A Visit To The Pre-Winnebago Days

An outdoor theatre group was in town for a week and one of their props was this old trailer.  I remember these when I was a kid, long before people started driving Winnebagos the size of a barn down our highways.

It’s not the most beautiful trailer, and I didn’t create a particularly beautiful sketch of it, but memories are contained within and I hope the sketch conjours a few of your own.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8x5), Platinum 3776

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

Ferns In Captivity

I live on a part of the Earth where you can go into forests and find wild ferns hanging out as part of the forest understory.  So much so, in fact, that fern leaves, before they’ve unrolled, are collected and sold as Fiddlehead greens in our grocery stores during late spring.  This is novel to a guy who grew up in Arizona.

Of course you can also find them kept in captivity, kept by those with greener thumbs than mine.  There were a bunch of them in the same place as the Chinese statues I talked about in my last blog post and I drew one of them as they live in really nice clay pots.  I should have posted the sketch with the statue sketch but I forgot all about it.  I post it here to make up for that omission.

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

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

Chinese Statues In Ste-Foy, Quebec

When they were building it, some of the cynics referred to the grandiose building that was to be Ste-Foy City Hall as the “Taj Mahal.”  It really was on an over-the-top building just to house the mayor and his court.  And the irony is that it wasn’t too many years later that all the smaller municipalities were merged with Quebec City and city governance moved, principally into the Quebec City Hall.

I’m not sure what the function of the building is these days but one thing it does is to keep the rain off a couple of beautiful Chinese statues.  It’s just as unclear why these statues exist in Quebec City but our group took advantage of them to do some sketching during yet another rainy day.  It was a fun days and I hope you like my result.

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

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

Rainy Tuesday Sketching

We can’t catch a break with the weather it seems but Yvan and I sat under an awning in open-air atrium at the museum and sketched very large potted plants.  This area becomes a restaurant when weather permits and these huge pots will be moved around to decorate the area.  I was struck by the fact that while these huge planters were very similar to one another, none of them were exactly alike.

Large planters at museum

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

Sketching In Parc Jeanne D’Arc

We’re in an intermittent rainy period so it’s been hard for us to plan our weekly get togethers but I recommended that we gather at a large park associated with the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.  This place is beautiful and in the middle of it is a large statue of Jeanne d’Arc, after whom the park is named.  Weather reports said it would be sunny in the morning and that the rain would only come later in the afternoon.

Stillman & BIrn Alpha (8x5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

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

So some of us did show up and we were greeted with cool (16-degree) temps and significant winds that made it feel quite cool.  All the smart people (ie – everyone but me) wore long pants and jackets.  I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

Undaunted, I sat behind a bunch of tulips and started drawing.  The flowers were blowing around and I’m sure my body temperature was dropping.  Nevertheless, I did draw three tulips before I had to choose between hypothermia and getting up and walking around.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

I visited everyone else, saw what they were drawing and then walked up and down the garden a couple times, half looking for something to draw and half just trying to stay warm.  Eventually I decided to do a quick sketch of one of the drinking fountains.  I love them but I need more time and temperature to do them justice in a sketch.

I kept moving but at this point my shorts/tshirt garb and frozen physiology had become foolhardy.  I certainly couldn’t concentrate on drawing so I was close to calling it quits.  One more lesson learned, maybe.

But I saw Hubert sketching and I related to his scrunched down form, head poking out from between the turned-up collars of his vest.  It just seemed tell the story of my day and I had to quickly sketch him as well.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

A Bright Idea From Bright Ideas

20160531_BrightIdeasSometimes you just want to draw on colored paper.  Maybe it comes from the days when we were kids and had piles of “construction paper” in all colors of the rainbow.  Whatever its roots, sketchers like to shun the white and walk a bit on the wild side, if only once in a while.

A company called Bright Ideas has a solution and it’s called the Bright Ideas Journal.   This is a 5×7 book with 408 pages.  I suppose you could get away with very light applications of watercolor but the paper isn’t heavy enough for the serious watercolorist.  As a substrate for pencil and/or ink drawings, however, this journal is pretty sweet.


It’s thick (about 1-inch) compared to most sketchbooks because of its 408 pages of paper in ten different colors but a big plus is that this book lays flat, very flat because of the open spine binding.   Some may grumble because each page has the name of its section printed in the lower right corner.  What purpose this could possibly serve is lost on me but I don’t find it objectionable for my ‘small sketches’ needs.

201605-31opensflatI haven’t had much chance to experiment with it but the paper takes ink very well, with no feathering, no bleedthrough and ghosting only if you hold up the sheet to the light.  I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with this book and I thank the Bright Ideas folks for their bright idea.  I ran down to the local park and did this quick test sketch so I’d have at least one ‘test’ that isn’t a bunch of scribbles.




More Sketches From Yvan’s Garden

I promised I’d post the rest of my sketches from Yvan’s garden and here they are.  We did have a lot of fun that day.

These were in a window box and difficult to draw because they were in the shade. Stillman & Birn Alpha (8x5), Platinum 3776

These were in a window box and difficult to draw because they were in the shade. Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5), Platinum 3776

This small birdfeeder brought delight in the form of black capped chickadees, gold finches, and sparrows. Stillman & Birn Alpha (8x5), Platinum 3776

This small birdfeeder brought delight in the form of black capped chickadees, gold finches, and sparrows. Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5), Platinum 3776

I don't even know what this is but it was fun to draw. Stillman & Birn Alpha (8x5), Platinum 3776

I don’t even know what this is but it was fun to draw. Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5), Platinum 3776

A Look At Part Of Quebec City’s Port Area

I was out walking and took the opportunity to sketch a bit of Quebec City’s port area.  This is small portion of it, which is the place where Riviere St. Charles empties into the St. Lawrence River.  It’s an ever-changing scene as large ships dock on each side of it for loading and unloading.  It’s good to be out in the sunshine again.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8x5) softcover, Platinum 3776

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

The Parents Head To Ottawa

Last weekend Chantal and I headed for Ottawa.  It was a holiday weekend and we went to visit our daughter who is in school there, but as I write this I realize that it was more than that.  Because of a lot of good stuff that happened, our daughter wasn’t going to come home for the summer as she normally would so the trip was at least as much an attempt to deal with that disappointment as anything else.

That’s a simple way of explaining that this wasn’t a sketching trip.  In spite of that, I did a bunch of quick sketches throughout the visit and I thought I’d present some of them as an indication of how easy it is to fit urban sketching into a trip that is otherwise occupied with things that make most people say “I was too busy to sketch.”

We arrived on Friday and our daughter was still at school so we got some lunch, went to an art store (more of a crafts store as so many have become) and then headed to one of the parks.   As we walked around I saw this scene and decided that I’d do a very quick, thumbnail-style sketch just to capture the major masses.  I didn’t worry much about proper perspective or drawing accurate lines and the initial sketch took only a few minutes.  Then my daughter called and said she would be there shortly so we stayed put.  I decided to add some more lines to the drawing and, ultimately, I slopped some color on the sketch.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

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


Field Notes “Sweet Tooth” (3×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black, Uniball UM_153 white pen

I was sitting under a flowering crab apple tree (I think) and  I decided to sketch of some of the flowers in my red Field Notes “Sweet Tooth” notebook and I thought it came out pretty well for a 3-4 minutes I spent doing it.  I was rewarded by my daughter showing up with an “hic c’est beau.”

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out as a family, eating in market area, buying candy and listening to street musicians.

The next morning, however, was laundry day.  We gathered up ever stitch of clothing, bedding, and towels and hauled them to a laundromat where we commenced to feed an obscene number of dollar coins into the machines.  We drank coffee, ate muffins, and I drew this little scene in the tiny coffee shop associated with the laundromat.  Not much but it was fun to do and made the time pass more quickly.


taned notebook, Platinum 3776,

Then it was off to the grocery store where we bought one of everything and two of some things.  My biggest fear was that there wouldn’t be room for it all in my daughter’s apartment.  Parents do get carried away some times.  And we did, of course.

Once we shoehorned all the groceries into their proper places, we headed off on a quest for shoes.  Understand, this was two women and an old guy.  We went EVERYWHERE looking at shoes.  I knew my life would end while looking for size 9 flats.

But surprise, surprise, we tracked down the illusive ideal shoe, bought two of them then went to a park where geese lived and they had lots of baby goslings running around.  They were fun to watch and I should have sketched them but I was worn out from the shoe chase.  Eventually we got hungry and headed for my daughter’s favorite Korean restaurant.

After dinner we walked to Major Hill Park, a park where the towers around Parliament poke up above the trees.  We drank bubble tea and enjoyed the changing sky as sunset was near.  I did a couple quick sketches in the failing light and probably should have settled for just a silhouette.

Parliament library roofline, FN Sweet Tooth, Platinum 37762016-05-21-56majorhillpark2











We did a bunch of park hopping the next day, mostly because we just wanted to be out in the sun.   We sat for a long time in Andrew Haydon Park, looking out at the boats having fun in the Ottawa River.  There wasn’t much close to me to draw so I drew some rocks.  I love drawing rocks, though I’m not particularly good at it.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

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

As it got hotter, though, the desire for shade took hold and we ended up in a park along the Rideau River.  Another place to practice my sloth, I was getting quite good at it, particularly because there were a group of guys in a drum circle providing entertainment.  I did break out the sketchbook to do this quick capture of a few of the players.  It’s not very detailed but it’s the best I can do in a few minutes.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8×5), Platinum 3776

2016-05-22-48RideauRiverKidI did several really quick (< 1-min) sketches of people as they wandered by where we were sitting and I’ll share only this one of a small boy who stopped to admire the river.  We had a delightful dinner at the apartment and then headed out to wander some more, ultimately ended up back at Major Hill Park.  It was pretty dark when we got there so sketching anything other than the proverbial black cat in a dark room there were no real sketching opportunities.

That was a last thing on my mind anyway as we had our mitts full of frozen yogourt.  It was the best there is, or so sayeth my daughter.  I think its the first time I’ve ever had any that didn’t come out of a carton.  We’d stopped at Menchies to get it and that was a fun experience unto its own because of the way you put together what you want and then pay by the weight of your concoction.  I drew the spoon in honor of the place.

2016-05-23-54MenchiesSpoonSo there you have it – our trip to Ottawa.  Urban sketching adds so much to trips like this, even if you don’t have time to do it.  Does that make sense?  Hope so.


Cartier Monument And More…

French explorer Jacques Cartier made a couple trips to what is now called Quebec.  On his second visit, in 1535, he and his crew wintered only about 10 minutes from my house, at the confluence of the St. Charles River and the Lairet River.  Why he didn’t stop by for coffee is unclear.  Maybe the timing wasn’t right.  Maybe he knew how bad my French was.

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Our group was sketching Limoilou just before I headed to Ottawa last weekend and decided to draw the monument erected in his honor in spite of his snubbing me when he was here.  The monument sits in what is now called Cartier-Brébeuf park in honor of you know who.

Sweet Tooth FIeld Notes, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Sweet Tooth FIeld Notes, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

When I finished the sketch I started wandering around, trying to find the other sketchers.  I came across Lisette and Hubert who were drawing an old Catholic church that has become Quebec’s clown school.

They still needed a few minutes to finish up so I decided to do a quick sketch of the church chimney.  Once they finished up we all met for lunch.  All in all, it was a great day as we’re finally getting to sketch outdoors.