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.
While 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 UrbanSketcher.org 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.
Now 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.
While 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).
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.
Since 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!).
With 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?
It 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.
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Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!