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

 

Sketching Animals That Don’t Move

What could be better for a sketcher than a place where there are hundreds of animals that don’t move.  Daniel Chagnon, an organizer for the Le Collectif des ateliers libres en arts visuels de Québec (CALAVQ) organized an event at la Fédération québécoise
​des chasseurs et pêcheurs.  This is a bit outside the domain of CALAVQ, which is primarily a portraiture group, but Daniel has been organizing more and more of these events and it’s very exciting to see.

I didn’t know that the Quebec hunters and fishermen had a museum/training center but this place is incredible for those of us scrambling to find winter sketching places.  It’s a bit of a drive but access is free, though they appreciate donations.  There is a lunch room with microwaves, vending machines, etc. AND several hundred taxidermy specimens just waiting to be drawn.  The hard part was deciding what to draw and being satisfied even though you didn’t get to draw everything.

There were a dozen of us sketching in the building and a lot of sketches were produced.  I found myself drawing too quickly and I was a bit disappointed in that.  I sometimes get ahead of my skis and it shows up in the results.  My attempt at drawing a wolf is a case in point.  I blocked it in quickly (ie too quickly and I got one foot in the wrong place.  I drew the eye incorrectly, tried to correct it, only making it worse.  Still, it looked like a wolf, sort of.  You might notice that it’s not displayed here 🙂

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

I moved onto the wildfowl area and drew this elegant bufflehead.  Here I bumped into my watercolor ineptitude and had trouble obtaining a really dark black, but I was generally happy with the result.  Robert Bateman I am not.

After lunch I decided that since I’d drawn fur and feathers that it was time to draw a fish.  I like the small vignette surrounding this one.   Striped bass used to be common to the stretch of the St. Lawrence River around Quebec but they had nearly disappeared until the fishing and hunting organization started a program to build up their populations.  They are being grown and planted along the river and fishing regulations prohibit the taking of this fish.  From what I could read, the program is making good progress towards their reintroduction.

I slowed down just a bit, partly because of my early morning lesson and partly because I was just getting tired.  I think the result was more in tune with my norm…only a few mistakes (grin).  Thanks to CALAVQ and particularly Daniel for organizing this event and introducing us to the museum.  We’re heading back here on Tuesday.

 

Leaf-tailed Geckos In Quebec

In the nanotechnology exhibit of our museum rests a glass box and inside is a stick and a small plant – a terrarium of sorts.  It’s raison d’etre is to house two of the oddest creatures – leaf-tailed geckos.

They’re only six inches long.  They have none of the flair of the whiptail lizards I used to chase when I lived in Arizona and none of the venom of the gila monsters I avoided.  No, if you walked by these guys in a forest you wouldn’t even see them and quite often that’s the situation in our museum as well.  I’d been waiting for today.

You see, the reason they’re in our nanotechnology exhibit is that they have nano-hairs on their feet.  These are hairs so fine that they can cling to glass, those hairs ‘sticking’ to glass molecules using Vanderwaal forces, the forces that hold molecules together.  And finally, today, one of these lizards was sticking to the glass out where I could see and draw him.

The view I had was a top view and I wanted to capture both its shape and the fact that when they do this they are squashed down flat to the glass.  They remind me of how Wile E. Coyote looks after the Roadrunner dropped an anvil on him.  They are really flat.  In the end it doesn’t make much of a sketch but I walked away quite satisfied that I’d accomplished the task.

The Fun Of Being Stumped

stumpMy friend, Hubert Langevin, is on vacation but he took the time to send me this photo.  He knows I don’t sketch from photos but he thought I might make an exception in the case of this big, beautiful stump.  I suspect that he might also have been smiling with the thought of me trying to draw it (grin).

It did seem to be a worthy challenge so I dove in with pointy device flying and more confidence than was reasonable.  It’s a subject where you could easily get lost so I started very slowly, placing marks at major intersections.  Speed picked up as the overall shape was established and I started drawing the internal shapes. More than once I thought of the Cathy Johnson mantra – “they’re only shapes” as I tried to ‘see’ how everything fit together.  Once it was drawn I switched to a brush pen (Kuretake #13) to lay in some of the darks.

It was a really fun drawing to do and it was nice to sit at a desk, with no wind, no tripod stool, and the ability to have good light on both photo (actually my computer monitor) and sketchbook.

Thanks, Hubert.  This was lots of fun.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5x8.5), Esterbrook J9550, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Esterbrook J9550, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black