Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sunk in Michigan's Copper Country

This is a sketch that I did Sunday when I was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula's copper country. The sketch is of a dredge that was one of two that was used in the early 1900s to recover stamp sands from the bottom of Torch Lake in Lake Linden, Michigan. Stamp sands were the by-product of crushing rock from the Keweenaw Peninsula's copper mines to extract copper.  Two large stamping facitities, now abandoned and in ruins, are on the shore of Torch Lake. As was done in that day, the stamp sands were disposed of by dumping them in Torch Lake. The dumping ultimately resulted in a toxic lake...caused by the copper that remained in the stamp sands.

As the mines began to play out and shut down, mine owners realized that they could reprocess the stamp sands and extract the copper that the sand still held. So the Calumet and Hecla mining company built two dredges to suck stamp sand from the lake for reprocessing. This dredge lies partially sunk, rusting, and in ruins close to the shore of Torch Lake. The other dredge sunk in the lake, where it remains today.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

RAGBRAI stops in Cedar Falls

RAGBRAI coming into Cedar Falls

RAGBRAI is the annual, weeklong bicycle ride across Iowa.  It's been going on every year in July since 1973. The ride starts on the western side of the state at the Missouri River and ends on the eastern side at the Mississippi. It takes a different route each year, traveling backroads, stopping each night at different towns along the way. This year my hometown of Cedar Falls was the fourth overnight stop. On Wednesday, July 22nd, 15,000 cyclist peddled into town from the west on 27th Street. 

I found a spot to set up my easel. It was a perfect, not too hot day for bicycling along the verdant Iowa countryside. It was a lovely day to dabble with my paints in the open air. This was about noon. Many riders waved or called out to me as they passed. A few stopped to see what I was up to and chat. It's not just Iowans that ride RAGBRAI. I  talked with people from New York, Missouri, Oklahoma and Illinois. When I told one man that I was part of an international group called Urban Sketchers, he excitedly shared that he'd just purchased Marc Taro Holmes book The Urban Sketcher.

At each stop, the RAGBRAI tribe is welcomed with facilities for overnight tent camping. Each town offers their own version of a party atmosphere with live music and food booths. The Cedar Falls campus of the University of Northern Iowa became the epicenter for all things RAGBRAI on Wednesday. And then in the morning, the bicycling horde packed up and peddled out of town, heading southeast for Hiawatha. The end of this years ride will be Davenport on Saturday.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ruby Ann the Water Color

Thought I'd post a watercolor version of Ruby Ann. This sketch was done from a different angle than the black and white sketch I posted earlier. Didn't have time to put this piece up on the blog 'til today. So here's Ruby Ann in her colors of rust and falling apart.

Sunday In The Park, St. Louis

Looking North at Park Avenue & Mississippi, 07/19/2015, watercolor, Canson 140lb cp, Michael Anderson
Lafayette Park is at the center of one of the oldest and most elegant neighborhoods in the city. A broad sidewalk and an elaborate wrought iron fence surround all four sides of the park. Runners and people out walking, many with their dogs make a continuous parade. Today I was panhandled by a man needing bus fare.
 Park Avenue Sidewalk, 07/19/2015, watercolor, Canson 140lb cp, Michael Anderson
As I left Park Avenue Coffee another customer asked me about the artists in my painting group, "Is it a class? I have seen them before. It is cool they are here." Some residents now recognize our painting group and they are always welcoming. Life in the city.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Next Virtual Sketchcrawl coming up Saturday 7/18

It's that time again--hope you can join us!

A sketchcrawl "in real life" is normally a group of art friends getting together to share the fun of sketching, wherever they are. In our small group, we meet up once a month on the 3rd Saturday, sketch a few hours, and then eat and share our sketches. Some groups are large, some are small, but we often wish we could meet with a larger pool of artists.

So since we are an online community, let's do a virtual sketchcrawl!

Let's meet up, wherever we are, to sketch! Then post to the Artist's Journal Workshop group with VIRTUAL SKETCHCRAWL or #virtualsketchcrawl in the title. We're here:

We're a big regional group, so any time of day you can manage it is fine!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Adam & Eve in Tower Grove Park, St. Louis

Adam & Eve in Tower Grove Park, St. Louis, 07/12/2015, 7" x 9", watercolor on Canson 140 lb cp, Michael Anderson.
I took my sketching kit to the weekly outing of the Missouri Plein Air Painters Association in Tower Grove Park. The park is a large swath of urban landscape that once was the private garden of wealthy St. Louisan, Henry Shaw. It includes several ponds, some planted with lotus and waterlilies. After completing a couple of ink sketches I launched into the watercolor study above. A passerby stopping to look at each of the painters works in progress commented that my page looked like the Garden of Eden and said "you even have Adam & Eve!" One of my MOPAPA friends responded "That is your title." And so it is. Perfect for a Sunday morning in this earthly paradise.
Lotus plants, Precise V7 roller ball pen, Faber Castell Artist Pens

Plein air painters, Precise V7 roller ball pen, Faber Castell Artist Pens

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Finally, a truly urban sketch from me!  I spent an hour on a gorgeous summer day at Union Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri....with my dog!  Yes, they allow dogs!  We were the only people ones there so I was glad to have the company.  I'd often heard that it's a great place, and was so glad to finally experience it.  If you plan to go, Google for information because, among other things, it's closed weekends!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Lawrence Sketch Crawl

I heard about a sketch crawl in Lawrence so this morning we drove over. We met at the Visitor's Center, which was an old train station before being refurbished. I always like trains and the facilities that support them. Union Pacific freight trains and coal trains still roll by.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ruby Ann

Ruby Ann was sketched this week when we were on Beaver Island, Michigan. The island is located in the northern end of Lake Michigan and is a bit over thirty miles off shore of the mainland. Ruby Ann is an example of what became a traditional Lake Michigan fishing boat. The boats were enclosed because they fished year 'round from them...winter on Lake Michigan is not a fun thing. Unfortunately, the lake was over fished and the industry died. Today Ruby Ann sits askew on old launch ramp timbers, forgotten and rusting away.

Petoskey Skyline

We were in Petoskey over the Fourth of July weekend with the boat. Petoskey is a beautiful little town located at the west end of Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay. This sketch was done from the cockpit of our boat and is a view of the Petoskey sky line. The medium was pen and grey graded Prismacolor marking pens. Been having fun on this trip doing black & white work again.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Alsace and Bourgogne: A Sense of Place

“I’m not interested in the stereotype of a place, but in the essence of it as seen through one’s own experience.”
In my mind, one of the greatest of travel distractions is the snapshot. Please note that I didn’t say “camera,” but “snapshot.” Nothing lessens my enjoyment of a place faster and more surely than a carload of bedraggled tourists piling out, clicking away, chattering in frenzied excitement – yet paying almost no attention to the place at all, because they’ve made their snapshot. They’ve documentary proof of their visit to the place. And then they pile back into the vehicle, and it’s off again to the next place.
Snapshots aren’t inherently bad, but I prefer to experience a place slowly, which is why I have a tendency to do so on foot or by bicycle, unrushed. Exploring, sketchbook in hand, also tends to encourage a certain investigation of the essence of place rather than a more facile stereotype or caricature. My purpose is to communicate that essence as it is seen through my own experience, and in doing so to hopefully also communicate some overlooked truth. I will always leave out details or elements in my sketches that might divert attention; too much detail can, strangely enough, create a drawing that distorts or misrepresents the experience of one’s journey.
And yet, sometimes I find that by focusing on details rather than on the big picture, one can create a worthwhile visual conversation about a small, charming element.
Normally I will only use graphite to rough in quick gestural marks and then rely upon my Lamy Safari pen to lay down the important lines. But on occasion, as in the example above, I discover I’ve forgotten to refill the reservoir and I’m entirely without ink!
Personally, I find more satisfaction keeping the line work simple and gestural rather than going into great detail with rendering. I've heard this described as Zen-like. Perhaps. I rather enjoy the challenge of communicating a certain "believability" with a minimum of lines.

One nice thing about buildings in the French villages we visited is their distinctive architectural look and shape. Once one has identified the key forms, keeping the calligraphy of the lines simple and believable comes more naturally. It makes me happy to reach the state where the sketch isn’t “trying too hard” – it just is.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Alsace and Bourgogne: Drawing People

The best part of being a teacher is that June and July are travel months. The world is a great big place and I enjoy the opportunity to get out and see it, meet and chat with different people, to embrace new perspectives - and to ponder these new vistas in my sketchbook. This June we explored the regions of Alsace and Bourgogne in France, by foot and on two wheels. I filled many, many pages and will be sharing them in three segments: "People," "Place," and "The Direct Experience." I begin today with "People."
Digging into the “gallery work” of my past one will find that I focused on figural subject matter rather than a more specific genre of, say, landscape or still life or portraiture. I find myself less attracted to likenesses than I am in body language or physical expression. There’s an inherent honesty that appeals to me in finding a way to express character rather than in what often comes off as caricature. Not to put myself on the same plane as Kathe Kollwitz or Richard Diebenkorn or Marc Chagall but those are attributes that resonate for me in their work.
Richard Deibenkorn
Kathe Kollwitz
“Gallery” work is less and less important to me, and over time I’ve found myself retreating further into the rows of sketchbooks that line a couple of bookshelves. While it is true that sometimes I find a “type” comes through, I’m more interested in communicating the energy or entropy, the lassitude or élan of a person when I begin to draw them. Capturing a believable gesture communicates dynamism.
Every now and then I’ll work up sketches using a graphite stick and holder, as in the example below. It’s an easy tool tool to carry and doesn’t carry the threat of leakage, nor does one wear black smudges upon one’s hands all the livelong day as tends to happen when carrying and sketching with a pen. But sketchbook pages rub together as I bustle about a place and there is a loss of line as the drawings smudge under such duress. I also find myself worrying over details I never would bother about with a pen.
I treat my sketchbook like a sort of visual journal, often scribbling down notes or impressions that are only remotely relevant to the drawing I make on that spread.
It’s often by necessity that I wind up catching someone in a moment of stasis. Movement means your subject is fleeting and unless one is practiced in very short gesture sketches, one is entirely at the mercy of one’s rather faulty memory to make a believable drawing happen!
This is why many of my people sketches are of folks in what I refer to as the “significant pause.” It’s the moment just before or after the energy, in contemplation or on the brink of motion.
Outdoor cafes are wonderful places to sit and sketch, and enjoy a glass of wine, a cool breeze, and the surreptitious glances of fellow diners and wait staff who are universally curious to see what one is drawing!
I find that a good way to practice is to forgive oneself the necessity of rendering detail and to work with very small gestural sketches. The people in the sketch below are, perhaps, an inch or less in size. No more than fifteen seconds was devoted to any single figure. What’s very nice about this is that it tends to develop one’s ability to lay down confident looking lines. The drawings are insignificant and quick, so if one makes a mistake – no problem. Start another page or start another corner. Just keep the pen moving. —Mark Anderson
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