How I Record The Sketch Process


I am receiving many questions on how I record my sketches. I can't reply to all, so it's simpler to just write about it, here. No, I don't hold the camera with one hand. It sits on a Manfrotto tripod. I will do another article on how I work with this camera support. For now, I am talking about the camera and recording process. I use the Fujifilm X-Pro2. While I like prime lenses, I use a zoom lens here, the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS. Why a zoom lens? I need to zoom to adjust to the paper size (I know, I could just adjust the tripod legs and just use my either 23mm or 35mm if I really wanted to). The white balance is really important here, since all I do has a white background.

The manual control is really simple, since the white piece of paper is always in front of me, but any change in light color is visible immediately. During a sketch of just one hour, I need to adjust the manual WB several times, depending on the changes in the natural light. I moved away from artificial light. Even if more consistent in color, artificial light is not as contrasty and pleasant. I do like the FN button next to the shutter - it's customized to be the video button, so I can take video or photo without changing any settings.

I record the videos in 20 second up to 300 second clips. I rarely need to go over this limit. After all, I only need 2-3 clips of under 60 seconds from each sketch, for my social media. I never to timelapses - I think it's boring to watch. Besides, I rotate the paper too many times, so it would be a mess in a timelapse. I focus manually, once at the begining of the video, and leave it there.

X-Pro2 Pros:
- manual control on dials, visible without looking at the screen (screen being away from me while on the overhead tripod)
- compact size, simple shape (main reason why I abandoned Nikon)
- precise autofocus (manual focus on a hard dial), even on white sheet of paper.

- No 4k yet (there was no 4k on Fujifilm when I purchased this camera in 2016)
- no flip screen (so I can't see what I record without getting up every 20 seconds...)
- no 3.5mm jack, as I record sound... I use a 2.5mm adapter at all times, and the camera has a hard time recognizing the microphone. I missed the sound many times, when the camera decided to use the internal microphone instead...

What about the sound? I use a simple Rode compact microphone. Rode VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Microphone by the full name. One trick - I lay the microphone on the table, so it catches the sound and vibration a little stronger than an aerial one, located at the same distance - under 24" away. A simple way to get strong sound, while overpowering the background noise.

sound recording rode mic

Video Editing - I use Final Cut Pro, on a MacBook Pro 2016 Touchbar. I do little editing, except for some desaturation, bump up the highlights and lower the shadows. The goal is to get the white paper as white as possible, in a nicely contrasted video. I've stopped adding sound in the past few months, so I rely solely on the scratch sounds produced by the microphone. My videos are a simple collection of a few clips, in a 30-60 second long video for Instagram, or longer for youtube.

final cut pro video sketch

Photo Editing - Lightroom is really the way to go. I've been using it ever since Apple abandoned Aperture. I almost always maximize highlights and whites, just enough so the images do now look "burned". I lower the saturation halfway and increase the contrast. I almost always get the white balance wrong, so I adjust the color temperature to compensate. Sometimes I add a little, but just a little dark vignette. I am dealing with a white background, so any imperfection count. I do need to brush the image a little, to eliminate dark spots or dust from the lens. I usually don't need more than 3-5 images per sketch, so editing them is the easier part when compared to video editing. I never apply preset filters. All adjustments are on case by case. 

Screenshot 2018-03-04 10.32.58.png

I got the LAMY aion

I've been sketching with LAMY fountain pens for a few years now. I've tried several types before receiving the aion. I was impressed! It's a precisely engineered instrument, with the right feel in the body, but a completely new experience in nib, sound, and expression! Super smooth nib on both sides. I like the simplicity of the two ends - the designer decided to do nothing, but leave this as simple as possible - no trim, no rim, no edge - just a simple, smooth end. LAMY calls the finish "brilliant silk-matt anodic coating" which I like. It should hold itself well. Timeless.


Finish - brushed aluminum, simple and straightforward, no gimmicky ordination or colors. 
Weight - we all have different uses for it, but somehow feels better balanced than the Scala. Definitely heavier than the plastic Safari, so this is a plus.
Line weight - the M seems a little heavier than I am used to seeing. It works well in covering larger areas when it comes to solid black fill. Sometimes it helps with shading. I do like to use the fountain pens 180 degrees, for a much lighter line weight. This is smooth on both sides!
The Nib - this is where I see a difference from all other nibs. It is smooth on both sides and makes a distinctive sound. I need to continue listening to this, try it on different surfaces with different microphones, but I do like this better than any other sounds. Additionally, this is rounder than usual. This might influence the quality and feel of my work, but I can only tell better after I do over a dozen sketches. I will likely use it for writing, but writing is probably just under 1/4 of my uses. 

One thing I noticed - the finish, "brilliant silk-matt anodic coating" does get stained a little when dipped into the ink bottle. I expect this to blend in, once the pen gets a little greasy. Thanks Lamy, thanks Franziska and Jessica from Meiré und Meiré!

The Secret Sketchers at SFMOMA


I am part of a group of architects and artists presenting their work at SFMOMA. Register with the AIASF here. While there are numerous "series" of sketches that I can present, I decided to do a series of sketches that specifically explore the "Secret City" theme of this year's Architecture and the City festival - a series of quick street vignettes exploring the less visited parts of the city. All done in fountain pen, black in, Strathmore paper. Come for the show!


Sketchy Tuesday with the AIA San Francisco

Samples from past urban skething events.

Samples from past urban skething events.

The Architecture and the City Festival with the American Institute of Architects, San Francisco, is happening though the month of September 2017 - just like it does, every year. Here's the AIASF description of the event "Presented by AIA San Francisco and the Center for Architecture + Design, the annual Architecture + the City festival is one of the nation's largest and longest running architectural and design festivals. Taking place in San Francisco every September, the month-long celebration features behind the scenes, walking and home tours, films, exhibitions, lectures and more that address varying aspects of the design, planning and building process. Over 40 programs throughout the month provide an excellent opportunity for participants to engage with the local architecture community and experience design in a myriad of ways throughout the city."

I've been participating every year. This year, I am involved with organizing and running some of the programs.

  • Some of my work is exhibited in the AIA SF main exhibition space. I had a little preview here, in a previous post.
  • I will be doing a talk at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA) about my sketches, with a group of of other artists from the Bay Area.
  • I will be involved in Sketchy Tuesday, together with the good people at Arterra. This is series of 4 lunch time sketch session - just simple urban sketching with like minded architects, design professionals or artists. Register here to participate on session ONE. The remaining sessions - two, three and four, to be listed with the AIASF Calendar. Basically, every Tuesday at noon. Full calendar here.

Exhibition with the AIA SF - a little preview...

Dan Hogman Exhibition with the American Institute of Architects, San Francisco

Dan Hogman Exhibition with the American Institute of Architects, San Francisco

Here is a preview of two exhibits happening with the American Institute of Architects, San Francisco - AIASF, running during the Architecture and the City festival and through November 2017 --- "Through his latest series, "Secret City - Elements", Dan takes the approach of the street photographer to explore the less travelled parts of San Francisco - back alleys - with parts and pieces that don't necessarily have a visual appeal, but are critical "elements" in making the city work. This is a series of 20 urban vignettes, each of them done as a quick, 15-minute on-location or studio work. Dan purposefully omits details, textures and shadows, in order to focus on the quality of the linework, done with simple fountain pens and black ink"

Lamy Imporium in Black and Gold

Although I am not a big fan of high-end luxury products and never owned anything that contains gold, I need to say that the Lamy Imporium in Black and Gold is a special product... I've used the Lamy Safari for many years, the white one is my favorite one so far, and I never felt the need to upgrade, until I was offered the opportunity to try one.

It's definitely a very well crafted writing instrument. Probably one of the better ones I've even handled. Well crafted finish in metal, black, with gold (yes, 14k gold!) accents - the nib, cap clip and the ring at the end of the barrel. The cap is threaded, a new to me, and the LAMY logo is in engrave just once, on the golden clip. This is the titanium version, designed by Marco Bellini. It also comes in all black or titanium finish.

It offers an extremely smooth writing. A little heavier than the usual pen, so this might be a negative to some. To me, the weight gives it a solid feel. Again, this is an extremely high-quality instrument, all metal, super cool and sleek. I almost feel bad for using it to draw, but I am gentle. Thanks, Lamy!


Paris Travel Notes

Paris in inspirational... a good listener. I am spending a good amount of time here doing plenty of sketches. A total of 50. I am not keeping them all. 12 are commissioned by a private collector. Another 10 are giveaways to my Instagram followers. The folks that seem to REALLY love them, get them. Out of the remaining ones, I am keeping some, I am selling as requested. Feel free to email me and tell me which one you're interested in.

Here are sketches 1-5 -