A Downtown Coffee Break

A few of us ended up at Paillard’s, a nice coffee shop in downtown Quebec.  I got a large café au lait in a bowl and settled into a seat with everyone.  Of course we all had sketchbooks and everyone started quick sketching everything and anything.

These sessions don’t yield great art.  That’s not the goal.  But it’s great practice for capturing things on paper, getting the old visual cortex thinking the way we need it to think.

I was working in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5 landscape) and I started drawing the counter and the machines who live there.  No goal in mind other than to draw those machines.  When I finished with that I drank some coffee, talked too much, and started randomly drawing stuff, just filling a page.  I ended up with a chef’s head floating in my in my coffee.  It was fun.  Sometimes I want to do more careful drawing, sometimes not.  This was a not day.

Sometimes Sketching Doesn’t Take Time

My daughter came home for Easter and she wanted to go to our downtown area and wander around, so that’s what we did.  We’d been walking for a while and decided to sit down and take a short break.  As we sat, taking in spring sunshine and watching tiny icebergs floating down the St. Lawrence River, I asked if it would be ok for me to do a quick sketch, no more than 10 minutes.

The only sketchbook I had with me was a 3×5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon book (love these).  My pointy device was a Platinum Plaisir.  I chose a scene and started quickly sketching a piece of the Chateau Frontenac.  It took me less than 10 minutes and I added some color when I got home.  No plans were interrupted and no need for “I’m too busy to sketch.”  If you carry a pen and a small notebook, you always have time to sketch.  Besides, now I get to say that I’ve gotten to do TWO outdoor sketches this spring (grin).

First Outdoor Sketch Of The Year

We’re starting to get a few days that are warm enough to get out and some of them are coming without rain.  I finally got to sit on my tripod stool, in the corner of a parking lot, and draw this house.  I was working more quickly than normal but thoroughly enjoying the process. A couple people came by and we talked about spring finally arriving and I felt that finally, really, really, it had.  Hope you like this sketch.  I hope to be presenting a lot more of them in the coming months.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

First Nations Ceremonial Headdress

With all the 100people2017 stuff going on, I forgot to post this sketch that I did last week at our museum.  I’ve looked at this headdress several times and each time I convinced myself that I wasn’t up to depicted all those feathers with pen and ink.  In a crazy moment I started drawing it.  The biggest challenge was keeping my eyes from crossing as I tried to follow the feather contours.  I was pleased with the outcome, though.  Hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black (diluted 1:2)

#OneWeek100People2017: Day 4: More Mall Sketching

So far I’ve been quick-sketching whole people, mostly those buying coffee at the mall.  Marc Taro Holmes chided me a bit for drawing those people with their backs to me.  This was sort of true.  Because of the place I was sketching, everyone had their backs to me as they paid for, and received, their coffee.  I did look back, however, and noticed that 14 of those 50 people (28%) did have their face visible.  Marc’s a tough critic (grin).

So, when I went to the mall today I decided that I’d draw floating heads/faces.  I sat in the food court, moving once in a while, and most of my targets were looking in my direction.  Marc will undoubtedly tell me that I’ve left the bodies off and, again, he’d be correct.  And yes, I’m kidding, Marc.

I quickly slapped some color on these before I scanned them and, I think, this flattening the sketches considerably.  I guess I should have taken the time to try to get some shading into the color.  It’s said you can get two of three attributes from any endeavour.  These are cheap, quality, and quantity.  I always get cheap so I choose between the other two and this “challenge” is about quantity.  These 20 were done during a 30-35 minute session.  It shows.  Sigh…

 

 

Garneau Velo (Bicycle) Museum

A large producer of bicycles and bike gear is Garneau, Inc. and they are based in Quebec.  They have a factory and store just outside of town and associated with it Garneau has a small bicycle museum.  On display are really early vintage bicycles and tricycles, some made entirely from wood, but also some Schwinn bikes I had as a kid.  I guess that makes them ‘early vintage’ too.

Our group went there yesterday and we had a great time.  There were six of us, which was just about right for this small single-room museum.   Guylaine sat down to draw a Schwinn Stingray bicycle.  It’s classic banana seat and high-rise handlebars brought back lots of great memories.  I decided that rather than drawing a bicycle alone, it would be fun to draw Guylaine drawing the bicycle.  Here is my attempt at that.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I find wooden bicycles to be quite marvelous.  The museum had quite a number of them, but I decided to draw this very large (front wheel is 29″dia) tricycle.  The amazing thing is that aside from the wheel bearings, rear axle, and pedal crank, the only metal in the bike is a y-shaped yoke that connects the body frame of the bike to the fork/handlebars.

Since it was all wood, I thought it fitting to draw it with brown ink so I used a Pilot 78G with DeAtramentis Document Brown ink for this sketch.

 

#OneWeek100People2017: Day 1: Sketching At The Mall

I’m not a fan of sketching “challenges” because, to me, this turns my hobby into a job and I’ve had enough of those in my life.  But when Liz Steel and Marc Taro Holmes proposed that people draw 100 people in 5 days, I just couldn’t refuse.  If you want to see the people sketches  from other people, just give the hashtag in the title to Mr Google.

I knew that to draw 100 people in a week I’d have to concentrate on quick-sketching them.  I also knew that I had a problem because I’d already committed to a sketching session on Tuesday that would have me spend the day away from people so I had to accomplish this task in four days rather than five.

I headed to the mall this morning with the idea that maybe I could get more than the daily requirement of 20 people done.  I found a seat in front of a stand-alone coffee vendor.  Because they have no seats, their customers ask for coffee, it’s handed to them, and they leave.  Occasionally a line will develop but I was there between coffee break and lunch, I guess, because it was mostly one person at a time and they were there less than a minute.  It was like being in a shooting gallery but with a pen in my hand.

One thing surprised me.  I got an audience, which was a bit disconcerting because they wanted to talk to me and I was trying to keep up with the people showing up for coffee.  It was a unique challenge but they were easy to please as audiences always are.

One thing was clear.  The intimidating number of 100 was not as formidable as I’d thought before I started.  I was producing one of these people every couple minutes in spite of conversations with my audience and the occasional lull in coffee traffic.

When I got to 37 it was time for a break so I bought a coffee and spent some time showing people what I was doing and answering the typical questions.  I was happy with the head start I’d gotten on the week, but if I wasn’t going to be able to sketch tomorrow, I was already behind (grin).  Heck, let’s face it.  This is kinda nuts.

As I was leaving I walked by the food court and I couldn’t pass it up.  Just 3 more so I could have enough for today and tomorrow.  I sat down and started drawing people who were ordering poutine, a disgusting concoction of fries with salty gravy and cheese curds.  I filled the page before I finally packed up and went home.

This evening I was watching TV news and started drawing the talking heads.  This added another 6 to the head count (pun intended) so I’ve drawn 50 people so far.  More to come.  How are you doing with your 100 people challenge?

Extreme Sketching: The Final Chapter

I did a blog post a while ago about what I called “extreme sketching.”  It was an idea that originated from Marc Taro Holmes.  We were going out, in mid-winter Quebec temperatures and doing five minute sketches in a small format.  Marc is quite good at it.  Me, not so much.

But it was a great exercise.  I struggle to hold a small sketchbook in one hand, while drawing with the other.  For some reason I just can’t slow the sketchbook down and the results are impacted a lot by both the sketchbook and the pen moving at the same time.  I was hoping to practice that enough to eliminate the problem.  I did not.

I also wanted more time quick-sketching.  I do a lot of quick people sketches but I don’t quick-sketch buildings or street scenes.  To get a good drawing I have to look at my subject for the better part of five minutes, thinking only about the proportions and relative locations of things before I start drawing.  All of those processes must be abandoned if I’m going to do the entire sketch in five minutes.  I do think I improved upon this because of this exercise, but I’m not sure how much.   I also haven’t figured out how to draw snow with a pen and so I ended up with lots of cottonballs in front of my buildings.

The other thing I wanted to do was to just get outside sketching.  This I accomplished.  I ran this experiment down to -20C (-5F).  When it got colder than that, I gave up.  I’m a sissy when it comes to cold.  But I did manage to do fifty of these sketches, nearly filling a small Stillman & Birn Epsilon softcover book.  I’ll probably do some more this summer, when it’s not so cold.  Here are a few of the sketches I did beyond the ones I posted previously.

Do you do crazy things like this?  I hope so.  I don’t want to be the only one.

 

A Street Sketcher Tries To Paint

Last Sunday we had our monthly sketchcrawl and it was a unique event.  We gathered at the main Quebec City library, in a large room associated with their art collection.  We were tasked with finding a painting we liked and then doing our own take on the subject matter.  There were, I think, nine of us and we had a lot of fun, particularly because we were all in the same room so we could talk.  I tend to go silent when I sketch but I took breaks to see what others were doing.

I chose a large watercolor of a bunch of kids playing in tide pools, thinking I could turn it into a fun sketch.  I started by blocking out the locations of the kids, indicating the horizon and generally getting the sense of what I wanted to do.

Then it happened.  I decided that rather than starting to draw with my fountain pen, I’d indicate the shadow areas to begine to define the kids.  This led to adding some color and I was like Alice falling into Wonderland as things quickly went out of control.  The first thing I realized was that converting a large (22×30 painting) into a 7×10 sketch wasn’t consistent with the amount of detail I was planning and so some reassessment took place.  That wasn’t so bad as my skills with a a fuzzy stick leave much to be desired.  I was really wishing I had my fountain pen in hand rather than a fuzzy stick.

But I persisted, doing things for the first time at every turn.  Still, the sketch started to look suspiciously like kids in tide pools so I convinced myself it wouldn’t be that bad.  Eventually, as a last step, I did get out a fountain pen and added some lines and details, though I kept things a bit vague.  I learned a lot, including how much I need to learn about watercolors.  While it was frustrating at times, it was also a lot of fun.  Maybe I’ll figure out fuzzy sticks eventually.

I had a hard time scanning this one.  I suppose it was because of all the very pale blues in the sky and water but I gave up and took this cell phone photo of it.  The colors aren’t quite right and the lighting isn’t even, but you can get an idea of what it looks like, I think.

Fabriano Artistico CP 7×10, Daniel Smith watercolors

Sketching Animals That Don’t Move

What could be better for a sketcher than a place where there are hundreds of animals that don’t move.  Daniel Chagnon, an organizer for the Le Collectif des ateliers libres en arts visuels de Québec (CALAVQ) organized an event at la Fédération québécoise
​des chasseurs et pêcheurs.  This is a bit outside the domain of CALAVQ, which is primarily a portraiture group, but Daniel has been organizing more and more of these events and it’s very exciting to see.

I didn’t know that the Quebec hunters and fishermen had a museum/training center but this place is incredible for those of us scrambling to find winter sketching places.  It’s a bit of a drive but access is free, though they appreciate donations.  There is a lunch room with microwaves, vending machines, etc. AND several hundred taxidermy specimens just waiting to be drawn.  The hard part was deciding what to draw and being satisfied even though you didn’t get to draw everything.

There were a dozen of us sketching in the building and a lot of sketches were produced.  I found myself drawing too quickly and I was a bit disappointed in that.  I sometimes get ahead of my skis and it shows up in the results.  My attempt at drawing a wolf is a case in point.  I blocked it in quickly (ie too quickly and I got one foot in the wrong place.  I drew the eye incorrectly, tried to correct it, only making it worse.  Still, it looked like a wolf, sort of.  You might notice that it’s not displayed here 🙂

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

I moved onto the wildfowl area and drew this elegant bufflehead.  Here I bumped into my watercolor ineptitude and had trouble obtaining a really dark black, but I was generally happy with the result.  Robert Bateman I am not.

After lunch I decided that since I’d drawn fur and feathers that it was time to draw a fish.  I like the small vignette surrounding this one.   Striped bass used to be common to the stretch of the St. Lawrence River around Quebec but they had nearly disappeared until the fishing and hunting organization started a program to build up their populations.  They are being grown and planted along the river and fishing regulations prohibit the taking of this fish.  From what I could read, the program is making good progress towards their reintroduction.

I slowed down just a bit, partly because of my early morning lesson and partly because I was just getting tired.  I think the result was more in tune with my norm…only a few mistakes (grin).  Thanks to CALAVQ and particularly Daniel for organizing this event and introducing us to the museum.  We’re heading back here on Tuesday.