Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It's finally here...never fear perspective again!!

Today is the day!! The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective is finally on the shelves and online! I was signing copies this morning at Seattle's Daniel Smith store (thank you, Joe, Janice and Patrice!) 

Thank you, Gabi Campanario and Editor Mary Ann Hall for this amazing opportunity--I am so very grateful.

I am also so very grateful to the many talented artists and architects from around the globe who contributed their beautiful work to tell the story of perspective sketching. This book is the size of a sketchbook, small and packed with info...take it with you, and never fear perspective again!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Kimbell Art Museum, thanks y'all!

A few weeks ago, I contacted Texas sketcher Jim Richards to say I planned to be in his neck of the woods in early June. Although he would be out of the country, he was kind enough to let other North Texas sketchers know, and we set up a date and time to meet last Saturday.

To my utter delight, a large group actually showed up!  It was so very wonderful to make new friends and to have company while I sketched--it brightened what would otherwise be a difficult week.  Even got to do a short demo! Plus the setting, the incredibly beautiful Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth designed by one of the most famous architects of the last century, Louis Kahn, was so inspiring.  It was difficult to do justice to this exquisite building, one we studied a great deal in architecture school. The shape of those elegant barrel vaults was very tough to get right--I actually erased a lot! I would so love to teach a perspective workshop here one day...

My thanks to all the Texas Urban Sketchers--it was wonderful to meet you all.  So amazing about this USk community, instant friends around the globe...

I leave for Italy one week from today to start my summer adventures in Civita, Barcelona, Den Haag, then London and up to Manchester...I'll post as I go and plan to sketch a lot of "Soaring Spaces" on the way.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Another Book Preview--Ellipses!

This is another one of my favorite pages...on drawing ellipses!  Liz Steel, famous for sketching her beautiful tea and coffee cups, creates a  lovely sketch of her is full of circles that we see as ellipses...and after ellipses, the book covers arches, arcades, vaults and domes!!
Just about one week to go!!!!!!!!!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Travel Sketching Essentials--the easel and travel stool I use

I have searched high and low for tools that will work...small and light, that fit in my carry on back and backpack.  With some tweaks, this is what I use for the big equipment.

Easel in action, with Beliza, Anne, and Susanna in last summer's
workshop in Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy.  I'm leaving soon for this year's
workshop!!   This shows the larger surface and tripod #3.
En Plein Air Pro Easel surface ($79) (I cut mine down to fit into a backpack) with Sony VCT-R100 Lightweight    Compact Tripod with 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head (about $40 from Amazon)

Story: I bought the entire watercolor travel set at En Plein Air Pro, but most of the stuff is too big and heavy.
So I ditched the tripod, carrying case, etc. that comes in the set and now only use the angled plastic surface with a ledge for holding my sketchbook/pad while I paint. You can buy this ledge individually from En Plein Air Pro for about $80.

Last summer while sketching in Venice with Marc Taro Holmes (someone pinch me, did I really just write that?--YES!) I noticed that his was easel made by the same company was smaller than mine, he said it was an older version.  So I got an idea. When I got home from Europe before heading to Asia (did I really just write that too?), I cut about an inch from the top and one side, very carefully using an x-acto knife to score a line, then using pliers to bend the plastic back and forth until it snapped, followed by a mild sanding of the sharp edges.  And voilá, it now works GREAT and fits in my backpack with ease.

In my search for a lighter tripod, I bought and returned four others until I found this Sony.  It doesn't have the quick release mount which is unfortunate, so I end up just screwing the easel table onto the top of the tripod. Not a big works great...the lightest, smallest tripod I could find. Bought it on Amazon. Has a nice light carrying case too.

This stool is great, although I sometimes feel like an elephant sitting on a is just so light and tiny!  

Story: The day before leaving for Asia, I found this on Amazon, and with same day delivery, it arrived that same evening!! By 9pm I was repacking everything into a smaller suitcase and left for Asia the next morning!
It comes with a small carrying case. Amazon and Tribe are sold out at the moment, but I contacted Tribe and they are producing more of these.

Another option is a new 3-leg stool available through REI. I don't own it, but it is light, a little bulkier and heavier than the Tribe, but probably better if you don't want to sit so low to the ground or need a heftier stool. Only costs $25.

The tiny Tribe Provisions stool I use,
this photo from their website.
Using my stool as an easel in a pinch, with the talented Don Low who stood guard and entertained the onlookers.
Another thank you Laurel Holmes for this photo, this is in Singapore before the symposium last summer.
The best part of finding this easel, tripod, and stool, is that I can now travel only with a carry-on Travel Pro Max-Lite 3 spinner...this has made a huge difference when flights have been cancelled-- and no lost luggage.  Even with all my supplies, I now only travel with a carry-on and a backpack and a small purse!!!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Travel Sketching Essentials--the supplies I use

One week ago, I gave a talk at the Seattle Daniel Smith artist supply store here in Seattle. My thanks to the folks at DS for this opportunity! It was very last minute, wasn't listed in any of the literature that DS sends out, so I was afraid the turnout would be very small, but amazingly, between 40-50 people gave up their sunny Sunday afternoon and showed up! Thanks to all~~
Sketching at Angkor Wat in Cambodia last summer.  Thanks Laurel Holmes for this photo of me drenched in sweat,
using my supplies and favorite 1" angled brush (sadly, no longer made by Daniel Smith).
It's such great fun talking about the materials we use on the road. The name of the game is SMALL and LIGHT, and it's hard to find good supplies that fit both those parameters. I started by showing my suitcase--a carry on spinner (4 wheels) by TravelPro, as that is all I take with me these days, in addition to a backpack. Yep, I've pared things down so much, as I quickly learned what a mistake it is to haul heavy, large suitcases on planes, buses, trains, up stairs, and over bumpy cobblestone streets.  

I could talk/write forever about this!  One of my recent Good Bones workshops folks said, 
"Hello, my name is Kay, and I buy art supplies..."  where is our twelve step program?  I suppose there are worse habits... :)

Here is the list of supplies I use (underlined) that I gave to everyone. I'll post info on my easel, tripod, and the palette I make (that you can make too) tomorrow!

Blocks: Fluid Watercolor blocks, any size but I use 8” x 16. They have a lot of sizes, square ones are great too.
Sketchbooks: Pentalic Aqua Journal 5 ”x 8 (true 140lb. CP paper), Stillman & Birn Alpha or Beta series, Handbook 5” x 8" journal, Moleskine 5” x 8” or 8.5” x 12
Postcards: any set is fine

Pencils and Pens
Mechanical Pencil, .5mm or .7mm with B or 2B lead--this way, you can avoid bad pencil sharpeners (there is not one that makes a good point), and get crisp lines always!  
Pens: Lamy Safary fountain pens or Sailor Bent Nib pen with Carbon Platinum black ink (permanent ink) with cartridges or a converter
(I don't draw with pen much anymore, but I carry all this with me...just in case!)
Markers: Pitt Artist pens, in black and brown—a variety of sizes and colors (permanent lines I can watercolor over.)
Small kneaded eraser

Palette: Winsor & Newton Sketchers’ Pocket Box (replace the Cotman paints with artist or professional grade paints. I love this little set), Daniel Smith metal travel box, or Heritage 18-well Sealing palette or others

Paints: DS and Winsor & Newton tube paint, W&N ½ pans, or DS watercolor sticks                 
                  Blues: Ultramarine Blue (WN), Cobalt Blue, Manganese Blue or Cerulean Blue
                  Reds:  Burnt Sienna, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, DS Quinacridone Burnt Orange
                  Yellows:  New Gamboge, Yellow Ochre, Aureolin
                  Also:  Pyrrol Orange, Sap Green
                  For France: Indigo
                  For Italy:  Raw Umber (Winsor & Newton)
                  For Tropical Water: Cobalt Turquoise Light

Kolinsky Sable:  Escoda Reserva travel brush, size 10 round and size 12
Synthetic (use synthetic brushes for mixing paints):
                  Richeson Plein Air Travel watercolor brush set, assorted sizes
                  1” Angled brush
                  Pentel Aquash Water brushes (great for mixing paints on your paper)

Also (I use all these)
Small 6” triangle or straight edge (for snapping quick, straight lines at the beginning of a sketch)
3 Binder Clips (to hold down paper--important, don't forget these!)
Nichiban masking tape (from New York Central Art Supply and online at Amazon) (This tape is amazing, I highly recommend it, I use it when I want crisp edges on the permiter of my sketches--don't paint or sketch off your page!)
Paper Towels
Water container--Faber-Castel Clic and Go or small Rx bottle with homemade palette
Tiny Spray Bottle, (Thanks, Ellie, for this tip!)
Hat and Sunscreen and snack

Book:  The Urban Sketching Handbook Understanding Perspective  :)

Seattle sketcher Kate Buike did a wonderful write up of the talk, including photos (I didn't even see her taking these pics!).  Thanks, Kate!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What's the difference between a 1-pt and a 2-pt perspective?

Here is another of my favorite spreads from the new book... I love these diagrams, as I can see the ah-ha moments when people in my workshops FINALLY understand what makes a view a one-point perspective versus a two-point perspective.  It's not rocket science!  It is so easy once you know what to look for.  

Swedish Nina Johansson's glowing one point/elevation view of a small building, paired with Murray Dewhurst from New Zealand and his sketch of another small is 1-pt and the other is 2-pt...depends on where the sketcher is standing!!!

Much more in the new book, Understanding Perspective.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Looking UP, Looking DOWN

Here is one of my favorite spreads in the book...I love both these sketches, by Luis Ruiz on the left and Seattle sketcher Steven Reddy on the right.  These sketches and diagrams talk about two variations on views, looking UP and looking DOWN, and what happens to the vanishing points in each.

Look UP--vanishing point for the vertical lines pops UP.
Look DOWN--vanishing point for the vertical lines pops DOWN.  

And finding the center helps you draw the tilting verticals more accurately.

I particularly love this piece by Steve, it is really one of my all-time-favorite sketches.  He takes something mundane that we all have walked by thousands of times and never noticed, and elevates it to the status of art by drawing our attention to its detail and shapes. So beautifully drawn and full of character.  Such a great sketch!

My thanks to both these artists for their inspiring contributions to this book!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Understanding Perspective, a peek inside!

June 15, that is the BIG DAY!

Leading up to that date, I'm going to start showing a few previews of the book on this blog, to give you an idea what it's like! I hope Understanding Perspective will inform and inspire...

The goal of this book is to bridge the world of abstract studio perspective with the skills and tools you need to draw on location.  Best of all, it uses pictures to teach--it explains the concepts through wonderful images by talented artists and architects from around the globe, together with lots of diagrams and tips.  Small in size, but pages packed with information, you can take this book with you out into the field when you work.

Today, I post the introduction, as it explains the basic premise of the book...more peeks inside to follow!

"Understanding Perspective -- Introduction
Imagine you are standing in an amazing space, say the Pantheon in Rome. Snapping a quick photo like everyone else isn’t enough -- you want to somehow capture this experience, but your group is leaving in only half an hour. What do you do? SKETCH!

Sketching on location is powerful. You have to look at something really carefully to draw it. The process of drawing imprints what you see into your brain in such a way that years from now, the sounds of the people walking by, the scent of the rain, the feel of the warm air, and much more will all flood back when you look at your sketch. Urban Sketching is about capturing your experiences on paper, and more important, in your mind and heart. It’s a great way to learn and remember.

That said, sketching on location can be challenging and overwhelming. Where do you start a sketch? How do you shrink the vast, busy scene in front of you onto your paper? How does perspective work? And where is that darn Vanishing Point? Understanding Perspective helps you bridge the theoretical world of perspective concepts with the real world of on-site sketching.

All good sketches start with good bones. Perspective is simply a set of rules “discovered” during the Italian Renaissance that allows us to translate what we see in our three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface, such as a piece of paper or canvas. These principles provide us with a simple structure we can use to create the foundational lines in our sketches.

Perspective doesn’t have to be frightening or something you avoid. Once you know some basics and a simple process, your sketches will be faster, easier, and more believable -- and it will change the way you see the world, as you’ll see perspective everywhere!

Best of all, when you leave Rome with sketchbook in hand, you’ll be bringing a bit of the Pantheon with you..."