Presidio Sketch Weekend

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.

presidio_firehouse 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.)

presidio_cannon 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.

presidio_tree 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.

presidio_house 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.

presidio_buildings 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 thoughts on “Presidio Sketch Weekend”

    • 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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!!

    • 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.

  4. 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..

    • 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!

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