Drawing Chapel Arches

The Croquistes de Québec held their April sketchcrawl at the chapel associated with the Musée de l’Amérique du Francophone.  It’s really hard finding indoor places to sketch in the winter and so I’ve been to this chapel enough this winter to say that I’m ‘all full up.’  Nevertheless, I always enjoy sketching with others.

Turnout wasn’t great, probably because others are as tired as I am of sketching indoors, but there were five of us in attendance and we had fun, though this sketchcrawl wasn’t as long in duration as our summer sessions will be.

I decided to draw some arches.  I always have trouble drawing when I have to look upward.  I wonder whether it’s because of the view itself or the fact that my sketcher head-bob up and down from subject to paper, is so extreme.  Either way, it slows the sketching process and always results in some wonkiness working its way into my drawing.  Next month we’re going to sketch the alleyways of Limoilu – outdoors.  Spring had better be here by then.

Stllman & BIrn Beta (9x12), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stllman & BIrn Beta (9×12), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Sketching A Native American Exhibit

A pair of snowshoes provided some symmetry practice.

A pair of snowshoes provided some symmetry practice.



I went to our Thursday museum sketching session in spite of being more than a little bored with sketching at the museum.   The walk was cold and snowy and when I arrived I wasn’t much in the mood to sketch but I found myself in the Native American exhibit, which is part of the permanent collection at the museum.

This large cup was made from seal skin and sewn with reindeer sinew.

This large cup was made from seal skin and sewn with reindeer sinew.

I approached the morning with my little, red Field Notes book instead of my normal sketchbook.  I spent a lot of time wandering but when I stopped I did these small sketches.  It wasn’t the most productive morning but, as always, it was fun chatting with friends.

This is a small stone carving of an Inuit fisherman who is laying on the ice, looking into his fishing hole.

This is a small stone carving of an Inuit fisherman who is laying on the ice, looking into his fishing hole.

Birds, Birds, Birds: Sketching While Waiting For Spring

The Croquistes de Québec held their April sketchcrawl yesterday.  There were seven of us in attendance.  We got to sketch in Les Collections at Laval University.  I love sketching there and because it’s not open to the public, it’s a special treat.  Big thanks to Yvan Breton who organized it and to Mme. Wagner who permitted us access.

This is a place that is piled to the gills with great stuff to draw, which is great.  If there’s a downside it’s that it’s piled to the gills with great stuff to draw.  Way too little space holds what used to be displayed at a full natural history museum and a huge collection of plaster casts that used to be used by the art department when they cared about artists learning to draw.   Les Collections is a storage facility, not a display museum.

Stillman & Birn Beta, Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Beta, Platinum 3776

I decided to draw some birds because 1) I’m really bad at it and 2) because I’m really bad at it.  To do this required that I sit in a very narrow space in front of a cabinet full of taxidermy specimens.  Lighting was rather poor so seeing feather tracts and other details was nearly impossible but it was fun to draw them nevertheless.  I’ll show you two of my sketches.  I started a third but didn’t get a chance to finish it.

Stillman & Birn Beta, Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Beta, Platinum 3776

Sketching At A Plant Nursery

I had a great time on Thursday.  Normally we meet at the museum to sketch but Claudette knows someone at one of the major plant nurseries and she arranged for us to sketch in their large greenhouses.

We arrived at 10AM and spent the next two hours sketching, chatting, and generally having a great time.   As I entered the room I noticed a large concrete tortoise sitting on a shelf.  He was gorgeous and I lamented to Yvan that I wished he were on a lower shelf as if I sat on my stool, he would have towered overhead.  But luck was with me as they actually had several of them, one of which was sitting on a large flat table at my eye height as I sat on my stool.  So I drew him.  Isn’t he cute?  I should have drawn some ground for him to walk on.  I think he would have appreciated that.

Stillman & Birn Beta (9x12), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Beta (9×12), Platinum 3776

When I finished, my back needed a rest so I wandered around, checking what everyone else was drawing.  I’m nothing if not nosy.  Francine is just back from a couple months visiting the sun in Mexico so it was fun to catch up with her.   She’d sketched a stone fish that I liked very much so I decided to draw it too.  I decided to do it in my red Field Notes book, a small book that’s providing me way too much fun.  I suppose ‘serious’ artists don’t draw stuff like this but I had a lot of fun doing it.

Field Notes (Sweet Tooth Red); Platinum 3776, Uniball UM 153 white pen)

Field Notes (Sweet Tooth Red); Platinum 3776, Uniball UM 153 white pen)

When I finished I realized that it was almost 11:30 so I checked with everyone again to find out how much longer they would be sketching.  We typically break for lunch no later than 12:00 and it sounded like today would be no exception.  So, I started wandering, looking for something else to draw.

I was in a nursery so flowers and plants were everywhere but I just wasn’t motivated to draw any of them.  Not sure why but I was more in the mood to keep drawing garden decorations.  I spent time looking at garden gnomes, nearly decided to draw a different turtle but then I saw these fat green frogs.  I couldn’t resist.  It was akin to drawing a ball with eyes.  Hope you like him.


Field Notes Sweet Tooth: A Sketchbook?


I confess that I’ve been a subscriber to Field Notes, a series of small (3×5) collectible notebooks, for the past year.  These are handy notepads but mostly they come with paper that’s too light for sketching, at least with fountain pens, and they generally come with pesky lines or grids on their pages.

A while back, though, they did one of their quarterly releases that included 70# white paper.  It did have a light grid but it could  be easily ignored and proved to be a useful sketchbook at least for those of us who like the convenience of having a small, light sketchbook with us at all times.  And Field Notes have done it again… sort of.

This time they’re released a set of three colorful notebooks (Easter colors??) with a couple significant twists on their typical approach.  This time, the 70# paper is BLANK… just like we like it.  And it’s RED, BLUE and YELLOW… which we like…err…uhm… I’ll let you be the judge.

2016-03-22lampWhen I received mine I was very unhappy.  Who the heck needs paper with these ridiculous colors.  I threw them on the debris field and this my desk and didn’t even open them.

Then Tina Koyama “experimented.”  She’s much smarter than I am and saw the potential.  You can see her results here, and here.  The results were undeniable; I had to try them.

Like Tina, I started with the red one.  I took it with me when I went to meet some people to attend a small art exhibition.  I stood outside and in spite of the cold decided that I should try to draw a lamp on red paper. This was not a great idea because my hands quickly became frozen and I was struggling to get the white Uniball pen to write in the cold.  Nevertheless, I had started my adventure down the small red road.

2016-03-23FNtestThat night I sat at my desk with a photo of a street lamp on my laptop.  I only spent a few minutes on it but the red paper made it a lot of fun.

The next night I was watching TV with my wife and as I’m prone to do, I got a bit bored not doing at least one other thing while watching the glass teat.  So, after checking my Instagram feed, becoming frustrated with vitriole on Twitter, and checking in to see what the Blue Jays are doing in spring training, I got my red Field Notes, my Platinum 3776 and I grabbed the glass container that holds my watercolor water on my desk.  Watching TV became more fun as I drew that container.



I’m a guy who loves drawing lines more than anything else.  I’m drawn to watercolors mostly cuz everyone else is, proving that I’m as much of a lemming as anyone else.  But the red paper releases me from the thought of adding color so I can just enjoy drawing with my fountain pens.  It won’t be the only sketching I do as I’m not sure how well it fits into my urban sketching passion, but for sitting around the house drawing, it’s pretty sweet… or is that sweet tooth?

I did give the approach a try while I was at the museum and drew this interesting flask.  It’s a flask which was traditionally filled with perfume.  Egyptians gave these to each other as part of a New Years celebration.  This was fun and may show me the way to incorporate the toned paper into a location session as this only too me a few minutes between my normal sketching.

2016-03-23NewYearsFlask2016-03-24hydrantI was more doubtful about the other two colors but, again, Tina led the way.  This morning I decided I should try the blue book so I could post a result in this blog post.  I decided a fire hydrant might be nice and as I’d just filled a Pilot Metropolitan with Nooder’s Red-Black I started drawing.  Not good…really bad, in fact.  Noodlers Red-Black is supposed to be “water-resistant.”  It is not… not even a little bit.  I touched the drawing with a small brush with the idea of pulling a bit of shading from the lines and those lines just exploded.  Thank goodness I was drawing a red thing because I was in chase my tail mode trying to clean up the mess.  I wasn’t very successful and smarter people would probably not post this sketch.  Here it is.  Not the fault of the Field Notes but it’s a great example why I don’t use Noodler’s “water-resistant” inks.

And so I had to try again so I could provide something…anything in the blue book that looked ok.  I did this quick architecture/landscape sketch from my limited imagination.  Hope you like it.



Museum Sketching Fatigue

As the internet brings me sketches of cherry blossoms, crocuses popping out of the ground, and various pronouncements of spring, we’re bracing for a foot of snow tonight.  Spring will come to Quebec but I’m beginning to wonder if I’m going to live long enough to see it.

We were back at the museum again, a place I’m really tiring of this year.  In the past the exhibits have been very interesting and full of variety but the main exhibit this winter has been Egyptian Magic and, well, there are only so many times one can sketch another stone statue of a mummy or the favorite Egyptian god, Bes.  To make matters worse the exhibit is very dark.  You can’t even see many of the display items it’s so dark and after a while it becomes downright depressing.

Stillman & BIrn Delta (8x10) softcover, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & BIrn Delta (8×10) softcover, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Yvan and I sketched this guy because he was outside the exhibit and there was decent light.  It’s not a real artifact, however, as you can buy one at the museum store 🙂

Stillman & Birn Delta (8x10) softcover, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

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

After that I decided to go to the Australian aboriginal exhibit.  It’s mostly tapestries and such but I found these guys fun.  Meet Mimih, who is something of a jokester god.  They’re tall (8-feet or so), thin and they hide in the cracks between the rocks in Arnhem land.  It took forever to put all those dots on him with a Uniball white pen but at least there was light in the room.

The snow is starting.  Maybe I should trade in my sketchbook for a snowboard (grin).

They Say It’s Spring

They say that this is the first day of spring.  It must be true but from where I stand, it doesn’t seem like it.  It’s currently -15C outside.  It looks like mother nature is going to tease us with a warm up this week, though, and we may actually get above freezing so there is hope.

During our Thursday sketchers gathering at the museum last week, I got in the mood to challenge my abilities to draw stuff and I chose subjects that weren’t all that photogenic but that I thought might be difficult for my brain to get my hand to move in the right direction.

Stillman & BIrn Delta (8x10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & BIrn Delta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

I started with this headrest.  I saw it as a challenge because it was both handmade from wood and also centuries old.  Thus, in addition to having odd, curved surfaces, it was also somewhat asymmetric and the top was a bit askew.  It was a fun subject.

There’s a new exhibit all about nanotechnology and they’re got a series of microscopes, showing their development history.  I chose this early, somewhat simple microscope as an ellipse/alignment challenge.  It worked out ok but I really should have drawn it larger and taken more time with it.  Baby steps.

Stillman & Birn Delta (8x10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

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


The Value Of Warming Up As A Sketcher

I’ve heard many times that sketchers should warm up.  I suppose there’s a number of ways to do it.  You could draw circles, do a bunch of hatching, maybe draw some thumbnails, or do a few quicksketches.  I’ll be honest, I don’t do it.  Too lazy I guess.

As part of my March “biding my time til spring” regime, I went to one of the malls with the idea of drawing people.  These were quick sketches, of course, as people in malls are on the move.  They might stop for a minute but that’s a “long pose” in mall time.  What I noticed was that as I quick sketched people, my sketches got better (subjective assessment).  Maybe it was the McDonalds coffee but I have to think that it may have been due to becoming warmed up.  I’ll let you decide:

Page one:

2016-03-16MallPeople1This page definitely suffers from proportion problems, lots of errant lines, etc.  I don’t judge them too harshly as each figure took no more than 20-30 seconds, but…

Page 2:

2016-03-16MallPeople3These seem a bit better but that guy in the middle really looks weird.  He was very tall so maybe I just got carried away.

Page 3:

2016-03-16MallPeople2This is the third page I did and, in my opinion, they’re not bad at all.  Maybe I was warmed up.  Maybe I was just lucky.  I still find that drawing people so quickly is really tough.  There’s no time for assessing much of anything.  I just keep the pen moving.  What do you think?  Do you warm up?


Chapel Sketching Again

2016-03-13Chapel1Winter persists and so does this sketcher.  I met Yvan at the chapel associated with the Musée d’Amerique Francophone.  It’s warm and there are lots of woodcarvings and fixtures to challenge a sketcher.

I drew this large light fixture and found it quite fun.   As it turned out, there was to be a concert that afternoon and people were starting to arrive.  Yvan and I decided to sit in the back of the room and sketch people as they arrived.   That was fun and added to the enjoyment of the day.

2016-03-13Chapel5 2016-03-13Chapel6

















I then got the wild idea to sketch a set of statues that were part of the immense alter at the front of the room.  It was too far away to really see so I thought I might have some success by drawing the dark shadows and that maybe this would give me some guidance.  This was the result.  I might have learned something today.  In any case, I was one day closer to spring.









Universite Laval Collections Sketchcrawl

2016-03-11_Collections_UL_Me_Hubert.jjpgThe Université Laval Collections reopened recently, having been moved and renovated.  This is an extraordinary place that houses the remnants of the natural history museum that used to be in Quebec City as well as an impressive plaster cast collection that the art department abandoned long ago in favor of paint rollers.

We held our March sketchcrawl there, thanks to Madame Wagner, the curator, and Yvan Breton who arranged access for us.  Imagine having a large room, complete with tables, chairs and some spot lights and the ability to place one of the museum objects on that table to draw it.  It was fantastic!

Me, I sat in the hallway.  I wasn’t being anti-social, though.  I wanted to draw that mountain goat that sits in one of the collection display windows.  Hubert joined me, however, and we had a great time sketching together.


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