India Ink with quill pen 8″x10″ on illustration board.
View from Canal Park looking at Duluth downtown. This is a plein air (on-site) ala-prima rendering. Open pen ink drawing is difficult enough in the studio, and usually out in the field a technical pen is more expedient, but the pen personality of an open pen is so distinctive and yields such a different outcome, that sometimes I just grab it and go. There is little room for error in this style because the vertical lines betray any slip of the hand. In the trees and even flags, some margin for error exists. Yes, I did use a straight edge for the flag poles, so?
Wind and shifting conditions, along with sunlight eye glare on white paper can make it even tougher. When you are done, the results are not as smooth as a studio piece, but a freshness exists that makes the rendering more . . . well, you say it.
Blue Walking Bridge located in Canal Park in Duluth, MN and spanning the Minnesota Slip. 8″x9″ graphite on illustration board with “Iron Fish” insert 5″x5,” also graphite on illustration board. I have sketched and illustrated several versions of this bridge and its “fish.” The Iron Fish sculptures are a pale green, mounted on concrete pedestals. The walkway is made of heavy timbers.
This bridge is known locally as the Blue Bridge in Canal Park because, well, it’s blue. Local folks and tourists love it and the local government wants it replaced (to say they dislike it is understating it). It is aging and becoming unreliable and costly to maintain. I am enchanted with it on several levels. First, it has artistic charm, and then it has artistic un-necessary embellishments (the iron fish). It is cool to watch it open and close by going up in two halves. The bridge connects two sections of Canal Park that both have visit worthiness. It is functional and adds greatly to the ambiance of the area in which it “resides.” At night, which few stay around to see, it is a grand view of reflections of both light and buildings. Sometimes glassy reflections of returning small sailboats and fishing boats. This is where the harbor tours dock and depart, creating tens of thousands of bridge users to come and enjoy.
Pen and Ink on Illustration board 8″x10.” Plein air sketch rendered 2005 in Duluth, MN
As so many lakeside studies, there is a seagull in the picture. Working in ink, it is difficult to capture a good likeness of the busy birds. Duluth has many opportunities to capture these birds, and much added scenery with lighthouses, bridges, and lakewalks. So, one must work out the seascape-landscape aspects and add a bird in, making sure that it will go into the background as erasing in ink is not possible. If you are not feeding the birds, you must wear a hat.
Pen and Ink on illustration board 8″x10″ Rapidograph Tech Pen.
Graceful seagull in flight; they are a joy to watch and both fun and funny characters to sit and observe. Catching them with a pencil sketch and later converting to pen and ink works best. Grabbing photo research helps, but there is nothing like watching and sketching to get the feeling of how much they enjoy flying. Makes you want to stretch your arms out and try. If you watch the children watching the birds, they mimic their flight with out stretched arms and share their popcorn to encourage the joy. Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota – one of the best places to see both children at play and birds at work.
Seagulls Swarm – Watercolor on W/C paper 8″x10″ (2005)
Seagulls swarm over a popcorn-tossing audience, a common occurance in Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota and probably everywhere else there are seagulls.
Capturing these birds in plein air style is very tough. It takes several boxes of popcorn to keep them near enough to sketch; first one bird, then another to represent the flock in action.
I paid a kid to keep feeding them while I sketched for about 30 minutes. Later, I just started photographing them and trying to illustrate them in the studio. On site is more “real,” but studio illustrating from reference photos makes more accurate bird images.
If you wear a hat and keep feeding them, they don’t drop things from the sky on you. I have watched them try to get popcorn from some people who ignore them and they will send their own special message to them. Yep! They know who is going to feed them, and who needs a lesson.