I forgot about this sketch yesterday when I was posting building sketches from my Ottawa trip. My daughter and I spent part of a day at the Agriculture Museum in Ottawa and I drew this beautiful old barn. It should have been included in the last blog post.
As I was riding the train to Ottawa I was planning where to point my feet for my upcoming sketching adventure. First stop was to be Parliament, where I wanted to sit directly in front of Parliament’s Peace Tower and draw the entire building in one-point perspective. It’s classic Ottawa.
There were two problems with that idea. The first is that every government building in the city seems to be under construction, or if it isn’t, you can’t go there because of some other construction. The entire Parliament area is full of cranes, fencing and the buildings are shrouded in scaffolding. All of this, I’m told is being done in anticipation of July 1, 2017, which will be the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation.
Ok…but what’s that huge, can’t see the building stage that’s sprawled out in front of Parliament. Well, that is for Canada Day 2016. Sometimes timing is everything and mine wasn’t great this time.
Undaunted, I decided to draw a portion of the Langevin building, which is a very long government building. I have no idea what they do within it but the south side steps of the East Block building served as a great perch to draw it. And so, with lots of tourists walking by, I drank coffee and drew a building.
If you walk south on Elgin from Parliament you’ll find an old house (mansion?) that seems to have been converted into a small hotel or B&B. What’s striking about it is that all around it are modern high-rise buildings. It was a must-draw but I was unsure what to do with it. On the one hand I wanted to draw it small with the huge skyscrapers surrounding it. But this would shrink the building so much that I wouldn’t be able to give it any of the ‘from a different time’ feel that it exuded. In the end I decided to just draw the building, without any of the large buildings. Someday I’ll do it the other way I’m sure.
There are a lot of “old dead guy” statues in Ottawa and while interesting, I was looking for something different when I wandered around evaluating statues for sketching. I found two that I liked a lot. Hope you approve of my choices.
This statue sits in a small triangle of dirt/grass with cars whizzing by on all three sides of it. It’s near the National Art Gallery and while I’ve been there several times, I’ve never even noticed it because of its location. But heck, there it was and there was a large tree under which I could sit while I sketched it. Like the streets surrounding it, the statue is a 3-sided affair, though you can only see two sides of it in my sketch. It’s Haida, I think and quite beautiful.
I was walking from Parliament towards Confederation Park and as I passed the post office on Spark Street I noticed a couple of large lions protecting the doors. In truth, they themselves were caged by large fencing put up to protect people like me from construction going on around the facade of the building. This made it hard to find a place where I could sit to draw. I walked around the building and found there are actually half a dozen of these guys standing around in the sun. They’re enlarged heads make them all the more majestic and I had to draw one. I found a place where I can climb up on some large concrete blocks, set up my stool and draw. I only fell off once.
My favorite place in Ottawa is the Museum of Nature. It’s four floors of sketching heaven. Museums seem to be turning into videos and photographs but not the Museum of Nature. It’s all about “stuff” and most of it is worthy of a sketcher’s time.
Right now, the Museum of Nature has a special dinosaur exhibit. While their permanent collection holds a large exhibit of North American dinosaurs, a new exhibit features dinosaurs from other parts of the world. The significant thing about this is that while those of us in the US and Canada know the dinosaurs of North America, the breakup of Pangea and resultant dinosaur species radiation on their respective continents produced a diversity we don’t normally get to see. And there I was, looking up at a whole bunch of them. All of these sketches were done in a landscape format (5.5×8.5) Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbook.
Drawing bones may not be for everyone but for me, there is no better exercise for the visual brain as there’s so many facets, so many overlapping parts, and so many contours that they really require keen observation and some relationship planning if you’re going to get sketches even a little bit correct. And so I did a bunch of them during my time in Ottawa. The fact that the museum is air-conditioned and Ottawa was quite toasty while I was there didn’t hurt my motivation either.
Another reason this sketching was fun was the kids. The museum was full of them everytime I went there and while this meant is was quite loud, there’s nothing better than kids when you’re sketching. They ask all the right questions and none of the wrong ones. They don’t ask you why you do it or give you excuses for why they ‘have no talent for drawing’ because all of them draw. Many fine discussions with the kids.
The newest acquisition to the museum is this skull. It’s called Xenoceratops foremostensis and it lived in Alberta. Similar to other ‘ceratops’ species in the permanent collection, but with two huge horns above its eyes. I thought it was gorgeous and had to draw it.
I got to spend a week in Ottawa, mostly visiting my daughter but I also wandering around and sketching. I’m in the process of scanning the sketches and thought I’d start a short series of posts with a few of the many tiny sketches I did while there. The tan ones were done in one of my mustache books while the red ones were done in a Field Notes Sweet Tooth notebook.
I’m going to include only two of the people sketches I did, mostly because I’m lazy and didn’t want to scan any more. The first is my favorite of all of them; a woman wearing a hijab. This scarf was gorgeous, with silver threads running through it that made it glisten. I got caught up in the curves and folds of the fabric to the point that my coffee went cold.
This one was a bit unique in that I was waiting for me daughter at school and saw this unusually talk Asian woman. Not an important sketch by any measure but I enjoy capturing the variability of the human form.
If you follow this blog you know that I’ve been having fun sketching with the Field Notes Sweet Tooth edition, particularly the red notebook of the set. I’m going to have to buy a couple more packs as I’m using up my red ones. It’s really fun having the red as a mid-tone with black and white inks on either side. Here are a couple lamp posts, one of my favorite sketching subjects.
My daughter and I bought sandwiches and walked down to the Ottawa River where 7-stage canal locks lower boats from the Rideau Canal to the river. It’s a beautiful place and we fed chipmunks and watched a young rabbit chow down on the foliage a few feet from us. I mentioned to her that I wished that I had a loose and quick style that would allow me to capture things like the Art Museum that was visible up the hill from where we sat. To demonstrate that I don’t have one, I did this sketch of it in just a few minutes between sandwich bites.
On another day I started walking from Parliament towards a pair of statues that honor firefighters, but I ended up doing sketches along the way and didn’t get to the firefighters until late in the afternoon. By then I’d been pretty well beaten down by the particularly hot day so I decided to do a small ‘red’ sketch. I’m really glad things worked out the way they did as I really liked the result. Hope you do too.