Palomino Blackwing

Having been given a Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil recently, I wanted to try it out. First produced in the 1930s by Eberhard Faber, the original Blackwing 602 had a firm feel yet the lead also had a softness similar to that of a 6B pencil. The 602 is said to have been favored by several prize-winning writers, musicians, and artists. The line was discontinued in 1998, but Palomino, a California Cedar Products Company with a long history in the pencil industry, re-introduced the Blackwing 602 in 2011 as well as a slightly softer version, which I used to sketch the Lenin Statue in Fremont.

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As we can see, graphite pencils are capable of a variety of lines and tones but lack the incisive quality of ink lines. As a light drizzle began to fall as I drew, I also discovered that graphite pencils are capable of drawing even on slightly damp paper. For comparison, I’m reposting an ink drawing of the same subject, which I had done back in 2011.

LeninSculpture

Pen-and-ink drawings, having only black lines at their disposal, tend to be more abstract and must use hatching, broken lines, and contrast to suggest the gray tones we think we see.

Masks

The Seattle Urban Sketchers met yesterday at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture on the University of Washington campus. Among the museum’s collections are masks representing the cultural heritage of the Americas, the Pacific Islands, and Asia. This is the Kwakwaka’wakw transformation mask, depicting an eagle, that is believed to be the inspiration for the original Seahawks logo from 1975.

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Masks have been used for millennia in the rituals and ceremonies of different cultures. Here are a few examples from the Burke Museum’s collection.

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Drawing objects presents different challenges than when sketching buildings and environments. Instead of depicting forms in space and spatial relationships, we are tasked with capturing both the three-dimensional form of a mask and its unique expressiveness, whether the mask is intended to disguise, protect, or entertain.

Tokeland, Washington

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Photo by Flora Goldwaithe

This past weekend, I took a road trip with Deb and friends to Tokeland, Washington, a narrow spit that juts out where the Pacific Ocean curves in to form Willapa Bay. The Tokeland Hotel where we stayed is a National Historic landmark, built in 1885 as a farmstead home and later enlarged in 1899 to become a hotel. Abandoned in 1984, the hotel was restored in 1989 and is now a tranquil getaway in southwest Washington. This is a panoramic view of the “front” of the hotel, set in a meadow facing onto Willapa Bay.

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Kailasanathar Temple

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At the end of my recent trip to India, Xavier Benedict and I drove down from Chennai to Kanchipuram, where we visited several Hindu temple sites. The most impressive of these was Kailasanathar Temple, the 7th-century Pallava shrine dedicated to the god Shiva. The sandstone structure has weathered over the past 1200 years but is being restored and retains its tiered, sculptural elegance.

While one can read descriptions, study drawings, and pore over photographs of architecture, nothing can compare with actually visiting and experiencing a place. The sights, sounds (or lack thereof), and sense of scale immediately become apparent upon entering. There is no need for any intermediary material. At the conceptual level, however, plans and sections do offer views that can explain the formal layout of a place.

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It is Interesting to note the disparity that often exists between reality and how it may be represented. For example, after my visit, I noticed that the plan of Kailasnathar that I had drawn a few years ago is missing columns on the west entry porch.

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While I could appreciate the formal order of the temple compound and the artistic expression of the stone carvings, I also realized that not fully understanding the Hindu iconography prevented me from truly appreciating what I was experiencing.

Line to Color Workshop

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Gail Wong and I will be offering a Line to Color workshop in Orange County, CA, May 1–3. We’re excited to be able to explore and sketch locations at Mission San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Beach, and Balboa Beach. This event is being co-hosted by the Orange County Chapter of the AIA. For more information and to sign up, please see <http://workshops.urbansketchers.org/2015/02/line-to-color-workshop-orange-county.html>.

Pike & Minor

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Despite recovering from a bad cold and feeling a bit under the weather, I decided to join the monthly Seattle Urban Sketchers outing this past Sunday. It promised to be an unseasonably warm and sunny day but it was still quite chilly in the late morning when I drew this view of Pike Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, standing in front of the new Starbucks Roastery, looking east toward the domed First Covenant Church. Not my finest work but merely another step in the long process of learning how to say more with less. There is so much missing in this drawing, so many things that I saw but omitted, and yet, the overall feel for that particular place is still there.

Happy Chinese New Year

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The Lunar New Year 2015, the Year of the Sheep (or Ram), looks to be an auspicious year since the sheep is the eighth sign in Chinese astrology and the number “8” is considered to be a very lucky number. And besides, the sheep, which symbolizes loyalty, kindness, wisdom, and prosperity, is my personal Chinese zodiac sign. Kung Hee Fat Choy!

Mamallapuram

After last weekend’s workshop, Xavier Benedict and I took a day trip to Mamallapuram, site of several Hindu shrines and temples. These examples of the stone-carving tradition of Pallava art and architecture are set amid a landscape strewn with mammoth granite boulders on the Bay of Bengal, 35 miles south of Chennai.

ShoreTemple

The Shore Temple, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is so named because of its siting on a promontory close by the shore of the Bay of Bengal. The 8th-century complex of three temples is famous for its profile surrounded by a low enclosure surmounted by Nandis, seated bulls that serve as the mount of the god Shiva.

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Unlike the Shore Temple, which is constructed and carved from granite blocks, the Five Rathas is a 7th-century complex of monolithic rathas (chariots) hewn whole from enormous boulders of granite. These South Indian Dravidian structures, also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were never completed nor consecrated.

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Thanks again to Xavier Benedict for his generous and gracious hospitality. For photos of the workshop, see Xavier Benedict’s Facebook page at <https://www.facebook.com/xavier.benedict.581/media_set?set=a.10204523441180918&type=1&pnref=story>.

Kapaleeshwarar Temple

My second attempt at entering India was successful and we began the first of two days of a drawing workshop sponsored by the AARDE foundation. Many thanks to Xavier Benedict for hosting my visit and to the students and architects who persevered and returned to make this weekend possible. We began at the Luz Church, built in 1516, and then moved onto the 7th century Kapaleeshwarar Temple in the Mylapore neighborhood of Chennai. Here is the group in front of the main doorway and a quick study I did of the interior of the temple complex. The temple architecture is a difficult subject because of the multiple layers of sculptural details. The approach has to first establish the geometric framework that holds the details together. Tomorrow we head to Parry’s Corner to visit a prime example of Indo-Saracenic architecture.

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Frye Art Museum

A small group of Seattle Urban Sketchers met yesterday at the Frye Art Museum to participate in the 46th World Wide Sketchcrawl. Because only graphite or colored pencils are allowed in the museum, I brought along an old-fashioned mechanical lead holder equipped with a 4B lead.

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Switching from a fountain pen to a graphite pencil forced me to adjust my usual approach. Graphite pencils respond to pressure much more readily than an ink pen and encourage the use of tonal values. So the process I used was to first sketch the structure out lightly and then hatch broad areas of gray. I then wend back and darkened selected portions to achieve the desired gradation and contrast. Each of these sketches took about 30 minutes to complete.