1 Hour Challenge – Run Sandpiper, Run

Moving these updates to the blog to motivate myself to do them more frequently. The goal is to hone my drawing skills by doing sketches in 1 hour.

This session is from a reference photo taken by my brother. Very challenging given the need to incorporate movement of the bird and the advancing waves. Oh, and drawing ocean foam is hard as hell. I think the key is to not draw it. 

Daily Sketch #24: San Francisco tower


Quick sketch for San Francisco fans. This is Coit Tower, an iconic part of San Francisco, from one of the surrounding neighborhood streets. I think this is on the downslope side that  trickles down to North Beach.

Despite the ridiculous clown car at the bottom, the rest of the sketch holds up pretty well. My challenge tonight was drawing varied perspective very fast. When drawing any of the San Francisco architecture, it’s not long before it loses it’s charm and starts to drive you insane! So many lines, curves, and wickedly detailed bits. And don’t get me started on the cast shadows on a sunny day. That said, it’s very rewarding when you’re done b/c you look up at your drawing and “BAM!”, you’ve got a beautiful urban landscape.

This will likely become a knife painting project in the near future. The colors are simplistic, but there’s a good mix of fun stuff in the shapes and angles that an oil painting would work well.

Daily Sketch #23: Drawing in Reverse


Today’s sketch is inspired by curiosity and experimentation. I thought it would be interesting to do a drawing in reverse, kinda. The idea was to fill the entire page with a graduated value scale that was pretty dark, then remove graphite with a gummy eraser to “draw” the trees.

I’m happy with the result, but it made me think a lot more than I had anticipated. And frankly, this is more complicated than I initially thought it would be. While I only spent about 20 – 30 minutes on this one, it could have easily been a couple of hours. Here are the things I had to consider:

  1. Should the initial value shading be done with the darkest darks (about a 9 on a 10 point scale) in the distance where the pathway fades away, somewhere on the horizon line, or more in the foreground. I opted for somewhere near the end of the pathway, but then spread it out a little further once I got into the sketch details. I thought the horizon line would have been a good idea, but who the hell knows where that really is in this kind of composition.
  2. Trying to fill a large block with darkness wasn’t as easy as I expected. All the drawing lessons I’ve taken, ILT or self paced, you do a lot of shading exercises that have boundaries, shapes, and contrasts. You never do a whole page. Apparently nobody teaches that because you might go insane. Trying to get it laid in well enough to not be distracted by the sketch lines wasn’t easy, but it was a sketch so I didn’t worry about it too much.
  3. Related to #2 above, it was also important to not press the graphite into the paper too hard because I was going to pull off parts of it to “draw” the trees.
  4. Drawing the trees with a gummy eraser is fun, but ever so weird. I’ve used this technique to get texture and shape in clouds, but trees have more definition and sharper lines. It worked pretty well, though.

Overall, the effect is creepy and cool. The pathway is very light, although it darkens as you move further along – might be hard to see in the photo. There is a lot of variation in values in the darkness of the forrest, which is similar to getting just the right subtle mixture of color in an oil painting. It’s nice in this sketch because it gives a sense of atmosphere and prevents it from looking flat. Speaking of which, that was the hardest part with the trees. Pulling off enough graphite with the gummy eraser in just the right places so as to give the impression of trees with shape was the primarily challenge. The outcome is something unusual, deceptively layered, and just a bit eerie.

For the detail oriented, this sketch utilized the whole drawer: HB, 2B, 4B, 8B and an ebony. As mentioned, the gummy eraser was used for the trees.

Daily Sketch #22: Normandy Coast

Tough week on time for sketching, so another 20 minute effort. Wanted to take another whack and getting a quick sketch of rocky coastline done quickly. It forces me to draw loosely and step away from the detail, which is very hard for me to do. But it worked out today. Not the best result, but given the time constraint it works for me.

This is the Normandy coast, similar to an earlier sketch. This is Point du Hoc I believe, but not 100% sure and too tired to go rooting around my notes to confirm. Clear blue sky, calm seas.

HB and 2B only.

Daily Sketch #21: Ball! Ball! Ball!


For all the dog lovers out there!

Sketched with 2B, HB, and 4B pencils. Quick, loose style done in 20 minutes.

I didn’t have a reference photo, but rather was inspired by a small painting by an artist I really like, Kanna Aoki. The palette she uses is very bright and vibrant, but she’s masterful at capturing that magical California lighting in landscapes.

Daily Sketch #20: Daily Buzz


Sorrento’s is the coffee shack across the street from my office. This is a more complicated sketch than I had time to complete, but this gets it most of the way there. I’ll work on this one some more and perhaps post the final drawing.

I like drawing buildings despite the exactitude of the lines. I used this sketching opportunity to free-hand all the lines instead of using a ruler. It’s good practice and gives the composition a more artistic look, as opposed to an architectural sterility.

I spent a couple hours on this one, using mostly 2B and HB pencils.

Daily Sketch #19: Pointe Du Hoc


Got behind with posting, so playing catch-up for a couple days and the memory on some of the details are hazy.

This is the Normandy coast, from Pointe Du Hoc looking east. It’s a very moving place. If the sheer historical value of the place doesn’t grab you, the pill boxes and pockmarked landscape of D-Day bombs will. Words cannot express my gratitude and respect for the actions and bravery delivered by the Allies in this part of the world. An unfortunate time with a fortunate outcome.

As for the sketch, its lacking. I’m not sure how to sketch the cliffs, but I know part of the problem is too much detail and trying to be to realistic with the textures of the rocks. I’ll get it right at some point, but today wasn’t the day.

Daily Sketch #18: Ahoy Matey!


Today’s sketch is courtesy of a French harbor. There was another boat alongside this one, but I took it out to reduce complexity and time. Curves on the boat were fun and the shading of the mast was essential in giving it the right shape.

All the stuff in the background is made up. Wanted to give the sketch some better context and these were easy things to add quickly.

Daily Sketch #17: Who the hell is that guy?


The problem with committing to 30 consecutive daily sketches is that sooner or later you’re going to run into a truckload of bad. Today, I got run over.

This isn’t a self-conscience thing, although deep down I’m sure there’s some of that, but rather it was just an off night. Or the fact that I’ve only done one portrait in the past, and it looked a lot better than this one. It was also done over the course of 3 hours, not 35 minutes. Enough with the excuses. I present to the viewing public “self portrait”.

I can honestly say that while this looks nothing like me, once again I learned a lot in a short time thanks to the rigors of daily sketch. Proportional sketching when it comes to still life and landscapes can be a lot more forgiving than drawing a face. The slightest swerve to the left, right, up or down and something won’t look right. It’s a very unforgiving endeavor. I did enjoy the process of getting the parts about right, but just not the proper positioning. In the end, the Mr Potato Head result is not something to frame, but it will be a fun one to revisit with more time to spare and see what kind of result can be had.

Daily Sketch #16: Alaskan Ice


Today’s sketch is an Alaskan Glacier. The actual photo has these brilliant aqua blue colors against the white snow. But it also has this very carved and complex blocks of shading throughout, which makes a sketch very challenging. Also a good test on perspective and how to give the impression of distance without using any real clear reference point in the sketch. Hoping you get the sense of sheer size of the glacial wall.