Road Trip To Montreal – Part One

The last time I left home on a sketching trip was in 2017 when I went to meet Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel for the best sketching day of my life.  Since then health issues hobbled me (quite literally) for nearly two years, part of which I couldn’t hold a pencil, let alone draw with one.

So, it was no small thing for me to head to the bus depot and head down the road, thanks to my rheumatologist.  I was going to Montreal to see my daughter but also to meet up with Marc for a couple sketching sessions.  There would be lots of chatting involved as well since we hadn’t seen each other for so long.

The bus was to depart at 5AM so, a bit bleary-eyed I sat at the bus station at 4:45.  What’s a guy to do but draw.  I did a couple quick sketches before they started loading the bus.  Here they are.

I’m a look-y-lu when I travel and don’t have to drive.  I can’t wait to see the sights as we whiz along the highway.  Once the sun started to come up I saw turkeys, deer, a couple ravens, some ducks and a lot of landscape and architecture.

When I arrived in Montreal the first thing I had to do was coax my bum leg to climb a significant hill to get to my daughter’s apartment, and I did, albeit slowly.  The two of us had breakfast and then parted as I headed to meet Marc.  After a bit of a snafu (sp?) about which Starbucks we were going to meet in, we used the magic of our cell phones to find each other.

The day was amazing for the beginning of March in Quebec.  It wasn’t bitterly cold.  In fact, it was sunny and about 2C and for crazy sketchers, that’s sketching weather… almost.  Marc and I decided to draw the top of a large cathedral that’s downtown.  There’s a park right next to it, too close to draw the cathedral from, but we decided to find a bench and draw.  We found benches but they were covered in snow so we sat on the backs of a bench and drew.

This turned out to be an experiment on more than a leg-testing level.  Marc is always suggesting that I draw too slow.  It’s hard to argue because molasses runs downhill faster than I draw.  My problem is that if I start drawing fast I lose control of the proportions, leave important stuff out, etc.  Still, I was determined to try and, truth be told, I had to do this to keep up with Marc, who does magnificent drawings in mere minutes.

And so I drew two of the domes quickly, trying my best not to distort them too much.  It suited the winter weather conditions to sketch quickly.

With that sketch done, we started looking for something else to draw.  This was hard because of all the snow and the need to sit in the sun.  It was also starting to get breezy so we decided to go into the cathedral.  I made several quick sketches but when a church service started both Marc and I felt like interlopers and so we decided to leave.  Here’s one of my sketches.

Strathmore Mixed-Media (184lb), DeAtramentis Brown ink

Marc directed us to an observation area in, I think, the Bonaventure Hotel where we looked out over the city and the same cathedral we drew earlier.  Maintaining my frantic (for me) sketching pace, I quickly sketched a lot of the roof tops of the cathedral.  Something of a strange view but one, I’m sure, is familiar to the resident pigeon population.

Strathmore Mixed-Media (184lb), DeAtramentis Brown ink

I never did complete it because I also wanted to draw another church nearby.   We both were getting hungry so we headed for a nearby food court and spent the afternoon talking art and solving the world’s problems.  With the world’s problems solved, we headed to Marc’s house where I spent a spectacular evening with Marc and Laurel.  In spite of a lot of walking my leg held up pretty well.  Some limping did occur but it was not extreme.

This post has gotten pretty long so I’m going to stop here.  I’ll show you what I did on day two in the next post.  As Tigger says, Ta, Ta, For Now.

The Hurrier I Go…

…The Behinder I get.

In my last post (a week ago), I said I’d just returned from Montreal and that I would post sketches as soon as I scanned them.  I’d forgotten the fact that I’d brought my daughter back with me and we’ve been having a great time but this has prevented me from prepping a Montreal blog post.  In the interim, here are few of the many doodles I’ve done. Nothing special but it is a chance for you to see the stuff that I put in my garbage can (grin).

I’m pretty sure this was done from an internet photos.  I was mostly interested in the hijab because I find them quite beautiful.

The next one was drawn as I was watching Marc Taro Holmes’ Craftsy (now Blueprint) course for the umpty-tenth time.  As he was sketching this model I decided to draw along with him.  Surprise, surprise, his was better 🙂

This one was inspired from one of the many cartoony red mushrooms that people like to sketch.  Me too.

I found this little dog figure at the local junk store.  I buy a lot of junk in the name of “that would be fun to draw.”

This was a very quick sketch of the head of Queen Victoria, the one that got blown off the top of a large statue in Quebec City a few decades ago.  It was done in a few minutes from a photo I took of it at the museum.

I’ll get to the Montreal sketches, and a bunch of other stuff “real soon.”

Blackwing Sharpener Review

I just got back from a sketching trip to Montreal.  I’ll talk about that once I get a chance to scan my sketches but today I want to show you what I found while wandering around Mile End.  I went into a tiny store called Boucle & Papier.  l didn’t have high expectations as the place is full of greeting cards but they had Blackwing pencils, which was a pleasant surprise.

The BIG surprise, though, was that they had the hot topic in the pencil world right now – the Blackwing sharpener.  I was hot to get one of these but shipping costs really limit my ability to do so.  But I have one now.

Before I talk about it I need to provide a bit of sharpener history for those who are saying “it’s only a sharpener.”  In the pencil world, particularly the people that carry pencils wherever they go, have never been satisfied by the cheap sharpeners you can buy anywhere.  There are reasons for this but the big one is that these sharpeners produce a very short, high-angle tip and if you want to write/draw with a fine line, you’re constantly sharpening.  The long tip you get from a wall sharpener is what we want in our portable sharpeners.

There have been several solutions but the reigning favorite is the Kum Masterpiece sharpener, a 2-step sharpener that requires you to remove wood in the first step and then carefully sharpen the point in the second.  It works great, though the 2-step approach isn’t convenient.  More important, however, is that the shavings aren’t captured by the sharpener.

The Blackwing sharpener has come to the rescue.  If you haven’t been convinced by the cost of the thing, the packaging should give you the idea that you’re holding something special.  It impresses when you hold it in your hand as well.  Very solid and the black anodizing is beautiful.

The sharpener disassembles into three pieces.  You unscrew the top and then you can pull the actual sharpener out of the housing to empty the shavings.  The sharpener hole is offset to allow shavings to easily flake away from the blade.  Sharpening is done by simply holding it and twisting the pencil as you would with any simple sharpener.

Here’s a comparison of the results from the Blackwing and Masterpiece sharpeners.  Note that the exposed graphite length is very similar but the Masterpiece removes more wood.  The reason is that the Blackwing sharpener cuts the pencil into a curved shape similar to the Pollux sharpener that is popular with some, though the Pollux  has a reputation of being picky about what pencils it will sharpen.  I haven’t exhaustively tested different pencils but I’ve tried Ticonderoga, Blackwing, Tombow, Mitsubishi, Mars Lumigraph and even Col-Erase pencils and the Blackwing sharpener handles all of them well.

This is just a close up of the results.

In the end, this sharpener is now part of my sketching bag and I just love it.  A happy surprise from Montreal.

Edit:  Tina Koyama asked for a comparision to the Blackwing 2-step sharpener.  Here it is.  Top pencil is a Mars Lumograph sharpened with the new Blackwing and the bottom pencil is a Tombow Mono 100 sharpened with the Blackwing 2-step sharpener.

I Love Cupcakes, Don’t You?

I’ve always been a fan of cupcakes.  They always look so good, with their creamy frosting and nifty little pleated dress.  I also like their size.  Just right for a snack.

I decided to draw one because the word of the week from our sketching group was “patisserie.”  The French have far more imagination when it comes to pastries and I seem to love all of them, but I settled on a cupcake.

I decided that I wanted to use gouache, trying to produce that creamy look of frosting.  As I don’t know how to use gouache that might not have been a great idea but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I started with an ink drawing, followed by some watercolor washes.  Then I started adding gouache to the light side of the frosting.  I had to add a couple layers of gouache to get a fully-opaque look.  I’m not sure how well this integrates with an ink drawing but here is the result.  I need more practice to figure out gouache but I wasn’t displeased by this result.

Strathmore 184lb Mixed Media paper, watercolor/gouache

Domestic Sketching

Urban sketching is a popular topic on the internet and in the summer I love to spend my time, on location, drawing pretty much anything.  When winter comes, however, I’m always at a loss because snow and cold prevent those activities.

So, I turn to “domestic sketching,” the act of drawing stuff that’s laying around the house.  For me it doesn’t matter what it is as it’s the process of drawing that’s important to me, not what the product is.  On this day I drew a shoe.  I spent a lot of time blocking in this drawing because I wanted the proportions to be right but the ink drawing went pretty quickly once the locations of all the major parts was determined.  Maybe I’ll draw its brother next.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document black