Week 2 influenced by Steve Mumford

I encourage you to try this challenge, at least for a week or two.  My daily sketches may not reflect the growth I am experiencing already by working everyday for a week influenced by one artist.  The first two days of each of the two weeks have felt more awkward than expected.  By the third day I am more comfortable  and I begin to have an awareness that I am only seeing the artist’s work superficially.  By the fourth day I am asking myself questions and studying the artist’s work more carefully, seeking out specific ways in which the artist has handled situations. The fifth day I feel myself responding to my reference photo or live environment with a slightly enhanced perspective, noticing different details that I can take advantage of.  By the sixth day I am organizing my sketch differently from the beginning.  The seventh day is the icing on the cake.  I have acquired another way of seeing the world. I have learned a new way to handle one or more of my tools and I may have added a new technique to my skillset.

January 8-14, 2018 – Week Two influenced by Steve Mumford

Around the time I was introduced to the work of Marc Taro Holmes (you MUST check him out) I came across the work of Steve Mumford and immediately ordered his book Baghdad Journal: An Artist In Occupied Iraq by Steve Mumford. What strikes me is his bold use of black ink and strong contrasts of values.  I was curious as to how he created such strong, complex illustrations in a war zone.  He is an artist who makes no excuses.  I found a photo of him standing among the troops holding his sketchbook and bottle of ink, drawing with a dip pen.


Day One: January 8, 2018 – Gare de L’Est, Paris, France

Only the second week into the year and I was already questioning my plan to start each day with a dala influenced by the artist of the week.  Having created dalas both in and out of the studio, using simple objects as subjects as well as bustling cafés and streets, I was perplexed by the difficulty I had with this dala.  I realize now that it’s because Steve’s work is so much about storytelling.  The focus when creating dalas has been, for the most part, design and movement.  The objects I work with are simply shapes I play with. I’ve enjoyed when, by chance, I’ve told a story in a dala.  It hasn’t been my intention; definitely something for me to ponder. I think I might like bringing more story into the dala art.

Gare de L’Est Dala – ink and watercolor

Dala, reference photo and illustration of influence

detail of illustration in Baghdad Journal: An Artist In Occupied Iraq

Illustration by Steve Mumford

Photo shot at Gare L’Est, Paris, France in May 2015


Day Two: January 9, 2018 – Lisa and Linda sketching in Car Studio, Hoopers Island, Maryland, USA

Each day I’m surprised by what I’m forced to see about myself.  I love sketching people, yet, when I look for photos to work from I find very few of my photos have people in them.  I’m usually focused on puzzling together the shapes of buildings, sky, trees, sidewalks and roads.  The only photos with people are the ones where I can make use of the spot of color that a person’s clothing will offer to the puzzle, or the way the direction of arms and legs will lead into the puzzle.  Once again, it’s about design and not about story.  What I find so odd is that I’m intrigued by people’s stories and I listen to them with total interest and attention.  I journal about the stories I hear and I piece these stories into films and novels yet unwritten.  Why don’t I tell stories in my paintings?  good question.

Hoopers Island, Lisa and Linda sketching from the Car Studio – ink

My sketch and an illustration by Steve Mumford

Strengthening the value shapes (center image) brings focus to Linda and Lisa by combining the values and textures around them into one value shape in contrast with the figures.

Sasha Tikhomirov and Daniel Mihailescu, photojournalists – Illustration by Steve Mumford

Lisa and Linda sketching en plein air from car studio, Hoopers Island, MD, USA


 Day Three: January 10, 2018 – London Underground,

Temple Station, London, UK

Ink and Watercolor sketch (from photograph shown below)

Stage one – pencil sketch blocking in shapes

Stage two – inking in shapes

Stage three – ink and watercolor washes building value 

Stage four – defining stronger value shapes

Street sweepers in Baghdad – Illustration by Steve Mumford

London Underground, Temple Station, London, UK


Day Four: January 11, 2018

An Unfortunate Young Cyclist, London, UK

As I sipped my morning espresso a crowd gathered to witness the fate of the young cyclist who was being issued a ticket of some sort for having done something that warranted him being pulled to the side of the street by two police officers.

Stage one – ink line drawing sketched with Carbon ink fountain pen.

Comparison of the illustration by S. Mumford that influenced by sketch.

Iraqis passing the time in the heat of the afternoon – Illustration by Steve Mumford, Baghdad

Young cyclist being ticketed for violation, across from Borough Market, London, UK



Day Five: January 12, 2018 – Scout’s Coffee Bar

High Bridge, NJ, USA

With a packed schedule for my day, I miscalculated my first appointment and left half an hour earlier than necessary.  I stopped at my favorite coffee shop to readjust my timing.  I had decided to travel extra light since I would be heading straight back to my studio after my first appointment, I had only a very small sketchbook and a fountain pen filled with red ink. As I sketched, I kept in mind the illustrations I’d been studying in Steve Mumford’s Baghdad Journal.

pencil and ink line sketch

I added the value washes when I returned to me studio.

Scout’s Coffee Bar and Mercantile, High Bridge, NJ USA

(Nicole and Adam sitting at the counter)


Day Six: January 13, 2018 – Over Sixty Fashion Show

Sebastopol Center For The Arts, Sebastopol, CA, USA

The evening before my workshop began in Sebastopol, earlier this year, I stopped in at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts to pick up the key to the studio door.  I arrived in time to enjoy the fundraising event Over Sixty Fashion Show. All of the models were over the age of sixty.  The modeled clothing and accessories that came out of they own closets and drawers!  It was delightfully entertaining.  The main figure in my sketch is a woman who designs hats.

Ink and watercolor 

I ran into major issues with this sketch.  to begin with, I had too much empty space above her head.  I decided to cut it down an cut it down too far.  The shape above the crowd and the woman was awkward.  I had to add more people to the crowd.  That brought the line of the crowd too close to the same level as the woman’s head and it looked like a giant ‘T” on the paper.  I added figures in the foreground.  Still a problem around her head.  I added th suggestion of other figures coming forward from the back entrance to break up the top of the “T”.  This caused the viewer’s eye to shoot out the top of the sketch.  I added a hat with a huge brim that flopped down at the sides to direct the viewer’s eye back into the sketch.

Stage one – ink line drawing drawn with Desiderata Fountain Dip Pen 

Stage two – washes of ink to define value shapes.

Stage three – defining a broader range of value shapes 

Detail of crowd on the right 

Detail of crowd on the left. 

 Detail of woman’s head and hat.

Traffic jam in Russafi Square, Baghdad – Illustration by Steve Mumford

This is the illustration I originally based my influence on.  I was looking at the way Steve handled the figures and the simple lines defining the other objects in the scene.  

Photo of woman modeling her clothing and hat.


Day Seven: January 14, 2018 – Nicole and ladies walking to her wedding

May 16, 2016, Philadelphia, PA, USA

My daughter, Nicole, was married in Philadelphia in May of 2016.  Her twin sister, Alexis, rented an airbnb about five blocks away where the ladies all dressed and had make-up and hair done and where Nicole’s step-mother and I created the bridal bouquet and the bride’s maids bouquets.  When the time came to head over to the venue, we put on our sneakers, stashed our heels in the big canvas bags and headed out onto the street to walk the five blocks.  I love that Nicole refused to call a limo or taxi for a five-block walk.  It was quite a parade.  The street musicians loved our parade.

Ink and Watercolor

Stage one – loose pencil sketch blocking in shapes.

Stage two – ink line drawing defining object shapes.

Stage three – value washes blocking in value shapes.

Stage four – developing value shapes

Comparing completed sketch to various works by Steve Mumford.

Booksellers on Mutanebi Street, Baghdad. Illustration by Steve Mumford.

Comparing completed sketch to various works by Steve Mumford.

Looking towards Firdos Square, Baghdad. Illustration by Steve Mumford.

Nicole and ladies walking to her wedding, Philadelphia, PA. USA – May 16, 2016

So ends week two of the 2018 Year of Influence Daily Sketchers Challenge!

For more information about our Daily Sketchers group, or upcoming workshops,

please contact me at chris@chriscarterart.com