Where The Dogs Run In Quebec City

The keepers of Quebec City have a sense of humor, or so it seems.  On every tourist map there is a pointer to Passage du Chiens, or Dog Passage and people flock to see it.  Well, maybe not flock as it’s down the street from lots of other stuff and they simply see it as they pass by.

But there it is, complete with official street sign – Passage du Chiens.  It is a passageway to a road/parking area for residents who live in the area and whose house fronts on a ‘street’ that is no longer a street but rather a walkway for pedestrians.  And the Passage du Cheins does sit between two art galleries that are quite photogenic and so many photos are taken of the spot.  I suspect dog lovers get a kick out of showing it to their friends.

Towards the end of our outdoor sketching season I was wandering around, trying to get in some last minute plein air sketching, and I decided to sketch this famous landmark.  The sun was bright, which was great because the temps were just above freezing.  Before I finished, though, the sun had moved behind the buildings, shading the entire area.  This, and the fact that I’d been sitting for an hour caused me to be quite cold so I quickly snapped this photo and moved on to find more sunny ground.

And then I completely forgot about the sketch, until today.  I decided it was time to add some color and this was the result.  Hope you like it.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7) and a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.

 

 

Urban Sketching During Winter

Winter has been slow in coming to Quebec City, which has been great for those of us who like to sketch on location.  I’ve gotten at least an extra month of sketching my favorite subjects, the buildings of Quebec.

But winter has arrived and as I write this it’s 11F (-12C) outside.  This is just the beginning, as we’ll soon be experiencing much colder temperatures.  So what’s a location sketcher to do?  Common recommendations are to go to libraries, coffee shops, airports, and train stations.  These are all great if the things you want to sketch are people but even then, these places tend to be people in motion, something that’s hard for the best sketchers and impossible for me.  I’m the slowest sketcher on the planet.

But now that winter has set in, I’ve got more places and things to sketch than I ever thought possible.  They’ve come in two forms thus far: museums and free concerts/events.

Museums

There are a bunch of museums in Quebec City.  In addition to the large museums like Musee des Beaux Arts and the Musee de la civilisation there are numerous smaller museums scattered around the city, principally because this is a tourist town.  Each has sketching opportunities and I expect to live in them this winter.

In particular, I’ve become a member of the Musee de la Civilisations as it seems the richest source of things to sketch.  Right now there are displays of Nigerian art, Maori culture, Samouri armor, swords, and helmets, and a wide variety of permanent displays of Canadian and Quebec cultural people, places and things.  And they’re very friendly to sketchers.  There’s a cafe where you can get soup, tea and sandwiches.  And, in a world with snow and cold outside, it’s warm.

My first adventure there was done with my buddy Yvan Breton.  We went on ‘free Tuesdays’ and expected to find the place crowded with people taking advantage of the freebie.  But we went in the morning and it wasn’t really busy so we set up in the Nigeria display and started sketching.  I sketched some of the masks, doing them in a fairly small size and doing them fairly quickly.  I just wanted to get a feel for sketching in the museum and I wanted to save time to walk around to look at all the exhibits.  We had a great day.

Free Concerts/Events

Cities have events going on constantly.  I’m not talking about Justin Beiber coming to town or NASCAR races.  I’m talking about smaller events.  A fashion show at the mall, school plays, an author signing event, club displays, craft shows, holiday events, etc.  All of these provide things to sketch.

Here in Quebec City there are also a bunch of free concerts, many put on by our music conservatory, where advanced students gain stage experience.   I’m new to these and time will tell but they’re a great opportunity to sketch people, the musicians and spectators as they don’t move much for extended periods of time.

A small sketchbook and a pencil are unobtrusive and just the thing.  I initiated my new Stillman & Birn 4×6 Alpha series sketchbook at the last one.  What could be more enjoyable than to listen to great music while you sketch?

I spent a delightful 1 1/2 hours listening to some truly gifted violinists.  I’m going to use these concerts to practice my people quick-sketching skills.  It’s a cinch I need the practice, don’tcha think?  What are some of your favorite winter sketching locations?

Parchemin Du Roy – Sketcher’s Paradise

I was talking to a sketching buddy and he asked “Do you know about Parchemin du Roy?”  I said no and he told me about a place that sold pens, sketchbooks, and pencils that he’d recently discovered.  To say my interest was peaked was an understatement.  That was a Sunday.

And so on Monday I hoofed my way to Parchemin du Roy, about a one-hour walk from my house.  They were closed, so like a kid in front of the toy shop, all I could do was put my nose to the glass and look in.  And what a view.  I left with the resolve to return.

And so I did.  It’s not very manly to jump up and down while giggling so I controlled myself, almost, as my eyes beheld the interior of this store.  Inks, pens, books, papers, sketchbooks, notebooks, maps, pencils, watercolors, brushes, and lots of other wonderful items to look at and touch.

Maybe more important, is that while they have the more typical Paper Blanks, Moleskine, and Rhodia products, they also have some really nice high-end speciality paper products.  Not only do they have J.Herbin and Pilot/Namiki inks, they’ve got walnut inks and specialized calligraphy inks.  In addition to Brause dip pens, they’ve got handmade dip pens turned from hardwoods.  While they stock Lamy pens and all their accessories, they also have the new Shaeffer “Ferrari” pen.  Yes, I admit it.  I did giggle and I jumped up and down a little.  I hope Roy didn’t see me.

They offer workshops in calligraphy and you can learn to create illuminated pages.  I might have to take one of those.  For my first visit I bought a brush, notepad and mechanical pencil.  I talked with Roy about differences between Parker and Waterman ballpoint cartridges and I looked and looked – and then I looked some more.  I’m still a bit giddy from the experience.

As I left I took a couple photos (it was too cold to sketch outdoors) and ran home to do the sketch I’ve shared above.  I hope you like it.  Do you have a specialty store like this in your town?  I’m so lucky.

Tis The Season…To Be Cold

I’ve just finished my first summer as a “plein air” sketcher.  I so passionately wandered the streets of Quebec City with a sketchbook that I’ve not spent enough time reporting on those activities in this blog.  My productivity as a writer has been excruciatingly close to zero.  But I have had sooooooo much fun this summer.  Sketching has changed my views of everything.

But for five months of the year Quebec City becomes an icebox.  I don’t mean it gets a little bit cool.  That happened when I lived in Arizona.  I mean it gets the kind of cold that causes tires to go clunk, clunk, clunk as you roll down the street as the rubber  stiffens while the tires sit.  I mean the kind of cold where you have to plug your car in at night so it will start in the morning.  I mean the kind of cold that causes polar bears to hibernate.

Like squirrels gathering nuts, we run around this time of year, preparing for our own hibernation in warm, cozy huts and with the exception of a few crazy people who like to ski and skate, we see “outdoors” only when forced to shove a snowblower around the driveway.

But, with my new found hobby, this is unacceptable.  I want to sketch.  Yes, I can draw coffee cups and sofas but that’s not who I am.  I like sketching places.  So, how do I get past the reality that watercolors freeze when subjected to Quebec City winter temperatures?

Clearly the watercolors will have to be left behind,  but a pen and a small sketchbook can be crammed into a coat pocket.  I’ve got small versions of Stillman & Birn’s Alpha series sketchbooks on their way.  I may even move from my favorite fountain pens to a gel pen or…shudder…maybe even a pencil, to simplify the toolkit.

I’m excited.  As the leaves fell from the trees, my stomping grounds have revealed a whole new landscape, just waiting to be sketched, with or without color. 

But, can an Arizona-bred old guy sketch in the cold.  We’ll see, but I’m optimistic.  Is this how a well-dressed sketching fanatic faces temperatures that live around zero degrees Fahrenheit?  Hope so.

I think the sessions will be shorter, and they’ll probably followed by warming myself over a hot cup of tea, but I’m optimistic.  Then again, it’s still “warm” here.  The  following photo was taken last weekend as I sketched on the large island next to Quebec City.  It was 35F.  If nothing else, winter will help me sketch faster (grin).  What do you do to feed your sketching itch when winter rolls around?  Am I nuts?

Photo by Yvan Breton

Halloween – Urban Sketching Style

This is the time of year that sketchers post beautiful sketches of pumpkins.  I love them all.  I figure this to be my first Halloween as a sketcher.  Last October I’d just started try to move pointy objects across paper and I wasn’t up to the task of sketching pumpkins.  So, a year later, here’s my first set, done with a black ballpoint pen that blobbed on me more than a few times, adding “character” to my sketch.

Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (6×8), Pentel RSVP ballpoint, W&N watercolors

But I’m an urban sketcher.  I sketch buildings, lamposts and fire hydrants.  I guess a group of pumpkins sitting on my kitchen table is ‘urban’ but you have to mentally squint to see it.  So I thought I should do something else and I found the ideal subject as I walked the main street that runs through our port area.   What could be better than an orange building with some black Halloween decorations on it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7), Pilot Prera w/Noodler’s Lexington Gray, W&N watercolors

When I sat across the street to sketch it, though, I had an immediate problem.  There is considerable vehicle traffic on this street and when sitting low on my tripod stool, it was hard to see the lower front of the building.  I’m not good enough to sketch moving vehicles so I sat, looked and pondered.  Then I sat, looked and pondered some more.  What to do.

I got out a 3H pencil and started laying out where the building and stairwell would sit on the paper and marked out the door location.  Then I picked up my stool and walked down the street and found a place where I could sit the ‘right’ distance from a car.  I sketched it as though it was moving in front of my, as yet to be drawn, building.  Then I moved back to the building and sketched it.  I’m not sure I got car and building sized properly relative to one another but it’s close enough for me.  Hope you like it.  Happy Halloween.

Cheers — Larry