Sketching The Good And The Ugly

I’d arranged to meet sketching buddy Claudette downtown and so it wasn’t completely nuts when I started walking in that direction in spite of the fact that I was walking in a cloud.  It wasn’t raining but a mist was collecting on my glasses and clothes.  Walking fast beat the cold away, though.

When I met Claudette we sort of looked at each other and both of us were disappointed with the morning.  We decided to walk through the old port area looking for something to draw but I think neither of us had our hearts in it.  It was pretty miserable, depressing weather and we ended up ready to cancel completely.

Claudette spotted a cast lion that was part of the entrance to a building and as we looked at it we both decided it would be worthy of a sketch.  What I saw was how we humans have lost site of esthetics in favor of convenience and modernity, or whatever word you want to use.   Someone had destroyed much of the beauty of the lion casting by installing a large electrical plug below it and wrapping a wire up around it.  A real artist would probably have drawn the lion, leaving the plug out and ‘improving’ their drawing.  I’m more about documenting city life and thought this debauched piece of art could be the subject itself.

I did make the mistake of doing it in too small a format for a shaded pen drawing like this and both the lion and plug suffered from a lack of space for proper shading.  Nevertheless, here’s the 3×4 sketch, done in a Moleskine watercolor book.  I used my Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black.

2013-09-11RueStPierre

A Short Trip To Levis

To both of you who follow this blog, I apologize for my absence.  It’s embarrassing to admit but without my laptop I’m dead in the water, and I had a hard drive crash late last week.  I got the problem diagnosed by Friday night and then began waiting for a hard drive to arrive in the mail.  This is not something you want to be doing as the weekend is just beginning.

So, I scuttled around in my basement and, using ancient computer parts, cobbled together something that looked like a computer and ran almost as fast as an abacus.  But it did get me email and limited web access.  The drive arrived on Tuesday and I’m now back in business  Thank goodness for backups as not much was lost except for a lot of time.

3x5 - Pilot Prera w/Lex Gray ink

3×5 – Pilot Prera w/Lex Gray ink

During that time I went for a long sketching walk.  First stop was to do a quick sketch of sailboats in the harbor.  Me and sailboats don’t get along well, mostly because I don’t know much about the rigging and doo-dads that encrust the top surface of sailboats and, from my distant vantage point, these things are hard to make out.  But I continue to try and this sketch consumed ten minutes of my time.  The fact that I was standing up didn’t help much.  I do wish I could get better at sketching while standing 🙁

I wandered around downtown for a while and then got the notion to head to Levis as the sun was out and I always look for an excuse to ride the ferry.  On my way over I recalled a small, but rather ornate house I’d seen while I was in Levis sketching with fellow sketcher, Yvan.  This is it.  The people got sort of faked in using people who were walking by.  I ran out of room while adding the woman and I’m not sure she has a left arm.  If she does, it’s somewhere in the guy’s right side (grin).

Stillman & Birn Zeta (5x8), Pilot Prera w/ Platinum Carbon Black ink

Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8), Pilot Prera w/ Platinum Carbon Black ink

Sketching at Chute Montmorency

CMontmorencyChute Montmorency is a large waterfall just east of Quebec City.  It’s a major tourist attraction, a mini-Niagara Falls I suppose.  It has all the tourist amenities.  Large facility at the base of the falls greets tourists and there’s a large parking lot to accommodate a constant parade of vehicles.

There’s also a tram and a smiling attendant with their hand out.  You can pay the price or you can climb a veritable labyrinth of stairs up to the top of the falls.  We did neither.

Locals, wanting to get to the top take a metro bus that drops them near the top and next to a hotel that sits at the tram terminus.  There’s a wonderful boardwalk that tourists walk along to the falls and it provides spectacular views of the falls as well as the St. Lawrence River.  We took the bus.

I met my sketching buddy, Claudette, on the bus and we walked the short trail down to the west end of a large pedestrian bridge that runs right across the top of the falls.  The views are pretty spectacular from there.  So, what do a couple of urban sketchers do?  We set up at the end of the bridge and drew the bridge.  We’ll draw the trees, beautiful canyon, and the falls themselves some other day.  I guess it truly is a mindset as both of us did this without much thought.

I decided to work in a small format as I’ve been doing a series of smaller sketches.  I got out my little Moleskine watercolor sketchbook and started drawing.  Claudette did likewise with her 5×8 Strathmore 467-series sketchbook.  These are beautiful, brown-covered watercolor sketchbooks, though they are in landscape mode which is not idea in my view.

2013-08-24ClaudetteSketchingCIt seemed that we both finished our linework about the same time as I noticed that she was getting out her watercolors as I reached for mine.  She had hers. I did not.  I’d left my watercolor kit sitting on my desk.

While disappointing, it allowed me to stand up and move around, giving my old knees a stretch.  Then I sat down and did a quick, small sketch of Claudette working on her sketch.  Obviously, I added color to my sketches when I got home.

2013-08-24ChuteMontmorencyBridgeCClaudette composed an interesting view of the bridge, sort of zooming in on just the entrance area.  I decided to capture more of the entirety of the scene.  I like hers better.  I always do.

ClaudetteBridge

We wandered up Avenue Royale which is a very old street lined with older, though often completely renovated houses.  These are majestic houses with lots of what my dad used to call ‘gingerbread’ trim, large front doors and porch areas.

We only found a few dozen things we wanted to sketch but it was time for lunch.  Feeling recharged by good food and conversation, we returned to the falls area and I sketched this little snack kiosk, again in my 3×5 watercolor book.  Then, we hopped on the bus and came home.  Paraphrasing the Terminator…”we’ll be back.”

2013-08-24ChuteMontmorencyKioskC

Taxi Guys Need A Place Too!

Firemen have their firehouse.  Policemen have donut shops. Sketchers have libraries, coffee shops, and street corners.  And taxi cab drivers need a place too.  In Quebec it looks like this:

2013-08-15TaxiStandCAt least the one not far from my house looks like this.  I’m not exactly sure what they do in there but they have a washing machine outside.  I suspect it’s something of an oasis that lets the drivers get out of the car once in a while.  The bright yellow building and the orange background wall conspired to insist that I draw them, and so I did.  Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) using a Uniball Signo UM151 pen.  It’s hard for a fountain pen guy to admit it, but I love these pens and their waterproof ink.

 

Small Sketch Series Continued

I’m continuing to fill my small Moleskine watercolor book with sketches.  Doing a bit of experimenting, having a lot of fun.  I do enjoy this format, though I wish the Moleskine was in portrait format.  As you’ll see, most of the sketches I’ve done are in portrait format.  Personally, I’m still waiting for Stillman & Birn to do a 3×5, small sketchbook with their great papers, preferably their Beta or Zeta papers.

Until then, here’s a few more small sketches.

2013-07-28MoulinOven

This young woman was stoking the fire of an outdoor oven associated with a historic Jesuit mill in the Quebec area. Most of the time she was chopping wood but I did this quick sketch of her tending the fire.

2013-07-28TraitCarreLibrary

Part of the Charlesbourg library roof is grass covered and you can walk up there. From there you can see another wing of the building which sports this tower. I sat, on a very windy day trying to keep my sketchbook from blowing away as I made this sketch.

2013-07-28TraitCarreLamp

A somewhat different lamp that I found in Charlesbourg. Just a quick ink sketch that took only a few minutes.

2013-07-30QuickBuildings

Part of the Quebec skyline. This was an experiment in quick-sketching using J.Herbin 1670 ink, followed up with a waterbrush to spread the ink a bit. In spite of my typical penchant for straight lines and detail, I liked this one a lot.

2013-07-30FerryPassengers

For some reason, ferry passengers seem in constant motion during the 10 minute trip from one side of the St. Lawrence to the other. These two actually stood still for a couple minutes as I sketched them.

2013-07-31LevisHouseC

The people who get to sit on this terrace are lucky indeed as the house is high on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence.

2013-08-05Chimney

I’m a big fan of the complex chimneys on many of the downtown buildings. I couldn’t resist trying to capture the detail of this one.

2013-08-08BouyC

This is one of three navigational bouys that sit in the Canadian Coast Guard park associated with their Quebec City installation.

2013-08-16EntreeBoisDuCoulonge

This is one of a brace of entry markers at the entrance to one of the local parks.

 

Sketching In A Target-Rich Environment

Every year Quebec City holds the Festivale de Nouvelle France.  It is a celebration of the French landing here and setting up shop.  It’s a celebration of French culture.  It’s a celebration of traditional foods.  And it’s a heck of a good excuse for adults to dress up in costumes and roam the streets of old Quebec.

It’s also a great opportunity for sketchers who want to sketch people dressed as peasants, royalty, pirates, military, indians, and vendors.  I was a peasant myself – a peasant with a pen and a sketchbook.

I’m not very good at this kind of sketching.  Generally your subject is in a crowd of people and you have only a very short time to capture their geometry.  Once done, you’ve got a variable, though always short period of time, to fill in the details from a subject that’s moving constantly, often away from, blending back into the crowd.  Here are a few of my attempts; it sure was fun.

2013-08-10QS2 2013-08-10QS3 2013-08-11QS1 2013-08-11QS3 2013-08-11QS4 2013-08-11QS6 2013-08-11QS7

This Is The Back Of The Building?

I was downtown Sunday, waiting for the Festivale de Nouvelle France events to spool up.  I was sitting in the courtyard in front of the Trinity Anglican Church and from there I could see this view of the back of large government building.  I think it’s the finance building.  I decided to sketch it.

I took a somewhat different approach, experimenting a bit.  I spent more time with a pencil, adding more than just layout lines.  I used my typical 3H pencil, but from these light lines, I laid in light color washes before I added any ink to the sketch.  This allowed me, or so I think, to use a lighter hand with the ink lines, which I followed up with more watercolor.  I think, if I knew anything about watercolors, this would be a good approach.  I know it works well for many other sketchers and I’ll continue to pursue it.

I did it in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) sketchbook, with a Pilot Prera and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.

2013-08-11Finance

New Restaurant In Quebec

I don’t have an official count but I think Quebec City has more restaurants per capita than most cities on the planet.   I pass no less than 9 of them on my way to a new one that has just opened and I don’t live in what one might call a dining hotspot.

But open it has, a new Vietnamese restaurant named Ubong.  If the outside is any reflection of the inside, though, I’m sure it will be successful as they’ve completely remodeled the building and painted it with this stunning yellow and green paint and trim.

It’s on a well-traveled street and every once in a while I’d have to stop as a truck or bus blocked my view and there was a steady stream of pedestrians, some of whom stopped to say hello.  I really enjoy this part of street sketching.  It was sketched in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) and I used a Uniball Signo UM-151 (.38) in black, followed by drawing the window and door frames using a brown-black version of the same pen.  W&N artist watercolors added a bit of shadow and color.

2013-08-06UBONGC

More Small Sketches… More Fun

I’m continuing to have fun with small 3×5 (or smaller) sketches.  Thought I’d share a few more with you.

2013-07-18MaryDooleyCThis is a small, adorable building that is the home to a dress designer.  It looks like something from a fairy tale and seemed like a great small sketch subject.  As with my previous small sketches, this one (and the others here) were done in a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.  This particular one was done with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.

2013-07-21KamouraskaCWe took a day trip down (up?) the southern coast of the St. Lawrence River to Kamouraska.  I’d hoped to sketch some of the great buildings there but instead I did this sketch of my daughter looking out at the ocean (the Atlantic is out there somewhere if you look far enough).  I like this one a lot, probably because of the subject matter.

2013-07-23shipCI was walking across the bridges that crosses the St. Charles River just as it flows into the St. Lawrence and decided, without much thought, to sketch this scene.  I think the scene would have been better served by a larger format but the little sketchbook came out and the pen started jittering around the paper.  I’m not a fan of sketching while standing and this is further evidence that I’m not very good at it.  But they can’t all be great.  It was still fun, which is why I do this.

2013-07-23guyCLastly, and certainly least, I was taking a break on Terrace Dufferin, a large boardwalk associated with the Chateau Frontenac.  Across from me was this guy, looking out at the St. Lawrence.  I took out my cheap sketchbook thinking I’d just do a one-minute sketch of him and, big mistake, I started the sketch in portrait format, thinking I was only going to draw him and couple boards to represent the bench.  Then I sort of got carried away making squiggles to represent the railing and before I knew it I was having to draw him smaller than I planned, the bench became more integral to the sketch, and in the end I had a tiny, 2×2 vignette of a guy on a bench.  It’s sort of scratch and way too small but again, quite fun and I thought I would share it as an example of improper planning… or maybe just the right amount 🙂  This one was done with a Uniball Signo UM151 (brown-black) pen.  I really like these pens and I’m now armed with several of them.

While Walking Through The Park One Day….

Yvan and I planned a sketching session on St. Denis street and we were to meet there.  This street has many majestic residences and a large grassy area in front of them so it’s an ideal place to sketch.

As I arrived I realized that I’d forgotten my WalkStool.  This is a big problem as my knees and me don’t much like sitting on the ground, for fear that we’ll never be able to get back up.

And so the search began for a sitting place with something in front of me to sketch.  It’s not really rocket science but I wandered around for a while before finding such a combination.  I ended up in the Parc des Governeurs, a small park between the Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City’s tourist landmark and the American consulate.

2013-07-20GovernorsPark

Both of these buildings are great sketching subjects but I chose this more humble structure that sits in the park.  Yvan suggested that it was once a toilet but these days it looks to be used by maintenance people.  In any case, it had a bench, in the shade, and so I sketched it in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.  I used Lexington Gray for the stairs in the background.  I’m enjoying the contrast between these two inks.  As always, I used Winsor & Newton watercolors like crayons to add some color.