Quebec City Street Scenes

Quebec City, particularly the older parts of the city, has many street scenes that are worthy of a sketcher’s time.  Often the streets are narrow and the buildings are connected to one another.

These form great urban scenes and the only thing that limits a sketcher is time and the place to sit while doing the sketch.  Time, scene and place to sit came together and I sketched this autumn scene.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9); Pilot Prera w/Platinum Carbon Black ink

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9); Pilot Prera w/Platinum Carbon Black ink

Another Trip To Ile D’Orleans – Pt 2

I left you, in part one of this saga, with me very relaxed in a small park, having just sketched a lamp post.  It was a very nice day and only 10AM, so I got in the car and drove to the other end of St. Jean, which is a really small town so it only took a couple minutes.  I returned to the place where I’d sketched this during a previous visit to the island (Ile d’Orleans).

2013-09-18IleDOrleans1This time of year our maple trees put on a show for the tourists and we become overrun by cruise ships that come in from the Atlantic just to see this spectacle, so I decided to do another sketch of this area that featured the blazing colors of our forests.  While this sketch was done from the pier, I moved much closer for the new one, concentrating on just a couple of the homes so that the trees could dominate.  I did this new sketch in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) using a Pilot Prera filled with Platinum Carbon Black ink.

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Click to enlarge

I’m a slow sketcher and something this size takes me a while – a while sitting on a little tripod stool on rocks, in the sun.  You get the picture.  I was pretty tired when I finished so I started driving down the southern coast of the island, looking for a nice place to eat a lunch and just relax.

Along the way I was doing what sketchers do; I was taking ‘inventory’ of potential things and places to sketch along the way.  I’ve got to spend more time on the island as there’s a lot to sketch there.  As I was driving I noticed a sign that said “Parc Maritime” and way down below the road I could see what looked like a couple boats and a parking lot.  It seemed as good a place as any to eat lunch so I turned around, found the entrance, and drove down to Parc Maritime.

A half hour tour later I had learned that the town of St. Laurent revolved around this facility in the early 20th Century and that it had been a major hub for the construction, repair, and storage of the cargo vessels that ran around the St. Lawrence, mostly moving wood products.  It had been an enormous facility employing everyone in St. Laurent and a lot of people who came from surrounding towns during the summers.  This is a great place to visit, an amazing place to sketch.  I was told that I could return to sketch anything I wanted as long as I paid the entry fee (grin).

I was pretty tired and hungry, though, so I wandered the forest, looking at remnants of the lisses, which were row after row of large railroad track-like thingies they used to slide large ships out of the water and then move them laterally along the shore for storage.  This is a really nice place, hidden from view for the most part by the fact that it’s now tree covered and well below the main road.

When I finished lunch it was getting late but I decided I had to sketch something so I chose a small chaloupe, a heavy-duty rowboat.  There is a shop on the premises where they built them and I’ve got to get back to sketch all the cool benches, tools, and a water-powered bandsaw contained within.  But today I limited myself to one of the boats.  This one was done in my small Moleskine watercolor (3×5).  Hope you like it.

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It will soon be too cold to visit the island.  These days, on the weekends, there are just too many people as it’s apple-picking time and people who want to do this form kilometer-long lines of cars, all waiting to drive over the bridge and onto the island.  This is not for me but maybe, during the week….   We’ll see.

Location Sketching On Ile d’Orleans

“In 1814 we took a little trip,
along with Colonel Jackson
down the mighty Mississip.
 
We took a little bacon,
and we took a little beans,
and we fought the bloody British
in a town called New Orleans.”

These lyrics, sung long ago by Johnny Horton, tell of the final battle of the War of 1812 where Americans defeated a British invasion force.  The song was a big hit when I was a kid and every time I head to Quebec’s Ile d’Orleans that song rattles around in my brain.  Truth is, the French had their own battle against a British invasion and Wolfe, the leader of that invasion force, nearly died when his ship ran aground just off the coast of the island, and within cannon distance of the French forces.

But war is not the topic of today’s post.  Rather, it is about a trip I took recently to Ile d’Orleans to sketch.  I use ‘trip’ loosely as it takes all of fifteen minutes to get there as you can see Ile d’Orleans from Quebec City and vice versa.  Going to the mall takes longer.

Ile d’Orleans is a big island in the St. Lawrence River, just as it widens from its narrowest point, at Quebec City, on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.  There are six municipalities on the island, though I have a hard time determining where one begins and another ends.  What I know is that the island is gorgeous and I love my time there.  A lot of vegetable and fruit growing goes on, and it’s a very popular tourist location.

I’ve sketched on the island but I’ve never gone there alone, with the singular goal of sketching.  This day, I was on a mission.  The sun was out, I had sketchbooks a plenty, and I’d arranged to have our car for the day.  I arrived on the island about 8:45 and drove to the backside of the island to a pier that juts out into the St. Lawrence.  I discovered it when I was with my buddy Nicolas and we were like a couple kids, chasing the Queen Elizabeth II as she passed along the southern coast of the island on her approach to Quebec City.

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Moleskine watercolor (3×5), Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black

I walked out onto the pier, set up my stool and began sketching.  You know what?  Sun doesn’t help much when there’s a 20-30km/h wind blowing across a large body of water and its hyper-cooled air is cutting you in half.  I was COLD!!!  At one point I went back and sat in the car for a while to warm up but, finally I finished the sketch.  I was a bit too much in a hurry, do you blame me, and ended up with some paint blooms in the foliage because my previous wash wasn’t yet dry, but them’s the breaks.

I was really cold when I finished and so headed for a place I knew that serves wonderful brioche and good, hot coffee.  Unfortunately, the winds had blown out their electricity – no coffee.  So, I bought a brioche and sat in the car, with the heater running, to warm up.

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Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8), Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black

Across the street from the café is a church and a cemetery.  I keep telling myself that I should draw more in cemeteries as I love the shapes of the grave stones and their helter-skelter orientations, probably caused by the annual freezing and thawing of the ground.  I found a view I liked, went back to the car to get my stuff and I was soon sitting in the cemetery sketching.  This was a little better as there was a stone wall around the area that broke some of the wind.  I was only semi-frozen when I finished this one.

I was getting ready to leave.  Actually I was turning around in the church parking lot when my eye caught a “Privé” sign and a lamp post.  I love to have such things in my sketches and so I decided to sketch this scene.  Once again, however, I would be fully-exposed to that darn wind coming off the St. Lawrence.  I am old but even I can learn new tricks.  I positioned the car so I could sketch while sitting inside.  About halfway through I was wishing I had a hacksaw to eliminate the steering wheel but it worked out ok once I got the hang of it.

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Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8), Pilot Prera, Platinum Carbon Black

There’s so much to sketch on the island that I could go there every day and not get bored.   In another couple weeks the trees should be putting on their annual ‘fall colors’ light show and I’m going back ‘real soon.’

Sketching The Good And The Ugly

I’d arranged to meet sketching buddy Claudette downtown and so it wasn’t completely nuts when I started walking in that direction in spite of the fact that I was walking in a cloud.  It wasn’t raining but a mist was collecting on my glasses and clothes.  Walking fast beat the cold away, though.

When I met Claudette we sort of looked at each other and both of us were disappointed with the morning.  We decided to walk through the old port area looking for something to draw but I think neither of us had our hearts in it.  It was pretty miserable, depressing weather and we ended up ready to cancel completely.

Claudette spotted a cast lion that was part of the entrance to a building and as we looked at it we both decided it would be worthy of a sketch.  What I saw was how we humans have lost site of esthetics in favor of convenience and modernity, or whatever word you want to use.   Someone had destroyed much of the beauty of the lion casting by installing a large electrical plug below it and wrapping a wire up around it.  A real artist would probably have drawn the lion, leaving the plug out and ‘improving’ their drawing.  I’m more about documenting city life and thought this debauched piece of art could be the subject itself.

I did make the mistake of doing it in too small a format for a shaded pen drawing like this and both the lion and plug suffered from a lack of space for proper shading.  Nevertheless, here’s the 3×4 sketch, done in a Moleskine watercolor book.  I used my Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black.

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Thick Lines and Quick Hands

One of the days that I was waiting for my hard drive to arrive it rained.  I’m not one for sketching from photos but desperation will drive me to such extremes.  My pointy device of choice is a very fine pen and I thought it might be an opportunity to play with pens that produce a heavier line and to use them in a more loose fashion than is my norm.

And so I did some quick sketches in a 3×5 sketchbook. Here are four of them.

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Done with a Hero 578 ‘bent nib’ pen

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Done with Sharpie ‘fine’ pen (not marker)

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TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black

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Done with Hero 578 “bent nib” pen in about five minutes.

The next day I went out sketching and continued the experiment.  I stopped to pick up a coffee and drew the car across the street.

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Done with Hero 578 “bent nib” pen

I was walking along the St. Charles River and decided to stop and sketch these rudbeckia.  I’m not much of a flower sketcher but this was fun.

There is a large water regulation reservoir along the banks of the river and I decided to draw it as quickly as I could.  I spent less than 15 minutes on it, which is something of a world record for me when it comes to doing buildings.  I found the format too small for a building with all those fiddly bits.

Done with TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black

Done with TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black

A Short Trip To Levis

To both of you who follow this blog, I apologize for my absence.  It’s embarrassing to admit but without my laptop I’m dead in the water, and I had a hard drive crash late last week.  I got the problem diagnosed by Friday night and then began waiting for a hard drive to arrive in the mail.  This is not something you want to be doing as the weekend is just beginning.

So, I scuttled around in my basement and, using ancient computer parts, cobbled together something that looked like a computer and ran almost as fast as an abacus.  But it did get me email and limited web access.  The drive arrived on Tuesday and I’m now back in business  Thank goodness for backups as not much was lost except for a lot of time.

3x5 - Pilot Prera w/Lex Gray ink

3×5 – Pilot Prera w/Lex Gray ink

During that time I went for a long sketching walk.  First stop was to do a quick sketch of sailboats in the harbor.  Me and sailboats don’t get along well, mostly because I don’t know much about the rigging and doo-dads that encrust the top surface of sailboats and, from my distant vantage point, these things are hard to make out.  But I continue to try and this sketch consumed ten minutes of my time.  The fact that I was standing up didn’t help much.  I do wish I could get better at sketching while standing 🙁

I wandered around downtown for a while and then got the notion to head to Levis as the sun was out and I always look for an excuse to ride the ferry.  On my way over I recalled a small, but rather ornate house I’d seen while I was in Levis sketching with fellow sketcher, Yvan.  This is it.  The people got sort of faked in using people who were walking by.  I ran out of room while adding the woman and I’m not sure she has a left arm.  If she does, it’s somewhere in the guy’s right side (grin).

Stillman & Birn Zeta (5x8), Pilot Prera w/ Platinum Carbon Black ink

Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8), Pilot Prera w/ Platinum Carbon Black ink

The Thrill Of The Chase

I’m a sketcher… a street sketcher.  What excites me about sketching is the process, not the results.  I love the feeling I have as I sit, studying a subject, drawing lines – oblivious to everything around me.  I love people who stop and ask questions.  Often they’re the same questions (eg – Do you sell these?  Did you go to art school?  How long have you been doing this?) but there’s always a smile attached and some simple chit-chat that connects me to my fellow humans.

And part of the process, for me, is finding something to sketch… the thrill of the hunt.  It’s pretty rare that I plan to go some particular place to sketch some particular thing.  That takes half the fun out of it for me.  I like to just strike out, in any direction, looking for something that catches my attention.

The other day I did just that.  I walked to a main intersection near my house.  There were metro buses that head east/west/north/south and I decided to hop the first one that came along.  I found myself heading east and, once I had passed areas I knew well, I got off the bus.  I continued, walking east until I came across a small park.

I walked into it and sat on a bench.  I looked around.  There were ravens in one end of the park and I thought about sketching them.  There were swings, slides, and what looked like a hamburger that kids could ride.  It sat on a large spring.  These would make a nice sketch, too.

Then I noticed a small mechanics shop stuffed between two larger buildings.  I walked to that corner of the park, picked out a shady area, plunked myself down on my tripod stool, and started this sketch.

My hunt was a success.  I spent a blissful hour while my pen entertained me as no television ever could.  Life is good.

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Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) sketchbook; Pilot Prera pen; Platinum Carbon Black ink; W&N artist watercolors

Big Building In A Little Town

Quebec City is not an industrial town.  We have no massive factories except for our paper mill.  Rather, we have government…lots of government as we’re the capital of the province of Quebec.  And we have the oldest walled city in North America and cruise ships visit us regularly.  We do tourism.  And so we have lots of politicians and tourists.  We also have UbiSoft, the video game manufacturer so we have animators…story-tellers.  In short, no big factories to sketch.

But we are also a port and the largest building around that port is a huge grain elevator and ship loading facility along the northern side of our marina.  Lots of train cars and boats visit the place as grain is moved onto awaiting ships.  In short, it’s a big, intimidating building to sketch 🙂

I took it as something of a challenge and so became my sketch of the Bunge grain elevators. Done in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8 x 2) sketchbook with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.  W&N watercolors give it a bit of color.  Click for a larger image.

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While Walking Through The Park One Day….

Yvan and I planned a sketching session on St. Denis street and we were to meet there.  This street has many majestic residences and a large grassy area in front of them so it’s an ideal place to sketch.

As I arrived I realized that I’d forgotten my WalkStool.  This is a big problem as my knees and me don’t much like sitting on the ground, for fear that we’ll never be able to get back up.

And so the search began for a sitting place with something in front of me to sketch.  It’s not really rocket science but I wandered around for a while before finding such a combination.  I ended up in the Parc des Governeurs, a small park between the Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City’s tourist landmark and the American consulate.

2013-07-20GovernorsPark

Both of these buildings are great sketching subjects but I chose this more humble structure that sits in the park.  Yvan suggested that it was once a toilet but these days it looks to be used by maintenance people.  In any case, it had a bench, in the shade, and so I sketched it in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.  I used Lexington Gray for the stairs in the background.  I’m enjoying the contrast between these two inks.  As always, I used Winsor & Newton watercolors like crayons to add some color.

Ferry Dock Sketching

I use any excuse to take the ferry from Quebec City to Levis, which is on the other side of the St. Lawrence River from us.  I do it because 1) I like boats, 2) my bus pass makes it free, and 3) did I mention that I like boats?

On this day, I did it because Yvan wanted to sketch the ferry station, which is an old train station that’s been sort of messed up by neglect and its conversion into a ferry dock.  But they’re planning on tearing it down and he wanted a sketch of it.  Seemed like a plan to me.

But when I got there, something about sketching the station just didn’t turn my crank that morning so I found an alternative, this building that was probably a hotel at some point and may still be.  I like the way the cliff jutted up above, dwarfing what is actually a very large building.
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It was done in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) sketchbook with Pilot Preras and Platinum Carbon Black and Noodler’s Lexington gray inks.  Hope you like it.  It was sure fun.