Rushing Into Winter

We were having some wonderful late summer weather this year but when Quebec decides to head toward winter it does so in rapid fashion.  It seems that even the trees have a hard time keeping up as they try their best to turn bright colors and then lose their leaves.

The year change of seasons has put me into near-frantic mode.  I’m trying to build up my bad leg, having lost much of the muscle mass of my right leg.  That means walking all the time, or at least as much as I can.  Often I do two walks a day and this eats a lot of time but once the snow starts falling, long walks will be out of the question.

At the same time I’m in ‘it’s almost winter’ mode with my sketching.  Happens every year as I realize there are only so many days when I can sketch outdoors.  Honestly, this part of frantic is coming to an end as it’s becoming too cool for this ex-Arizona boy to be outside sitting on a stool.  Museum season will begin soon.

Because of this I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit.  Some of the neglect is because I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting rather than sketching for display.  My garbage can is well-fed, though.  I’ll probably talk about some of that stuff as we drop into winter.  My apologies.

Chantal made a pie the other day and I decided I should paint it.  This was one of those wacky experiments as I’m not much of a watercolorist.  I’d like to be but mostly I just color in the spaces of my ink sketches.  I was happy with my pie experiment though.  The pie was good too.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3009

Artistes Dans Les Parcs Visits Parc des Fondateurs

It’s turning cold here and our outdoor location sketching season is nearing an end.  The last Artistes dans les parcs outing took place at the Parc des Fondateurs, which is a gorgeous park near Stoneham, Quebec.

The Huron River runs through this park and I was looking forward to drawing some rocks and rapids.  I was disappointed to find that the steep descents to the river kept me and my bad knee from fulfilling that goal so all I could do was look down and imagine it.  Denise did give me some photos she took so maybe I can draw from them this winter.

Instead I decided to draw the barn, which used to be a barn but it now seems to be a building where the nearby church holds banquets and parties.  It’s where we all gathered to eat lunch and to stay warm.  The large door openings are now large viewing windows and several people did their drawing from inside.  I should have because it was cold for a guy who grew up in Arizona.  I have to confess that I rushed this sketch because of this but here it is.  I hope to draw this building again some day, maybe when it’s a bit warmer.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3009

I’d spent so much time wandering the park when we arrived that by the time I finished this sketch it was time for lunch.  We all gathered inside, sat around a big table and chatted.  Eventually, though, it was time to brave the cool, wet day and head back out.  I decided to walk out of the park and set up in a parking lot of some sort of municipal building so I could draw the church.

I was making good progress when it started to rain.  I persisted.  The rain continued, plopping drops of water onto wet ink.  I was using Platinum Carbon Black for this sketch (in a Hero fude pen) and PCB dries more slowly than DeAtramentis Document inks, particularly when it’s cold.  The combined slow-drying and wet water was creating little bomb-craters on my drawing, to say nothing of the discomfort I was beginning to feel while standing there with no protection.

Moleskine 5×8, Platinum Carbon Black, Hero 7 Horses fude pen.

So, I packed up walked to the parking lot and swapped my big sketching bag for a small ‘scribble’ book and a pen and I went wandering, looking for places to stand out of the rain and sketch.

Eventually the rain stopped and I sat down to quickly sketch this odd structure.  It was small and part of a children’s playground.  Its total height couldn’t have been more than eight feet and all it had available for kids were two shallow tables.  I assume that there are some toys to play with on those tables during the summer but none were in evidence when I was there.  Still, it was cute as could be so I did this quick sketch.

  All in all, it was a great day in spite of the cold and rain.  We talked about trying to do a couple indoor events this winter but since a lot of the members of this group are oil painters with easels and such it’s unclear what will happen.   I’m just thankful that Denise Bujold is such a nice person and willing to organize these events.

Wing Sung 3009 Fountain Pen (review?)

I’ve gotten a couple emails asking me what a Wing Sung 3009 pen was.  I’ve referred to several times in my posts.  This isn’t a real review of the pen so consider this post to be just an answer to that question.

As far as I can tell, if you’re in North America, the only place you can buy a Wing Sung pen is through eBay with the product being shipped from China.  There are positives and negatives to this.  The positive is that the price of most of the pens is less than a latte at Starbucks and shipping is typically free.  I paid $3-4USD for my Wing Sung 3009s.  The downside is that instant gratification isn’t served well, because if you order a pen it’ll take several weeks for it to arrive.  I’ve had good luck ordering this way but I have to order and forget about it cuz standing by the mailbox will wear you out.

Ok…so what’s a Wing Sung 3009 and why do I use one given that I own Namiki Falcons,  and lots of Pilot and Platinum pens?  As I’ve said, it’s a $4 pen made in China.  It comes with a fine nib that’s similar to a Lamy nib (they’re interchangeable) but finer.  It has a clip that’s similar to a Lamy Safari but that’s where the similarity ends.

The Wing Sung 3009 is a transparent pen so it’s easy to see how much ink you’re carrying.  It is piston-filled and holds a lot of ink.  These two things combine to make it an ideal pen to carry on location.  And did I mention that it only costs $4?  No big deal if I lose it.  I now own three of them, just in case (grin).

There’s another thing that’s invaluable beyond description, but if you’ve drawn with fountain pens for a while you’ll understand.  This pen has a rubber casket that’s similar to the Lamy Safari, but unlike the Lamy Safari, the cap screws onto the body of the pen and thus, it seals VERY WELL and there is no ink evaporation which is a big problem with Lamy pens.  This is particularly important if you’re using pigmented inks like many sketchers, including me, use because they’re no concentration of ink over time.

So, that’s the reason I’ve been using this pen.  It’s wonderful.  The only drawback is that I have to explain why my $250 pens are sitting on a shelf while I draw with my $4 pen (grin)

Thanksgiving Time In Canada

Thanksgiving comes in October here in Canada, the same month as Halloween.  This causes pumpkins and many displays of them to serve double duty.  At the beginning of October displays go up for Thanksgiving.  Hay Bales, pumpkins and such are everywhere.

When I saw this display I had to sketch it.  Great scene, though unfortunately it was placed into a shaded area next to the entrance of our farmers’ market.  This was not the most photogenic placement of a rustic cart so I didn’t draw any of the background.  Hope that’s ok (grin).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 8009, Daniel Smith watercolors

That was last week.  I walked by this week to find a bunch of additional pumpkins had been added.  Each had a black pumpkin face painted on it.  Happy Halloween everyone!

 

The Unwanted? Weed

Weed: A plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.

I’ve always thought that the word “weed” was a symbol of what’s wrong with human logic.  Mostly it says, “If I don’t want it there it must be labelled as undesirable and purged.”  This is our approach to nature, politics, social media, and a host of other things and the notion never yields good results.  The same is true when we spray the heck of out our lawns with poisons just to eliminate dandelions which are more beneficial and beautiful than the grass we’re supposedly protecting.  I bring this up because a “weed” showed up in our backyard.

Chantal has a big patch of day lilies growing next to the steps to our deck.  At this time of year, the flowers are gone but the long strings of foliage are still nice to look at… except for our weed.

Yes, it has encroached upon the garden, invaded our space.  It sits proudly, head up and says “What’cha gonna do about it?”  Well, we’ve adopted it and it’s one of our favorite features in the backyard, if only for its audacity.  I had to draw it – our single Rudbeckia.   Where it came from we do not know.  But it’s here and its our weed and we love her.

Moleskine watercolor book (A5 portrait), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009

Backyard Plants – They’re Always There

The thing about backyard plants is that they’re always there.  Chantal plants them, tends, them and I always say “I’m going to draw them.”  I never do because they’re always there.  But about this time a year, when the days are getting shorter and cooler, I realize that very soon, they won’t be there.  This happens every year but I’m a very slow learner.

And so I make the point of drawing some flowers.  I can’t possibly draw them all because, like a student waiting until the night of the exam to study, I don’t have enough time because I’ve ignored the task all summer.

The silly thing is that I thoroughly enjoy sitting in the yard with all my concentration directed at a bunch of leaves and flowers I know little about.  Chantal tells me these are anemone flowers.  I know nothing about cultivated plants except they’re fun to draw as long as you don’t have the attitude that they’re “always there.”

Moleskine watercolor book (A5 portrait), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009, Daniel Smith watercolors

Sketching A Classic Yacht

There are signs of autumn in the air, though most of our trees have yet to change color.  I suppose that disappoints those arriving daily on fancy cruise ships so they can see the fall colors, but I’m grateful.  Our summer started so slowly that we need an equally slow entry into winter for sanity’s sake.

I made another trip to Bassin Louise, the harbor for personal craft in Quebec City.  I confess that I’m not impressed by the modern plastic boats that people are so proud of but give me a classic wooden ship and I feel the need to sketch it.  This sketch didn’t do the old yacht justice but here it is, warts and all.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009

Sketching At Vinoble De Bacchus

The Artistes dans les parcs went to Iles d’Orleans to visit Vinoble de Bacchus for a day of painting en plein air.  Bacchus is the god of wine so it was only fitting that his vineyard was beautiful.  All of the buildings are painted white with blue roofs and the vineyards overlook the St. Lawrence River.  We had a great time.

I wandered around a while, just enjoying the place.  There was a lot to see and I took it all in.  The last time we came I couldn’t walk up/down the hills to the vineyards and so I was enjoying the freedom my rheumatologist has given me.

Eventually, though, I sat down to sketch this building.  I just liked the door.  Do we need more reason than that?  I don’t think so.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis black, Daniel Smith watercolors

Then it was time for lunch, a very long lunch.  A big part of the raison d’etre of the Artistes dans les parcs are its social aspects and the vineyard’s ambience and services emphasized this on this day.  They sell yummy cheese plates, serve wine and we could sit outside on a perfect day and talk, and talk, and talk.

While that was happening I did this small sketch of a planter that sat nearby.  Not much of a sketch but I thought I’d throw it in as a remembrance of that fine afternoon.  Thanks Bacchus, for letting us visit your vineyard.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Black

Where Have The Alligators Gone?

The Artistes dans les parcs went back to what is now called Parc des Moulins, but the area used to be the Quebec zoo.  Oh how I wish we still had animals to draw but politics brought the zoo to an end, a needless end.

Anyway, it was a hot day but I set up in the sun at one end of a large impound that used to house the alligators. It’s a pond with small islands for alligator basking and a building at one end so people could look down on the critters.  The islands are now overgrown so while this sketch doesn’t have any alligators, it does have lots of plants.  The mandatory alligator-proof wall is still in place around it and it seemed only fitting that it be included in the scene.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Wing Sung 8009, Daniel Smith watercolors

The Urban Sketcher View

I’ve only been an urban sketcher.  Yes, I’ve drawn stuffed animals and a few flowers but mostly I go out somewhere, sit down and draw what’s in front of me, on location.  I like this because I don’t have to make stuff up.  I can see the objects ‘in the flesh’ and from all angles.  Drawing from photos is boring and, somehow incomplete.

But there’s a downside to urban sketching.  You’re always faced with cluttered, complex landscapes.  Drawn verbatim, you end up with confused, messy sketches.  Everyone says “simplify,” but in my opinion, this is the hardest thing to do in art.  What to leave out, what to leave in.  Where should the border of the sketch be>  How do you treat those edges?  Do you zoom in or out to capture a subject?  Too many decisions… too many choices.

I went with Yvan to draw boats.  Specifically we wanted to draw some of the tugboats that are moored in the Quebec City harbor.  I found a place out of the wind and set up to draw a tugboat on the other side of the harbor.  I had this view.

I’m not a master of composition but even I know this is a cluttered view and that having a big rope cutting across a drawing with no reason isn’t a good idea.  So, “simplify” is what I’m told so that’s what I do.

Even so, it was going to be hard to make that tugboat the star of my sketch if I drew it from that far away.  So, the solution was to zoom in, forcing the tugboat onto center stage.  I also decided to greatly simplify the background.  And I started to draw my tugboat.

I was happy with this result but zooming in did present a new problem.  If the boat is drawn that large, don’tcha want to see a lot of detail?  Of course, but because the boat is actually so far away, you can’t see the details.  Some details are faked as a set of textural marks.  Others are left out completely.  It’s a balance I guess.  A balance that makes me realize just how much I still need to learn about sketching.