What’s A Pencil?

When I came to sketching I’d been using fountain pens for all of my writing for decades.  It never occurred to me to use anything different to draw stuff.  So I’ve spent years using fountain pens for sketching and rarely have I tried anything else, though I’ve spent a bunch of time with watercolor pencils in museums when watercolors weren’t allowed.  But with the COVID scurge going on I’m doing more experiments.  I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with me doing more art in isolation rather than going out with friends to sketch some location.

I was at an Artistes dans les parcs event last week.  Even here I’m mostly by myself because the language barrier prevents a lot of interaction between myself and the rest of the participants.  Anyways, I was out on the shore of the St. Lawrence River sizing up some rocks to draw.  For whatever reason I got the idea to draw them with a pencil.  I dug around in my bag and came up with a short hunk of Blackwing 602.  Here’s the result.  Another result of this experiment is the realization that I’ve never learned how to draw with a simple, graphite pencil.

Strathmore 184lb Toned Tan paper, pencil

Sitting In The Morning Sun… I’ll Be Cooked Before The Sketch Is Done

Apologies to Otis Redding for the title of this post.  But it describes pretty well a morning I had at the latest Artistes dans les parcs event.  It was all my fault.  Sometimes I forsake rational thinking while choosing a sketching subject.

This event took place at a spiritual retreat site that looks like it has its roots as a home for the upper crust.  The grounds are huge and high on a hill that overlooks the St. Lawrence River.  Almost all of the participants set up easels in a shady area so they could paint the coastline.  Those were the smart ones because we were in the middle of a heat wave with pressing heat and humidity.

Me, I took a different approach.  I decided to sketch a bunch of stairs.  My thinking was simply that I needed practice sketching stairs.  I didn’t think about the fact that to do so required that I sit out in the open, in bright sun, and that I would sweat myself to become ill from the process.  I cooked, and cooked, and cooked, more concerned about lilies and concrete than how I was feeling.

When I came out of my sketching fog I realized I wasn’t feeling that great.  Only then did I realize that I was light-headed and dripping with sweat.  I headed for some shade.  Then I realized that I had forgotten to bring a waterbottle.  All I had to drink was my back up water for painting, all 30ml of the stuff.  I drank that and then waited for the little bit of breeze to cool me down.  In the end I was fine, with only a hint of stupid to chew on.  I did go home early, however.  It was just too hot to be out without water.

Squash On The Run

We’ve been having a lot of heat lately.  I guess it’s mother nature’s way of telling me that I complained too much when spring didn’t come soon enough.  Anyway, the result has been a lot of growth in our new vegetable gardens.

One result is that our butternut squash is attempting to escape.  It jumped the wall of the garden and is now running along its edge, using the garden wall to hide its actions.  I had to sketch quickly because it is growing fast, but here’s my capture of the action.

The River Runs Through It

It’s said that you can’t step in the same river twice, alluding to its transient nature.  I wonder though.  Can you see the same river twice?  You can if you sketch it first.

I’ve always chosen my sketching locations first by the prime directive, can I sit in the shade, and only secondarily make decisions about the subject.  These days, the “COVID days”, a third criterion has injected itself between these two parameters.  Can I be isolated from anyone walking nearby.  Normally I like people talking to me but not right now.  I want to be alone when I sketch so I can drop my mask and draw.

And so it was on this day.  If I exited the path through Parc Cartier-Brebeuf I could hide myself behind a tree and draw this little scene, with the Riviere St. Charles meandering slowly by.  I made the mistake of trying to draw the end of the big rock to depict the fact that it had been slabbed off at some point, making it look weird.  Guess what?  It looks weird in the sketch too 🙂

Clairefontane watercolor book, DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3008

Life In The COVID Lane

I’ve got to say that COVID isolation is both positive and negative for me.  It’s great that both my wife and daughter are home all the time, a real bonus for a retired old guy like myself.  It also gives me some time to get a bunch of house repairs done, a long list of which has accumulated during my two years of bad health.  And COVID isolation my wife time to rebuild and work in her garden which was neglected as she ferried me to doctors for those two years.

In spite of my telling her that it’s “not my hobby,” I’ve been spending more time with garden tools than with my fountain pens.  So I apologize for the lack of blog posts, but all this stuff is just how we’re coping with the stress of life in 2020.  COVID isolation has disrupted my “daily sketch” regime in a major way.  Oops.

Here’s a sketch of our garden staging area.  By that I mean that we went to a garden center, filled our vehicle with a jungle of plants and many of them are shoved into this area as they wait for garden beds to be created for them.  I drew this the day we finished a couple raised bed vegetable gardens and moved a whole bunch of plants from this area to their new home.  Hope you like it.