Happy Canada Day

There’s supposed to be half a million spectators on hand at Parliament in Ottawa for today’s Canada Day celebration.  I’m glad I’m not there.  On the other hand, living in Quebec City means I experience hardly a peep in celebration.  It’s sad.

But I’m here, an ex-American, proud Canadian, waving the flag.  Happy Canada Day everyone.

Sketching Is Dangerous – Expensive Too!

WARNING: Graphic Results of Violence Follows

Tuesday I was the organizer of our Tuesday sketching session.  We were to meet in front of the Chateau Frontenac, on the Terrace Dufferin at 10AM.  I like to get on site before anyone arrives so I can say hi when they do.

I started setting up to sketch a large statue, but one of the tubes on my WalkStool came apart from the lower portion.  I didn’t think much of this and just pounded it back in place.  I should have thought a bit more.  This disrupted my normal cycle of ensuring that all three legs were locked in place.  One was not.

I sat down on the stool, a leg gave way and my head smacked against the granite block wall of the hotel.  The crack to my head wasn’t as extreme as if I’d fallen from a standing position but…  I put my hand to the back of my head and it came away full of blood.

I scurried to my feet.  Well, I sort of scurried.  My knees don’t allow me to pop to my feet as I once could so it was more of an old-man process of getting to my feet.  I picked up my bag and stool, grabbed a paper towel to block the wound, and I headed into the Starbucks that’s part of the hotel.

I asked a guy there where I had to go for first aid, he said “Quoi?” and I showed him my handful of blood.  He got the message and immedately called the hotel medic, telling me to go stand by the doors outside and that the medic would be there.  I did.

A guy walked up to me and asked if I was ok.  I told him the medic was coming and he offered to take me to the hospital or at least stay with me until the medic came.  A woman ran over, carrying a wad of Starbucks napkins, which were gratefully received.  Then the Starbucks guy came out to check on me and we all stood around until a guy with a great big red first aid kit came through the door.

This is what my head looked like by the time I got home. The red on my neck is not a sunburn.

I know a real urban sketcher would have been sketching all this activity but, well, my hands were somewhat tied up trying to keep blood from running down my neck.  I went with the medic into a bathroom and he did a bang up job of  cleaning me up.  He concluded that I probably didn’t need stitches and did his best to bandage the tiny wound that was the source of the blood.

By this time, it was well after 10AM so I grabbed a coffee, thanked the Starbucks guy and went looking for my buddies.  They were all sketching away when I arrived.  The wound had stopped bleeding but, it started to drip so rather than sketching I was holding kleenex over the wound, applying some pressure.  It didn’t take long to realize that going home was a better plan than hanging out with my friends.

The wound did stop bleeding by about 1PM but I sat around the rest of the day watching Netflix and trying not to move my head too much.  Oh, the title mentions how expensive sketching can be as well as dangerous.  Somehow, during this fiasco, I lost my wireless headphones.  It was not a good day.

Croquistes de Quebec: January 6th Sketchcrawl

Almost forgot to announce the upcoming sketchcrawl.  Yvan has arranged for us to visit the Université Laval Collections.   If you’ve never been there, this is the place where the entire collection from the long-defunct Natural History museum is houses so there are, by my estimate, around a gazillion stuffed animals waiting to be drawn.  In addition, there is a vast collection of plaster casts that were once used by the Laval art department, back when drawing was part of the fine arts curriculum (grin).

Anyway, there’s a LOT to draw there and the atmosphere is really nice as it’s a limited access facility so you don’t have to worry about people (except maybe me) looking over your shoulder.  Anyone who has been to one of the sketching events we’ve had there will tell you, it’s fantastic.

Sadly, we do have to break from our normal Sunday sketchcrawl habit because the Collections are only available Monday through Friday.  This event will be this Friday, starting at 9:30AM.  For more details, check Yvan’s posting of the event here.  I hope to see you there.  I’ve colored this post up a bit with a couple of the sketches I did during last year’s sketchcrawl.

Five Years A Sketcher, I Am

Tina Koyama just did a blog post about completing five years as a sketcher.  It reminded me that I’ve been sketching for five years as well so I thought I should do a short post about that fact.

When I began as a sketcher I couldn’t draw anything.  I’d read Danny Gregory’s Everyday Matters and bought into the idea that being good wasn’t important; the process of doing it was what was important.  This was an important epiphany for me at the time because I’d been convinced that I had no “talent” for art.

These days I know that “talent” is something you create by passion and persistence; you’re not born with it.  Anyway, I started drawing cubes and doing simple drawings of things.  I started posting a few things on Russ Stutler’s sketching site, which is where I first ‘met’ Tina.  At that time I was drawing on photocopy paper and throwing the results away when I was done.  Someone on that group explained what a bad idea that was and that I should keep my early sketches.

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This was my first location sketch. It's dated Oct 2011.

This was my first location sketch. It’s dated Oct 2011.

I wish I had some of them to post here but instead I’ll post the first location sketch I did (Oct 2011), a window manikin (I figured she wouldn’t mind me sketching her) and one of my first building sketches (done in Oct 2011 from a photo).  I’ll add to this the last location sketch I did just a few days ago.  Hope you can see a difference as there have been several thousand sketches done in between these.  With a bit more persistence, maybe I’ll improve by the end of year six.  In any case, sketching has improved my life so much that it doesn’t really matter.

This one was done Sept 2016

This one was done Sept 2016

 

Liz Steel’s New 5-Minute Sketching Book

LizSteelArchitectureBookThere are many sketchers who have helped me climb the treacherous learning curve that comes with wanting to learn to draw, but Cathy Johnson, Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel have provided the most advice, inspiration and models for who I want to be when I grow up.  I’ve been lucky enough to meet and sketch with Marc Taro Holmes but I’ve never met Cathy or Liz but I feel I know them well because of the internet.  All three are ever-present when I’m sketching.

If you’re a sketcher you know Liz Steel but if you’re an economist following an errant URL from Google, Liz is one of the most prolific purveyors of sketching information on the planet.  She blogs incessantly, has several online classes that are among the best, and she has a new book coming out called 5-Minute Sketching: Architecture.  It won’t be available until October 1st but you can pre-order it as I just did.  You won’t be disappointed.

While I’m at it, Liz’s new course, SketchingNow Buildings: Essential Concepts for Sketching Architecture will be starting September 7th.  Her courses are packed with information, in video and written form so if you’re struggling with drawing architecture, this 6-week course is for you.

 

The Vikings Showed Up In Quebec

Some 500 years before Columbus, the Vikings were wandering around what is now the east coast of Canada.  They came by ship of course and some of their descendents decided to make the trip again.  Thirty-six days crossing the Atlantic resulted in them showing up in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

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They decided to visit Quebec City and they showed up last Friday.  I thought it might be fun to draw the ship so I headed down to the harbor area.  Unfortunately, a lot of other people decided they should go to the harbor area too, armed with cameras, bicycles, strollers, and there was a guy with a wagon.  There were enough people to make it difficult to stick your cell phone in the air to get a shot of the ship without a dozen heads in the picture.  Sitting down to draw the ship caused one to get a great view of a lot of…well, let’s just say the view of the people was lower than those heads.  The best I could do was to stand, actually having to move around to get a glimpse of the nose of the boat as I did this quick sketch of the dragon figurehead.

Field Notes, Platinum 3776

Field Notes, Platinum 3776

Canada’s Population Increases By One

The other day I was annoying at least one person for not being an Facebook because I was out doing other things.  This is what I was doing.  I am now, officially, Canadian.  They gave me a cute little maple leaf pin, taught me the secret handshake and told me that though I was Canadian I wasn’t responsible for Justin Beiber.   We splurged in celebration and had nachos and beer for dinner.

citizenshipDoc

March Sketchcrawl at Les Collections de l’Université Laval

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Yippee!!!  The Collections de l’Université Laval has reopened following renovations and we’re going to have a sketchcrawl there on Friday, March 11th, starting at 9:30AM.  Don’t miss this one.  Notice that this is a Friday rather than a Sunday.  The collection is not open on Sundays.

Yvan Breton has arranged for us to start the day with a tour of the facility so it’s important for you to be there at 9:30.  If you’re unfamiliar with this collection, it contains the contents of the abandoned Natural History Museum of Quebec and thus contains a large number of stuffed animals and many cultural and anthropological artifacts.  In addition, there is a large plaster cast collection, another wonderful collection that was abandoned by the university fine arts department when they decided that drawing wasn’t nearly as important as being able to use a paint roller (grin).

There will be a LOT to draw so bring a bunch of paper.  You’ll need to bring a lunch as well.  I’m excited.  How about you?  For a complete schedule and directions, go to the Croquistes de Québec website.

 

Stillman & Birn Softcovers: An Exciting Announcement

Via Giphy.com

I am so excited to be writing this post.  As many know, Stillman & Birn, my favorite sketchbook company, released a line of softcover sketchbooks not very long ago.  Sadly, what most also know is that there were manufacturing problems with those books and they had to recall all of them, at great expense, from around the world.  I applauded them for this as it hit their bottom line hard, but they didn’t want we artists to bear the pain of the problem.

Excepting the manufacturing problem, these softcover books looked like a dream come true.  Available in all of Stillman & Birn’s great papers, in a variety of sizes, and with cover colors that reflected the paper type.  The covers had an almost suede-feel to them.  They weighed only 55-65% of the weight of the equivalent hardcover and they were much thinner.  A dream come true for someone like me who carries several sketchbooks and walks a couple hours a day to sketching locations.

Stillman & Birn sofcover prototypes

Stillman & Birn sofcover prototypes

Well, they’re BACK!!!  Or at least almost back.  Stillman & Birn says they should be available ‘real soon’ and they sent me a couple of their prototype books to get my opinion about whether the problems are fixed.

To that I can say, they are fixed and then some.  I’ve gone through both of my prototype books, one page at a time, and the problems we saw with the initial release are gone.  But it’s better than that.  These books lay flatter than their early softcovers and certainly better than the hardcovers.  I didn’t have to bend them backwards as you do with the hardcovers to get them to lay flat.  They just do, though I still recommend going through each page, folding it out flat before using the book.  I do that with any sketchbook, regardless of brand.

As I said, the books they sent me are prototypes.  They came with Delta and Gamma paper so I could check both the 150gsm and 270gsm binding.  The covers are the same material as the production versions but these aren’t color-coded; they’re prototypes.  Still, they are amazing books and I’m downright giddy that I have them to use.  I was planning to get somewhere to do a sketch for this blog post but a snowstorm prevented that.  Truth is, everyone knows how great Stillman & Birn paper is so I decided it was more important to get this announcement into the ether.   So here it is, without a sketch.  Here’s the money shot of the books laying flat. Ain’t they gorgeous?  Coming soon to an art store near you.

Stillman & Birn softcovers, laying flat.

Stillman & Birn softcovers, laying flat.