Sitting In The Morning Sun…

“I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time” – Otis Redding

I had to meet some people in front of the Notre Dame cathedral and there’s a tiny park in front of it, which is where I was, with some time to kill.

Since becoming a sketcher I rarely ‘kill time.’  These interludes between the activities of life are sketching opportunities for me, whether it be waiting in a doctor’s office or waiting for a friend to show up.

And there I was, on a sunny morning, sitting on a bench, with a book statue looking down on me.  What’s a guy to do.  I got out my Moleskine watercolor book.  I hadn’t used it in a long time for some reason but it seemed just right for this little sketch.

Moleskine watercolor book (3x5), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Moleskine watercolor book (3×5), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

I Don’t Do Portraits

Oops…I guess I do.

One thing the art world has taught me is that I don’t have the “people are interesting to look at” gene.  While everyone else attends life drawing classes and draws portrait after portrait, I prefer to draw fire hydrants, buildings and telephone poles.  I don’t know why but if I were to rank sketching subjects, people would be at the bottom of my list.

BUT, sketching a person walking by a fire hydrant, that’s an interesting idea and so I spend a fair amount of time doing quick, loose sketches of people.

Yet another BUT is that I’ve come to realize that being able to draw a likeness can get you into places.  My buddy, Yvan, is always drawing people and because of it people in groups immediately understand him and what he does.  It’s harder to comprehend a fire hydrant sketcher.

Canson Mi-Teintes (5x7) using a Col-Erase pencil. Very hard to get darks

Also, to me, there are several “core” skills that make up drawing.  These are 1) the ability to measure/estimate angles and proportions, 2) achieve accuracy of line and form, and 3) mastery over whatever materials you’re using.  I’ve spent the last 3 1/2 years, starting out trying to draw cubes, with a rather myopic “gotta learn those things” approach.  I’m getting so that my ability to assess angles and proportions is becoming a feature, not a liability in my sketching, and I’m ok with pushing my fountain pen around (watercolor is another matter).

Canson Mi-Teintes (5x7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black - This is tough with pen but I barely know which end of a pencil to put to paper.

Canson Mi-Teintes (5×7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black – This is tough with pen but I barely know which end of a pencil to put to paper.

It seems, however, that fire hydrant drawing can only take you so far when trying to learn form and accuracy and so I’ve spent a lot of time in museums, drawing all sorts of stuff that I would never “choose” to draw, all in the name of improving my accuracy, ability to see half-tones, and the rest.  I figure I only have another 40-50 years of doing it and I’ll have it figured out.  By the age of 115, I might be able to call myself “artist.”

All of that is to say that I’m even drawing portraits… kinda.  I head to a local park every Thursday night, where a small group sits on the porch of a small chapel and we sketch one another, during 20-minute poses.  I’ve never mentioned it before because… well, I’m pretty bad at it.  I thought, however, I would share a couple of the sketches I’ve done recently, just to change things up here just a bit.  It’s ok to laugh.

Canson Mi-Teintes (5x7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black - I'm really lost when it comes to hatching really light shades that are the form of the face.

Canson Mi-Teintes (5×7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black – I’m really lost when it comes to hatching really light shades that are the form of the face.

The Bande Dessinee Truck Comes To Limoilu

Every month, Cathy Johnson runs a virtual sketchcrawl where we all agree to go out, sketch, and then post the results on a Facebook page for that purpose.  This Saturday was that day and I needed to do my part in the sketchcrawl, meet up with people at an event, get my daily walk in (2 hours) and them a few things at home.

I headed off to accomplish all those things, sketchbag at my side, feet pounding the pavement.  And then it happened.  I missed a golden opportunity to take a photo to show you.  My only excuse was that I was caught up in the moment and also didn’t want to risk taking the photo.  Why?  What?  Where?  Ah, but this is a “who” story.

Those of us who are street sketchers are used to sketching in public.  It’s what we do.  We also try to convince others that it’s fun and that there is no risk of embarrassment or harassment.  Nobody needed to tell a little girl I met any of that.

I came upon her, sitting next to the sidewalk, on 3rd Avenue.  She was drawing the typical drawing of an 8-year old – parents, child, sun in the sky, and lots of sky – she was working on the sky with vigor.  I stopped and told her how nice her drawing was and tried to engage her in some chit-chat.  She was shy, as you might expect.  She also had a small box sitting next to her that you might not expect.  It was a box in which people who admired her work could drop a coin or three.  How could I resist.  I emptied my pocket into her box, repeated my praise for her sketch, and moved on.  Oh how I wish I’d taken a picture.

Anyways, I continued my walk and realized that we’re in the middle of a heat wave, or rather a humidity wave.  The temps are only 26-28C but the humidity his very high and I was melting as I plodded along.  I mention this as my excuse for not sketching.  I know it’s not a great excuse but it’s the best I’ve got.

20150815BDLimoilu2I got to my event, which was a small block party in Limoilu and was thrilled to find that I could get a bottle of cold water from them for free.  It was my lucky day.  The reason I was there, though, was that the Bande Dessinee (comics/graphic novels for the French-challenged) Francophone de Quebec had their mobile library available and an outdoor reading room.  It was being manned by a fellow sketcher, and superb artist, Andre Gagnon.

2015-08-14VirtSketchcrawl3As we sat and talked I noticed a couple kids with big foam hats that looked like Pluto and Donald Duck.  As they were reading you could only see the hat above the book and I couldn’t resist doing a quick-sketch of this young girl as she read.  In some small way I hope it saves my honor in the sketchcrawl.


Nouvelle France 2015 – Day Two

Sunday was the last day of the Nouvelle France festival in Quebec and the Croquites de Quebec held a sketchcrawl which was pretty much a repeat of the sketchcrawl of the day before.

I showed up at 9:30 to find several people waiting for the organizers (Yvan and myself).  We all did howdy-dos just as Yvan arrived.  Things were pretty calm in Place Royale at that time in the morning so architecture seemed the thing to draw.

2015-08-09NouvelleFrance4It struck me as funny to see old stone structures, fake old kiosks and then a modern stage scaffold with some signs attached so I decided to draw this anachronistic scene.

2015-08-09NouvelleFrance5Things got rolling along around 10AM but before that I drew this kiosk and the woman who was setting before the crowds showed up.  I added a couple people to the page just to fill up it.   You’ll notice a ghost head, with partiallly drawn 3-corner hat, rising through the roof of the building.  Many ghosts were created as subjects walked away, often when I had  just started to draw them.

2015-08-09NouvelleFrance6This is just a page of random sketches, done of people within Place Royale.  This kind of sketching is like shooting skeet.  You’re happy when you get one and not too disappointed when you miss because there’ll be another to shoot at sketch real soon.

2015-08-09NouvelleFrance7Here’s a couple of “our mothers”, or so they are called here in Quebec.  Long ago, Quebec was settled mostly by adventurous men, sent by France to claim parts of the New World.  But as settlements were established, and the notion of permanence set in, it was clear to the king (and probably those adventurous men) that having some women around might be a good idea.

So, Louis XIV paid women to immigrate from France to Nouvelle France.  Some 700 women took part in the program.  Called Les Filles du Roi it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why these women are called by Quebecers “our mothers.”  They have their own society.

A portion of the festival is the arrival of the filles du roi, by sailing ship, and they are greeted at the old port and ushered into the city.  The society has a kiosk and the women wear traditional garb.  They are absolutely beautiful.  I spent a fair amount of time sketching them.  I’ll end with a final sketch of a fille du roi that had a beautiful cape to go with her dress.



Nouvelle France 2015 In Quebec City

Every August a very cool thing happens.  The entire old port area of Quebec City is converted into a 1700s movie set, though the thousands of tourists wandering around is something of an anachronism.

Quebecers pay them no mind as they are dressed in costumes reflecting the era, from trappers to Louis XIV and everyone in between.  They make traditional food and music.  They dance.  They sing.  But mostly they just walk around, enjoying each other’s costumes.  It’s a great big adult costume party with a huge dose of small-town fair added for good measure.

I love hanging out during the festival as the people are having so much fun in the midst of simplicity – a rare thing these days.  As a sketcher, it’s an opportunity as the festival presents a target-rich environment.  The only problem is that those targets are moving.  You’ve got to choose wisely and have a little luck to find a subject that doesn’t walk out of sight during the very few minutes you have to sketch them.

2015-08-08Nouvelle France0.5This year the Collectif had a sketchcrawl and we all showed up in Place Royale, stuck our butts on the steps of the cathedral and began frantically drawing anything that moved, or rather, anything that stopped moving.

I haven’t taken the time to scan all the sketches I did in my little notebook but I scanned this one to show you my ‘warm up’ that morning.  Nothing to speak of but it got my eyes focused on the crowd.

During this event I also did some sketches in the sketchbook I created by cutting a larger, cheap sketchbook in half.

2015-08-08NouvelleFrance1I drew the banner and a bit of one of the buildings just to document some of the ambiance.  It was a half-hearted attempt because my eyes wer on all the people.  When my eye saw this hat, I had to draw the woman under it.

2015-08-08NouvelleFrance2Occasionally some of the costumed people would stand still, even pose.  The guy on the right was standing on the steps of the church talking about history and I took advantage of that.  The guy on the left actually posed for the group but where I was sitting was too close to sketch all of him so I concentrated on his head.

2015-08-08NouvelleFrance3This one is a reflection of the serendipity of street sketching.  I was sitting in a really tiny park area and I had started drawing the woman on the right.  I got as far as you see the sketch when she decided to run off with one of her friends.  So, I started sketching the guy sitting at the edge of the park (behind the big flower pot), who was playing piano.  As he was mostly not visible I added some of the facing restaurant as background.

This kind of sketchcrawl is intense.  Unlike sketchcrawls in parks, museums or gardens where we lounge around, leisurely sketching, people sketching in a crowd is more like herding cats in terms of its frantic nature.  But it sure is fun.  And the best part of this day was that I was going to do it all over again “tomorrow.”  I’ll talk about that – tomorrow.