Monday, March 12, 2012

A Trip to Como Zoo with MetroSketchers

My opening sketches of the puffins and a couple of penguins
Accordion sketchbook about 6" tall
and each page section about 5 1/4" wide
made with Canson Edition paper, 
Sharpie pen, and Grumbacher watercolors
 On Sunday March 4th, the Twin Cities MetroSketchers met at Como Zoo to sketch.  I went along and brought my new accordion style journal, thinking that I needed to see how well this style of journal works out when actually sketching on location.  The MetroSketchers are a group of sketchers started by Liz Carlson and Tim Jennen, that meets the first Sunday of the month from 12-3 to sketch together in and around the metro area.  If you are in the Twin Cities metro and interested in joining the group you can find them on Facebook at MetroSketchers Group or send an email and ask to be put on the email list for notification of the next event location as it changes from month to month.
Bear and Bison sketches done 
outside their respective enclosures
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor 
 It is a fun group of people to sketch with and I feel fortunate that my schedule finally allowed me to join them on an outing.  I think they had about twenty people show up on Sunday which was the group's one year anniversary.  There was no shortage of people to sketch with and artists of all descriptions to talk with about supplies and sketching which is always fun.
A few sketches of the lion, who was pacing
when we first got to the cat building and 
hard to sketch until she settled down to rest.
 I had a great day with Roz Stendahl and Miss T, the three of us stayed together and sketched in a group as we looped through the zoo enjoying the relatively warm weather and each others company while recording our day with the animals in pen and paint.
Lions, giraffe , and the beginning of the orangutan page
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor
 I have to say I had one of those rare sketching days that does not come along often and it seemed that every drawing I did came out reasonably well.  The lion was by far the most challenging subject because she was agitated when we first got to sketching her, so my first two attempts are just eyes mostly.  Then she settled down and stayed stationary for a while and I was able to finish a sketch of all of her rather than just her eyes.
From the lions we moved to the giraffes and I have to say they are strange to sketch because they are such strange animals when you really get to looking at them.  They are huge and have unusual proportions with the long thin neck and legs but overly large cow type body that is hard to capture on the page.  I did the pen sketch of the entire giraffe at the zoo and added the up close face with watercolor from a photo taken at the zoo after I got home.
Amanda the orangutan 
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor

 Our last sketching stop was to the ape house which was very crowded and busy.  The apes and monkeys seemed to be enjoying the attention and were busy looking at the crowds looking at them.  We found a relatively clear spot to sketch the orangutan who was down the glass from where we stood and sketched.  She seemed to know that we were watching her differently than the other zoo visitors and after a few minutes she came to where we stood at the glass and sat at our feet.  I got down a quick outline of this closer view before having too many children launched in front of me and then I stepped back to paint my sketch.  After finishing our drawings it was time go meet the rest of the sketchers.  Roz had found out that the orangutan's name is Amanda and that she paints, so before leaving we all showed her our work at the glass where she sat.  She looked from one page to the next and signed something to us. Of course not one of us knows sign language so we do not know what she said but we do know that she seemed to understand that we had made drawings and she acknowledged our work.  Whether or not she recognized herself is hard to say.
Chocolate Chocolate Cake from Cafe Latte
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor

 After a brief meeting of many of the sketchers that were at the zoo that day and a discussion about paper and supplies and comparison of pages completed.  Some of us went to a nearby cafe to enjoy some cake in honor of the anniversary and to continue to enjoy each other's company and sketch some more.  I had Chocolate Chocolate cake, which was delicious and of course I sketched my piece of cake before I ate it.  Once I got home I only had one small section of paper left in this small sketchbook so I saw some peeps on the table and added them in as the last spread, completing this entire journal mostly in one day.
Peeps and edging at the end of the book
Canson Edition paper, Sharpie pen, 
Grumbacher watercolor

One additional thing I did as I finished the peeps was to add an outlined edge to the entire journal along with some splashes of color from my paints that went along with the edge and with the sketch on the page.  I got this idea from the first video lesson at the Strathmore Online Workshop on watercolor sketching with artist Cathy Johnson.  I like the effect that the edging and splatter gave the book as a whole, it really helps tie together all the different sketches and unifies the long format as one finished piece of work.
I have only worked previously in this style of journal as an exchange between multiple artists or with my students.  This was the first time I had used an accordion as a stand alone sketch journal.  I found that I liked working along the accordion and it was particularly nice to work in this small size when going out and sketching at a particular location.  The journal itself was made from one single sheet of paper and is roughly 6 inches square when closed.  It was also fillable in an afternoon which was great. I left the photos long and so of redundant so you can see the way each image links to the next creating a long story of the day.
It got me thinking about potentially taking small accordions like this with me when I go to Europe later this year as I know we will be in multiple cities and having a finished journal for each city might be nice.  I could then build a case to hold all of my finished journals once I got home from my trip.


  1. Suzanne, it was great to spend the afternoon sketching with you. I love your idea of taking multiple books like this on your trip to Europe!

    Even if Amanda only wanted our Niji waterbrushes it was a great encounter!

    Congratulations on filling the book in a day!

  2. Beautiful accordion journal spread!

  3. Suzanne, I love what you did at the zoo! I've had problems working with accordian fold books out on location. I can't seem to hold them together well to work across the spreads, and the folds buckle in and out due to the fact that they are not stitched. Clearly you had no problem at all navigating through those issues. Did you use a board to clip down the book and pages, and if not, how did you manage holding the spreads and paints at the same time? Thanks so much for any advice you've got on this issue!