My name is Carolyn Breen Morton, but I have gone by the nickname “Charlie” since about 4 years of age. I am 62 and a retired teacher from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Art has always been part of my life, but like many artists, I felt at times that I lacked talent and imagination. My husband’s advice, “Draw every day and you will get where you want to go.” He was right.
I have followed the urban sketching movement for a few years and knew that this was the art form that interested me most. I started to sketch architecture a few years ago. My art is posted on Instagram and Pinterest and clearly shows my progression from very tight and controlled, to looser and more whimsical. I draw every day if possible and my motivation comes from several places.
I want to improve and consistently change my style. I love what I do but always feel that there is lots more inside of me. I want my family to see that anything can be accomplished, at any stage of life. I want to record life as I see it for my grandchildren.
My collection will be theirs one day and I have already started to teach them the value of artistic expression. This portable, passive, visual journaling is a wonderful skill to carry with you through life!
Favorite Art Supplies
I love Fabriano and Arches paper, 140 lb cold pressed, when I am working on detailed sketches. I will try out rough ideas on absolutely any paper that will hold paint, therefore my sketchbook collection is varied and formidable. I find that my style changes slightly, depending on the size of paper I use so I often cut it into different sizes for variety. My favourite size is 8” x 10”.
When I use a sketchbook, it is most often a Stillman and Birn Beta series. I find the paper to be good quality and it will hold up to lots of glazing and washes. It comes in an 8” x 10” format which is large enough yet portable.
I seldom plan anything with pencil as I find drawing in ink both challenging and exciting. If I make a mistake, I just work with it. I use a Lamy fountain pen with an extra fine nib and waterproof ink and also Sakura Pigma Micron pens in every size. Sakura’s calligraphy pens work wonderfully when shading large areas.
My brushes are always synthetic (due to personal beliefs) and I love my Escoda round #6 and #12. Big brushes bring whimsy to a painting and I will often use nothing but a #12 round, even for the detail. I don’t worry about staying in the lines. I heard an artist once say, “Always use the biggest brush you can.” and that advice really works for me and my style.
Finally, I love to collect what I call props. I collect small die-cast British cars. I sketch a lot of British architecture and never feel that I have to be completely true to the scene.
I will sketch in one of my cars at exactly the angle I want. I also have a die-cast scooter and phone booth that come in handy as detail pieces. My props collection is growing as I am now looking for bicycles, dogs and mailboxes.
Some Tips That Really Helped Me
• Watch and read everything you can about the type of art that you want to produce. For me, the internet is rich with urban sketching classes, posts, groups and meetups.
• Try to avoid straight lines and it will bring whimsy and happiness into your sketches. Things a little crooked work wonderfully
• Draw what you love! I cannot lie… I love a good pub in England and have had lots of personal experiences in them so many of my sketches are pubs. Old architecture fascinates me so I draw lots of houses, shops, churches, and restaurants. Most places that I sketch I have visited, but certainly not all.
• Don’t worry about what your ‘style’ is. It will emerge all by itself. You take little things from other artists and make them your own. You have ideas in the middle of the night and can’t wait to incorporate them first thing in the morning. You start to look at the world in a whole new light and notice things that you really want to draw or add to an existing sketch.
• Forget the rules. Draw from photos, on location, or from imagination. It doesn’t matter. You will get very proficient in getting what is in your head onto the paper. Buy good supplies but don’t be afraid to sketch on a napkin in a coffee shop. In the end, just sit down and make some art and you will amaze yourself. It is in us all!
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