Museum Time Again

It’s been really cold here in Quebec.  So cold, in fact that I couldn’t bring myself to go out at all, let alone walk the hour to the museums.  I hadn’t sketched in several days because of this, so when the high temp hit -17C I jumped at this ‘warm’ day to head out.

I decided to go to the Musee de l’Amerique francais, the site of our recent sketchcrawl.  As I was there on a Thursday morning, I think I was alone in the museum, except for the staff.  It was quiet.  It was comfortable.  In fact, I sat in a nice, comfy sofa and sketched a mannikin who was dressed in a 16th Century gown worn in the movie The Fountain.

2013_01-16thCenturyWoman700Still trying to figure out pencil sketching, that’s what I was using.  I decided early on that the subject might be too ‘grand’ for my Stillman & Birn 5.5×8.5 Epsilon sketchbook as the dress has a very bold pattern that I simply couldn’t capture in a 6″ tall sketch but I persisted doing the best I could.  Sadly, the sketch shows my biggest problem – I constantly smear the pencil work.  I can’t seem to avoid it.  It got worse, of course, when I sketched on the page opposite this one.  So, the sketch is more than a little bit ‘muddy’ but I sure had fun doing it.  The mannikin didn’t have much of a face and neither does my sketch.  Don’t hold it against her 🙂  I’m going to have to carry a sheet of paper to cover these sketches while I work, or maybe just go back to using a pen.

2013_01-25_19thCenturyWinterwear600I moved to another room and was taken by a pair of 19th Century snowshoes.  These are the widest shoes I’ve seen and if horses made John Wayne bowlegged, these would surely do the same to their wearer.  I also sketched a boot that was associated with this display.  Here I used a Pilot Prera and some watercolor pencils.

Sketching On Toned Paper

I’m no expert to artist materials.  Most of the time when I talk about using them the discourse begins with me saying “This is the first time that…”  This is almost true of my use of toned paper in my sketching activities.  During last summer I made a small sketchbook from toned paper (Canson Mi-Teintes) and I did a few pen sketches in it.  Unfortunately, the sketchbook itself wasn’t stiff enough (thin covers) to work well as a sketchbook to use on location while I held it in my hand.

Now that it’s winter and very cold here, I’ve been working a lot in museums.  This shift in location and subject matter has been coupled by me doing some experimenting with different tools and materials and recently I’ve done a couple sketches on single sheets of gray, toned paper and I thought I’d share them here.

2013-01-15Nigeria6_700The first was done at the Musée de la Civilisation, in a large Nigeria exhibit that features lots of masks and headdresses used in ceremonies.  This one was done in Canson Mi-Teintes paper.  As I am also trying to learn how to use a pencil as a sketching medium, I used the smooth side of this paper and it worked well.  Not being a pencil guru, I started layout with a 3H pencil and ultimately ended up with an HB mechanical pencil.  Nothing special here and, I’m sure, most pencil experts will probably cringe that I didn’t use softer pencils.  I added a bit of highlight using a Prismacolor white pencil but I was fairly tentative in this as I’ve never done that before at all.  Still, the results ended up better than I expected.

The next sketch I did was done during our 38th Worldwide Sketchcrawl, which we did at the Musée de Francais and its associated chapel.  The chapel has been ‘secularized’ and is rented out for meetings and banquets.  Still, its walls are still adorned with statues of saints, the windows are stained glass, and a huge alter remains.

2013-01-08Seminaire38thSketchcrawl700But I love to sketch buildings and being driven indoors by snow and cold is frustrating.  I took advantage of the sketchcrawl to set my tripod stool in front of a huge window that looked out on a courtyard that was bordered by a very long, probably 150+ feet long building.  Rather than capture the entire structure, I decided to concentrate on a slice of it and I came up with this sketch.

This sketch was done on Strathmore Series 400 “toned gray” paper.  I bought a 9×12 spiral sketchbook of this stuff.  The sheets are perforated and can be easily separated from the sketchbook.  I did the linework with a Pilot Prera filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  The suggestion of snow was added using the same Prismacolor pencil I used in the first sketch.  I like this paper a lot.  It’s much cheaper than the Canson paper and it’s a great pencil paper.  I felt that it was a bit too absorptive for ink, though.  A heavy line tends to feather a bit.

I really like drawing on toned paper.  I’m less wild about using single sheets of paper for my sketching and wish Stillman & Birn would create a gray version of its Epsilon sketchbooks.  A sketcher has to have a dream (grin).

Portrait Sketching in Quebec City

I’ve been sketching for about ten months now.  When I started my goal was to be able to draw some of the unique buildings here in Quebec.  That is still my goal and I’ve been happy with my progress.  Heck, I’d be happy with any progress as I spent most of my life believing you had to have special talents to draw.

I’ve approach that goal in single-minded fashion, first drawing a gazillion boxes and finally buildings.  It’s only been recently that I’ve even added trees and such to my building sketches.  I think that trying to keep it simple has helped me considerably as I climb the learning curve.

But I’ve met a group of sketchers that have me conflicted over my approach.  They meet once a week and draw portraits.  They are Yvan, Denis, Jean-Marc, Sylvie, Katherine, Catherine, Han, and Celine.  While their names don’t mean much to you, take my word for it; these are some of the nicest, most talented people you’d ever want to meet.

I met some of them during our recent sketchcrawl, and I decided to attend their portraiture session last night.  I didn’t sketch.  As I said, I’m trying to stick with buildings and while the US Government can decide that corporations are people, I have a hard time convincing myself that people are buildings.

But the ‘esprit’ of that evening session, and the enthusiasm of its participants, is infectious and I’m afraid I have been infected.  I shouldn’t.  I know I shouldn’t.  Stick with the plan, Larry.  But…but…I feel the need to participate.  My only participation last night, aside from being amazed by the sketches done by these artists, was to pose for a 20-minute session.  It was fun.  I hope to do it again.  If you’ve ever wondered what I look like, this sketch by Yvan is a very good likeness.