Night Sketch

Usually, I sketch during daylight hours and stop when it gets dark. However, there are also great scenes at night. This was my first attempt at a night sketch. I found it challenging to capture the intensity of the darkness in the valley, the contrasting bright streetlights, and the subtle colors of the surrounding residences with my watercolor set. Although the watercolors allowed me to meld scenes and colors together to create a somewhat abstract atmosphere, I would like to try a different medium too – perhaps pastels – to express a different quality of these nighttime scenes. A series of night sketches using different media would be interesting. How would a different medium communicate the mood or subjects in the same scene?



Winter solstice was last Sunday. The temperatures have dropped into the high 70’s during the day and high 60’s at night, and strong winds and rains are hitting us; it is winter.

Harald and I tried to sketch through the torrential downpours in Manoa yesterday from a sheltered spot. We had a nice vantage point from which we could see (or not see) the valley and downtown Honolulu. At times, the rain was so heavy it would almost have been more accurate to leave the page blank.

Harald: Being stubborn, I stuck to pen, although this might not be the best choice if the task is to capture a scene that is barely visible through layers of mist, clouds, and rain.  I tried to convey the limited and variable depth of the view by adding detail and value solely to foreground objects, while trying to only hint at the expanse of houses along the bottom of the valley and the hills in the distance.  I think it worked partly, but I am again unhappy with my inability to reduce a scene to the utterly essential.  Not that this was crucial, but it is something I would like to be able to do.  Resolution: sketch more!

Sebastian: I started off with a geometric pen sketch, using different crosshatching techniques and line consistencies, hoping it would impart depth and a feel for the weather. After recently trying crosshatching with watercolor pencils, I wanted to continue exploring the same technique with a traditional medium – pen. However, I found that watercolor depicted this windy and rainy scene best.

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.

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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.

Manoa Valley Neighborhood Sketch

The three of us – AJ, Harald, and Sebastian – went out for a short sketch on Wednesday afternoon. We geared up and headed out to find a neat spot in Manoa Valley. We did not have to walk far before one of us pointed out a house, view, tree, or – even – bush of interest.

AJ: I chose to sketch the curbside area of a residential property that presented many different shapes to draw as well as a mixture of natural and man-made elements. In addition to the challenge of making the objects recognizable, e.g., the trash bags, I tried to preserve the lighting as accurately as my skills would allow. We were out on a windy afternoon so oftentimes the shadows would change quite dramatically.





Harald: I made a point of not looking for a particular scene.  After all, rewarding sights to sketch are literally everywhere!  So I took up position on a curbside bench and sketched what lay straight ahead: a hedge and bits of palm trees projected onto the outline of the mountains on the other side of the valley.  Being frustrated by my recent attempts at using watercolor pencils, I kept it basic: 2B pencil.  I managed to still be under-equipped though because I had not brought a sharpener.  The depth of the scene, light and shadow, and the complexity and detail of the vegetation proved hard to capture.  I think I shall try a different approach next time:  less naturalistic and more abstract, perhaps even geometric?


Sebastian: I set up on a curb and started sketching an enormous tree arcing over the street. It provided an interesting pairing of shadows and lights – a challenge. My sketch did not capture the depth and contrasting values of the scene the way I wanted, so I am interested in returning to this spot to experiment with different media.


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!

Sketching Supplies

I am currently experimenting with many different media and am never sure what I want to use on any particular occasion. This is a sketch of most of the art supplies I bring when I go out sketching. I have a watercolor set in addition to watercolor pencils (which I’m still figuring out how to use), four different pens (a red, blue, and black needle-point pen and one brush-like ink pen), a small set of oil pastels (which I have recently discovered to be good fun – as are crayons), vine and stick charcoal, a set of graphite pencils, and at least one sketchbook (preferably one for dry and another for wet media). A goal of mine at the moment is to challenge myself more with charcoal and graphite, which are media that I do not use often.


These are a few of my recent sketches focusing largely on plant life in my neighborhood and the outdoors, which, due to changing weather conditions received interesting raindrop splatter marks.

A Moment Between Downpours

It has been rainy and windy the last few days, but I slipped in a sketch last Sunday at 17:00 as the sun set. Looking at the pair of shoes I sketched, I should probably consider having a warm-up period.

Afterwards, I did a sketch of the sunset. I liked the stark contrast between the bright orange sky and the dark green leaves of the tree in the foreground. Rain clouds were sneaking up behind me so I had to finish the sketch indoors.

January – March Backlog

Here are a few of my sketches from January to March of this year. In many, I tried sketching a different subject (e.g., cars, birds) or using a different medium (e.g., quills, ink brush pens) or technique.