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 🤞

Bus Stop Series

coming soon to a theater near me

a.k.a. carpe momento

I was able to get out for a little bit yesterday and even get a little urban sketching in! It’s been soooo long. It’s been years since I’ve been able to meet up with the Urban Sketchers Prague group. I really miss working with them. It has been have such a lovingly understanding and supportive community … and oh so cool.

It sure would be grand to find some way out of this box of pain I’m in and seem to have become. All of this being said, I think I’ve just figured out a way to get some urban sketching done in a way that deals with my finicky condition.

Courtyard next to Pod Dálnici

Every corner, no matter how pedestrian is just teeming with its own unique visual poetry and sketching opportunities. Often this is true for individual bus and tram stops. Some of those even have benches or ledges on hand so a disabled sketcher might jump (hobble) off the bus and do some sketching if at that moment the symptoms aren’t too bad.

POD DÁLNICI bus stop

… I’m going to finish this post later. Right now I’m heading out to get a haircut! Maybe there will be a bus stop sketching opportunity on my way home 🙂

… well, I got that long overdue haircut 😃 but wasn’t able to sketch anything on the way home after all 😞. I almost didn’t make it through the haircut and had to hurry home where I am curled up on the couch feeling sorry for my sorry ass —almost safe from the outside world way out there outside but not from my own frayed neurons I comprise.

Regardless … I do look forward to doing more random bus stop urban sketches. I guess this is going to have to be the modus operandi that I settle for if I am going to get any urban sketching at all done. Gotta jump at every opportunity to take advantage of those random slivered moments when I happen to be out and about on public transport and feel at all able to get off the bus to sketch and sketch.

Things aren’t getting any easier and there’s no point in waiting for a chronic progressive disease to stop chronically progressing. I guess whether I’m aware of it or not, I am continuously confronted by some kind of relationship with a set of limits that confine (define?) me. As those limits become less distant and vague, that relationship needs to get more accepting and less dismissive and antagonistic if I’m going to get anything sketched out there.