April 27, 2019

Speed sketching, 2nd stop, Chinatown, 4/20/2019 (ink and graphite on mixed media paper)

Last Saturday I participated in an event called “Speed Sketching at the Gold Line of the Metro for SketchCrawl 63.” For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, here is how that event went down. First, I will describe the speed sketching part on the Gold Line and then I will fill you in about SketchCrawl 63. A gang of sketchers agreed to meet at the downtown Los Angeles Union Station at the entrance to the Metro’s Gold Line. About 15 of us found ourselves assembled at that very spot at the appointed time. We then looked to the leader of the group to explain what we were going to do first. She said that we were first going to sketch whatever we liked at the “Union Station” Gold Line platform until a train going north came into the station. Then we were to get on that train, hopefully together, and travel along to the next stop she had posted online. (Of course I had no idea about any such online list and was just glad that I had gotten to step one.) She said we were headed for South Pasadena and we would stop along the way to sketch at other Gold Line Metro platforms. She also said that the trains going north would be coming by every 14 to 24 minutes. And now I bet you are getting the idea of the “speedy” part of this speed sketching outing. So, we went upstairs to the downtown platform and all took out our various materials and began sketching a kind of cool downtown LA skyline. Seven minutes later our first train pulled in. (Hey what happened to the 14 to 24 minutes, right?) Anyway, we all quickly stuffed our sketching materials into pockets and bags and got on the train for the next sketching stop—Chinatown. 

As you may have noticed the first sketch you see here is a view from the Chinatown platform of the Metro Gold Line. I didn’t start my story with that first skyline sketch as it was pretty rough and a kind of “warm up” really. (I am never sure how people find my blog and didn’t want anyone to blow off this post because my 7 minute sketch of the LA downtown skyline looked like chicken scratching instead of actual human sketching.)  So, this second sketch was done at the Chinatown platform and our fearless leader let one train go by so those of us who had brought watercolors would have a few more minutes to get down some color. When I packed my bag that morning it seemed like speediness would be important so I brought only dry materials—ink pens, graphite pencils, some colored pencils and my trusty sheet of bubble wrap to sit on should the need arise. I don’t like to do anything wet unless I have more time to let things dry in between my bits of indecision of what to do next. And as I have said before, I hate carrying heavy sloshing things, like water, if I plan to be out sketching for any length of time.

Southwest Museum
Speed sketching, 3rd stop, 4/20/2019 (ink and colored pencil on mixed media paper)

This wasn’t actually the next Gold Line stop after Chinatown. We whizzed past the Lincoln/Cypress and Heritage Square stops, and then got out at the Southwest Museum platform. For this one, I was drawn to a view of some uniquely planted solar panels that covered a hill surrounded by swaths of bright yellow mustard. I was actually intrigued with the symmetry of the panels as they kind of reminded me of rows and rows of grape plant stakes you might see in a new vineyard. I say new vineyard because there are no bright green leaves on vine stems in the beginning, but it reminded me of a newly planted vineyard as the plants are just slender grey cuttings with no visible life. Because of the bright yellow flowers I knew I wanted to use my colored pencils for this one. I rolled out my sheet of bubble wrap on a concrete cube that looked like a giant die that was melting into the concrete platform and sat down to work. The concrete was cold and the bubble wrap provided just the right amount of insulation, with some comic relief as some of the bubbles popped as I moved around. Most of the other sketchers looked up for inspiration while speedily sketching away at this stop. And here is why. Close to where I was sitting was a 13 foot tall white column with a winged creature on top. The column sat atop two dice and the “guardian” on top had an ornate crown and was covered with sparkly mosaics. The arms of this guardian seemed to be pointing in the directions of where we had just came from and where we were headed next, up and down the line. If you are interested, Google art on the Metro Gold Line and you will be treated to all of the Metro art that you can see along this line of public transportation. Thank goodness our leader suggested we let another train go by while we were there. By now, it seemed we had each figured out some kind of routine for packing up in a hurry. And for some that meant carefully carrying around something wet—they were much braver than I.

Highland Park
Speed sketching, 4th stop, 4/20/2019 (ink and graphite on mixed media paper)

This was the next stop after the Southwest Museum, Highland Park. It was here I decided to embrace all the power lines and other man made stuff that you might find at a typical public transportation platform. In fact, I put in as many lines both vertical and horizontal that I could see in the direction we would soon be headed. I can’t remember if we let another train go by or not, but it was actually fun to attempt a speedy sketch of lines going every which way—not at all my comfort zone. We were even treated to the musical stylings of a lone mocking bird. All of this somehow worked for me. But of course, before I could really relax and actually add all the parts I had intended to include for this one, another northbound train came along. We all dutifully packed up and got on. Pretty soon we found ourselves at the next station in South Pasadena.  We all got out and stood next to “The Walking Man” sculpture that towered over us at the South Pasadena platform. Our leader said that this was to be our final stop and we were to make one more speedy sketch here. But with no impending train to catch and most, if not all of us, feeling a might peckish we stopped for lunch with every intention of doing a quick sketch after eating. Once we had finished lunch we gathered again for a “throw down” of all the work we had done that morning while standing nearby the looming “Walking Man” metal sculpture. Then photos were taken and we were to stay and do a final sketch. By then there were only a few sketchers left who did just that. I was ready to go home and bailed. I decided I would come back another time to finish our marathon speed sketching of the north bound Gold Line of the Metro. (In fact, if all goes to plan I will go back tomorrow.) 

Remember I promised to tell you about the other part of our event—the WW SketchCrawl? If you are interested, read on. If not, no worries and good bye for now. Even though I did not sketch our final stop last Saturday, I hope to share the South Pasadena Gold Line Metro Station next time… I don’t know if it still counts as part of the 63rd WW SketchCrawl, but that’s fine with me.

What is the WW Sketch crawl?

According to our fearless leader, and a bit of my sleuthing on the internet, the World Wide Sketchcrawl was started in in 2004 in San Francisco by Enrico Casarosa (storyboard artist and director who works at Pixar). It seems that he and some of his buddies had gotten on an SF N Judah Muni line street car with the intent of going on a pub crawl. (I have ridden on the N Judah. I used to take that streetcar when I worked at the CA Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.) Mr. Casarosa said they had planned to go to 10 pubs/bars, but only made it to 7. But I guess this somehow gave him the idea of a sketch crawl, where the intent was to spend the whole day intensely drawing everything he saw around the city. He said he wanted a nonstop recording of everything within sight. Mr. Casarosa said he took his journal, watercolors and a pencil, and filled it with SF city details. I read about this now world wide phenomenon at sketchcrawl.com. He said he filled his journal with a variety of things, such as: all the coffee he drank and all the different buses he took that first day. He turned that day into a marathon of drawing and has kept this idea alive and well since then. Mr. Casarosa has taken his idea globally and invites groups of people to get together for a marathon day of speedy sketching around his or her city on specified days. And the 63rd Sketchcrawl happened on April 20th, and we were all part of it! I don’t know when the next one will take place, but I may not wait until then to do some speedy sketches. Some of you may want to see what a huge “Walking Man” metal sculpture looks like. Right? Stay tuned…

Happy Birthday dad, April 25. I miss you!


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