Emergency Road Trip

This summer has become one for the record books in terms of how little sketching I’ve been able to do.  The lousy weather was bad enough but being rushed to the hospital with heart problems really put a damper on my sketching just when we started getting some good sketching days.  Happy as a clam following recovery from that, though, I was starting to get out sketching until…

My daughter is still in Ottawa and she decided to fall down a bunch of stairs.  It could have been worse, but she badly sprained her ankle and was suddenly on crutches.  To put this in context, she’s in Ottawa alone and needs to walk 20-25 min each way to work every day.  To make matters worse, her timing was unfortunate because she had arranged to take the bus to Montreal to pick up the keys for her new apartment.  And so she called mom and dad.

The result was that we dropped everything and drove five hours to Ottawa and the next morning we drove to Montreal and back (another four hours).  Back in Ottawa, we spent the night and the next day we drove back to Quebec City (another five hours).  What a weekend.  I’m old; I was exhausted.

So…not much sketching time that weekend, but we did sit in a park or about an hour and once we got Jodie sitting and her leg propped up I did some quick sketching.

Certainly not the best scene ever but this is what I could see over the trees.  It was nice to scratch out this sketch in a Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

I then go out a small Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5) book, looked around and quickly drew these two apartment buildings on the other side of the Rideau River from where I was sitting.

I took a short break and took a walk along the river.  The Rideau River has bike/pedestrian paths on both sides of the river and it was nice to get out and do some walking.  When I got back I drew this little scene, again, viewed across the Rideau River.

Sketching At Lysander Waterfalls

A river, northeast of Quebec City, creates a spectacular display as it tumbles through a small series of rapids and waterfalls near Inverness, Quebec.  At the lip of the river canyon, fellow sketcher and all-around great person, Claudette and her chum have a really nice place and we were invited to spend the day sketching.

It was a great day and I wish I’d been feeling better.  The drugs I was given for my heart, while fine now, weren’t doing me any favors that weekend.  Nevertheless, it was a great day in spite of this small problem.  There were nine of us and we headed into the canyon shortly after we arrived.

Everyone started to draw and, of course, it started raining.  Some had brought umbrellas but I was not so equipped and as the rain hit my ink, it blossomed across the page.  What a frustrating mess that was.  So, I grabbed my 3×5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook and drew Lisette in her “July in Quebec” sketching suit.

The rain was not long-lived, though, and the rest of the day was under a bright sun and warm temperatures.  Rain free, I made a second attempt at drawing the road bridge over the river and above the falls.

Fabriano Artistico (CP), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Doument Black

Eventually hunger drove us from the canyon and we headed to Claudette’s place for lunch and conversation.  I confess that my limited language skills are not up to the task of keeping up with the rapid fire French that occurs when so many fluent speakers are together, but lunch was fun anyway.   At one point, though, I got up from the table and took a seat outside the fray. Again, in my small sketchbook I did this quick sketch of the party.

I wasn’t feeling that well and so didn’t get much accomplished the rest of the day but it was really nice to get out of the city.  Thanks Claudette, for a great day.

Another Trip To The “Ruelles”

I think we must be setting a record for sitting in alleyways while drawing.  Sort of goofy I suppose but alleyways do present scenes with a lot of personality, albeit a somewhat humble form of it.

Claudette and I both chose this scene.  I get the impression that the door on the right leads to an empty building but I could be wrong.  In any event, I had fun drawing this one and we’ll probably all be back in the “ruelles” again.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Origami Exhibit At The Bagatelle

Sorry for forgetting to write blog posts.  I spent a day in the emergency ward as some really nice nurses tried to get my heart under control.  Now I’m trying to get used to medications and the side-effects have caused me to lose my motivation to do much of anything.

But, our group went to visit the Bagatelle, a large house and garden that has become a place where art exhibitions are held here in Quebec.  This month it’s origami and what a show it was.  It’s a two-story house and most of the rooms on both floors were filled with amazing origami pieces.

I sat down in the garden and drew one side of the house as it could be seen through the trees.  Hope you like it as much as I enjoyed drawing it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

A Great Day At Miriam’s Cottage

What’s your ideal sketching day?  I think mine is spending the day at Miriam’s cottage.  Miriam’s cottage is an idyllic place on a large island in the St. Lawrence River, near Quebec City.  She’s got a wonderful artist’s cottage, a huge barn full of sketchable stuff, and a chunk of land you could get lost in as long as you didn’t run out of paper.  All of that would be great enough but there’s also Miriam, who is an inspiration.

She approaches art the way we all did as kids.  She’s very much a “let’s try this” and “just have fun” kind of gal.  Her house has one wall with animal heads looking down on the proceedings.  These are not just any old animals either.  There’s a unicorn among them and all are made from paper mache.  In her loft there’s an full size man done using similar materials.  She draws with abandon and with considerable skill, choosing her tools on a whim.  It’s hard not to be humbled and harder still not to be thrilled just to be there.  Her dog Nikki is a joy and he loves to sit at a sketcher’s feet, apparently enjoying our silence, or maybe the scratching of a pen on paper.

Yvan and I went out to visit her a few days ago.  It was a rainy day but we were able to find cover and did some drawing.  The first drawing I did was this one.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Pilot 78G, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Yvan was drawing next to me and I grumbled about how hard it was to draw this simple scene because nothing on this old barn was in alignment as it should be.  He took that as an opportunity to give me an art lesson and we had a great conversation about lines, squinting, and my problems with both things.  It was perfect.

I got out my little S&B Epsilon (3.5×5.5) book and drew this small sketch of the pool shed, trying to keep what Yvan had talked about in mind.  Then it was time for lunch so we headed to the deck, put up an umbrella over a table and ourselves and then spent an hour or so eating and enjoying each other’s company.  Miriam’s sister, Sarah, joined us.

The rain stopped and we decided that we should walk a bit so we headed down the hill, down the road and ended up at low tide next to the St. Lawrence.  In this location, huge rocks are exposed at low tide and we got the bright idea to try to do a drawing, in spite of the fact that it was threatening more rain.

I only had my little sketchbook with me and a Pilot 78G but that was enough.  I sat down behind where Miriam was sketching and drew her and the surrounding rocks.  I had no color with me but it didn’t much matter because I had to rush the last few lines because the rain had started to fall again.  I added the color when I got home.

We climbed the hill back to Miriam’s place and all agreed that we were going to have to do this again…and maybe again.  It was, indeed, an ideal sketching day.

Maison des Jésuites de Sillery

**ed note: It’s 60F outside right now, on July 12th.   The weather oscillations are crazy this summer, and I use the word “summer” a bit loosely.  Today, however, I speak of a better day, as in July 6th when we had to sit in the shade to draw at the Maison des Jésuites de Sillery.

There are a lot of tiny museums scattered around the Quebec City area but none better hidden than the Maison des Jésuites de Sillery which, not surprisingly, is in Sillery, a burg of Quebec City.  This house, which is now a museum, sits on the site of the first Jesuit settlement in Nouvelle France dating back to the 17th Century.  The museum is interesting and we sketch there once in a while.

It is a bit out of the normal path for tourists but there are tourist flyers available that list it as a good place to visit.  In any case, visit we did, last week.  It’s on a residential street below a cliff face, creating a really nice place to visit and with all the rain we’ve gotten, the area is green, green, green.  I took up residence under a railroad bridge, which provided both a good view and shade.  Gotta have shade.

I wasn’t all that thrilled with the result.  I was trying to get way from pale washes and I got heavy-handed without any idea what I was doing.  So, here it is, such that it is 🙂

Quick-Sketching A Larger Scene

It’s well-known that I’m a slower than molasses sketcher, but I am making a concerted effort t speed things up.  The big problem is that when I do everything else goes downhill and I get frustrated.  Such is my life but I keep trying.

A few posts ago I talked about some sketching I’d done one morning, including a quick sketch from a photo of a scene not far from my house.  I decided to go to that location and do it again.  Here it is, this one done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5) and with a dab of color added.

A Sneak Peak At Stillman & Birn Nova Paper

Did you get excited when Stillman & Birn announced their new Nova series of sketchbooks?  I sure did.  Most people know that I’m a fan of S&B but, like everyone else, when I wanted to draw on toned paper, I was stuck with 60-80lb paper with little or no sizing.  This stuff was ok for line sketching but any attempts at watercolor and the paper buckled, pigments dulled as they were sucked into the paper, and you couldn’t manipulate the watercolors the way you can on a better paper.

But one day I got a call from S&B, asking if I’d like to try out their new toned paper line.  I pondered my answer carefully.  Microseconds went by as I came up with my careful worded response.  “Heck yeah!  Bring it on.”  And they sent me some single sheets of their tan, gray and black papers.

Which brings us to now.  These papers will change the way watercolorists think about toned papers for two reasons, both having to do with the fact that physically these papers are like S&B Alpha white and cream papers.

They are much heavier than other toned papers.  I don’t have any data on these papers, but they are the same thickness as Alpha paper, suggesting they are around 100lb (150gsm).  In any case, the extreme buckling I’ve experienced from other toned papers just doesn’t happen.

The papers are properly sized, so you can actually work watercolors on them.  Those who have experienced Alpha papers know that large-scale wet-n-wet is probably not the idea approach but these papers can handle a fair amount of water.  The pigments can be moved around.  You can charge into another color. You can lift pigments from these papers.  The colorsl remain bright on these papers.

I started testing by doing what I typically do with toned papers, draw with pencil or fountain pen.  Very quickly I realized that  this was lots of fun but not really a challenge for these papers.  They were almost screaming “put some water on me,” and so I did.

I’d like to provide a detailed, blow by blow on the process of getting used to these papers but, for me, it was like working on my typical Alpha and Beta papers.  If anything, I might have used a slightly thicker mix to achieve the results you see but I’m not even sure that’s true.

Above you can see a bit of buckling. I soaked the area inside the building outline and applied the color wet-n-wet. Because the exterior remained dry this small amount of buckling took place. What I did here simply would not be possible with other toned papers I’ve used.

 

 

 

Stillman & Birn says that actual sketchbooks with Nova papers will be available sometime in August.  I don’t know if that means softcover, hardcover, or both but I know I’m going to get in line to get some.  Stillman & Birn will shake the world of toned papers with these sketchbooks.  Thanks, S&B.

 

 

 

 

 

A Sketcher Version Of Morning Papers

Julia Cameron popularized the idea of “morning papers,” suggesting that writing three pages of text about anything every morning would improve your creativity.  I did this for a while but it was at a time of my life when I was writing for several hours of every day and it just became another job I had to do.

The idea of thinking about creativity every morning, though, makes a lot of sense.  My sketching buddy Yvan starts his days by drawing something from his imagination and he recommends it highly.  I don’t have any imagination so that is difficult for me.

Instead, I often get up, get a cup of coffee and play, watching YouTube videos, Craftsy courses, or maybe I’ll flip through an art book or three.  And when I do these things I generally end up with a pointy device in my hand as I try to emulate some of the stuff I see.

This is a significant part of how I learn and improve (I hope) my sketching.  The sketches I post on this blog aren’t about learning; they’re the result of using the skills I have to produce a sketch.  While the sketches I create while learning aren’t much to look at, they are the real engine of my progress.  Anyways, I was doing this sort of thing this morning and thought it might benefit some to pull the curtain back and talk about one aspect of my “process,” such that it is.

My buddy Yvan had sent me a sketch he’d done on the river and it caused me to pull up a photo of the scene I’d taken recently.  I’m interested in doing larger scenes quickly so I grabbed a piece of photocopy paper and started scribbling.  Here’s the result.   Now I’ve got to go on site and draw it again.

The smaller sketches at the bottom of this were to see how it might look with a gray ink (right) and a look at whether I could use watercolor on photocopy paper. Bad idea 🙂

I’d found out that Anne-Laure Jacquet will be coming to Montreal and that I might get to meet her so I was re-watching a couple of her YouTube videos.  One was a real time painting and about halfway through it I got the bright idea to try to replicate it.  I’ve been wanting to start using a brush to draw and that’s what she was doing.  Seemed reasonable to quickly try to draw her building.  It wasn’t reasonable as it’s always better to work slowly with a new technique but this is also part of the freedom of not trying to create anything worth showing anyone 🙂

I didn’t have her exact colors but I grabbed a brush that seemed similar to hers and went to work.  I should have used a smaller brush because I was working a lot smaller than she was on a 4×6 piece of watercolor paper.  I only spent about five minutes trying this and I quickly learned that I needed to use a thicker mix of paint if I was going to draw with the brush.  It was a very insightful five minutes and I will be doing more of this.  I added a bit of linework just to satisfy my penchant for using a fountain pen.

Last and certainly least was that I’d just gotten some Daniel Smith Bloodstone and Raw Umber Violet and wanted to try them.  As I’ve mentioned, I have no imagination but I remembered a sketch Liz Steel did of some silos (I think) and how she’d used something dark between them to generate shadows and overall contrast.  I had a 3×5 Calepino notepad on my desk and I quickly drew three little silos (sketch is only the size of a business card) and then played with my new colors between them.  Not much of an exercise but I got to use my new colors and to once again be impressed with how much better Calepino paper is than Field Notes paper for such things 🙂

This morning session probably lasted an hour.  I had two cups of coffee, watched a couple videos and got to try several things I wouldn’t do if I was out sketching with friends.  Because I get to follow my whim during such sessions and because none of this stuff typically sees the light of day, I can cover a lot of new ground, trying things, failing at things, and trying again.  These try fail cycles, I hope, will bend my visual cortex to my will and I’ll become better at this sketching thing we do.

 

Sketching In The Flowerless Flower Garden

It seems as though we won’t be having a summer this year.  Lots of rain and temps cool enough that we’re back to wearing jackets to go sketching.  Pretty odd for July, even in Quebec City.

We headed to a large garden in Ste-Foy last week for a sketching session.  Reports said the rain wouldn’t start until late afternoon, though it looked as though it could rain at any minute.  We’re getting used to the dull days, though, so we didn’t think much of it.  The garden brought reality home to roost.  There were so few flowers, so little growth.  The trees and grass were all very green, probably because of the rain, but the garden plants looked like it was April.

Everyone cast around for something to draw and I started by drawing on of my fellow sketchers.  I admit my heart wasn’t into it but a quick sketch was done quickly.  After this I got up and started wandering the grounds, around and around I went.  Nothing inspired.

There were some people weeding some large beds and they had a small garden vehicle in support.  I decided “why not” and sat down to draw it.  A woman came over and asked if I wanted her to move the vehicle, thinking I wanted to draw the garden, but I explained that I was going to draw the vehicle.  She laughed, probably thought I was nuts, and I set to work.  Here’s what I came up with.  Not a Rembrandt but it sure was fun to draw.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5×8), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black