A Day At The Garden

I attended another event organized by Denise Bujold’s Artistes dans les parcs.  This one was held at a large garden on the other side of the city from where I live and I’ve drawn there a lot.  On this day it was supposed to be sunny and hot.  The sun never showed up and it didn’t get very hot.  We lacked shadows, but the temps were just right for sketching.

I’m not sure I fit into this group very well, though everyone is very nice.  But the members set up easels, tables, and paints.  I sit down on a tripod stool with my sketchbook.  A bigger problem, for me, is that my French is not good at all so carrying on a conversation is mostly out of the question.  Nevertheless, it’s nice to be out with a bunch of people doing art.

I chose to draw a really tiny waterfall that connects two small ponds near the entrance to the garden.  I started by covering the paper with some blotches of color to match the subject and then wandered around the garden while that dried.  I really like the idea of doing paint first but I’m not sure I’ve got the patience to deal with the drying time.  Eventually it did dry and I started drawing with DeAtramentis Document ink.  More watercolor was added to finish the drawing.  It’s a fun way to work, except for the drying time, so I’ll probably do it again.

My Daughter’s First Teddy Bear

Every collection must begin with a first and this teddy bear was the first of what would become a huge collection of stuffed animals that my daughter acquired (cuz her dad liked to buy them so much).  There’s nothing special about this teddy bear except that it was her first.  I guess that’s enough.

My Pepper Plant Sketch

In my last post I mentioned that I had to cancel a local sketching adventure because my knees weren’t cooperating and I suggested that I might sketch a pepper plant that I’d bought. That’s exactly what I did.

The weather was wonderful and I sat on our deck, got some sun, and communed with my pepper plant.  I find drawing plants to be a challenge as it’s easy to get lost in the overlapping contours of the leaves.  As I draw them they become abstracts; I’m no longer drawing a plant, but rather a whole bunch of curves relative to one another.  There’s considerable cross-checking between the curve I’m drawing and those I’ve already drawn, locating my position by comparing angles and distances constantly.

When I finish with the ink contour a decision must be made.  Do I add a bunch of cross-hatching or do I add watercolor.  Sometimes I consider the third option of leaving it just as it is – a contour drawing.  At this point I almost always choose one of the two ‘shading’ options but when I’m done I often wish I’d left the sketch as the contour.  This may be because I love pen lines so much.  Maybe it’s because I’m too impatient to do a good job with watercolor.  Here are both stages of my pepper plant sketch.  What do you think?  Which do you prefer?

DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Fabriano Artistico CP

Drawing A Giraffe In Quebec City

We’re finally experiencing outdoor temperatures.  Normally this would mean that I’d be wandering the streets every day, drawing my old-man heart out.  That behavior has been derailed by my bad knee.  Just this morning I started out with the idea of taking the bus downtown to sketch, but I quickly realized that, today, my knee wasn’t going to allow that to happen.  So, instead, I’m writing this blog post and thinking that maybe I’ll sketch a pepper plant we bought last weekend.

Last week I got to go to our Musee de la civilisation to see the new Curiosities du monde naturelle.  This exhibit is reminiscent of the old natural history museums, before all the fancy displays and such intruded on a simpler time when museum managers thought people were more interested in seeing actual items than they were pictures and videos of them.

Our museum seems to have a new to this.  They put everything in the dark.  I’m not sure what that’s about but we have to draw with a light on our paper and half the items are too hard to see to draw at all.  This is supposed to be good?  We have two exhibits that are like that currently and it seems to be a trend.  Anyone else seeing this in their museums?

Part of this exhibit is the head of a young giraffe and I decided to draw it.  Where I had to sit was too close and I was looking upward at the head such that I couldn’t see things like its left ear so the sketch is a bit odd.  Still, I had fun finally being out sketching and I enjoyed drawing this guy, or girl.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Platinum 3776

A Look Back Through Sketching

I’m an old man and part of being an old man is that my daughter is now a grown, confident woman who is off beating law school into submission.  I’m extremely proud of her and because of her age and maturity we now have conversations to solve the world’s problems and maybe a few of our own.  That’s pretty neat.

But there is a part of being an old man that causes me to miss the days when she would giggle as I’d bounce her on my knee or carry her on my shoulders.  Back then drawing meant scribbling with crayons and she was far better at it than me.  That was also a time when we shared a common interest in stuffed animals.  She was my excuse to buy them and she loved every one.  The result is that we now have a literal mountain of them, each with memories attached to them.

I’ve started drawing some of them because, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it rains here all the time so I need stuff to draw indoors and I’m tired of tomatoes.  But what really drives me with this project is that as I draw these puddles of fluff and fur, memories of those early days fill me with joy.  Here’s one I did of a little poupée (doll), one of many in the collection.  For some reason she lacks a nose or mouth and I saw no reason to add them.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brown/black

Confused Weather Makes For Confused Sketchers

“April showers bring May flowers.” – Thomas Tusser (1557)

I have a question.  If you get showers in April, and they continue through May, will there be LOTS of flowers in June?  I sure hope so because Quebecers’ moods, will need a boost.

By date and temperature, we have finally gotten to spring and we sketchers are chomping at the bit to get out sketching.  In fact I witnessed a bunch of them, including myself, wandering around in the rain, looking for stuff to draw.  It was quite a sight.

We were attending the first of a series of plein air painting gatherings organized by the great Denise Bujold – great because she’s done this and because she’s so darn good at it.  There are 16 events scheduled, one a week, throughout the summer and fall.  But for this first one, surprise, surprise, it rained.

It was held at an apple/vegetable farm on Ile d’Orleans, a large island near Quebec City.  When Yvan and I arrived we found a gaggle of sketchers huddled in a large space that houses an art gallery during summer tourist season.  Eventually this group spilled out into the garden adjacent to the building and we literally wandered in the rain, pointing at things we could sketch if the rain would stop.

Eventually we made our way to a place where there was an overhang and a few picnic benches and everyone set up shop to sketch.  Across a field there was this scene and I confess that I didn’t have my heart in it and it shows.  But I did get to sketch, outdoors, and with other people.  That has to count for something.  There was supposed to be another event today but it’s pouring rain so it was cancelled.  I’m in desperate need of some flowers.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document diluted black

 

Is It Spring Or Is It Summer?

Yesterday was Memorial Day in the US and all day I heard the US press saying that this day, unofficially, marks the beginning of summer.  Here in Quebec City we had a frost advisory and the trees are just now deciding that they might as well put out their leaves.  It’s sunny today and feels very much like spring.  So, is it summer or spring?  Weather this year has been hard to take for many parts of North America.  I’m hoping we have a really long summer, or is it still spring?

In any case, the squirrels are out and about and I even saw a bumble bee this morning.  In honor of this change of weather, I drew a squirrel with a smile on his face. Like me, he’s happy that things are warming up.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Brn/blk

Memories From Old Toys

We’re still waiting for spring to come to Quebec City.  It’s quite unbelievable that it’s mid-May and the best we can hope for is a rainy, dreary day.  But until things warm up a bit (we had a frost warning last week) we’re sort of stuck going to indoor venues to draw.

We were provided with a new one, though, as the Quebec Historial Society opened a small exhibit of old, mostly tin toys from the 40s to the 60s.  As a kid, I was playing with those produced in the 50s so some were quite familiar to me and brought back memories.  I love tin toys, mostly for this nostalgia I suppose, but they were always so brightly painted to mask their simplistic nature.

I spent much of our session viewing the exhibit and reading all the description cards.  It’s not every day that you get to see and Easy-Bake Oven after all.  But eventually I sat down to draw and I did a poor job of sketching an old wind-up race car from the 40s.  I really need to slow down as the quality of my sketches is directly correlated with the speed in which I do them.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10 softcover), DeAtramentis Document Brn/Blk ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

Hopping Down The Bunny Trail

I’ve been experimenting with using paint before I do any ink, using a brush and paint to do the actual drawing.  This is mostly as a way of getting my brain to realize that there’s value in color.  That’s probably an odd statement to most artists, but I’ve always been more enamoured with using a fountain pens/inks than I have been with “art.”

Anyways, I’ve decided to do more of this paint-first approach and as I also got a dose of drawing my daughter’s collection of stuffed animals with my recent sketch of Dudley the Dragon I grabbed a large rabbit with oversized feet and ears as my subject for the day.

To provide some guidance with respect to proportions and relationships I penciled in the locations/sizes of all the major masses and then started with paint.  Any self-respecting artist would chuckle to watch me sneaking up on the shapes and color patterns.  I started very light, improving the shapes as I went.  In this process I also started identifying tonal variations, trying to figure out how to create them in color.  I’m woefully ill-equipped to do this but I plowed ahead as if I were.  Eventually I added some ink lines just cuz my drawings need ink lines.  Hope you like the result.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10 softcover), Daniel Smith watercolors

Sketching Session At My House

We’re on the verge of actual spring and I can’t wait for it to happen.  My excitement is tempered only by the fact that my bad knee is getting really bad, as in I can’t walk at all some days.  Anyways, my buddy Yvan felt sorry for me and agreed to come over so we could sketch together.  He’s got the best studio a guy could want but I’ve got some stuff to sketch that he doesn’t.  Even the king can get bored in his castle.

On the morning of his arrival I realized I didn’t have a cookie or cake in the house.  One must have sketching snacks.  A few days earlier we’d discussed me making biscuits and we realized that we didn’t know what you call them in French.  You see, ‘biscuits’ in French are cookies.  A day later, Yvan came up with biscuits à la poudre à pâte.   The word galette could also be used but this is a very broad term that includes a lot of sweet biscuits/scones/cakes.

All that is the lead up to me quickly whipping together some biscuits as a snack and so he could actually see what I was talking about.  While the idea was to eat them (we did), we took advantage of them as sketching material too.

Yvan got the bright idea to start with paint rather than my typical ink first approach.  Talk about walking out on a thin limb.  I admit that I struggled with this, a lot, but I also had a lot of fun and think it may be the way to get my brain to believe that watercolor is as important as line work.  Here’s my result:

We took a break and he showed me a copy of the classic book Nature Drawing by Claire Leslie Walker that he picked up for only $5.  What a gorgeous, but out of print book [face turning green with envy] this is.  So, I showed him my copy of Living History by Cathy Johnson, one of the gems of the book world.  And we ate another biscuit and admired the great drawings in both books.

Conversation led to me cutting up some sheets of paper for Yvan while he grabbed a stuffed animal (Dudley the Dragon) and started drawing it.  When I finished I decided to quickly sketch the same animal but he had the good view so I drew the side view.  Apologies to Dudley as I didn’t spend enough time organizing and blocking in the drawing.  This was done ink first with watercolor as an afterthought, my typical way of working.

At the end of this fun day, I’d experienced a new way of sketching and I plan to do a lot more of this paint-first approach.  It’s confusing as can be to think of outline, tone, form and color simultaneously but I like a challenge.  Thanks to Yvan for a great day.