There’s a superb piece of architecture in Limoilou that used to be a firehouse. While I’ve lived in Quebec it’s been used as a daycare center, some sort of base for a charitable organization and has probably had other uses as well. Right now, it’s undergoing some exterior restoration and interior remodeling. I drew the top portion of one end of it because below this view are all sorts of machines, dumpsters and debris.
Chantal: “Where are you going?
Me: “I’m meeting Yvan and Claudette on 3rd Avenue.”
Chantal: “Ok. Don’t sit on your stool.”
That’s the conversation that took place following my “banging head against the wall” day on Tuesday. She needn’t worry. My Walkstool has worked flawlessly for years and excepting the need to replace the rubber feet that just wore out, it has been a reliable companion. The calamity was all on me; I screwed up… again.
Anyways, I did meet “the guys” and drew this little scene. Not my best but I am trying to recoup my blood supply after all. I did another sketch, a more complete one, but I didn’t get to put color on it so I’ll post that one tomorrow. Great day but REALLY cold.
Here it is, the middle of May, and we’re still having a hard time getting outdoors in Quebec City because of cool weather and a lot of rain. But it happened. In fact, we had a bright, hot summer day on the 16th and our little sketching group took advantage of it. We headed to an older part of the city where they have alleyways.
Alleyways provide sort of grungy views but views with lots of shapes that make for great sketching subjects. I just love them. In this scene you’ll find two large “towers.” These are actually enclosed stairways, loosely constructed but effective in keeping the snow off the stairs. They are very common in these neighborhoods. I had a lot of fun doing this one.
When I was a kid I remember Howdy-Doody and Buffalo Bob, Captain Kangaroo, and Sheri Lewis and Lamp Chop. When my daughter was little she watched Mister Rogers and Sesame Street. Kid shows with a mix of adult and puppet characters have always been popular.
A show I never did see was very popular in Quebec and involved Bobinette, a wooden-headed puppet, and Bobino, a guy sporting a vest and bowler hat. I’d heard of Bobinette but never seen her until, because of rain (again) we were forced into the museum. A new display provided some insight into this early TV show and provided a chance to draw her. The show was called Bobino and ran from 1957 to 1985. Bobinette was Bobino’s sister. Isn’t she a doll?
Besides yelling at the sky because of all the rain we’ve been getting (parts of Quebec are considered disaster areas because of the flooding), I’ve been struggling with arthritis in my drawing hand. The two things are related because low barometric pressure triggers my arthritic problems. Regularly I think of Babette, in Gilmore Girls as she runs down the street saying “It’s gonna rain, my ankles are never wrong” as I’m in the same boat it seems.
But I did get out one damp, cool day. It was only 7C with on/off misty rain but I was out walking and decided to do a quick drawing just to say I did. Here’s one of the side entrances to our city hall building. I hope things get on track soon so I can get out and do some real sketching.
This crazy spring is causing us to be drawing in museums even into May and we found ourselves, once again, sketching at the hunting and fishing museum in St. Augustine, Quebec. I should consider myself lucky because many in Quebec are dealing with their houses being flooded from all the rain we’re receiving. I’m just disappointed that I can’t sketch outdoors, which pales by comparison.
I spent some time with a wolf on this day. I have to admit that I’m really getting a bad case of cabin fever and less and less in the mood to draw in museums but what’cha gonna do? Unfortunately, I think this is beginning to show in the results. Here’s the first drawing I did.
I decided to compliment this drawing with one of a wolf skull. If you extend the back of the skull in the drawing just a bit, you’ll see a pretty decent rendition of a wolf skull. Fun thing about this is that while I was drawing I kept thinking I was drawing everything too long, when in fact, I’d drawn the back of the skull too short. Better luck next time.
It’s already May and so far I’ve only been able to do three outdoor sketches. We’re getting some borderline warm-enough days but we’re also getting a lot of rain and wind which has made outdoor sketching difficult at best.
But I was out walking through a light mist, trying to get some exercise when it stopped raining. I bought my raincoat extra large so that I could wear it over my art bag, so I had that with me. The concept of sketcher desperation may be foreign to people who live in places with reasonable weather but for me, an ex-Arizona guy living in a place that stretches the truth by saying that we have five months of decent weather, it’s a very real concept.
Anyways, with water dripping from my raincoat, I decided to draw. I was near a small chapel in Victoria Park and so it became my subject and I quickly drew it on some toned paper I had. As I drew I realized that this chapel isn’t being used as such anymore as windows and doors all have plywood inserts in them. I drew it that way and I didn’t add any color until I got home and even then kept it as somber as the day was when I sketched it. Not my best but it was really great to be breathing outdoor air while moving a pen around.
Recently I wrote about the new Platinum gall inks and noted that they aren’t waterproof in the way that watercolorists need them to be waterproof. They’re more like the Noodler’s “bulletproof” claim of water resistance. You couldn’t remove a signature from a check, but the color bleeds when these inks are used on good watercolor paper. The reasons may be different for Noodler’s vs Platinum gall inks but the results are the same.
Many of us have spent a lot of money trying to find a truly waterproof brown ink we can shove through our fountain pens. Heck, I spent $30 on the Platinum ink even after I’d found a really good solution just because I was curious. Anyways, my post on the Platinum inks resulted in some discussion and I thought I’d tell you about my solution.
Jane Blundell did an extensive analysis of the DeAtramentis Document inks where she mixed entire color wheels with these inks. They are all quite waterproof and fountain pen friendly. Making matters even better for the in mixer, DeAtramentis sells a “dilution solution” which is just like the ink but without the pigment. I use Document Black, diluted 5:1 (dilution:ink) to generate a dark gray that’s similar in color to Noodler’s Lexington Gray but is more waterproof and its lower contrast to white paper works better when you’re going to use watercolors on your drawings.
DeAtramentis Document Brown leans towards red, pretty close to a burnt sienna color. It works well as a sketching color but on white paper, just like black ink, its contrast is very high. I’ve tried just diluting it and that works but, to my eye, it accentuates the red component of the ink and I’ve never liked that very much. So, what to do.
Mix a bit of blue with it, that’s what. Just like mixing ultramarine blue to burnt sienna, if you mix in enough blue you get gray. But if I add only a few drops of blue, I get a nice, walnut brown that works really well for me. I’m not going to tell you how many drops or anything like that. Achieving the color YOU want will require a bit of trial and error on your part. Personally, I don’t worry about too much. I mix small quantities, and test with a dip pen until I get the color I want. The next time I might get a slightly different color. I don’t really care because my goal is to tone down the contrast of the ink with the paper, not achieve some particular color.
To the cost of this adventure. A bottle of Document Brown (35ml) will cost you around $20 and the dilution solution (250ml) is another $20. That’s pretty expensive but, depending upon how much of the dilution solution you use, you also end up with a lot of ink. Adding another $20 for a bottle of blue really boosts the price and I’d recommend just buying a sample unless you plan on drawing with blue. It doesn’t take much to achieve the shift shown above.
Finally, here’s a drawing I started on one of the few outdoor sketching days we’ve had thus far. Watercolor will come but for now you can see the results of my “walnut” ink. I think the contrast here is a bit more in the scan than on paper.
When my daughter was home for Easter I offered to take her back to Ottawa so she wouldn’t have to take the bus. This would save her the long bus ride, garner dad some brownie points, and give me several hours worth of discussion with said daughter as we drove to Ottawa.
A not-so-well-hidden reason behind this gesture on my part was my desire to get back to Ottawa so I could sketch at the Museum of Nature. It never really makes much sense to spend ten hours driving (round trip) so that I could spend four hours sketching, but then we sketchers are a sorry lot when it comes to logic. I got to DRAW!
We left at 5AM and I got to the museum by about 10:30AM. I walked around a bit, and ended up in the mammal exhibition. I generally draw bones in the dinosaur exhibits and so I’ve neglected the mammals. Time to make up for that.
I started with a grizzly bear. It was a disaster and I include it here only as an example of sketching gone wrong. I got the bright idea to try wet-in-wet while sitting on a tripod stool in a museum and with my extensive background of never having tried it before. Eeeeeekkkk! I wet the entire bear. I can’t say whether I wet it too much or too little as I had a hard time seeing just how much water was on the paper in the subdued lighting. What I do know is that when I started dropping in browns, I created something more akin to the big bang than a painting. There was brown exploding everywhere and in an instant I had a bear-shaped outline that looked like something that came from the south end of a cow. I quickly started dabbing at it. I’m sure the other patrons thought I was under attack by some invisible creature as I flailed around. As I said, it was/is a disaster.
With that mess behind me I decided it was snack time so I could regroup. Then I returned to the mammal exhibit, determined to redeem myself. I targeted the head of a thinned-horn sheep and, leaving wet-in-wet techniques for another day, achieved what I felt was reasonable redemption.
Across the corridor was an antelope scene and since I only had a short time remaining, I decided to give it a try rather than doing my typical walkabout to find a subject. I worked fairly quickly and, I suppose, there are some errors but nevertheless, it was a fitting end to a great day. When I was finished I realized that I was about 10 minutes late for my rendevous with my daughter. Sketching and time just don’t mix well.
A few of us ended up at Paillard’s, a nice coffee shop in downtown Quebec. I got a large café au lait in a bowl and settled into a seat with everyone. Of course we all had sketchbooks and everyone started quick sketching everything and anything.
These sessions don’t yield great art. That’s not the goal. But it’s great practice for capturing things on paper, getting the old visual cortex thinking the way we need it to think.
I was working in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5 landscape) and I started drawing the counter and the machines who live there. No goal in mind other than to draw those machines. When I finished with that I drank some coffee, talked too much, and started randomly drawing stuff, just filling a page. I ended up with a chef’s head floating in my in my coffee. It was fun. Sometimes I want to do more careful drawing, sometimes not. This was a not day.