Shari Blaukopf is a master at painting snow. I am not. Whenever I try I feel like I’m sketching a polar bear on a glacier. Everything is white. Yesterday I tried again, working from a photo I took from the window of the Maison Dorion-Coulombe, the site of our recent sketchcrawl. I always feel that my sketching from photos reflects too much my disinterest in sketching from photos but still, I should be able to do better. I thought I’d share the results with you anyways. Maybe I’ll get better at snow…some day.
In my post of yesterday I mentioned that I could “improve them by adding some shading” but that I was posting the quick sketches ‘raw.’ I’ve had a couple requests, asking me what I meant and/or what I did. Truth is, there are a lot of things one can do but in this case I kept it very simple. Here are three of them with some color added. Doesn’t change things much but it adds a bit of spice I think.
I’ve found it amazing to watch the likes of Veronica Lawlor drawing dancers. It always seemed impossible. Then my friend Yvan started attending sessions at our museum where dancers and choreographers were practicing. The drawings he was producing were spectacular. I kept saying “Maybe I’ll come along” and always I chickened out. As a slow [understatement alert] sketcher this seemed impossible and I guess I was trying to avoid the frustration.
But I finally did attend one of those sessions with Yvan and two things became clear. The first was that I was right. It IS impossible. The second thing was a big surprise. I loved it and can’t wait to do it again. My sketches are sloppy and barely look like the women I sketched. One woman was wearing a huge African head scarf and she had bells covered with scarves on her ankles.
In all, I covered 14 pages with scribbles. Some of them look almost like people and I’ve never moved my pen so quickly, never strained my visual memory so much and after two hours I was completely exhausted. I could improve them by adding some shading but the point of the exercise was to draw quickly, without the time to think about it so I thought I’d present these as they were done, in the moment…in a moment.
I did some sketches of spectators. They didn’t move so much.
The rest of these came as a blur, or so it seemed at the time. If you squint a lot you might enjoy them. An open mind and closed eyes might be the best approach (grin). I can’t wait to do it again.
Recently I wrote about Yvan and I crossing the St. Lawrence so we could sketch the Quebec City skyline. I mentioned that we were disappointed by the lack of sun that made it difficult to see the buildings clearly in the low-contrast light.
Undaunted by that experience, we watched weather forecasts and, on a day that was supposed to be sunny, we boarded the ferry and headed to the south shore of the St. Lawrence. That sounds too much like we took a trip. The ferry ride is no more than 10 minutes and half of that is waiting as they dock the ship. We scurried off the board and into the terminal, which is a nice, warm place from which to look at Quebec City.
Apparently, Mother Nature doesn’t read weather forecasts because there was no sun but we sketched anyway. As we were leaving it started to snow.
Doo doo doo lookin’ out my back door. – Credence Clearwater Revival
Looking Out My Backdoor was one of the craziest songs CCR ever created. It won gold and platinum records, made you happy when you heard it, and the lyrics made no sense whatever.
Sometimes my sketching is like that and no more so than when I went sketching with Yvan at the museum chapel where we’ve been sketching lately. Due to circumstance, mostly beyond my control, I arrived at the chapel really late. Yvan was well into his sketching and so I looked around for something to draw quickly in the remaining time.
There are windows that look out on a large courtyard, with beautiful seminary buildings encircling it. I’ve drawn their roofs and steeples in the past. But today everything was covered with featureless snow, so there wasn’t much to draw. I decided to sketch the entrance on the other side of the courtyard. Then, I drew the only other thing sticking up from the white landscape – a bicycle and trash can. See what I mean? Just like the CCR song, the sketches make little sense but they made me very happy. Hope they make you smile too.
As an urban sketcher, I guess I’m an odd one as my least favorite subject is the human. I don’t know what it is but I don’t find them that interesting. Maybe that will change some day but for now, my people sketching is done more out of desperation for something to draw when it’s too cold to sit on the streets and draw architecture.
And so it is these days so I’ve been doing some people sketching. I thought I’d share a few of those sketches, done in small notebooks. They’re done quickly and, I’m afraid, not very well but that’s what happens when you don’t practice. Maybe I’ll be better before spring shows up.
I’m an urban sketcher, or at least almost everything I draw is done ‘on location’ – drawing what I see. I’ve not be too interested in ‘expressive’ or abstract drawing. I’m not into adult coloring books. I just draw stuff and wandering my city looking for things to draw is part of my equation.
But it’s winter here in Quebec and while it’s amazingly warm for us at the beginning of February our high temps are still in the -10 range so sketching on the street, my usual location, isn’t really practical. I know that Nina Johansson uses vodka so her paints don’t freeze but I’m an old Arizona boy and I’d have to consume a lot of vodka to keep myself from freezing.
And so, this is the time of year when I start drawing people in coffee shops, restaurants and at the library. This is a time when I draw in our museums. This is the time of year when I’ll draw the occasional cast drawing in an attempt to improve my ability to see halftones and to render objects.
One thing I’ve never done in art was to make stuff up. I’ve done it as a writer but I haven’t felt that I had sufficient handle on form, light and shade, and the rest to conjour drawings from my memory. Yvan keeps telling me that I should develop that ability as it helps so much when drawing on location but, well, I haven’t done so.
Until yesterday. I was playing with creating some watercolor backgrounds for doing ink sketches on to of them and when my brain looked at the bright Quin Gold blob I’d put in the middle, I saw a ‘tall mountain island fortress’ and so I started drawing. It was a feeble effort, but an effort nonetheless, to draw something from my imagination. I had fun and will probably do this some more.
Sometimes my sketches don’t work out. Yvan and I headed to the south shore of the St. Lawrence to sit in the new ferry terminal and sketch the Quebec City skyline on the north shore of the river.
The view is great but the buildings are small from that distance. On a clear day the morning sun provides sufficient contrast to allow one to make out the building relationships but on this morning, Mr. Sun was sleeping in and the buildings sort of blended into one another. We tried to sketch and while Yvan was successful (he always is), I struggled with a couple false starts and I never did get a decent sketch done. This was the best I could muster.
The results may suggest that this wasn’t a great sketching day, but exactly the opposite was the case. Yvan and I went downstairs and got coffee at the newly opened Tim Hortons. I did a small sketch out the window but the real fun was that we got out some watercolor paper and started discussing color, mixing and matching. I’m sure this is how kids feel when they finger paint but, of course, we were very adult about it and we had a lot of fun.
As we played with my paints, we talked about drawing, my favorite subject. Yvan is a veritable fountain of drawing knowledge and I’m finally experienced enough to understand what he’s telling me most of the time. His mentorship is priceless. It was a spectacular sketching day. Tomorrow we’re headed back to the museum. I love it that I have to maintain a calendar of my sketching sessions.
Our gang was back at the museum cuz, “baby, it’s cold outside.” I decided to draw a stone guy who was making an offering at a funeral, or so sayeth the plaque associated with him. Hope you like him.