Presidio Sketch Weekend

 Posted by on January 31, 2014  Drawings, Lefties, Location Sketching  Tagged with: ,
Jan 312014

Here are several sketches done from life, each drawn very slowly in my new left-handed technique, while visiting a very sunny Presidio last weekend with Julia.

Lately I have been trying to draw with my left hand, and I have been doing silly, cartoonish illustrations for the childhood recollections I have been writing. I quite like the effect that the clumsy, left-handed illustrations give; the awkwardness reminds me of the drawings I would do at the very same age I was in the stories themselves. So all in all, I am pleased with how that is going. But my other challenge is to do left-handed life drawing, and this has been a lot harder. While a cartoon often hilariously gains from an awkwardly placed line, in a representational sketch, where the goal is to record something as accurately as possible, clumsy does not cut the mustard. But I soldier onwards, awkwardly (and excruciatingly slowly.)

Julia has had a goal of her own to do a plein aire painting each week this year, and that has worked nicely with my own desire to push harder into left-handed drawing territory by attempting representational sketches, so we have been going out drawing as often as we can. So far, we are on track with one on-site drawing day per week this year, and last weekend we actually did two days in a row, both at the Presidio, which turns out to be a wonderful place to sketch. Ample parking (all paid though, sadly) several places to eat, easy-access toilets, and benches to sit on, and most importantly, a wide variety of interesting things to draw. To make it extra special, we were blessed with the most marvelous weather.

I managed to get the line-work for these 5 sketches mostly completed on location, but did the water colour washes later at home, using a photograph to guide me on the lighting. Some people think using photos is a cheat, but I figure it’s not too bad if the drawing itself was done on the spot, and besides, that’s the best I can manage at present. I need to spend extra time and concentration with the brush versus the pencil, and the chances of spilling something on site, makes the whole thing more pleasant at home, where I can take my time. A LOT of time. Each of these sketches took me WAY longer than they would have normally (5 times longer in fact) but I feel like I am getting somewhere, and I am enjoying the process.

Prior to The Presidio, our favorite outdoor sketching site was Golden Gate Park, between the De Young museum and the Natural History Museum, where there are likewise lots of neat things to draw. I will post my other outdoor scribbles from some of those earlier, away-team missions later, when I’ve had a chance to scan them. This outrageously decent weather wont last forever (and knowing San Francisco, it will fail when Summer swings around) but while it’s sunny and warm, we will try to take advantage of it and go out on location as much as we can.

When the weather eventually fails, we’ve promised ourselves that we will maintain our weekly sketch momentum by drawing paused-scenes from movies, so that this sketch-train wont stop.

So hold on tight!


  65 Responses to “Presidio Sketch Weekend”

  1. Wonderful! Keep sketching AND posting!

  2. These are AWESOME Jamie. Beats my left-handed drawing AND my right-handed environmental drawings!

  3. Just great! And I don’t think the camera is a cheat at all–it’s a tool. As long as you acknowledge that it “sees” differently than your eyes do. So, I think you are using it wisely!

    • Yes, it does, Russell. It certainly flattens out the tones. Quiet often, a black shadow on a photo has a wealth of detail in real life.

    • Yes! I’m no photography expert, at all, but when shooting something outside with a mind toward drawing or painting it later I sometimes take a couple pics of the same scene adjusting the exposure–up a little to get the details in shadows of the subject, and down to get the nice color of the sky, details in the clouds. One size not fitting all. The camera is just not as dextrous as your eyeball.

  4. They’re all so fabulous! I especially love the amber-ish tree!

  5. Those are awesome sketches Jamie.

  6. AWESOME Blossom!!! Those look great! I KNEW you had it in you … Go Jamie! Go Jamie! <3

  7. I agree completely about the camera. I am not on board with people who see it as a negative; I regard the camera as an additional tool. However understand that the reason the camera is regarded negatively derives from some artists who *only* work from photos and do it poorly because photos flatten color and add really flat areas of black where luminous shadows will be, and also distort the perspective. I think with drawing/painting outside as a start and finishing at home is perfectly valid because you are recording and experiencing a scene, very different than using photos alone. Anyway, getting back to JAMIE. I am crazy happy that we can do this together and enjoy drawing and painting, each of us with goals of our own – but TOGETHER. That is just fun.

  8. Wow! Great drawings, Jamie!

  9. These are terrific! The white house is my favorite, you rendered the trees in the background really nicely and simply.

    • Thanks, Vera. The house was my fave too. I think I’m getting better. Just have to ramp-up to PRO-SPEED!

    • i think animation artists are trained to draw 3x faster than any other kind of professional artist, so I bet you are already at some form of pro speed already! 🙂

  10. You, sir, are my hero. These are amazing!

  11. Your sinister self is starting to dominate. Welcome to my world (lefty by birth).

  12. Great work, Jamie. You can’t keep a good man right!

  13. that is Awesome Jamie!

  14. Great pictures. I am starting a camera course this week cause I can’t paint and I can’t draw. But I like looking at others. You are talented with both hands. Enjoy.

  15. Wow Jamie, those drawings are pretty damn cool! Right on. Great to see you recently, keep it up.

  16. Thanks, everyone. With such wonderful cheerleaders as yourselves, I really want to push myself even further.

  17. Those are beautiful Jamie!

  18. Jamie, these drawings … wow, I think they are amazing. I so admire people who can draw or paint, as I can barely sketch a decent stick figure. (This means that I must admire my brother; yes, ok, I admit that … A little bit …) And here you are doing it left handed! Extremely impressive! Keep it up, clumsy or no. I love seeing both of your sketches! (yours and Julia’s).

  19. Just showed Kev , he said…. “Wow!…. he’s already better than me!! … They are wonderful James 🙂

  20. They are wonderful Jamie…

  21. These are so beautiful Jamie! And what a great goal to paint on site once a week! I cheer you guys on ! And I better start moving ;p Your paintings are so beautiful, made me realized how lazy I’ve been… You are amazing!!

  22. You amazing!!!! These are WONDERFUL!!!!

  23. Keep up the push! You’re doing great!

  24. BEAUTIFUL. Thanks for sharing , Jamie!

    • Thank you so much. I still have such a long way to go but the encouragement helps me wonderfully.

    • they’re beyond lovely, Jamie. Seeing the tenacity and strength of your creative ability pushing past your injurious disability to the point where you are rendering such beautiful artwork makes the word “inspirational” trite and cheap. I find my own personal inspiration in shit like this. Thank you.

  25. Hey Mate, these are looking great I’m sure it’s good to get a pencil in your hands again even if it’s slow going…

  26. Wow. Good stuff for any hand in my opinion.

  27. Taking our lead from you love-birds, Wendy and I have embarked on an “en plane indoors” excursion to watch your bonza leftie artworks on the laptop in the comfort of our home study. Don’t know much about left-handed drawing, but I know what I like (Ha!).Great stuff, my dear boy; keep it up. Love Dad,and over to Wendy.

    Loved the white house, James – beaut touch of achitectural drawing and light! Thanks for sharing it wth us! Looking forward to seeing more! Wendy x

    • Thanks a lot for the encouragement, you two. I sweated bullets (in slow motion) over these, but I think I am improving so it is worth it. The retraining of my LEFT hand is hard, but not as much as the retraining of my RIGHT, or of the pesky leg either..

  28. I can feel the temperature of Presidio on that particular weekend. Love the sketches! This world is an amazing place!

  29. Nice, just revisited your driving school cartoons from the Tokyo Journal 25 years ago…

  30. Amazing Jamie! Your my hero…as always.

  31. This is a wonderful picture James and I cannot believe you did this with your left hand…to coin an Aussie’re truly AWESOME! xx

  32. Amazing! Really, amazing.

  33. These sketches have just blown my mind.
    They also do look like your drawing, but felt like more genuinly focused on shapes as younger artists do, almost made me cry.

  34. Sigh. Your left handed ability puts me to shame.

    • Thanks, Ikumi but I think you’d do much better if you spent as long as I did. Each of these would take about an hour, or maybe two, with my right hand but took DAYS with my left.

    • Nah, it’s more than time spent on the piece. I think art consists of something like 70% thinking and 30% execution. You may have lost some physical abilities in your hands, but the knowledge is still there!

  35. They are beautiful!!!!

  36. Astounding. Now try drawing with your toes next. Sheesh.

  37. Incredible, Jamie.

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