GUEST DOODLEWASH: Just Like Riding A Bicycle

Doodlewash by Urban Sketcher Suzala of Bonanza

My name is Suzala and I’m from Long Island, 40 minutes from New York City (click here to follow me on Instagram!) I guess it’s like riding a bicycle… I sort of started drawing again after a hiatus of over 38 years and it has totally changed my life for the better. Let me explain, I have been a designer/ illustrator/ advertising artist  for over 42 years and the last 23 had me chained to a monitor doing websites and logos.

Doodlewash by Urban Sketcher Suzala of street food cart and vendorWhile I do little sketches before I hit the computer it is not the same as drawing on paper or from life. Nothing is. About a year and a half ago I stumbled across a group that journals and illustrates with some small drawings or doodles of their day. My journaling became full pages of drawings with just nary a word on them. Thankfully, last August, I found the NYC Urban Sketchers group online.

What a wonderful group of people who gather together once a week to draw what’s around them and then have a pint or a coffee and show off their day’s drawings. I highly suggest you check out and see if there is a group that meets near you. It’s free and a blast. You can also check out the Facebook pages of both groups, and you will see some awesome art.

Doodlewash by Urban Sketcher Suzala of Cafe in QuebecNow I don’t leave the house without my stuff: at the very least my travelers notebook with a cut down Fabriano sketchbook inside, a pencil, a small paint palette, some fountain pens a few urine sample containers from the doctor filled with water (trust me they never leak!), some waterbrushes and some travel brushes. (Some great travel ones are Da Vinci, Isabey and Rosemary & Co.,- did you know you can squeeze a Size 8 Da Vinci (synthetic, sable) into a metal travel palette with 8 full size pans perfectly?).

“Ya neva” know when a couple of minutes that could be used to draw will appear, a doctor’s waiting room, the library (great in the winter when you want to draw people,  the senior citizens hardly move!), waiting in the car for someone or on the train. I love to draw buildings as well and chauffeuring kids has become a disguised way to scout them out.

Doodlewash by Urban Sketcher Suzala of man watching presentationWhile some people are intimidated by drawing in public, I love the opportunity it affords me to sometimes meet people I never would have. And almost everyone has been extremely accommodating and, I think, a bit flattered when they realize I am sketching them (one woman who had left a waiting room and realized I hadn’t finished my sketch, so she actually sat down again so I could get it done!).

I have been trying all kinds of papers, Arches is perfect, but I especially like to draw in sketchbooks and have started several of them. I am in the midst of trying new ones with handmade Indian paper called Kahdi– very different. Somehow, sketchbooks allow for more risks, because it’s just a sketchbook after all, right? On location I usually start with some ink and a modified contour drawing, (always comparing line angles and sizes to each other), and then finish with some watercolors (actually I usually take a photo before I start to draw so that if the weather changes or a car parks it’s fender in between me and the subject, I have a reference to go back to).

Doodlewash by Urban Sketcher Suzala of Japanese Gate

I prefer natural hair watercolor brushes to water brushes, because, you have more control over the amount of water and watercolors are ALL about controlling the ratio of pigment to water. I do still carry the waterbrushes because sometimes you just can’t take the water out. These days I have been playing with the technique of not mixing any paints on the palette and letting all the mixing happen on the paper. It’s a lot looser and I think gives a better impression of what I see. I have painted very realistically but right now my theory is if I want an exact copy, I can take a picture. I like the idea of recording the world around me.

Doodlewash by Urban Sketcher Suzala of still life of plate with food and knifeSince I started sketching again, I have found lots of new ways to spend money: Schmincke watercolors and newly bought gouache. Daniel Smith watercolors tubes as well, (gotta have at least one travel set) a small palette of Kremer too. And did I mention fountain pens? (oh you don’t want to open that box!!). This week Amazon knocked on my door with some Sennelier soft pastels. I’m not sure how all this new media will work together, but I am having a lot of fun researching and playing (and amazon is having a record year as a result!).

Doodlewash by Urban Sketcher Suzala of men playing the tubaWith all of this drawing going on, I have also taken on two students, an 8 year old budding artist and a 14 year old who wants to pursue further learning.- who knew I would enjoy teaching to draw as well as doing it?! For anyone looking for advice: Contour draw, contour draw, contour draw. Until your hand and eye are working as one, it will be an uphill battle. Keys to Drawing, is a great reference.

WOWa, all that info on the web!! To mention just a few: Previous Guest Doodlewashers Marc Taro Holmes and Jane Blundell, and also Parkablogs, Teoh Yi Chie and the mind of watercolor on YouTube. Then there are all the groups on Facebook where I not only get to post, but learn from other artist’s posts as well. How did people do this before computers?

Doodlewash by Urban Sketcher Suzala of man on the streetIt is only really 9 months since I started drawing and painting again (by the way, had never done either from life before), and I am having a ball. I’m not sure I have a definitive style, but as I discover other artists, like Paul Wang, Charles Reid, James Guerney and Marc Taro Holmes, I am trying some on. It’s a great adventure. Sometimes I step back and think, OMG I did that, or jeez, that totally sucked, but the process is so much fun that it’s always a celebration and discovery. I can’t imagine I will ever go out again without my “bag,” and I can assure you if I just keep peddling, I will turn out something great.

See you on the path.

See more on Instagram!

Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Mohit Singh 7 years ago

    WOW , great artist Keep it up 😀

  2. blackbird 7 years ago

    Suzala’s instragram is lovely each day!

  3. michelle prital 7 years ago

    As one who has known you since you were coloring in the “O”‘s in the newspaper, I tear with admiration at the beauty of your work!!!

  4. taphian 7 years ago

    wonderful paintings with a lot of talent, keep it up

    • Author

      So pleased you liked Suzala’s work! 😃

      • zuzala 7 years ago

        Charlie… – ignore michelle, we’ve been besties for 50 years. She’s tainted!

  5. ybromfield 7 years ago

    Suzala! I am so happy to see you featured here! You know I’ve always been a fan and Charlie, Suzala was one that really pushed me to explore watercolors months ago. What I love about Suzala’s work is the way she creates shadows. Her pieces always have so much depth.

    • Author

      Oh wow! That’s awesome, Kari! 💕So cool that Suzala inspired you back then!

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      Ybromfield, Kari, Thanx so much for your support, I had to encourage you, it’s all there, you just need to find the time and open your eyes..

  6. David Rodriguez 7 years ago

    Amazing, nice work..

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      David, Thanks for your comment!

  7. Susan Feniak 7 years ago

    Suzala you have a new follower on Instagram! Wonderful art. Thanks for sharing another stellar artist Charlie!

  8. Sharon 7 years ago


  9. Art by Daniel Alfonso 7 years ago

    Does anyone have a link to the specific size 8 Davinchi brush Suzala mentioned?

    • Author

      Forgot to add links to those! Thanks for letting me know, Daniel! I just updated the post and added links! 😃

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      Daniel, just checked my two go to sources and Amazon, and presently neither seems to have that size. but I assure you it does exist. Sorry. I would suggest you keep checking. or try the larger online art vendors. – I have three other travel brushes, and almost always just use that one. It really does the job. holds so much water.!

  10. Jodi 7 years ago

    Wow – great art – look forward to “riding” along with you Suzala! Thanks for sharing charlie.

    • Author

      Thanks Jodi! Thrilled you liked Suzala’s work! 😃

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      Jodi, Thanx so much! I see you paint with food! OMG, I think I gained 10 lbs just looking at your blog. beautiful.

  11. Art-Chap-Enjoin 7 years ago

    Very nice read and great drawings. I too recently discovered urban sketchers. Also excellent tip about the urine containers!

    • Author

      Isn’t that an awesome tip?! hehe So glad you liked Suzala’s feature! 😃

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      Art-Chap-Enjoin, Glad you enjoyed the post. The urine containers do rock, ( although I almost had an incident last week when looking for keys in my bad at a diner, I took the urine jar out of my bag and put it on the table. My dining companion and the waiter freaked out, til I explained it had never been used for it’s intended purpose. – I will be a bit more careful in the future! I also recommend, Naglene bottes from REI. The large travel ones ( intended for personal creams and lotions) fit perfectly into the little metal cups that oil painters use for linseed oil.( they clip onto a palette). I clip them to the drawing board at the top and always have two bottles of water at the ready. Let me know if you need more info.

  12. memadtwo 7 years ago

    Wonderful work! Lots of life. (K)

  13. Raleigh 7 years ago

    Loved hearing, seeing & sometimes observing your great adventure. Your work (play) is fabulous!

  14. Teresa Robeson 7 years ago

    I’m one of those intimidated by sketching in public places but I love your philosophy…and your sketches/art!

    • Author

      I agree…I’m the same. This inspires me to go for it! So glad you liked Suzala’s feature, Teresa! 😃

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      Teresa, It is such a wonderful experience, I would hate for you to miss out!. Most people are so involved in their own lives that they won’t even notice you. And remember, you are “practicing”, and they are just sketches. YOu don’t have to prove anything to anyone. It’s all a work in progress. Get out there and make it happen for yourself. You will be surprised at how fast you become better. Frankly it’s addictive. Last week I got so bold I went into a tiny barber shop in a tiny very conservative town and asked if I could return to sketch the inside. They couldn’t have been nicer and the invite is open. You will be amazed at how open people can be.

  15. artandmoondreams 7 years ago

    Wow! Fantastic and entertaining read, beautiful paintings is the fantastic icing on the cake. Loved seeing the different tools packed along for the adventures, and 100% in agreement on their philosophy that “the process is so much fun that it’s always a celebration and discovery.” Very inspiring and very encouraging…thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful feature post.

    • Author

      Awww love hearing this, Haunani! So thrilled you enjoyed Suzala’s post and found it inspiring! I did as well! 😃

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      ArtAndMoondreams, Thank you so much for your response. I am so glad you enjoyed reading about my adventures. Just got a chance to see your blog and I’m now a follower. Lovely work

      • artandmoondreams 7 years ago

        Thank you, you are most kind. This is such an encouraging community, I look forward to visiting with each other blog sites and enjoying each others’ creative adventures.

  16. M. L. Kappa 7 years ago

    Hi Suzala! Great work, and great post full of interesting titbits. I always have a notebook with me, and a pencil and pens, but find it hard to use watercolor if I only have five minutes or so. And thanks, Charlie, for another cool gust post

    • Author

      So happy you liked this feature! Suzala is definitely one to follow!

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      ML Kappa, Thanks so much for your complement. Water color is easy to handle if you bring a water brush and a folded paper towel. When I can’t carry my usual, I have a dollar store ( as small as a credit card) eyeshadow kit that actually has tins in it, that I turned into a 12 pan paint set. IN the cover i tacked in a plastic student ID of my sons that has a white back so there is always a palatte. It’s thinner then a pencil and so easy and light to whip out quickly. When all else fails, just throw some washes on when you get home to give an indication of local color or brightness. Also, If I stick with those contour drawings, I can now rarely use pencil, and go directly to Pitt pen. The process is quicker and the watercolors go down on the ink beautifully. An alternative is a NON waterproof fountain pen. Draw with it and then hit it in spots with your waterbrush to create some shading. works beautifully and you take out less stuff. ON my instagram account, # suzalele, you can see many examples of this.

  17. M. L. Kappa 7 years ago

    Btw, I looked up the Kahdi paper which is very tempting, however the postage to Greece costs £32!!!!! For a £7.80 book… Surely they could do better.

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      I know that paper isn’t expensive, it’s the shipping. I order from the UK- Jackon’s Art. and I order 3 books at a time to take advantage of the initial base shipping cost. Perhaps just googling the Khadi drawing books, will enable you to order directly from India at a lower shipping cost. Don’t give up. The alternative is see if you can just find the whole sheets and make your own book. I’ve done that too. hope this helps.

      • M. L. Kappa 7 years ago

        Thanks! I’ll try and see what happens. It’s tempting

        • zuzala 7 years ago

          Hoping it works for you. When you get it (optimism here) I’d love to hear your review.

          • M. L. Kappa 7 years ago

            Yesss! I’d made the mistake of going directly on their site. From Jacksons Art the postage is £5.40 to Greece which is not that bad. Will order some. thank you!!

          • zuzala 7 years ago

            Glad that worked out… awaiting to hear what you think. It is quite different. Take a good look at their products to take advantage of that flat shipping rate. Also fyi. I think parkablogs or teo yi chi on FB did a review..

  18. waynejacques 7 years ago

    Great work Suzala and thanks for sharing Charlie.

  19. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 7 years ago

    Suzala, I love the way you handle paints and your comment about pigment and water. The photo is a great idea because things change, don’t they. Also intrigued by the unfinished painting of the man in the seats – but it is finished in its way. You’re very talented and it’s been a pleasure to see your work. Thanks, Charlie, for inviting Suzala.

    • Author

      Thank you Sharon! So thrilled you enjoyed Suzala’s work! 😃

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      Sharon Bonnin-Pratt, Thank you so for your kind words! I have found the taking the photos gives me a chance to experiment and be more free as well. I can always go back to it if I need to. ( which strangely I rarely do…) It’s kind of like a blanket a kid carries around with them. My drawings are an impression of what I see. the guy in the seats was the most important thing to me. The rest was just support, and bkg. I think drawings are finished when the artist decides they are, not when the page is filled up. Thanx again.

  20. patgaig 7 years ago

    Hey Suzala. Loved this article. Your work is always so beautiful I didn’t realize you hadn’t been doing it all along.

  21. brushparkwatercolors 7 years ago

    Awesome work!!! And a inspiring read!!! Thank you!

    • Author

      So glad you liked this! Suzala is definitely one to follow! 😃

    • zuzala 7 years ago

      Brushparkwatercolors. I am extremely flattered. ( I just saw your site. omg, your transparent color use is beautiful!) Glad you enjoyed my ramblings.

  22. Lusinkablog* 7 years ago

    Beautiful work!! Wonderfu

  23. Sharon Nolfi 5 years ago

    Your sketches are full of life and look as though you enjoyed making them!

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