Urban Sketchers at the Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival

Pencil drawing of lantern and koi kiteSouth Bay Urban Sketchers at Memorial Park

Last weekend the South Bay Urban Sketchers went to the 33rd Annual Cherry Blossom Festival at Memorial Park in Cupertino, California. It's the park across the street from De Anza College.

I recommend Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival for the whole family. There is plenty to see and do. I got to see demonstrations of martial arts, fencing, and Japanese embroidery. I watched performances on Japanese ceremonial drums and koto instruments. There were exhibits on bonsai trees, Ikebana flower arranging, swords, and Japanese dolls. There were art and craft activities like origami and calligraphy.

But I didn’t get to see everything at the festival. Maybe next year I’ll have time to see the Hula dancers, Kyudo (Japanese style Archery), tea ceremony, and the student art exhibition. You can see last year Cherry Blossom Festival highlights.

History of the Cherry Blossom Festival

The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates spring and Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington, D.C., in 1912. Around 100 of those trees are still alive. The festival happens across the country as reminder of the friendship between the United States and Japan.

In 1983, Cupertino’s sister city of Toyokawa gave 200 cherry trees as a gift. They are planted in Memorial Park.

Cherry Trees from My Childhood

I have two childhood memories that involve cherry trees. When I was a kid, our backyard had a cherry tree. Every spring, it would bloom. The wind would scatter the petals across the yard. Since the branches were too close together to climb, most of the cherries were eaten by the birds and ants. By summer, we ate (more like gobbled up) the precious few handfuls of cherries that were found.

The other childhood memory was when my mother would read to us Once Under the Cherry Blossom Tree: an Old Japanese Tale retold by Allen Say. It's a story about a mean landlord who swallowed a cherry pit and a cherry tree grows out of the top of his head.

Warm-up: Hard-line, Soft-line, Gesture Drawing

Start Sketching and Drawing Now book coverAre you a hard-line or soft-line artist? Grant Fuller author of Start Sketching and Drawing Now: Simple Techniques for Drawing Landscapes, People, and Objects writes that artists fall into one category or the other. For me, it is easier to draw hard-line subjects that have geometric shapes like buildings instead of soft-line subjects like people.

He uses pencil drawings in the first six chapters. The last chapter he has demonstrations in other mediums like ink, charcoal, pastels, and mix media.

There is an entire chapter on gesture drawing. Gesture drawings are a combination of drawing quickly and relying on memory because your subject is most likely to move before your sketch is done. It’s much easier to draw someone who is motionless like a sleeping animal than a moving subject like a toddler.

To warm up, I drew the toy windmills on the vendor’s tent.

Toy Windmills above a vendor's tent

Exercise 1: Sketching Movement

Mastering Sketching book coverMastering Sketching: A Complete Course in 40 Lessons by Judy Martin gives an overall how-to-sketch. There are several examples and step-by-step demonstrations done by different artists. I like the lesson format. I found the lessons on Sketching Movement and How to Sketch Special Events and Locations very helpful at the Cherry Blossom Festival.

In the Sketching Movement lesson, there are 3 types of movement in gesture drawings: simple motions like a still pose, everything in motion like a crowd, and repetitive patterns like dancer stretching.

Performer sitting and waiting to go on stage done in color pencil

I chose to do a still pose of performer waiting for her time to go onstage.

Exercise 2: Sketching People

Sketching People book coverSketching People: Life Drawing Basics by Jeff Mellem teaches gesture drawing by capturing a pose with as few lines as possible. An artist needs to be more concerned with capturing the action than drawing the figure. Simple lines are drawn lightly then build upon a framework with a combination of spheres, boxes, and cylinders to create volume of the figure.

He also gives techniques on improving your observation and memory skills.

When drawing people in real settings, either develop the setting first then draw the individual people later or draw the figure first then develop the setting around the figure.

Gesture drawing of Japanese ceremonial drummer in color pencil

Since the outdoor ceremonial drums concert was 40 minutes long, I thought I could draw the setting first then the figure, but the musicians kept moving the drums around the stage for each song. So, I looked for a repetitive motion like the drummer's stance.

Bonus: Get More Tips from Drawing Magazine

Drawing Magazine, Spring 2014 issue has a feature article, “The Action’s the Thing” written by Austin R. Williams.

The artist, Patricia Hannaway, talks about how she does gesture drawing of people in motion. With your library card it's easy to download the e-magazine from Zinio.

Blog Category
Adult Nonfiction

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