A Grand Day Out: Sketching With Others

GrandDayOutMy favorite Wallace and Gromit film is A Grand Day Out.  In it, Wallace finds that while he has crackers, he has run out of cheese.  Of course, that means he and his dog Gromit need to go to the moon to get some more, as everyone knows the moon is made of cheese.  Gromit builds a rocket and they head off to find some cheese.

Yesterday I was reminded of A Grand Day Out because I had one in the form of Quebec City’s version of the 42nd Worldwide Sketchcrawl.  We’ve held several of these and while it’s hard to do when it’s -25C, we do what we can to bring people together.

This sketchcrawl was held at the Musée de la Civilisation.  This museum is a very welcoming and accommodating place and it’s ideal for such an event.  As with all of our sketchcrawls, this one was organized by Yvan Breton and Celine Poulin.  One of my sketching buddies, Claudette Gauvreau, deserves some credit as well as she used her infectious laugh and sociability to convince several of her friends to join us.

Just beginning to gather in the lunch area. Hard choice between talking and eating being made by many

Just beginning to gather in the lunch area. Hard choice between talking and eating being made by many

And what an event it was.  We had a couple DOZEN people at this event.  I emphasize the word dozen as when you can start counting participants in ‘dozens’ it’s sort of like being old enough to talk about how many decades you’ve been alive.  And dozens we had, at least 24 people and while it was hard to get an accurate count, I think it was more.  What I do know is that I found it impossible to remember the names of all the people I met for the first time.  But I’ll always remember the smiles on their faces.

And did we have fun.  The one downside of a museum sketchcrawl is documentation as they frown on photography in the exhibit areas (click on image to get a larger image).  What I can tell you is that from 10AM until 12:30 there were sketchers everywhere you looked and it was quite exciting.  Some people were surprised by how relaxed the atmosphere was and how “non-competitive” we were.  You can tell ‘serious’ artists about this difference between sketching and fine art but until they experience group sketching on location, it’s hard to understand it.

Looking at sketchbooks, laughing and enjoying one another's company

Looking at sketchbooks, laughing and enjoying one another’s company

A group admiring Jacques Paquet's sketch box

A group admiring Jacques Paquet’s sketch box








At 12:30 we gathered in a basement area to eat lunch and kibbitz about sketching, pens, watercolors, and to share our sketchbooks.  I’m not sure we ever had everyone in one place so I can’t show you the typical ‘the gang’ photo but here are a few clusters of people and even a few sketches I managed to snap a photo of as they were laid out by some of the participants.

I found it hard to get photos of other people’s sketches because everyone was having so much fun flipping through everyone else’s sketchbooks.  Pictures come second to fun in my book but I did manage to get these few snapshots.

Guylaine Côté's bicycle.  Love this view.

Guylaine Côté’s bicycle. Love this view.

Celine (top) and Pierre's (bottom) sketches

Celine (top) and Pierre’s (bottom) sketches

Group of sketches

Group of sketches










After lunch, and after we couldn’t talk any more, most of us headed back out to sketch.  We lost a few of our participants as they had afternoon appointments elsewhere.  Once again we invaded the exhibits like ants on a sugar cube and while we were having fun, we were also becoming part of the exhibits, as folks were looking over our shoulders and saying nice things.  Location sketching is good for the ego.

We wrapped up around 3PM, most of us quite tired but also exhilarated by the day’s activities.  I’m still walking a foot or so above the ground.  Did I mention we had a COUPLE DOZEN participants?

Oh…I did a bit of sketching myself, though not as much as some.  And I did have the ability to scan them.  Here are my sketches from the day.  It was definitely a Grand Day Out.

I saw this drum display as an opportunity to practice orienting ellipses as each drum was positioned differently.  Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), Wahl-Eversharp pen, Lexington Gray ink

I saw this drum display as an opportunity to practice orienting ellipses as each drum was positioned differently. Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), Wahl-Eversharp pen, Lexington Gray ink


These were part of a large poster of clown caricatures and I thought it might be fun to draw a few of them.  It was.  Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), Wahl-Eversharp pen, Lexington Gray

These were part of a large poster of clown caricatures and I thought it might be fun to draw a few of them. It was. Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), Wahl-Eversharp pen, Lexington Gray

You can find many more photos and sketches on the Worldwide Sketchcrawl site.

Quick-sketching At The Grande Marche

Finally, maybe, kinda-sorta, the holiday season is behind us.  Every year it’s the same.  There’s the build-up to Christmas, with Christmas bringing the thought that the holidays are finally over.

But at our house it starts all over again because my daughter, my wife, and my wife’s mother all have birthdays during January.  This year was extra-busy because it was my mother-in-law’s 100th birthday so Chantal’s been running around, buying out the stores in preparation for the party.  That party was supposed to be going on RIGHT NOW, but lo and behold, the hospice facility where my mother-in-law is living right now just quarantined itself due to an outbreak of flu. The 100th anniversary party cancelled.

Otherwise things are returning to normal and I’m starting to do some sketching outside the house.  I spent a couple sessions at the Grande Marche, quick-sketching people and its kiosks.  Boy, do I need practice with quick-sketching.  I’ve lost my knack for it almost completely.  One has to do it regularly to be successful and my health problems got me out of sync with street sketching.

This scene was created by drawing people as they arrived at this kiosk, followed by drawing some of the kiosk clutter for background.

For this one the approach was a bit different because my goal was to draw the end of a long coffee shop so I started with the big shapes of the counters.  A guy came along and stood while he poured milk and sugar into his coffee (from counter on the left) so I drew him and then went back to drawing all the “stuff” that was coffee shop.

I moved to a different location and found a condiment cart sitting next to a wall and decided to draw it.  I always find it hard to “draw” all the little bits, trying to generate instead a series of textures to represent them.  In the end I think the sketch was too small to worry about it.  It was fun to get out with pen in hand.  Did I mention that I need practice…lots of practice.

Holiday Doodles

There’s a lot of unplanned time during the holidays at our house.  Some cooking and baking is involved.  Too many Christmas movies are watched.  And then there is the puzzle making.  We avoid shopping due to the crowds and so we don’t get out very much.

This leaves me with an itch in my pen and I have to scratch it.  So I doodle a lot.  I may draw something in front of me or I may draw from photos or even sketches done by others.  Normally I wouldn’t show these to anyone, mostly because they’re not worth showing.  But I always feel that we do a disservice by presenting only those sketches we deem as “acceptable” and so I offer this pile of doodles, done on a whim during the holidays.  All are small.  All were done quickly.  All represent very little at all.  But they helped me scratch my itch.

Jodie and I sat down in the kitchen to draw one morning.  She was drawing flowers from one of my botanical art books and I grabbed an orange and lemon, dropped them on a plate and did this rather poor rendition that I title “Orange and Lemon.”


I did go down to our Grande Marché  one afternoon, sat for a few minutes and scrawled this sketch of one of the kiosks.  Like most of my quick sketches, it illustrates the frantic pace at which is was done.  But, like all sketches, it was fun.

One afternoon, Jodie and Chantal decided to make a fancy cake.  I think they felt challenged by the two batches of cookies and bread I’d baked (grin).  As I sat watching  I started sketching the kitchen.  This is as far as I got.

I met my buddy Yvan at the market for a bit of sketching people.  The people movement was hectic but I did a couple pages like this.  I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of people sketching but this is the only reliable sketching target for us in the winter.

One morning I just started sketching an old-time imaginary church on a hill.  It was fun to just doodle some sparse scenery around it.

A quick sketch from a photo.  Not much to say about it.

I’ll leave you with this.  It’s a page of doodles I did one morning, mostly while looking at sketches done by my friend Yvan.  I’d say I copied them but that wouldn’t do justice to Yvan’s sketches, which are in every way superior to these doodles.

Urban Sketching On A Rainy, Windy Day

What’s an urban sketcher to do when the weather turns bad.  One thing is to go with other sketchers to a cafe where you can sketch and talk about sketching, pointy devices and anything else that might interest the group.

That’s what we did on Thursday.  We drove to a great cafe and bakery on Ile d’Orleans.  Called La Boulange, it’s a grand old house that’s been converted to a cafe.  Great place to sketch in good weather and bad as there are lots of great scenes to sketch outdoors when weather permits.

On this day Yvan and I rattled on about fountain pens while Fernande and Claudette had fun drawing a family.  Looking through a passageway from the bakery to the restaurant tables, I saw this scene.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x8), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black


Music, Friends and Sketching – A Very Good Day

One of the great things about Quebec City is that there are a lot of free concerts.  Many are associated with the conservatory here and are mostly students – really good students.

Another source of free concerts are the ‘mid-day’ concerts associated with the Grand Théâtre de Québec.  This venue is the site of operatic and symphonic programs, musical plays, and a bunch of big name but not big venue performers.  I saw B.B. King there.

The mid-day concerts are held on the second floor foyer, however, and once they’ve set up a stage and a bunch of chairs, it’s about the size of a decent sit-down night club without the booze, though you can get coffee and danish.

And that’s where I was today, to listen to a fantastic group of six jazz singers, all people too young to have so much talent.  2013_01-27TheatreTreeI arrived a little after ten AM and the concert didn’t start until eleven, though I got a mini-concert as the group went through a couple numbers, getting warmed up and checking equipment, I suppose.  With little to do besides look out the window, that’s what I did.  I got together with this pine tree, which also didn’t seem to have much to do, and we made this sketch together.  We had a good time together.

But when Yvan arrived, the fickle friend that I am completely ignored my pine tree friend.  Yvan and I talked about sketching, his new sketchbook, the Series 400 toned paper that Strathmore is selling and some other stuff.  When we could, we went up and staked out some primo sketching seats, saving one for Celine.

Celine and Yvan are quite comfortable doing really great sketches of singers and musicians.  Myself, I still struggle with people who are moving around a lot.  Heck, who am I kidding.  I still have trouble sketching people who are comatose.  Yvan has explained, in his patient manner that ALL I have to do is choose a position the person returns to frequently and sketch that position.  So far my brain hasn’t gotten the message as it can’t quite sift through all the movement.  Practice, practice, practice…

2013_01-27Spectator1While I tried to sketch the singers, I didn’t do so well.  So, I sketched people who were in the audience.  These were all very quick sketches – another problem my brain has when in a crowd of people moving around.  My brain goes into “you’ve only got a minute, dummy, go fast…blindingly fast.”  So, while these spectators were going to stay put for me for the duration of the concert, I was doing 1-2 minute quick sketches.  Darn brain.

2013_01-27Spectator2All of these sketches were done in a 3×5 sketchbook using a Platinum Carbon Black fountain pen, filled with PCB ink.  I’ve come to like this pen a lot for detail sketching as it’s really fine, like a .005 Micron.  I’m not so sure about it as a people sketching pen for the same reason – the lines are just too fine.

The music was fantastic, being with my sketching buddies always a good time, and there’s no such thing as a bad sketch if you view sketching fun as coming from the process, not the result.  I do.

2013-01-26GuyReadingAs long as I’m talking about people sketching, here’s a slightly better sketch I did the day before, of a cooperative guy who sat reading.  He changed his position only once in the 10 minutes or so I spent sketching him which I thought quite considerate.  This sketch was done with my Hero 578 “Chinese calligraphy” (tip bent upward) pen, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink, and a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.  You can see that I can get variable line thickness from this pen and I think it adds something to the sketch.