Sketching Pirates and Assasins

For some, drawing people is seen as the pinnacle of art.  Not for me.  I like doing portraits, as long as they’re portraits of buildings.  I like clothes on people and find capturing all the folds and pleats to be a near impossible task given my limited drawing abilities.  But, it’s winter, and there are more people inside buildings than buildings inside buildings and if I’m going to have to draw from photos, why not something I don’t normally draw?

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10x7), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray

And so it is…winter, and I’ve decided to draw a few more people than normal.  I decided to draw this pirate from a book.  He was fun and ample proof that I still have much to learn about pen and ink, particularly shading with ink.

I went to the Musée de la Civilisation on Friday and met up with Yvan and Claudette.  I decided to draw “Connor”, the protagonist in the 3rd Assassin’s Creed video game.  The museum has a life-size statue of him at the entrance to a video game history exhibit.  As he has a great costume, I may have to sketch him at least once more.  I might even do him in color as his tunic is tan but his coat is Revolutionary War blue, and he’s got leather chaps and a red belt with gold trim.  Video game designers have good tastes in clothes, if nothing else.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray

A Bit Of Christmas Sketching

It seems that some sketchers become very active during holidays and get togethers.  I seem to be just the opposite and when a holiday rolls around, I find it hard to find either time or inclination to sketch.

That’s not to say I don’t sketch at all.  During the two days around the Christmas holiday, I did four sketches but for me, that’s a lull.  I thought I’d share a couple of them with you.  They’re nothing special but they reflect the laid back way my family celebrates.

Books are a big part of our gift-giving as we all love them.  The result of this, of course, is that we spend time on Christmas day listening to music and reading.  Within the limits of my very limited sketching ability this is what my daughter looks like when she’s curled up at the end of the sofa, big comforter wrapped around her and her face in a book.  I don’t think her nose is really that long (grin).

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4x6), Pilot Prera

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), Pilot Prera

Christmas movies are a tradition too.  We watch them, ad nauseum, throughout the holiday season.  There’s Elf, Santa Clause, Santa Clause 2, Santa Clause 3, Miracle on 34th St (the old and the new), It’s a Wonderful Life, Heloise at Christmas… well you get the picture.   Here’s another picture.  It’s a sketch I did during one of those movies.  The real thing rests on top of our Christmas tree.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4x6), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray

 In conclusion, I don’t think there could be a more laid-back Christmas than ours but we enjoy each other’s company and not having to go anywhere.  And, between all the eating of too much of too many things, I did a bit of sketching.  I hope you enjoyed your holiday as much as we did ours.





A Visit to Bugel – The Bagel Maker

In my continuing quest to eat my way through Quebec City, sketching as I go, Claudette and I visited Bugel – Fabrique de Bagels, a small place that makes some of the best best bagels I’ve ever tasted.  Situated at 164 rue Cremazie, it is hidden from the main traffic corridors but the locals know it well.  Besides, there are a great used bookstore across the street that has a lot of art books I can’t afford, but looking is free.

It was a nice way to spend the morning, though we had to cut it a bit shorter than our normal sessions as had things to do before Christmas eve.  Claudette managed to sketch a bunch of the patrons, many of whom were running in to pick up orders and each time someone came through the door, we’d get a blast of Quebec air, which kept us quite alert.  This is the time of year where I conclude that I will be permanently ‘cold’ until sometime in June.

Here’s my sketch.  The funny thing on the side is the stained glass address that rests above the door.  You might be able to make out the 164 (backwards) but it was really a failed attempt on my part.  Too much of an afterthrought.  Hope you all had a Merry Christmas.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4x6), Pilot Prera, Kuretake brush pen

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), Pilot Prera, Kuretake brush pen


Sketching The Past

Winter sketching, as I’m mentioned before, is confined my sketching to indoor venues.  That’s ok because there are museums, coffee shops, and librarys to provide sketching opportunities.  But what’s a guy supposed to do when he’s sitting at home and wants to draw?

Photos?  I’m not very good at drawing from photos as I don’t feel I can ‘see’ the same as when I’m actually on location.  It’s also not as much fun for me.  But that’s the choice that Mother Nature gives me so what the heck…photos it is.

What photos, though?  I’ve taken a lot of photos of Quebec City with the thought of using them as sketching material but it’s occurred to me that there may be better alternatives.  Why not sketch stuff I can’t see any more?  Dirigibles, Victorian hats, inkwells, carrier pigeons or steamships?  Or trains….that’s it…trains.

Our society decided we’d subsidize the trucking industry in the 50s and 60s by building a highway system which allowed that industry to outcompete the railroads, that had to maintain their own ‘roads.’   So, now we’ve got LOTS of trucks to draw, lots of trucks burning fuel, and the warehouses of our world have become 18-wheel diesel-powered boxes clogging up our highways.  Oh and we have far fewer trains.  So yeah, I could draw trains.

And what better place to start than with the lowly caboose.  As a kid, train watching was a big deal.  We’d wave at the engineer as the engine went by, hoping he’d blow the whistle for us.  Then we’d wait…and wait and finally, after a bunch of boxcars, tankcars, and hopper cars, here it would come…the CABOOSE…the crummy, the brain box, the dog house…whatever you called it – it was RED!  They were mostly eliminated from trains in the 1980s, replaced by “EOTs” (End Of Train device) which are boring boxes of electronics and a red light that get hung on the end of the train.  Kids don’t watch trains any more and I don’t blame them.  My daughter didn’t even know what a caboose was when I showed her my sketch.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6) sketchbook, Pilot Prera, Lex Gray ink.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6) sketchbook, Pilot Prera, Lex Gray ink.

I sketched this one from a black and white photo in a book I own.  It was fun.  My daughter learned what a caboose was.  Maybe I’ll draw some other things she has never seen.

While Walking Through The Park One Day….

Yvan and I planned a sketching session on St. Denis street and we were to meet there.  This street has many majestic residences and a large grassy area in front of them so it’s an ideal place to sketch.

As I arrived I realized that I’d forgotten my WalkStool.  This is a big problem as my knees and me don’t much like sitting on the ground, for fear that we’ll never be able to get back up.

And so the search began for a sitting place with something in front of me to sketch.  It’s not really rocket science but I wandered around for a while before finding such a combination.  I ended up in the Parc des Governeurs, a small park between the Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City’s tourist landmark and the American consulate.


Both of these buildings are great sketching subjects but I chose this more humble structure that sits in the park.  Yvan suggested that it was once a toilet but these days it looks to be used by maintenance people.  In any case, it had a bench, in the shade, and so I sketched it in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.  I used Lexington Gray for the stairs in the background.  I’m enjoying the contrast between these two inks.  As always, I used Winsor & Newton watercolors like crayons to add some color.

Rain and Wind – Will It Ever Stop?

Yvan and I were supposed to go sketching but it was very windy and rain was threatening.  Since the new Paris exhibit had opened at our Musee de la Civilisation, we headed there instead.  They have some great vehicles there that I want to sketch but geez they’re complicated.

This one is a 3-wheeled steam-powered vehicle produced by Dion-Bouton in 1885.  It just oozes ‘cool’ in my opinion, but I’m sort of biased towards anything that’s steam-powered.  Clearly a vehicle that would be comfortable putting around in a steampunk novel.


This was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook using a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray ink.  It provided a great hour and a half of fun.  Hope you like it.

Cheers — Larry

Paris In Quebec City…Sort of.

The Musee de la Civilisation launched its new Paris 1889-1920s exhibit by holding a special grand opening on a Tuesday evening.  As I’m a member I got an invitation and Yvan and I decided to go.  We saw it more as a reconnoitering session than anything else so our plan was to quickly run through the exhibit, noting what would be good to sketch.  This exhibit will be one of our principle sketching subjects this winter.

We decided, though, that we should go early enough that we could sketch in the old port for a couple hours before the event and that’s what we did.  We sat in Place Royale, a tourist hot-spot and boy, were there tourists.  Because of our lousy weather it didn’t seem like summer to us until we looked at the sea of people.  So, we looked up and I sketched this roof line over the heads of the tourists.  Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7), Pilot Prera and Lex Gray ink.


When we finished up we still had some time and we wandered into a place adjacent to Place Royale that has a cannon battery pointing out at the St. Lawrence, to protect Place Royale from the tourist and ferry boats.  This is the gate into the place but from the inside, looking out.  I felt a bit rushed so it got a bit wonky but I like the sketch nevertheless.   Same sketchbook and pen/ink combo for this one.


When A Sketcher Sees Red

2013-06-23J.Herbin1670I have a bottle f J. Herbin 1670, a dark red that’s not waterproof.  I’m not exactly sure what to do with it but I decided that I should experiment with using it for sketching.  I loaded up my Wahl-Eversharp Symphony with the ink and while watching baseball I doodled a bit, creating this page in a Strathmore ‘toned gray’ sketchbook.  Wish the paper was better but for pen-only work it’s not bad.

2013-06-23WindowI’ve been playing around with this color as a street sketching color and I’m not sure how well that will work out but I sketched this window and lamp as sort of a test.  Same Strathmore gray paper.

While riding the ferry to another event I did this small sketch of one of those tie-off thingies (sorry for my use of technical terms).  For some things I can see this color being fun to play with but I won’t be giving up my bottle of Lexington Gray anytime soon.


Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Here it…June and my street sketching spring is almost gone with not much to show for it.  We’re setting records for rainfall if, records are a consolation, but they don’t do much for my disposition.  I’ve got to figure out how to get my brain to be happy sketching indoors from pictures, I guess.

2013-05-28GableUntil I do that, these are the sorts of things I’ve been doing.  I hopped off the bus one day and did this tiny sketch.  When I look at it what I remember was the rush I got from actually doing a sketch outdoors.  I was only off the bus for 10-15 minutes but it was a precious 15 minutes.  Done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) using a TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

2013-05-311stAveRestaurantAnother day, I got to the bus stop just as my bus was pulling away.  I quickly did this little sketch of a somewhat ugly restaurant across the street.  This place has changed hands so many times I can’t remember all the restaurant names it’s announced proudly to a customer base that never came.  Not sure what kind of food they serve now.  I’m one of those who never went.  Same sketchbook but I was using a Noodler’s Creaper here.  Only had 10 minutes as I had to catch the next bus.


I tried to have a sketching day with my friend Claudette.  It was raining but we climbed aboard the ferry that traverses the St. Lawrence.  It only takes 10 minutes to cross and crossings take place every half hour.  We made several circuits but, for me, it was not a great adventure.  The fog was so bad that you couldn’t see the buildings on either side of the St. Lawrence and for a while it rained so hard you couldn’t see much of anything.  Mostly I just looked out the windows and wished it would stop raining.  This sketch was done in an S&B Alpha (10×7) with the TWSBI Mini.  I sort of lost interest by the time I got to the vending machines (grin).

Will it EVER stop raining?

Rainy Weekend Sketching

This past weekend was rainy and windy, so my hopes of outdoor sketching were dashed…or dampened…or blown away.  It depends on your view.  And when it’s a gloomy, rainy day, a philosopher sits on a rock and ponders the universe. A sketcher draws the rock. Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), TWSBI Mini with Lex Gray.


Sunday was the same – rain and wind. No outdoor sketching today either. So there I was, watching the Bluejays on TV. Since I can’t watch TV without doing something else I started flipping through photos I’ve taken around Quebec and found a photo of Quebec’s “cannonball tree.” This is something that would be hard to sketch on site because, in the winter, it’s covered with snow and in the summer, it’s surrounded by groups of tourists taking photos of it.

Back in the 18th Century the Brits came along and decided they like this “Nouvelle France” place, so they started lobbing cannon shells on the city…I’m sure in an attempt to make it look more British. In any case, they did that for several months, ultimately got the French to surrender, and we’ve all lived happily every after ever since.

2013-05-26CannonballTreeBut somehow, this French tree grabbed a British cannonball and hung onto it, for a couple hundred years. It seems reluctant to give it back and so so the tree has become famous for its persistence, appearing on tourist guide maps of things to see. My sketch is in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) and I used my TWSBI Mini with Lex Gray ink.

Will the rain ever end?