Uncategorized, urban sketching

Memorial Day Weekend sketch or two

Venturing into Washington, D.C. on this Memorial Day weekend revealed a city full of  memorial observation underway in numerous ways, from bikers to skaters, and, then, more and more bikers.  Stationed in the middle of the intersection at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, facing towards the Lincoln Memorial, was a police officer keeping an eye out for pedestrians who regularly would step–past the bride and groom standing on the median strip!–into the path of the endless river of motorcycles.   The heat, noise, exhaust fumes, and crowds were overwhelming after only 20 minutes, so it was impossible not to feel sorry for this officer who stood there amidst it all without a speck of shade.

Rolling Thunder sketch

Illustration:  Watercolor and pen-and-ink sketch by Black Elephant Blog author

For those of us not on duty, however,  it was still possible to enjoy some cool breezes dining al fresco at a nearby restaurant  opposite this entrance to the George Washington University Park.

GWU university

Illustration: Watercolor and Platinum Carbon pen-and-ink sketch, “George Washington University,” by Black Elephant Blog author

urban sketching

Guitar Player in the Park

Seemingly endless cloudy and rainy days gave way today to a spectacular afternoon.  In Dupont Circle Park in Washington, D.C.,  a man strummed songs on his guitar in a soothing way. The soft chords he played seemed to erase the sound of the traffic surrounding us.   Each melody was a well-known one to anyone around and listening to music in the 80’s.  The songs blended with the sound of the water falling from the fountain nearby. A perfect afternoon and venue for a quick sketch!  Hopefully the guitar player will return soon for an encore!  (And, hopefully, so will the sun!)

Dupont Sketch

Illustration: Watercolor and Platinum Carbon pen-and-ink sketch, “Dupont Circle Park,”  by Black Elephant Blog author


Uncategorized, urban sketching

Sunshine in Central Park

This week, after many gloomy days of rain, the sun appeared Thursday afternoon in New York, casting a magic spell especially in Central Park where, it seemed, everyone was out biking, running, and riding in horse-carriages.  Hopefully there will be more days like this soon.  Many horse-drawn buggies carried newly-weds on a tour of the park on this gorgeous afternoon.  It wasn’t easy to cross  a road or to finish a sketch in such an atmosphere of grateful sun worshipping.

Central Park 1

Illustration: Pental Stylo water-based pen-and-ink and watercolor by Black Elephant Blog author

Risk, Surprise, Uncategorized, urban sketching

Plein Air Sketching in Frederick, Maryland

Bell Tower photo

Illustration: Photo of Bell Tower in Baker Park, Frederick, Maryland

When it seems like water may pour from the sky at any moment (as it has done for nearly the past 10 days in this area), having all your watercolor kit out in the open may not be the wisest move. So in a recent gathering of sketchers and painters in a Maryland park, when the skies and winds suggested rain, it seemed safer to stick with a pencil sketch–at first.

Illustration:  Pencil sketch of Bell Tower in Baker Park, Frederick , Maryland by Black Elephant Blog author

Illustration: Pencil sketch of Bell Tower in Baker Park, Frederick , Maryland by Black Elephant Blog author

The subject in this case was a functioning bell tower–complete with enormous bells  ringing out not just the hour on the hour, but various melodies all day.  To be working on a sketch or a painting in the open air, with breezes, and flowering trees all around, while enjoying the sound of bells ringing out even the national anthem (Francis Scott Key  of Frederick wrote the “Star-spangled Banner” national anthem in the early 1800s) is a special treat indeed.  But here we were in the midst of a well-maintained park which also features a covered bridge and a theater pavilion in the historic district of Frederick, Maryland. The bell tower dates from 1941 and is named after one of the leading citizens of Frederick, Joseph Baker, whose philanthropy helped to ensure the creation of this beautiful park.

The iffy weather discouraged many from participating in this plein air event, but those who made it were amply rewarded when the skies cleared, and the entire lawn was lit up in the colors of a brilliant spring day.

Bell Tower Frederick W:C 1

Illustration: Watercolor and pen-and-ink sketch, “Baker Park Bell Tower,” on Arches watercolor board by Black Elephant Blog south

Innovation, Risk, Surprise, Uncategorized

Urban Sketching in Pastel

University classes are just about done but, just across the river, students in my pastel class are still in high-gear, clearly in no hurry to have this series of classes end.   Here is a practice pastel worked up in the studio class after some sketches made not long ago.  In the ever-expanding armory of art supplies, NuPastels have been joined now by Sennelier half-stick pastels in 120 colors.  This is a messier medium than watercolor, for sure, and a whole lot more “forgiving.”  It is just about as different as it could be, in fact.  But, how do people go “urban sketching” –especially if traveling abroad–with such an array of tools–hard and soft pastels, paper of all kinds, etc?  More “problems” to solve! 🙂

Illustration:  Pastel sketch, "Japanese Garden at the Hillwood Estates, Washington, D.C."  by Black Elephant author

Illustration: Pastel sketch, “Japanese Garden at the Hillwood Estates, Washington, D.C.” by Black Elephant author