A Montreal Sketching Adventure

Spring has finally come to Quebec and the timing couldn’t have been better for a scheduled trip to Montreal to see my daughter and to attend the USk Montreal’s monthly sketchcrawl.  We’ve had a sudden shift from 0C (or worse) to 15C and when I arrived by bus in Montreal there was nothing but pleasantness in the air.

After morning coffee with my daughter, she headed off to study (exam week at McGill) and I headed to the Redpath Museum, the site of the sketchcrawl.

Oh, a few posts back (see here) I lamented about what a bad documentarian I was when it came to recording sketching events.  I’m afraid I haven’t improved much but I did take a couple photos this time.

I arrived quite early and was one of the first through the door.  That was a good thing because the museum is three stories tall and my bad leg mad for a very slow climb to the main floor, which is the second floor.

I love this museum. It’s structured like an old-time natural history museum and has all the mahogany it needs to pull it off.  I was standing here (photo above) when Marc called to tell me he’d arrived and very shortly, we were catching up, had arranged lunch, and then we decided to draw, which was the raison d’etre of the event after all.  Notice that Marc isn’t properly armed with watercolors, pencils and pen. He’s drawing on an iPad.

I don’t know how many sketchers were in attendance but the museum couldn’t have held many more; they were everywhere.  This museum is very sketcher-friendly, allowing watercolors and pens to be used and they provide a bunch of chairs that can be carried to where you want to sit.  It is true, however, that a lot of the exhibits are better viewed from a standing position.

Here’s a couple practitioners of the standing mode.  It’s the approach I took as well, though my leg didn’t appreciated that decision very much.  Sigh…what’s a guy to do.

Oops…almost forgot.  Here’s a Kingfisher I drew.

Marc and I had a great lunch and, as always, I went away with my head full of ideas to ponder and plans to make.  But by then I was scheduled to meet up with my daughter so I said goodbye and headed off to meet her.  We had a great dinner at Restaurant Manana, a place that’s become a regular stop when I come to Montreal.  I grew up in Arizona and miss Mexican food, something that’s not popular in Quebec City.

The next morning my daughter had an exam and I had time to kill before Notabene, my favorite store in Montreal opened.  I also needed breakfast and so I went to Cafe Noir, a little coffee place near one of the Metro stations.  Killing an hour, alone, in a coffee shop almost requires a pen be scraped across paper and so I started making some notes about my visit.  This led to drawing street lights and the top of the building across the street.  I didn’t make it to the bottom because with bagel and coffee consumed, it was time to head off to Notabene.

Notabene was busier than I’d ever seen it.  The reason was their 20% off everything sale.  I wanted to buy one of their old typewriters but I was being a good boy that morning.  Instead I picked up several notebooks but then put all but one back.  It was another Emilio Braga notebook, a book I talked about here the last time I went to Montreal.  I also bought one of the “new” (re-released) white Lamy Joy fountain pens and was quite proud of myself for not spending too much money.  Then I headed to the bus station and back to Quebec City.

Sketchy Reflections Of 2017

When I thought about writing about my 2017 as a sketcher, all I could think of was how bad the last four months have been as health problems have kept me from doing much sketching at all.  This resulted in me filling only a paltry seven sketchbooks this year, though I did do more sketching on single sheets than every before.

But then I thought about the rest of the year and not only was it eventful, it was pretty darn special.  I got to meet a LOT of people and this is something I don’t normally have in my sketching world.

I have my ‘best buddy’ and mentor, Yvan Breton, who keeps me on track and patiently tries to teach me how to draw, and I am fortunate enough to have a small group of people that I get to sketch with regularly, but I’m not a traveler, so I don’t attend the growing number of sketcher events around the world.

But this year some of that world came to me and serendipity allowed me to become more involved with the Montreal sketchers.  In February I spent the day at the Red Path Museum in Montreal with Marc Taro Holmes.  I love sketching with Marc because not only is he one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, you always learn stuff when you hang out with Marc.  I got to spend the day with him later in the year where he talked me into trying to paint statues directly rather than drawing them first.  If I can get my failing hands to cooperate, this is going to open a lot of possibilities for me.

Koosje Koene, of Sketchbook Skool fame, came to Montreal for a visit and couldn’t miss the opportunity to meet her as I love her “Draw Tip Tuesday” series.  I confess that I rarely do the things she shows but she has a way of making me smile with her imagination and presentation of these short videos.  Sadly the day she was in Montreal, it was raining so sketching was limited.  Instead, we went to a restaurant and spent the time talking about art, sketching, and I got to know her a bit better as well as some of the Montreal sketchers.  It was a good day in spite of the rain, maybe because of it.

It’s been hard for me to participate in Montreal urban sketchers events because it’s a long five hour round trip between Quebec City and there.  It’s possible to get up really early, drive to Montreal, sketch for a few hours, and then drive back but it doesn’t make for a comfortable day.  So, I was thrilled when my daughter finished up her degree at the University of Ottawa and decided that she was going to go to law school at McGill University, in Montreal.  I would have a floor to sleep on when I decided to attend Montreal sketching events.  She moved there in August, the same weekend that Liz Steel and Anne-Laure Jacquart came to visit so I got to spend several days sketching in Montreal that weekend.

I spent the first day with Marc, the highlight being the statue drawing I mentioned above.  The next day I spent the day with Marc, Liz, and Anne-Laure in a whirlwind sketchcrawl through the city.  It was the best sketching day of my life in spite of the fact that I was always woefully out-classed, frantic to keep up, and my results less than stellar.  What an experience.  I’m a slow sketcher by nature so juxtaposed next to these three, I was really slow.  Their ability to sketch complex street scenes in almost no time has to be seen to be believed.  I was in awe.  Lucky for me, they are also very nice people, who didn’t laugh at me.

The next day a bunch of the urban sketchers came out to sketch with Liz and Anne-Laure.  The day started with rain but eventually we got some sketching time.  To be honest, I was pretty worn out by then as the moving of my daughter and previous day’s sketching had taken a lot out of me.  It was also the first day that my leg started limiting my movements.  Definitely a day to remember.  2017 was a good year for me because of the people.

I also got to attend a couple USK Montreal events in 2017.  I was hoping for more but by September I was having a hard enough time getting around my house so going out sketching was out of the question.  I’m hopeful that too many doctors and I are getting some of this under control, at least enough that I’ll be able to hobble my way to a sketching location and, on good days, my hand will cooperate enough to let me draw.  Getting old is awful, but it still beats the alternative.  Onward to 2018.

 

 

Last Sketch In Montreal

Following three days of sketching in Montreal, we had to move our daughter from Ottawa to her new place in Montreal.  We burned up Sunday moving her stuff and filling Ikea’s coffers with our money.

That went smoothly so by Monday morning the only thing left were a bunch of boxes that needed to be emptied.  It had determined that I was not smart enough to help with that process because I wouldn’t put things in the right place and so I was told to “go sketching and bring back lunch.”

Those were orders I could march to so I headed out the door.  I found this amazing piece of architecture only a few minutes away and there was a shady area on the opposite street corner.  I set up to do a leisurely sketch.

When I finished the sketch I packed up and headed to Notobene, my new favorite store, because Anne-Laure had bought a rainbow pencil there and I wanted one too.  I bought two and then drew a couple people while leaning against the wall outside.  Then it was time for forage for lunch.  It was a fitting ending to this amazing sketching trip.  With my daughter living in Montreal I’ll have ample reasons to return so I’ll be sketching in Montreal regularly from now on.

Montreal Day 3: Meet Liz and Anne-Laure Day

Sunday was meet and greet day, where people could come, meet and sketch with Liz Steel and Anne-Laure Jacquart.  Marc was, once again, the organizer of said event and I really don’t know where he gets his stamina.  All three of these folks had just returned from several days in Chicago for the USK Symposium and so they’d been doing sketching events non-stop for more than a week.

I figured that since I’d gotten to spend an entire day with them, today would be a day where I’d just hang back and get some sketching done.  As I’m an early riser, by 7:30 I was walking towards the City Hall meeting place (at 10AM).  I figured I’d play tourist and get some early sketching done before other people showed up.  This was a simple enough plan but one that went horribly wrong.

The problem came in the form of rain and by the time I arrived at City Hall it was pouring rain and I was soaked to the bone.  I had a raincoat but it didn’t seem to help much.  I ducked into a place called Eggspectation to get some breakfast but mostly to dry out.  I was successful with the first part but I was too wet to expect to leave dry.

That didn’t really matter because when I left it was still pouring rain and so, the idiot that I am, I walked around for nearly two hours looking at stuff I’d like to sketch if not for the rain falling from my hat. My hands permanently wrinkled from the water.  Oh, and did I mention that I’d approached this entire weekend with a sprained ankle.  My FitBit said that I’d walked over 50km on it this weekend.  You’ll see how that becomes important as this saga continues.  Let me just say here that the walking, combined with soaking wet feet, weighed heavy on this old man by the time things got rolling on this day.

But roll along it did and people started showing up between 10-10:30 and the rain started to give us a break as well.  We huddled on the patio of a restaurant that hadn’t opened yet while introductions were made.  Marc laid out the game plan for the day and we soldiered out in the hopes that the rain had finally abated.  For the two or three of you that don’t know these artists, I provide these snapshots.  If you look closely you might be able to see the aura that surrounds each of them wherever they go (grin).

Anne-Laure Jacquart (gray sweater)

Marc Taro Holmes

Liz Steel

Our hopes were not realized as shortly after we started sketching, it started drizzling.  I’m not one for sketching in the rain but we really had no choice, and so I learned something.  Raincoats aren’t useful for sketching in the rain.  While many of the women tucked themselves AND their sketchbooks under umbrellas, even my small sketchbook was a target for the raindrops.  Marc was worse off than I was.  We were both doing quick sketches in small 3×5 notebooks but he had neither umbrella or raincoat.  He was just tough.

Anyways, here are the few little sketches I did during this session.  You can see evidence of the rain hitting the paper, causing the ink to bloom.   I spent a lot of time sitting, while lamenting the growing pain in my ankle, the beginnings of a limp and my growing sense of oldness as my body was letting me down.

Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was time for lunch and I was sure ready for it, or rather I was ready for a dry place to sit.  The normal sketcher talk took place over lunch and I learned something else.  I’d come to this sketchcrawl with the thought of traveling light so each day I had three pieces of Coroplast with watercolor paper taped to both sides of it.  For the drawing portion of the day this is wonderful, maybe even ideal.  For the “show me yours” part of the day… not so much.  I had none of the sheets I’d done the day before, nothing I’d done in the past, and so, I had nothing to pass around while others were doing that with their sketchbooks.  I felt bad about this; I were getting to see all their great sketches without me “paying back” the favor.

It’s something to think about for the future.  I love the set up Anne-Laure uses.  She explains it in this YouTube video.  I’m going to try it.  I’ve seen it done on a smaller scale but I like to work on a bigger sheet than A5 or A6 sizes so this might be what I need.

When we came out of the restaurant it had stopped raining and so we spread out around Place Jacques Cartier and started sketching.  By this point my ankle was barking loud enough that I’m sure others heard it too, but I sat down and tried to draw City Hall.  I made a lot of errors in this sketch but if you know nothing of what Montreal City Hall looks like, it might be ok (grin).

At this point I started evaluating my situation.  I was limping quite a bit  and I started thinking about the fact that I was supposed to help my daughter move from Ottawa to Montreal the next day.  My body had won over my desires and I made my apologies and left, limping my way back to the apartment.  I felt sad and somewhat guilty to bail out on such a wonderful adventure but, to quote my daughter, “It is what it is.”  Maybe that should be “It was what it was” to keep the verb tenses consistent (grin).

But wow…what I learned this weekend will require a lot of thought and even more action.  I’ve been doing dozens of quick gestures in a style as close to Marc’s as I can.  These are actually going well and lots of fun.  Lots of problems with proportions though, because I’m working too fast to carefully analyze what I’m drawing.

I’m also mixing lots of blotches of watercolor, trying to figure out how to get the proper thickness for drawing lines with watercolor, figuring out the effects of multiple layers of wash, etc.  And I’ve been reviewing sections of Liz’s courses and trying to achieve a better understanding of how to apply what she explains in them.  Oh…and I’ve been trying to emulate the amazing beautiful people that Anne-Laure does.  So much inspiration, so little time.

Montreal Day 2: Just A Five Minute Sketch

WARNING:  This is a long post, punctuated with sketches and photos but mostly Larry’s drone about one of the best sketching days of his life.  Strong coffee is advised.

Friday morning I was up early.  I was supposed to meet Marc, Liz and Anne-Laure at 10AM.  I was at our meeting place by 8AM.  I thought it would give me a chance to do some sketching before they got there.  It was raining by the time I got there so I ducked into a coffee shop.  I sketched a few people but mostly I just stayed dry and drank coffee.

When it finally stopped raining I found a place to sit and started sketching the library across the street from the metro station where I was to meet them.  It was pretty exciting to meet Liz and Anne-Laure.  Both are really fun, talented people.  If anything was going to intimidate this sketcher it would be trying to keep up with these three, but I had a head start because I’d already started my sketch.

All the value of the head start earned me was the ability to watch these folks in action.  But to do so I had to be careful not to blink or I’d miss a lot.  In addition to being good, they are FAST!!  I had time to flip through one of Liz’s sketchbooks while she replicated the sketch I’d done, only hers was better.  Anne-Laure worked direct with paint and did an amazing sketch of the same building, while Marc created a Frankenbuilding by adding the steeple from another building to the building we’d all drawn.   I’m hoping you won’t notice that you won’t notice that I didn’t take photos of their drawings so I wouldn’t have to post them for comparison with mine.  It’s better that way (grin)

And then we were off on an adventure, an adventure that the slowest sketcher on the planet was ill-equipped for but I had a blast trying to scribble fast enough to keep up.  It reminded me of the “extreme sketching” that Marc got me doing last winter where we’d go out in very cold weather and do a sketch in five minutes before moving on for the next one.  The only thing missing was the cold.

We turned the corner on Mont Royal St. and there was a row of stores and Liz said, “Let’s draw those.”  She plunked down on the sidewalk and went to work.  Understand, I could draw those stores – yes I could.  But it would take me an hour or more, that I knew I wouldn’t have this time.  Instead I pulled out a tiny Stillman & Birn sketchbook and started scribbling away as fast as I could.  Ten minutes later Liz had a beautiful, full-color drawing.  I had this:

Anne-Laure was smart and only drew one of the stores.  I’m not sure what Marc did.  Maybe he yawned and thus ran out of time.  Don’t know.  I do know that I was pumped and we resumed our walk.

Marc took us down a street to show us a corner balcony and I heard it for the first time, “Let’s just do a five minute sketch.”  And that’s what we did, though it might have run a few minutes longer than that.  I lose all control over proportions when working this fast and so it went while trying to capture this two-story balcony.   Of course, everyone faired much better than I did.  Humbled be me.  Marc had limited himself to a loose pencil gesture… of the entire building, the one next to it, the mountain and trees behind it, and some of the cars on the street.  How does he do that so quickly?

Marc had a plan and we were on a tour of some of his favorite sketching locations.  But he also needed to take us to Patisserie Notre-Dame Du Rosaire, the best darn Natas dispensary in Montreal.  Why?  Because Liz wanted to draw Natas in preparation for the 2018 USK Symposium in Porto, Portugal, that’s why.  There might have been something in there about actually eating Natas too.  I’m not sure.

Anyways, we arrived, bought half a dozen Natas and sat down to sketch.  Anne-Laure and Liz went after their Natas with paint.  Marc and I had a more gustatorial approach.  Natas are yummy.

Following the snack, we walked down to a cathedral (there’s one of these on every street corner in Quebec), initially to use the facilities but then the words rang out, “Let’s just do a five minute sketch.”  So, we did.  I figured that in five minutes I could probably draw one of the light bulbs so that’s where I started.  By the time I’d finished the entire light fixture the others were really getting into it.  Marc appeared to be drawing the entire cathedral, Liz was finishing up her first sketch and was heading to a different seat to start another.  So I started doodling, drawing part of the large alter area, then the seat in front of me with a semi-approximation of Liz who used to be sitting there.  When I finished Marc had this amazing drawing that seemed to go on forever.  Anne Laure had done the entire front portion of the church and Liz had done at least two sketches, if not more.  Me, I had my doodles.

I commented that I thought they said we were doing a five-minute sketch and that’s when Liz explained it to me.  “Let’s just do a five minute sketch,”  is a way of getting everyone started.  How much time is actually spent is negotiable.  It’s amazing how much art jargon you can pick up when you hang out with experienced artists.

We continued walking but concluded that it was time for lunch so Marc took us to this great place.  Here’s a photo of the pros taking a break, sort of.

With lunch over, we headed to Carré St. Louis which is a long rectangular park with a big fountain in it and it’s surrounded with more gingerbread architecture, some of it painted by Disney.  I could spent a week drawing there and want to come back for more.  Liz said, “No wonder Marc’s always drawing the tops of the building.”

But then the thunder started and even dedicated sketchers can’t stand in a downpour to draw so we looked around for a place to be dry and still sketch.  We chose Hippi Poutine, a poutine-serving place with a covered patio.  We’d just eaten but we ordered coffee and Marc bought a small poutine so the “foreigners” could try it. Poutine is french fries smothered in gravy with cheese curds on top.  It’s recommended by cardiac surgeons everywhere.

When the rain came, it really came.  The streets cleared of people but we had a view of a multi-faceted building and we all went to work.

Liz and I were getting spray coming in under the awning and Marc had water dripping down his back as it poured down the walls.  Undaunted, they worked away.  Then it got windy and Liz and I got a face full of water.  I believe her sketch got splattered as well but that doesn’t seem to bother her.  Mine did too but I was starting to get really wet and so closed my book, set it on the table to my right and concentrated on drinking my latte.  When the wind let up I picked up my book to continue only to find that it had become completely soaked by rain coming down the wall.  The only saving grace was that the book was almost filled so the last few pages, which are now stuck together, were the only real loss.  I won’t be showing you to scribblings I had done of this place.

The rain finally stopped, though, and we continued our trek through the Montreal neighborhoods and ended up on Sherbrooke street in front of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. It was only fitting that we draw it and, lucky us, there was a covered place to sit on the opposite side of the street in case it rained.  It’s a huge building so I just concentrated on the center portion of it.

From there we stopped at Notabene, my new favorite store.  It sells old typewriters, every notebook in existence and pencils, pens and inks.  We all ended up buying stuff before we started searching for a place to have dinner and maybe sketch from outdoor seating.  That evening we found ourselves in an art store because Liz needed gel pens and where Anne-Laure bought a bunch of Fabriano Artistico sheets.  Somehow I managed to leave without buying anything.  Might be a first for me.

This day was one of the best sketching days I’ve had in my life.  It was an honor to be able to sketch with Marc, Liz and Anne-Laure and I thank them for their fun and generous nature.