Sketchbook Memories of Sketchy Saner Days

I came across this while fumbling through some older sketchbooks. It was sketched during a small outing with a few urban sketcher friends of mine at Cafe Lucerna in Prague. There was a lot of wild arabesque art nouveau architecture to sketch both in the cafe and outside the window onto the Lucerna Passage. For some reason, I ignored all that and just did a quick sketch of my friends, sketching. I gotta say I’m grateful I now have this image of who and how we were back in the new age of innocence.

On the one hand that feels like yesterday. On the other hand, thinking about all that’s changed since February 2018 makes my whole being even wobblier than it might already be. How cloistered and naively safe we were. There was no Covid. The Make America Grate Again nightmare we are surrounded by still seemed like it could believably have been a fluke. Mango Mussolini was widely thought to be manageable. His idol, Vladimir Putin, had not further invaded Ukraine. Artificial intelligence was something comfortably somewhere in the future. It was before Kyle Rittenhouse. Before January 6th. Before mass shootings became a weekly if not daily occurrence back in the States. Elected officials hadn’t been talking about civil war since right before the Civil War. It was before there was a war in Israel. This was even two years before I had the faintest notion that I was epileptic, and … before the outcome of whatever it is that’s going to happen in 2024 happens. Who knows?

Urban Sketchers Sketching at Cafe Lucerna, Prague
-Watercolor & Ink

So much for being younger and out of touch. Back then I never would have spent the better part of my waking hours doomscrolling through issues that I have no control over anyway — accomplishing nothing more than reinforcing the fact that things are even more horrific than I have the capacity to imagine.

Our Cat Learns to Read the News, 2017 – Watercolor 21*30 cm

Hmm 🤔

What to do? I’d like to believe that this chasm of good and bad shit has got to be teaching someone some kind of lessons. Regardless, one’s got to be able to auger some kind of wisdom facing forward. Gotta work on making things good so these days might be good ones to look back on.

“A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.”

James Baldwin

Definitely I’ve got to keep on contributing to my sketchbook journals. The more I sketch truly, the clearer and richer the aesthetic reality of “now” will be rendered for my future eyes to happen on like my eyes happened on this one. Hopefully I’ll figure out the rest in the meantime. Please feel free to let me know if any of my work resonates with you too. Getting feedback from people really helps.

Poking Out in the World

Taking a Balloon For a Walk

Trying to be clear when 
the day sometimes can’t manage

Days trying to be even while
It’s sometimes not.

and might say grackle like
These all could be

are a decent compromise
Let’s say,
A compromise.

I just recently got hold of some Roher & Klingner fast drying SketchInk™ . That, combined with a few Faber-Castell Polychromous™ colored pencils, has made revisiting some ink line sketches a lot of fun and full of surprises.

Taking a balloon out for a walk

Full Disclosure: For whatever it’s worth, I’m not supported by either of these companies and am certain that neither one knows that I exist.

Now …where was I?

I’ve got oodles of pocket A6 sketchbooks I keep in almost every pocket of my clothing and book bags … not to mention strewn around my nightstand. These are so liberating to just throw down quick sketches while waiting in line somewhere or sitting on a rickety tram or just scribbling out thumbnail ideas or just scribbling for the hell of it in bed or almost anywhere else.

This format lets me sketch without being distracted or intimidated by the possibility of anything like a finished work resulting in the end.

I guess that should be the idea with all of my sketchbooks regardless of size. They’re sketchbooks dedicated to sketching. I’ll just have to agree that I have trouble remembering that … and, that so many things in general would be better if I didn’t*.

So …

… the ink handles really well in both dip pen and brush. The colors are bold expressions of mostly unsaturated pigments — think assertive earth tones? 🤔.

They do seem to handle differently The fact that they dry much more quickly than any other drawing ink I’m used to makes them great for working on some of my sketchbooks that are not designed for wet applications. This fast drying process also leads to a variety of outcomes for subsequent layers. Like watercolor, it’s fun and thrilling trying to control — or at least interact with — it.

I’ve also heard that the SketchInk™ family of drawing inks mix quite well with each other which doesn’t surprise me. The muted nature of these colors makes me guess that they’re unlikely to overpower one another. I only have two of them (Frieda and Thea) so … **

* English teacher’s note to self: gotta love the flexibility of those auxiliary verbs

** I’ve got to take a break mid sentence here. I’ll finish that thought and this post sometime soon, I hope 🤞