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.

Gaining Inspiration And Trying Stuff

I do more sketching ‘off camera’ than I post on my blog.  I do these for a variety of reasons.  Most are done quickly for the simple reason that I need to draw something.  Sometimes I do them to try out a new pen or paint.  Sometimes they’re done to practice a technique, like the little gouache paintings I did a couple days ago (horrible by the way).

But sometimes, quite often actually, I draw something inspired by something I see on the internet.  Most I try to mimic the style of the artist in an attempt to walk a mile in their shoes.  Mostly this fails in a ways similar to me trying to walk in high heels, but these are also some of my favorite things to do as there’s absolutely no pretense that I’m creating something “from” myself.  It’s sort of an out of body experience.

I thought I’d share with you a bit of that stuff, with apologies to their real authors, the internet sketchers who share their work so we can appreciate, enjoy and maybe learn from them.  This first sheet is from a Canson XL multi-media (7×10) pad that sits next to my laptop.  It’s full of stuff like this.

The top right is from a set of fire hydrants drawn by Arlene from the Artist’s Journal Workshop.  She did a sketch of several very colorful hydrants and when I saw the yellow one with a lime green top I had to draw it.  I decided, however, to extend its top a bit, give it a head tilt of personality and I added a pair of eyes.  I was having fun.

I’m sad to say that I can’t remember who did the geranium plant but it was a very freehand version of one and so I followed suit.  Leaves and flowers randomly stuck on the page as I tried to turn a piece of paper real estate into a geranium.

The little landscape came from the background of one of those pesky ads that precede a YouTube video, with a lot of ‘it could look like this’ thrown in for good measure.

Lastly the lonely girl.  She was was from another commercial and standing on a street.

Erik Davis posted a sketch similar to this, saying he was trying something different.  I thought that a good idea so I followed suit.  It’s about 3×4.

If you’ve taken any of Liz Steel’s great courses you know that there are lots of things to copy and/or mimic.  While you’re supposed to be doing it ‘your way’, I often try to do it Liz’s way.  I’m rarely successful because her style is so much more loose and quick than my own.  It always feels good to me, however, so I’ll continue doing it.

This time it’s a sketch slightly in advance of her Watercolor on Location course that starts Sept 4th.  I’m signed up for it so I have access to the introductory lessons.  Liz’s sketch is somewhat more complete than mine.  Hers is also a LOT bigger than mine (mine is about 4×5).

Walking in the shoes of another artist is probably not for everyone but I find it very informative.  It makes me appreciate even more how special their art work is and I think I learn quite a lot from doing it.  Doing this also causes one to understand that you  can’t precisely walk in another artist’s shoes.  It’s more like walking in high heels if you’re an old man.  But give it a try.  You might like it.

 

 

Ship Figurehead In The Old Port

In a touristy area of old Quebec there stands an old, wooden ship’s figurehead.  It’s mounted on a pedestal that angles it just as if it were on a ship and below it is a very shallow water feature that, I think, is supposed to look like waves.  I drew it.  Not much more to say about it than that 🙂

Cap Rouge Marina Sketching

We were at the Cap Rouge Marina last Sunday and it was a wonderful day, though a bit on the warm side.  I relish the heat, partly because I’m from Arizona and partly because I know that all too soon we’ll be back in heavy coats and complaining about winter.

I was in the mood to draw rocks and found a bunch of them on the other side of the mouth of the river that flows into the marina and out into the St. Lawrence.

When I finished I walked down to where some other people were sketching and I started sketching a sailboat that was moored on the ‘flats’, which turns into a giant grassland at low tide.  I’d just gotten started when it was announced that it was time to gather for lunch.  I share it in its unfinished state as I never got back to it.  By the time lunch was over the boat was laying on its side in a sea of grass, waiting for the tide to come back in.

After lunch I walked to the other side of the marina and drew this scene, that is looking across the marina.  By then it was blisteringly hot and I cooked on my tripod stool for the duration of the drawing.  It was an end of a great day and, once again, I owe Denise a big thank you for organizing the event.

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

Are You Afraid Of Clowns?

Many people are afraid of clowns for some reason.  They might be scared to death if they walk down rue St. Paul in the old port area of Quebec City because, between two buildings there is a humongous inflatable clown head scrunged between the two walls.  I think it’s cute but it could also be scary, depending upon your point of view.  I had to draw it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 8009, Platinum brush pen

Our New Cow

My wife is a gardener and she loves to visit garden centers.  She was doing just that a couple weeks ago and they were having a big sale.  She came home with a car full of plants and a plaster garden cow that, to me, looks like a sheep with horns.  I think it’s the stone fur that does it.  In any case, it’s cute as can be so I drew it.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10 softcover), Platinum Carbon Black, Platinum Plaisir

Doodling Near The Train Station

I was sitting in the park in front of our train station, just enjoying the light water spray from the fountain there.  It was a beautiful day and I’d been out doing my walking exercise.

I love the train station and have drawn it several times but never from this angle through the trees.  As it turns out I drew it a bit wider than it actually is but she’s still a stately building even if I gave her a bit more weight.

Sketching At Saint Petronille

The Artistes dans les parcs provided a unique opportunity to sketch at La Foyer de Charite Notre Dame (I think I have that right).  Anyways, it’s a huge estate, built on a hill overlooking the St. Lawrence River.  It was built by the guy who started the Bank of Montreal.

It’s a gorgeous place with lots to draw but the hilly terrain didn’t make my bad knee very happy.  I was so happy to be out sketching, though, that it didn’t really matter.

Here’s a sketch of my buddy Yvan sketching a fountain.  I’ve started using the Moleskine watercolor book I mentioned recently and I really don’t like the paper.  The colors just all look dull to me when compared to the same paint on my S&B sketchbooks.

After lunch we were up high on the hill.  My knee didn’t want to move, so I decided to draw the coastline I could see when I looked over the cliff.  The tide was out and I was faced with this scene.

I did a few other, tiny sketches but otherwise I just sat on the porch and enjoyed the view.  What a wonderful day.  Now, what do you do with an expensive sketchbook you REALLY don’t like?

Old Expo Exhibition Hall

I go to our new Grande Marché almost every day.  Part of the reason is that I’m trying hard to walk as much as possible to rebuild strength in my bad leg.  But the other reason is that there’s just something soothing about seeing all the local farmer produce on display.  I can’t really explain why that is so and the hectic nature of lots of people running around buying stuff would argue against it, but it makes me happy for some reason.

The other day I drew the corner of a really large, classic building that used to be the Science & Technology building on the fairgrounds on which the Grande Marché sits (it used to be the Agriculture building).  Anyways, I just love the corners of this building.  This was a quick and small sketch.  Some day I’ll have to do a larger one.