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.’

Sketching The Good And The Ugly

I’d arranged to meet sketching buddy Claudette downtown and so it wasn’t completely nuts when I started walking in that direction in spite of the fact that I was walking in a cloud.  It wasn’t raining but a mist was collecting on my glasses and clothes.  Walking fast beat the cold away, though.

When I met Claudette we sort of looked at each other and both of us were disappointed with the morning.  We decided to walk through the old port area looking for something to draw but I think neither of us had our hearts in it.  It was pretty miserable, depressing weather and we ended up ready to cancel completely.

Claudette spotted a cast lion that was part of the entrance to a building and as we looked at it we both decided it would be worthy of a sketch.  What I saw was how we humans have lost site of esthetics in favor of convenience and modernity, or whatever word you want to use.   Someone had destroyed much of the beauty of the lion casting by installing a large electrical plug below it and wrapping a wire up around it.  A real artist would probably have drawn the lion, leaving the plug out and ‘improving’ their drawing.  I’m more about documenting city life and thought this debauched piece of art could be the subject itself.

I did make the mistake of doing it in too small a format for a shaded pen drawing like this and both the lion and plug suffered from a lack of space for proper shading.  Nevertheless, here’s the 3×4 sketch, done in a Moleskine watercolor book.  I used my Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black.

2013-09-11RueStPierre

The Variety That Comes From Sketching

If I did a statistical analysis of the my sketching subjects, it would be clear that I’m a building portrait kind of guy.  I just love ’em and enjoy going out, finding them, and sketching them.  In fact, being out in the city, sitting on a stool as people walk by, is a major part of what I enjoy about it.  I’ve never been much for sketching from photos and this is probably why.

This little guy was hanging out over a path I was walking on in the park.  He was actually moving quite quickly, for him, but I had time to do this quick sketch.

This little guy was hanging out over a path I was walking on in the park. He was actually moving quite quickly, for him, but I had time to do this quick sketch.

I guess it’s true for most people, regardless of how or what kind of art they do; we all have a preferred subject type, whether it is flowers, landscapes, boats, or still lifes.  But sketching provides something that other forms do not – the ability to sketch something quickly.  This translates into sketchers drawing a much wider variety of things than an artist who must set up an easel and has a mindset of hanging the result on a wall.

2013-08-30Basketball

I was out for a long walk and sat down in a park. Something suggested that I sketch this basketball hoop that was sitting idle. Definitely a ‘no big deal’ sketch. Took less than ten minutes but it was ten minutes of fun.

We sketchers are happy with these quick sketches, often of subjects that no other group would ever do.  We proudly show off our sketch of a garbage can, a fire hydrant or maybe even a dead fish.  Why our brains work that way I do not know but I do know that our ability to do this without devoting a lot of time to it is the reason we do it so regularly.

They're repaving a street near my house and I thought this small roller was unique.

They’re repaving a street near my house and I thought this small roller was unique.

This occurred to me as I was looking at the last few sketches I did in my little Moleskine watercolor book (3×5).  Excepting the roller, which took me twenty minutes or so, these sketches were done very quickly, with no particular goal in mind other than to be sketching.  All were fun.

I went birding on a 'too windy' day and ended up huddled behind a tree.  Did this sketch of a fungus.

I went birding on a ‘too windy’ day and ended up huddled behind a tree. Did this sketch of a fungus.

Sketching at Chute Montmorency

CMontmorencyChute Montmorency is a large waterfall just east of Quebec City.  It’s a major tourist attraction, a mini-Niagara Falls I suppose.  It has all the tourist amenities.  Large facility at the base of the falls greets tourists and there’s a large parking lot to accommodate a constant parade of vehicles.

There’s also a tram and a smiling attendant with their hand out.  You can pay the price or you can climb a veritable labyrinth of stairs up to the top of the falls.  We did neither.

Locals, wanting to get to the top take a metro bus that drops them near the top and next to a hotel that sits at the tram terminus.  There’s a wonderful boardwalk that tourists walk along to the falls and it provides spectacular views of the falls as well as the St. Lawrence River.  We took the bus.

I met my sketching buddy, Claudette, on the bus and we walked the short trail down to the west end of a large pedestrian bridge that runs right across the top of the falls.  The views are pretty spectacular from there.  So, what do a couple of urban sketchers do?  We set up at the end of the bridge and drew the bridge.  We’ll draw the trees, beautiful canyon, and the falls themselves some other day.  I guess it truly is a mindset as both of us did this without much thought.

I decided to work in a small format as I’ve been doing a series of smaller sketches.  I got out my little Moleskine watercolor sketchbook and started drawing.  Claudette did likewise with her 5×8 Strathmore 467-series sketchbook.  These are beautiful, brown-covered watercolor sketchbooks, though they are in landscape mode which is not idea in my view.

2013-08-24ClaudetteSketchingCIt seemed that we both finished our linework about the same time as I noticed that she was getting out her watercolors as I reached for mine.  She had hers. I did not.  I’d left my watercolor kit sitting on my desk.

While disappointing, it allowed me to stand up and move around, giving my old knees a stretch.  Then I sat down and did a quick, small sketch of Claudette working on her sketch.  Obviously, I added color to my sketches when I got home.

2013-08-24ChuteMontmorencyBridgeCClaudette composed an interesting view of the bridge, sort of zooming in on just the entrance area.  I decided to capture more of the entirety of the scene.  I like hers better.  I always do.

ClaudetteBridge

We wandered up Avenue Royale which is a very old street lined with older, though often completely renovated houses.  These are majestic houses with lots of what my dad used to call ‘gingerbread’ trim, large front doors and porch areas.

We only found a few dozen things we wanted to sketch but it was time for lunch.  Feeling recharged by good food and conversation, we returned to the falls area and I sketched this little snack kiosk, again in my 3×5 watercolor book.  Then, we hopped on the bus and came home.  Paraphrasing the Terminator…”we’ll be back.”

2013-08-24ChuteMontmorencyKioskC

Small Sketch Series Continued

I’m continuing to fill my small Moleskine watercolor book with sketches.  Doing a bit of experimenting, having a lot of fun.  I do enjoy this format, though I wish the Moleskine was in portrait format.  As you’ll see, most of the sketches I’ve done are in portrait format.  Personally, I’m still waiting for Stillman & Birn to do a 3×5, small sketchbook with their great papers, preferably their Beta or Zeta papers.

Until then, here’s a few more small sketches.

2013-07-28MoulinOven

This young woman was stoking the fire of an outdoor oven associated with a historic Jesuit mill in the Quebec area. Most of the time she was chopping wood but I did this quick sketch of her tending the fire.

2013-07-28TraitCarreLibrary

Part of the Charlesbourg library roof is grass covered and you can walk up there. From there you can see another wing of the building which sports this tower. I sat, on a very windy day trying to keep my sketchbook from blowing away as I made this sketch.

2013-07-28TraitCarreLamp

A somewhat different lamp that I found in Charlesbourg. Just a quick ink sketch that took only a few minutes.

2013-07-30QuickBuildings

Part of the Quebec skyline. This was an experiment in quick-sketching using J.Herbin 1670 ink, followed up with a waterbrush to spread the ink a bit. In spite of my typical penchant for straight lines and detail, I liked this one a lot.

2013-07-30FerryPassengers

For some reason, ferry passengers seem in constant motion during the 10 minute trip from one side of the St. Lawrence to the other. These two actually stood still for a couple minutes as I sketched them.

2013-07-31LevisHouseC

The people who get to sit on this terrace are lucky indeed as the house is high on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence.

2013-08-05Chimney

I’m a big fan of the complex chimneys on many of the downtown buildings. I couldn’t resist trying to capture the detail of this one.

2013-08-08BouyC

This is one of three navigational bouys that sit in the Canadian Coast Guard park associated with their Quebec City installation.

2013-08-16EntreeBoisDuCoulonge

This is one of a brace of entry markers at the entrance to one of the local parks.

 

More Small Sketches… More Fun

I’m continuing to have fun with small 3×5 (or smaller) sketches.  Thought I’d share a few more with you.

2013-07-18MaryDooleyCThis is a small, adorable building that is the home to a dress designer.  It looks like something from a fairy tale and seemed like a great small sketch subject.  As with my previous small sketches, this one (and the others here) were done in a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.  This particular one was done with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.

2013-07-21KamouraskaCWe took a day trip down (up?) the southern coast of the St. Lawrence River to Kamouraska.  I’d hoped to sketch some of the great buildings there but instead I did this sketch of my daughter looking out at the ocean (the Atlantic is out there somewhere if you look far enough).  I like this one a lot, probably because of the subject matter.

2013-07-23shipCI was walking across the bridges that crosses the St. Charles River just as it flows into the St. Lawrence and decided, without much thought, to sketch this scene.  I think the scene would have been better served by a larger format but the little sketchbook came out and the pen started jittering around the paper.  I’m not a fan of sketching while standing and this is further evidence that I’m not very good at it.  But they can’t all be great.  It was still fun, which is why I do this.

2013-07-23guyCLastly, and certainly least, I was taking a break on Terrace Dufferin, a large boardwalk associated with the Chateau Frontenac.  Across from me was this guy, looking out at the St. Lawrence.  I took out my cheap sketchbook thinking I’d just do a one-minute sketch of him and, big mistake, I started the sketch in portrait format, thinking I was only going to draw him and couple boards to represent the bench.  Then I sort of got carried away making squiggles to represent the railing and before I knew it I was having to draw him smaller than I planned, the bench became more integral to the sketch, and in the end I had a tiny, 2×2 vignette of a guy on a bench.  It’s sort of scratch and way too small but again, quite fun and I thought I would share it as an example of improper planning… or maybe just the right amount 🙂  This one was done with a Uniball Signo UM151 (brown-black) pen.  I really like these pens and I’m now armed with several of them.

Do You Sketch Small?

I’ve always carried a small sketchbook with me for doing quick-sketches of things.  But more and more I’ve been sketching in 5×8 or 10×7 sketchbooks. Working larger is fun and lets me ‘stretch’ my gaze a bit more.  The result is that my small sketchbook became a cheap dollar store sketchbook that wouldn’t tolerate watercolors while my larger sketchbooks are all Stillman & Birn, first-class sketchbooks. The ‘gap’ between small and large had become greater in my sketching.

So I tried one of Stillman & Birn’s 4×6 sketchbooks.  In fact, I’ve nearly filled two of them.  The paper is fantastic, as always, but a 4×6, thick sketchbook is too ‘big’ to be called a ‘small’ sketchbook, at least for this street sketcher.  I need something I can stuff in a pocket.

And so I bought a Moleskine watercolor book.  I don’t much like its landscape layout but it’s tolerable in this small size.  The larger one is almost painful to manage if you try to balance it on your knee while sitting on a stool, which is my typical approach.  I do wish they’d produce a portrait format sketchbook with their watercolor paper.  Heck, what I really wish is that Stillman & Birn would produce a thin (30pages?) 3×5 sketchbook with their Epsilon paper.  Then I’d be a very happy sketcher.

This is a Celtic Cross in Artillery Park. 3x5 and done with a Pilot Prera.

This is a Celtic Cross in Artillery Park. Done with a Pilot Prera.

Anyways, I’ve started doing small pen & ink watercolors again and I’m really enjoying it.  I thought I’d share some with you.  All of these were done in the tiny Moleskine.  I’ll mention the pen used in captions.

2013-07-14factory

Factory building along the Riviere St. Charles. Sakura Micron 01.

Lamp on Plains of Abraham. Uniball Signo UM-151 "brown-black" .28

Lamp on Plains of Abraham. Uniball Signo UM-151 “brown-black” .28

 

Cast metal fountain on Plains of Abraham.  Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black.

Cast metal fountain on Plains of Abraham. Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black.

Large light inside the Kent Gate. Pilot Prera.

Large light inside the Kent Gate. Pilot Prera.

Cartier-Brebeuf Park. Pilot Prera

Cartier-Brebeuf Park. Pilot Prera

2013-07-18hydrantC

Pilot Prera w/Platinum Carbon Black