Self-Induced Tragedy Avoided Because Of Nice People

During most of my sketching life, whenever I leave my house I carry this bag with me.  Well, not exactly.  This photo was taken seven years ago, when it was pretty new.  These days it’s grimy and fraying at the edges.  But it’s the heartbeat of my location sketching.  There are always a couple sketchbooks, a watercolor kit and a bunch of pens in it.

But for the last couple years I’ve lost the habit of putting it on simply because I wasn’t going anywhere and dealing with problems that wouldn’t let me sketch much.  But I’m now back to hauling it around with me… almost.

I met with a friend I don’t see very often at a coffee shop and we spent half a day solving the world’s problems and drinking coffee.  We sat outside where the shop has a bunch of tables.  We said our goodbyes about 4PM and I headed home.

That evening, around 10:30PM, I wanted to swap watercolor kits and  I couldn’t find my bag.  Where could it be?  Then panic struck as I realized that I must have left it at the coffee shop, a shop that was now closed for the night.

To quote Chantal, “It’s gone” as we both realized the probability of ever seeing that bag again was about zero.  The bag itself was very important to me as I’ve never been able to find one like it and it’s perfect for what I do.  Pens and such I carry are worth at least $200.  But most important were the two sketchbooks that were irreplaceable.  It’s funny how my sketches, though not worth much, are precious to me.  Anyways, I had a pretty sleepless night.

I went to the coffee shop at 6:30AM when they opened and asked, without much hope, if they had my bag.  And SHAZAMM…someone had picked up the bag and turned it into the barista.  There was a lot of thanking that followed and I even hugged the bag a couple times.  I’ve got to get my oldsheimers under control.

Piglet Gets Some Attention

When people think of Winnie the Pooh stories they think of sad-sack Eeyore, bouncy Tigger and, of course Pooh himself.  Almost forgotten is a fourth member of their tribe, Piglet.  He doesn’t have as many lines as the others but he’s still an integral part of the Winnie the Pooh mythos.

In spite of his being Pooh’s best friend, he was omitted from the first Disney rendition of Winnie the Pooh and it took A.A. Milne’s (Pooh author) protestations to get him included in subsequent films.  Piglet should get more respect than that because he tries so hard to be brave in spite of his small size.

I’m continuing to draw my daughter’s collection of stuffed animals and I really enjoy it.  I’m not sure whether this is because they’re stuffed animals (very different subject for me) or because its studio work, something I am dis-inclined to do, though I should.  In either case, drawing Piglet was a joy.  Piglet, you’re the star today.

The Grande Marche Opens In Quebec City

An exciting event occurred just down the street from my house; exciting mostly because it’s “just down the street from my house.”  The Grande Marché just opened in Quebec City.

This is a huge farmer’s market that also includes cheese, pasta, sausage, etc., etc. shops.  We’ve always had such a place but it was smaller, not nearly as fancy, and it was a significant drive from our house.  This one is a two-minute walk.  I go there nearly every day, if only to get my walking exercise started for the day.

What does this have to do with sketching?  Well, it’s also a great place to sit and quick-draw people.  I’m still experimenting with places to sit within the complex but there are several that are great.

Our growing season started really late this year but we’re starting to get farmers showing up with more and more produce so drawing their kiosks will be on the agenda soon.

Just so I don’t leave you empty-handed, here’s a drawing/painting I did of the exterior of the building.  While the interior has changed completely, the basic structure is mostly as it was when this was the building that housed the horses and cows when we had a state fair.  Only the entrances have been upgraded.  It smells better too (grin)

Fabriano Artistico, Daniel Smith watercolors, some pen work at the end.

Location Sketching (Finally) In Beauport

To say that spring/summer has been slow in arriving would be a big understatement but we’re finally starting to get some warm, sunny days.  We took advantage of one of them last week and found ourselves in Beauport, along Avenue Royale, a street that runs along a hillside, a part of the city where the architecture is spectacular but quite different from the really early architecture of our “old city.”

My first sketch was an example of me biting off more than I could chew.  It didn’t start out that way.  I intended to draw just the end of a long set of Quebec equivalents of New York brownstones.  These are covered with gables, towers, etc. and are quite stunning.  They’re also quite complicated.  Very quickly, though I let my eyes grow big while my time stayed the same and the result was that very soon I was scribbling my way to depicting half of the entire complex, something that should have taken twice the time and been done in a much larger format.  My little 4×6 book just wouldn’t hold it all.  Here it is, serving as a lesson – when you decide the scope of a drawing, stick to it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Daniel Smith watercolors

As it turned out, I had more time than I thought.  It has been forever since I’ve sketched outdoors with our little group and getting back into the swing of things is harder than it should be and my timing is off.  Anyways, I started drawing a small subject, figuring I could get it done before everyone wanted to head off for lunch.  In spite of its simplicity, I really like this one.  Hope you do too.  In any case, summer is here and I hope it will be a good one.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Daniel Smith watercolors

My Daughter’s First Teddy Bear

Every collection must begin with a first and this teddy bear was the first of what would become a huge collection of stuffed animals that my daughter acquired (cuz her dad liked to buy them so much).  There’s nothing special about this teddy bear except that it was her first.  I guess that’s enough.

My Pepper Plant Sketch

In my last post I mentioned that I had to cancel a local sketching adventure because my knees weren’t cooperating and I suggested that I might sketch a pepper plant that I’d bought. That’s exactly what I did.

The weather was wonderful and I sat on our deck, got some sun, and communed with my pepper plant.  I find drawing plants to be a challenge as it’s easy to get lost in the overlapping contours of the leaves.  As I draw them they become abstracts; I’m no longer drawing a plant, but rather a whole bunch of curves relative to one another.  There’s considerable cross-checking between the curve I’m drawing and those I’ve already drawn, locating my position by comparing angles and distances constantly.

When I finish with the ink contour a decision must be made.  Do I add a bunch of cross-hatching or do I add watercolor.  Sometimes I consider the third option of leaving it just as it is – a contour drawing.  At this point I almost always choose one of the two ‘shading’ options but when I’m done I often wish I’d left the sketch as the contour.  This may be because I love pen lines so much.  Maybe it’s because I’m too impatient to do a good job with watercolor.  Here are both stages of my pepper plant sketch.  What do you think?  Which do you prefer?

DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Fabriano Artistico CP

Drawing A Giraffe In Quebec City

We’re finally experiencing outdoor temperatures.  Normally this would mean that I’d be wandering the streets every day, drawing my old-man heart out.  That behavior has been derailed by my bad knee.  Just this morning I started out with the idea of taking the bus downtown to sketch, but I quickly realized that, today, my knee wasn’t going to allow that to happen.  So, instead, I’m writing this blog post and thinking that maybe I’ll sketch a pepper plant we bought last weekend.

Last week I got to go to our Musee de la civilisation to see the new Curiosities du monde naturelle.  This exhibit is reminiscent of the old natural history museums, before all the fancy displays and such intruded on a simpler time when museum managers thought people were more interested in seeing actual items than they were pictures and videos of them.

Our museum seems to have a new to this.  They put everything in the dark.  I’m not sure what that’s about but we have to draw with a light on our paper and half the items are too hard to see to draw at all.  This is supposed to be good?  We have two exhibits that are like that currently and it seems to be a trend.  Anyone else seeing this in their museums?

Part of this exhibit is the head of a young giraffe and I decided to draw it.  Where I had to sit was too close and I was looking upward at the head such that I couldn’t see things like its left ear so the sketch is a bit odd.  Still, I had fun finally being out sketching and I enjoyed drawing this guy, or girl.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Platinum 3776

A Look Back Through Sketching

I’m an old man and part of being an old man is that my daughter is now a grown, confident woman who is off beating law school into submission.  I’m extremely proud of her and because of her age and maturity we now have conversations to solve the world’s problems and maybe a few of our own.  That’s pretty neat.

But there is a part of being an old man that causes me to miss the days when she would giggle as I’d bounce her on my knee or carry her on my shoulders.  Back then drawing meant scribbling with crayons and she was far better at it than me.  That was also a time when we shared a common interest in stuffed animals.  She was my excuse to buy them and she loved every one.  The result is that we now have a literal mountain of them, each with memories attached to them.

I’ve started drawing some of them because, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it rains here all the time so I need stuff to draw indoors and I’m tired of tomatoes.  But what really drives me with this project is that as I draw these puddles of fluff and fur, memories of those early days fill me with joy.  Here’s one I did of a little poupée (doll), one of many in the collection.  For some reason she lacks a nose or mouth and I saw no reason to add them.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brown/black

Confused Weather Makes For Confused Sketchers

“April showers bring May flowers.” – Thomas Tusser (1557)

I have a question.  If you get showers in April, and they continue through May, will there be LOTS of flowers in June?  I sure hope so because Quebecers’ moods, will need a boost.

By date and temperature, we have finally gotten to spring and we sketchers are chomping at the bit to get out sketching.  In fact I witnessed a bunch of them, including myself, wandering around in the rain, looking for stuff to draw.  It was quite a sight.

We were attending the first of a series of plein air painting gatherings organized by the great Denise Bujold – great because she’s done this and because she’s so darn good at it.  There are 16 events scheduled, one a week, throughout the summer and fall.  But for this first one, surprise, surprise, it rained.

It was held at an apple/vegetable farm on Ile d’Orleans, a large island near Quebec City.  When Yvan and I arrived we found a gaggle of sketchers huddled in a large space that houses an art gallery during summer tourist season.  Eventually this group spilled out into the garden adjacent to the building and we literally wandered in the rain, pointing at things we could sketch if the rain would stop.

Eventually we made our way to a place where there was an overhang and a few picnic benches and everyone set up shop to sketch.  Across a field there was this scene and I confess that I didn’t have my heart in it and it shows.  But I did get to sketch, outdoors, and with other people.  That has to count for something.  There was supposed to be another event today but it’s pouring rain so it was cancelled.  I’m in desperate need of some flowers.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document diluted black

 

Is It Spring Or Is It Summer?

Yesterday was Memorial Day in the US and all day I heard the US press saying that this day, unofficially, marks the beginning of summer.  Here in Quebec City we had a frost advisory and the trees are just now deciding that they might as well put out their leaves.  It’s sunny today and feels very much like spring.  So, is it summer or spring?  Weather this year has been hard to take for many parts of North America.  I’m hoping we have a really long summer, or is it still spring?

In any case, the squirrels are out and about and I even saw a bumble bee this morning.  In honor of this change of weather, I drew a squirrel with a smile on his face. Like me, he’s happy that things are warming up.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Brn/blk