Gone The Way Of The Dodo

Saturday was the last day of the “Curiosities Exhibition” at our civilisation museum.  It could have been one of the best for sketchers but the decision to put everything in the dark, unfortunately, made it one of the worst.  I’m both happy and sad to see it go because there were so many things worth sketching, but trying to see what you were sketching was such a frustration.

It seemed appropriate for me to do my last sketch there of the Dodo bird, a bird that was made extinct back in the 1600s.  Humans brought rats to their home island and then started turning their jungle-like habitats into pasture land by the logging of ebony.  As we’ve allowed 30% of our bird population to be eliminated from the Earth in the last 50 years, we should reflect on the Dodo and so I do here.

Doodling At Home

I’ve been spending a lot of time doing various doodles at home because we’re having a flurry of snowstorms (pun somewhat intended) and so it hasn’t been pleasant to get out to sketch.  Here are a couple examples:

What would it be like if I were an ant?  I started with the mushroom and just started adding stuff I could see around it, if I were an ant.

I see people sketching leaves a lot.  I’ve done a few but never been able to get the ‘rusty’ spots that leaves get as they degrade.  I spend some time with this idea, trying varying amounts of water, working wet-on-wet.  I’m out of my depth when I try wet-on-wet I’m afraid.  This was my best result, which only says that the others were even worse (grin).

I won’t bore you with any more, mostly because I’m too lazy to scan them.  I will say that these sessions were productive and I learned a little.  Besides, sloshing paint and ink around is always fun.

Sketching From The Car

Winter has grabbed hold of us in Quebec and right now I’m looking out the window at a foot of new snow, but the snow is going sideways due to 60-70km/h winds.  I can’t see across the street.  I’m praying for the winds to die down this afternoon so I can run my snowblower.  Something to look forward to I suppose.

So I’m writing to you about a short trip I took a few days ago with Yvan out to Miriam’s cottage on Ile d’Orleans.  It was a bright sunny day but also, how do you say it… nippy.  We picked up Miriam and headed to a town called St. Laurent on the island.  We arrived at the boulangerie which is one of my favorite places to visit during summer, because they sell the best pesto pizza and it’s great to sit on the balcony of this huge house, overlooking the St. Lawrence, and sketch.  I’ve drawn the church it faces a number of times.

Today, though, our target was a cute little building from which they sell crafty things to the tourists.  It’s snuggled into the forest edge behind the main building and looks to me like a ginger-bread house.  We parked at the end of the driveway (the place is closed during winter) and sketched the building from the car.  It was a bit cramped with three of us in the car, with our sketching bags close at hand.  We had to start the car several times to defrost the windows but we were out of the wind and plenty warm.

I tried to depict the ‘tucked away’ look of the place by including a bunch of the foreground but I struggled a bit with the snow since I was working on tan paper.  I was happy with my “cute” approach on this sketch, though I’ve got to get better creating snow with gouache.  It was either too white or not white enough 🙂

From there we ended up across the street in the parking lot behind the church.  Miriam and Yvan wanted to draw the big ice blocks that had started to accumulate along the bank of the St. Lawrence.  That didn’t really turn my crank and so I just started sketching random things I could see.  I enjoy doing this because I can just concentrate on the object, foresaking any semblance of scene-building.  Pickings were a bit slim in the parking lot but it was fun nevertheless.

Sketching from a car isn’t ideal, but there’s something cozy about doing it with a couple friends.  Sort of like drive-in movies for sketchers.

Quick-sketching At The Grande Marche

Finally, maybe, kinda-sorta, the holiday season is behind us.  Every year it’s the same.  There’s the build-up to Christmas, with Christmas bringing the thought that the holidays are finally over.

But at our house it starts all over again because my daughter, my wife, and my wife’s mother all have birthdays during January.  This year was extra-busy because it was my mother-in-law’s 100th birthday so Chantal’s been running around, buying out the stores in preparation for the party.  That party was supposed to be going on RIGHT NOW, but lo and behold, the hospice facility where my mother-in-law is living right now just quarantined itself due to an outbreak of flu. The 100th anniversary party cancelled.

Otherwise things are returning to normal and I’m starting to do some sketching outside the house.  I spent a couple sessions at the Grande Marche, quick-sketching people and its kiosks.  Boy, do I need practice with quick-sketching.  I’ve lost my knack for it almost completely.  One has to do it regularly to be successful and my health problems got me out of sync with street sketching.

This scene was created by drawing people as they arrived at this kiosk, followed by drawing some of the kiosk clutter for background.

For this one the approach was a bit different because my goal was to draw the end of a long coffee shop so I started with the big shapes of the counters.  A guy came along and stood while he poured milk and sugar into his coffee (from counter on the left) so I drew him and then went back to drawing all the “stuff” that was coffee shop.

I moved to a different location and found a condiment cart sitting next to a wall and decided to draw it.  I always find it hard to “draw” all the little bits, trying to generate instead a series of textures to represent them.  In the end I think the sketch was too small to worry about it.  It was fun to get out with pen in hand.  Did I mention that I need practice…lots of practice.

Preparing For 2020

At the end of each year I look at the sketchbooks I have in progress.  If I include my two practice sketchbooks there were six of them.  Two were almost filled, though, and I make an effort to fill those before we turned over the calendar to 2020 for I can get a fresh start on the year.  Besides, both of those books were portrait format and I find that I prefer working in landscape mode.

To replace one I grabbed a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) from my sketchbook stash.  I love this format and Stillman & Birn books are still my favorites.

For the second replacement, however, I decided to try something new.  Out of curiosity I’d picked up a pad of Strathmore 184lb Mixed Media paper.  I cut a bunch of 9×12 sheets in half and created a 26-sheet sketchbook.  I made covers from thick cardboard and took it to Bureau en Gros (Staples to those outside of Quebec) where they neatly spiral bound it for me.

The plan was to wait until 2020 to start using them but I couldn’t wait to try the Strathmore paper so I sketched the small support table that sits to the left of my drawing table.  I really like drawing on the paper and, at least for these light washes, the paper does fine.  I think I’m going to like it even if it isn’t S&B.

So I’m all set for 2020.  I want to thank everyone who followed my blog in 2019 and all who have taught me so much by posting their own work on their blogs, YouTube, Instagram, and the rest.  Happy New Year.