Earlier this month, I went to see the Christmas parade with, seemingly, every Mānoa Valley resident. I took up position on the corner of Lowrey Ave. and East Manoa Rd., and saw entire streets lined with people in a festive, community spirit. Unfortunately, the parade passed by so quickly that I was only able to capture a few moments: a police motorcycle leading the parade, a school’s marching band performing Christmas carols, and a troop of Scottish bagpipe players.
This past month has been a stormy one. Hurricanes and tropical storms seemed to be barely missing O‘ahu on a weekly basis. While we have escaped a direct hit so far (knock on wood), we still see torrential downpours after thunderstorms or very muggy, wind-still days, like today. Cycling home through one of these heavy rains last week, I noticed that the water level in the stream nearby was licking the underside of the bridge. As this clearly warranted sketching, AJ and I quickly headed out again with our sketch equipment and rain gear. However, by the time we arrived, almost an hour later, the water level had dropped by at least 4 feet, and the clouds had begun to part. In my sketch, I marked the water level where it was when I had seen it running up the banks, just a few feet from flooding the street.
Our chapter held a sketch event this Sunday morning at Ala Moana Shopping Center. It was good to see a few returning sketchers, as well as newcomer Mayumi. The weather was great – occasionally overcast and breezy. From the top level of the parking garage we had a view of the shopping center in front of Ala Moana Beach and downtown Honolulu with the Ko’olau Range as a backdrop. Although chosen for just that reason, our location proved almost overwhelming due to the plethora and detail of targets. It was a challenge not only to pick a scene, but also to distill it while truthfully depicting the subject. This is a location with so much potential that we will have to return someday.
We jumped in at 9:30 and were yet again surprised by how quickly 11:00 arrived – time for show-and-tell. Pencil, pen, watercolor, crayon, and watercolor pencils all made an appearance. Given the similar subjects we chose (e.g., cranes, the shopping mall with scaffolding, and downtown Honolulu), it was interesting to see how differently the challenges of perspective, depth, and contrast were tackled. I came away with a greater interest in crosshatching and a desire to explore the technique more in my own sketches.
Hope to see everyone at our next event!
AJ: As mentioned in my last entry, my goals were to ignore my status as a beginner, avoid getting overwhelmed / frustrated by the detail in front of me, and practise without reservation. On this beautiful morning in Honolulu we scouted out an interesting section of a neighborhood. It was a pleasant mix of natural (vegetation) and unnatural (manmade) elements.
I started a sketch in pen (TÜL GL1 – black, medium on Pentalic 65 lb, 8″ x 5.5″ paper for dry media) and realized that the perspective and scale were wrong; I had a big challenge on my hands. My attitude evolved to one of making lemonade out of lemons though … and I decided to consider my first attempt as a “test sketch” to see how the scene would fit on one landscape-oriented page.
After examining that sketch I moved on to a clean slate. It occurred to me that starting my work by placing a grid on the page in pencil might help me to position the various features more accurately. It felt a bit like I was cheating, but on the other hand this might be a great learning tool. Unfortunately, I took my next photo a little too late in the process, but you can still see a bit of the grid in the background …
As an aside, I was kept in good company during my sketch and made fast friends with a fire hydrant and discarded toilet.
After applying watercolor pencil (Caran d’Ache Fancolor pencils) throughout the work I used a wet brush (Sakura Koi water brush – medium) to blend and spread the colors. At this stage I am least confident about whether I am improving or ruining the picture, but have to admit enjoying the process most at this point.
One area that needs particular attention is how I handle the background of my sketches. Typically, I end up with a lot of bland white-space surrounding the foreground / target elements and consequently a “flat” drawing. In the future I would like to pay more attention to how I can show much more depth in the scene captured.
Harald: Taking up position on a different stretch of the same street, my goal was modest, namely to improve upon my previous foray into watercolors.
Although figuring this out for myself might neither be the fastest nor the most reliable approach, I believe I learned a lot today. For instance, don’t skip the pencil outline. Start with a layer of light colors. Keep your watercolor set clean or you will end up with everything looking like different shades of brown. Add detail with a fine brush in darker colors. All pretty obvious, but in last week’s attempt I still somehow failed to understand (or adhere to) even the most fundamental rules. Today’s result is far from frame-worthy, but I am quite happy with the progress made.
Strategy from here on: practice some more… and then take a class!
Sebastian: It was a nice morning to be outside, and a few people stopped to see what we were up to. We also received a request from a resident of the neighborhood to ask permission beforehand – pointing out that we were sketching on a private road. Our first encounter with a concerned neighbor.
On the sketching side, I felt less satisfied mainly because I ran out of space on my 9x6in. paper. The page was quickly filled with details I wanted to capture and the two media I used. Outlining everything in black pen left little space for color. My pen and watercolor method is something I have perhaps stuck with too closely. Using a different medium or approach may have been more effective, especially when trying to sketch such a large scene. Next time, I want to use one medium (watercolor, pen, or charcoal), focus less on details, and capture more of the atmosphere – something like what Harald did in his sketch above.
Our chapter had its second event on Saturday afternoon at Iolani Palace. Although the night before and morning of the event were rainy, the weather was beautiful for our outing. It was great to see returning and new sketchers.
We had planned to do a sketch crawl to capture several historic and architecturally interesting buildings in the surrounding area of downtown, however Iolani Palace proved to be enough of a challenge and captured our full attention for the afternoon.
After sketching we shared ideas on how to use and make portable watercolor sets. Anita showed us her clever use of an empty gum dispenser inside an Altoids tin to create a very portable setup.