Montreal Day 1: Drawing With Paint

I’m a lucky guy because I’ve had the opportunity to sketch with Marc Taro Holmes on occasion.  Not only is he one of the best sketchers in the world, he’s also a really nice guy and it’s really fun to sketch with him.  But this past weekend was really special because I was sketching with him and I was going to meet Liz Steel and Anne-Laure Jacquart because they were visiting Marc and Shari in Montreal.

On Thursday, though, it was just Marc and I and we headed towards Mont Royal Cemetery to draw statues.  Along the way we stopped, set up shop on the sidewalk, and drew a wonderful house, undoubtedly built just so we could sketch it.  I’m afraid I got a bit clumsy and heavy-handed with the paint on this one but I present the results anyways.  That’s just the kind of guy I am (grin).

Fabriano Artistico 140CP, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Marc has started skipping the pen stuff and he’s drawing directly with paint and we started talking about that as we walked along.  Marc’s not a guy who does a hard-sell on anything but he has a way of making you want to try new things.  And so I did.  This is the first time I’ve ever done anything with paint that wasn’t coloring inside the lines and, well, I have a lot to learn.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Daniel Smith watercolors

Undaunted by all the things I didn’t understand about this process, I continued, doing this second statue.

This was definitely one of those experiences that taught me more about what I didn’t know than how to do it.  I’ve been wanting to integrate paint more directly in my thought process, as in include it in the thought process rather than considering it only as an afterthought.  This drawing with paint idea might generate a bunch of bad drawings, but I think it’s going to get me doing what I should be doing with paint if I’m going to learn how to use it properly.  These are some of the things/ideas that spilled from the process and things I need to work on:

  1. Work in both negative and positive space to define shapes.
  2. Paint must be mixed thicker than wash consistency to be an effective drawing tool.
  3. To achieve light colors that are sufficiently thick for drawing requires mixing light neutral colors into the mix.  Marc uses DS Buff Titanium and Holbein’s Davey’s Gray for this.
  4. Large contrasts between foreground and background pay large dividends.
  5. Oh…and this is probably the most important thing I’ve learned.  Larry needs a LOT more brush time cuz he can’t draw a straight line with a brush to save his soul.

At this point it was looking like rain and we were both hungry so we hopped on the metro and headed for lunch.  I guess we’re not dedicated sketchers because we sat eating sandwiches and talked about the future of urban sketching the rest of the afternoon, not lifting pen nor brush the rest of the day.  But, as Scarlett said, “Tomorrow is another day,” and we had a big day planned.

A Proud Building In Limoilou

When I came to Quebec I was struck by how people would completely change their schedules if the sun shined, cancelling meetings so they could go on a picnic, taking the day off from work so they could go get a tan, or maybe just to do a happy dance.  Coming from Arizona, it never crossed my mind that sunshine was something to be savoured when it was around.

I’ve learned, though, that rare things have that affect on behavior and it couldn’t be more true this year.  Three of us skipped off to Limoilou to sketch on Tuesday because it wasn’t raining – the sun was shining.  It was a rather short adventure but sketch we did.

I’m working on doing my sketching more quickly than my norm and chose to apply those efforts towards this stately building along 4th Avenue.  It almost looks out of place as it’s far more elegant than those around it and I suspect it once served some special purpose.  I even got to work on my tan while I drew it.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Diluted DeAtramentis Document Black, Kuretake #13 w/Platinum Carbon Black

Sketching In The Flowerless Flower Garden

It seems as though we won’t be having a summer this year.  Lots of rain and temps cool enough that we’re back to wearing jackets to go sketching.  Pretty odd for July, even in Quebec City.

We headed to a large garden in Ste-Foy last week for a sketching session.  Reports said the rain wouldn’t start until late afternoon, though it looked as though it could rain at any minute.  We’re getting used to the dull days, though, so we didn’t think much of it.  The garden brought reality home to roost.  There were so few flowers, so little growth.  The trees and grass were all very green, probably because of the rain, but the garden plants looked like it was April.

Everyone cast around for something to draw and I started by drawing on of my fellow sketchers.  I admit my heart wasn’t into it but a quick sketch was done quickly.  After this I got up and started wandering the grounds, around and around I went.  Nothing inspired.

There were some people weeding some large beds and they had a small garden vehicle in support.  I decided “why not” and sat down to draw it.  A woman came over and asked if I wanted her to move the vehicle, thinking I wanted to draw the garden, but I explained that I was going to draw the vehicle.  She laughed, probably thought I was nuts, and I set to work.  Here’s what I came up with.  Not a Rembrandt but it sure was fun to draw.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5×8), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Looking Up To Draw

I do almost all of my sketching on location so I’m very comfortable doing so.  There is one circumstance, however, that I find challenging.  Looking up at the subject to be sketched always seems harder than it should be.  I don’t know if there’s something about the upward-looking angle or the fact that I have to bob my head through a much larger angle between subject and paper.  In any case, getting the proportions and perspective correct is always harder.

We were sketching at the train station, though, and I drew this portion of one of the buildings.  Quebec is blessed with these sorts of rooftops and so looking up is is worth the effort.

New “Sketchbook” From Ottawa

When I was in Ottawa I visited a stationary/card store because, well, that’s what I do.  It was a delightful store, though their pricing on fountain pens was really high ($68 for a Lamy Safari) but it costs nothing to look.  There were several things I wanted to buy but I guess I was in a “do I REALLY need that” mood and I didn’t buy most of them.  The one exception was this tiny notebook made by Clairfontaine.  It contains really smooth, thin paper that’s not idea for drawing but gosh it’s cute.  I had to have one.

I’ve only done a couple sketches in it but it’s fun to draw this small on occasion.  I think I’ll get $4.00 worth of fun from it.

A Weekend In Ottawa – Part 2

The day of my daughter’s graduation we did some more shopping and returned to Andrew Haydon Park.  It was still windy and still stormy but we like this park because there are a lots of geese and you can see the St. Lawrence River from there.

As a chipmunk foraged around us, I drew this sketch of a spit of land that sticks out on the other side of the marina associated with the park.  I forgot to include it in yesterday’s post.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

A Weekend In Ottawa

For the last few years I’ve gotten to draw in the museums of Ottawa because my daughter was going to school there.  This past weekend was the end point of that part of her life as she graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Ottawa.  We went there to spend some time with her and to attend her graduation.

I didn’t make it to any of the museums because we spent the weekend doing more exciting things, like laundry, shopping and grocery shopping (grin).

It was a hectic weekend, made a bit more unsettled by the fact that high humidity and high temps combined to provide a near constant threat of thunderstorms.  There was even a tornado warning at one point.

As it turned out, we didn’t see a lot of rain but there was a lot of wind.  We did sit in Andrew Haydon Park, though, and I did some quick sketches.  It’s hard for me to spend much time on sketches when I am with other people who are not sketching.

Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5)

 

 

A Visit With Claude Simard, Sort Of

Just before I left for Ottawa our group went to an exhibit of Claude Simard’s work at the Centre d’interprétation historique de Sainte-Foy. This is a very large house on the grounds of a large church/cemetery.  The church is a stone building that was gutted by fire a while back and was renovated into a place for semi-outdoor (walls but no roof) theatre.  Anyways, the grounds of this building complex are very nice and very sketchable.

We spent some time sketching outdoors before going to the Simard exhibition and I drew this small building where they used to keep corpses in winter when the ground was too frozen for burials to take place.  I apologize for the “lines” in the color.  These were produced when I used a cheap gray marker to indicate locations of tone because I ran out of time and needed some guidance for later when I added color.

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

I really enjoyed Claude Simard’s work.  His paintings, mostly done in acrylic are bright, very colorful and impressionistic.  While it’s clear from sketches on display that he is an excellent draftsman, this is not reflected in his paintings, which are almost caricatures of their subjects.  Nevertheless, it’s clear where he got the moniker as the Happy Painter.

What excited me the most, however, were the cabinets that displayed some of his sketches.  Some were in sketchbooks while others were done on watercolor paper.  All were simple sketches with loose watercolors added to them.  I loved them all.  In fact, I started drawing some of them with the idea of playing with watercolors in as close as I could get to his style.  This was a lot of fun and I did several of them.  Here’s one example.  The original was about 5×7, as is my copy of it.  I’m afraid I fell short of doing his watercolors justice.

“Bois du coulonge” Park

Eek…I’ve been way for a while and haven’t posted anything here in five days.  I just got home from Ottawa so I’m grabbing a couple smallish sketches I did while we were at the Bois du coulonge park.  Not much to say about them except that the little pond sketch was done twice.  The first time around I did it with washable ink without realizing it and when I started applying watercolors I generated a mess (grin).  Anyways, I’ll get the blog back on track ‘real soon.’

Giving A Lamy Another Try

Long ago I decided that the popular Lamy Safari was not the pen for me.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that European XF nibs aren’t XF and to get a truly fine fountain pen nib requires purchase of an Asian pen.  The other reason, however, is my real problem with the Safari.  Its triangular grip may be fine for people writing with a fountain pen but I find it a real problem when I try to draw with it, mostly because I regularly move my hold point up and down the pen barrel and the triangular grip produces a lot of uncomfortable hold locations.

For some strange reason, though, I decided to try it again so I filled one with Platinum Carbon Black and went out walking.  We’re finally getting decent weather and I so thrilled with being out walking that sketching is taking a back seat.  The fact that my arthritis is causing my drawing hand to hurt may also have something to do with my reluctance to stop and sketch.

So when I was out I did a couple small sketches with the Lamy and my reassessment hasn’t changed my mind about it.  It’s not for me.  Here are the two small sketches I did.  The thick line and my clumsiness combined to create, at best, “ok” results.  It is nice to be able to be outdoors, though.