Last Sketch In Montreal

Following three days of sketching in Montreal, we had to move our daughter from Ottawa to her new place in Montreal.  We burned up Sunday moving her stuff and filling Ikea’s coffers with our money.

That went smoothly so by Monday morning the only thing left were a bunch of boxes that needed to be emptied.  It had determined that I was not smart enough to help with that process because I wouldn’t put things in the right place and so I was told to “go sketching and bring back lunch.”

Those were orders I could march to so I headed out the door.  I found this amazing piece of architecture only a few minutes away and there was a shady area on the opposite street corner.  I set up to do a leisurely sketch.

When I finished the sketch I packed up and headed to Notobene, my new favorite store, because Anne-Laure had bought a rainbow pencil there and I wanted one too.  I bought two and then drew a couple people while leaning against the wall outside.  Then it was time for forage for lunch.  It was a fitting ending to this amazing sketching trip.  With my daughter living in Montreal I’ll have ample reasons to return so I’ll be sketching in Montreal regularly from now on.

Montreal Day 3: Meet Liz and Anne-Laure Day

Sunday was meet and greet day, where people could come, meet and sketch with Liz Steel and Anne-Laure Jacquart.  Marc was, once again, the organizer of said event and I really don’t know where he gets his stamina.  All three of these folks had just returned from several days in Chicago for the USK Symposium and so they’d been doing sketching events non-stop for more than a week.

I figured that since I’d gotten to spend an entire day with them, today would be a day where I’d just hang back and get some sketching done.  As I’m an early riser, by 7:30 I was walking towards the City Hall meeting place (at 10AM).  I figured I’d play tourist and get some early sketching done before other people showed up.  This was a simple enough plan but one that went horribly wrong.

The problem came in the form of rain and by the time I arrived at City Hall it was pouring rain and I was soaked to the bone.  I had a raincoat but it didn’t seem to help much.  I ducked into a place called Eggspectation to get some breakfast but mostly to dry out.  I was successful with the first part but I was too wet to expect to leave dry.

That didn’t really matter because when I left it was still pouring rain and so, the idiot that I am, I walked around for nearly two hours looking at stuff I’d like to sketch if not for the rain falling from my hat. My hands permanently wrinkled from the water.  Oh, and did I mention that I’d approached this entire weekend with a sprained ankle.  My FitBit said that I’d walked over 50km on it this weekend.  You’ll see how that becomes important as this saga continues.  Let me just say here that the walking, combined with soaking wet feet, weighed heavy on this old man by the time things got rolling on this day.

But roll along it did and people started showing up between 10-10:30 and the rain started to give us a break as well.  We huddled on the patio of a restaurant that hadn’t opened yet while introductions were made.  Marc laid out the game plan for the day and we soldiered out in the hopes that the rain had finally abated.  For the two or three of you that don’t know these artists, I provide these snapshots.  If you look closely you might be able to see the aura that surrounds each of them wherever they go (grin).

Anne-Laure Jacquart (gray sweater)

Marc Taro Holmes

Liz Steel

Our hopes were not realized as shortly after we started sketching, it started drizzling.  I’m not one for sketching in the rain but we really had no choice, and so I learned something.  Raincoats aren’t useful for sketching in the rain.  While many of the women tucked themselves AND their sketchbooks under umbrellas, even my small sketchbook was a target for the raindrops.  Marc was worse off than I was.  We were both doing quick sketches in small 3×5 notebooks but he had neither umbrella or raincoat.  He was just tough.

Anyways, here are the few little sketches I did during this session.  You can see evidence of the rain hitting the paper, causing the ink to bloom.   I spent a lot of time sitting, while lamenting the growing pain in my ankle, the beginnings of a limp and my growing sense of oldness as my body was letting me down.

Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was time for lunch and I was sure ready for it, or rather I was ready for a dry place to sit.  The normal sketcher talk took place over lunch and I learned something else.  I’d come to this sketchcrawl with the thought of traveling light so each day I had three pieces of Coroplast with watercolor paper taped to both sides of it.  For the drawing portion of the day this is wonderful, maybe even ideal.  For the “show me yours” part of the day… not so much.  I had none of the sheets I’d done the day before, nothing I’d done in the past, and so, I had nothing to pass around while others were doing that with their sketchbooks.  I felt bad about this; I were getting to see all their great sketches without me “paying back” the favor.

It’s something to think about for the future.  I love the set up Anne-Laure uses.  She explains it in this YouTube video.  I’m going to try it.  I’ve seen it done on a smaller scale but I like to work on a bigger sheet than A5 or A6 sizes so this might be what I need.

When we came out of the restaurant it had stopped raining and so we spread out around Place Jacques Cartier and started sketching.  By this point my ankle was barking loud enough that I’m sure others heard it too, but I sat down and tried to draw City Hall.  I made a lot of errors in this sketch but if you know nothing of what Montreal City Hall looks like, it might be ok (grin).

At this point I started evaluating my situation.  I was limping quite a bit  and I started thinking about the fact that I was supposed to help my daughter move from Ottawa to Montreal the next day.  My body had won over my desires and I made my apologies and left, limping my way back to the apartment.  I felt sad and somewhat guilty to bail out on such a wonderful adventure but, to quote my daughter, “It is what it is.”  Maybe that should be “It was what it was” to keep the verb tenses consistent (grin).

But wow…what I learned this weekend will require a lot of thought and even more action.  I’ve been doing dozens of quick gestures in a style as close to Marc’s as I can.  These are actually going well and lots of fun.  Lots of problems with proportions though, because I’m working too fast to carefully analyze what I’m drawing.

I’m also mixing lots of blotches of watercolor, trying to figure out how to get the proper thickness for drawing lines with watercolor, figuring out the effects of multiple layers of wash, etc.  And I’ve been reviewing sections of Liz’s courses and trying to achieve a better understanding of how to apply what she explains in them.  Oh…and I’ve been trying to emulate the amazing beautiful people that Anne-Laure does.  So much inspiration, so little time.

Montreal Day 2: Just A Five Minute Sketch

WARNING:  This is a long post, punctuated with sketches and photos but mostly Larry’s drone about one of the best sketching days of his life.  Strong coffee is advised.

Friday morning I was up early.  I was supposed to meet Marc, Liz and Anne-Laure at 10AM.  I was at our meeting place by 8AM.  I thought it would give me a chance to do some sketching before they got there.  It was raining by the time I got there so I ducked into a coffee shop.  I sketched a few people but mostly I just stayed dry and drank coffee.

When it finally stopped raining I found a place to sit and started sketching the library across the street from the metro station where I was to meet them.  It was pretty exciting to meet Liz and Anne-Laure.  Both are really fun, talented people.  If anything was going to intimidate this sketcher it would be trying to keep up with these three, but I had a head start because I’d already started my sketch.

All the value of the head start earned me was the ability to watch these folks in action.  But to do so I had to be careful not to blink or I’d miss a lot.  In addition to being good, they are FAST!!  I had time to flip through one of Liz’s sketchbooks while she replicated the sketch I’d done, only hers was better.  Anne-Laure worked direct with paint and did an amazing sketch of the same building, while Marc created a Frankenbuilding by adding the steeple from another building to the building we’d all drawn.   I’m hoping you won’t notice that you won’t notice that I didn’t take photos of their drawings so I wouldn’t have to post them for comparison with mine.  It’s better that way (grin)

And then we were off on an adventure, an adventure that the slowest sketcher on the planet was ill-equipped for but I had a blast trying to scribble fast enough to keep up.  It reminded me of the “extreme sketching” that Marc got me doing last winter where we’d go out in very cold weather and do a sketch in five minutes before moving on for the next one.  The only thing missing was the cold.

We turned the corner on Mont Royal St. and there was a row of stores and Liz said, “Let’s draw those.”  She plunked down on the sidewalk and went to work.  Understand, I could draw those stores – yes I could.  But it would take me an hour or more, that I knew I wouldn’t have this time.  Instead I pulled out a tiny Stillman & Birn sketchbook and started scribbling away as fast as I could.  Ten minutes later Liz had a beautiful, full-color drawing.  I had this:

Anne-Laure was smart and only drew one of the stores.  I’m not sure what Marc did.  Maybe he yawned and thus ran out of time.  Don’t know.  I do know that I was pumped and we resumed our walk.

Marc took us down a street to show us a corner balcony and I heard it for the first time, “Let’s just do a five minute sketch.”  And that’s what we did, though it might have run a few minutes longer than that.  I lose all control over proportions when working this fast and so it went while trying to capture this two-story balcony.   Of course, everyone faired much better than I did.  Humbled be me.  Marc had limited himself to a loose pencil gesture… of the entire building, the one next to it, the mountain and trees behind it, and some of the cars on the street.  How does he do that so quickly?

Marc had a plan and we were on a tour of some of his favorite sketching locations.  But he also needed to take us to Patisserie Notre-Dame Du Rosaire, the best darn Natas dispensary in Montreal.  Why?  Because Liz wanted to draw Natas in preparation for the 2018 USK Symposium in Porto, Portugal, that’s why.  There might have been something in there about actually eating Natas too.  I’m not sure.

Anyways, we arrived, bought half a dozen Natas and sat down to sketch.  Anne-Laure and Liz went after their Natas with paint.  Marc and I had a more gustatorial approach.  Natas are yummy.

Following the snack, we walked down to a cathedral (there’s one of these on every street corner in Quebec), initially to use the facilities but then the words rang out, “Let’s just do a five minute sketch.”  So, we did.  I figured that in five minutes I could probably draw one of the light bulbs so that’s where I started.  By the time I’d finished the entire light fixture the others were really getting into it.  Marc appeared to be drawing the entire cathedral, Liz was finishing up her first sketch and was heading to a different seat to start another.  So I started doodling, drawing part of the large alter area, then the seat in front of me with a semi-approximation of Liz who used to be sitting there.  When I finished Marc had this amazing drawing that seemed to go on forever.  Anne Laure had done the entire front portion of the church and Liz had done at least two sketches, if not more.  Me, I had my doodles.

I commented that I thought they said we were doing a five-minute sketch and that’s when Liz explained it to me.  “Let’s just do a five minute sketch,”  is a way of getting everyone started.  How much time is actually spent is negotiable.  It’s amazing how much art jargon you can pick up when you hang out with experienced artists.

We continued walking but concluded that it was time for lunch so Marc took us to this great place.  Here’s a photo of the pros taking a break, sort of.

With lunch over, we headed to Carré St. Louis which is a long rectangular park with a big fountain in it and it’s surrounded with more gingerbread architecture, some of it painted by Disney.  I could spent a week drawing there and want to come back for more.  Liz said, “No wonder Marc’s always drawing the tops of the building.”

But then the thunder started and even dedicated sketchers can’t stand in a downpour to draw so we looked around for a place to be dry and still sketch.  We chose Hippi Poutine, a poutine-serving place with a covered patio.  We’d just eaten but we ordered coffee and Marc bought a small poutine so the “foreigners” could try it. Poutine is french fries smothered in gravy with cheese curds on top.  It’s recommended by cardiac surgeons everywhere.

When the rain came, it really came.  The streets cleared of people but we had a view of a multi-faceted building and we all went to work.

Liz and I were getting spray coming in under the awning and Marc had water dripping down his back as it poured down the walls.  Undaunted, they worked away.  Then it got windy and Liz and I got a face full of water.  I believe her sketch got splattered as well but that doesn’t seem to bother her.  Mine did too but I was starting to get really wet and so closed my book, set it on the table to my right and concentrated on drinking my latte.  When the wind let up I picked up my book to continue only to find that it had become completely soaked by rain coming down the wall.  The only saving grace was that the book was almost filled so the last few pages, which are now stuck together, were the only real loss.  I won’t be showing you to scribblings I had done of this place.

The rain finally stopped, though, and we continued our trek through the Montreal neighborhoods and ended up on Sherbrooke street in front of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. It was only fitting that we draw it and, lucky us, there was a covered place to sit on the opposite side of the street in case it rained.  It’s a huge building so I just concentrated on the center portion of it.

From there we stopped at Notabene, my new favorite store.  It sells old typewriters, every notebook in existence and pencils, pens and inks.  We all ended up buying stuff before we started searching for a place to have dinner and maybe sketch from outdoor seating.  That evening we found ourselves in an art store because Liz needed gel pens and where Anne-Laure bought a bunch of Fabriano Artistico sheets.  Somehow I managed to leave without buying anything.  Might be a first for me.

This day was one of the best sketching days I’ve had in my life.  It was an honor to be able to sketch with Marc, Liz and Anne-Laure and I thank them for their fun and generous nature.

Montreal Day 1: Drawing With Paint

I’m a lucky guy because I’ve had the opportunity to sketch with Marc Taro Holmes on occasion.  Not only is he one of the best sketchers in the world, he’s also a really nice guy and it’s really fun to sketch with him.  But this past weekend was really special because I was sketching with him and I was going to meet Liz Steel and Anne-Laure Jacquart because they were visiting Marc and Shari in Montreal.

On Thursday, though, it was just Marc and I and we headed towards Mont Royal Cemetery to draw statues.  Along the way we stopped, set up shop on the sidewalk, and drew a wonderful house, undoubtedly built just so we could sketch it.  I’m afraid I got a bit clumsy and heavy-handed with the paint on this one but I present the results anyways.  That’s just the kind of guy I am (grin).

Fabriano Artistico 140CP, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Marc has started skipping the pen stuff and he’s drawing directly with paint and we started talking about that as we walked along.  Marc’s not a guy who does a hard-sell on anything but he has a way of making you want to try new things.  And so I did.  This is the first time I’ve ever done anything with paint that wasn’t coloring inside the lines and, well, I have a lot to learn.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Daniel Smith watercolors

Undaunted by all the things I didn’t understand about this process, I continued, doing this second statue.

This was definitely one of those experiences that taught me more about what I didn’t know than how to do it.  I’ve been wanting to integrate paint more directly in my thought process, as in include it in the thought process rather than considering it only as an afterthought.  This drawing with paint idea might generate a bunch of bad drawings, but I think it’s going to get me doing what I should be doing with paint if I’m going to learn how to use it properly.  These are some of the things/ideas that spilled from the process and things I need to work on:

  1. Work in both negative and positive space to define shapes.
  2. Paint must be mixed thicker than wash consistency to be an effective drawing tool.
  3. To achieve light colors that are sufficiently thick for drawing requires mixing light neutral colors into the mix.  Marc uses DS Buff Titanium and Holbein’s Davey’s Gray for this.
  4. Large contrasts between foreground and background pay large dividends.
  5. Oh…and this is probably the most important thing I’ve learned.  Larry needs a LOT more brush time cuz he can’t draw a straight line with a brush to save his soul.

At this point it was looking like rain and we were both hungry so we hopped on the metro and headed for lunch.  I guess we’re not dedicated sketchers because we sat eating sandwiches and talked about the future of urban sketching the rest of the afternoon, not lifting pen nor brush the rest of the day.  But, as Scarlett said, “Tomorrow is another day,” and we had a big day planned.

Draw The Cool Stuff First, Then Stop

I’m the sort that just draws stuff.  My sketching lacks attempts to generate good compositions, to capture large panoramic scenes, or achieve balance and unity.  I simply draw stuff that interests me.  I realize these other things matter but for me, the fun comes from making lines on a page.  What they define is a very low priority for me.  Goofy view of art, I know, but it is mine.  I’m trying hard to learn these other things, to worry about them, and somehow bring them to my sketches, but sometimes I just like to draw the cool thing and then stop.

Along Rue St. Paul, across from the train station, there are some really great old buildings with lots of gables, towers, and, as my dad used to call it, “gingerbread” that makes them special.  I was walking along and decided to draw one of the towers on a corner building.  But this building goes a long way in both directions, with a bunch of windows and cables.  I didn’t want to spend that much time on it, so I just drew the cool part and stopped.  I was happy with that result.

Too Far Away, And The Need To Make It Interesting

I was walking along the river and decided to draw part of the skyline.  From where I was, these buildings were very small, and very far away.  I decided that I could “improve” things by drawing the buildings larger/closer to me so I put on my ZOOM brain and went to work.

There was only one problem with that idea.  If the buildings were close, I should be able to see a bunch of details.  I could not and so I started stumbling around (figuratively) trying to figure out what details I “needed” to imaginate.  This is harder than it sounds and clearly I need to think about this a lot.  I’m used to drawing what I see and I always err on the side of too much detail, which is the opposite of what I should probably doing here.  So much to learn, so little time.

A Quick Look Down The River

No far from my house is Pont Drouin (Drouin Bridge).  There are benches on either side of the roadway where you can sit in the middle of the bridge and ponder your navel, or maybe sketch.  I chose to do the later, quickly trying to capture the scene without much detail.

Drawing A Very Special House

I’m a street sketcher.  I like wandering around, drawing whatever catches my eye.  Because of this, I rarely draw from photos.  But once in a while I get the opportunity to draw something I can’t see on the streets of Quebec City.

Recently I was asked by a guy named Jim to draw his grandmother’s house.  He sent me several photos of the house and I was tasked with doing an 8×10 portrait of it.  Here are the results.  I dropped a rough matt over it so I could show him what it looked like before I packaged it up for shipment.  He seemed pleased.  I hope you like it as well.

A Proud Building In Limoilou

When I came to Quebec I was struck by how people would completely change their schedules if the sun shined, cancelling meetings so they could go on a picnic, taking the day off from work so they could go get a tan, or maybe just to do a happy dance.  Coming from Arizona, it never crossed my mind that sunshine was something to be savoured when it was around.

I’ve learned, though, that rare things have that affect on behavior and it couldn’t be more true this year.  Three of us skipped off to Limoilou to sketch on Tuesday because it wasn’t raining – the sun was shining.  It was a rather short adventure but sketch we did.

I’m working on doing my sketching more quickly than my norm and chose to apply those efforts towards this stately building along 4th Avenue.  It almost looks out of place as it’s far more elegant than those around it and I suspect it once served some special purpose.  I even got to work on my tan while I drew it.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Diluted DeAtramentis Document Black, Kuretake #13 w/Platinum Carbon Black

Emergency Road Trip

This summer has become one for the record books in terms of how little sketching I’ve been able to do.  The lousy weather was bad enough but being rushed to the hospital with heart problems really put a damper on my sketching just when we started getting some good sketching days.  Happy as a clam following recovery from that, though, I was starting to get out sketching until…

My daughter is still in Ottawa and she decided to fall down a bunch of stairs.  It could have been worse, but she badly sprained her ankle and was suddenly on crutches.  To put this in context, she’s in Ottawa alone and needs to walk 20-25 min each way to work every day.  To make matters worse, her timing was unfortunate because she had arranged to take the bus to Montreal to pick up the keys for her new apartment.  And so she called mom and dad.

The result was that we dropped everything and drove five hours to Ottawa and the next morning we drove to Montreal and back (another four hours).  Back in Ottawa, we spent the night and the next day we drove back to Quebec City (another five hours).  What a weekend.  I’m old; I was exhausted.

So…not much sketching time that weekend, but we did sit in a park or about an hour and once we got Jodie sitting and her leg propped up I did some quick sketching.

Certainly not the best scene ever but this is what I could see over the trees.  It was nice to scratch out this sketch in a Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

I then go out a small Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5) book, looked around and quickly drew these two apartment buildings on the other side of the Rideau River from where I was sitting.

I took a short break and took a walk along the river.  The Rideau River has bike/pedestrian paths on both sides of the river and it was nice to get out and do some walking.  When I got back I drew this little scene, again, viewed across the Rideau River.