I was walking back from a sketching session last week and I took a slightly different route. I found a new house I want to sketch and a nifty little restaurant that may become a future sketch. But the real discovery was a small “bouquinerie.” In French, a “bouquinerie” is a bookstore that sells used books and I decided to go in to see if they had any cheap books on Quebec architecture or history.
They did, but what really caught my eye was a small art section. Among the offerings, mostly in French, was a copy of Henry Pitz’s How to Draw Trees. This book was first published in 1956 and redone several times since then. It does appear to be out of print, though you can still buy used copies of it via Amazon, Abebooks and probably elsewhere but the prices run from $30-100. The one I was looking at cost five bucks. I snapped it up and it has launched a new sketching chapter for me, and I haven’t even read the darn thing yet. The sketches are cool, though.
I’m not sure how long that chapter will be or what story it will tell, but right now I’m having fun discovering trees. I’ve drawn trees in many of my sketches but I’ve never featured a tree in a sketch. I still have much to learn from this book as I’m still looking at the pictures, but I thought I’d share some of my meager attempts that have sprung from my new-found interest.
I started by doing some small sketches in a really cheap, blank notebook I picked up at the dollar store. Until Stillman & Birn decide to produce a small sketchbook, I’m stuck with this less than optimal paper as I really don’t like Moleskine sketchbook paper. Anyways, here’s a sample of my efforts.
Plains of Abraham Trees
The Plains of Abraham is a natural place to sketch trees – the park has a lot of them representing many, many species. I went there with the idea of capturing a couple ‘likenesses’ of these tall neighbors on our planet.
I started in a handmade sketchbook, with Canson Mi-Teintes tan paper. I think this sketch may be improved with a splash of color but for now, this is the result. Proud, but lonely, this tree stands in a very open area of the park. Click on this image for a larger image.
I got out my Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (6×8) and moved to a comfy bench in the shade and I sketched this tree. Again, you can get a larger image by clicking on ths small one.
Some Misc Doodles
I thought that while I had my dollar store notebook out I’d show you a few examples of the doodles I do, often while watching TV. There’s not much to them but I thought some might find them interesting.
Anyone have a recommendation for a decent 3×5 sketchbook that isn’t made by Moleskine and is available (without paying as much for shipping as for the sketchbook) to those of us in Canada?
Cheers — Larry (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Patrick Ng presented one of his sketches by showing us all the stages of development in a series of posts in the Facebook group, Artist Journal Workshop. I thought that was a great idea and so I’m going to do that here. Click on the photo to get a larger image.
First stage occurred on a hot day, in front of the Quebec City train station. I decided to draw a building that sits at 363 Rue St. Paul, partly because it was a great subject and partly because there was a shady spot where I could sit. I didn’t quite get the drawing done in that first session as it still lacked the foliage, though that had been penciled in early in the process so I’d know what parts of the building would be covered by leaves.
Once I finished adding the foliage and touching up a few of the details it looked like this. I did this at home.
I decided to add shading with early morning sun as I thought it would be better than the mid-day sun I had when I did the sketch. So, I went back to the site, plunked myself on my Walkstool and went to work.
I now use a small chunk of 8B Derwent Graphitone pencil, stuck in a half-pan, for my basic shading. This has some interesting virtues. First, I can use it just like a cake of watercolor, using a brush to pick up pigment and mix up washes of any density I need. Second, it’s much smaller and lighter than the dilute india ink solutions I was carrying for this purpose. AND, the important thing is that once Graphitone been exposed to water and then dries, it won’t mix with watercolors I put over it. The end result of this stage sometimes causes me to wonder whether I need color at all. This may be because I’m not all that versed in or experienced with watercolor (grin).
I used a Pilot Prera fountain pen with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink to do this sketch. In my opinion, the techniques are made possible, or at least easier, because of the fantastic, double-sized papers of the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks I use. I can’t say enough good things about them. If you find these sorts of posts useful, let me know and I’ll do more of them.
Cheers — Larry
Here’s something you won’t see in many urban sketcher’s sketchbooks, an Inukshuk. The Inuit have used these for years to provide directions, mark locations, and even to aid in caribou hunts. Because of this, you can find these human-like rock piles scattered across the northern parts of Canada… or in souvenir shops, as miniature versions are quite popular.
This one, however, is in downtown Quebec City, on the Parliament grounds. I’d guess its height at ten feet. Yesterday wasn’t the optimal time to sketch it as there are barriers up around the grounds due to construction so I couldn’t get as close as I’d like, nor could I view it from its front, the optimal way to sketch an inukshuk (“in-ooo-shuck”). But, I was there; it was there; and I sketched it as, these days, I’m interested in rocks and how to depict them.
This sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8) sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink. Winsor & Newton artist watercolors provided the color. I REALLY like the Beta sketchbook paper. So thick, so friendly to both pen and watercolor. I’ve become quite spoiled by my Alpha series sketchbooks but the Beta series is yet one step better for the kinds of sketching I do.
Any inukshuks in your town (grin)?
One of the things I’ve noticed since since I became a sketcher is that most man-made objects have short lifespans, and getting shorter in our disposable economy. We really need to do something about that.
But architecture is the big exception, largely because buildings built before the 50s and 60s were built to last a loooooong time. Construction was brick, with thick walls and roofs covered with metal. And oh do they last…and last. There are hundreds of buildings in Quebec City that were built in the late 19th Century and hundreds more built during the first quarter of the 20th. Many remain have not been torn down to make room for the square box buildings we build today for one simple reason. These old buildings were built to be as attractive as they were functional. As I compare the beauty of these old buildings and compare them to the more modern parts of our city, it’s not hard to conclude that we’re sacrificing a lot in the name of build it cheap.
The Fire House Example
As in every city, in Quebec City things occasionally catch on fire. And like other cities, we have a fire department and their facilities scattered around the city. And if you look at the fire engines that arrived at fires in the early part of the 20th Century they looked like this. Very cool and people now visit museums to see them.
But today modern fire equipment are marvels of engineering, far more capable at quenching the flames. Far more expensive too but we spend the money because they do a better job. As a fire hydrant sketcher, I know there are some fire engine sketches in my future but it’s the fire houses that have caught my eye. I’ve seen several here that can only be described with a single word – KEWL!
And so this past weekend I sat on the sidewalk across the street from this majestic building and sketched it. It was done in a Stillman & Birn 10×7 Alpha sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera (fine) pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray. Aren’t I right? Isn’t it KEWL! Why don’t we build buildings like this anymore?