I’ve mentioned the heat wave that’s occurring on planet Quebec City and it still rages on. Yvan and I thought that maybe we should sketch in my backyard, which is shady and close to a fridge full of ice cold water. This turned out to be a good idea and we had some fun in spite of the heat. Here’s a sketch I did of part of the perimeter of our yard. Too many leaves.
I’m still trying to integrate my life as a sketcher with my life as a gimpy old man with a bad wrist but I’m finding the problems managable, which makes me happy as a clam. An arthritic clam for sure, but a happy one.
I just got back from Montreal. Went there with a friend and thus I didn’t get to sketch at all, but when I got back I contacted my buddy Yvan about sketching. We decided to head to what was Quebec City’s zoo. A small portion of it has been turned into a park and we figured we could find some shade there and something to draw.
Shade was more important than subject because we’re in the middle of canicule, the time when we start feeling foolish for having complained so much about the cold. Called the ‘dog days of summer’ in English, or on the streets, ‘hotter-than-hell,’ this is the time of people go to hospitals with heat exhaustion. We went sketching.
Truth is, it hasn’t been horrible for us on planet Quebec City because while temps and humidity are very high, we’ve had a nice breeze which has kept conditions tolerable. Oh, and we had shade, lots of shade. We decided to draw the entry gate to the park. It’s a great subject and I didn’t do it justice.
I have to say that I’m out of practice. While I include my drawing and seeing skills in this mostly I’m talking about my juggling skills. I only have two hands and a mouth that can sometimes provide hand-like assistance, so drawing and painting while sitting on a stool is a practiced skill. On this day I was dropping things constantly. My paper towel blew away several times. The water spilled. I knocked my palette off its perch. But I got to sketch and that’s what was important. Not my best sketch ever but sketching isn’t about what you produce, or it shouldn’t be. Here it is, warts and all.
In sports there are regular references to athletes who play through the pain. I feel like I’m trying to do that right now with my sketching. I’m at a point where I can walk and stand but doing so requires a lot of energy because of my pronounced limp. Then, when I get on site, I further abuse my knee by sitting on my tripod stool.
At the same time, a star finally appeared over planet Quebec City, or at least that’s what the astronomers call it. The result has been that we’ve got these things authorities are calling shadows and a lot more light than normal. It has also gotten warm enough that we can sketch outdoors.
A fairly large group of us were downtown sketching. I learned later that everyone thought I’d gone home, I suppose, because of the grimace on my face when I walked, but actually I’d limped down to the south side of city hall and drew a street view.
Normally I lose track of time when I sketch but on this day I knew every minute because my knee kept sending out tweets screaming about being harassed and abused. But eventually I did finish the sketch. I didn’t notice, until now, that I didn’t draw any of those shadow things I mentioned. I guess I’ll get used to those in time.
When I finished I limped back to where everyone else was sketching. They were finishing up sketches and starting to talk about getting coffee. I sat down and with a couple minutes to fill, I started drawing some of the roof lines. Then we went to get coffee and reflect on the day. I think it’s going to be a long summer. I think I should be on the disabled list but don’t tell coach.
There are parts of Quebec City that were originally built in the early 20th Century but that have since been modernized, mostly by putting modern facades on the buildings. The result is really boring. But if you wander around in said neighborhoods you find the odd house that has been spruced up a bit but that retains its older shape and aesthetic.
Claudette found just such a house and we went to sketch it. It was a bit cool but sunny but on the upside, we had a great place to sit as we sketched. It was a small, simple house and didn’t take long to sketch but when I got out my watercolors I managed to dump half a bottle of water in my lap. Suddenly it got very cool and I looked as though I’d wet my pants. Life of a sketcher.
We went back to St. Vallier with intent to sketch the Pignon Bleu, a building that I’ve always loved. Only problem was that someone, some horrible someone, took a gorgeous building and “renovated” it into something they obviously thought to be an improvement. Me, not so much. Claudette and Yvan agreed so we ended up sketching a very unique building across the street.
My hand was not cooperating on this day. Arthritis is an unpredictable thing but one thing is certain. Having it in your drawing hand is frustrating. Because of this I decided that I’d just draw the fancy balcony facade. I still had some fun but I do wish you could buy replacement parts for old bodies.
Quebec City and Levis are separated from one another by the St. Lawrence River, which is a mighty river for sure, serving as the shipping highway between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. It seems to be a considerable barrier for our sketching group as we rarely go to Levis in spite of it being a great place to sketch. I could leave this description just the way it is, fully justifying our avoidance of that city, but the truth is, it’s only a 10-minute ferry boat ride so we really have no excuse.
We did go last Saturday, though, thanks to an invitation by Marie Gauthier, who owns/runs an atelier in Levis. And we had a great time, though I spent way too much time talking to the new acquaintances. It was a cold day and I was underdressed so there was a bit of shivering going on as I drew this scene. I guess it’s my Arizona roots but I’m always underdressed for the cold.
It’s the middle of May. A couple days ago we had frost warnings and right now our kitchen table is covered with annuals (plants) because it’s too cold to put them outdoors. But outdoor sketching season has started, though in fits and starts.
We met on rue St. Vallier in front of an old house Claudette wanted to sketch. I’d always thought it was a great subject myself. So there we were, three of us in a line along the street, drawing this house. I wonder if bears feel out of practice as they wander through the forest following exit from hibernation. After a long winter and a string of health problems, I sure feel clumsy sitting on a stool, doing the sketcher up/down bobble-head motion that identifies sketchers.
I’m hopeless when it comes to watercolor. Partly this is because I don’t care enough about color but a heavy dose of ignorance about them adds to my problems with watercolor. So, it’s not likely that I’ll be telling anyone how to do watercolors anytime soon, but I have lots of experience messing up a drawing with the addition of color, so I thought I’d show you an example and let you cast some stones in my direction. Feel free to laugh.
Here is a sketch I did as we launched our “outdoor season.” In fairness to me, it was a considerable struggle for me to get to the site and by the time I did my knee was throbbing and all I wanted to do was lay down (grin). I did a simple drawing of a wooden statue resembling the front end of a ship. Then, just for background, I did a really spartan outline of the building behind it for composition’s sake. Then I proceeded to make a mess of the whole thing.
Note that there is no life in those colors. Note also that I’ve covered the entire drawing with those lifeless colors. This sketch would have been much better if I’d just left the background building white. The principle subject wouldn’t have sunk so far into oblivion. What a mess. At least it’s an example of what NOT to do.
By the time I finished that sketch I was exhausted, but from the same location one could see the spire of what was a downtown fire station so we decided to draw it. I was still in blah-color mode but I like this sketch anyways. Most exciting of all is that we’re finally sketching outdoors.
In Quebec City we have to use our imagination to identify places where we can sketch on location. I don’t have any of that imagination stuff but I have friends who do and they came up with the idea of sketching in garden centers. We’ve done it a number of times and it’s lots of fun.
Sadly, even as we entered May it was still too cold to sketch outdoors so we headed to the garden center. I didn’t create any masterpieces this day (never do) but I sure had fun. It was the first time I’d sat on my tripod stool in a long time. That was something of a challenge as my knee becomes very unstable when I try to get my butt low enough to find the seat. Getting up is a similar challenge. I’ll have to do something about that. I did get to try a taller stool (20″ WalkStool) and I may buy one as that made this simple task much easier.
Anyways, I started with a simple, and quick sketch of a garden gargoyle. He (she?) was about a foot tall and without much detail but very proud.
I spent a lot of time wandering around the garden center, looking at the plants, the bright flashes of color and I even spent time looking at garden tools, bird feeders, etc. The koi pond required that I watch the fish going round and round too. Eventually, though, I got back to drawing and I immersed myself in a cloud of leaves that most would call a bonsai. If I were a real artist I would have gotten out a brush and just indicated all those leaves but I’m in love with fountain pens and the lines they make so there I was, drawing leaves… lots of leaves. I love the feeling of coming out of the meditative stupor induced by this sort of drawing. It makes me want to do it again.
I’m not, but I am bugged by people who call insects bugs (grin). I spent a good part of my life studying insects so I’m very comfortable around them and them being around me. I just don’t see them the way most people do.
That said, it wasn’t always so. Long before I became a biologist my dad moved our family from Ohio to Arizona. It was great being away from snow, only having to own one set of clothes and not having to worry about what the weather was going to be like every day. But when the monsoon season, the time that Arizona gets the majority of its very limited rainfall, something happened that upset this bliss. Derobrachus hovorei appeared. These “little” guys feed on the roots of Palo Verde trees as larvae but the adults are beetles (3″ long) and they’re powerful flyers.
I’ll never forget my fist encounter with them. I was a just-barely-a-teenager, minding my business, when one of these things flew right into me. It fell to the ground and immediately started buzzing. It was the scariest thing I’d ever seen. Now, a bunch of years later I know that they are harmless nectar feeders with only one thing on their mind – finding a mate, but at the time…
So what does this have to sketching? Well, Derobrachus hovorei is a Cerambycid beetle, one of around 40,000 species of the Family Cerambycidae that share our planet. This makes it the largest beetle family and they exhibit a correspondingly large degree of variability, providing an endless set of opportunities as sketching subjects.
See…you knew I’d get there, didn’t you (grin)? Not only are their sizes and shapes quite varied, many of them look like tiny Christmas tree ornamets because of their bright, often metallic colors. I just love them, so I drew one just for you.