Hi, welcome to my sketching blog.  I figured this is a good way to share my passion about sketching and to motivate myself to keep practicing and getting better.  I hope you can get to enjoy sketching as much as I do.

Sketchfully yours,

Luis E. Aparicio


My upcoming workshop!

Starting September 17, 2017, I will be the instructor of a workshop titled “Urban Sketching: What’s your story?” at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, DE. The workshop’s objective is for participants to sharpen their observation skills and enabling them to focus on their stories and filtering out distractions.

I have been a member of the Urban Sketchers (USK) movement for a long time, so the principles of the USK manifesto are very important to me, like “we are truthful to the scenes we witness”. I don’t mean that we should make up or alter the scenes we sketch. But I’ve learned that I shouldn’t pretend to capture every little detail that I see; that’s what cameras are for. Think of a newspaper: I want to my sketches to be an editorial of the stories that surround me.

We all may struggle when trying to capture a focused story on location. So many details, people are moving, lots of distractions. It happens to alll of us. I sketched this a few weeks ago while waiting for my train to work. I had less than 10 minutes, so I had to work fast. Even though I like it as a sketch, it didn’t capture my story. At all. Not even close.

All day long I kept that sketch in my mind. What happened? How I can improve it? It’s loose, not too much details, usually a good formula. But my story isn’t there. The story is the soul of an urban sketch, so a sketch without a story is just an exercise of mark making and technique. And then something clicked. I knew what i had to do.

Next day I went back and sat on the same bench, same time. And this was my sketch:

My story is there, all the activity that happens every morning by the Schuylkill River Trail. Serious runners, amateur joggers, casual bikers and avid riders, all coexisting in the same place. And I think that’s wonderful. I feel this quick sketch is much more powerful than the one from the previous day, just by focusing on the real story and filtering out distractions. The buildings are there, but are not the story. The trees are there as well, but just as a backdrop. The overhead wires are definitely out. People moving along the path are the subject. Notice how irrelevant they were in the first sketch!

This is part of what we’ll be covering in the workshop. if you live nearby I invite you to join us. So, what’s your story?

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please let me know.

Sketching in Fallingwater

I’m fortunate to live fairly close to Fallingwater, so my wife and I embarked on a last-minute sketching trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece. This is the second time we’ve visited, but this time we decided to spend a couple nights close by instead of driving back and forth. 

We took it really easy, no tour this time, just enjoying the views, the sounds and very few visitors. We sketched, had lunch, sketched again, met a few friendly people and, instead of driving 3 1/2 hours back home, we stay tonight and visit a few more things tomorrow. 

Here are some of my sketches today:

Sketching at Chinatown

Yesterday our group Urban Sketchers Philadelphia met at Chinatown Philadelphia. I had only driven by before, so it was my first actual visit. Even with the high temperatures it was a great outing. 

We met in front of the China Gate, an emblematic portal of Chinatown. It was a fantastic experience, great smells of the nearby restaurants, people stopping and talking to us, great subjects… 

One guy stopped, asked for my pen and started scribbling Chinese characters on the palm of his hand. He spoke no English, and kept pointing at the gate. I gave him my sketchbook and he wrote the characters on my page. 

Later I found out that it in fact translates to Philadelphia Chinatown. 

Sketching With Watersoluble Ink (Part 2)

Last week I accidentally posted publicly what was supposed to be a draft. It’s no big deal, except it was incomplete, so now I’ll try to finish my line of thought.  

I had named my favorite watersoluble pen, the PaperMate flair. These are some of the pages I sketched a couple months ago while riding the Philly Ducks, an amphibian vehicle tour in Philadelphia. The simple setup allowed me to be very fast and loose, while adding a shading layer to the sketches.

You can also use fountain or brush pens with any soluble ink. Artist Marc Taro Holmes has explored this technique, using colored watersoluble ink for a wonderful effect. Be sure to follow his blog. He is also a great teacher; he’s got a couple of classes on Craftsy, I highly recommend these. 

As a caution, some inks react in very weird ways with water. I got a bottle of DeAtramentis Mahatma Ghandi, a very nice yellow shade I intended to use in a pen brush and create these blurred effects with clear water. To my surprise, the ink turns into a bright neon yellow, pretty much like a book highlighter. Useless. Glad I had tested it out first.  

Anyway, here’s a short video I recorded in my home studio using a PaperMate flair and a waterbrush. This is the typical process I follow when sketching on location with watersoluble ink.  

Sketching With Watersoluble Ink

Waterproof ink is usually the first requirement of anyone doing ink and watercolor sketches. The nightmare of an ink & watercolor sketcher is when you finish all the linework, start coloring and the ink starts to bleed. Happened to me before. However, if used consciously, watersoluble ink is quite interesting, an alternative if you’re looking to minimize your gear and create loose and fast sketches.

One of my favorites is the PaperMate flair pen. My friend Tom Leytham introduced me to these as a sketching tool and it was an a-ha moment; you add a waterbrush and you’ve got multiple lineweights and different shading values while keeping maximum portability. These pens are very cheap and give you variable lines, depending on the angle you draw and the pressure you use on them. When in contact with water, the ink dissolves in a cool grey tone. This is a quick lunchtime sketch I did in Center City Philadelphia:

I’m currently not a huge fan of waterbrushes, but these are perfect for small sketches on the train or when I have an extra-limited time window. I use this setup when on the move, as I did when I sketched from the ferry with a group of USK-NYC sketchers a couple years ago:

Not all watersoluble inks are the same, some have yellowish tones, some purplish, so it’s better to test them out to avoid unexpected results. 

Try this out and let me know what you think.