My name is John Hofman and I wish to thank Charlie for the opportunity to showcase some of my sketches on Doodlewash (follow my blog here). I have been living in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island for the last 20 years or so. I learned some drawing and sketching as part of my vocational training in the Netherlands many years ago now. Throughout my career as a structural engineer designing buildings and some bridges, now for the most part retired, I enjoyed sketching and painting as a hobby.
My preference is to include buildings in my sketches, different kinds of structures and city shapes, particularly with a heritage or an industrial connotation. The inclusion of foliage and some sky is important to me as the organic forms compliment the geometrical shapes that depict the buildings. Lately, I have been trying to add people in the distance or in the middle ground, to avoid a “ghost town image”.
Most of my sketches are produced in Nanaimo and Vancouver Island. Many are done on location and often from the same vantage point as I like to experiment or introduce new approaches in terms of lighting, use of colours and values, inclusion or exclusion of props such as trees, hydro poles, cars or people, etc. Learning and experimenting are interchangeable and a never ending process.
My technique and materials don’t change much; in my opinion there is no magic in the supplies or brand name you use; it is what you do with your subject that keeps it interesting. That does not mean that a new brush or 100% cotton water colour paper and other preferred materials cannot be enjoyable. On the contrary, I love to watch the pigments mingle on a premium paper surface or to try out a different pen or a sketchbook.
Sometimes when I am hurried or if the weather is too cold or too hot, I like to just draw or only add some rendering using brush pens or felt pens that are available in various shades of grey, such as the quick sketch from a building in Amsterdam, which was produced during our holidays last summer.
The church tower also sketched on location in the Netherlands was completed in a sketchbook using watercolour; a bit of a struggle to get the pigments to stick on the surface of this particular brand of sketchbook.
There are several brand names of sketchbooks available in a decent size (10”x14” or so) , but few with an ideal surface for watercolor. A coil spring to hold the book together is practical as it allows you to turn over the page without finishing the current sketch. Watercolour blocks are also convenient for outdoors, on location painting, except that one has to finish the painting and tear off the sheet to expose the next page on the block. A 9” x 12” format with a high quality surface is produced by both Arches and Fabriano that fits nicely in your backpack.
Know-how and ideas on drawing and painting on paper can be obtained from “how to” books available in our local library. They come in varying qualities with useful or consistent information and some are really inspiring. Looking at examples on websites and blogs such as Doodlewash or the internet in general provides a wealth of well illustrated information, often with new concepts or with stimulating ideas.
I envy painters that produce watercolours without lines; just a pattern of color and value shapes. Anyways, I start with lines in pen and ink using a “uni-ball” pen or a “sharpie” fine point. These are both trade names and have permanent black ink that does not wash out with water, they always work and are available almost anywhere at a low cost.
Experimenting with a dip pen, an inkpot and different coloured inks can be fun as long as you manage to keep that inkpot upright: a bit of a challenge when working outside. Then I compliment this pen-sketch with a wash, usually starting out fairly wet and light to let pigments mingle, using a large squirrel mop brush, before applying the pigments in darker areas with a smaller brush. Sometimes I work the other way around, and start with the darker areas, using these as a gauge for the rest of the values applied in the painting process.
I don’t try very hard to stay between the lines of the pen drawing, except when saving the white areas. My paints come in a little metal paint box with removable pans that I can refill with basic pigments of a variety of brands.
The next two pictures of The Modern Café in downtown Nanaimo, shown here are from last summer on a Sunday morning, that somewhat illustrate this process.
The first one is the pen sketch with a first wash produced on location, which is a comfortable bench under the roof overhang of the National Land Building in downtown; a bit out of the way.
The second one is the finished sketch. I take my time when painting this as I enjoy the process.
I went home for lunch between the two phases. When I returned, things had changed; the scooters were gone and only a few people were left on the patio. The sun came out and changed the lighting on the scene. More sketches and posts on local heritage can be found on my blog.