Fresh Air On Ile d’Orleans

This time of year the temperatures cool (most of our days don’t get above 20C) and day length is shorter.  We become aware that soon we’ll be cooped up in our houses except for when we have to go out to shovel snow.

And so we take advantage of any good weather day and play outdoors.  For Chantal and I that generally means a couple trips to Ile d’Orleans, a large island near Quebec City which is largely inhabited by farmers and cows.  Specifically, head to a cafe on the south side of the island where we can eat brioche, drink good coffee, and breath clean air as we look out over the St. Lawrence River.

And that’s what we did last weekend.  Coffee and brioche were fantastic as always and, just as ‘as always’, after we’d sat for a while we decided to drive around the island.  We headed east and ended up in St. Francois, one of six small towns on the island.  The highlight there is a little candy store, though on this trip we avoided it.  Instead we parked in a parking lot next to the church, sat on a bench, and drew what was in front of us.  This is what it looked like.

We drove on, stopped at a park on the east end of the island.  There’s a very tall tower here that, if you climb to the top, provides a fantastic view eastward along the St. Lawrence.  We didn’t climb it because, right now, my right knee and ankle aren’t being very cooperative.  Instead, we got back in the car and headed for a place with the name Maison des nos Aieux.  There is a large cathedral in front of this place but the “maison” refers to a large house that sits on a bunch of land that’s been turned into a park and flower garden.  The “aieux” refers to the fact that the place is to honor the original inhabitants of the island and there’s a large monument with their names on it.  We like to stop there because it’s so peaceful to just sit on one of the many benches and breathe some more clean air.  I’ve sketches several things here but today I got fascinated by a simple water spigot, which suited the short time frame we were there.  Sometimes simple is just right and this was one of those cases.  A fitting end to a great day.

Late Fall Sketching Is The Best

Ever notice that when things come as a surprise they’re just a bit better?  We’re experiencing some late fall weather that’s been really great and it’s extended my outdoor sketching season.  This surprise has been sweetened even more by my boss and true love (some call her my wife) wanting to sketch with me.  Life is great.

We found ourselves on Ile d’Orleans, the island I’ve mentioned in recent posts and we were back in the park I discussed here.  Chantal wanted to sketch the large hotel building and I sat down to sketch an old house on that sits on a hill in the park.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8x10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

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

When I finished up I went looking for Chantal and found her working away on her sketch.  Not wanting to interrupt her, I sat down and started doodling details of the building she was drawing.  I need to do this more often cuz it’s fun… lots of fun.  I probably could have organized them better on the page but I gave that no thought as I just kept scibbling until the pages were full.  You might want to click on the graphic to enlarge it a bit.  Do you ever do this?

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5x8.5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

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

 

Urban Sketching On A Rainy, Windy Day

What’s an urban sketcher to do when the weather turns bad.  One thing is to go with other sketchers to a cafe where you can sketch and talk about sketching, pointy devices and anything else that might interest the group.

That’s what we did on Thursday.  We drove to a great cafe and bakery on Ile d’Orleans.  Called La Boulange, it’s a grand old house that’s been converted to a cafe.  Great place to sketch in good weather and bad as there are lots of great scenes to sketch outdoors when weather permits.

On this day Yvan and I rattled on about fountain pens while Fernande and Claudette had fun drawing a family.  Looking through a passageway from the bakery to the restaurant tables, I saw this scene.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x8), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

 

A Couple Hours On Ile d’Orleans

Ile d’Orléans is a large island just east of Quebec City.  It’s farm country and we locals go there to pick strawberries, apples, raspberries, and to buy corn and other vegetable crops when in season.  It’s also a place where sketchers, at least one, spend time enjoying the fresh St. Lawrence River air.

The family piled into the car for a trip there last weekend.  In hindsight we were overly optimistic as it was far too windy and cold to be on the island.  Of course, we went for the ice cream.  There’s a place that dips ice cream cones in very thick, milk chocolate so you end up eating a very cold chocolate bar with a soft center.  What’s not to like.

After consuming enough calories to keep me going for about a week, we headed down the road looking for something to draw.  While it’s not officially open for tourists yet, we ended up at the maritime museum.  There were choices to be made.  Wander around in the cold or sit in the car and draw.  My family chose the former; I chose the later.

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The result of my isolation was 1) my family got very cold and 2) I drew this building which is a wood shop in which many chaloupes (large row boats) were built.  I’ve included a sketch I did in 2013 of one of those boats as well as the building sketch I did this time.

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Another Trip To Ile D’Orleans – Pt 2

I left you, in part one of this saga, with me very relaxed in a small park, having just sketched a lamp post.  It was a very nice day and only 10AM, so I got in the car and drove to the other end of St. Jean, which is a really small town so it only took a couple minutes.  I returned to the place where I’d sketched this during a previous visit to the island (Ile d’Orleans).

2013-09-18IleDOrleans1This time of year our maple trees put on a show for the tourists and we become overrun by cruise ships that come in from the Atlantic just to see this spectacle, so I decided to do another sketch of this area that featured the blazing colors of our forests.  While this sketch was done from the pier, I moved much closer for the new one, concentrating on just a couple of the homes so that the trees could dominate.  I did this new sketch in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) using a Pilot Prera filled with Platinum Carbon Black ink.

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Click to enlarge

I’m a slow sketcher and something this size takes me a while – a while sitting on a little tripod stool on rocks, in the sun.  You get the picture.  I was pretty tired when I finished so I started driving down the southern coast of the island, looking for a nice place to eat a lunch and just relax.

Along the way I was doing what sketchers do; I was taking ‘inventory’ of potential things and places to sketch along the way.  I’ve got to spend more time on the island as there’s a lot to sketch there.  As I was driving I noticed a sign that said “Parc Maritime” and way down below the road I could see what looked like a couple boats and a parking lot.  It seemed as good a place as any to eat lunch so I turned around, found the entrance, and drove down to Parc Maritime.

A half hour tour later I had learned that the town of St. Laurent revolved around this facility in the early 20th Century and that it had been a major hub for the construction, repair, and storage of the cargo vessels that ran around the St. Lawrence, mostly moving wood products.  It had been an enormous facility employing everyone in St. Laurent and a lot of people who came from surrounding towns during the summers.  This is a great place to visit, an amazing place to sketch.  I was told that I could return to sketch anything I wanted as long as I paid the entry fee (grin).

I was pretty tired and hungry, though, so I wandered the forest, looking at remnants of the lisses, which were row after row of large railroad track-like thingies they used to slide large ships out of the water and then move them laterally along the shore for storage.  This is a really nice place, hidden from view for the most part by the fact that it’s now tree covered and well below the main road.

When I finished lunch it was getting late but I decided I had to sketch something so I chose a small chaloupe, a heavy-duty rowboat.  There is a shop on the premises where they built them and I’ve got to get back to sketch all the cool benches, tools, and a water-powered bandsaw contained within.  But today I limited myself to one of the boats.  This one was done in my small Moleskine watercolor (3×5).  Hope you like it.

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It will soon be too cold to visit the island.  These days, on the weekends, there are just too many people as it’s apple-picking time and people who want to do this form kilometer-long lines of cars, all waiting to drive over the bridge and onto the island.  This is not for me but maybe, during the week….   We’ll see.

Another Trip To Ile D’Orleans – Pt 1

I finally got out sketching and it was a fantastic day. Unseasonably warm and not much wind so I headed back to Ile d’Orleans where I sketched and froze the last time I was on the island. This steeple is attached to a church that’s on the eastern end of the island, in the town of St. Jean.  Its bright orange roof must serve as a visible beacon for the cargo ships that come from the Atlantic and are making their way towards Quebec City.

The church is across the street from a place that sells great brioche and coffee.  Last time I was there they’d lost electricity because of high winds so there was no coffee but it’s a regular stop for me when I get out to the island.

Moleskine watercolor (3x5), Pilot G-TEC-C3 pen

Moleskine watercolor (3×5), Pilot G-TEC-C3 pen

Once I sketched the steeple, I walked across the street to get my coffee and danish and this time it was closed because, it seems, it is closed on Mondays. Disappointment didn’t last too long, though.  They have a lot of chairs in a very pleasant garden area so I took one and set it up so that I could sketch one of the unique lamp posts in St. Jean.

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Moleskine watercolor (3×5), Pilot G-TEC-C3 pen

Have you noticed that some sketches are more ‘relaxed’ than others as you do them? That’s certainly the case for me. In this case, I’d just finished staring hard at all the detail in the steeple and mostly just wanted to sit.  Because of the situation, I was sitting on a gorgeous ‘throne’ in the form of a sculpted, cast-iron chair, with grass beneath my feet. The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, and I was sitting in the shade.  If I’d gotten any more relaxed I would have fallen asleep.  The worst day sketching is a good day but some are better than others.

Location Sketching On Ile d’Orleans

“In 1814 we took a little trip,
along with Colonel Jackson
down the mighty Mississip.
 
We took a little bacon,
and we took a little beans,
and we fought the bloody British
in a town called New Orleans.”

These lyrics, sung long ago by Johnny Horton, tell of the final battle of the War of 1812 where Americans defeated a British invasion force.  The song was a big hit when I was a kid and every time I head to Quebec’s Ile d’Orleans that song rattles around in my brain.  Truth is, the French had their own battle against a British invasion and Wolfe, the leader of that invasion force, nearly died when his ship ran aground just off the coast of the island, and within cannon distance of the French forces.

But war is not the topic of today’s post.  Rather, it is about a trip I took recently to Ile d’Orleans to sketch.  I use ‘trip’ loosely as it takes all of fifteen minutes to get there as you can see Ile d’Orleans from Quebec City and vice versa.  Going to the mall takes longer.

Ile d’Orleans is a big island in the St. Lawrence River, just as it widens from its narrowest point, at Quebec City, on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.  There are six municipalities on the island, though I have a hard time determining where one begins and another ends.  What I know is that the island is gorgeous and I love my time there.  A lot of vegetable and fruit growing goes on, and it’s a very popular tourist location.

I’ve sketched on the island but I’ve never gone there alone, with the singular goal of sketching.  This day, I was on a mission.  The sun was out, I had sketchbooks a plenty, and I’d arranged to have our car for the day.  I arrived on the island about 8:45 and drove to the backside of the island to a pier that juts out into the St. Lawrence.  I discovered it when I was with my buddy Nicolas and we were like a couple kids, chasing the Queen Elizabeth II as she passed along the southern coast of the island on her approach to Quebec City.

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Moleskine watercolor (3×5), Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black

I walked out onto the pier, set up my stool and began sketching.  You know what?  Sun doesn’t help much when there’s a 20-30km/h wind blowing across a large body of water and its hyper-cooled air is cutting you in half.  I was COLD!!!  At one point I went back and sat in the car for a while to warm up but, finally I finished the sketch.  I was a bit too much in a hurry, do you blame me, and ended up with some paint blooms in the foliage because my previous wash wasn’t yet dry, but them’s the breaks.

I was really cold when I finished and so headed for a place I knew that serves wonderful brioche and good, hot coffee.  Unfortunately, the winds had blown out their electricity – no coffee.  So, I bought a brioche and sat in the car, with the heater running, to warm up.

2013-09-18IleDOrleans2

Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8), Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black

Across the street from the café is a church and a cemetery.  I keep telling myself that I should draw more in cemeteries as I love the shapes of the grave stones and their helter-skelter orientations, probably caused by the annual freezing and thawing of the ground.  I found a view I liked, went back to the car to get my stuff and I was soon sitting in the cemetery sketching.  This was a little better as there was a stone wall around the area that broke some of the wind.  I was only semi-frozen when I finished this one.

I was getting ready to leave.  Actually I was turning around in the church parking lot when my eye caught a “Privé” sign and a lamp post.  I love to have such things in my sketches and so I decided to sketch this scene.  Once again, however, I would be fully-exposed to that darn wind coming off the St. Lawrence.  I am old but even I can learn new tricks.  I positioned the car so I could sketch while sitting inside.  About halfway through I was wishing I had a hacksaw to eliminate the steering wheel but it worked out ok once I got the hang of it.

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Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8), Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black

There’s so much to sketch on the island that I could go there every day and not get bored.   In another couple weeks the trees should be putting on their annual ‘fall colors’ light show and I’m going back ‘real soon.’