sketch, Sketching Small In Ottawa

I got to spend a week in Ottawa, mostly visiting my daughter but I also wandering around and sketching.  I’m in the process of scanning the sketches and thought I’d start a short series of posts with a few of the many tiny sketches I did while there.  The tan ones were done in one of my mustache books while the red ones were done in a Field Notes Sweet Tooth notebook.

2016-06-20people1I’m going to include only two of the people sketches I did, mostly because I’m lazy and didn’t want to scan any more.  The first is my favorite of all of them; a woman wearing a hijab.  This scarf was gorgeous, with silver threads running through it that made it glisten.  I got caught up in the curves and folds of the fabric to the point that my coffee went cold.

2016-06-20people2This one was a bit unique in that I was waiting for me daughter at school and saw this unusually talk Asian woman.  Not an important sketch by any measure but I enjoy capturing the variability of the human form.

If you follow this blog you know that I’ve been having fun sketching with the Field Notes Sweet Tooth edition, particularly the red notebook of the set.  I’m going to have to buy a couple more packs as I’m using up my red ones.  It’s really fun having the red as a mid-tone with black and white inks on either side.  Here are a couple lamp posts, one of my favorite sketching subjects.

2016-06-21lamp post12016-06-21lamp post2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016-06-26artgallery

 

My daughter and I bought sandwiches and walked down to the Ottawa River where 7-stage canal locks lower boats from the Rideau Canal to the river.  It’s a beautiful place and we fed chipmunks and watched a young rabbit chow down on the foliage a few feet from us.  I mentioned to her that I wished that I had a loose and quick style that would allow me to capture things like the Art Museum that was visible up the hill from where we sat.  To demonstrate that I don’t have one, I did this sketch of it in just a few minutes between sandwich bites.

On another day I started walking from Parliament towards a pair of statues that honor firefighters, but I ended up doing sketches along the way and didn’t get to the firefighters until late in the afternoon.  By then I’d been pretty well beaten down by the particularly hot day so I decided to do a small ‘red’ sketch.  I’m really glad things worked out the way they did as I really liked the result.  Hope you do too.

2016-06-24fireman

 

Drawing Carriage Horses

All summer long tourists pay to be hauled around the old city behind beautiful horses who just shake their heads, saying “Why can’t they walk?  They could use the exercise.”  These horses are beautiful and we got the opportunity to visit the facilities where the horses live and where carriages are maintained.

2016-06-17fencepostI couldn’t stay long this day so I started with a bunch of quick sketches of horses, or rather horse parts because the horses were moving around the yard a lot early in the morning.   I sat down and did a quick sketch of the building area and then then I got out a Field Notes red notebook and drew an interesting set of shapes in the form of a fence post with rope wrapped around it.

As I was doing that a horse walked over to find out what I was doing.  It just stood there, watching.  It was a perfect portrait angle so I started drawing its head.  What a magnificent animal.  He (?) was mostly black with a bit of white along the top of the muzzle.  And then he walked away, satisfied that I was not very interesting afterall.  I had half a drawing.

I finished up the post/rope sketch and was about to draw a dandelion when another horse, this one light brown wandered over.  Not the same angle but I started talking to him and he maintained his interest in me long enough for me to finish this sketch.  I think the muzzle is too thin but otherwise I kinda like it.  Then it was my time to leave and so I headed for a bus.

2016-06-17horse

The Vikings Showed Up In Quebec

Some 500 years before Columbus, the Vikings were wandering around what is now the east coast of Canada.  They came by ship of course and some of their descendents decided to make the trip again.  Thirty-six days crossing the Atlantic resulted in them showing up in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

20160616vikingship

They decided to visit Quebec City and they showed up last Friday.  I thought it might be fun to draw the ship so I headed down to the harbor area.  Unfortunately, a lot of other people decided they should go to the harbor area too, armed with cameras, bicycles, strollers, and there was a guy with a wagon.  There were enough people to make it difficult to stick your cell phone in the air to get a shot of the ship without a dozen heads in the picture.  Sitting down to draw the ship caused one to get a great view of a lot of…well, let’s just say the view of the people was lower than those heads.  The best I could do was to stand, actually having to move around to get a glimpse of the nose of the boat as I did this quick sketch of the dragon figurehead.

Field Notes, Platinum 3776

Field Notes, Platinum 3776

The Parents Head To Ottawa

Last weekend Chantal and I headed for Ottawa.  It was a holiday weekend and we went to visit our daughter who is in school there, but as I write this I realize that it was more than that.  Because of a lot of good stuff that happened, our daughter wasn’t going to come home for the summer as she normally would so the trip was at least as much an attempt to deal with that disappointment as anything else.

That’s a simple way of explaining that this wasn’t a sketching trip.  In spite of that, I did a bunch of quick sketches throughout the visit and I thought I’d present some of them as an indication of how easy it is to fit urban sketching into a trip that is otherwise occupied with things that make most people say “I was too busy to sketch.”

We arrived on Friday and our daughter was still at school so we got some lunch, went to an art store (more of a crafts store as so many have become) and then headed to one of the parks.   As we walked around I saw this scene and decided that I’d do a very quick, thumbnail-style sketch just to capture the major masses.  I didn’t worry much about proper perspective or drawing accurate lines and the initial sketch took only a few minutes.  Then my daughter called and said she would be there shortly so we stayed put.  I decided to add some more lines to the drawing and, ultimately, I slopped some color on the sketch.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

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

2016-05-20-56cherryblossoms

Field Notes “Sweet Tooth” (3×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black, Uniball UM_153 white pen

I was sitting under a flowering crab apple tree (I think) and  I decided to sketch of some of the flowers in my red Field Notes “Sweet Tooth” notebook and I thought it came out pretty well for a 3-4 minutes I spent doing it.  I was rewarded by my daughter showing up with an “hic c’est beau.”

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out as a family, eating in market area, buying candy and listening to street musicians.

The next morning, however, was laundry day.  We gathered up ever stitch of clothing, bedding, and towels and hauled them to a laundromat where we commenced to feed an obscene number of dollar coins into the machines.  We drank coffee, ate muffins, and I drew this little scene in the tiny coffee shop associated with the laundromat.  Not much but it was fun to do and made the time pass more quickly.

2016-05-21-48LaundryDay

taned notebook, Platinum 3776,

Then it was off to the grocery store where we bought one of everything and two of some things.  My biggest fear was that there wouldn’t be room for it all in my daughter’s apartment.  Parents do get carried away some times.  And we did, of course.

Once we shoehorned all the groceries into their proper places, we headed off on a quest for shoes.  Understand, this was two women and an old guy.  We went EVERYWHERE looking at shoes.  I knew my life would end while looking for size 9 flats.

But surprise, surprise, we tracked down the illusive ideal shoe, bought two of them then went to a park where geese lived and they had lots of baby goslings running around.  They were fun to watch and I should have sketched them but I was worn out from the shoe chase.  Eventually we got hungry and headed for my daughter’s favorite Korean restaurant.

After dinner we walked to Major Hill Park, a park where the towers around Parliament poke up above the trees.  We drank bubble tea and enjoyed the changing sky as sunset was near.  I did a couple quick sketches in the failing light and probably should have settled for just a silhouette.

Parliament library roofline, FN Sweet Tooth, Platinum 37762016-05-21-56majorhillpark2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did a bunch of park hopping the next day, mostly because we just wanted to be out in the sun.   We sat for a long time in Andrew Haydon Park, looking out at the boats having fun in the Ottawa River.  There wasn’t much close to me to draw so I drew some rocks.  I love drawing rocks, though I’m not particularly good at it.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

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

As it got hotter, though, the desire for shade took hold and we ended up in a park along the Rideau River.  Another place to practice my sloth, I was getting quite good at it, particularly because there were a group of guys in a drum circle providing entertainment.  I did break out the sketchbook to do this quick capture of a few of the players.  It’s not very detailed but it’s the best I can do in a few minutes.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8×5), Platinum 3776

2016-05-22-48RideauRiverKidI did several really quick (< 1-min) sketches of people as they wandered by where we were sitting and I’ll share only this one of a small boy who stopped to admire the river.  We had a delightful dinner at the apartment and then headed out to wander some more, ultimately ended up back at Major Hill Park.  It was pretty dark when we got there so sketching anything other than the proverbial black cat in a dark room there were no real sketching opportunities.

That was a last thing on my mind anyway as we had our mitts full of frozen yogourt.  It was the best there is, or so sayeth my daughter.  I think its the first time I’ve ever had any that didn’t come out of a carton.  We’d stopped at Menchies to get it and that was a fun experience unto its own because of the way you put together what you want and then pay by the weight of your concoction.  I drew the spoon in honor of the place.

2016-05-23-54MenchiesSpoonSo there you have it – our trip to Ottawa.  Urban sketching adds so much to trips like this, even if you don’t have time to do it.  Does that make sense?  Hope so.

 

Sketching A Native American Exhibit

A pair of snowshoes provided some symmetry practice.

A pair of snowshoes provided some symmetry practice.

 

 

I went to our Thursday museum sketching session in spite of being more than a little bored with sketching at the museum.   The walk was cold and snowy and when I arrived I wasn’t much in the mood to sketch but I found myself in the Native American exhibit, which is part of the permanent collection at the museum.

This large cup was made from seal skin and sewn with reindeer sinew.

This large cup was made from seal skin and sewn with reindeer sinew.

I approached the morning with my little, red Field Notes book instead of my normal sketchbook.  I spent a lot of time wandering but when I stopped I did these small sketches.  It wasn’t the most productive morning but, as always, it was fun chatting with friends.

This is a small stone carving of an Inuit fisherman who is laying on the ice, looking into his fishing hole.

This is a small stone carving of an Inuit fisherman who is laying on the ice, looking into his fishing hole.

Sketching At A Plant Nursery

I had a great time on Thursday.  Normally we meet at the museum to sketch but Claudette knows someone at one of the major plant nurseries and she arranged for us to sketch in their large greenhouses.

We arrived at 10AM and spent the next two hours sketching, chatting, and generally having a great time.   As I entered the room I noticed a large concrete tortoise sitting on a shelf.  He was gorgeous and I lamented to Yvan that I wished he were on a lower shelf as if I sat on my stool, he would have towered overhead.  But luck was with me as they actually had several of them, one of which was sitting on a large flat table at my eye height as I sat on my stool.  So I drew him.  Isn’t he cute?  I should have drawn some ground for him to walk on.  I think he would have appreciated that.

Stillman & Birn Beta (9x12), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Beta (9×12), Platinum 3776

When I finished, my back needed a rest so I wandered around, checking what everyone else was drawing.  I’m nothing if not nosy.  Francine is just back from a couple months visiting the sun in Mexico so it was fun to catch up with her.   She’d sketched a stone fish that I liked very much so I decided to draw it too.  I decided to do it in my red Field Notes book, a small book that’s providing me way too much fun.  I suppose ‘serious’ artists don’t draw stuff like this but I had a lot of fun doing it.

Field Notes (Sweet Tooth Red); Platinum 3776, Uniball UM 153 white pen)

Field Notes (Sweet Tooth Red); Platinum 3776, Uniball UM 153 white pen)

When I finished I realized that it was almost 11:30 so I checked with everyone again to find out how much longer they would be sketching.  We typically break for lunch no later than 12:00 and it sounded like today would be no exception.  So, I started wandering, looking for something else to draw.

I was in a nursery so flowers and plants were everywhere but I just wasn’t motivated to draw any of them.  Not sure why but I was more in the mood to keep drawing garden decorations.  I spent time looking at garden gnomes, nearly decided to draw a different turtle but then I saw these fat green frogs.  I couldn’t resist.  It was akin to drawing a ball with eyes.  Hope you like him.

2016-03-31frog

Field Notes Sweet Tooth: A Sketchbook?

FNsweettooth

I confess that I’ve been a subscriber to Field Notes, a series of small (3×5) collectible notebooks, for the past year.  These are handy notepads but mostly they come with paper that’s too light for sketching, at least with fountain pens, and they generally come with pesky lines or grids on their pages.

A while back, though, they did one of their quarterly releases that included 70# white paper.  It did have a light grid but it could  be easily ignored and proved to be a useful sketchbook at least for those of us who like the convenience of having a small, light sketchbook with us at all times.  And Field Notes have done it again… sort of.

This time they’re released a set of three colorful notebooks (Easter colors??) with a couple significant twists on their typical approach.  This time, the 70# paper is BLANK… just like we like it.  And it’s RED, BLUE and YELLOW… which we like…err…uhm… I’ll let you be the judge.

2016-03-22lampWhen I received mine I was very unhappy.  Who the heck needs paper with these ridiculous colors.  I threw them on the debris field and this my desk and didn’t even open them.

Then Tina Koyama “experimented.”  She’s much smarter than I am and saw the potential.  You can see her results here, and here.  The results were undeniable; I had to try them.

Like Tina, I started with the red one.  I took it with me when I went to meet some people to attend a small art exhibition.  I stood outside and in spite of the cold decided that I should try to draw a lamp on red paper. This was not a great idea because my hands quickly became frozen and I was struggling to get the white Uniball pen to write in the cold.  Nevertheless, I had started my adventure down the small red road.

2016-03-23FNtestThat night I sat at my desk with a photo of a street lamp on my laptop.  I only spent a few minutes on it but the red paper made it a lot of fun.

The next night I was watching TV with my wife and as I’m prone to do, I got a bit bored not doing at least one other thing while watching the glass teat.  So, after checking my Instagram feed, becoming frustrated with vitriole on Twitter, and checking in to see what the Blue Jays are doing in spring training, I got my red Field Notes, my Platinum 3776 and I grabbed the glass container that holds my watercolor water on my desk.  Watching TV became more fun as I drew that container.

 

2016-03-23waterjug

I’m a guy who loves drawing lines more than anything else.  I’m drawn to watercolors mostly cuz everyone else is, proving that I’m as much of a lemming as anyone else.  But the red paper releases me from the thought of adding color so I can just enjoy drawing with my fountain pens.  It won’t be the only sketching I do as I’m not sure how well it fits into my urban sketching passion, but for sitting around the house drawing, it’s pretty sweet… or is that sweet tooth?

I did give the approach a try while I was at the museum and drew this interesting flask.  It’s a flask which was traditionally filled with perfume.  Egyptians gave these to each other as part of a New Years celebration.  This was fun and may show me the way to incorporate the toned paper into a location session as this only too me a few minutes between my normal sketching.

2016-03-23NewYearsFlask2016-03-24hydrantI was more doubtful about the other two colors but, again, Tina led the way.  This morning I decided I should try the blue book so I could post a result in this blog post.  I decided a fire hydrant might be nice and as I’d just filled a Pilot Metropolitan with Nooder’s Red-Black I started drawing.  Not good…really bad, in fact.  Noodlers Red-Black is supposed to be “water-resistant.”  It is not… not even a little bit.  I touched the drawing with a small brush with the idea of pulling a bit of shading from the lines and those lines just exploded.  Thank goodness I was drawing a red thing because I was in chase my tail mode trying to clean up the mess.  I wasn’t very successful and smarter people would probably not post this sketch.  Here it is.  Not the fault of the Field Notes but it’s a great example why I don’t use Noodler’s “water-resistant” inks.

And so I had to try again so I could provide something…anything in the blue book that looked ok.  I did this quick architecture/landscape sketch from my limited imagination.  Hope you like it.

2016-03-24house

 

Quick-Sketching On The Bounding Main

Sailing, sailing,
Over the bounding main,
For many a stormy wind shall blow
Before Jack comes home again!

I remember this bit of a song from when I was a kid.  I’m not sure why.  I’m less sure how.  But it bounces between my ears every time I get a chance to get on a boat.

Platinum Carbon pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Platinum Carbon pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

I was out walking and ended up near where the ferry docks on the Quebec side of the St. Lawrence River.  I was looking across the river at the new ferry complex on the other side and decided to take a boat ride, but the two ferries had just started swapping places so I’d have to wait a bit.  I sat down and got out my Field Notes book and did this quick sketch of the top of the old post office building.  More a scribble than a sketch but, after all, it was done in my ‘scribbler’ so that was appropriate.

Sailor Profit fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black ink

Sailor Profit fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black ink

I boarded the ferry and wandered around its decks, letting the fresh almost sea breeze blow across my face.  I’m lucky to live in a place where I can be “on the bounding main” with nothing more than a swipe of my bus pass over a card reader.

I’d like to talk about taking a three-hour tour like Gilligan but the truth of the matter is that it takes only about 10-minutes to get to the other side.  I did get a couple quick-sketches done.

Sailor Profit fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black ink

Sailor Profit fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black ink

Once on the other side I wandered around, looking at the on-going construction, trying to figure out what the overall plan was for this new place.  I decided that I wasn’t smart enough to understand and took a wait and see attitude.  I went inside.

Once you get through the turnstile to get on the ferry heading north, you climb stairs to a large room with a wall of glass.  What a great view of the Quebec City skyline there is from there.  I’m going to have to go back when I’m in the mood to do larger sketches but on this day, I was in quick-sketch mode.  I got out a larger, but cheap sketchbook (6×9) and did a 5-minute pencil scribble of the skyline.  It’s not much but it will motivate me to get back there to do something better and provide a good excuse for another boat ride.

2015-07-17Ferry4A bell went off and like a bunch of cows we were all herded through large doors and onto the ferry.  I felt inclined to say ‘moo’, though I don’t think that translates well into French.

2015-07-17Ferry5I watched a small tugboat chug by as the ferry was pulling away from the quay and once we started crossing I was amused by a couple sailboats trying to change course and/or stop so the ferry could proceed.  Once that show was over, I got out my Field Notes book again and did a couple more people sketches, this time using my Platinum Carbon pen.  It was a great day to be sailing on the bounding main.  What is a bounding main anyways?

2015-07-17Ferry6

What Do You Draw In Your Scribbler?

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about the small notebooks I use for quick-sketching and sharing my quest for a notebook that I find useful for that purpose.  For the past couple years I’ve used small notebooks I bought at the dollar store but ever since Marc Taro Holmes talked about using a Moleskine cahier (the staple-bound books) I’ve been looking for something in that format, after finding the Moleskine notebooks to bleed/ghost more than I like.

All that talk – that quest – caused a couple people to ask, “Why do you use the small book rather than one of your larger books?”  That seemed like a good question so I thought I’d talk about that a bit.

Mostly, it’s about time and convenience.  When I grab one of my Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, it’s generally because I’m going to spend at least half an hour on a drawing and often the result has taken me an hour or more.  It’s very rare for me to spend more than 15 minutes on a sketch in my small books and most of the sketches I do in it take 5 minutes or less.  At times I’ll try to sketch moving people and spend no more than a minute per sketch.  They’re also small and I can stuff them in a pocket so they’re available at a moment’s notice.

But it’s more than that.  I treat these smaller books very casually.  I’ll do ink and pen tests in them.  I’ll write notes, make lists, or someone’s phone number or web address.  While watching baseball I’ll fill pages with partial sketches of baseball players.  I’ll practice drawing ellipses, spheres, etc.  I’ll draw random shapes and then hatch-shade them.  In short these little books are a training ground for me.  I’ve always thought it odd that people seem to believe that you learn to draw by only doing complete drawings, as though one learns to play the piano by playing Rachmaninoff concertos.

More important than all that, though, is that I use them continually.  If there’s truth to having to draw a million lines before starting to create decent art, I’m playing catch-up.  I draw whenever I have a few minutes, no matter where I am.  Because of this, I’ve found there’s a middle ground between finished drawings and quick scribbles and I use these books for the middle ground as well.

If I’ve got a few minutes to draw I’ll find something small and draw it, at least as much to hone my hand-eye coordination as anything else, but mostly I do it cuz it’s fun.  I thought I’d show you a few  examples, though I did show a few in recent reviews of the small notebooks.  The tan sketches are in my “mustache” book and the white ones are in the new Field Notes Workman’s Companion notebook.

Some chairs and a guy.

Some chairs and a guy.

A crowd watching a baseball game, sketched while I was watching a baseball game.

A crowd watching a baseball game, sketched while I was watching a baseball game.

This guy walked by my house, very slowly, very deliberately.  Odd gait.

This guy walked by my house, very slowly, very deliberately. Odd gait but I probably exaggerated it.

Drawn from TV

Drawn from TV

While sitting on the back porch

While sitting on the back porch

Recently I reported on an Urban Sketchers event at the Stewart Galleries in Montreal.  I presented a sketch that I did there.  But I do other, little sketches, at these events.  Here are a couple done at that event.

2015-07-14six

Archway onto a patio at Stewart Galleries. Drawn while Yvan and I ate lunch (pencil)

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny pencil vignettes done while at the Stewart Galleries

Tiny pencil vignettes done while at the Stewart Galleries

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, these sketches reflect a variety of subjects and have been drawn with different pointy devices.  Each, I hope, improved my ability to capture the world around me.  Mostly, though, they represent precious minutes of fun.

 

 

 

Hanging Out At Bassin Louise

Bassin Louise is the the largest marina for private boats in Quebec City.  Because of the significant tides in the St. Lawrence River, there is a lock that protects it and a bridge that goes over it.  The seaway tugboats are on the back side of this and behind them is a large loading area where large ships dock to take on grain products.  The result is a very cluttered scene and for some reason I was crazy enough to try to stuff all that into a 3×5 sketchbook.  It seemed like a good idea at the time (grin).

 

 

Field Notes (3x5 - 2-pg spread), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Field Notes (3×5 – 2-pg spread), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

After I finished that torture test, I wandered down to the opening of Bassin Louise to the St. Lawrence.  Faced with a more simple view I did a quick sketch of the scene.  The building complex across the river is a ship-building company, which is why they have so many large cranes.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x9), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×9), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black