Sunday, October 16, 2016

Travels With a Strathmore Toned Tan 5.5 x 8.5 Sketchbook

Last month, a few days after our 4th Annual West Coast Urban Sketchers Sketch Crawl, we left Washington state for a driving trip to San Francisco CA. It was great R&R for me, after the experience of some REALLY busy days leading up to our well-received event.

On the way to California and on the trip back home, Eli and I pretty much spent all of our time together. However, after we arrived in San Francisco, I had a lot hours alone during his attendance at an annual conference which is one of the highlights in his life each year. As a result of the two 'kinds of time': time together & time alone...I became aware that I enjoy both of the extremely different types of sketching I do under the two extremely different conditions within which I sketch .

Eli has come to understand what sketching entails...and, has learned he values my devotion to sketching and wants to support me in having time to meet as many of my sketching desires as possible. He always brings along 'things to do' when we're on a trip, because he is SURE I will want to sketch. He will  go off happily and sight-see alone, if I desire some 'extra' minutes of sketching time. It has become typical for him to say things like: "The last couple of days were pretty much to fill MY agendas, so, why don't we make tomorrow and the next day all yours to decide on locations and lengths of time you want to sketch." I know. I have a very supportive husband.

During 'together time'----On the way to San Francisco.
If Eli is across the table from me reading a newspaper and savoring a cup of coffee, and we plan to leave the shop fairly soon, I do a linear contour sketch. I begin with the contour sketch of one object and then I work, directly in ink, moving outwards from the first object, drawing  the location and size of everything else  relative to it. I have come to trust, that for the most part, this works...though occasionally things can get wonky. I'm o.k. with that.

15 minutes---Micron 03. Closest chair first.

20 min.-half hour---Micron 01 + Graphite added later. Eli first.

During 'time alone'----In San Francisco
When I'm free to sketch alone, without time constraints, I luxuriate....really looking intently at everything of interest, fully and intimately relating to it, while savoring the relationships between things. I decide up front what my composition will be. Because I work small when sketching in a sketchbook, I usually sketch 'tightly'...rather than doing several looser sketches in the same time frame. I like the peace of doing that...I get in the fully present to the subject. Details, cross hatching, taking the time to wait so I may draw the same person or animal twice, letting them function as a 'second person/animal' in the scene I am capturing.

45 minutes-1 hour (lots of  time spent waiting until the proper moment to capture in my memory what I needed for 'my cow' from each cow that passed me on the way to the milking machine.).--Graphite and white Prismacolor.  First I did a fast outline of first cow's 'pose' as my armature for the 'sketch' of my amalgam cow. They ALL wiggled constantly....and each looked as intently at me as I did at them.  :-)
Two hours...I intended to do ALL of downtown San Francisco that was in my view, but I needed to leave the 12th floor  restaurant so they could set up their tables for the dinner hour. RATS! Reality is so inconvenient at times. Drew the domed bldg. first...used it as a gauge for all other relationships. Micron .005 Intended to go back, but, was having too much fun sketching elsewhere.

 This took me however long it took me to stretch--out--eating--my--breakfast (food +coffee = rent) while I did the sketch....probably an hour +. None of the people were in the restaurant at the same time. No pencil sketch underneath the ink, so note the wonky perspective of the people and booths on the right. In ink, there's no going back. My advice: only show the wonky sketches to  your friends who have no clue about perspective. They will think your sketch is just fine...and you are too. Micron .005 + white Uniball Signo.

Hours: Two very long lunches on consecutive days at the same sidewalk cafe, on the second day, arriving an hour before the restaurant opened. The streets were crowded, so I had to wait for 'views' of my topic until there were moments without visual impingement by humanoids. A close-by group would entirely cover the scene. (Another lesson in perspective.) This was a very fun challenge....complex roofs....street going up diplomacy...people coming and sitting at my table to chat with me....letting interested folks know about Urban Sketching: an extrovert's dream. By the second day, as the sketch progressed, the waiters were really sweet to me. Nicely asking permission to stay longer (and big tips) will help smooth over commandeering a tip-producing table. Micron .005

Ahhh! The sketcher's life is usually, if not always, very satisfying. A sketcher's confession: my sketches are no more wonky than I am. Really. So may it ever be.


Frances Buckmaster

PS The rest of my sketches from this trip will be on our USk-Tacoma Facebook page and on our Flickr page.  ( (


  1. Impressive collection of sketches, Frances, and I especially appreciated your process discussions! I, too, am lucky to have a supportive spouse-guy, so we travel well together. And as you've found, the key to sketching happiness while traveling with someone is to adjust one's expectations to fit the available time and circumstances. That one of Chinatown? Wow!

    - Tina

    1. Thanks, Tina. We are both blessed! Best, Frances