Sketching At Chez Temporel

I first came to Quebec City to do a post-doctoral fellowship.  That was to last two years and it did, and I left as I took a research position in Ontario.  More significant, though, was that during that period I met my wife.

I knew nothing of Quebec and even less French than I know now.  You can’t do much with a vocabulary that consists of bonjour, champagne and pamplemousse.  Why I knew the word for grapefruit is still a mystery to me.  If you’ve ever been in a city where you don’t speak the language, you know that sticking to tourist areas and shopping where prices are clearly marked is a survival skill.  I ate at McDonalds a lot because I could order by number.  And so life was for me.  Many parts of the city were off limits to me.

When I started dating my wife, she took me places I’d never been.  One of those places was Chez Temporel, a small cafe off the main streets.  Its facade would not be out of place in Paris and, at the time, the inside could easily have been a place where writers and artists went to talk and philosophize.  In fact, according to history, Chez Temporel hosted poetry readings and folk music on its second floor.

I discovered bol du cafe au lait (bowl of coffee with milk).  I’d never heard of drinking coffee from a bowl and, typically, I put nothing in my coffee.  But I LIKED this stuff, particularly the large volume of it that came in the bowl.  My remembrance of that first bol might be sweetened by the memories of a budding love affair but that’s another story, for another time.

Today I’m reporting on a more recent trip to Chez Temporel, this time with sketching buddy Claudette.  We arrived at 9:30 which, on a Monday, is a great time to go there to sketch there if you want to sketch the restaurant itself.  Not so much if you want to sketch people as this is their lull period.  We had a great time.  Claudette did sketch the few people who were eating.  I sketched this:

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4x6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

On The Dark Side

I was at the Musée de la Civilisation with Yvan on Sunday.  We were sketching.  We had decided, at the last minute, to meet there and we had a great time.  I suppose it’s somewhat redundant to say we were sketching and we having a good time as one thing means the other to me.  Nevertheless, we were sketching and having fun.

I decided to do something very different, at least for me, but first a bit of back story.  Albert Laliberté was a Québec sculptor who, like many Quebec artists at the time, headed to France to lead the Bohemian life and bask in the glow of the great French masters, and consume large quantities of wine.   While he was there, Albert attended the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts where he developed his skills.  One of the things I love about his work is that he sculpting people working with their hands, so he has created bronzes of blacksmiths, cobblers, and even painters.

What has this to do with Sunday sketching at the Musée de la Civilisation?  Well, as it happens, the Paris on Stage exhibit has a room devoted to Québec artists who went to Paris and then returned to have significant art careers, like good old Albert Laliberté and several of his bronzes are on display in that room.

From the “I’d like to draw that” point of view, however, the museum’s multiple light sources and always from above, make it difficult to sketch the details of the pieces as they are often in very dark shadow.   I thought this might be an opportunity to try something different, for me, and so I launched myself into high contrast mode, concentrating on the shadows as the major source for shape and relegating outline to a more minor role than most of my sketches.

As a first attempt, I was fairly satisfied with the result.  I still have much to learn about drawing and I’m REALLY a rookie when it comes to this approach.  But, here is Laliberté’s Paysagist (landscape artist).  Apologies to Monsieur Laliberté.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black, Tombow brush pens

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black, Tombow brush pens

Street Sketching in Paris – Sort Of

This is a hard time of year for me.  Not only do I not like winter, as a street sketcher my daily routine is snatched from my by the cold.  My Arizona fingers just won’t hold onto a pen when it’s cold.  I know, I’m a sissy, but I’ll point out that the birds leave because they can.

But all is not lost.  Last year I lived in the museums, sketching Samurai helmets, Nigerian masks, statues, and paintings.  This year I have decided that I will spend more time in coffee shops, drawing people, tables, and countertops AND heading to the museums.  One of the big exhibits at our Musee de la Civilisation, this year, is Paris on Stage, that reflects Paris as it was at the beginning of the 19th Century, with emphasis on the world expositions that took place there in 1889 and 1900.

And this is where I was, with a couple of friends, for a pleasant Saturday morning of sketching.  We’ve done it for two weeks, now and I think it will become a regular thing for us as we’re having lots of fun, sketching, followed up by a pleasant cup of tea and the ever-present discussions of art materials.

Three women from LHermitte painting

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), Pilot Prera, watercolor pencils

There’s a huge mural called Les Halles by Léon Lhermitte.  It hangs at the entrance of the multi-room exhibit.  It’s an amazing work that captures the outdoor marketplace in Paris at that time.  One could sketch portions of it forever and not become bored.

My skills, thought, are too limited to do it justice but here is my attempt at three of the women in the painting.  Lots of fun to do and, for me, very difficult.  I’ll be sketching more of this mural as I hibernate in the museum this winter as it was lots of fun.

I find watercolor pencils and a waterbrush to be a great way of coloring sketches while in the museum.  I use Albrect-Durer pencils as I love the way the lines completely dissolve, unlike other pencils I’ve tried.  I do use watercolors in the museum sometimes, though.  This museum is very accommodating to sketcher-persons (grin).

Le Lapin Agile in Paris

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), Platinum Carbon pen, watercolors

This week I had decided I would fill two pages with ‘cabaret’ sketches.  There is a significant portion of the exhibit devoted to the ‘hot’ cabaret scene in 19th Century Paris, with posters, paintings, signs and photographs of the places (eg – Moulin Rouge, Chat Noir) as well as early videos of dancers, patrons, and even the prostitutes who were part of that scene.  I began with this sketch of a painting featuring Le Lapin Agile, a cabaret owned by a prostitute who rose in the ranks of the community.  I  loved the winter scene particularly the many trees, devoid of leaves as they hunkered down, much like I’m doing right now, against the cold.  This sketch is about 6×6.

Cabaret page, sketched at Musee de la Civilisation

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), TWSBI mini, watercolors

My eye caught a large brass sign hanging high above me.  It was the original sign that hung to announce Le Chat Noir, possibly second only to the Moulin Rouge for notoriety in Paris.  I quickly sketched it and then followed it up with a loose rendition of a portion of a Moulin Rouge poster that was, itself a pencil sketch of the place.   Then it was time for tea so we packed up and headed to Cafe 47, the museum coffee shop.  It was a great day.

 

 

First Museum Sketching Session Of 2013

Winter is descending upon us quickly.  It actually snowed yesterday, though it’s still not cold enough to stick around.  That will happen soon enough.  There’s still the occasional day when I can brave the temperatures and sketch outdoors, as long as I don’t do it for very long.

So I’m in the middle of summer-to-winter sketching transition.  I’m warming up my watercolor pencils for visits to museums but, for the moment, the watercolors are close at hand for when its possible to use them.  I’m getting out my heavy coats, hats and gloves, for the walks to those museums and I’ve buffed up my winter boots.

It’s all sort of depressing when I think about it.  I try hard not to but the short day lengths are a constant reminder of what the next five months will bring.  We’re down to ten-hours of daylight and by the time we get to mid-December, we’ll be in the dark for all but eight hours of every day.  I guess it could be worse; I could live in Finland.  Those guys have really short days.

And that reminds me, I had to get new batteries for my museum light.  A light is a requirement for sketching in our museums as while the subjects are lit, the rooms have subdued lighting.  I use a Mighty Bright book light that clips to my sketchbook and it works great.

2013-10-26GillesCharron_72The light and the rest of my materials showed up at the Musee de la Civilisation last Saturday.  I was with them.  I was there to meet three other sketchers and to sketch in the warmth and comfort of a great museum.

When I arrived they were checking in.  Gilles wasn’t yet a member of the museum (a real bargain for a sketcher in a cold place – I went there over 50 times last winter) and he was filling out the form to become one.  I sat down and quickly sketched him.  We all chuckled over the result and headed to the exhibits.

The new big exhibit is Paris, 1889-1914.  At that time, Paris was a hotbed of technical achievement in addition to its famous art and cabaret communities.  Paris hosted the worlds fair in 1889 and in 1900, a time when things like telegraph and electricity generation and uses were still novelties.  This exhibit reflects this, with a mixture of art (eg – Rodin sculptures and a lot of paintings of Paris), lots of material from stage, screen and cinema, early bicycles, steam-powered cars, and a lot of different electrical gizmos and gadgets.  In short, there’s lots of stuff to sketch.

I’d met two of the sketchers at our recent sketchcrawl and as this was the first time to be sketching in a smaller group with them, we (well, I mean I) spent a lot more time talking than I did sketching.  We had a lot of fun talking about materials, what winter sketching in Quebec is like, and just a bunch of general chit-chat.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), Pilot Prera F, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), Pilot Prera F, Platinum Carbon Black ink

My plan was to sketch three things on two pages and knit them together into a ‘journal’ page as this is an area I want to experiment with more.  Sadly, I only managed to get two sketches finished so the page isn’t quite what I had planned, but here it is in any case.  Hope you like it.  I hope the four of us can get back to the museum real soon.

Rain and Wind – Will It Ever Stop?

Yvan and I were supposed to go sketching but it was very windy and rain was threatening.  Since the new Paris exhibit had opened at our Musee de la Civilisation, we headed there instead.  They have some great vehicles there that I want to sketch but geez they’re complicated.

This one is a 3-wheeled steam-powered vehicle produced by Dion-Bouton in 1885.  It just oozes ‘cool’ in my opinion, but I’m sort of biased towards anything that’s steam-powered.  Clearly a vehicle that would be comfortable putting around in a steampunk novel.

2013-06-26Tricycle

This was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook using a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray ink.  It provided a great hour and a half of fun.  Hope you like it.

Cheers — Larry

Paris In Quebec City…Sort of.

The Musee de la Civilisation launched its new Paris 1889-1920s exhibit by holding a special grand opening on a Tuesday evening.  As I’m a member I got an invitation and Yvan and I decided to go.  We saw it more as a reconnoitering session than anything else so our plan was to quickly run through the exhibit, noting what would be good to sketch.  This exhibit will be one of our principle sketching subjects this winter.

We decided, though, that we should go early enough that we could sketch in the old port for a couple hours before the event and that’s what we did.  We sat in Place Royale, a tourist hot-spot and boy, were there tourists.  Because of our lousy weather it didn’t seem like summer to us until we looked at the sea of people.  So, we looked up and I sketched this roof line over the heads of the tourists.  Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7), Pilot Prera and Lex Gray ink.

2013-06-18PlaceRoyaleC

When we finished up we still had some time and we wandered into a place adjacent to Place Royale that has a cannon battery pointing out at the St. Lawrence, to protect Place Royale from the tourist and ferry boats.  This is the gate into the place but from the inside, looking out.  I felt a bit rushed so it got a bit wonky but I like the sketch nevertheless.   Same sketchbook and pen/ink combo for this one.

2013-06-18GateC

A Bit of Urban Sketching

Just as spring had sprung and it was starting to be warm enough to sketch outdoors, yours truly decided it was time to get sick.  I spent more than a week feeling pretty bad, made all the worse by coming home one day to find water dripping from our first-floor ceiling.  I still have a hole in the ceiling to fix but the pipes are holding water again.

2013-04-27BeauportHouseBWBefore getting sick, though, I did get out with my buddy Yvan and we rode our bikes on an adventure into Beauport, a suburb of Quebec City.  We sketched this house, which I liked very much.  I used my Pilot Prera for this one.  Same Noodler’s Lexington Gray I normally use.

I did stop in the old city one day as I was returning from French school and I made this sketch in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (5.5×8.5) sketchbook, using a TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray.

2013-05-07PSsteeple

And so, as the weekend approached, and my energy had come back, I was chomping at the bit to go sketching.  Mother Nature had other ideas and it rained all day Saturday.  Yvan and I went sketching anyway.  We headed to the Musee de la Civilisation and while it’s between major exhibitions, it was at least warm and dry and we figured we could find something to sketch there.

2013-05-11CaberetLeChatWhat we found was a small exhibit of architectural models of classic structures that were part of old Paris.  I chose to sketch Cabaret Le Chat, one of the popular hot spots on the north side of Paris.  The model was about 15″ high and fairly well-done, though the building to the right of it lacked any detail, which is how I drew it.  Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook and TWSBI Mini fountain pen.  I had switched up the ink and was using Platinum Carbon Black.

When we finished there it was still raining and we decided that we should board the ferry that goes between Quebec City and Levis, across the St. Lawrence River.  The ferry has a nice, cozy passenger area with big windows and we figured we could sketch from there.  We hadn’t included the heavy mist/fog in our calculations as you could hardly see the other side of the river, only a few hundred yards away.

2013-05-11LevisStoreSo, we just rode across, got off, and decided to sketch out the windows of the ferry building, catching the next boat (30 minutes) for our return.  I still have problems sketching while holding a sketchbook in one hand, pen in the other.  I generally perch my sketchbook on my knee or on a table if one is available.  I also have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time so maybe it’s just too much for my brain to hold one item (sketchbook) still while moving another (pen) around.  This sketch suffers from a case of the wobbles and the fact that I was working quicker than my normal glacial pace.  I did this it in a small Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) with the same TWSBI Mini and Platinum Carbon Black.  Color comes from some quick swipes with Faber-Castell watercolor pencils.

I went sketching.  It was a wet day, but a good day.