I went to the Wellington Sketchers meetup yesterday, and due to the horrible weather forecast, there was unsuprisingly only two of us. A couple of times it looked like it would clear up, but then the wind whipped up and it started raining again.
We started out in the Mojo cafe, waited by the meetup place for any other sketchers, and tried sketching near the path up to the Beehive. However, the wind and rain drove us indoors again and we ended up sitting in a nearby MacDonalds which had a good view of the station and the street.
Even though the weather was awful, it was lovely meeting Lim Su Min from the Singapore Urban Sketchers, and also to have a chance to draw just sit and draw people. I've wanted to draw people moving in Wellington's iconic wind, for some time, but have never had the opportunity.
We drove up to Lake Taupo in the centre of NZ's North Island for the annual Round Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. We've been coming for years for the road biking, since well before we had kids. Now I mind the kids while my husband does the new mountain bike course of the challenge.
Lake Taupo, southern shores
A sketch which I did at the Helicopter Cafe, one of the first points where we could reliably see my husband cycling past before he disappears into the next mountain bike track of the course. I have sketched this from a platform, next to an enormous Sikorsky (I think) helicopter which is mounted next to the cafe. You can go in, and the kids can sit in the cockpit and pretend to be pilots. I've just drawn a tiny bit of the front of the helicopter. The thing at the bottom of the helicopter is measuring equipment, not landing gear. The helicopter is so huge the blades don't even come into the sketch.
I sketched the Hilton Hotel next door to the campground while my kids bounced on the trampoline. There has to be some pathos to drawing a Hilton Hotel while you stay in a tent next door. But the truth is, that accommodation prices are tripled or even quadrupled over the Round Lake Taupo event, and we probably could have stayed in the Hilton on any other weekend for the amount we were paying for our tent site. (Well, maybe not quite, but almost!).
A high speed sketch of Mount Ruapehu as we drove back home along the Desert Road. I could have drawn my husband's nose on the right hand edge, as I was looking past him sitting in the driver's seat, but thought the sketch looked better as is.
We stopped at the Army Museum at Waiouru (or if you have ever been past here on your way to the skifields in winter, Wai-oooo-oooo-r-uuuu, through chattering teeth). I tried out some marker pens I had, but I didn't really like this technique. Still, had to try. Mount Ruapehu is in the background.
Horowhenua countryside, again at 100 kph.
Traffic at the Otaki roundabout. We moved on before I could draw the car in front. There is a certain camaraderie on the road to and from the event, as hundreds of cars travel along with you with bikes on the back. We are always trying to spot race numbers and people we know.
Trees on the hillside at Waikanae, again at 100kph.
More Waikanae countryside, in the late afternoon sun.
If I did more speed pencil sketches en route, I would definitely bring a blending stump along. You can cover large areas quickly with it, and I think it would do a far better job at clouds and skies.
Over breakfast (and morning tea) I sketched one of the Cardinals photographed in the NZ Listener magazine.
I've been reading Giovanni Civardi's excellent book Drawing: A Complete Guide
and I really like how he does his portraits with a style that is at the
same time exact, but loose and relaxed. The cross hatching is
methodical and beautiful, but fast and expressive. A bit like in my
other favourite book, John Raynes' Drawing and Painting People. I thought I would give this a go. I used my Derwent Onyx pencil (medium), and it did take quite some effort to get the darker shades, which on thin paper can buckle the paper a bit. I'd still like to order a the dark version of this pencil and try that out.
It has also made me think about how to sketch someone smirking - what is the crucial thing to include in the sketch that differs from a closed smile? It depends on the lighting, of course, but I think a smirk involves the lips being pursed and pushed out, and the chin jutting forward slightly. Plus the usual things that accompany a smile, such as raised cheeks, dimples, wider mouth and slightly closed eyes.
Pursed lips are shown by the shadow above the mouth stopping before the lips, so that there is a line of blank paper above the top lip, and slightly deeper shading under the top lip. This is due to light catching the lips more because the lips are pushed out, smirking. Usually in a sketch, the edge of the mouth's lower lips are not drawn, but are implied by the shadow on the chin under the curve of the lower lip. But in a smirk, there might not be as much shading on the chin (in this case, almost none) under the lower lip, because in a smirking smile the chin is being jutted forward so much.
I've been doing some more practice on mixing colours using Cathy Johnson's book Creating Nature's Detail in Watercolour, which has some great examples of doing interesting sky effects,and Nina Leland's amazing book Exploring Color, which is probably the best book on learning about colour theory and mixing colours that I have come across so far.
A quick go at one of the examples in Cathy Johnson's book. (6 x 10 cm)
The sun breaking though clouds and fog in the early morning (using Cathy Johnson's book).
The sun starting to rise over foggy mountains. Nina Leland shows how to mix various grey's using opposing colours, and while it is a bit more effort, I have to admit that the greys are more interesting than just Davy's Grey from the pan.
A miniature sketch of Lake Manapouri on New Zealand's South Island (4 x 6 cm).
A (even more ) minature sketch of the Dart River valley near Queenstown (3 x 5cm).
These were done from a photos, not on location. Using 185 gsm paper has made me realise that I should get something heavier in the 200 - 300s, or learn to stretch my paper. I'm practising mixing greys from different opposing colours, rather than just using a grey from the tube.
Again, I was watching live TV with hubby so I did these without pausing the show or rewinding. They are pretty good likenesses too. The show was a documentary about daredevils and stuntpeople, and the sketches are of these people being interviewed.
A breakfast sketch of an overcast Lake Wairarapa, New Zealand. Done from a photo though, not on location. About 7 x 10 cm. This is one of the first sketches I have done where it is purely in watercolour, with no pen, ink or pencil used at all.
For the muted greens, I mixed a warm yellow with blue. Must keep notes on exactly which ones though.