Another Trip To The Hunting And Fishing Museum

Oh my goodness.  It’s been ten days since I’ve posted.  I’m running as fast as I can but it just isn’t fast enough.  I’ve done some more extreme sketching, went to a gathering at the Morrin Center in Quebec City, my daughter came home for “reading week” and we just got back from Montreal where I got to spend the day with Marc Taro Holmes.  I’ll try to get blog posts written on all these things in the next couple days, but today I want to show you a couple more sketches that I did when several of us went back to the Quebec hunting and fishing museum.

I was struck by this duck because I had never seen one before and I didn’t know what it was.  There was no label on it.   I drew it because of its atypical orientation but it wasn’t until I got home and talked with Mr. Google that I found out that this is a a Eurasian duck called the Ruddy Shelduck and that it’s very common in India.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

With so many beautiful animal subjects at the museum it’s easy to ignore the multitude of antique and modern fishing and hunting equipment on display.  But on this day I was struck by a long row of antique fishing bobbers, or floats if you prefer that term.  While they did have an example of modern, red/white plastic bobbers, most of them were very old, wooden bobbers.  Rather than drawing them in a row, I created this composition and liked the result.  Hope you do too.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10)

A Street Sketcher Tries To Paint

Last Sunday we had our monthly sketchcrawl and it was a unique event.  We gathered at the main Quebec City library, in a large room associated with their art collection.  We were tasked with finding a painting we liked and then doing our own take on the subject matter.  There were, I think, nine of us and we had a lot of fun, particularly because we were all in the same room so we could talk.  I tend to go silent when I sketch but I took breaks to see what others were doing.

I chose a large watercolor of a bunch of kids playing in tide pools, thinking I could turn it into a fun sketch.  I started by blocking out the locations of the kids, indicating the horizon and generally getting the sense of what I wanted to do.

Then it happened.  I decided that rather than starting to draw with my fountain pen, I’d indicate the shadow areas to begine to define the kids.  This led to adding some color and I was like Alice falling into Wonderland as things quickly went out of control.  The first thing I realized was that converting a large (22×30 painting) into a 7×10 sketch wasn’t consistent with the amount of detail I was planning and so some reassessment took place.  That wasn’t so bad as my skills with a a fuzzy stick leave much to be desired.  I was really wishing I had my fountain pen in hand rather than a fuzzy stick.

But I persisted, doing things for the first time at every turn.  Still, the sketch started to look suspiciously like kids in tide pools so I convinced myself it wouldn’t be that bad.  Eventually, as a last step, I did get out a fountain pen and added some lines and details, though I kept things a bit vague.  I learned a lot, including how much I need to learn about watercolors.  While it was frustrating at times, it was also a lot of fun.  Maybe I’ll figure out fuzzy sticks eventually.

I had a hard time scanning this one.  I suppose it was because of all the very pale blues in the sky and water but I gave up and took this cell phone photo of it.  The colors aren’t quite right and the lighting isn’t even, but you can get an idea of what it looks like, I think.

Fabriano Artistico CP 7×10, Daniel Smith watercolors

Sketching Animals – The Sequel

We had so much fun at the la Fédération québécoise ​des chasseurs et pêcheurs during our first visit that we decided to get back as soon as we could, which was last Tuesday.  There were five of us this time and we had a great time together.  I do hope we can return ‘real soon.’

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10) softcover, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

I decided to draw one of the deer and I struggled to get the antlers right.  And I didn’t.  I find some days I just ‘see’ better than other days.  Not sure why.

When I finished that I wandered around a bit.  There’s so much to see and study there.  Eventually, though, I settled down in front of a couple Canada Geese.  By the time I got them drawn it was time for lunch and we all got together, shared our projects, and chatted up a storm.  Then I added color to my geese.   I’m sure we’ll go back again, and probably real soon.  Next stop, though, is the Croquistes de Quebec sketchcrawl.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

 

Portable Painter Watercolor Palette

The opening photograph for this blog post was stolen from the Portable Painter website.  I hope they don’t mind.  It shows my new toy, but before I put paint into it.  It also shows the 12 half-pans that come with the palette that makes it very quick and easy to get started using it.

Steve Padden (designer) launched this product as an Indigogo project (like Kickstarter) and I ordered one immediately.  The Portable Painter website has a great video and I encourage you to watch it if you’re even a little bit interested in moving your paint on location.

This is what mine looks like once I put paint into it.  The half-pans that come with the Portable Painter fit loosely into their compartments and because of this I felt it necessary to anchor them in the box so they didn’t fall out if I turned the palette upside down.  I used little bits of double-sided tape for this and that seems to work well and because it’s so thin, it allows the half-pans to sit well in the case.

Normally I don’t talk about products I haven’t actually used on location but “use” when it comes to a half-pan palette is more about set up and take down than about actually using it for painting so I feel a bit more on solid ground here.  Sliding the two water containers off the case and clipping them to the ends is very quick and easy, as is reversing the procedure.  The mixing areas are similiar to others I’ve used.  I’ll take a brite-boy to those before actual use but they look great and provide about twice the mixing area of the Cotman Sketcher palette.   The one thing I would have liked to see is a place to put the metal clip while you’re painting.  It becomes an odd-man-out while you’re painting.

While I haven’t actually painted from it, I did drape it across my leg as shown in the video and that works very well.  Right now my water comes from a small bottle I hold in my hand so the two water reservoirs will be a nice improvement.  The kit should also work really well if I’m working on a flat surface as it’s quite stable with the reservoirs as feet.

Those of you who use the Cotman Sketcher palette, and there are a lot of you, this is a major improvement because of the water reservoirs and larger mixing areas.  This comes at almost no size or weight costs.  Here are photos comparing the Cotman Sketcher to the Portable Painter, with and without the water containers attached.

I’m not sure about current pricing of this item.  While its retail price is $30, it looks like you are still be able to buy it at a discount from the Indigogo launch site like I did.  The Portable Painter website will direct you there so if you’re interested, now is the time.

Binge-Watching Sketcher Confesses

Everyone does things that aren’t the best use of our time.  You know you do.  Mostly we do it because it’s fun and we can.  But what happens when you’re a sketcher and don’t want to say “I don’t have time to sketch?”  Many simply utter the phrase and maybe feel a little guilty about it.

I’m no different I suppose and recently Chantal and I discovered the TV show Once Upon A Time on Netflix.  We’ve gotten caught up in it and we’ve been binge-watching it in the evenings.  It’s taking a lot of time…a whole lot of time that I would normally spend doing other things.

The one saving grace is my habit of doodling and practicing while watching TV of any kind.  I thought I’d share a few of those pages, though they’re all scribbles generated from a variety of sources, including my imagination.  I have left the pages full of ellipses, lines, hatching, and other sketching calisthenics because they’re really boring to look at.  Hopefully these doodles will give you some idea of some of the things I play with while watching TV.  They’ve all been done in a cheap sketchbook (9×6) and most done with a Platinum Carbon Pen.

The owl was drawn from a tiny statue I own.

Chantal is a constant target, though I think I’ve drawn her foot/shoes more than anything. The hand coming out of her head was drawn before I drew her. She doesn’t really hold her sketchbook that way.

I got in the mood to draw very loosely, with the pen flitting around without much thought. I know some like this sort of thing but it grates against my sensibilities 🙂

Sketching Animals That Don’t Move

What could be better for a sketcher than a place where there are hundreds of animals that don’t move.  Daniel Chagnon, an organizer for the Le Collectif des ateliers libres en arts visuels de Québec (CALAVQ) organized an event at la Fédération québécoise
​des chasseurs et pêcheurs.  This is a bit outside the domain of CALAVQ, which is primarily a portraiture group, but Daniel has been organizing more and more of these events and it’s very exciting to see.

I didn’t know that the Quebec hunters and fishermen had a museum/training center but this place is incredible for those of us scrambling to find winter sketching places.  It’s a bit of a drive but access is free, though they appreciate donations.  There is a lunch room with microwaves, vending machines, etc. AND several hundred taxidermy specimens just waiting to be drawn.  The hard part was deciding what to draw and being satisfied even though you didn’t get to draw everything.

There were a dozen of us sketching in the building and a lot of sketches were produced.  I found myself drawing too quickly and I was a bit disappointed in that.  I sometimes get ahead of my skis and it shows up in the results.  My attempt at drawing a wolf is a case in point.  I blocked it in quickly (ie too quickly and I got one foot in the wrong place.  I drew the eye incorrectly, tried to correct it, only making it worse.  Still, it looked like a wolf, sort of.  You might notice that it’s not displayed here 🙂

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), PLatinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

I moved onto the wildfowl area and drew this elegant bufflehead.  Here I bumped into my watercolor ineptitude and had trouble obtaining a really dark black, but I was generally happy with the result.  Robert Bateman I am not.

After lunch I decided that since I’d drawn fur and feathers that it was time to draw a fish.  I like the small vignette surrounding this one.   Striped bass used to be common to the stretch of the St. Lawrence River around Quebec but they had nearly disappeared until the fishing and hunting organization started a program to build up their populations.  They are being grown and planted along the river and fishing regulations prohibit the taking of this fish.  From what I could read, the program is making good progress towards their reintroduction.

I slowed down just a bit, partly because of my early morning lesson and partly because I was just getting tired.  I think the result was more in tune with my norm…only a few mistakes (grin).  Thanks to CALAVQ and particularly Daniel for organizing this event and introducing us to the museum.  We’re heading back here on Tuesday.

 

Our Tuesday Group Hosted By Hubert Langevin

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

I’m really behind in my posting but this event is so old that it’s starting to show up in the history books.  Way back when, about a week and a half ago, Hubert Langevin invited us to sketch at his house.  As a  big storm was predicted and we got to watch the snow going sideways through the large windows of his house as we drew objects Hubert had placed around for that purpose.  There were seven of us and we spent the day sketching, laughing and eating marvelous vegetable soup and fresh bread.  Lisette brought date bars for dessert.

I started sketching this smallish (15-20cm) clay woman.  She was so cute, even though she lacked a face.   Then I watched the snow fall, talked with everyone too much (I must drive them crazy) and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Then I sat down to draw a set of teacups set out as a still life.  We broke for lunch and then, with belly full, I returned to sketching tea cups, spoons and napkins.  My intent was to simply do a shaded contour drawing but somehow I got dragged down the rabbit hole of drawing all the decorations on the cups.  This was a lot of fun and not nearly as hard as one would suppose.  I hope you like it.  Thanks to Hubert for hosting us.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Platinum 3776, Platinun Carbon Black

February Croquistes De Quebec Sketchcrawl

Our next sketchcrawl should be a lot of fun.  It will also be warm, something that’s hard for us to achieve during the Quebec winter.  Yvan has arranged for us to gather at the Artothèque de la bibliothèque Gabrielle Roy.  This is the art collection owned by the Quebec library system.  They have agreed to host us, provide a room, and maybe even some easels to hold art while we draw from it.  We’ll meet on Sunday, February 12th at 9:30 on the second floor of the Gabrielle-Roy library.  You can get details on the Croquistes de Quebec website.

Yvan and I went there last week to see how things would work out and we had a ball.  Drawing from the work of other artists is a time-honored way of learning and I do it a lot, mostly by drawing pieces of sketches of sketches I like in an attempt to understand how the artist made the marks and what they were thinking when they did it.

On this day, however, I hopped a train to fantasyland.  Instead of my normal fountain pen tool, I picked up a brush.  I did a watercolor portrait, based upon a painting by Marie Leberge.  The work itself violated my detail-oriented approach and certainly, my lack of skill with watercolor and brush showed through.  Even so, I had a ball doing it and learned a lot.  I sure missed my pen, though (grin).  Anyways, be at this sketchcrawl.  We’ll have fun.

7.5×11 Fabriano Artistico CP, Daniel Smith watercolors, based upon portrait by Marie Lepage

 

 

Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone?

Oh how I hate that phrase.  It’s used in various ways to suggest something, but I never know exactly what, at least when it’s directed towards me or my sketches.

But maybe it’s a soft way of talking about something very basic to learning art.  I’ve noticed that amateur artists in particular don’t progress because they conflate learning with simple doing.  We believe we will improve by going out with our sketching group once a week, doing sketches just as we’ve done every other week.

Sure, you’ll improve, slowly, by this approach.  The problem is that when you go out with your sketching group, you want to produce something that you can proudly display when everyone says “what did you draw?”  Because of this, you sketch in the way you know.  There is no experimentation.  You choose subjects that are similar to ones you’ve drawn in the past.  So, you get better and better at what you know, avoiding anything that you don’t know.

I’ve always thought about my drawing as a two-part thing.  One part is the execution/performance part.  I use what I know to produce the best sketch I know how to make.  I do learn a bit from this process but mostly it’s about producing sketches that day.

It’s the second part, the learning part, that improves all of my sketching and I feel that progress has come more quickly than would be the case if I’d simply concentrated one that first part.  This learning part burns through paper a lot faster than the first part of my sketching life.  In this time I’ll create pages full of elllipses and hatching of all kinds.  It’s really fun to just draw a random amoeba-like shape and then contour it with hatching.  I’ll also draw lines between dots drawn in advance.  I’ll try to draw over a single line repeatedly trying to do so without widening the line.

I’ll draw parts of other people’s sketches, trying to get a feel for how they’ve made the lines they’ve drawn.  I’ll quickly sketch stuff, mostly from commercials on TV.  I’ll draw lines and divide them into thirds, fourths and fifths, followed up by measuring how good I was at it and correcting the errors.    I’ve filled a bunch of cheap sketchbooks with this stuff and it’s rare that any of it sees the light of day, but it’s the most important “art” I produce.  Now that I’m thinking about it, I should post some of those pages so you can see how disjointed, loose, and how little thought is given to producing “art” of any kind.  It’s all about training my visual cortex to gather the right information and disseminate it onto the page. Hmm.. maybe I’ll do that.

Anyway, while I’m very much in love with making lines with fountain pens, I also draw with ballpoint pens, brush pens, and watercolor pencils.  Sometimes I’ll draw in pencil.  Most of this is done while I watch movies or TV shows but sometimes I’ll just sit down and draw with the notion of improving on things I don’t feel I know.  This gives me a lot of things to choose from and on this day I decided that drawing with pencil was the order of the day.  Sadly, I didn’t think well enough and just started drawing on a piece of Fabriano Artistico CP paper, which is not an ideal paper for pencil.  There are numerous errors here but I learned a lot in the process and am now motivated to do it again but on a more suitable paper.

Drawn with a 0.5 mechanical pencil

Sketchcrawling With USK Montreal

I’m going to keep this short because we’re experiencing really low barometric pressure which is giving me a horrible arthritis attack in my knees and hands.  I’ll also apologize for the typos because my typing is being affected…bigly.

But last Sunday I was in heaven.  I met Marc Holmes for coffee before the event and when we arrived at the Pointe-à-Callière museum there were 30 or so sketchers waiting for the place to open.  The goal for the day was to sketch the Asian exhibition and it was a doozy.

The exhibit is on two floors and I probably should have made a quick run around to inventory things but I just started sketching these small clay figures.  They were simple, crude, and I managed to make them even more so when I went out in hall and tried to paint them while standing.  I was at least a couple of hands short for that exercise.

Stillman & Birn Beta, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon

I did those quickly, all the time thinking of heading upstairs in search of something better to draw.  The second floor had one display of larger statues, a bunch of pottery, kimonos, and a couple samurai suits.  I decided to draw a couple of the larger statue artifacts.  Those were fun but I really hope that some day I’ll get better at drawing while standing.

Stillman & Birn Beta, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon

The area around the samurai suits was pretty crowded so I decided to draw a piece of pottery.  Then I went outside and found Marc creating a masterpiece.  Watching work with watercolors is always a treat.  I never did add color to my pottery.

We only had 20 minutes left so we went back in and I decided to take that time to read about some of the smaller pieces which were at the other end of the first-floor room from where I had done my first page.  That’s when I saw it… a large door into yet another room.  Dare I say this was where thek really good stuff was?  Large buddah’s statues of all sorts, large busts of Asian characters.  Wow…and me with only a few minutes left before we were to rendevous for lunch and show-n-tell.  I quickly drew one of the heads, using pencil this time.  Yet another skill I need to work on.

We met for lunch and passed sketchbooks around.  USK Montreal has a lot of talented people among its ranks and it was fun seeing their results.  This day was pretty special to me and I hope to return for some of their future sketchcrawls.  Thanks, Marc, for organizing the event.