Montreal Day 1: Drawing With Paint

I’m a lucky guy because I’ve had the opportunity to sketch with Marc Taro Holmes on occasion.  Not only is he one of the best sketchers in the world, he’s also a really nice guy and it’s really fun to sketch with him.  But this past weekend was really special because I was sketching with him and I was going to meet Liz Steel and Anne-Laure Jacquart because they were visiting Marc and Shari in Montreal.

On Thursday, though, it was just Marc and I and we headed towards Mont Royal Cemetery to draw statues.  Along the way we stopped, set up shop on the sidewalk, and drew a wonderful house, undoubtedly built just so we could sketch it.  I’m afraid I got a bit clumsy and heavy-handed with the paint on this one but I present the results anyways.  That’s just the kind of guy I am (grin).

Fabriano Artistico 140CP, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Marc has started skipping the pen stuff and he’s drawing directly with paint and we started talking about that as we walked along.  Marc’s not a guy who does a hard-sell on anything but he has a way of making you want to try new things.  And so I did.  This is the first time I’ve ever done anything with paint that wasn’t coloring inside the lines and, well, I have a lot to learn.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Daniel Smith watercolors

Undaunted by all the things I didn’t understand about this process, I continued, doing this second statue.

This was definitely one of those experiences that taught me more about what I didn’t know than how to do it.  I’ve been wanting to integrate paint more directly in my thought process, as in include it in the thought process rather than considering it only as an afterthought.  This drawing with paint idea might generate a bunch of bad drawings, but I think it’s going to get me doing what I should be doing with paint if I’m going to learn how to use it properly.  These are some of the things/ideas that spilled from the process and things I need to work on:

  1. Work in both negative and positive space to define shapes.
  2. Paint must be mixed thicker than wash consistency to be an effective drawing tool.
  3. To achieve light colors that are sufficiently thick for drawing requires mixing light neutral colors into the mix.  Marc uses DS Buff Titanium and Holbein’s Davey’s Gray for this.
  4. Large contrasts between foreground and background pay large dividends.
  5. Oh…and this is probably the most important thing I’ve learned.  Larry needs a LOT more brush time cuz he can’t draw a straight line with a brush to save his soul.

At this point it was looking like rain and we were both hungry so we hopped on the metro and headed for lunch.  I guess we’re not dedicated sketchers because we sat eating sandwiches and talked about the future of urban sketching the rest of the afternoon, not lifting pen nor brush the rest of the day.  But, as Scarlett said, “Tomorrow is another day,” and we had a big day planned.

Draw The Cool Stuff First, Then Stop

I’m the sort that just draws stuff.  My sketching lacks attempts to generate good compositions, to capture large panoramic scenes, or achieve balance and unity.  I simply draw stuff that interests me.  I realize these other things matter but for me, the fun comes from making lines on a page.  What they define is a very low priority for me.  Goofy view of art, I know, but it is mine.  I’m trying hard to learn these other things, to worry about them, and somehow bring them to my sketches, but sometimes I just like to draw the cool thing and then stop.

Along Rue St. Paul, across from the train station, there are some really great old buildings with lots of gables, towers, and, as my dad used to call it, “gingerbread” that makes them special.  I was walking along and decided to draw one of the towers on a corner building.  But this building goes a long way in both directions, with a bunch of windows and cables.  I didn’t want to spend that much time on it, so I just drew the cool part and stopped.  I was happy with that result.

Too Far Away, And The Need To Make It Interesting

I was walking along the river and decided to draw part of the skyline.  From where I was, these buildings were very small, and very far away.  I decided that I could “improve” things by drawing the buildings larger/closer to me so I put on my ZOOM brain and went to work.

There was only one problem with that idea.  If the buildings were close, I should be able to see a bunch of details.  I could not and so I started stumbling around (figuratively) trying to figure out what details I “needed” to imaginate.  This is harder than it sounds and clearly I need to think about this a lot.  I’m used to drawing what I see and I always err on the side of too much detail, which is the opposite of what I should probably doing here.  So much to learn, so little time.

A Quick Look Down The River

No far from my house is Pont Drouin (Drouin Bridge).  There are benches on either side of the roadway where you can sit in the middle of the bridge and ponder your navel, or maybe sketch.  I chose to do the later, quickly trying to capture the scene without much detail.

A Proud Building In Limoilou

When I came to Quebec I was struck by how people would completely change their schedules if the sun shined, cancelling meetings so they could go on a picnic, taking the day off from work so they could go get a tan, or maybe just to do a happy dance.  Coming from Arizona, it never crossed my mind that sunshine was something to be savoured when it was around.

I’ve learned, though, that rare things have that affect on behavior and it couldn’t be more true this year.  Three of us skipped off to Limoilou to sketch on Tuesday because it wasn’t raining – the sun was shining.  It was a rather short adventure but sketch we did.

I’m working on doing my sketching more quickly than my norm and chose to apply those efforts towards this stately building along 4th Avenue.  It almost looks out of place as it’s far more elegant than those around it and I suspect it once served some special purpose.  I even got to work on my tan while I drew it.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Diluted DeAtramentis Document Black, Kuretake #13 w/Platinum Carbon Black

Emergency Road Trip

This summer has become one for the record books in terms of how little sketching I’ve been able to do.  The lousy weather was bad enough but being rushed to the hospital with heart problems really put a damper on my sketching just when we started getting some good sketching days.  Happy as a clam following recovery from that, though, I was starting to get out sketching until…

My daughter is still in Ottawa and she decided to fall down a bunch of stairs.  It could have been worse, but she badly sprained her ankle and was suddenly on crutches.  To put this in context, she’s in Ottawa alone and needs to walk 20-25 min each way to work every day.  To make matters worse, her timing was unfortunate because she had arranged to take the bus to Montreal to pick up the keys for her new apartment.  And so she called mom and dad.

The result was that we dropped everything and drove five hours to Ottawa and the next morning we drove to Montreal and back (another four hours).  Back in Ottawa, we spent the night and the next day we drove back to Quebec City (another five hours).  What a weekend.  I’m old; I was exhausted.

So…not much sketching time that weekend, but we did sit in a park or about an hour and once we got Jodie sitting and her leg propped up I did some quick sketching.

Certainly not the best scene ever but this is what I could see over the trees.  It was nice to scratch out this sketch in a Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

I then go out a small Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5) book, looked around and quickly drew these two apartment buildings on the other side of the Rideau River from where I was sitting.

I took a short break and took a walk along the river.  The Rideau River has bike/pedestrian paths on both sides of the river and it was nice to get out and do some walking.  When I got back I drew this little scene, again, viewed across the Rideau River.

Sketching At Lysander Waterfalls

A river, northeast of Quebec City, creates a spectacular display as it tumbles through a small series of rapids and waterfalls near Inverness, Quebec.  At the lip of the river canyon, fellow sketcher and all-around great person, Claudette and her chum have a really nice place and we were invited to spend the day sketching.

It was a great day and I wish I’d been feeling better.  The drugs I was given for my heart, while fine now, weren’t doing me any favors that weekend.  Nevertheless, it was a great day in spite of this small problem.  There were nine of us and we headed into the canyon shortly after we arrived.

Everyone started to draw and, of course, it started raining.  Some had brought umbrellas but I was not so equipped and as the rain hit my ink, it blossomed across the page.  What a frustrating mess that was.  So, I grabbed my 3×5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook and drew Lisette in her “July in Quebec” sketching suit.

The rain was not long-lived, though, and the rest of the day was under a bright sun and warm temperatures.  Rain free, I made a second attempt at drawing the road bridge over the river and above the falls.

Fabriano Artistico (CP), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Doument Black

Eventually hunger drove us from the canyon and we headed to Claudette’s place for lunch and conversation.  I confess that my limited language skills are not up to the task of keeping up with the rapid fire French that occurs when so many fluent speakers are together, but lunch was fun anyway.   At one point, though, I got up from the table and took a seat outside the fray. Again, in my small sketchbook I did this quick sketch of the party.

I wasn’t feeling that well and so didn’t get much accomplished the rest of the day but it was really nice to get out of the city.  Thanks Claudette, for a great day.

Another Trip To The “Ruelles”

I think we must be setting a record for sitting in alleyways while drawing.  Sort of goofy I suppose but alleyways do present scenes with a lot of personality, albeit a somewhat humble form of it.

Claudette and I both chose this scene.  I get the impression that the door on the right leads to an empty building but I could be wrong.  In any event, I had fun drawing this one and we’ll probably all be back in the “ruelles” again.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Origami Exhibit At The Bagatelle

Sorry for forgetting to write blog posts.  I spent a day in the emergency ward as some really nice nurses tried to get my heart under control.  Now I’m trying to get used to medications and the side-effects have caused me to lose my motivation to do much of anything.

But, our group went to visit the Bagatelle, a large house and garden that has become a place where art exhibitions are held here in Quebec.  This month it’s origami and what a show it was.  It’s a two-story house and most of the rooms on both floors were filled with amazing origami pieces.

I sat down in the garden and drew one side of the house as it could be seen through the trees.  Hope you like it as much as I enjoyed drawing it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

A Great Day At Miriam’s Cottage

What’s your ideal sketching day?  I think mine is spending the day at Miriam’s cottage.  Miriam’s cottage is an idyllic place on a large island in the St. Lawrence River, near Quebec City.  She’s got a wonderful artist’s cottage, a huge barn full of sketchable stuff, and a chunk of land you could get lost in as long as you didn’t run out of paper.  All of that would be great enough but there’s also Miriam, who is an inspiration.

She approaches art the way we all did as kids.  She’s very much a “let’s try this” and “just have fun” kind of gal.  Her house has one wall with animal heads looking down on the proceedings.  These are not just any old animals either.  There’s a unicorn among them and all are made from paper mache.  In her loft there’s an full size man done using similar materials.  She draws with abandon and with considerable skill, choosing her tools on a whim.  It’s hard not to be humbled and harder still not to be thrilled just to be there.  Her dog Nikki is a joy and he loves to sit at a sketcher’s feet, apparently enjoying our silence, or maybe the scratching of a pen on paper.

Yvan and I went out to visit her a few days ago.  It was a rainy day but we were able to find cover and did some drawing.  The first drawing I did was this one.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Pilot 78G, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Yvan was drawing next to me and I grumbled about how hard it was to draw this simple scene because nothing on this old barn was in alignment as it should be.  He took that as an opportunity to give me an art lesson and we had a great conversation about lines, squinting, and my problems with both things.  It was perfect.

I got out my little S&B Epsilon (3.5×5.5) book and drew this small sketch of the pool shed, trying to keep what Yvan had talked about in mind.  Then it was time for lunch so we headed to the deck, put up an umbrella over a table and ourselves and then spent an hour or so eating and enjoying each other’s company.  Miriam’s sister, Sarah, joined us.

The rain stopped and we decided that we should walk a bit so we headed down the hill, down the road and ended up at low tide next to the St. Lawrence.  In this location, huge rocks are exposed at low tide and we got the bright idea to try to do a drawing, in spite of the fact that it was threatening more rain.

I only had my little sketchbook with me and a Pilot 78G but that was enough.  I sat down behind where Miriam was sketching and drew her and the surrounding rocks.  I had no color with me but it didn’t much matter because I had to rush the last few lines because the rain had started to fall again.  I added the color when I got home.

We climbed the hill back to Miriam’s place and all agreed that we were going to have to do this again…and maybe again.  It was, indeed, an ideal sketching day.