Sketching At Saint Petronille

The Artistes dans les parcs provided a unique opportunity to sketch at La Foyer de Charite Notre Dame (I think I have that right).  Anyways, it’s a huge estate, built on a hill overlooking the St. Lawrence River.  It was built by the guy who started the Bank of Montreal.

It’s a gorgeous place with lots to draw but the hilly terrain didn’t make my bad knee very happy.  I was so happy to be out sketching, though, that it didn’t really matter.

Here’s a sketch of my buddy Yvan sketching a fountain.  I’ve started using the Moleskine watercolor book I mentioned recently and I really don’t like the paper.  The colors just all look dull to me when compared to the same paint on my S&B sketchbooks.

After lunch we were up high on the hill.  My knee didn’t want to move, so I decided to draw the coastline I could see when I looked over the cliff.  The tide was out and I was faced with this scene.

I did a few other, tiny sketches but otherwise I just sat on the porch and enjoyed the view.  What a wonderful day.  Now, what do you do with an expensive sketchbook you REALLY don’t like?

Old Expo Exhibition Hall

I go to our new Grande Marché almost every day.  Part of the reason is that I’m trying hard to walk as much as possible to rebuild strength in my bad leg.  But the other reason is that there’s just something soothing about seeing all the local farmer produce on display.  I can’t really explain why that is so and the hectic nature of lots of people running around buying stuff would argue against it, but it makes me happy for some reason.

The other day I drew the corner of a really large, classic building that used to be the Science & Technology building on the fairgrounds on which the Grande Marché sits (it used to be the Agriculture building).  Anyways, I just love the corners of this building.  This was a quick and small sketch.  Some day I’ll have to do a larger one.

The Year Of The Plant

Since my mobility is been limited by my bad knee, it seems I’ve traded in drawing architecture for drawing plants.  I can’t say that’s a bad thing exactly but it sure is different, putting me in unfamiliar territory.

I was at another Artistes dans les parcs event, this time at the Domain Maizeret Arboretum.  Lots of trees, lots of grass, and a wonderful pond and creek, though this time of year the later is mostly hidden by tall foliage that surrounds it.

Having no imagination at all, I found it difficult to find something to draw.  But where there’s a coneflower, there’s something to draw.  Better yet, two coneflowers.  A botanical artist I am not, but I really had a good time drawing these. For some reason it was very relaxing.

It had become quite hot and I wasn’t in the mood for a complex subject.  I got the idea to try to do a very quick sketch attempt of a ‘landscape’ to see if I could manage a minimal ink, mostly color sketch.  I drew some steps and then picked up a big brush and started placing blobs of color around them.  Near the end I went back to the pen to add some structure.

Mostly I think I failed at this because all my foliage lacks texture and depth.  It was an interesting experiment, though, throwing detail to the wind and just capturing the structure of the scene.  I post it here because I’m not easily embarrassed (grin).


The Lonely Sentry And Cheating On An Old Friend

I was wandering around a place called Domain Maizeret, a large park not far from my house.  There is a huge building in the middle of the park where most of the activity is centered and around it is forested land with walk paths so we can go in and feed the mosquitoes.

When I saw this scene I didn’t see a garbage can.  I saw a sentry, bravely holding up its “no bicycles” sign as it protected the forest entry from marauding bicyclists.  I decided to do another paint first experiment.  Some day I’ll do one that doesn’t fail, or that fails to a lesser degree.  I don’t expect progress overnight (grin).

I had fun with this one, mostly because I just couldn’t get the sentry idea out of my head.  While I was sketching, not a single bicyclist got past the sentry.  I do hope walkers appreciate its effort.

Moleskine watercolor portrait format (5×8), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Wing Sung 8009

A confession and apology to Stillman & Birn

I’ve been using Stillman & Birn sketchbooks almost exclusively for about eight years.  When I started with them they didn’t have all the products they have today, but I bought a pile of Alpha-series 10×7 spiral-bound landscape books and I filled them.  As they came out with other options I tried those too, though Alpha and Beta series are my favorites.  I’ve filled a bunch of their newer softcover books as well.  When they released their 3×5 books I started using those, replacing the cheap small books I’d used for quick-sketching people.

But there was a time that I used the small Moleskine (landscape) watercolor books.  I loved their covers but always felt that the larger landscape books became unwieldy when balanced on my knee.  So I joined the throngs of people asking begging Moleskine to produce portrait versions of these sketchbooks.  In spite of repeated letter-writing campaigns, they never did and since S&B was serving my needs I didn’t much care.

But Moleskine finally answered the call, with both A5 and A4 versions in portrait format.  I didn’t buy one… at first, but eventually I started feeling guilty that I’d whined so loudly ‘back then’ and yet hadn’t bought one now that they were producing them.  And so I did buy one.

The sketch above was the first sketch in my new A5 Moleskine book.  I feel like I’m cheating on S&B by using the darn thing (grin).  S&B have been there, thick and thin, relieving me of the burden of finding the right sketchbook.

I tell myself that I haven’t stopped using S&B sketchbooks and its true.  Right now I carry two of them next to this new Moleskine.  Still I feel guilty.  I also feel bad that now I have a sketchbook to fill that has paper that’s not as good as my other sketchbooks.  Serves me right for being a cheater (grin).

Why Draw A Squash?

Why would anyone draw a single squash?  Because it was there, of course.  There need be no other reason.  And so it was as the squash sat on our kitchen island and I drew it.  This one was odd-looking in that while most Sunburst squashes are round, but flattened, this one was almost as high as it was round.

If I were Charlie O’Shields (Mr. Doodlewash) I’d have a charming story to tell you about how Philippe prepares squash or how his mother forced him to eat it when he was young.  I’m not nearly as talented.  I buy squash, I cook squash, I eat squash and now I can say I’ve sketched squash.  Anyway, I had fun sketching it.


Sitting In The Morning Sun…

“I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time” – Otis Redding

I had to meet some people in front of the Notre Dame cathedral and there’s a tiny park in front of it, which is where I was, with some time to kill.

Since becoming a sketcher I rarely ‘kill time.’  These interludes between the activities of life are sketching opportunities for me, whether it be waiting in a doctor’s office or waiting for a friend to show up.

And there I was, on a sunny morning, sitting on a bench, with a book statue looking down on me.  What’s a guy to do.  I got out my Moleskine watercolor book.  I hadn’t used it in a long time for some reason but it seemed just right for this little sketch.

Moleskine watercolor book (3x5), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Moleskine watercolor book (3×5), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

A Great Day At Trait Carre

Quebec City is a mosaic of small enclaves, one of which is Trait Carre, an area filled with big, beautiful elms and maples that surround beautiful old homes, some of which have become art galleries.  There’s a library with grass on its roof, a large dual-steeple cathedral and an ambiance of a very rural community, though it sits in the middle of the hustle and bustle of our city.

The sketchcrawl was coordinated by Daniel Chagnon and was part of the schedule of activities organized by Le Collectif (  We weren’t a large group this day but, in a way, that’s what made it fun.  I got a chance to chat a bit with Lucien and Diane, who do most of the organizing for the group.  My French is very poor and I get lost when there are a lot of people speaking French simultaneously so the low turnout this day was a bonus for me.

Daniel knows the area well and we got a tour of the area before we each headed off in our own directions to sketch.  I decided to sketch this house and did it in a small format (3×5).


Moleskine watercolor notebook (3×5), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

We met for lunch, chatted about upcoming events, fountain pens and ink and we shared the sketches we’d done thus far.  We decided to get back to sketching and I headed to a scene I wanted to sketch.  It called for a larger format and the largest book I had with me was a Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8) so I decided to do a two-page spread.  I spent nearly two hours on this one and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent and the conversation I had with a young guy who was interested in my work.  Hope you like it too.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x8), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

Spur Of The Moment Road Trip To Ottawa

One of the fundamental skills learned while pursuing a university education is how to dodge and weave through the ever-changing bureaucracy of university administration.  My daughter found herself trying to straighten out a registration problem via email. We decided that a trip to Ottawa would go a long way to cutting through the red tape so we piled into the car and headed west.

Cheap notebook, Platinum Carbon Pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Cheap notebook, Platinum Carbon Pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

First stop was administration, where we were handed a number and told to wait.  Better organized than when I spent many an hour standing in lines waiting for similar things but still, we got to sit around for an hour waiting for our number to be called.  I exercised my mustache notebook and the paper in this $2 sketchbook continues to amaze.  I even got brave and put a bit of color on this quick sketch of a couple people, equally bored, who were watching something on their cell phone.  No show through, not buckling, no nothing.


Surprisingly, once our number came up, everything was resolved in a matter of minutes and we were off to have fun in Ottawa.  We ended up at the natural history museum where this guy posed for me.  He seemed as curious about me as I was about him.

Moleskine watercolor notebook (3x5), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Moleskine watercolor notebook (3×5), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

I couldn’t pass up the chance to draw some bones and so I chose the head of this monster.  As I was drawing I had a nice conversation with a young girl who had more questions than I had answers.  She was an absolute delight, though, and interactions like this is one of the reasons I love location sketching.

We were sitting in a park just west of the US Embassy, enjoying manga bubble tea.  I decided to quickly capture this view through the trees and I spent a leisurely 15-20 minutes or so doing that.  I generally use these small notebooks for really quick sketches but I really found it fun to do a few more precise sketches in them.  I think I’ll do more of it.

Moleskine watercolor notebook, Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Moleskine watercolor notebook, Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black ink


Opportunistic Sketching In Ottawa

I was in Ottawa to pick up my daughter, who was coming home for the summer.  My wife and I decided it would be a good idea to spend a few days there and, I decided it would be a good idea to also drive to Toronto to see a Blue Jays game, though in my defense, it was my daughter’s idea.

And so it was that I found myself as a tourist, with my family, as we wandered the city, mostly just eating, drinking and relaxing.  Many have discussed the difficulties of sketching while on excursions with non-believers, err… non-sketchers and I’m no exception to this struggle.  Still, if one takes advantage of opportunities and is happy with quick-sketching, sketching can become part of the experience.  Here are a few of the small sketches I did while in Ottawa.

2015-05-01Ottawa1We were walking along the Rideau Canal, enjoying the sunshinek and using phrases like “it’s hot today” for the first time in months. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves.  My wife and I decided to give our daughter a rest (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it) so we sat down on a bench.  I got out my sketchbook (3×5) and did this quick sketch of a couple girls talking on the other side of the canal.

2015-05-01Ottawa2Once my daughter was well-rested we moved on.  We walked and walked and walked.  If you lined up all of our steps in a straight line it would be a very long straight line.  But it was fun even for an old man like myself.

We sat on the grass in front of Parliament, along with a bunch of other like-minded (tired from walking no doubt) folks and, as a group, worked on our sunburns.  After that was accomplished we went across the street to the information center.  I’ve found I can get a lot of sketching done while women are in the bathroom and so I started quick-sketching people walking across the street.  Parliament should be in the background somewhere but there’s only so much bathroom time available and I was pushing it.  Color was added later that evening.


At one point we were in a park not far from the US embassy and the art museum.  I don’t know its name and you probably don’t care anyway.  We were drinking bubble tea.  Lots of other folks were enjoying the day and I decided to quickly sketch a few of them.  Here’s one of those sketches, again done in the 3×5 sketchbook.

We went walking again when we returned from Toronto.  There are numerous places where you can look over the Ottawa River and I decided that I needed to do a small cityscape.  I typically fail at this because I try to put too much detail in too small a space, so I was determined to keep this one spartan, quick, and clean.  I hope I succeeded.  I did this one in a Moleskine watercolor book; the brown came from a waterbrush filled with dilute Noodler’s #41 brown ink.


Last and probably least I’ll share with you a sketch I did of my new favorite hyper-sweet drink.  It’s called bubble tea and is composed of tea, a bit of milk and sugar, a choice of flavoring, and a bunch of huge tapioca balls, called “babba” that are soaked in something that makes them black.  They give you a big diameter straw so you can suck these things up along with the drink.  Great opportunity to play with your food.



Hibernation’s Hidden Costs

It’s currently -13F outside.  This, they say, is a ‘warming trend’ and in reality it is warmer than it was just a few days ago.  But from the perspective of a street sketcher, it matters little whether it’s -13 or -30 outside, I stay inside.

Mid-winter depression is a real phenomenon in places like Quebec, where I live, but for me, it’s more like cabin fever.  I spend too much time looking out the windows, wishing for a place to sketch.  In previous years our Museum of Civilisation has been that place and the displays there have kept me busy throughout our long winters.

But this year, half of the museum is closed due to a fire that occurred just as winter was starting and what’s left are displays of early animation where you can watch endless series of cartoons and the Olympus exhibit which is filled with lots and lots and lots of plaster statues of Zeus, Aphrodite and their kin.
Sketching them was fun at the outset but I truly am a street sketcher that likes drawing buildings.  Yet another plaster head is just not cutting it anymore and so my sketching is floundering somewhat these days.  I doodle a lot but it’s just not the same.  So, I decided to draw a window.  It was just one lowly window, drawn in a 3×5 sketchbook, but it sure felt good (grin).


Moleskine watercolor notebook, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black ink