Lori Sokoluk Art

This week I’m out and about at the Vancouver International Jazz Fest. I love the music, and my husband and many friends are jazz musicians, so it is a big part of my summer. Continuing this blog's recent drawing theme, here are some of my sketches from jazz fest, current and past.


My current Top 10 jazz favourites:

  1. John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” (this is my go-to album when I need to get things moving in the studio)
  2. Freddy Hubbard’s solo on ‘Skylark’ with Art Blakey and the Messangers
  3. Sonny Rollins “Way Out West”
  4. Peggy Lee’s “Film in Music”  (disclaimer - my husband, Kevin Elaschuk, plays on this album, but that’s not the only reason I love it)
  5. Robin Holcomb “The Point Of It All”
  6. Paul Motion “In The Year of the Dragon”
  7. Bill Frisell Quartet “Tales From The Far Side”
  8. Herbie Hancock “Speak Like a Child”
  9. Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly “Smokin’ At The Half Note”
  10. Thelonious Monk - just about anything

If you like music, I encourage you to get out an hear live music al year round. Don't wait for a festival. It's like the difference between seeing a painting 'live' vs looking at an image in a book or online - which was the topic of an earlier blog post "An Argument For The Real".

The Value of "Drawing Well"


I may be stepping into a minefield here, but I want to talk about accuracy vs expression in art and the value of “drawing well”.


You’ve probably heard artists say “you can’t possibly paint well if you can’t draw well”. By ‘well’ I believe they mean ‘accurately’, and by ‘accurately’ I believe they mean rendering an image something as a camera would - with detailed observation and without interpretation.


I do believe that being able to do this has value. I do not believe that it necessarily makes great art nor is it necessary in great art. Here are some examples to consider:



1. Rembrandt. Portrait of Nicholaes Rutse, 1631

2. Da Vinci. 
3. Egon Schiele. Self Portrait.
4. Alberto Giacometti. Tall Woman II, 1960.
5. Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Dora Marr, 1941.
6. Henri Matisse. Naked, 1949.


All of these pieces are by famous artists. Rembrandt and Da Vinci’s figures have ‘camera accurate’ proportions and carefully rendered details. Schiele and Giacometti distort proportions, but their pieces have huge emotional energy. Picasso distorts ‘reality’ in a different way, giving us multiple perspectives simultaneously. Matisse’s drawing of a nude woman has very little detail and is probably not proportionately accurate to the measuring eye, but is so simple and incredibly expressive.


Some great artists, like Rembrandt, combine measured accuracy and wonderful emotional expression. Some artists are so focused on capturing what I'll call "measured accuracy" that the feeling that complelled them to paint this thing in the first place has fallen by the wayside. Other artists deliberately move away from measured accuracy in order to strengthen the emotional expressiveness of their work.


In summary, I believe: 

  • drawing with accuracy of proportion and detail teaches us to see
  • bending or distorting proportion and detail expresses our individuality and may more accurately express feelings or emotions

Which do you value most - accuracy or expression?

Children draw. Adults can draw too. Yes, you too : ) 

This young fellow is explaining his drawing. It’s about boats and hoses and fire. 


Here’s a lovely quote from Howard Ikemoto, an art teacher from California who studied under Wayne Theibaud: "When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college - that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, 'You mean they forget?' "


If you are shaking your head, saying “Not me. I can’t draw”, I’m going to assume you mean you have difficulty making a drawing of a person that looks like that person according to your logical/intellectual brain (the first type of drawing example in my recent blog post "Why Draw?". More about the other types of drawings in future posts). 


Here are some tips to help you overcome obstacles and help you in your pursuit. I guarantee that you’ll surprise yourself.

  • Fill a whole sketchbook with ‘secret’ drawings - don’t show them to anyone. No one gets to see them or judge them. Don’t judge them yourself until you’ve filled the book.
  • Do a drawing a day for a month. Same thing as above: no showing them and no judging them until the month is done.
  • Try a fun project like the Sketchbook Project organized by the Brooklyn Art Library
  • Copy drawings you like, then branch out to your own subject matter
  • Try different drawing tools: a soft pencil (4B or 6B), a Sharpie marker, paint and a brush, India ink and a Chinese calligraphy brush, a stick, ...
  • Check out the book "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain". This classic text by Betty Edwards has tried-and-true exercises to guide you in drawing realistic, representational images. 


If you want to draw, the most important thing is to stop our learned self-judgement from getting in the way. It’s okay to have learned things about drawing, and to have some discernment. But if they are holding you back, move them to the back of the bus (so to speak) and let the brave, curious, creative part of your brain drive!

I’ve been doing a lot of plein air (onsite) sketching recently. I’ve done a demo, shot a video for Opus, and am teaching a 2-day workshop later this week. 

One of the things I stress when teaching people how to sketch or paint on-site is to NOT try to capture everything! 

  • One way to reduce the sensory overload is to use a viewfinder (see image below).
  • Most importantly, take a moment and identify what it is about the scene that interests you, and to focus on that. 
  • Someone else might focus on a completely different aspect of the scene. Imagine a marina. A prairie girl, I paint a mass of tall verticals, large angular volumes, and small round and conical accents all in whites and greys with pops of color. Someone who knows about boats might capture specific boats with their identifying details.

Some examples:

Far left: viewfinder cut out of the cover of my watercolor pad


2nd from left: this cacti caught my eye because of the two distinct colors of green in front of the tangerine orange wall.



3rd from left and far right: A photo of a marsh near Algonquin Park captures a lot of detail. My sketch (done from a slightly different angle) makes it clear that I was interested in the thread of silver water winding through the marsh grasses.


Do you sketch or paint on site?

What is your biggest challenge in painting on site?


Note: at the time of posting, there is only ONE spot left in the workshop, so register now if you are interested!

I draw for many reasons. Drawing can be:

  1. A way to focus your attention, look and capture with exactitude something in front of you, like a model or still life. 
  2. A way to explore and get to know something. Think of sketching your cat many times over a summer. 
  3. A way to place emphasis on what interests you. What do you choose to draw? Which portions catch your attention? 
  4. A means of self-expression - exploration, ideas or feelings. 
  5. A means of planning something out
  6. A means of notetaking and maintaining focus

We’ll look at some of these in more detail in upcoming posts.

Meanwhile, perhaps it would be interesting to think about “why do I draw?”



  1. Gooseneck Barnacles (approx 7”x5”, graphite and colored pencil in sketchbook, nfs)
  2. Figure sketches (24”x18”, acrylic paint on paper, nfs)
  3. Crevice with Barnacles (approx 7”x5”, graphite and watercolor in sketchbook, nfs)
  4. Black Pool (24”x18”, mixed media on paper, $600)

Sketching ‘en plein air’ 

The weather is warming up here in Vancouver, and plein air sketching and painting is a ‘hot’ topic. I’ve done a free demo on plein air sketching, and just shot a short video for Opus on the topic. 

Why do it?

  • bring home personalized momentoes of your travels
  • send friends unique postcards that they will love
  • it's an enjoyable activity to do on vacation, or just sitting at your favourite neighbourhood cafe
  • for me, the most important reason is that it will deepen your experience of the places you visit

If you would like some guidance, the last 2 spots are still available in my upcoming workshop. Join me for two half-days of plein air exploration:


Plein Air Sketching with Watercolor and Ink

June 9-10th

Thursday-Friday 9am - 2pm

Douglas Park Community Centre, Vancouver

Call 604-257-8130 or register online  


Alternately, a lovely book to inspire you is The Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes by Gabriel Campanario. Thanks Josette D. for introducing me to this find : )

Here’s a look at some of the ways I use my sketchbook:


1. thumbnail compositions  

2. on site sketches

3. color tests 

4. technique notes 

5. plans for exhibition layouts or framing  

6. notes from exhibits/museum shows 


Here’s an article on how architects use sketches


How do you use your sketchbook? 

Do you have detailed planning drawings?  

To-Do lists? 

Snippets of conversation overheard on the bus? 

Do you draw in your sketchbook daily?

Pilar Mehlis has been working on these hybrid creatures for a while now. Visiting her studio, I first saw fish drawings. The next time, 3D fish ‘pockets’. Then armatures. Then legs. I’m looking forward to seeing the amalgamation of all these parts in her upcoming exhibition "I Belong Here ...". Pilar is "exploring the transformative effect of immigration on an individual by juxtaposing elements of natural and human migrations."


“I Belong Here ... “

Lookout Gallery

May 11 - June 23

Opening Weds May 11 4:30-7:30pm

5800 University Blvd Vancouver BC 

M-F 8:30am-5:30pm  Sat noon-4pm 

my . artist run website