Monday, August 22, 2016

Grand Haven and Saugatuck

My wife and I took a short trip down to Grand Haven in our boat last week. On the way south, I did this quick sketch of the dunes that are south of White Lake and Whitehall...our boat's home port.

The town of Grand Haven sits next to the Grand River which exits into Lake Michigan through a wide west facing pier head. The town itself is overloaded with tourists throughout the summer months. While there, we stayed at the municipal marina and had a slip that was conveniently located next to an ice cream store (the banana split I had was excellent). There's also a board walk that runs past the marina and heads west along the river bank to the Grand Haven pier. The second day in town, I unloaded my folding bike from the boat and took the board walk all the way to the pier to do some sketching.

The sketch below is of the two lights, pier, and cat walk that makes up Grand Haven's south pier head.

Turning to face north from where I was sitting you take in the view of Grand Haven's north pier and beach houses which dot the dunes and shoreline. The day I was out sketching the clouds were enormous and towered over town and the shore the entire day.

We headed back to Whitehall mid week and on Friday afternoon we drove down to Saugatuck, Michigan to meet a friend for dinner. While my wife wandered through the stores, I sat in a park by the river and enjoyed the afternoon doing this sketch of an old tree that anchors one corner of the park.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hindsight is so very 20-20!
Our little sketch group met at Oak Park Mall to sketch and I've always wanted to draw the carousel.  Never mind that it's so often in motion and never stops in the same place.  The perspective was totally sadistic!  I gamely painted away, then searched for other things to fill the page.  Keeping to the pink and yellow carousel, I found the perfect shoe, the kind I can't walk in but love to see.

That's when hindsight kicked in:  I went up to the floor above to find a perfume bottle and realized that the perfect painting view of the carousel occurs from above - simplified perspective!  And I suddenly realized that the best way to paint the moving object is from the carousel itself!  Seated on a bench or horse! So I need to make another trip, and this time I'm going to ride! Don't say you can't teach an old dog new just takes a little longer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fish Town - Leland, Michigan

While we sat in Leland, Michigan waiting for the wind and Lake Michigan to calm down (I've become a fair weather traveler with the boat), I got out the sketchbook and spent the morning in Fishtown making this sketch. Fishtown is located right next to the marina where our boat was parked and is what used to be a fishing village along the river that runs into Lake Michigan. Today Fishtown, which is about a block long, is inhabited by old buildings and lots of tourists. The buildings host t-shirts shops and the usual collection of tourist trinkets. Fishtown also has a commercial fishing operation and several charter boats that take anglers out to try their luck on Lake Michigan.

Free Boat Wash

My wife and I are out on our boat for a month plus. This sketch was done this past Sunday morning while I was sitting in the cockpit of our boat. It's a look south out of the mouth of the Leland, Michigan harbor as thunderstorm worked its way in from Lake Michigan. If you look between the pier heads you'll see a fishing boat that came roaring in off the lake to out run the storm. Once the rain started it lasted several hours and did a great job of washing off the boat. We stayed in Leland for a couple of days until the wind and Lake Michigan calmed down.

Friday, July 15, 2016


Had the opportunity to attend Urban Sketchers Chicago sketch workshops this past weekend.  Had an amazing time.  Met quite a few fellow Urban Sketchers which was terrific.  Very talented and dedicated folks.  Learned a lot and tried several new techniques and materials that pushed my comfort zone.  Refreshing, energizing and eye-opening all at the same time.  Stopped in Springfield, IL on the way home to see some of the Lincoln sites.  Got in a bit of sketching there too.  All of these sketches are in a Stillman and Birn beta series book. My sketch materials range from pitt pens to pitt big brush markers to a pentel brush pen and koi watercolors.  Quite a variety for me.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hanging Out

This is a sketch I did Sunday afternoon while sitting in the cockpit of my boat. The sketch is of the aft end of a 33 foot Cape Dory that's, for the time being, hanging out in a slip directly behind my boat. I got to meet the new owner of the boat, know the old one, and applaud the new owner's efforts at polishing, cleaning, and re-doing the boat's wood. She's now in great shape and ready to be a part of the new owner's daughter's wedding this summer.

The sketch was done with ink and Prismacolor graded grey scale cool grey markers. Love the effect you get when you start using the pens to provide shadows. Suddenly the flat paper takes on depth and dimension. Fun to work with.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Saturday Morning in St Paul

My favorite way to start a Saturday. Sketching with my Son with good coffee. I am using a very non waterproof and overpowering red ink here with watercolor. 

I am allowing looseness...which is harder than it sounds...yet freeing. 

I am loving this current watercolor setup. I set this up almost two years ago and have been using Jane Blumenthals "ultimate mixing palette" for Daniel Smith. 

- James Nutt

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