I continue to try to use watercolors without an underpinning of a line drawing, mostly without success. I can’t seem to figure out how to draw crisp edges with watercolors and, for complex drawings, I lose control over the drawing itself. This is a good example of both of these problems. This is a drawing (??) of a new pedestrian bridge over my river. Great bridge, not so great sketch of it. I added some pencil line buildings after the fact just to provide context.
I grew up in Arizona. The standing joke there is that you don’t need weathermen. All you need is a daily announcement of “Sunny and hot.” I didn’t discover seasons until I moved north where I had a lot of difficulty dealing with the demands of “dressing for the weather.” More than one kind of clothes? Who’da thunk it?
Lately, though, our Quebec weatherman has had a limited offering of “It’s about to rain,” “It’s raining,” and “The rain is going to stop for a couple hours.” So I’ve done little sketch wandering lately.
But yesterday we got a whole morning without rain so I headed out to to do a bunch of walking on my river. It’s also International Nature Journal Week and I thought I might do something in honor of it. Mostly, though, I wanted to spend time in nature, sitting on a rock or walking.
It occurred to me, however, that I was an urban sketcher and thus it seemed appropriate for me to select this common urban flower as my subject. So, I sat on a rock and drew a dandelion.
It was very relaxing and enjoyable and after completing my walk I headed home my walk culminating in an old-man run/jog/slog. It had started raining.
It was only five days ago that I reported that we hadn’t had high temps above 10C yet. Times change. For the next three days we’re going to experience temps around 30C, which is kinda-sorta abnormal for us. We generally get a couple days like that in mid-summer but certainly not in May. But I’m not complaining. I went sketching.
Another bit of news that’s relevant to this post is that I just got a hearing aid. It’s not a fancy programmable one but it has allowed me to discover a lot of sounds I haven’t heard in a long time.
I stopped at a park bench and decided to try to draw/paint directly with a brush. I’ve been learning how to handle brushes and Marc Holmes’ 30 in 30days (direct to watercolor) event is coming up next month and I want to try it. I didn’t bring my watercolors but I had a waterbrush with some diluted ink and so I did this simple drawing. Look ma, no lines. I include it here only for the sake of completeness.
I was walking along my river and the first thing I experienced was birds singing. I love birds and spend a considerable amount feeding them every year. But I haven’t heard them in decades. Well, I can hear crows, but none of the songbirds. Anyways, the trees along my river had birds, chirping birds. And so my first act wasn’t to sketch but to lay down in the grass, close my eyes, and just listen. It was wonderful. I spent half an hour doing only that.
But I did want to sketch and so I sat up, noticed a line of trees and started sketching. The “scene” wasn’t that great so I added my own mountains and came up with this sketch.
It was time to walk so I headed up river and eventually came across some rocks to sketch. These sit, among others, at the end of a new walk bridge the city built last year. I’ll have to sketch that soon but for this day these rocks were just the thing. Color got added when I got home.
It was sooooo good to get out sketching. Maybe I’ll do it again tomorrow (grin).
I’m getting behind in my blogging to I’ve combined a couple things here. We’re still in pre-spring here, with lots of rain and we have only rarely gotten to a temp of 10C. Still, sketching season is upon us and it’s been wonderful so far.
It’s also been a bit weird. I find myself distracted from sketching by a need to reconnect, to catch up, with friends. And so it was when I went out to Miriam Blair’s house on the Ile D’Orleans with Yvan to sketch. It was so good to be there, with fellow sketchers, that I had a hard time taking the actual sketching very seriously. We sat around a table sketching because it was cold and rainy outdoors and much of the activity was done with mouths and ears, not with our pens and pencils.
I drew these pears, first as a pencil drawing but later with some color added. Then I spied a Ball jar in the window that had something growing from it. It was too far away to tell what it was (later found to be geranium starts) but I started sketching it anyway. I find it both hard and easy to draw things I can’t really see. Hard because it’s difficult to make out the objects being drawn but easy because it’s easy not to be distracted by details when you can’t see them (grin).
This week I had my first opportunity to do actual “life drawing.” Most of my drawing is done from observation but being able to draw someone while they posed is, somehow special. But the danse school put on such an event and I attended. Dancers would do short poses and I would frantically try to scribble down their form. In spite of a bad headache, I had a lot of fun. Wish they’d do it every week.
Anyway, here’s three of the pages I did. Note that I have no “technique.” I drew on photocopy paper and drew on top of previous poses. That’s something I will do differently if I ever get another chance as it sometimes became confusing. I worked with a colored pencil and then a plain old 0.7mm mechanical pencil. Very basic.
The last big sketching adventure I took was back in 2017. It was when Liz Steel came to Monatreal and I got lucky and spent an entire day trying to keep up with her and Marc Taro Holmes, a couple of the fastest sketchers on the planet. I failed miserably but had the time of my life.
The next day Liz met with everyone to sketch in downtown Montreal, and we did. But in the afternoon I had to leave early because my leg started hurting badly. I wasn’t sure why.
And that was the beginning of a slide downward, to the point that I had a hard time walking around my house, let alone around the city. The pandemic resulted in difficulty seeing doctors as the hospitals became overwhelmed with COVID patients. My knee replacement surgery got cancelled twice but finally happened last year.
I’m older, not much wiser, but when Marc called me and said that she an Laurel Holmes would be driving back from Baie St. Paul and wondered if they could visit I was thrilled. We all went sketching, though Laurel did it with a camera. Her results were better too (grin).
Truth is, we spent far more time over coffee, talking about writing, doing art, and the world in general than we did sketching. It was so cold that being outside for long wasn’t appealing. The tale that follows was the most sketcher-battery charging event that I’ve had in several years.
Montreal meets Quebec City
I was to meet Marc and Laurel at the Marriot hotel Saturday morning. I was there, where were they? I texted Marc, he said they’d be right down, so I sat down and quickly sketched this large vase in the Marriot lobby.
Then Marc phoned with “Where are you?” and it turns out, there are TWO Marriots in Quebec City. I was at the wrong one. A bit of a windy walk/jog solved that problem and soon enough we were sitting in a cafe talking a mile a minute in an attempt to “catch up.”
Eventually, though we decided to go to the Plains of Abraham museum which celebrates a famous battle between the British and French, much of which took place on what is now a huge park outside the walled city that is Old Quebec.
Did I mention that Marc sketches fast? I try to keep up but I’m just not worthy. Nevertheless, it’s fun to try. While I did this sketch, he did three of them (grin). We worked mostly in pencil all day.
It became lunch time and we went to a restaurant and continued gabbing but ultimately decided we should go sketch. It was bitter cold and windy so we walked across the street and quickly sketched a statue of Confucius. I started it too small and ended the same way but my hands were frozen so I didn’t care. Eventually we decided to regroup in the morning, hoping for better weather.
I met them at their hotel and we headed directly for the McDonalds for breakfast. Again we couldn’t seem to get enough of art talk, but we decided to go to the Hotel Frontenac to sketch. I was determined to do a larger (we were both working on 5×7 sheets of paper) sketch but I gave up on it because I’d gotten the organization of the building all wrong. By then we were both very cold so I did this small sketch of a statue of Cartier that stands next to the hotel.
After lunch I suggested we go to a small park that overlooks the St. Lawrence and that has classic buildings around it. I thought it might be out of the wind.
Marc has his annual 30×30 event coming up where you create one painting/sketch direct-to-watercolor every day for 30 days. Thus, we talked a lot about that. I tried it and learned a few things. First, is that you’ve got to keep your work relatively dry or you’ll lose all your edges. Second, never get impatient and try to add darks on top before the sketch is dry. I did neither of these things, of course. That’s how I learned them. Oh, a third thing I learned is that I can’t talk while doing it like I can when I draw. Better luck next time, Larry.
It’s funny how such a motley pile of sketches can bring so much joy. I had a great time and I’m grateful that Marc and Laurel thought of me and stopped by.
Oh…before I go. As if I haven’t embarrassed myself enough with these sketches, here’s an example of where artistic accidents aren’t so happy. I decided to add some color to my uniformed manikin and while doing so dropped a brush full of pyrrol red onto the left side of the uniform. I scrambled to fix/fake it but gave up after a while.