: “No-stress interior sketching.” I’ve long admired Andika’s sketches of interior spaces that convey depth and complexity and yet stay small and simple. His workshop would be a good opportunity to learn his approach. I signed up immediately!

For the first half of the workshop, we met in Pioneer Square’s Grand Central Arcade, where Andika led us through practicing the very basics of any kind of drawing: making bold, confident lines instead of jaggy, tentative ones. By moving the whole arm and shoulder, not just the wrist, even when drawing in a small sketchbook, lines will be more controlled, continuous and consistent.

He urged us to forget about erasing tentative pencil lines; instead, he encouraged going straight in with ink and “embracing the mistake.” To reinforce this attitude, he showed us examples from his own sketchbook where he had made incorrect lines initially and then restated them, but left the old lines in place. When he pointed them out, we could see the “wrong” lines, but they otherwise disappeared into the rest of the composition, which was confidently presented.
Line-drawing practice
Rooms can be simplified into trapezoids, rectangles and triangles.

As an architect, Andika pays attention to perspective in his sketches, yet with a casual, “no stress” approach. Most traditional lessons in perspective drawing begin with illustrations of one-point or two-point perspective in which the point where all those lines meet might be way outside the composition and halfway down the street. Instead of starting with a horizon line and vanishing point, he showed us how interior spaces can be simplified into rectangles and trapezoids (one-point perspective) and triangles and trapezoids (two-point perspective). Once you see those basic shapes in a room and form a composition around them, the rest is just details. Stress-free perspective!

With those lessons and line exercises under our belts, we proceeded to our first sketch within the Arcade’s large interior. I chose the two-point perspective of one of the main doorways somewhat complicated by the stairwell in the center of the room. I initially got the height of the stairwell wall wrong, but I drew the lines confidently and left them boldly in place. 😉
4/21/18 Grand Central Arcade

True to his personal philosophy of relaxing with a beverage and sketchbook in a café, for the second exercise we split up into two groups, each going to a nearby coffee shop. I was in the Caffe Umbria group, and I went to a back corner of the café. I again chose a two-point perspective looking toward the front of the room. (I was planning to “chill” with a mocha as Andika would do, but learning to draw always makes me hungry! I sketch ‘n’ scarfed a grilled veggie sandwich.)
4/21/18 Caffe Umbria

Before taking this workshop, my usual approach would have been to focus first on the two men sitting in front of me, then add the roaster, tables, chairs and other details around the men, and finally fill in the windows and walls in the background. But often what happens is that my scale or placement is off on the tables and chairs, so when I put in the walls and windows behind them, the whole room tends to skew. With Andika’s approach, the first lines I made were the shapes of the trapezoids and triangles of the walls, ceiling and floor. Although I probably didn’t get the perspective perfectly accurate, when I used those lines to guide the placement and scale of the details, they tend to look right.

Similar to Gabi’s “Pocket Urban Sketching” concepts or Sue Heston’s “sky shapes,” both learned in last year’s 10x10 workshops and that I find myself using often, Andika’s simple, straightforward approach is one that I could grasp easily in an hour and then practice immediately for reinforcement. I left the workshop feeling confident that I could use his approach for interior spaces whenever I want to show the whole room – without thinking about where all those perspective lines eventually meet up. Sketch ‘n’ chill, indeed!

Final throwdown
A stress-free group! (Photo by Jane Wingfield)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Big Scene, Small Page

4/19/18 6th & Lenora sketched in a 5 1/2" x 7" Field Notes notebook spread

Whenever I’m in the South Lake Union area, it’s hard to resist the Amazon Spheres. I’ve sketched them inside and out several times, but I’m still not tired of them.

A few days ago I met Gabi Campanario for a working lunch (we’re both members of the USk Editorial Team) by the spheres. After the meeting I stood near the same spot where I sketched this scene while taking Gabi’s Pocket Urban Sketching workshop last year. Before then, I’d always had difficulty viewing a vast scene like this and fitting it all onto a small page. A couple of simple yet important tips – such as using the vertical line of a building as a measuring unit to gauge the rest of the composition – made the task far less intimidating. I still use those tips every time I am faced with a scene like this.

Sunshine at the Spheres!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Vintage Colored Pencils, Part 11: Rexel Cumberland Derwent

Vintage Rexel Cumberland Derwent pencils

In the first chapter of The Pencil Perfect, author Caroline Weaver talks about the discovery of graphite in the 16th century in England’s Lake District. Though numerous pencil manufacturing companies were in the area at one time, the only one still remaining is Derwent. The company even has a museum for pencil aficionados – The Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick – which is home to the world’s largest colored pencil (26 feet long)! Derwent obviously has a long, proud history in pencil production.

According to Wikipedia, the company we now know as Derwent began in 1832 under the name Banks, Son & Co. The company was eventually purchased by Acco UK (known then as Rexel) and became a brand of their product range. This company would pass through several hands before becoming the Cumberland Pencil Company in 1916.

A huge, lovely set of vintage Rexel Cumberland Derwent pencils recently came my way  a generous gift from someone who knows that I eat and breathe colored pencils. I contacted Derwent to see if I could learn approximately how old my set is, but I didn’t get a response. But I found at least three versions of branding in the hefty collection.

3 styles of branding

Interestingly, one is Derwent Artist, which is still the name of a Derwent pencil line, but the contemporary Derwent Artist pencils I have tried are much harder than these.

Derwent's contemporary Procolour
Compared to Derwent’s vast range of contemporary colored pencil lines, these Rexel Cumberland pencils have a very different appearance. For example, the contemporary Inktense, ColourSoft and Procolour (at right) lines all have a solid-colored round barrel with only the end caps indicating the core’s color. This design is consistent with all of Derwent’s current collections. On the vintage Rexel Cumberland pencils, however, the full length of the round barrel matches the core’s color, and the end is unfinished. It looks very similar to Prismacolor’s long-standing design.
Unfinished ends on the Cumberland Derwent
Enough about design; we all know that the most important aspect of any pencil is its core. When I initially swatched these, I was astounded by how deliciously soft and creamy they are. They are probably as soft as any colored pencils I own, including Caran d’Ache Luminance and vintage Berol Prismacolors. In fact, I’d say they are most similar to my old Prismacolors in softness, application and even appearance.

My curiosity immediately led me to trying to figure out which contemporary Derwent line was the successor to these very soft Cumberlands. ColourSoft and Derwent’s newest Procolour line were the likeliest candidates. They all have a 4mm core. ColourSofts feel slightly drier than the Cumberlands and also produce more dust. The Cumberlands are close to Procolour in softness – perhaps even slightly softer and with a creamier texture.

(An aside: I’ve long been flabbergasted by the number of colored pencil lines Derwent currently has in production – I counted 10 on Blick’s site. Procolour, ColourSoft and the limited-color-range Drawing line all are close enough in performance that only a geek making side-by-side comparisons on a rainy afternoon would be able to distinguish them. I’m not complaining, mind you – more for geeks like me to ponder – but it’s perplexing, nonetheless. Next time I’m in the UK, I must make a pilgrimage to that Derwent museum and discuss these questions with them myself.)
4/1/18 Cumberland Derwent pencils in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook 
For my apple sketch, I used a smooth Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook. As I expected from initial swatches, the Cumberlands blend beautifully, and it’s easy to build up layers of rich color. They are the kind of pencils I like to use at life drawing, so I grabbed several and took them to Gage a few days ago, where I used them on all the 10-minute and longer poses.

I don’t know how long these Cumberlands have been out of production, but despite the number of similar pencil lines the company now makes, none of them is exactly the same as these. Thanks, Ana – I’m very happy to have and use them.

A spring bouquet!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

New Construction

4/18/18 New house in Maple Leaf

A new house is under construction a block away from mine. This is the same construction site where I sketched an excavator a couple of months ago. My plan was to sketch more of the various types of heavy equipment I’ve seen on the property the past several months, but most of that occurred during our long stretch of cold and rain, and parking wasn’t allowed nearby, so I missed all of that.

Yesterday it finally warmed up a bit, so I took advantage of the dry day to sketch the site. I’ll reserve final opinion until the house is completed. For now, let’s just say that based on what I can see of this elevation, the house doesn’t quite fit the rest of the neighborhood.

But how would you know? Other than The Maple Bar and Reckless Video, both neighborhood businesses occupying traditional houses, I’ve hardly sketched any houses in my ‘hood. I suppose familiarity breeds contempt or at least invisibility, because I don’t really “see” the houses I pass every day (or for that matter, the one I live in). I’m going to remedy that. Now that it’s finally feeling more like spring, I’m going to start sketching some of the homes that are what I consider typical and traditional of this area. Perhaps by then this new house will be done, and you can decide for yourself whether it belongs in Maple Leaf.

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