A Weekend In Ottawa – Part 2

The day of my daughter’s graduation we did some more shopping and returned to Andrew Haydon Park.  It was still windy and still stormy but we like this park because there are a lots of geese and you can see the St. Lawrence River from there.

As a chipmunk foraged around us, I drew this sketch of a spit of land that sticks out on the other side of the marina associated with the park.  I forgot to include it in yesterday’s post.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

A Weekend In Ottawa

For the last few years I’ve gotten to draw in the museums of Ottawa because my daughter was going to school there.  This past weekend was the end point of that part of her life as she graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Ottawa.  We went there to spend some time with her and to attend her graduation.

I didn’t make it to any of the museums because we spent the weekend doing more exciting things, like laundry, shopping and grocery shopping (grin).

It was a hectic weekend, made a bit more unsettled by the fact that high humidity and high temps combined to provide a near constant threat of thunderstorms.  There was even a tornado warning at one point.

As it turned out, we didn’t see a lot of rain but there was a lot of wind.  We did sit in Andrew Haydon Park, though, and I did some quick sketches.  It’s hard for me to spend much time on sketches when I am with other people who are not sketching.

Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5)

 

 

A Visit With Claude Simard, Sort Of

Just before I left for Ottawa our group went to an exhibit of Claude Simard’s work at the Centre d’interprétation historique de Sainte-Foy. This is a very large house on the grounds of a large church/cemetery.  The church is a stone building that was gutted by fire a while back and was renovated into a place for semi-outdoor (walls but no roof) theatre.  Anyways, the grounds of this building complex are very nice and very sketchable.

We spent some time sketching outdoors before going to the Simard exhibition and I drew this small building where they used to keep corpses in winter when the ground was too frozen for burials to take place.  I apologize for the “lines” in the color.  These were produced when I used a cheap gray marker to indicate locations of tone because I ran out of time and needed some guidance for later when I added color.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

I really enjoyed Claude Simard’s work.  His paintings, mostly done in acrylic are bright, very colorful and impressionistic.  While it’s clear from sketches on display that he is an excellent draftsman, this is not reflected in his paintings, which are almost caricatures of their subjects.  Nevertheless, it’s clear where he got the moniker as the Happy Painter.

What excited me the most, however, were the cabinets that displayed some of his sketches.  Some were in sketchbooks while others were done on watercolor paper.  All were simple sketches with loose watercolors added to them.  I loved them all.  In fact, I started drawing some of them with the idea of playing with watercolors in as close as I could get to his style.  This was a lot of fun and I did several of them.  Here’s one example.  The original was about 5×7, as is my copy of it.  I’m afraid I fell short of doing his watercolors justice.

“Bois du coulonge” Park

Eek…I’ve been way for a while and haven’t posted anything here in five days.  I just got home from Ottawa so I’m grabbing a couple smallish sketches I did while we were at the Bois du coulonge park.  Not much to say about them except that the little pond sketch was done twice.  The first time around I did it with washable ink without realizing it and when I started applying watercolors I generated a mess (grin).  Anyways, I’ll get the blog back on track ‘real soon.’

Sometimes Small Is Fun

With decent weather coming late this year, I’m in the mood to walk, and walk, and walk.  My pedometer has been smoking hot from all the activity.  At the same time, my arthritic hand has been giving me fits and so it’s been hard for me to be motivated to sketch.

But small formats fit into the walks and don’t pain the hand too much so I’ve used my trusty 3.5×5.5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon book to work some sketching into my walks.  Here’s a couple of those results.  I might have gotten carried away with the color but I’m trying to figure out the why and how other sketchers do this sort of thing.  I think I like the results.  Do you?

Haiku Meets Urban Sketching

Last Thursday I had a meeting at Mount Herman Cemetery to plan an interaction between our sketching group and a haiku writing group.  We’re planning a somewhat unique urban sketching event where we sketchers will meet at the cemetery and be teamed up with one or more haikuistes (is that a word?) and they will glean their inspiration from what, where or how we’re sketching.  I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and we’ll get to meet some creative people.

I got to the cemetery a bit early, though and I passed the time drawing a cemetery scene, though I had to cut it short because I ran out of time.  This was where I ended up.  I wonder if it could inspire a haiku poem (grin).

An Interesting View While Out Of The Wind

It got pretty windy when during our sketching session and because our temperatures are still cooler than normal, it got uncomfortable.  We all started looking for a place to draw while out of the wind and I chose the leeward end of Maison Dorion, a large house that is the headquarters for the St. Charles River Society.  I drew this scene.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Quick-Sketching A Landscape

I’m convinced that I’m the slowest sketcher on the planet.  I’m not proud of being number one, but a man has to know who he is.  Sketching isn’t a race but nevertheless, this is often a problem for me because I’d like to capture a scene without growing a beard at the same time.

I figure that the only way to crack this problem is to force the issue so this morning, I went to a park near “my river,” sat down and started drawing trees as quickly as I could.  I did the pen work for this scene in about 25 minutes and reached for my color tools.

Oops…I’d forgotten my watercolor stuff.  What I did have was a handful of watercolor pencils and the smallest waterbrush known to man.  The pencils were ok for the color source but that waterbrush… yuck.  It was woefully inadequate for the task.  Nevertheless, I worked quickly and in less than 40 minutes I had this sketch.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

This doesn’t compare well to Liz Steel doing a painting  in the blink of an eye and it’s not even close to how long it takes me to do a one-minute sketch a’la Marc Taro Holmes, but for a scene with this many trees, I feel it was pretty quick.

I’m hoping to do a bunch of one-minute sketches and another bunch of continuous line drawings this summer.  They won’t be as detailed as my normal drawings and certainly not as accurate.  But I’m hoping these exercises will speed up my hand.  Wish me luck.

“What’s Wrong With It,” Cheryl asked.

I tend to be fairly pragmatic about my successes and failures when I sketch.  I don’t make a big deal out of succeeding and it doesn’t bother me if I fail.  In fact, failure is an opportunity to learn.  It’s this last thing that gets me in trouble as I also don’t mind saying I’ve failed because I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Stillman & Birn Beta (7×7 spiral), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

And so it was when I posted this sketch on my blog and on Instagram. I voiced the opinion that it wasn’t my best and this caused Cheryl Wright to ask, “What’s wrong with it?”

Rather than give her a brief answer it seemed her question presented an opportunity to talk about the analysis I do when sketches don’t meet even my low standards.

Composition & Esthetics

I tend to do building portraits so composition generally takes a backseat to showing off whatever it is that causes me to draw the building in the first place.  But if I did this one again, I’d move my point of view so that the streetlight wasn’t directly in line with the ductwork on the side of the building and I’d ensure that the globe of the light wasn’t hidden within the crown of the tree.  These things completely negated the raison d’etre for including the light in the sketch in the first place.

Also, the window treatments are sloppy in this sketch.  I wanted to keep them simple but I hatched them carelessly.  Generally I’m still very clumsy with color but clumsy is where I’m at right now with color so I hardly ever assess it.  Maybe some day.

Tonal Obfuscation

This building is little more than a box.  What makes it interesting is that the entrance and display windows cut across a diagonal of the building, but the building itself is square, creating a ceiling over the entrance and windows.
I completely obfuscated that reality by painting the signs and entrance a dark black, completely flattening this feature of the building.  I’ve tried to play with it in Photoshop to indicate a better way, lightening the signs but I’d messed up the sketch so badly that it was hard to make it look good.  I hope the graphic demonstrates what I am talking about, however.

Keeping Things In Perspective

This is where things really went south, though.  It seems I let my horizon line wander.  I’m not a stickler for perspective and don’t generally think in terms of vanishing points and such.  But it should be the case that the farther one gets from the horizon line, the more steep should be the angle downward or upward towards a horizon line – AND the horizon line needs to be kept constant.  If you are consistent in this way, it won’t matter much whether  each is accurate.  Here, I wasn’t consistent and you can see that the angles go all over the place, crossing in places and being parallel in others.  Shouldn’t be like that and the sketch suffered.

So this is why I said what I said about this sketch.  I agree with what Cheryl said in the rest of her message, “I love its quiet simplicity.”  I only wish I’d done a better job of depicting it.  Thanks to Cheryl for asking a great question.

 

A Sad Tale Of A Great Success

I got up yesterday morning full of enthusiasm.  I was going to drive to Montreal and sketch with some Montreal urban sketchers and I was going to get to meet Koosje Koene of Sketchbook Skool fame.  My trusty weather app reassured me that I would be greeted in Montreal with 15-17C and sunny skies.  So off I went, listening to CBC radio and doing my normal “Oh, that would be great to sketch” dialog with myself as I sped through the countryside.

I was going to arrive a couple hours before everyone else but Jane Hannah said she’d meet me, but a bit later.  I parked in a very convenient parking dungeon (seven stories below ground) that Jane gave me coordinates to and walked out into the beautiful sunshine ugly rain.  Hmm…not so good.  But I was confident the rain would stop and I’d never been to old Montreal before so I just started walking around, taking photos of the amazing architecture and statues. Tourist am me.

Eventually I wandered back to the meeting place and there was Jane.  And the rain had stopped.  We talked for a bit but eventually sat down to draw.   Not being versed in the rules of Montreal, I didn’t realize that this was the cue for the rain to begin.  It did.

This was the extent of my sketching. I increased the contrast so you could see my mental discussion with shapes and proportions in anticipation of actually drawing this structure.

Jane suggested we walk to a restaurant she wanted to show me.  We did but it was closed so we walked a bit more.

The rain stopped.  Of course it had; we weren’t sketching.  We decided to draw part of an amazing building so we set up, sat down and I started block in the basic shapes I wanted to capture and, you guessed it – it started to rain again.

It was getting near time to meet Koosje so we headed back to the meet location, stood with a few urban sketchers and along came Koosje.  It was not going to be much of a sketching day so we went to a restaurant and spent the next three hours talking, eating, and some sketched people.  I’m not much for sketching in restaurants so mostly I watched and kibbitzed.  There were a dozen of us so there was lots of potential for kibbitzing.

In the end, the day was a big success because of the people.  I’ll do sketching some other time.  It did seem that I needed a souvenir of the day, however, so this morning I did this quick drawing of part of city hall, depicting the dreary nature of the day, I hope.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black