St. Charles River Sketching Exposition

I’ve mentioned La Collectif before.  They are a great group of folks who mostly draw portraits and life drawing.  But in recent years they’ve also started holding outdoor sketching events.  These events have gained momentum since Daniel Chagnon took on the job of planning these events.

This year, he scheduled a series of events along the St. Charles River with the goal of having an exposition of those works later in the year.  Sadly, several of them got rained out but persistence paid off and a bunch of sketches were done.  That exposition happened last week at the Maison Dorion-Coulomb, the headquarters for the Parc linéaire de la Rivière-Saint-Charles, the group that promotes activities in the 32km long park through which the river flows.

The exhibition runs from Sep 5th through the 17th but the vernissage, where the artists were present, was held last Saturday.  We were all supposed to come and sketch and generally enjoy the day.

I confess that I’ve been a bit antisocial lately because my knee is providing me with a steady dose of pain that puts me in a bad mood generally.  I even thought about not going, but I did and I’m glad I did.

I don’t have much in the way of sketches to show you.  I sat on the porch and drew the sign in front of the house.  By then, most of the group were circled around a willing model and they were drawing his portrait.

The closest I got to that exercise (my least favorite subject) was to draw one of the sketchers, who was slumped down in her chair, perfectly relaxed and doing her thing.

As always, when I’m around sketchers, I spent more time talking than I should have if sketching was the goal, but sometimes it isn’t.

 

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.

Sketching With A Brush

A few weeks ago I spent some time with Marc Taro Holmes and we talked a lot about sketching directly with brush, skipping pointy devices completely and jumping directly to a fuzzy stick.  I even tried it that day and only moderately failed at it (grin).

Those small experiments told me several things.  The first was that I had little control over a paint brush.  After some analysis I think the problem is that I’m trying to draw with it like a pen, at too low an angle, and I lose control over line width.  I also learned that I had no feel for paint thickness and when drawing you can’t rely upon thin washes to get the job done.

So I went away intrigued but also a little frustrated.  I also felt challenged to gain better control over my watercolors, something I’ve been wanting to do anyway.  I’ve spent some time mixing, drawing lines, experimenting with brush angles, etc. and it’s been a fun adventure.  That’s a good thing because I’ve got to do a lot more of it before I’ll be able to draw directly with paint.

I was out for a walk, though, and decided to give the method a try with one of my favorite steeples in downtown Quebec City.  Accomplished artists won’t think much of this as it lacks crispness and precision.  But I was pleased with this simple sketch as it suggests I’m making progress.  I have to confess, however, that I doubt this will become my way of working for the simple reason that I love drawing with my pens and don’t want to give it up.  It is a wonderful way of getting me closer to watercolors and forcing me to stop viewing them like crayons.

USK Montreal Sketchcrawl

Sometimes timing is perfect and we were moving our daughter to Montreal on the same weekend as the USK Montreal sketchcrawl at the Maison des Éclusiers.  So, between the back and forth between Ottawa and Montreal, the up/down elevators with countless boxes, and exciting activities like unboxing, cleaning and hanging drapes, I got to go to the event.

The venue was great.  During the introduction Jane Hannah provided a long list of places and things to sketch in the area and then we all dispersed, like a bunch of young kids, excited to find the “best” spot.  Turned out, the head count revealed 60 participants.

The Maison des Éclusiers, or as others call it the Marché des Éclusiers is a place along the harbor where boats enter the Lachine Canal (an éclusier is a guy who manages the locks on the canal).  Where they go I do not know as I was busy meeting people, sketching, and generally just wandering around, gathering information for future trips to the area.  The place is set up as a tourist/local eatery/relax area, complete with restaurants, coffee house, and lots of benches and grassy areas.

I chose to draw a large house (castle?) from one end of it, mostly because there was a nice picnic bench in the shade that afforded a good view.  In hindsight, I don’t feel I ever completed this sketch as I just sort of quit near the bottom of it.  I guess I got bored or wanted to talk to some more people.

From there I just started wandering around.  I wanted to meet some of the sketchers and see what they were up to.  Lots of talent in this group and, because I hope to be returning regularly, I wanted to start establishing some relationships, though I struggle with trying to remember everyone’s name.  Eventually I sat down with Diane Gauthier and her friend Lyse (sp?).  I’d met Diane when I was in Montreal to meet Koosje Koene of Sketchbook Skool, who was visiting.  It was almost time for lunch and they let me share their picnic bench.

I decided I wanted to draw the crane on the other side of the river.  It was a goofy subject, if only because it was so far away and it didn’t provide a nice scene.  Undaunted, I decided to draw a street lamp in the foreground to improve things a bit.  I was only partially successful but here are the results.

We chatted for a while, I ate sloppy tacos, but by then it was time for me to leave.  There were still things to do back at the apartment so I had to leave before the group meeting at the end of the sketchcrawl.  Nevertheless, it was a fantastic day and, to quote Arnold, “I’ll be back!”

Last Trip To Ottawa For A While

We made our final trip to Ottawa for a while.  Our daughter just graduated from University of Ottawa and we moved her to Montreal where she’s entering law school at McGill.  I gotta tell ya, I’m too old to be moving from school to school.  Been there, done that, even have souvenir t-shirts.

But since we were there, it seemed only appropriate that I should do some sketching.  The first chance came when we agreed to meet our daughter in Rideau River Park.  I don’t know if that’s what it’s really called but it runs along the Rideau River and Chantal and I had parked our butts on a bench while we waited, so its Rideau River park to me.

I got out a Stillman & Birn 6×6 Beta spiral book and just started quick-sketching everything and anything.  No rhyme or reason to it, which is fun sometimes.  Find a white space on the paper and fill it – easy peasy.  Here’s a couple of the pages I did.

I drew stuff; I drew people, and I even drew some of the birds on the river.  But then my daughter showed up and there were other things to do.  We hadn’t seen her in a while.

A couple days later, Chantal and I went down to the Parliament area and sat on a picnic bench in the shade.  I’m showing this next sketch to make a point to those who feel “I’m not good enough” to sketch around other people.  I was scribbling this teeny, tiny sketch (3×4) in the tiny sketchbook I mentioned in a previous blog post.  I’ve been having fun doing these really tiny sketches but they’re really crude and mostly just warm up sketches. Even that gives them too much credential.

Anyways, a really nice lady from Italy asked if she could sit because she was waiting to take the Parliament tour.  Chantal started talking with her, she saw my sketch and got genuinely excited about it.  She took a photo of it to show to her friends.  My point is, people are amazed that anyone can draw anything.  You don’t have to be good to sketch in public.  You just have to sketch in public for people to think you’re good (grin).

I started drawing this next sketch because we were sitting right near the corner of a building called East Block on the Parliament grounds and we  were on a hill, affording an interesting view where I wasn’t having to look up a lot to see the top of the building.

While I was working, a Chinese family from Manitoba came to sit.  They were waiting for a tour too.  Their son, a young teenager was excited to see someone drawing and showed us a couple of the sketches he’d done.  He wanted to be an animator and was making a good start at it.  They watched as I did this sketch and I confess that half a dozen people asking questions was a bit distracting, but Chantal fielded many of them so we sort of formed a temporary clan as I sketched and they waited for their tour.

Chantal and I were both getting hungry so we headed off to forage.  Once sustained we decided to go sit in the center of the busiest intersection in Ottawa.  Well, sorta.  There is a triangular piece of land near Parliament with a lot of traffic passing on all sides.  This place is filled with statues, including a memorial to Canadian military actions complete with honor guard.

I drew the Laura Secord statue, the famous candy lady.  Some defend her statue status with stories of her running for kilometers to warn the British of an impending attack by Americans during the war of 1812 but I know its the chain of chocolate stores that brought her fame.  It just had to be, though most deny she had anything to do with the candy business.

When I finished that sketch I was getting pretty tired but I quickly draw this part of Chateau Laurier, a posh hotel that’s nearby.  All sorts of errors in this one but it was a fitting end to the sketching day.  When I was done we headed off to meet our daughter for dinner.

The Hurrier I Go, The Behinder I Get

I shouldn’t write titles like that.  Some of my Francophone buddies will be saying, “Ca va dire quoi?” and file it away as further evidence that I’m a crazy person.  Apologies.

It’s been a week since I’ve posted.  The reason, in part, is because I’ve been gone for a week, to Ottawa and Montreal.  While I had to share my sketching time with other activities, I’ve got scanning to do before I can post my sketches from that trip.  I’ve also got sketches from before the trip.  I’m so disorganized at this point.

In the meantime, here’s a sketch I did before I left.  It’s a small shed and basement access to the Maison Dorion-Coulomb, the home of the St. Charles River park association.  Everyone draws the front of this beautiful, multi-gabled house from the front, including me, but I thought it fitting to give a bit of love to the lesser portions of the building.  Besides, I could sit in the shade.  Back soon, with more.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×6 spiral)

Sketching On The Side Of The Road

We headed to Berthier last Thursday, to enjoy each other’s company and because Claudette has a new project – sketching Casse-Croutes.  I don’t even know what you call them in English but they are generally smallish, roadside food dispensaries.

Our first stop was a Casse Croute that sits on Rte 132 near Berthier, Quebec.  My sketch was going well until I started adding color.  I made a big mistake, though I only half know what it was.  I started adding shadows to the building and the shadow color started melting the Quin Gold already in place on the building, causing a mess.  Could be that the Quin Gold wasn’t dry.  Could be that I used too much water in the shadow.  Could be that I rubbed too hard.  In any case, I made a mess.  I post it here as an example of a sketch gone wrong.  Other than a bit of grumpling at the time, it was still fun.

It was time for lunch so we headed for the marina/park in Berthier, scored a great spot overlooking the St. Lawrence, and Louise started digging food out of a big case she brought along.  My goodness did we eat…and eat.  And drink.  Wine and sun can certainly mellow a sketcher.  By the time I was done consuming a gazillion calories and a sufficient ration of alcohol, I was ready for a nap.

But time was a wasting and we were sketchers.  We piled into the car and headed to a Casse Croute called L’Extra.  Claudette and Louise had already drawn that one but they wanted to draw some of the “extras”, which were a bunch of plywood cutouts of all sorts of stuff.  I have to be honest, between the wine, the sun and the goofy sketching subjects, I was less than enthused.  I still wanted my nap.  But I sat down with the rest of them.  Yvan took a photo of us.  I share that photo with you as it looks like we’re sitting on the side of a road praying.  I’m sure I had my eyes closed.  I did get out a sketchbook, though, and quickly doodled a few of those “extras.”  It was more fun than I thought it would be.  I think the wine helped.

 

Last Sketch In Montreal

Following three days of sketching in Montreal, we had to move our daughter from Ottawa to her new place in Montreal.  We burned up Sunday moving her stuff and filling Ikea’s coffers with our money.

That went smoothly so by Monday morning the only thing left were a bunch of boxes that needed to be emptied.  It had determined that I was not smart enough to help with that process because I wouldn’t put things in the right place and so I was told to “go sketching and bring back lunch.”

Those were orders I could march to so I headed out the door.  I found this amazing piece of architecture only a few minutes away and there was a shady area on the opposite street corner.  I set up to do a leisurely sketch.

When I finished the sketch I packed up and headed to Notobene, my new favorite store, because Anne-Laure had bought a rainbow pencil there and I wanted one too.  I bought two and then drew a couple people while leaning against the wall outside.  Then it was time for forage for lunch.  It was a fitting ending to this amazing sketching trip.  With my daughter living in Montreal I’ll have ample reasons to return so I’ll be sketching in Montreal regularly from now on.

Montreal Day 3: Meet Liz and Anne-Laure Day

Sunday was meet and greet day, where people could come, meet and sketch with Liz Steel and Anne-Laure Jacquart.  Marc was, once again, the organizer of said event and I really don’t know where he gets his stamina.  All three of these folks had just returned from several days in Chicago for the USK Symposium and so they’d been doing sketching events non-stop for more than a week.

I figured that since I’d gotten to spend an entire day with them, today would be a day where I’d just hang back and get some sketching done.  As I’m an early riser, by 7:30 I was walking towards the City Hall meeting place (at 10AM).  I figured I’d play tourist and get some early sketching done before other people showed up.  This was a simple enough plan but one that went horribly wrong.

The problem came in the form of rain and by the time I arrived at City Hall it was pouring rain and I was soaked to the bone.  I had a raincoat but it didn’t seem to help much.  I ducked into a place called Eggspectation to get some breakfast but mostly to dry out.  I was successful with the first part but I was too wet to expect to leave dry.

That didn’t really matter because when I left it was still pouring rain and so, the idiot that I am, I walked around for nearly two hours looking at stuff I’d like to sketch if not for the rain falling from my hat. My hands permanently wrinkled from the water.  Oh, and did I mention that I’d approached this entire weekend with a sprained ankle.  My FitBit said that I’d walked over 50km on it this weekend.  You’ll see how that becomes important as this saga continues.  Let me just say here that the walking, combined with soaking wet feet, weighed heavy on this old man by the time things got rolling on this day.

But roll along it did and people started showing up between 10-10:30 and the rain started to give us a break as well.  We huddled on the patio of a restaurant that hadn’t opened yet while introductions were made.  Marc laid out the game plan for the day and we soldiered out in the hopes that the rain had finally abated.  For the two or three of you that don’t know these artists, I provide these snapshots.  If you look closely you might be able to see the aura that surrounds each of them wherever they go (grin).

Anne-Laure Jacquart (gray sweater)

Marc Taro Holmes

Liz Steel

Our hopes were not realized as shortly after we started sketching, it started drizzling.  I’m not one for sketching in the rain but we really had no choice, and so I learned something.  Raincoats aren’t useful for sketching in the rain.  While many of the women tucked themselves AND their sketchbooks under umbrellas, even my small sketchbook was a target for the raindrops.  Marc was worse off than I was.  We were both doing quick sketches in small 3×5 notebooks but he had neither umbrella or raincoat.  He was just tough.

Anyways, here are the few little sketches I did during this session.  You can see evidence of the rain hitting the paper, causing the ink to bloom.   I spent a lot of time sitting, while lamenting the growing pain in my ankle, the beginnings of a limp and my growing sense of oldness as my body was letting me down.

Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was time for lunch and I was sure ready for it, or rather I was ready for a dry place to sit.  The normal sketcher talk took place over lunch and I learned something else.  I’d come to this sketchcrawl with the thought of traveling light so each day I had three pieces of Coroplast with watercolor paper taped to both sides of it.  For the drawing portion of the day this is wonderful, maybe even ideal.  For the “show me yours” part of the day… not so much.  I had none of the sheets I’d done the day before, nothing I’d done in the past, and so, I had nothing to pass around while others were doing that with their sketchbooks.  I felt bad about this; I were getting to see all their great sketches without me “paying back” the favor.

It’s something to think about for the future.  I love the set up Anne-Laure uses.  She explains it in this YouTube video.  I’m going to try it.  I’ve seen it done on a smaller scale but I like to work on a bigger sheet than A5 or A6 sizes so this might be what I need.

When we came out of the restaurant it had stopped raining and so we spread out around Place Jacques Cartier and started sketching.  By this point my ankle was barking loud enough that I’m sure others heard it too, but I sat down and tried to draw City Hall.  I made a lot of errors in this sketch but if you know nothing of what Montreal City Hall looks like, it might be ok (grin).

At this point I started evaluating my situation.  I was limping quite a bit  and I started thinking about the fact that I was supposed to help my daughter move from Ottawa to Montreal the next day.  My body had won over my desires and I made my apologies and left, limping my way back to the apartment.  I felt sad and somewhat guilty to bail out on such a wonderful adventure but, to quote my daughter, “It is what it is.”  Maybe that should be “It was what it was” to keep the verb tenses consistent (grin).

But wow…what I learned this weekend will require a lot of thought and even more action.  I’ve been doing dozens of quick gestures in a style as close to Marc’s as I can.  These are actually going well and lots of fun.  Lots of problems with proportions though, because I’m working too fast to carefully analyze what I’m drawing.

I’m also mixing lots of blotches of watercolor, trying to figure out how to get the proper thickness for drawing lines with watercolor, figuring out the effects of multiple layers of wash, etc.  And I’ve been reviewing sections of Liz’s courses and trying to achieve a better understanding of how to apply what she explains in them.  Oh…and I’ve been trying to emulate the amazing beautiful people that Anne-Laure does.  So much inspiration, so little time.

Montreal Day 2: Just A Five Minute Sketch

WARNING:  This is a long post, punctuated with sketches and photos but mostly Larry’s drone about one of the best sketching days of his life.  Strong coffee is advised.

Friday morning I was up early.  I was supposed to meet Marc, Liz and Anne-Laure at 10AM.  I was at our meeting place by 8AM.  I thought it would give me a chance to do some sketching before they got there.  It was raining by the time I got there so I ducked into a coffee shop.  I sketched a few people but mostly I just stayed dry and drank coffee.

When it finally stopped raining I found a place to sit and started sketching the library across the street from the metro station where I was to meet them.  It was pretty exciting to meet Liz and Anne-Laure.  Both are really fun, talented people.  If anything was going to intimidate this sketcher it would be trying to keep up with these three, but I had a head start because I’d already started my sketch.

All the value of the head start earned me was the ability to watch these folks in action.  But to do so I had to be careful not to blink or I’d miss a lot.  In addition to being good, they are FAST!!  I had time to flip through one of Liz’s sketchbooks while she replicated the sketch I’d done, only hers was better.  Anne-Laure worked direct with paint and did an amazing sketch of the same building, while Marc created a Frankenbuilding by adding the steeple from another building to the building we’d all drawn.   I’m hoping you won’t notice that you won’t notice that I didn’t take photos of their drawings so I wouldn’t have to post them for comparison with mine.  It’s better that way (grin)

And then we were off on an adventure, an adventure that the slowest sketcher on the planet was ill-equipped for but I had a blast trying to scribble fast enough to keep up.  It reminded me of the “extreme sketching” that Marc got me doing last winter where we’d go out in very cold weather and do a sketch in five minutes before moving on for the next one.  The only thing missing was the cold.

We turned the corner on Mont Royal St. and there was a row of stores and Liz said, “Let’s draw those.”  She plunked down on the sidewalk and went to work.  Understand, I could draw those stores – yes I could.  But it would take me an hour or more, that I knew I wouldn’t have this time.  Instead I pulled out a tiny Stillman & Birn sketchbook and started scribbling away as fast as I could.  Ten minutes later Liz had a beautiful, full-color drawing.  I had this:

Anne-Laure was smart and only drew one of the stores.  I’m not sure what Marc did.  Maybe he yawned and thus ran out of time.  Don’t know.  I do know that I was pumped and we resumed our walk.

Marc took us down a street to show us a corner balcony and I heard it for the first time, “Let’s just do a five minute sketch.”  And that’s what we did, though it might have run a few minutes longer than that.  I lose all control over proportions when working this fast and so it went while trying to capture this two-story balcony.   Of course, everyone faired much better than I did.  Humbled be me.  Marc had limited himself to a loose pencil gesture… of the entire building, the one next to it, the mountain and trees behind it, and some of the cars on the street.  How does he do that so quickly?

Marc had a plan and we were on a tour of some of his favorite sketching locations.  But he also needed to take us to Patisserie Notre-Dame Du Rosaire, the best darn Natas dispensary in Montreal.  Why?  Because Liz wanted to draw Natas in preparation for the 2018 USK Symposium in Porto, Portugal, that’s why.  There might have been something in there about actually eating Natas too.  I’m not sure.

Anyways, we arrived, bought half a dozen Natas and sat down to sketch.  Anne-Laure and Liz went after their Natas with paint.  Marc and I had a more gustatorial approach.  Natas are yummy.

Following the snack, we walked down to a cathedral (there’s one of these on every street corner in Quebec), initially to use the facilities but then the words rang out, “Let’s just do a five minute sketch.”  So, we did.  I figured that in five minutes I could probably draw one of the light bulbs so that’s where I started.  By the time I’d finished the entire light fixture the others were really getting into it.  Marc appeared to be drawing the entire cathedral, Liz was finishing up her first sketch and was heading to a different seat to start another.  So I started doodling, drawing part of the large alter area, then the seat in front of me with a semi-approximation of Liz who used to be sitting there.  When I finished Marc had this amazing drawing that seemed to go on forever.  Anne Laure had done the entire front portion of the church and Liz had done at least two sketches, if not more.  Me, I had my doodles.

I commented that I thought they said we were doing a five-minute sketch and that’s when Liz explained it to me.  “Let’s just do a five minute sketch,”  is a way of getting everyone started.  How much time is actually spent is negotiable.  It’s amazing how much art jargon you can pick up when you hang out with experienced artists.

We continued walking but concluded that it was time for lunch so Marc took us to this great place.  Here’s a photo of the pros taking a break, sort of.

With lunch over, we headed to Carré St. Louis which is a long rectangular park with a big fountain in it and it’s surrounded with more gingerbread architecture, some of it painted by Disney.  I could spent a week drawing there and want to come back for more.  Liz said, “No wonder Marc’s always drawing the tops of the building.”

But then the thunder started and even dedicated sketchers can’t stand in a downpour to draw so we looked around for a place to be dry and still sketch.  We chose Hippi Poutine, a poutine-serving place with a covered patio.  We’d just eaten but we ordered coffee and Marc bought a small poutine so the “foreigners” could try it. Poutine is french fries smothered in gravy with cheese curds on top.  It’s recommended by cardiac surgeons everywhere.

When the rain came, it really came.  The streets cleared of people but we had a view of a multi-faceted building and we all went to work.

Liz and I were getting spray coming in under the awning and Marc had water dripping down his back as it poured down the walls.  Undaunted, they worked away.  Then it got windy and Liz and I got a face full of water.  I believe her sketch got splattered as well but that doesn’t seem to bother her.  Mine did too but I was starting to get really wet and so closed my book, set it on the table to my right and concentrated on drinking my latte.  When the wind let up I picked up my book to continue only to find that it had become completely soaked by rain coming down the wall.  The only saving grace was that the book was almost filled so the last few pages, which are now stuck together, were the only real loss.  I won’t be showing you to scribblings I had done of this place.

The rain finally stopped, though, and we continued our trek through the Montreal neighborhoods and ended up on Sherbrooke street in front of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. It was only fitting that we draw it and, lucky us, there was a covered place to sit on the opposite side of the street in case it rained.  It’s a huge building so I just concentrated on the center portion of it.

From there we stopped at Notabene, my new favorite store.  It sells old typewriters, every notebook in existence and pencils, pens and inks.  We all ended up buying stuff before we started searching for a place to have dinner and maybe sketch from outdoor seating.  That evening we found ourselves in an art store because Liz needed gel pens and where Anne-Laure bought a bunch of Fabriano Artistico sheets.  Somehow I managed to leave without buying anything.  Might be a first for me.

This day was one of the best sketching days I’ve had in my life.  It was an honor to be able to sketch with Marc, Liz and Anne-Laure and I thank them for their fun and generous nature.