Drawing With Friends at the Museum

The obvious advantage of drawing museum mounts is that they never move. Disadvantage: I imagine dusting can be onerous.
The advantage of drawing museum mounts: they stand still. Disadvantage: dusting chores.

There’s something special about sketching with friends. Last Saturday my friends Becky and Mitsuno and I met upstairs in the Natural Wonders Gallery at SNOMNH for a morning of companionable sketching. Our little group was a cluster of self-affirming creative expression (“wow, LOVE the way you drew the face on that deer” “nice gesture on the bison”). No dinosaurs here; it’s a roomful of Oklahoma, with a stream, woodlands and prairie. Conveniently available for sketching: bison and blooming wildflowers, a young spike buck, warblers, native fish, a green heron poised to strike.

This is at the Sam Noble, eternally browsing.
Young buck at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, eternally browsing.
Our backyard buck, keeping the lawn tidy.
Our backyard buck, keeping the lawn tidy.

I have been asked by a kind reader to describe the materials and tools I like to use. For this museum trip I only brought along what I could fit in a small shoulder bag:

Moleskine 5×8 sketchbook
Papermate Clearpoint .5 mechanical pencil
Koh-i-noor Rapidomatic .9 mechanical pencil
Niji Waterbrush
Mint tin watercolor kit
, with 12 tube colors squeezed into empty half-pans and allowed to dry. I usually use Winsor Newton colors but lately I’ve been in love with Sennelier and Daniel Smith. My current palette:

  • Ivory Black (Sennelier)
  • Alizarin Crimson (Daniel Smith)
  • Opera Pink (W&N)
  • Quinacridone Red (W&N)
  • Lemon Yellow (Holbein. Don’t use anything with Nickel Titanate)
  • Transparent Yellow (W&N)
  • Raw Sienna(W&N)
  • French Ultramarine (Daniel Smith)
  • Cobalt Violet Hue (Sennelier)
  • Brown Madder (W&N)
  • Phthalo Blue (Sennelier)
  • Phthalo Green (Sennelier)

This is subject to whimsy; I keep extra half-pans filled with optional colors and change them out when I want to shake things up. And, boy, are there ever a lot of great new manufacturers to choose from and shaking going on.

For longer, more ambitious trips:
rapidograph pen, size 0 nib, extra FW waterproof black ink
Sharpie Ultra-fine black felt pens
Brushes: #2 and #3 Isabey series 6234 Petit Gris; W&N 3/4″ Series 680 flat watercolor brush; Richeson Steve Quiller Series 7000 rounds #5 and #8, a couple of cheap large rounds
Pencils: Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth Triograph Series 1830 #6 (a.k.a. “Fatboys); Woodless pencils #2, #4, #6; a graphite stick for broad swaths of gray
sharpener: Helix 2-hole (it’s the only one I’ve found that’s big enough for a Fatboy)
Sketchbooks: the hardbound ones they sell cheap at Borders are great, nice paper, perfect for just messing around and sloppy gesture sketches; Robert Bateman spiral bound 8 1/2″x 11″ for field work (carried by Daniel Smith); Moleskine 5×8 sketchbook for sketch-journaling. Moleskine watercolor sketchbooks are really nice, too, but the regular sketchbooks work fine for informal watercolor sketches. At least, I think so.
Watercolor Travel Box: Daniel Smith makes a great enameled tin folding box. It’s empty; you buy the plastic pan inserts and fill them with your own colors. I use this box on longer trips and in the studio.
Watercolor papers: I buy full sheets of watercolor paper and cut them down for travel; they are taped to a clipboard for painting. My favorites: Arches 140lb. cold press, Lana 140lb hot press; Fabriano 140lb soft press extra white; Arches 140lb rough press.
Drawing papers: I keep a folder of loose sheets, which are taped to a larger piece of masonite for drawing. My favorite drawing papers: Rives BFK Heavy in Cream, Tan or Gray; Fabriano Ingres lightweight in various colors.
Paper towels: I even have a favorite paper towel: Viva
and of course you’ll need a folding chair or stool: Woodland Folding Camo Camp Stool is the best I’ve ever found, and stood up to the rigors of the Amazon. Big advantage: doesn’t sink in the mud.
Field Easel: I’m using a Winsor Newton Giant Meadow Sketching Easel, a wonderful bit of almost nautical engineering, oak and brass. Not sure if it’s available anymore but you might look around.

A green heron poised over a plexiglass pond, about to strike the urethane fish.
Green heron poised over a plexiglass pond, about to strike urethaned fish.

After drawing the Natural Wonders, we ambled to the next gallery over: the Native America collection.

There's a wealth of art and artifacts on display at the Sam Noble, beautiful to see and to sketch.
Art and artifacts on display at the Sam Noble

A very satisfying morning with good friends over sketchbooks, followed by lunch and lively discussion of all the future sketching trips we must take one of these days: Japan, Italy, Paris, Oklahoma. The SNOMNH is a safe bet for a return trip. For anyone who would enjoy an evening of drawing at the museum, I’ll be giving a quick workshop, “Sketching Oklahoma’s Natural Wonders” Thursday, April 23, from 7 to 8:30 pm at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. There’s more information about it if you click here and scroll down. I’d love it if you’d come join me for more good company and museum sketching!

10 thoughts on “Drawing With Friends at the Museum

  1. inconvenientbody says:

    How do you feel about animals in fine art? As an exercise for my blog (inconvenientbody.wordpress.com) I did a little research and found that their appearances prove rare.

  2. Pam says:

    Thank you! And thanks to your kind reader too. They read my mind šŸ™‚
    I’m sorry that SC is so far away from OK. I’d love to attend the museum for sketching.

  3. Ken Januski says:

    I must say that when I started reading this post I didn’t expect that I’d find the most exciting part to be the list of supplies, and even a camping stool! But I forgot how interesting it is to see what tools other artists are using and to see mention of ones you’ve never heard of before. For artists I think tools are like magic. Just their very mention gets you dreaming of all sorts of possibilities, which may or may not ever come to fruition.

    I do remember being struck by what seemed to be a new, more vibrant palette in some of your New England watercolors. Now I wonder: did Opera Pink play a small part? I ssem to recall an unusual pink. Wasn’t there an unusual olive green as well? So now I’m tempted to go shopping for new colors and then see what affect that might have in my own work.

    We did just buy 3-legged camp stools from LLBean a couple years ago and they’re pretty good but I have to say these are cheaper and it has me thinking…………

  4. Ken Januski says:

    Now that I wrote the comment above my curiosity got the better of me and I had to go back and look through your New England sketchbooks. It’s actually more than anything else a painting called, I think, ‘Burial Ground’, that has a striking pink and green combination. But the green is more frost green than olive. And of course what makes these works so vibrant is not just the color but your great use of light and dark.

    This was a great excuse to go back and take another look at them.

  5. zeladoniac says:

    Thanks for the comments- Ken, I’m trying to remember what I mixed up those greens with, but the components were lemon yellow, transparent yellow, ultramarine; I know that Ivory black with the yellows make a wonderful spring green. There might have been an Ultramarine/cadmium orange mix someplace…I’ll have to look my mixes up for you. Thanks, Amie, for the source for the easel. Opera pink, by the way, is a great over-glaze for adding vibrancy to reds and it just shocks the painting nicely.

    See you at the museum, Becky!

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