Thursday, 29 May 2008

Works in Progress

Hi all! We returned from Vancouver late last night and had a very nice time. I figured I ought to post something at long last so here's a photo of my travel kit along with the new sketchbook. Most of the drawing I did was from the terrace of our hotel room - from the 24th floor we had stunning views of the snow-capped mountains and of English Bay. We got out of the city on a couple of days and into the mountains, including a drive to Whistler where we did some black bear watching in the meadows below the ski runs. Sketching on the go during these trips was tough with rain clouds threatening and with wife, in-laws, and aunt in tow. I took many photos, though, and look forward to working with these as references. Finally, after some trepidation, I took a deep breath and began working in the new sketchbook. I'm hoping to get it into the mail and off to Lorraine on Saturday.

By the way, this is the "light duty" set I carry when we travel by air, which is why it doesn't look like it has gotten too much use and abuse. The pastel pencils are antiques and are packed in a cardboard box that doesn't panic the security people at the the airport x-ray machine in the way that my large tin boxed set does. These little boxes of Conté carres (a hard pastel) are a perfect size for slipping in a pocket and don't create a whole lot of dust. The box at bottom is a standard landscape assortment, the other is a mix of colors I find useful to have along for the ride. Also posing for the photo is a pad of my favorite Magnani Velata paper (actually, I like the handmade variety even more), my eraser, and some stumps and paper towel for rubbing and blending. Now back to work on my sketches!


Lindsay said...

Brian, I sent my baby off to you yesterday and I hope it arrives safely!
Thanks for your talk about the conte crayons. I've been thinking about getting a set and wondered how they are different from "nu pastels". They look perfect for traveling.

Welcome back.

Brian McGurgan said...

Looking forward to getting the sketchbook, Lindsay - how exciting!

Let me know if you have any questions or need info on Conté crayons. I've done a lot of research on them and can point you to resources (my friend Jean and I have compiled lots of info here:

Lor Lor said...

Brian, is there enough "tooth" in the moly pages?
After looking at Casey's blogs I've decided to have a go with pastels so I bought some the other day but all the pastel paper available was textured so I was just wondering if pastels worked in a moly. I like the idea of the conte carres, this is something else I will have to try.

Lindsay said...

lor lor, you can buy a clear gesso that adds a tooth to any surface. I've used it for oil pastels but I like a smooth surface for my work in oilies. It might work for dry pastels.

Lindsay said...

Brian, I just visited your conte site and its really a great site. You have put so much work into it and it really does convince me I need to get a landscape set and try it out. Thanks for the labor of love!

Brian McGurgan said...

lor lor, I use a range of papers with Conté from the "woven" molded handmades like the Velata paper from Magnani to laid Ingres-style drawing paper to sanded papers. My preference is strongly for the less abrasive papers, and I especially like woven-textured paper. These typically feel smoother than laid paper and have less tooth than papers like Canson's Mi-Tienes, but have subtle texture that works nicely with Conté and with soft pastel (I've been working with soft pastels more and more recently, often over Conté "dry washes"). The Moleskine pages are smoother than any paper I would typically use but I like the way the Conté blends and rubs on this paper to form smooth washes of color. Normally I would build up color over the dry washes by layering and blending over them and that has been more of a challenge on this smooth paper but it hasn't worked out too badly so far. I haven't tried soft pastels yet in the book, partly out of concern that the soft pastel particles might not adhere as well and you'll open my book to a cloud of colored dust. I'm thinking to give it a try, though, and might use just a touch of fixative to keep the soft pastel from becoming too messy (I usually don't use fixative).

The toughest challenge with Conté carres is availability - they are only sold in sets (of up to 48 colors) in the US and in most other places. You can buy individual colors in France and Belgium and another 22 colors are available there. I've accumulated a large stash by stocking up during our last visit to Europe and by having my wife's cousin in Germany help by receiving orders I've placed through a European vendor. One of the reasons I've started using soft pastel is to have easier access to a much wider range of rich colors that I can purchase locally as I need them.

Casey Klahn said...

Lor, Lor, I did a pastel in my bigger Moley one time in Utah, and it turned out to my liking.

Do use some workable fixative between layers. You're right to ask the question, though. The pages are smooth.

Lor Lor said...

Thanks Guys for the information on pastels in a moly. By the way thats a great conte site. I'm sure I'll be referring to it often.
Brian you're right about the availability of Conte carres, most of the art shops I visit tend to stock soft pastels, but I'll keep looking. Cheers