On the Solstice

I might prefer sun, but it seems right for the solstice to be overcast and cold. I headed out with my sketchbook this afternoon when the temperatures climbed into the 20s to capture a glimpse of the shortest day. This old sugar maple, overlooking fields and evergreens, has seen its share of turns around the sun. It’s limbs stretched outward and upward from the frozen ground. Stark, against gray skies, it yet possessed a warmth about it that was inviting on this winter day. A solstice tree.


Tips and Techniques– If you prefer sketching plein air, but find temperatures in the teens and twenties a tad cold, you might try sketching in the car. I made this drawing from the comfort of my front seat, parked on the side of the road. Not ideal, but not bad either.

12 thoughts on “On the Solstice

  1. Jean,
    Thank you for the “Shortest Day” and for all the days you have shared with us who follow along. Your art, (I was going to say art work but then thought isn’t it art joy?) is always a much appreciated gift. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

  2. Every sketch you post is an inspiration. After seeing this sketch I went digging for a Micron 005 to see how thin it was relative to my EF nibs. A loose assessment suggests they are similar. You seem to have a better guidance system than I have 🙂

    You’re right about drawing from the car. Here it’s rarely “in the twenties” during winter. More often than not it’s around 0F and often colder. We don’t draw outside 🙂 But we do draw in cars when we get a chance. It’s particularly fun to go out with someone else, stopping to draw, stopping for coffee, and sometimes getting lunch together.

    • Hi Larry- I tend to smear with fountain pens or I can’t get permanent ink or a fine enough line. I find Microns to be very reliable, though the line quality is not as varied. I like the idea of the sketch/coffee/lunch drive, but I rarely do good sketching with others and I like the solitude of sketching alone. i found it interesting to compare car sketching with outdoor cold weather sketching. The car is warmer, but less intimate, yet still a good option over nothing! I’ve enjoyed seeing your sketches over the years and I’m glad you are still out there championing the cause! Merry Christmas and keep at it!

      • I’m the king of smearing. So much so that I can’t draw with graphite unless I want a gray sheet of paper. But smearing with ink isn’t a problem for me if I stick with fine nibs and DeAtramentis Document inks. These dry quicker than the Platinum Carbon ink I used to use. That said, there is much to favor the Micron, except for two things. The darn things wear out too quickly, particularly the fine ones. The other thing is that we’ve got a big disposable pen problem covering the Earth 🙂

        I agree that solitude is the way to sketch but I also enjoy the social side of sketching. I guess it comes from urban sketcher influence. What I wish is that I could do more sketching outside urban landscapes but logistics prevent it most of the time so going with someone in a car is often the best I can do. Merry Christmas.

      • DeAtramentis Document inks changed the world for fountain pen sketchers. Before they came along we were stuck with Platinum Carbon ink which was ok but it came in only one color, a shiny jet black. It also had the annoying feature of drying very slowly when it was anything cooler than room temperature, which is often on the streets of Quebec.
        Give DeAtramentis Document inks a try. They come in 8-10 colors. My favorites are black and brown which I often mix together to produce a dark brown. You can also buy pint bottles of “ink” with no pigment in it so you can dilute whatever you mix. I use this to produce dark gray ink and this really makes them cheaper because the pint bottle of the dilution is the same price as a 35ml bottle of their inks. This ink dries very quickly and with a nice matte finish similar to Micron ink.

        That said, it’s a lot of fun to draw with 01 and 005 Micron pens. I’m not nearly as adept with them as you are but I love drawing small, delicate doodles with them.

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