Sketching practise: Pile of old books

Haven’t had a huge amount of time to work on anything much. Lately, I’ve felt that I needed to practise sketching more than I have been. Ideally, it would be a daily commitment but that doesn’t often work out.

Today’s sketch is a pile of old books! Completed this in my Strathmore 400 series recycled paper sketchbook using Pigma Micron pens. Reflecting on this and other sketches I notice a pattern of concentrating on the main subject and then ignoring everything else. The pile of books is simply sitting there isolated in a sea of white, whereas in real life the books are situated on an old table and there is a bookcase in the background. It would have been better to include that contextual information in the sketch. The other details wouldn’t need to be drawn in detail but merely hinted at so as to maintain the books as a focal point. It would make the sketch more interesting, drawing the viewer in and providing more detail for them to take in. This was something I consciously did when I created the sketch of an old Chevrolet truck.

Another criticism of this sketch is that while there are some strong highlights there are no really dark darks. Instead, the tonal range is from highlights to mid-tones when instead I think it should have included some areas of really dark darks. Then again it is a simple sketch so maybe I’m being too keen to criticise.

Pile of books, Strathmore 400 Series sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8″

Since Inktober I have felt more enthusiasm for pen and ink sketching. Eager to improve my skills and try out different styles of sketching, using different techniques and tools. I have bought some new art supplies and I have a huge list of ideas and things I want to try.


Abandoned truck sketch #1

I was vacationing in northern California this summer. It was a circular-ish road trip from San Francisco, mostly camping, in a mixture of state parks, national parks and national forest. I also had the intention of sketching every day during the trip, perhaps working on several sketches during each day. It had been a while since I last had an opportunity go on a trip like that, so I was looking forward to it. As far as the sketching plan went I worried that it might not go exactly as I hoped. Yet I resolved to remain positive and so I brought along an assortment of tools; sketchbooks, pencils, pens, water-brushes and my Winsor and Newton portable watercolour palette. Most days consisted of the same or similar tasks; making breakfast, breaking camp, driving, more driving, making the campsite, preparing and cooking dinner and finally relaxing, with a glass or two of red wine. I’m not complaining, it was a fantastic vacation but it had an intensity to it that left little room. Needless to say, my suspicions turned out to be well-founded. I managed to work on exactly one pencil sketch, at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and I didn’t even manage to finish that! Instead, I had to settle for taking a lot of photographs.

Anyway, this sketch is of an old truck I spotted parked near the side of the road, in the small community of Redcrest in Humboldt County. Judging by the exterior, it looked like it was in good condition. It was dirty and the tyres deflated and clearly hadn’t gone anywhere for quite some time. Yet it looked as if it could still drive again. Drawing this, I started to notice the lines, the contours, the shapes and I realised why I liked this vehicle. The design had integrity, there was a unity and a wholeness to it.

An old truck, 5.5″ x 8.5″, Strathmore 400 series sketchbook

I remember the campsite we stayed that night, at Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It was memorable but for the wrong reasons as it was cramped and mosquito-infested. Long trousers and liberal applications of DEET resolved the mosquito issue. The campsite selection there was simply bad luck. The other campsites I had stayed during the trip were usually at least good, sometimes very good and occasionally stunning, like the backcountry campsite at Dewey Point in Yosemite, with its commanding view of the valley, 2000 vertical feet below.

The sketch was outlined first in pencil and then rendered in detail using my Pigma Micron pens; mainly 01 and 03. I used my Strathmore 400 series recycled paper sketchbook (5.5″ x 8.5″).

Over the coming weeks and months, I plan on working on more pencil, ink and watercolour sketches from this trip as well as some sketches from the U.K. and from Japan.

Goryo-jinja shrine, Hase

The Enoshima Electric Railway or the Enoden as it more commonly referred to is a small railway line in Kanagawa prefecture that runs between Fujisawa and Kamakura, the latter being the location of a giant Amida Buddha statue. This sketch is from the entrance to the Goryo-jinja shrine, in Hase, just two or three stops before Kamakura. Here there is a railroad crossing just before the entrance. I think it makes for an interesting contrast.

Enoden train at Goryo Jinja in Hase, Bockingford HP 5″ x 7″


Initial sketch


Keifuku train, Kyoto

The Keifuku Randen line is an old tram line, actually, the only tram line left in Kyoto. It is an interesting option if you’re visiting Kyoto as it stops close by a number of shrines and temples.

Not entirely sure which station this is, it’s based on a reference from a while back, but I believe it was Arashiyama.


Keifuku train, 5″ x 7″ on Bockingford HP
Keifuku train, pencil sketch