The heatwave has driven us into the parks because we can sit in the shade. But before that happened, I’d drawn a little store on the corner of rue Cremazie and rue Cartier in Quebec City and I’d forgotten about it. I added some color to it this weekend and thought I’d share it as a change of pace from all the trees I’ve been drawing lately (grin).
Last week Yvan told me of a group, the Artistes du Parc, who were meeting at a large park, Domain Maizeret, and that he was going there to sketch with them. They are a watercolor group and I tagged along. We had a great time in spite of the heat wave.
When we arrived there was only one person there. She was painting the large community building that’s the centerpiece of the park. It turned out that she was the organizer, Denise Bujold. Denise is a bubbly, enthusiastic person whose personality says “Join us, we’re about to have fun.” I now have a brochure with a schedule of another half a dozen events that she has planned. If you look up the word organizer in a dictionary you might find her picture. Yippee!
Yvan and I did the sketcher thing, which was to wander around, looking for something to draw and then we proceeded to ignore one another for the next hour or so. I went to the other side of the large building and decided to draw the scene shown below, mostly because there was a good patch of shade where I could plunk my butt on my stool and draw. Here, courtesy of Denise, is a photo of my fat self doing just that, or rather faking that I was painting because by then I had finished. I don’t normally have a big, silly grin on my face when I draw but heck, she was taking my picture. Ya gotta smile for the camera.
I’ve got to do something about that tiny tripod stool though. It’s really hard for me to sit down and even harder to get up. I’m convinced that some day I won’t be able to (grin)
I did get to meet another person who came to the event, Nicole. I suspect that most stayed away because this was in the middle of our heatwave and by then we were all hearing about the people dying because of it. Still, it was a great day and the beginning, I hope, of a new sketching/painting relationship.
I’ve mentioned the heat wave that’s occurring on planet Quebec City and it still rages on. Yvan and I thought that maybe we should sketch in my backyard, which is shady and close to a fridge full of ice cold water. This turned out to be a good idea and we had some fun in spite of the heat. Here’s a sketch I did of part of the perimeter of our yard. Too many leaves.
I’m still trying to integrate my life as a sketcher with my life as a gimpy old man with a bad wrist but I’m finding the problems managable, which makes me happy as a clam. An arthritic clam for sure, but a happy one.
I just got back from Montreal. Went there with a friend and thus I didn’t get to sketch at all, but when I got back I contacted my buddy Yvan about sketching. We decided to head to what was Quebec City’s zoo. A small portion of it has been turned into a park and we figured we could find some shade there and something to draw.
Shade was more important than subject because we’re in the middle of canicule, the time when we start feeling foolish for having complained so much about the cold. Called the ‘dog days of summer’ in English, or on the streets, ‘hotter-than-hell,’ this is the time of people go to hospitals with heat exhaustion. We went sketching.
Truth is, it hasn’t been horrible for us on planet Quebec City because while temps and humidity are very high, we’ve had a nice breeze which has kept conditions tolerable. Oh, and we had shade, lots of shade. We decided to draw the entry gate to the park. It’s a great subject and I didn’t do it justice.
I have to say that I’m out of practice. While I include my drawing and seeing skills in this mostly I’m talking about my juggling skills. I only have two hands and a mouth that can sometimes provide hand-like assistance, so drawing and painting while sitting on a stool is a practiced skill. On this day I was dropping things constantly. My paper towel blew away several times. The water spilled. I knocked my palette off its perch. But I got to sketch and that’s what was important. Not my best sketch ever but sketching isn’t about what you produce, or it shouldn’t be. Here it is, warts and all.
I’ve mentioned the Collectif before, whose complete name is Collectif des ateliers libres en arts visuels de Québec because people here love long, impossible to remember names. They are mostly a portrait group and like nothing more than to sit around a naked person while they draw in a stuffy room. In recent years, though, they’ve discovered that sketching outdoors is fun, too, and so have started scheduling outdoor events during the summer.
They scheduled an event at a large garden in Ste-Foy, or rather Quebec City. Which name you use depends on whether you acknowledge the aggregation of the small cities into what now makes up metro-Quebec City. For me it will always be Ste-Foy though I realize that people reading this blog might be confused by my using the two names to refer to the same place. Such is life on planet Quebec City.
The garden is a large one but mostly rows and rows of different species of plants, and thus most of it is not the same as a typical botanical garden. If I knew more about gardens I’d probably know why this is the case. In any event, it’s a great place to draw flowers but I didn’t do that on this day. Instead, I drew a small kiosk and the surrounding vegetation. It was a nice day and the sketching was relaxing. When I was done I walked around to talk with everyone and to look at what everyone was drawing. By the time that was done my knee was screaming at me and so I settled for the one sketch for the day. I hope you like it.
When I was first learning about urban sketching my mentor (though she didn’t know it) was Cathy Johnson. I fell in love with her sketches, many of which appeared to me in books by her about nature, historical reinactment, and art books. Another thing she showed me how interesting and beautiful an artist can make the mundane and ugly. She’d paint broken down buildings as seen through rusty chain link fence. She did a sketch of a bridge being torn apart. And she did these things in a way that made you want to hang them on your living room wall.
I still aspire to have her abilities but one of the great things about being a sketcher is that with only a dollup of persistence you can try and try again. I’ve spent more than a little time drawing the alleyways of the older parts of Quebec City. These are cluttered, ill-maintained places that are mostly out of sight and out of mind. While I may not have Cathy’s expertise, I do have her zeal and I’ve done another alley sketch. Here it is, warts and all. I really enjoyed doing it.
In sports there are regular references to athletes who play through the pain. I feel like I’m trying to do that right now with my sketching. I’m at a point where I can walk and stand but doing so requires a lot of energy because of my pronounced limp. Then, when I get on site, I further abuse my knee by sitting on my tripod stool.
At the same time, a star finally appeared over planet Quebec City, or at least that’s what the astronomers call it. The result has been that we’ve got these things authorities are calling shadows and a lot more light than normal. It has also gotten warm enough that we can sketch outdoors.
A fairly large group of us were downtown sketching. I learned later that everyone thought I’d gone home, I suppose, because of the grimace on my face when I walked, but actually I’d limped down to the south side of city hall and drew a street view.
Normally I lose track of time when I sketch but on this day I knew every minute because my knee kept sending out tweets screaming about being harassed and abused. But eventually I did finish the sketch. I didn’t notice, until now, that I didn’t draw any of those shadow things I mentioned. I guess I’ll get used to those in time.
When I finished I limped back to where everyone else was sketching. They were finishing up sketches and starting to talk about getting coffee. I sat down and with a couple minutes to fill, I started drawing some of the roof lines. Then we went to get coffee and reflect on the day. I think it’s going to be a long summer. I think I should be on the disabled list but don’t tell coach.
When I started sketching, there were two reasonable candidates if you wanted to use heavily sized watercolor paper and wanted to use watercolor over your pen sketches. You could use Platinum Carbon Black ink, a pigmented ink, and Noodler’s Lexington Gray, which relied upon bonding to cellulose for its water resistance. Lex Gray was only passable because it was a gray and when it smeared it didn’t create really bad smears. I used both of them – a lot.
When DeAtramentis Document inks came to market, the stampede could be heard worldwide as we all rushed to our ink store to buy these waterproof inks. They’ve made a lot of us very happy, though these inks are a bit on the pricey side ($20/35ml).
The story could end right there except that I’m like a bass in the weeds, lunging out at every shiny object trolled in front of my nose by the pen/ink manufacturers. When the Jet Pens newsletter featured Rohrer & Klingner Sketch Inks, my credit card warmed up, some buttons were pushed and I had three bottles of ink winging their way to chez moi.
There are actually 10 different colors in this ink line. Each ink carries a female name and the bottle features a sketch of a woman. Maybe I’m supposed to know who these women are but I don’t. What I do know is that they are INK SKETCHES of women. Did I mention that the inks are called Sketch Inks? How cool is that?
More important, these inks are nano-pigmented inks that are suitable for fountain pens and they’re a lot cheaper than the DeAtramentis inks I use. For $12 you get 50ml which works out to 24 cents/ml vs 57 cents/ml for DeAtramentis inks. And the sketches on the bottle are really nice. Did I mention that the inks are called Sketch Inks? Very cool.
I bought bottles of Frieda (dark blue), Lily (dull brown), and Thea (dark grey). The dark grey is the most exciting to me because it’s a gray like Lexington Gray but absolutely waterproof even on Fabriano Artistico. The dull brown is very close to a color I’ve mixed using DeAtramentis Document Brown with a bit of black thrown in to neutralize it a bit.
One thing that’s great about the colors I got, and I presume the rest of the line, is their matte quality. One thing I’ve never liked about Platinum Carbon Black is the shiny line quality. They should blend well with watercolor. Also, at least on the Emilio Braga paper I used for a quick test (below) these inks dry fast, really fast. (ed note: just tested on Fabriano and the ink didn’t smear after 5 seconds, maybe less).
I haven’t had a lot of time with them (just arrived last night) but I stuffed Frieda into a Pilot Cavalier (fine), Lily into a Lamy Safari (Xfine) and Thea in to a Pilot Falcon (SFine). I scribbled a bit on photocopy paper and went to bed. Figuring I needed something to show you beyond a picture of the bottles, I stopped while I was out and drew a lamp post and trashcan. I drew this same thing with each ink, spending a few seconds more than 5 minutes on this scribbly page. I apologize for them being different sizes; I didn’t plan as well as I might have. Ultimately, you’ll be seeing a lot of sketches from my use of these inks; particularly the grey and brown. I think I love my new lady friends.
I’ve watched Marc Taro Holmes smoosh color onto paper, shifting colors as he “built washes.” I’ve heard Shari Blaukopf talk about creating mosaics of shifting colors on a surface. And I’ve stared at hundreds of Liz Steel sketches (relevance later). Apparently, I’ve got a pretty thick head because in spite of all this exposure to the concept, I didn’t get it.
No, it took a single comment in Liz Steel’s watercolour course (highly recommended) to get me to rethink watercolors. I know little of watercolor use but the first thing shown in every watercolor book I’ve read is how to do a flat wash. That’s how I’ve been applying watercolor…in flat, boring washes. Apparently I learned that lesson well. But in a single statement, as Liz was discussing mixing on paper vs mixing on the palette, Liz said (paraphrasing), “I rarely use flat washes; I prefer adding texture in my washes.” This simple statement somehow connected both of my neurons together and there was a flash of light, at least that’s how I remember it.
So, I started looking more closely and practicing the addition of variability into washes. I still struggle with its application but I was pretty happy with this sketch. It was an experiment to see if I could put a very textured, high contrast “wash” behind the focal point and sort of gradate both the texture and the color (lightening it) as I moved away from that focal point. My table light was just an excuse for a background.
There are parts of Quebec City that were originally built in the early 20th Century but that have since been modernized, mostly by putting modern facades on the buildings. The result is really boring. But if you wander around in said neighborhoods you find the odd house that has been spruced up a bit but that retains its older shape and aesthetic.
Claudette found just such a house and we went to sketch it. It was a bit cool but sunny but on the upside, we had a great place to sit as we sketched. It was a small, simple house and didn’t take long to sketch but when I got out my watercolors I managed to dump half a bottle of water in my lap. Suddenly it got very cool and I looked as though I’d wet my pants. Life of a sketcher.