Keeping It Real

For the past three weeks I have unexpectedly been back in Puerto Rico, as my father has been hospitalized and I immediately flew here to be with him. His health status has been delicate, but fortunately he’s responding well to treatment. We hope and expect for his prompt recovery.

A few years ago I had the experience of Mom being very ill and I vividly remember the last moments I spent with her. I sketched her while she weakly talked with me. When she saw my sketch she told me that if my dad would see it he would fall in love again. It was a powerful but sweet moment I will never forget. Soon after I flew back to the mainland she passed. It was the last time I would see her. So I pulled out my iPad and decided to sketch Dad, as I wouldn’t want to miss a similar experience with him. I did not suspect that this time it would be absolutely different.

Dad has been pretty healthy, so this has been a totally unexpected and terrifying experience. Dad wasn’t communicating and I only could hear his body gasping for air. The beautiful moment I had with Mom had turned into a nightmare seeing Dad struggle. He had been pretty much unconscious, so can’t tell if he was hurting or how he was feeling. After some time sketching him I got depressed and questioned myself why would I even want to record this terrible moment. I put my iPad down and have not been able (or willing) to sketch since.

This morning I was having breakfast with two very good friends, Pedro and María. María asked me if I had been sketching and I told her about my experience sketching Dad. Her response was brilliant… Not all drawings have to be pretty, happy or with beautiful colors; it is what keeps them real. And she’s absolutely right. It is my life… the good, the bad, the sublime and the ordinary.

I showed her my sketch and she mentioned that she could see him how tired he looked. I had unconsciously been able to transmit my impression seeing Dad struggle. And recording my experiences is what my sketching journey is about. So I got a wonderful lesson today… Thanks María!

This was my sketch:

Ps. Dad is getting better and we’ve been able to have conversations with him. We hope everything goes back to normal soon. Get well Dad! ❤️

Selma, Me Too

Yesterday I read that actress Selma Blair shared the news that she had been diagnosed with MS, how she had been having symptoms for years and thought it would be just a pinched nerve. It felt so familiar… I was inspired by her courage to share her news with the world, so wanted to say it as well: Selma, me too.

For me it started several years ago with tingling in the fingers, both hands. I remember when I inadvertently dropped my pencil while writing. My hands feel as if I have gloves all the time. I lost precision in any skills requiring my hands and my handwriting suffered greatly. I used to be a musician, playing the keyboards for a long time. I lost dexterity in my hands and pretty much can’t feel the keys anymore. Thus, I haven’t played in a long time. Like Selma I thought it would be a pinched nerve and that it would get better. My feet followed and then my right leg stopped responding as usual. About a year ago I finally went to the doctor and got the devastating news. Primary progressive MS, meaning it is present all the time, that there is no cure and that it should get worse with time.

One of the first things I thought was about my drawing. Yes, I had lost precision, but actually I have been for years pushing myself to sketch with a more spontaneous, looser style. And I actually prefer my sketches now than those done when I had full control. Am I scared that I won’t be able to draw anymore? Of course. The thing is, even if or when my symptoms get worse, I will do everything I can to figure it out. Maybe I’ll need to change mediums, change formats, change style. But I’ll keep making art.

For now I’m understanding what is happening with me, so I’m not mad if I would struggle with cross hatching or pointillism. I like fountain pens but some are very uncomfortable for me to draw with. Eventually, less precise instruments will suit better. Good that I like that idea.

Like Selma, I also fall, drop things and need help doing basic things. And I don’t know how much and how soon the condition will progress. But I still have a lot to contribute to this world. I’ll keep sharing my passion for sketching the world around me. And I love teaching, so will be devoting more energy to do more instructional content and sharing what I know. MS won’t define me, I just happen to have it. So I’m ok.

These are some sketches I did yesterday with USK DFW at Klyde Warren Park.

Mixing grays in watercolor

I love mixed grays. I know it’s easier to just use something like a Neutral Tint, but mixed grays are richer, since they show undertones of the pigments used to create them. Neutral Tint is exactly that… neutral. So if you want to liven up your sketches, spend a few more minutes and mix those grays!

Gray results when the three primary colors, red, yellow and blue, are combined. And, if you mix a primary, let’s say blue, with a secondary, orange, gray comes out as well. This happens because orange has both red and yellow, thus when combined with blue, it results as gray. The most common version of this mixed gray is created with Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. You have probably seen this a thousand times.

Another favorite of mine is actually created by mixing green and red. I have had in my palette a color that I initially hated, Viridian Green. It feels even a little radioactive, stains everything and it seems to contaminate yellows by osmosis… However, I love it when mixed with a red, like a Permanent Alizarin Crimson. Beautiful.

I like the colors to show through, so I won’t mix it up completely in the palette. I want to avoid the gray to look flat. To me, part of the charm of watercolors is seeing the pigments come together on the paper.

You can achieve an infinity of grays by just mixing different pigments, some will be bluish, some reddish, some greenish, some purplish. Play around with variations of gray; which are your favorites?

Nostalgic of Puerto Rico

I have been missing my homeland. I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico but moved to the states five years ago. I don’t regret the move at all, as I’ve met fantastic people and lots of doors have opened. But I miss my hometown –the warmth of the people, the smell of the ocean, the taste of the food, the sound of the coquís.

Today I dug out some previous sketches I had done in Old San Juan, where I used to work and sketched regularly. These sketches were done April 16, 2011, coincidentally the date for Sketchcrawl #31. I had finished teaching a class with my Industrial Design students and decided to sketch the courtyard of the building that houses the School of Fine Arts, Hospital de la Concepción. Some of my students joined me and we had a great time. For these I used a PaperMate flair and Copic markers on a multimedia sketchbook.

Today I really miss Puerto Rico… my family, my friends, my students, my homeland. I hope to visit soon and be able to sketch again the bright blue skies and the incomparable green foliage.

If you like these sketches and want to support my art, prints are available on my Etsy Store.

#tbt, #throwbackthursday, #nostalgia

iPad Sketching on Location

It’s been a long time since my last post. My life has taken some unexpected turns, but my love for sketching remains intact. From now on I intend to post much more regularly, upload more videos to my YouTube channel and much more. I am now living in north Texas, so I’ll be sketching a lot on location as I get to know my new surroundings.

Lately I have been using my iPad a lot for work so I’ve been getting much more comfortable with it, to the point I have been using it a lot for sketching on location. Digital sketching has its challenges, but I’ve gotten to appreciate its numerous advantages.

I can take it anywhere, even to museums where ink or watercolors are not allowed. I can have all the colors that I want. Digital graphite does not smudge and does not need sharpening. I have unlimited pencils, pens, markers, brushes at the top of my finger. And I don’t have to scan afterwards to share online.

For sketching on location I use an app called Tayasui Sketches Pro. Very simple but pretty impressive. The pens, pencils and the watercolor brushes work really good. I have really enjoyed using the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil with this app for sketching on the go. Here are some of my sketches with it.