Passing the Torch


This was what my weekend looked like. All these things have been a significant part of life the last few weeks. The alarm clock is the foulest of them all.

I took my kids to the zoo on Sunday, and my daughter brought a piece of paper and her new Ninja Turtles pen she got from a recent birthday party. She stopped to draw all the things that she saw. It took her a while, and I’m pretty sure she could’ve just kept drawing until the zoo closed. Another little girl noticed her and asked her mom if she could draw too. I’m very proud of her for doing her first urban sketch. The bug catches on.


And Then


I went outside yesterday at lunch and sketched the office building. Normally I wouldn’t try—modern commercial architecture bores me to tears—but I’ve been feeling a bit more adventurous with a 6B pencil in my hand. And the sketch actually turned out pretty well. I never really noticed how many trees and shrubs were nestled right up against the north wing. The grounds themselves are beautiful, with a pond and fields and fountains. The building was much more challenging. (I later added some light blue gouache that ruined the whole thing. Note to self: don’t overwork the sky. Less is more.)

You see that little guy in the lower right corner? He’s bigger in the picture than he was in real life, but he’s one of three geese that were making good use of the grounds on a fine summer afternoon. When I walked back into the building, they happened to be very near me, just laying about. So I did what any rational person would do: slowly crouched to the ground, pulled out my book and brush pen, and got to work.


They moved a lot, and I don’t have much experience drawing live animals, but it felt like a little gift. I really want to find more reasons to make quick gesture sketches with my brush pen. Yesterday complied with that wish. I suppose it’s a testament to keeping your eyes open, being ready to get down to it.


First, because I can’t pass up an opportunity to post an Op Ivy video:

There. Now let’s get to some art.


I did the drawing on this one primarily with the brush pen; my Uniball pooped out at the beginning. (Side note: Am I the only one who feels tremendous pride in using all the ink in a pen, from start to finish?) The lines were made very slowly and deliberately. The spread has its own feel. Then there’s this…


I drew this one on-site at our local park, with a 6B pencil. That thing is a beast. Every line you make with a very soft pencil is almost as dark as every line you make with a brush pen. But there seems to be something about a soft pencil that makes me throw caution to the wind. I’m trying to get the scene more than the details. That little voice in my head that warns me against chicken-scratch is forcibly silenced.

Now, this could have something to do with setting, or knowing that I do or don’t have my full kit at my disposal, or how much time I have to draw. But maybe, just maybe, my style is determined to some degree by my choice of drawing utensil. I mean, the thought of drawing that playground equipment with the Uniball is way more intimidating. I’ve tried before; I ended up taking forever to get the details right.

Do you change based on the medium?

St. Rick

St Rick

I took up linoleum cuts a few months ago. I had done some in the one printmaking class I took in college, and wandering around the art supply store with money to burn I came across a Speedball starter kit. What I found I love about it, and indeed what struck me all those years ago, is the feel of taking on a slow craft. You have to be very deliberate and thoughtful in how you lay out the block. It will be reversed, some parts will be black and others white (and at first it took a lot of conscious thought about which would be which), and once you’ve carved something, there’s no putting it back.

This is St. Rick. It’s a musing on what kind of people Jesus would pick for his disciples if he did his thing today in America. I borrowed a lot of the look from Russian ikons.

I have a couple more lino cuts in the works right now, and it’s taking up a lot of my otherwise-spent-sketching time the past few days. It’s good for meditating. It slows you down, doesn’t cost a whole lot, and you get something very cool at the end. You ought to try it.



I read a post on Urban Sketchers on Friday night that got me inspired, sort of.

Do you have any advice for new sketchers?

“Draw freely with a soft pencil!”

It was truly a whimsical idea and not very well thought-out. So I went to my local art store on Saturday and invested in a couple of really soft pencils. When it came time to use them—in smothering heat and sunshine with my kids sitting on me—it was all I could do to loosely sketch the scene.

But then, that’s kinda the idea, isn’t it? The page pretty much captures what it looked like. That’s success. And I don’t know if I would’ve been as loose if I was using a pen. So will I use the pencil more? Yeah, probably for outdoor scenes. One more tool in the arsenal.

Art before publication


As a book designer by trade, this was fascinating. Gonna have to pick this up.

Originally posted on Danny Gregory:

My editor, my design director and I have been working on covers for the new book all summer.  We all love the final design but I thought you might look a peek at the top 25 contenders (trust me, there were many, many others!)


And here’s the winner:


View original