Baby Steps Down A New Road

In my last post, I mentioned that I was laying down my pens (almost) and picking up a pencil.   I’ve taken a baby step or two down this different road by breaking open a hardbound, 8.5×11 size Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook, wrote name and address in it and began.

I did this on the day that Chantal was chopping down our flock of Cup plants.  These are very tall, sunflower-like plants but with many smaller flowers than your typical sunflower.  They get their name by the fact that each branching of the plant creates a “cup” that collects water and the plant absorbs it through soft tissue.  Pretty cool they are and we enjoy them every year.  Anyway, I took the top of one of them and drew it on the first page of my new sketchbook.  A pencil drawer am me.

Out Of My Comfort Zone

It seems that the art world is full of people saying “get out of your comfort zone” as a way of saying something, though I’m not sure what.  And for a decade I’ve pretty much ignored that advice.

When I came to sketching I was holding a fountain pen.  These days I’m still holding a fountain pen for most of my art.  Talk about a rut, but it is my rut and I like it.  Heck, everyone says that using a pen is the ONLY way to learn to draw.   I’ve never quite followed the logic of that claim, within limits, it has worked for me.  It’s those limits I want to talk about today.

Sketching with pen places a lot of emphasis on line and contour.  That’s ok, because we’ve always got watercolors to provide color, right?  The problem with all this is that the pen sketch becomes an end product.  You might think about watercolor while making a pen drawing but it’s still all about edges and contours.

Pencil drivers are different.  They shade their drawings.  In doing so they have to think more in three dimensions more than do pen drivers.  They discuss things like “turning the form” and other stuff like that.  So do all painters, including watercolorists, who don’t lay down lines as THE thing that defines their drawing.  Shari Blaukopf’s workshops taught me just how big a switch in mindset takes place when you to a pen and wash sketch but with a pencil instead.

I’m not talking here about right or wrong but rather about me “getting out of my comfort zone” for a reason, and that reason is to walk on the wild side of light and shade, turning forms, and gaining a better sense of creating 3D images.  It’s going to be a long and somewhat clumsy road for me I’m kind of excited about the prospects.

I did this rather quick (10 min) sketch of a basswood tree (3×5) while on a walk.  It was fun to scrumble in masses rather than drawing my typical Brillo pad trees.  I like the result and plan to draw a bunch more trees, though Quebec trees are dropping their leaves en masse right now.

I decided to draw a portrait.  I don’t draw portraits which is something of a Catch-22.  I don’t know how, they are never very good and so I don’t draw portraits.  More getting outside my comfort zone I guess.  I also learned something about pencil.  Stillman & Birn Beta is too textured to draw with pencil.  See…already learning.  Oh, and I can’t shade to save my life.  Guess that’s why I’m out here… out of my comfort zone.

Relaxing In St. Simeon

Late in August most of the lockdown stuff was over.  We’re still wearing masks because we’re not idiots, but back then we were like bears poking our head out of the cave, unsure if we wanted to come out.  Being a bit apprehensive about traveling anywhere, but also feeling like most and wanting a change from being sequestered at home, we decided to take a trip.

We didn’t need or want a big “see the sites” trip and most tourist things were shut down anyway, so we decided to go somewhere and sit, without our computers, without TV, and without an agenda.  I even made the decision to limit my sketching during the trip.

We chose St. Simeon, Quebec because there isn’t ANYTHING in St. Simeon except a coastline along the beginnings of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  When I say there isn’t anything I really mean it.  No good restaurants, no coffee shops, no nothing.  But we did have a hotel that looked out on the water and it was quiet enough.  We drove up a valley that holds the Black River and did a bit of sitting by the river.  I spent half an hour making a sketch of the tree-lined roadway.  I had a lot of fun doing it but I can’t show it to you.  I’d forgotten what a spiral-bound sketchbook can do to a pencil drawing and the sketch has become a cloud of smeared graphite.

On another day, however, we went to “Port au Persil,” which is a small town with a gorgeous cove area and a pier where you can sit and watch whales.  I got to see my first beluga whale which was exciting.  Actually, we saw lots of them during our trip.  By whale standards they’re quite small but they’re snow white and gorgeous.  My sketchbook came out around the cove though.  The cove is full of rounded sandstone rocks and I couldn’t resist.  This reflects those formations.

Mostly, though, we sat on the balcony of our hotel, or walked along the beach.  This involved a lot of whale watching, some beer drinking and a lot of salsa and chips.  It was delightful.  I decided that I should try to paint the coastline and I’m afraid I let the paint get away from me a bit but I’ll share it anyway.

The trip was a big success.  It seems that doing nothing appeals to both of us and we felt great as we headed for home.  I need to spend more time doing nothing.

I Visited The Montreal Botanical Gardens

A couple weeks ago our daughter came to spend the weekend and rather than have her take the bus back to Montreal I drove her there, giving me an excuse to visit the Avenue des Arts, a wonderful art store.  I spent way too much money there but gosh, what’s a guy to do when a store has DeAtramentis Document inks, Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, and a bunch of other great stuff that isn’t available in Quebec City?

The next morning I headed off to the Montreal Botanical Gardens where I spent half a day sketching stuff, including this place that’s part of the Chinese pavilion there.  l had a great time but was quite tired when I headed back to Quebec City.

A Wonderful Summer With Less Art

Summer is struggling to hang on here in Quebec City and I’m grateful.  Very few leaves have dropped and the trees are still mostly green.   So we’re continuing to do our walking regime, while talking about what we’ll do when it finally does snow.

My summer has been less “sketch filled” than ever before and you know, I don’t feel bad about that.  I feel a bit guilty that I haven’t been posting here but I’ll try to catch up “real soon” because a number of things have occurred with my art over the past few weeks and it’ll be fun to share those with you.

I promised not to bore you with my stream of 4-5 minute sketches but I think sharing a few of them might give me a chance to mention what I actually have been sketching while out on our walks.  First are the people.  I’ve drawn a bunch of them, mostly as we sit, taking a break in one of the local parks.  These are typical of those efforts.  Nothing to write home about but I really like the little girl, with her large head and big hair, perched on her frail body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t do portraits but who could resist sketching this guy, who sat down across from me in the park.  I did take advantage of my wife’s patience as this one took more than five minutes, but not more than ten.

If you do quick drawings in parks, you draw plants.  I did and this is one of them.  I think it’s some sort of hibiscus and I added the color while sitting at home.

Then there are the rocks.  Our parks are full of them, placed around as little statues.. or something.  I’ve documented a bunch of them.

I’ll throw this one in as my “teaching moment.”  Chantal started bring her sketchbook with her and found the 5-minute routine as frustrating as I do.  At one point we were discussing how to grab a scene quickly and so I showed her how I would grab a scene in a minute or two.  As I’ve said, I’m not good at this but then ability has never prevented artists from giving advice to someone else (grin).

Those are some examples of the sorts of things I’ve been doing while out on my daily walks.  All were done in 3×5 or 4×6, dollar store sketchbooks.  My new knee is serving me well.  It’s the best joint in my body and the others are straining to keep up.  I’m afraid getting old isn’t pretty and it’s beginning to limit my overall ability to urban sketch but as time marches on, so do I.

Again, I apologize for my lack of blogging activity and hopefully you’ll see more from me “real soon.”  Hope everyone is doing well.