sketchbook Archives

Sketch - Young Elk

Sanguine oil pencil sketch of a young elk amidst vegetation.

Look at that vegetation. It's like a coral reef, except on land.

Sanguine oil pencil is my favorite warm-up medium—as well as something I can use on days when I'm too sick to do anything else, but am a bit well enough to do a little art.

In particular, I prefer a chunky 5.6mm sanguine oil charcoal lead in a cheap yet surprisingly comfortable wooden holder.

I'm starting to add dates alongside my signature these days.

For the curious, my signature is four Chinese characters plus my three English name initials (AAJ). The first two characters mean "red-brown", which is a description of the color of sinopia, a red-brown ochre pigment traditionally used as under sketches for frescoes and oil paintings. The last two characters together mean "dinosaur", literally translated as "fearsome dragon".

The dates going forwards are going to be written Japanese-style, e.g. "yearmonthday 日", because any reason to practice kanji is a good reason.

Painting - Magic Shop Storefront

Watercolor painting of a small town magic shop that might exist in a world where magic is real and mainstream

Watercolors, pen, and pencil, from November 2018.

This started from a photograph of a shop, but I decided to alter quite a few details. I started and finished this ink, colored pencil, and watercolor painting around Halloween, so my thoughts were on quaint settings set in a world where magic is quite real—and commoditized.

I didn't feel like, say, sketching an industrial factory pumping out magical goods, and focused instead on imagining and rendering a small shop of hand-crafted magical items. I've fond memories of small town main streets; I'm definitely not a fan of cities.

(During my early twenties I was fascinated by malls, but as I've grown older the din of those places has become far less pleasing.)

Painting - Protection from Fate's Storms

Watercolor painting of a pool surrounded by rocky shores and a storm in the distance

Watercolor pencils, from April 2018.

This started as a value study exercise of rocky shores on a California beach. I added the starfish in a protected pool, and added the dark edges of a far-off storm to the background. The original photograph is quite sunny and cheerful, but at the time of this particular piece I wasn't feeling anywhere nearly so cheery, and this art became a comfort piece for myself.

This was also my first foray into using watercolor pencils, which are quite a different medium from either colored pencils or watercolors. I worked to preserve the rough surf and ever-moving motion of the water, even in the protected pool.

Painting - Jizō (2018)

Watercolor painting of a small Jizō statue

Watercolor pencils in a pocket-sized Pentalic AquaJournal, from July 2018.

My second foray into watercolor pencils, I wanted a little reminder of the protector of children, the Bodhisattva Jizō. My childhood was not a happy one, and the thought of divine protective figures is attractive to me.

I created this piece as a birthday present to myself. The small blue butterfly represents a soul. I added more liveliness to the Jizō statue, so that the stone comes to life in a way difficult to capture with a photograph.

Sketch - Cat Looking Behind

A cat looking behind

And a cat that started from a hastily sketched bean shape. I find that beans can easily become certain animals or torsos for human figures; it’s a great drawing/doodling exercise. We can imagine the volume of a bean, and that develops the form of the subject.

Sketch - Memory of a Parking Lot Bridge in Seattle

Dream tunnel half-remembered

I started this sketch from a single arc and roof shape with a perspective curving the tunnel into the distance. After that I added some dreamlike elements all around it based on nighttime Seattle memories, with physical space not quite matching up (especially inside the tunnel, which curves in the opposite direction from outside the tunnel).

Painting - Flamingo Gazing into Aeons Past


This is an artist trading card sized (3.5" x 2.5") watercolor painting. I was developing my own style, though I wasn't completely aware of this at the time—I desired trying a certain textured effect, and achieved it. I try for whimsy in much of my artwork, and though this is usually more subtle, here the whimsy is explicit. The memory of ancient forests and animals is literally on the mind of this particular flamingo.