Mānoa Valley Christmas Parade

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.

It Was a Wet and Stormy Night and Day

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.

Memorial Weekend Sketch Event

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!

Neighborhood Sketch

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.


Challenges Embraced

In an attempt to capture the subject and challenge ourselves to use a different medium or technique, we visited the same residential house in Manoa Valley twice. Our sketches, although all of the same house, look quite different.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

AJ: Last time we sketched this house I felt very overwhelmed by the challenge of capturing the perspective, presenting the depth / value, and even sizing the various sections of the house properly in relation to one another. This time I decided to focus on one area (front entrance) to see if I could turn that into a productive learning experience. I chose to use pencil because I feel like it is the biggest challenge for me and something I have tended to avoid. I am not as satisfied with the result as when I use ink / watercolour, but I feel like I should try to work on the fundamental aspects of drawing a bit more!
Harald: I managed to ruin several previous sketching efforts (mostly pencil) by not knowing when to stop.  I tried to do better this time by using pen and deliberately starting with only crude outlines of the most basic elements of our target house.  Ultimately I committed the same sin again though and did more damage than good with ill-conceived cross-hatching.  To end on a positive note, I quickly jotted down another very rough sketch in order to return to that earliest phase that I felt best about.  None of the results are satisfying in their own right, but I was happy to have learned more about what I need to focus on in the future.  Progress of sorts!
Sebastian: For my first sketch, I used my standard supplies – a pen and watercolor set. It is a combination I am familiar with and am trying to improve. I decided to go out of my comfort zone for the second sketch. I had, unsuccessfully, used watercolor pencils before and decided to give it another try. My sketch (initially flat and geometric) progressed toward a more three-dimensional depiction with cross hatching and watercolor washes. Instead of an hour-long sketch, it turned into a two hour project. I struggled with it and ended up with something very different from what I normally do.

November Outing

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.

The 178th anniversary of King Kalakaua’s birth and the 51st anniversary of the re-creation of the Royal Guard were last Friday. This made the palace – even the day after – a spectacular sight to behold.

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.

In the photo below (left), Carol is showing us the color chart she sometimes uses to figure out which watercolor pencils to mix. The photo below (right) depicts Anita, Harald, and Ricardo talking about value, the challenge of proportion, and fitting the subject on the page.
Hope to see everyone again at our next event in early December!

Kick-Off Event

Today our chapter had its kick-off event from 8:00am – 11:00am on Magic Island. The weather was great, and it was nice to see everyone there!
Below are a few photos of the group sketching the park, beach, and city.
 At 10:30 we got to see the results of our two and a half hours of sketching. People shared tips and tricks, challenges they faced (such as when using unfamiliar media), and – most of all – their enthusiasm for sketching.
There was quite a diversity in styles and media. People arrived with pens, pastels, watercolor sets, coloured pencils and even a tablet made an appearance.

A fabulous way to spend the morning! We hope to see everyone again for our next event, as well as some newcomers!