Quebec City In 1759 – Well, Almost

The short story that everyone is taught about how Quebec City went from being a French colony to one in which the British were in charge goes something like this:

Battle on the Plains of Abraham
The Brits sailed up the St. Lawrence and spent some months lobbing cannon balls at Quebec City.  The French lobbed some back.  Then the British climbed the cliffs to the Plains of Abraham, where General Wolfe and General Montcalm pointed their respective troops at one another and after a short battle, the British prevailed and both Wolfe and Montcalm were killed.

There is truth to that story but so is “The Roadrunner ran fast and Wile E. Coyote got an anvil on his head.”  There’s just more to it than that.  In point of fact, there were battles up and down the St. Lawrence and Wolfe and Montcalm’s troops had more than one encounter.

What does any of this have to do with sketching?  Well, Le Collectif  arranged a sketching adventure to Maison Vezina, a beautiful house and historic site that sits on the east side of Montmorency Falls, a huge waterfall that is fed by the Montmorency River and which dumps into the St. Lawrence.

This house is fully renovated and was home to the Vezina family for much of its existence.  But prior to that this area was one of the encampments of General Wolfe.  Back then, the buildings were a bit more spartan but neverthess, they indicate the longer-term nature of the battles for Quebec.  Wolfe had built a fort, complete with dry moat as well as several buildings on this high perch above the St. Lawrence.  From there he could see the French troops on the other side of Montmorency Falls and had a good view of Quebec City itself.  It’s likely that he could also see his ships and encampments on the south side of the St. Lawrence.  It was an ideal place if you were a British general.

There are many things to draw in this area but I settled on the more mundane, the main doorway into Maison Vezina.  I just liked the rocking chair on the porch.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x8), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Sketching Is A Windy Business

It’s very windy here at this time of year, but the temperatures and sun (heck, it was all the way up to 16C this day) has caused my emergence from hibernation and I’m dancing in the streets.

I headed towards the port area.  At this time of year the boat yard operators are like squirrels, looking for nuts.  There’s a constant scramble to set up the marina docking system (removed for winter so it’s not destroyed by ice) and to get the boats back in the water.

But this day it was very windy.  I tried to find a place to sit out of the wind that also gave me something interesting to sketch and I failed.  In the end, I was sitting at a picnic table that sits in front of the farmer’s market.  My thought was that if I was going to sit in a 30 km/h wind, it might be nice to have a platform for my sketchbook.  The platform was nice – the 30 km/h not so much.

I drew the Telus (cell phones) building, hiding a lot of it behind trees, which are much more interesting than the building.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8) with my Pilot Falcon and Platinum Carbon Black.


Sketching St. Jean Baptiste Church

Le Collectif (CALVAQ) organized a sketchcrawl at the Eglise St. Jean-Baptiste on rue St. Jean and we all met at 11:30 after the mass was over.  It was a really nice day and I had a hard time with the thought of going inside to sketch but in I went.

I confess that I find few places less inspiring than the inside of a Catholic church.  I think it must be the gaudy gold everything that turns me off.  But they have one of their old bells on display so I drew it in my Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8) with my TWSBI Mini.


The other sketchers seemed more inspired than I was and everyone was deep in sketching mode when I finished.  All I could think of was the sunshine I was missing out on.  Maybe I was a plant in a previous life.  Anyways, I went outdoors.

Ahh…..”Good morning sunshine…the Earth says Hello…”  Who sang that song?  So long ago.  I wanted to stick with the church theme as that’s what the sketchcrawl was about, but as I walked around the church I couldn’t find a location that gave me a scene that inspired me.  So I walked further away and found a tiny park area that gave me a view of the really tall church steeple.  I sat down in the sun and started drawing, this time with my Pilot Falcon but in the same S&B Beta book.  We had a great day and I hope you like the sketches.


A Couple Hours On Ile d’Orleans

Ile d’Orléans is a large island just east of Quebec City.  It’s farm country and we locals go there to pick strawberries, apples, raspberries, and to buy corn and other vegetable crops when in season.  It’s also a place where sketchers, at least one, spend time enjoying the fresh St. Lawrence River air.

The family piled into the car for a trip there last weekend.  In hindsight we were overly optimistic as it was far too windy and cold to be on the island.  Of course, we went for the ice cream.  There’s a place that dips ice cream cones in very thick, milk chocolate so you end up eating a very cold chocolate bar with a soft center.  What’s not to like.

After consuming enough calories to keep me going for about a week, we headed down the road looking for something to draw.  While it’s not officially open for tourists yet, we ended up at the maritime museum.  There were choices to be made.  Wander around in the cold or sit in the car and draw.  My family chose the former; I chose the later.


The result of my isolation was 1) my family got very cold and 2) I drew this building which is a wood shop in which many chaloupes (large row boats) were built.  I’ve included a sketch I did in 2013 of one of those boats as well as the building sketch I did this time.


Mustache Notebooks For Sketching

If I were a fish, the ideal lure to catch me would be one that looked like a notebook or pen.  Maybe a Red Lamy with some Field Notes hung on the back.  Yeah, that would do it.

I cruise the stores, looking at every notebook and pen I can put my hands on.  In a way I’m lucky that the selection in Quebec City is so poor or I’d need a second house to hold my collection.  One of my favorite places is the dollar store.  It’s not because I’m cheap; my favorite sketchbooks are Stillman & Birn, after all.  I don’t scrimp on my ‘regular’ sketching surfaces.

I check the dollar stores regularly for cheap, small notebooks in which I do the quick-sketching I do as often as possible.  I’ve filled about 20 of them in the past three years, though their contents have only rarely made their way to this blog.  These are 3×5 or 4×6 books that generally cost me a couple bucks and contain 75-100 pages.  I scribble in them constantly.


MustacheLayersSo I was in a dollar store this afternoon and found a new item – mustache notebooks.  The neat thing about them is that they have both toned (light brown) paper and white paper.  There are 96 pages divided into 6 stitch-bound signatures, with the white signatures in the middle of the book.  The covers are simple brown cardboard with felt mustaches and glasses glued on them.

Kinda cute but it was the blank paper inside that caused me to snap up three of them for $2 each.  Suddenly it was a great day.  As I was walking home I couldn’t resist the urge to try out the paper so I stopped in a park and got out my Namiki Falcon with Platinum Carbon Black in it.

2015-05-21Parc Generally the paper in these cheap books isn’t the greatest, and my fountain pens tend to bleed through a bit and there’s always ghosting.  These are quick-sketch books, after all, so I overlook those failings.

The paper in these books is quite thick, however.  I’m guessing but I’m guessing 70-80lb paper.  And was I pleasantly surprised when I put ink to paper.  There is no feathering whatever, at least in this quick sketch but more important was what was on the back of this sketch – NOTHING.  There is no ghosting and no bleedthrough.  I’m going back tonight to buy some more.

Back of the sketch above

Back of the sketch above