A Summer’s Day At Berthier, Quebec

It’s been three days since I went out sketching with the gang.  It didn’t make it to 60F that day so, of course, as we headed out for a road trip to Berthier, Quebec the prediction was for temps in the mid-80s with a humidex pushed to over 90F.  Mr. Jetstream is oscillating like crazy these days.

This trip was timed perfectly as we would be sketching next to the St. Lawrence River, where there’s always a breeze to cool things down.  Claudette, Fernande, Yvan and I headed over the bridge with Fernande at the helm.  Once on the south shore we turned east along the river on our way to pick up Louise in St. Vallier, half an hour away.

Monologue 9x12, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Monologue 9×12, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Berthier is just down the road from St. Vallier and I’d never been there before.  I’ll be going back ‘real soon’, though.  It’s a sketcher paradise.  There is a small marina with lots of sailboats to sketch.  There is a quay with benches so you can sit and sketch either passing boats or the other side of the St. Lawrence, which features Mount Tremblant.  There is a large park area with lots of picnic-partaking folks to draw.  There are rocks along the coastline and farm buildings if you look in the other direction.  And if that ain’t enough, there’s a place to get coffee and restrooms to cycle it.

The five of us headed for the marina to sketch boats.  I wanted to capture the height of the masts and  chose a scene and vertical format to emphasize their extraordinary height.  I probably worked too fast but that’s always the case when I’m with a group.

Moleskine watercolor 3x5, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Moleskine watercolor 3×5, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Monologue 9x12, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Monologue 9×12, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Once finished there we sketched a bit more, up in the park area and then set up at a table overlooking the marina for lunch.  We’d collaborated and brought cheeses, baguettes, grapes, and wine for lunch.  Claudette made some fantastic roasted peppers that were great along side cucumber slices.  We were living high.  I ate too much.

To be honest, by the time lunch was over I needed a siesta.  I sketched some but decided that a coffee might perk me up.  I think it did and I sketched some more but the sun and food had slowed me to a crawl.

Monologue A6 sketchbook, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Monologue A6 sketchbook, Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Evidence of that is here.  I’d sat down on a bench looking out at the river.  It was thoroughly enjoyable but there wasn’t much to sketch except for a large ‘other side of the St. Lawrence’ sort of sketch and I didn’t have the energy for that.  But, in front of me, on the storm wall was a light, part of a series of them along the wall.  Behind, and well below them were rocks and the river.  So, I drew one light, drinking coffee and breathing in the fresh air.  I was thoroughly content with the day and this sketch was the final drip from my pen.

 

Sketching Quebec’s Aquarium

I was supposed to meet sketching buddy Fernande at the Nouvelle-France festival but she wrote to say that it was supposed to rain and that maybe it would be better to go to the aquarium.  I said ok, that I’d meet her there but that I bet it wouldn’t rain.

It rained.  I was wrong – again.  At least I’m consistent.  When I arrived it was raining and Fernande had not yet arrived.  I went to the main aquarium building sat in the corner of the foyer and sketched an outdoor scene through the window.  One of the really great things about our aquarium is that there is a lot to sketch outdoors when weather permits and an equal amount of stuff to sketch indoors if it rains, even if you don’t think it will.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x8), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Once Fernande arrived we started wandering indoors, looking for sketching opportunities.  Unfortunately, we chose the same day to visit as a convoy of school buses full of kids.  The place was packed, prohibiting us from being able to sketch without being trampled.  After a while we decided that eating lunch was the solution.  And so we did.

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

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

In this case the virtue of patience was rewarded.  The school buses packed up, the crowds thinned out, and we found something to sketch.

By this time, though, I was getting tired so I chose a small subject – a seahorse.

We’re heading back Monday for another session.

 

Quick-Sketching In Malbaie

It was a nice day and my family decided to drive  to Baie St. Paul and Malbaie for the day.  It’s very pretty country and besides, they have good ice cream and there are lots of art galleries in Baie St. Paul.

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

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

It’s convenient, if you’re going to both towns, to drive right past Baie St. Paul and on to Malbaie as there’s a convenient ‘loop’ road that brings us back to Baie St. Paul.  It also happens to go by a nice, long, sandy, sunny, and popular beach called Plage Irené.  

Family jaunts aren’t conducive to me doing a lot of sketching as watching me sketch is about as exciting as staring down a rock.  I did manage a couple very quick sketches, one of the beach and another of what appeared to be a gatehouse into Domaine Forget.  I don’t know what this place was used for originally but these days it hosts dinner theatre.  I thought the gatehouse was cool, which is the singular criterion for a sketching subject…right after having a place to sit in the shade to sketch.

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

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

Plants Are Everywhere

2014-07-16TreeI’m a building sketcher.  I also love to sketch garbage cans, fire hydrants and lamp posts.  I’ve rarely drawn plants that weren’t part of a building sketch.  After our sketchcrawl at the botanical gardens I started to rethink that and suddenly I’m aware of the obvious.  There are plants everywhere.  Who’da thunk it?

While out walking the other day I did these two sketches.  Both were done quickly in a 3×5 Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera and Lex Gray ink.  I’ll be doing more of these.  They’re fun.

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Sketching Behind The Scenes

Moleskine watercolor sketchbook (3x5), TWSBI Mini

Moleskine watercolor sketchbook (3×5), TWSBI Mini

The older parts of Quebec City are very tightly clustered.  There are no front yards and no space between the buildings.  The result is many access portals into the rear parts of the buildings.  Sometimes these are simple corridors.  Often, though they are wide enough for a car, sometimes with parking available behind the buildings and/or courtyard gardens.  I like the ones that lead to lots of clutter.

Here’s one such portal.  It was done in a 3×5 Moleskine watercolor sketchbook using Platinum Carbon Black in my TWSBI Mini.  Hope you like it.

 

Sketchcrawl Sketches And Then Some

We held our fall sketchcrawl last Saturday and I reported on it on Monday.  The post was getting so packed with graphics that I decided not to post the sketches I did during the sketchcrawl.

I did do a couple, however.  Being a fan of mundane urban accessories, I decided to draw one of a dying breed of accessory, the phone booth.  It was convenient as it was situated at the meeting place for the sketchcrawl so I could sketch and still meet people as they arrived.  I learned this trick from my buddy Yvan.  I did it in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9) using a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.  I found that I’d forgotten my watercolors so I did the color with Faber-Castell “Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils.  I like these as a substitute for watercolors because I can completely eliminate the lines made by the pencil.

2013-10-19-FarmersMarket-PhoneBooth_72In front of the Farmer’s Market was a large pile of pumpkins, stacked on hay bales.  I drew a portion of those in my Singapore special toned-brown sketchbook that was sent to me by Patrick Ng.  I’m still learning how to work with this paper but I’m really enjoying it.  I used the Pilot Prera and watercolor pencils on this one as well.

2013-10-19-FarmersMarket-Pumpkins_72I thought I’d throw in a couple other sketches I’ve done recently.  The garage sits at the end of a little park I sit in while waiting for a study group I run to convene.  I don’t think I ever posted it.  It was done in a 3×5 Moleskine watercolor book.

2013-10-09GarageWhen I was doing that sketch, they were tearing up the street in front of the park.  By the next week they were ready to re-pave it and they’d just finished laying new curbing along its length.  To do that, it seems, they had to remove the fire hydrant, which was hanging from a mechanized shovel.  I’m a fire hydrant afficionado and this was akin to a bird-watcher seeing a rare bird.  I had to sketch this and so I did, in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9) with my Pilot Prera.  This was the tenth fire hydrant sketch I’ve done and certainly the most unique.

2013-10-02HangingHydrant_72Hope you enjoy these.  I sure had fun creating them. — Larry

Fall Is Here; Just Say No To Snow!

Fall officially came to Quebec a couple weeks ago.  Many of the trees, and certainly Mr Weathermaker, didn’t get the memo.  We’ve had very warm temperatures for a last couple weeks and the trees are very confused as daylength tells them to drop their leaves but the temps are saying “not yet.”

But, slowly and as surely as politicians will screw things up, winter is approaching.  For me, a street sketcher, it’s a time of transition.  It’s a time when I start figuring out what/where I’m going to sketch once it gets too cold outside to do what I love – sketch on the streets.

To that end I’m thinking about museums, have convinced myself that I should try, again, to sketch from photos, and that I should use Google Maps “pegman” to sketch in exotic places while snow blankets my world.  We’ll see.

toned paper; Pilot Prera and Prismacolor white pencil

toned paper; Pilot Prera and Prismacolor white pencil

In the meantime I’ve been doing some sketching.  I received a handmade tan-paper sketchbook from my buddy Pat Ng in Singapore and did this sketch to sort of break it in.  The gulls love to sit on the lamp posts around here so I had plenty of source material for this sketch.

This sketch was done in celebration of the show the trees put on for us every year.  Fairly simple, I combined a Uniball UM-120 black pen (.5) with a Uniball UM-151 brown-black (.38) pen and did it in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) sketchbook.  The fence lets me call it an ‘urban sketch’ 🙂

2013-10-07Fall2013-10-07QuickHouseI spent Monday night looking at a bunch of sketches done by Liz Steel, a very talented architect/sketcher.  She talks about how she works very quickly and why.  The next day I was walking down a street and saw this little house.  I decided to try out Liz’s philosophy/approach and while I didn’t produce anything near the quality of her sketches, once I buried the ‘ooooo…that’s not right’ and ‘oops…left that out’ I found the results interesting and I’ll probably do some more like this.  Took less than 10 minutes, including the time to get out my watercolor kit and waterbrush.  It was done in my ‘el cheapo’ 3×5 notebook and my Uniball UM-120 (.5) pen.

Sketching, no matter how it’s done, is fun and after two years of doing it, I can’t imagine a day without it in my life.

 

Another Trip To Ile D’Orleans – Pt 2

I left you, in part one of this saga, with me very relaxed in a small park, having just sketched a lamp post.  It was a very nice day and only 10AM, so I got in the car and drove to the other end of St. Jean, which is a really small town so it only took a couple minutes.  I returned to the place where I’d sketched this during a previous visit to the island (Ile d’Orleans).

2013-09-18IleDOrleans1This time of year our maple trees put on a show for the tourists and we become overrun by cruise ships that come in from the Atlantic just to see this spectacle, so I decided to do another sketch of this area that featured the blazing colors of our forests.  While this sketch was done from the pier, I moved much closer for the new one, concentrating on just a couple of the homes so that the trees could dominate.  I did this new sketch in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) using a Pilot Prera filled with Platinum Carbon Black ink.

2013-09-30IleD'OrleansStJean

Click to enlarge

I’m a slow sketcher and something this size takes me a while – a while sitting on a little tripod stool on rocks, in the sun.  You get the picture.  I was pretty tired when I finished so I started driving down the southern coast of the island, looking for a nice place to eat a lunch and just relax.

Along the way I was doing what sketchers do; I was taking ‘inventory’ of potential things and places to sketch along the way.  I’ve got to spend more time on the island as there’s a lot to sketch there.  As I was driving I noticed a sign that said “Parc Maritime” and way down below the road I could see what looked like a couple boats and a parking lot.  It seemed as good a place as any to eat lunch so I turned around, found the entrance, and drove down to Parc Maritime.

A half hour tour later I had learned that the town of St. Laurent revolved around this facility in the early 20th Century and that it had been a major hub for the construction, repair, and storage of the cargo vessels that ran around the St. Lawrence, mostly moving wood products.  It had been an enormous facility employing everyone in St. Laurent and a lot of people who came from surrounding towns during the summers.  This is a great place to visit, an amazing place to sketch.  I was told that I could return to sketch anything I wanted as long as I paid the entry fee (grin).

I was pretty tired and hungry, though, so I wandered the forest, looking at remnants of the lisses, which were row after row of large railroad track-like thingies they used to slide large ships out of the water and then move them laterally along the shore for storage.  This is a really nice place, hidden from view for the most part by the fact that it’s now tree covered and well below the main road.

When I finished lunch it was getting late but I decided I had to sketch something so I chose a small chaloupe, a heavy-duty rowboat.  There is a shop on the premises where they built them and I’ve got to get back to sketch all the cool benches, tools, and a water-powered bandsaw contained within.  But today I limited myself to one of the boats.  This one was done in my small Moleskine watercolor (3×5).  Hope you like it.

2013-09-30IleD'OrleansBoat

It will soon be too cold to visit the island.  These days, on the weekends, there are just too many people as it’s apple-picking time and people who want to do this form kilometer-long lines of cars, all waiting to drive over the bridge and onto the island.  This is not for me but maybe, during the week….   We’ll see.

Another Trip To Ile D’Orleans – Pt 1

I finally got out sketching and it was a fantastic day. Unseasonably warm and not much wind so I headed back to Ile d’Orleans where I sketched and froze the last time I was on the island. This steeple is attached to a church that’s on the eastern end of the island, in the town of St. Jean.  Its bright orange roof must serve as a visible beacon for the cargo ships that come from the Atlantic and are making their way towards Quebec City.

The church is across the street from a place that sells great brioche and coffee.  Last time I was there they’d lost electricity because of high winds so there was no coffee but it’s a regular stop for me when I get out to the island.

Moleskine watercolor (3x5), Pilot G-TEC-C3 pen

Moleskine watercolor (3×5), Pilot G-TEC-C3 pen

Once I sketched the steeple, I walked across the street to get my coffee and danish and this time it was closed because, it seems, it is closed on Mondays. Disappointment didn’t last too long, though.  They have a lot of chairs in a very pleasant garden area so I took one and set it up so that I could sketch one of the unique lamp posts in St. Jean.

2013-09-30IleD'OrleansLamppost

Moleskine watercolor (3×5), Pilot G-TEC-C3 pen

Have you noticed that some sketches are more ‘relaxed’ than others as you do them? That’s certainly the case for me. In this case, I’d just finished staring hard at all the detail in the steeple and mostly just wanted to sit.  Because of the situation, I was sitting on a gorgeous ‘throne’ in the form of a sculpted, cast-iron chair, with grass beneath my feet. The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, and I was sitting in the shade.  If I’d gotten any more relaxed I would have fallen asleep.  The worst day sketching is a good day but some are better than others.

Location Sketching On Ile d’Orleans

“In 1814 we took a little trip,
along with Colonel Jackson
down the mighty Mississip.
 
We took a little bacon,
and we took a little beans,
and we fought the bloody British
in a town called New Orleans.”

These lyrics, sung long ago by Johnny Horton, tell of the final battle of the War of 1812 where Americans defeated a British invasion force.  The song was a big hit when I was a kid and every time I head to Quebec’s Ile d’Orleans that song rattles around in my brain.  Truth is, the French had their own battle against a British invasion and Wolfe, the leader of that invasion force, nearly died when his ship ran aground just off the coast of the island, and within cannon distance of the French forces.

But war is not the topic of today’s post.  Rather, it is about a trip I took recently to Ile d’Orleans to sketch.  I use ‘trip’ loosely as it takes all of fifteen minutes to get there as you can see Ile d’Orleans from Quebec City and vice versa.  Going to the mall takes longer.

Ile d’Orleans is a big island in the St. Lawrence River, just as it widens from its narrowest point, at Quebec City, on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.  There are six municipalities on the island, though I have a hard time determining where one begins and another ends.  What I know is that the island is gorgeous and I love my time there.  A lot of vegetable and fruit growing goes on, and it’s a very popular tourist location.

I’ve sketched on the island but I’ve never gone there alone, with the singular goal of sketching.  This day, I was on a mission.  The sun was out, I had sketchbooks a plenty, and I’d arranged to have our car for the day.  I arrived on the island about 8:45 and drove to the backside of the island to a pier that juts out into the St. Lawrence.  I discovered it when I was with my buddy Nicolas and we were like a couple kids, chasing the Queen Elizabeth II as she passed along the southern coast of the island on her approach to Quebec City.

2013-09-18IleDOrleans1

Moleskine watercolor (3×5), Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black

I walked out onto the pier, set up my stool and began sketching.  You know what?  Sun doesn’t help much when there’s a 20-30km/h wind blowing across a large body of water and its hyper-cooled air is cutting you in half.  I was COLD!!!  At one point I went back and sat in the car for a while to warm up but, finally I finished the sketch.  I was a bit too much in a hurry, do you blame me, and ended up with some paint blooms in the foliage because my previous wash wasn’t yet dry, but them’s the breaks.

I was really cold when I finished and so headed for a place I knew that serves wonderful brioche and good, hot coffee.  Unfortunately, the winds had blown out their electricity – no coffee.  So, I bought a brioche and sat in the car, with the heater running, to warm up.

2013-09-18IleDOrleans2

Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8), Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black

Across the street from the café is a church and a cemetery.  I keep telling myself that I should draw more in cemeteries as I love the shapes of the grave stones and their helter-skelter orientations, probably caused by the annual freezing and thawing of the ground.  I found a view I liked, went back to the car to get my stuff and I was soon sitting in the cemetery sketching.  This was a little better as there was a stone wall around the area that broke some of the wind.  I was only semi-frozen when I finished this one.

I was getting ready to leave.  Actually I was turning around in the church parking lot when my eye caught a “Privé” sign and a lamp post.  I love to have such things in my sketches and so I decided to sketch this scene.  Once again, however, I would be fully-exposed to that darn wind coming off the St. Lawrence.  I am old but even I can learn new tricks.  I positioned the car so I could sketch while sitting inside.  About halfway through I was wishing I had a hacksaw to eliminate the steering wheel but it worked out ok once I got the hang of it.

2013-09-18IleDOrleans3_sm

Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8), Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black

There’s so much to sketch on the island that I could go there every day and not get bored.   In another couple weeks the trees should be putting on their annual ‘fall colors’ light show and I’m going back ‘real soon.’