The Unwanted? Weed

Weed: A plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.

I’ve always thought that the word “weed” was a symbol of what’s wrong with human logic.  Mostly it says, “If I don’t want it there it must be labelled as undesirable and purged.”  This is our approach to nature, politics, social media, and a host of other things and the notion never yields good results.  The same is true when we spray the heck of out our lawns with poisons just to eliminate dandelions which are more beneficial and beautiful than the grass we’re supposedly protecting.  I bring this up because a “weed” showed up in our backyard.

Chantal has a big patch of day lilies growing next to the steps to our deck.  At this time of year, the flowers are gone but the long strings of foliage are still nice to look at… except for our weed.

Yes, it has encroached upon the garden, invaded our space.  It sits proudly, head up and says “What’cha gonna do about it?”  Well, we’ve adopted it and it’s one of our favorite features in the backyard, if only for its audacity.  I had to draw it – our single Rudbeckia.   Where it came from we do not know.  But it’s here and its our weed and we love her.

Moleskine watercolor book (A5 portrait), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009

Backyard Plants – They’re Always There

The thing about backyard plants is that they’re always there.  Chantal plants them, tends, them and I always say “I’m going to draw them.”  I never do because they’re always there.  But about this time a year, when the days are getting shorter and cooler, I realize that very soon, they won’t be there.  This happens every year but I’m a very slow learner.

And so I make the point of drawing some flowers.  I can’t possibly draw them all because, like a student waiting until the night of the exam to study, I don’t have enough time because I’ve ignored the task all summer.

The silly thing is that I thoroughly enjoy sitting in the yard with all my concentration directed at a bunch of leaves and flowers I know little about.  Chantal tells me these are anemone flowers.  I know nothing about cultivated plants except they’re fun to draw as long as you don’t have the attitude that they’re “always there.”

Moleskine watercolor book (A5 portrait), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009, Daniel Smith watercolors

A Day At The Garden

I attended another event organized by Denise Bujold’s Artistes dans les parcs.  This one was held at a large garden on the other side of the city from where I live and I’ve drawn there a lot.  On this day it was supposed to be sunny and hot.  The sun never showed up and it didn’t get very hot.  We lacked shadows, but the temps were just right for sketching.

I’m not sure I fit into this group very well, though everyone is very nice.  But the members set up easels, tables, and paints.  I sit down on a tripod stool with my sketchbook.  A bigger problem, for me, is that my French is not good at all so carrying on a conversation is mostly out of the question.  Nevertheless, it’s nice to be out with a bunch of people doing art.

I chose to draw a really tiny waterfall that connects two small ponds near the entrance to the garden.  I started by covering the paper with some blotches of color to match the subject and then wandered around the garden while that dried.  I really like the idea of doing paint first but I’m not sure I’ve got the patience to deal with the drying time.  Eventually it did dry and I started drawing with DeAtramentis Document ink.  More watercolor was added to finish the drawing.  It’s a fun way to work, except for the drying time, so I’ll probably do it again.

Careful What You Wish For…

 

…you just might get it.

It’s all my fault.  For weeks I’ve been wishing that the snow would melt in Quebec.  Until a week ago, we Quebec City was still having below freezing temperatures so, I guess, my wish was more a dream than a real wish.

And then it came…the rain..the temps that got downright near reasonable and our record levels of snow started melting – QUICKLY.  Too quickly it seems because now we’ve got people in western Quebec being evacuated from their houses due to flooding.  The military has been called in to supply manpower.  I’m not proud of my selfish wish and I never wished it would all melt at once, but in a matter of days the 10-foot high snow banks that have surrounded my house have all but disappeared.  Today it’s 12C outside and the bright yellow ball has returned to our sky.

My task this weekend was to draw something “nature,” a task handed out by the Sketch With Me Facebook group.  I guess dirty snow banks are nature but the truth is, in the middle of a city just coming out of winter, there’s not a lot of nature to be found.  So I got the bright idea of drawing a small stick from a maple tree.  The maples are waiting for spring too.

So, I crunched up the snow hill in my backyard (major improvement over the mountain that used to be there) and clipped a branch.  Being a street sketcher, I’ve never done this sort of thing before and I was ill-prepared.  I found two problems.  First is that I was drawing too small, which caused the second problem, my tools were too big.  The smallest brush I own is a #6 and even my fine fountain pens were a struggle because my ‘stick’ was being drawn too small.  Nevertheless, it was fun and I’m going to do more of this, just as soon as I get a smaller brush.  With spring on my doorstep, I should have lots of subject matter available.

A Little Piece Of Nature

My wife has been way too nice to me as I’ve hobbled through life for the past few weeks.  I feel guilty about the burden I’ve placed upon her, but I’m grateful that she’s been there for me.  She’s very special.

A couple days ago she came home with a wad of nature in her hand.  She put it on the table and said, “I thought you might like to draw this.”  She is a sly one.  She knows I’ve been fighting motivation and energy levels but she also knows that when she gives me something I feel a compulsion to draw it.  She also knew that it would only remain draw-worthy for a couple days.

And so, I drew it.  I decided to skip pen hatching, one of my favorite things, and rely upon watercolor for shading and once again I demonstrated how little understanding of watercolor.  I should stick with pen (grin).

In The Museum – Out Of The Rain

This crazy spring is causing us to be drawing in museums even into May and we found ourselves, once again, sketching at the hunting and fishing museum in St. Augustine, Quebec.  I should consider myself lucky because many in Quebec are dealing with their houses being flooded from all the rain we’re receiving.  I’m just disappointed that I can’t sketch outdoors, which pales by comparison.

I spent some time with a wolf on this day.  I have to admit that I’m really getting a bad case of cabin fever and less and less in the mood to draw in museums but what’cha gonna do?  Unfortunately, I think this is beginning to show in the results.  Here’s the first drawing I did.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I decided to compliment this drawing with one of a wolf skull.  If you extend the back of the skull in the drawing just a bit, you’ll see a pretty decent rendition of a wolf skull.  Fun thing about this is that while I was drawing I kept thinking I was drawing everything too long, when in fact, I’d drawn the back of the skull too short.  Better luck next time.

Ottawa’s Museum Of Nature

When my daughter was home for Easter I offered to take her back to Ottawa so she wouldn’t have to take the bus.  This would save her the long bus ride, garner dad some brownie points, and give me several hours worth of discussion with said daughter as we drove to Ottawa.

A not-so-well-hidden reason behind this gesture on my part was my desire to get back to Ottawa so I could sketch at the Museum of Nature.   It never really makes much sense to spend ten hours driving (round trip) so that I could spend four hours sketching, but then we sketchers are a sorry lot when it comes to logic.  I got to DRAW!

We left at 5AM and I got to the museum by about 10:30AM.  I walked around a bit, and ended up in the mammal exhibition.  I generally draw bones in the dinosaur exhibits and so I’ve neglected the mammals.  Time to make up for that.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10)

I started with a grizzly bear.  It was a disaster and I include it here only as an example of sketching gone wrong.  I got the bright idea to try wet-in-wet while sitting on a tripod stool in a museum and with my extensive background of never having tried it before.  Eeeeeekkkk!  I wet the entire bear.  I can’t say whether I wet it too much or too little as I had a hard time seeing just how much water was on the paper in the subdued lighting.  What I do know is that when I started dropping in browns, I created something more akin to the big bang than a painting.  There was brown exploding everywhere and in an instant I had a bear-shaped outline that looked like something that came from the south end of a cow.  I quickly started dabbing at it.  I’m sure the other patrons thought I was under attack by some invisible creature as I flailed around.  As I said, it was/is a disaster.

With that mess behind me I decided it was snack time so I could regroup.  Then I returned to the mammal exhibit, determined to redeem myself.  I targeted the head of a thinned-horn sheep and, leaving wet-in-wet techniques for another day, achieved what I felt was reasonable redemption.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Across the corridor was an antelope scene and since I only had a short time remaining, I decided to give it a try rather than doing my typical walkabout to find a subject.  I worked fairly quickly and, I suppose, there are some errors but nevertheless, it was a fitting end to a great day.  When I was finished I realized that I was about 10 minutes late for my rendevous with my daughter.   Sketching and time just don’t mix well.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Can’t Get Enough Of Sketching Animals

Three of us headed back to the Federation of Hunters and Fishermen museum on Thursday.  We really love this place because the people are really nice, the facilities are great and because there’s soooooooo much to draw.  Once the snow melts it’s going to be a great outdoor site as well as they have hiking trails through a nature preserve that’s maintained by the organization.

I decided to draw a Merganser sitting on a post and, I’m afraid, I got more excited about the post than the duck.  Here’s the result in any case.  Hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

We took a break, ate lunch, and then decided to do another, quicker sketch and my target was an otter.  I was trying to do more saturated watercolors this day and I’m not sure I succeeded but I did learn some things.  Practice, practice, practice.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Another Trip To The Hunting And Fishing Museum

Oh my goodness.  It’s been ten days since I’ve posted.  I’m running as fast as I can but it just isn’t fast enough.  I’ve done some more extreme sketching, went to a gathering at the Morrin Center in Quebec City, my daughter came home for “reading week” and we just got back from Montreal where I got to spend the day with Marc Taro Holmes.  I’ll try to get blog posts written on all these things in the next couple days, but today I want to show you a couple more sketches that I did when several of us went back to the Quebec hunting and fishing museum.

I was struck by this duck because I had never seen one before and I didn’t know what it was.  There was no label on it.   I drew it because of its atypical orientation but it wasn’t until I got home and talked with Mr. Google that I found out that this is a a Eurasian duck called the Ruddy Shelduck and that it’s very common in India.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

With so many beautiful animal subjects at the museum it’s easy to ignore the multitude of antique and modern fishing and hunting equipment on display.  But on this day I was struck by a long row of antique fishing bobbers, or floats if you prefer that term.  While they did have an example of modern, red/white plastic bobbers, most of them were very old, wooden bobbers.  Rather than drawing them in a row, I created this composition and liked the result.  Hope you do too.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10)

Sketching Animals – The Sequel

We had so much fun at the la Fédération québécoise ​des chasseurs et pêcheurs during our first visit that we decided to get back as soon as we could, which was last Tuesday.  There were five of us this time and we had a great time together.  I do hope we can return ‘real soon.’

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10) softcover, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

I decided to draw one of the deer and I struggled to get the antlers right.  And I didn’t.  I find some days I just ‘see’ better than other days.  Not sure why.

When I finished that I wandered around a bit.  There’s so much to see and study there.  Eventually, though, I settled down in front of a couple Canada Geese.  By the time I got them drawn it was time for lunch and we all got together, shared our projects, and chatted up a storm.  Then I added color to my geese.   I’m sure we’ll go back again, and probably real soon.  Next stop, though, is the Croquistes de Quebec sketchcrawl.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black