Return To Museum Sketching

I wonder what my dad would think if he knew that the thing I remember most about him was him saying to me (often), “You’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached.”  The sad thing is that, decades later, he’s still right.

I headed off to meet sketching buddies at the Musee de la civilisation the other day, which amounts to full acknowledgement that outdoor sketching is finished, or nearly so, for the year.  It’s starting to get cold and this Arizona boy doesn’t do cold.  None of us is very excited by the current expositions at the museum but there’s always something to draw, if only to provide practice and opportunity to try different techniques.

Once at the museum and I started thinking of sketching, I realized that I’d forgotten my light and my stool.  Most of the rooms are so dark that without a light clipped to my sketchbook, I can’t see what I’m drawing.  And, oddly when you think of it, most of the displays are low, requiring a stool to get your eyes on level with what you’re drawing.

Lucky for me, my head was attached and I used it to decide to draw something from the main entrance, where the museum seems willing to pay the electric bill and thus there is sufficient light.  I thought about the stairwells, they’d be an interesting drawing challenge.  I thought about the old bones of a boat that’s part of the entrance display.  To do it justice, though, would require a lot of hours.  I thought about drawing the ticket counter, but I’d already done that once.

Instead, I looked out the window to the courtyard associated with the museum and did this sketch.  I forgot a lot that day but because of this sketch I’ll always remember to be grateful that my head is attached.

Quebec City Museum of Civilization courtyard

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×9), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Sketching For InkTober 2015

Every year the internet is treated to a stream of sketches in the name of Inktober and this is is no exception.  I don’t formally take part as I already draw constantly in ink and so I just continue to post my normal drawings.  But I was out the other day, having filled a Pilot Prera with DeAtramentis Document Brown ink and I thought about Inktober and did several sketches while on my walk.  Here are a couple of them.

rocks along the St. Charles RIver

Right now the St. Charles RIver is at very low levels. I thought these rocks warranted a sketch.

Bassin Louise power stations

Bassin Louise did a major service upgrade this year with the addition of these power stations that allow boats to plug in. Now that the boats are being removed from the water for winter, the stations are available for me to draw. So I did.

Maybe I’ll do a few more of these before October is over.  I enjoyed the ink/pen combination and the tiny nature of these sketches.

Megacerops In Ottawa

My daughter was coming home for Canadian Thanksgiving (it’s in October) and rather than have her take a train, I wisely reasoned that it wouldn’t cost any more for me to drive to Ottawa to pick her up and bring her back to Quebec City.  Yes, it would mean ten hours of driving but heck, I could spend a couple hours sketching in the nature museum (I have a membership).  And yeah, maybe that is a bit crazy but I am, as Steve Martin used to say, a “wild and crazy guy” when it comes to sketching.

So, at 3:30AM I drove out of town so that I could arrive at the museum when it opened at 9AM.  This insanity was rewarded with a wonderful early morning sketching session where I got to hang out with a family of Megacerops.  Well, actually they were life-size models of them.  They roamed Manitoba and some of the plains states, but they went extinct a while ago, maybe even before I was born.  They sure were big, though, and he wouldn’t fit on my paper and I decided that this end was better than the other end.

Stillman & Birn Beta (9x12), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (9×12), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

When I finished I had to leave to meet my daughter for lunch.  We had a great lunch and then continued to chat until her afternoon class.  At that point I repeated my 20-minute walk back to the museum, intent on doing more sketching.

It was not to be.  When I arrived I learned about something called a PA day.  I don’t really know what PA means but it happens in schools.  What it meant to the museum was that every young kid in the Ottawa area was at the nature museum, or so it seemed.  The nature museum is designed for kids to get excited, have fun and with so many of them there the decibel level in the museum, accompanied by the frenetic movement of little bodies around the rooms suppressed any notion I had of drawing.  I made the best of it by actually visiting the museum like a normal person, reading the plaques and learning a few things about the exhibits.

So, please do me a favor.  Look at my Megacerops a few extra seconds; I drove ten hours to draw it (grin).

Coffee With Claudette

Claudette and I went for coffee at Paillards on rue St. Jean.  During the tourist season it’s impossible to get a seat there as it’s a great place for lunch or just to have some fine Quebec pastries.  But it’s also a fun place to sketch people.


I ordered a café au lait  and thought about drawing it but remembered that I’d done that last time I was there.  Our session there was a short one but we got to meet a fellow sketcher who was visiting from England.  It was fun and the coffee and company was good.  Here’s a couple of pages that resulted.


Book Review: Creative Sketching Workshop by Pete Scully

Before I talk about Pete Scully’s new book, Creative Sketching Workshop: Inspiration, Tips, and Exercises for Sketching on the Move, I’ve got to confess that I am biased.  If Pete released an illustrated phone book, I’d buy it.  When I got started sketching, his sketches were some of the first that caught my eye.  I love his precision.  I love his choice of subjects (he got me sketching fire hydrants).  I love that he’s a generalist sketcher who is at home sketching Lego characters as he is when sketching urban scenes.

PeteOnPeteThough a clear violation of Pete’s copyright, I’m opening this review with his sketch of his new book; I hope he doesn’t mind.  The one on the left is the US version; the one on the right is the UK version.  I bought the UK version because it was available when I ordered; the US version hadn’t been released yet.

My love of Pete’s work aside, do we really need another sketching book?  I find that a funny question to pose because when I got into sketching, only four years ago, there was almost nothing available on location sketching, urban sketching, or even a general acknowledgement that people sketched for any purpose other than as note-taking for paintings.  But, we’re experiencing a veritable explosion of interest in sketching, particularly location sketching and it’s absolutely wonderful.

Recent releases seem to fit into three loose categories.

  • Rah-rah motivation books: so you want to sketch but don’t think you can, and/or if you can’t figure out what to draw, let us give you a list.  The extreme of this are the books that have a bunch of blank pages except for a ‘draw x’ written in one corner.
  • Books on sketching techniques.  These can be about pen and ink, pencil, paint, and these days may place most emphasis on “urban sketching” as that’s the buzz phrase of our time.
  • Then there are books that are mostly picture books, and more than anything are just a compilation of sketches from a particular artist.

All of these have value to someone.  Most are directed at the flood of new sketchers among us.  As a book nut, I’ve bought most of them and I gotta say that there’s a lot of redundancy within the ranks but I’ve gotten something from each and every one of them.  To be honest, I didn’t expect much from Pete’s book in spite of it coming from Pete.  I was wrong.

Pete’s book has some of all of the above types of content, but it’s the approach that makes it unique and much more instructional content than I expected. The book reflects his generalist inclination when it comes to sketching.  He brought together a dozen artists besides himself and together they have produced a series of “workshops” on topics that run the gamut from doing portraits on location to drawing abandoned locations.  Pete’s fond of documenting his son’s growth and he uses this to demonstrate the virtues of drawing series of sketches, showing us sketches of his son’s shoes, from when he was a baby to his current running shoes.  I still favor his fire hydrant series myself but wish I had a similar series of my daughter’s shoes.


Each sketching subject workshop is initiated with half a dozen “Ideas to get you started” that serve as an outline for the rest of the workshop but also as a platform for the artist to provide practical advice for sketching their particular subject.  Some of this advice is priceless.  All of it is good.


The rest of each chapter consists of several pages of graphic examples and associated text that directs the reader towards the specifics of the sketch, why the artist has done what’s been done, and sometimes with extra advice on the vagaries of doing such sketches on location.


In short, this is a book you’ve got to read and study.  But yeah, you’ll want to flip through it, just looking at the pictures like I did when I got it.  The eye-candy is sweet.  But this review comes several days after receiving the book because I wanted to read all of it before writing.


Because of the artists assembled here, this book provides considerable variation in sketching styles and approaches.  Thus, even without the words, there’s a lot to study here and this book will sit by my bed for a while as I love staring at sketches, trying to understand what the artist was thinking and how they solved this or that problem.  I very much recommend Creative Sketching Workshop to anyone who sketches on location or wants to learn the approaches of people who do.