Family Day At Cap Tourmente

The Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area is a great place to get out into nature.  It’s a place with lots of short hiking trails through several habitats and, if you go during the week and outside ‘goose season’ it’s largely devoid of humans so it’s QUIET.  We city-dwellers don’t get quiet anymore and I think it affects us more deeply than we think..if we think about it at all.

I mentioned goose season.  Cap Tourmente is a major stop-over area for migrating geese.  In October/November and thousands of geese aggregate there during their journey south.  It’s pretty cool to see them turn a marsh white with their presence and fill the sky in squadron-like fashion.  But geese bring with them hundreds of humans, filling over-flow parking lots with their pollution devices and that pretty much ruins the experience for me.

But on this day, we were there on a Monday, out of season.  The day was delightful.  We watched a lot of young hummingbirds at feeders, enjoyed the presence of a young porcupine, saw egrets, blue herons, marsh and red-tail hawks, and we even saw the Perigrine Falcons that nest in the cliffs that overlook the refuge.  They told us to beware of bears but the only ones we saw were on the beware of bear signs on the garbage cans.

It wasn’t a sketching day but I couldn’t resist the urge so I did this little landscape while wife and daughter were off investigating the building featured in this sketch.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5x8.5), Esterbrook J9550

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Esterbrook J9550

We stopped for lunch and sat near the information center because there is a gaggle of picnic tables there and we were the only ones using them besides a few tussock moth caterpillars.

Once we were sufficiently nourished we decided to head out in the opposite direction, but I spent 2-3 minutes doing this really quick sketch of a copse of trees.  Not much but it was still good fun.  The washable ink made it even more fun/quick.

Mostly, this day allowed us to fill up on quiet and that’s worth doing.  Give it a try, it’s refreshing, particularly during an election year.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (3.5x5.5)

Stillman & Birn Alpha (3.5×5.5), Pilot Metropolitan, J.Herbin Cacao de Brezil washable ink.

Speed Dating – Sketcher Style

I’ve mentioned that I’m in an experiment mood these days and with the Nouvelle France Festival event coming up (the equivalent of duck hunting for a sketcher, with lots of targets that are all moving too fast) I was walking along my river (riviere St. Charles in Quebec City) pondering how “extreme” the sketching is at that event.  I was remembering how last year I had a great time but went home with lots and lots of bad and incomplete sketches, though I think I did post one or two.

2015-08-05-15minutes3Anyways, as I was thinking about this I arrived at the Palais du justice de Quebec, or rather Le parc de l’Amerique-Latine that sits between the court building and the river.  This park is filled with statues and busts of some of the ‘greats’ of Latin America.  I know almost none of them, but as a sketcher, I’d drawn several of them.

It occurred to my aging and weary brain that I could use this cluster of targets for rapid fire target practice, sketcher style.  Sort of training for the Nouvelle France event.  Yeah…I know…you’re right.  But as Steve Martin used to say, “I’m a wild and crazy guy!”





I decided to give myself fifteen minutes to draw as many of the busts as I could, using only a pointy device and sketchbook.  No arms tied behind my back to make it hard and no need for camouflage to sneak up on the targets.  Nope, just me, my fountain pen and fifteen minutes.  I set a timer on my phone and got to work…frantic work, at least for me as I’m very much a plod along sketcher.  Precious seconds were wasted walking between targets and setting up my tripod stool.  I need more training as a tripod setter-upper.

2015-08-05-15minutes1I finished a third bust at 14 minutes so used the last minute to draw an extra eye, at a more leisurely pace.  It was an interesting and fun exercise.  I hope it’ll help me be successful when Festivale de Nouvelle France rolls around.  Do you do crazy stuff like this?

Sketching At The Mt. Herman Cemetery

Last Saturday our sketching group, Le Collectif, held a sketching event at the Mt. Herman Cemetery.  It’s located just south of Sillery and stretches down to the cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence.  This cemetery is nearly 200 years old, and contains, mostly, the remains of British, Scottish, and Irish people who did much to grow Quebec into what it is today.   And as you wander the rolling hills of the cemetery, below its canopy of old maples, ashes, and elms, you can’t help but be drawn to the names on the headstones, many dating to the middle of the 19th Century.

It must have been the case that marble was a lot cheaper back then than it is now as there’s a lot of it in this cemetery.  Tall, statuesque monuments, requiring a team of people to put in place, have stood for 100 years or more and they provide enduring symbols of what materials and craftsmanship can accomplish.

Our trip coincided with a memorial/commemoration of the retirement of the last of five Treggetts, that have acted as directors of the cemetery.  This was a bonus on the day as I got to meet Mark Brennan, the new director, his right hand, Maureen, and several other fine people who didn’t seem put off by my poor French and even allowed me to speak some English.  Oh…and they gave use cookies and coffee.

Mt Herman cemetery scene

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

But it was sketching we came for so it was sketching we did.  The morning was cold, wet and windy so actually sitting down to sketch was a struggle, and bordering on foolhardy.  Ultimately I came across this scene and set about putting pen to paper.  There are dozens, if not hundreds of scenes like this so I hope to do more sketching here before it becomes too cold for outdoor sketching.

Mt Herman headstone (1871)

Moleskine watercolor book (3×5), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbn Black

The cold morning fatigued me and it was hard to get onto the next sketch so I was slow in doing so.  Besides, the other sketchers were scattered around the grounds and I wanted to say hi and see what others were doing.  I’m nosey that way.  So, I did a lot of walking instead of sketching and it was fun.  I did sketch this headstone, dated 1871.

Mt Herman cemetery headstone

Moleskine watercolor book, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Fernande, my regularly sketching partner was there and we ate lunch together and chatted about the day.  By then the sun had come out and it sort of revitalized us a bit.  After this late lunch we started looking around for something that plucked at our 2PM sensibilities and I found it in this modest headstone, made of large, cast stones with a Celtic circle and plaque attached to it.  I found three in the cemetery that used similar construction, though each was unique.  I’m doing the ink-sketch-a-day event that’s going on right now so I approached this as an ink-only sketch, including a lot more hatching than I would normally add.  Then I decided to add some color anyway.

By the time we finished it was time to head up for the memorial.  Sadly, the time we were given for this was 3PM but by 2:40, when we arrived, the service was over.  We were, however, in time for coffee, cookies, and comraderie with some very fine folks.  Thanks, Mark and Maureen.  We had a great day.

A Summer’s Day At Berthier, Quebec

It’s been three days since I went out sketching with the gang.  It didn’t make it to 60F that day so, of course, as we headed out for a road trip to Berthier, Quebec the prediction was for temps in the mid-80s with a humidex pushed to over 90F.  Mr. Jetstream is oscillating like crazy these days.

This trip was timed perfectly as we would be sketching next to the St. Lawrence River, where there’s always a breeze to cool things down.  Claudette, Fernande, Yvan and I headed over the bridge with Fernande at the helm.  Once on the south shore we turned east along the river on our way to pick up Louise in St. Vallier, half an hour away.

Monologue 9x12, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Monologue 9×12, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Berthier is just down the road from St. Vallier and I’d never been there before.  I’ll be going back ‘real soon’, though.  It’s a sketcher paradise.  There is a small marina with lots of sailboats to sketch.  There is a quay with benches so you can sit and sketch either passing boats or the other side of the St. Lawrence, which features Mount Tremblant.  There is a large park area with lots of picnic-partaking folks to draw.  There are rocks along the coastline and farm buildings if you look in the other direction.  And if that ain’t enough, there’s a place to get coffee and restrooms to cycle it.

The five of us headed for the marina to sketch boats.  I wanted to capture the height of the masts and  chose a scene and vertical format to emphasize their extraordinary height.  I probably worked too fast but that’s always the case when I’m with a group.

Moleskine watercolor 3x5, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Moleskine watercolor 3×5, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Monologue 9x12, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Monologue 9×12, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Once finished there we sketched a bit more, up in the park area and then set up at a table overlooking the marina for lunch.  We’d collaborated and brought cheeses, baguettes, grapes, and wine for lunch.  Claudette made some fantastic roasted peppers that were great along side cucumber slices.  We were living high.  I ate too much.

To be honest, by the time lunch was over I needed a siesta.  I sketched some but decided that a coffee might perk me up.  I think it did and I sketched some more but the sun and food had slowed me to a crawl.

Monologue A6 sketchbook, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Monologue A6 sketchbook, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Evidence of that is here.  I’d sat down on a bench looking out at the river.  It was thoroughly enjoyable but there wasn’t much to sketch except for a large ‘other side of the St. Lawrence’ sort of sketch and I didn’t have the energy for that.  But, in front of me, on the storm wall was a light, part of a series of them along the wall.  Behind, and well below them were rocks and the river.  So, I drew one light, drinking coffee and breathing in the fresh air.  I was thoroughly content with the day and this sketch was the final drip from my pen.


Sketching At Parc Chauveau

Denis Couture, our fearless leader

Denis Couture, our fearless leader

I don’t know what it is about French but the names of French organizations are impossible.  This includes the Collectif des ateliers libres en arts visuels de Québec, the name of an artist group in Quebec City.  They were established to facilitate winter life drawing sessions and that is still their principle activity but they are starting to organize outdoor summer activities as well.  This past weekend was the second year that we assembled at Parc Chauveau, a park on the north side of Quebec City.  It’s a beautiful place. The St. Charles River runs through it, providing considerable sketching fodder.

Organized by Denis Couture, a really nice guy who teaches drawing and photography at a local college, it was truly a shame that on this day, there were only three of us in attendance.  The up side is that the day was a bit more laid back as we could do pretty much what we chose to do.

Our first stop was the river, in a place where a large tower of rock, remnants from long-term erosion, juts up from the river.  It seemed fitting that we should draw it.  I decided it might be fun to put it in the background and to make Fernande, one of my sketching buddies, the central focus for the scene.  This was also the first time I got to use my new Namiki (Pilot?) Falcon.  I think I’m in love.  More on that later.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Denis knows the area quite well and he suggested that we climb back up to the road and cross the bridge to the other side of the river where there are rest rooms, picnic tables, and a trailhead for the Parc lineaire trail that runs for 32 km along the St. Charles River.  In fact, if I would have followed it for about 16 of those kilometers I would have arrived home.

As we ate lunch Denis suggested that we walk the trail some and that the views from high above the river were wonderful.  He was right about that but for my next sketch I plunked my tripod stool down in the middle of the forest, off the trail, and started drawing some unknown plant.  For a building guy, I was surprised how much fun this was and how much I wanted to do it.  I used a different approach from my usual pen first, watercolor as an afterthought approach.  I think I’ll talk about this separately as this post is becoming a bit long.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

In spite of the poor turnout for the event, we had a really great time.  The rest of the folks just missed out.

Quebec City: 44th Worldwide Sketchcrawl

Twas that time again and to participate in the 44th Worldwide Sketchcrawl we all gathered at the Jardin Botanique Roger-Van Den Ende de l’Université Laval.  French names are often more than a mouthful.  This is a large garden run by and adjacent to Laval University.  The university gave us the run of the place, a very large place with tons of flowers and other things to sketch.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather than we got.  Sunny, warm but not stifling hot and the garden provided considerable amounts of shade, though not always in the required spot.

It was difficult to count the participants as we spread out across the landscape.  Maybe we should have had a “sketcher hunt” the way kids hunt for Easter eggs as you could walk the trails and find sketchers scrunched down over plants, drawing away, or hiding in the shade while trying to draw an arbor.  By my count, however, we set a new sketchcrawl record with 27 participants.  Everyone seemed to have a good time.

20140712_122421The name of the game was to find some shade, identify something to draw, and then “just do it” as the saying goes.  Much sketching was done on this day but we broke for lunch a little after noon and met in a large tent that exists for this purpose.  It was fun to see most of the sketchers all in one place and to kibbitz and share sketches.  Unfortunately, I took photos of this before everyone arrived but by the time they did I was embroiled in conversation and sketchbook swapping.

Here is evidence of sketching being committed and the perpetrators (click on a photo to see a larger view):

20140712_102838 20140712_103013 20140712_103151 20140712_103200 20140712_103230 20140712_103516 20140712_103622 20140712_105336 20140712_105525 20140712_110128

And here is a small sampling of the sketches that were done this Saturday:

20140712_102856 20140712_102952 20140712_103020 20140712_103530 20140712_124158 20140712_124204 20140712_124220 20140712_124226

This post is getting long enough that I think I’ll wait until tomorrow to post the sketches I did when I wasn’t taking photos of sketchers (grin).  By the end of the day I think we’d all learned and/or remembered a few important things.  These are:

1) Sketching is fun.
2) Sketching with other people is funner.
3) The shade moves quickly in Quebec City this time of year.
4) Anticipation – we’re all looking forward to the next sketchcrawl.

Halloween door sketching

A week or so ago I posted a sketch of a fancy door in Quebec City.  A comment from a long-time friend, Pat Roberson, asking for more door sketches has resulted in this one.

A week ago I saw this door but I was on my way to St. Vallier to sketch with friends and so couldn’t sketch it.  It’s not one of the old, classic Quebec City doors, but Pat is such a fan of Halloween, and apparently doors, that I just had to go back and sketch this aperture into the bright orange house with black trim.  Hope you like it, Pat.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), Pilot Prera, Noodler's Lexington Gray

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Pilot Prera, Noodler’s Lexington Gray

Sketching The Riviere Lairet… Sort Of

Once upon a time there was the Riviere Lairet.  It meandered through what became Limoilu as Quebec City spread north from its origins atop Cap Diamond.  Ultimate, Limoilu was swallowed by Quebec City during a large merger but everyone still calls it Limoilu.  We’re a stubborn lot.

From the photos I’ve seen one of the basic problems with the Riviere Lairet was that lots of water ran in it in the spring and almost none in the summer.  The result was a fairly deep canyon running through what was quickly becoming a very populated area.

Maybe more important, the canyon had a lot of very fast-flowing, dangerous water at one time of year and at other times it became a dumping ground for the less civic-minded members of Limoilu.  So it was decided, in the mid-20th Century, to build a huge pipe to convey the spring waters underground from north of Limoilu all the way to the St. Charles River – my river.

Parc_Cartier-Brébeuf_smThese days, the Riviere Lairet name can be found on maps as a long, open pond area in Cartier-Brebeuf Park, with the south end of the pond emptying into the St. Charles River.

But the water that fills this park area still has to get there through the pipe I mentioned.  They do everything in their power to hide the pipe’s opening into the park but I thought it would make for a fun sketch.  The weather further convinced me as while it was almost warm, it was also windy.  After climbing down the hill to this view, I was conveniently out of the wind with only a few ants to bother me.

I used a Uniball Signo UM-151 (.38mm) gel pen for this one.  The fine pens in the 101 series are mostly waterproof but anything thicker than .38mm and the gel ink starts to wash into the watercolors, at least on the Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6) paper that I use.  Hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), Uniball Signo 101 (.38mm)

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Uniball Signo 101 (.38mm)

Mo Music, S’il Vous Plait!

We’re back in the deep freeze here in Quebec.  Will it never end?  But we’re also in the middle of recital season, a time when the students at Conservatoire de Musique give recitals and what a joy they are to attend.  Today it was pianists…amazing pianists.  Marie Robitaille, Sophie Doyon, Brigitte Legendre, Bruce Gaulin-Boilard, Manuella Gagnon, Corolane Tremblay, and Ariane Filion-Thériault each graced us with their musical prowess.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4x6); Pilot Prera, Noodler's Lexington Gray ink

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6); Pilot Prera, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink

And while they did, Yvan and I sketched, though I have to admit that at times I just stopped, listened and watched magical hands on keys.  But here are a couple sketches I did during the nearly two hours of music.  Thanks to the Conservatoire, the students, and Suzanne Beaubien-Lowe (their teacher) for making a very cold day seem just a little bit warmer.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4x6); Pilot Prera, Noodler's Lexington Gray ink

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6); Pilot Prera, Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink


Sketching To Music

CALVQIn Québec City there is a sketching group called Collectif des ateliers en arts visual de Québec.  Yes, the name is far too long and it forms an acronym that’s completely unpronouncable (CALAVQ).  Naming things is not the strong suit of Quebecers, but it is a great organization that organizes life drawing and portrait workshops among other art-related events.

Lucien Provost is the president of this group and he arranged for ten of us to spend the day sketching at the Conservatoire de musique de Québec, courtesy of its director, Louis Dallaire, and several of his very accomplished and accomodating students who played for us while we sketched them.  They were:

Julie C. Villeneuve, oboe and English horn
Étienne Chenard, violin
Alejandro Calzadilla, alto saxophone
Guillaume Turcotte, cello
and a trio:
Jean-Michel Dubé, piano
Romain Rocher, violon
Paola Curcio-Rizzato, cello
Julie Villeneuve - Hero 9018 bent-nib pen, J.Herbin 1670 ink.

Julie Villeneuve –
Hero 9018 bent-nib pen, J.Herbin 1670 ink.

Thanks to all of you who gave of your time and facilities to make a bunch of sketchers very happy.

The music was amazing.  The students were fun.  Julie’s dress was simply spectacular.  And the sketching was non-stop.  We started at few minutes after 10AM and finished at 3PM, with 15 minutes for lunch.  To say it was intense is to understate the situation.  I ended up with 17 pages of sketches, some better than others I should add.

I’ll share just a few of them with you.  I spent the day trying different pens and have indicated which were used in each case.  The sketchbook was a Strathmore “Toned Gray” 6×9 book.  Clicking on the images will enlarge them.

Detail of Julie's sleeve shrouds - Hero 9018, J.Herbin 1670

Detail of Julie’s sleeve shrouds – Hero 9018, J.Herbin 1670

One of the sketchers - Hero 9018/J.Herbin 1670 and Hero 578/Platinum Carbon Black

One of the sketchers – Hero 9018/J.Herbin 1670 and Hero 578/Platinum Carbon Black










Some details & Guillaume's face - Platinum Prera, Lexington Gray

Some details & Guillaume’s face – Platinum Prera, Lexington Gray


cello - Pilot Prera, Lex Gray, Hero 578, Platinum Carbon Black

cello – Pilot Prera, Lex Gray, Hero 578, Platinum Carbon Black










Romain Rocher, Pilot Prera, Lex Gray

Romain Rocher, Pilot Prera, Lex Gray


Paola Curcio-Rizzato, ballpoint pen

Paola Curcio-Rizzato, ballpoint pen