Winter Has Come To Quebec City

More than anything, this post is an X on the calendar to indicate when it got too cold to sketch outdoors in Quebec City.  It’s snowing these days and not very friendly to street sketchers, particularly an Arizona-bred sketcher who hates being cold.

I take the bus everywhere and our system is great because I can sit at home and know exactly when the bus will get to my stop which means I don’t have to stand in the cold.  But, for reasons I can’t explain, the other day I headed to the bus stop without checking my app and sure enough, just as I arrived, the bus was pulling away.

That meant I had ten minutes of standing around.  As luck would have it there was a small bulldozer sitting on the corner of the street so I decided to draw it.  I did this quick sketch of it and nearly finished when the bus came along.

This was done in a cheap 4×6 notebook and so wasn’t suitable for color but I added some anyway.  The end result looked like this.. my last outdoor sketch of the year.  It’s museum time for me.

Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Work

Sometimes, when I stop to sketch, it just doesn’t work.  I don’t know why.  What I feel is that I just can’t see in the way an artist sees things.  Everything is a struggle and I can’t engage with the subject.  In particular I have this problem when I try quick-sketching but also, sometimes, when I’m trying to do a more normal sketch.  Anyways, in spite of my embarrassment to do so, I thought I’d share one of these failures with you.

Our main library is closed for renovations right now but there’s a small branch library not far from my house.  I was walking by the other day and decided to stop in for a few minutes of people sketching.  The views aren’t great in this library but, frankly, it didn’t matter because I couldn’t draw a person to save my life.  These were 30-60s sketches and all tentative and horrible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gave up in frustration and continued walking.  About 15 minutes later I saw this old guy waiting to cross the street so I tried again.  I was pretty happy with how this one turned out.  I suppose the moral of the story is not to give up but I’d sure like to know why my brain won’t engage with my inner artist on occasion.

 

 

 

 

 

Still Drawing Pumpkins

Pumpkins are still everywhere I look, so I drew another pile of them.  I suppose, now that Halloween is over, that Christmas decorations will be all over the place.  The retail world has spread “celebration” (buy stuff you don’t need) of this holiday over two months and, for me, this has completely diluted the joyful atmosphere of the holiday.  I’m not sure I’ll do many Christmas sketches.  Maybe some cash registers (grin).

Sketching Over Coffee

I was at our farmer’s market the other day and one of the nice things about this place is that on one end of it there is a great coffee shop.  Great to me doesn’t mean the best coffee in the world because as long as it’s brown and hot, coffee is good enough for me.  No, I assess coffee shops based upon the seating arrangement and what is available to sketch when I’m sitting there.  This shop qualifies as great because of the view of the vegetable stands and the stream of people moving through.

This blog post smacks of ‘here’s a way to do it’ and I’m certainly not really qualified to teach art.  In this case I’m particularly not qualified as I’m really bad at sketching people on location.  First, it’s not my favorite subject and second, I draw too slow to keep up with moving targets.  BUT (Warning, warning, warning), I had an opportunity to take a couple photos of one process I’ve used with some success and I thought I’d share it.  It’s not a process that improves my drawing ability but it does provide a bit more time with the subject.

The process starts with me frantically drawing short line segments to capture the shape and position of the moving subject, in this case a mother and son.  The son is excited by the pumpkins and wants to pick up every one.  I had, maybe 15 seconds to do this:

Excuse the poor photos but the lighting was not great and I was in a hurry.  A good artist has great visual memory and can fill in all the details from the scene they’re trying to capture even if the subject has moved on.  I’m not a good artist.  This photo was actually taken after I took this one:

The mother and son continued along the row of pumpkin baskets, the mother doing her best to keep the son from grabbing pumpkins.  While she’d moved to the right from where I drew the lines above, I was able to quickly pick up my phone and snap her picture as she and her son looked at pumpkins.  This, and my quick gesture let me complete this:

Notice that I hadn’t drawn any background info until I’d captured the moving subject.  But having the photo of the two people let me judge their heights relative to the background of the location where I was drawing.  I could see where her purse hung.  I even noticed that I’d drawn her head too large in my gesture.  You can see evidence of that error in the final sketch as I corrected it.

This isn’t a master sketch by any means but I was happy with it.  Sometimes I don’t have to take a photo like this.  Sometimes I don’t even have that chance.  I do lots of quick-sketches that are terrible and others that are incomplete because the subject walks away.  But sometimes the photo trick helps so I thought I’d mention it.

 

Waiting For Trick Or Treaters

It’s that time of the year when we all get ready for groups of kids who will come in an attempt to extort candy from us in exchange for cuteness.  We don’t get many trick or treaters in our neighborhood because everyone who lives here is, shall we say, advanced in age.  But some parts of the city do get lots of young morsels…I mean kids coming to the doors.  This is what you see in THOSE neighborhoods.  Happy Halloween, everyone.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3009, Daniel Smith watercolors

 

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

Our Grand Marche is awash in pumpkins.  I’m sure there are more apples in the building but pumpkins are a close second.  Not drawing some of them is simply out of the question.  Doing this drawing along with a cup of coffee made for a fun, even relaxing morning.

Then I added some color.  Pumpkins need color..lots of color

Stillman & BIrn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3009, Daniel Smith watercolors

Coffee At Chez Temporel

One of my favorite cafes in Quebec City is Chez Temporel.  If you don’t know it’s there, you’ll probably never find it because it sits on a side street in the old city, sharing the street with a tiny grocery store.

My daughter was visiting and we decided to go there for coffee.  I’m a ‘just make it hot and brown’ kind of coffee drinker but she ordered cafe viennois and I thought I’d try it.  It was an opportunity to find out what chantilly cream was.  As it turns out it’s whipped cream made with some extra sugar and a bit of vanilla.

I decided I would draw it when it came. When it did arrive I realized that this was a dessert before coffee drink and I was unsure what to do.  Whipped cream doesn’t sit around long when placed on top of hot coffee so I just did a really quick sketch of my bowl of cafe viennois.  It tasted better than the sketch looks.

Stillman & Birn Nova (5.5×8.5)

I thought I’d add a few of my doodles along with this sketch.  This is where I practice stuff.  In this case I was trying different degrees of “looseness” in my pen lines, trying to match the subject at hand.  I’m not sure I accomplished any of that but I added just a bit to my pen mileage and every bit helps.

Thanksgiving Time In Canada

Thanksgiving comes in October here in Canada, the same month as Halloween.  This causes pumpkins and many displays of them to serve double duty.  At the beginning of October displays go up for Thanksgiving.  Hay Bales, pumpkins and such are everywhere.

When I saw this display I had to sketch it.  Great scene, though unfortunately it was placed into a shaded area next to the entrance of our farmers’ market.  This was not the most photogenic placement of a rustic cart so I didn’t draw any of the background.  Hope that’s ok (grin).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 8009, Daniel Smith watercolors

That was last week.  I walked by this week to find a bunch of additional pumpkins had been added.  Each had a black pumpkin face painted on it.  Happy Halloween everyone!

 

The Unwanted? Weed

Weed: A plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.

I’ve always thought that the word “weed” was a symbol of what’s wrong with human logic.  Mostly it says, “If I don’t want it there it must be labelled as undesirable and purged.”  This is our approach to nature, politics, social media, and a host of other things and the notion never yields good results.  The same is true when we spray the heck of out our lawns with poisons just to eliminate dandelions which are more beneficial and beautiful than the grass we’re supposedly protecting.  I bring this up because a “weed” showed up in our backyard.

Chantal has a big patch of day lilies growing next to the steps to our deck.  At this time of year, the flowers are gone but the long strings of foliage are still nice to look at… except for our weed.

Yes, it has encroached upon the garden, invaded our space.  It sits proudly, head up and says “What’cha gonna do about it?”  Well, we’ve adopted it and it’s one of our favorite features in the backyard, if only for its audacity.  I had to draw it – our single Rudbeckia.   Where it came from we do not know.  But it’s here and its our weed and we love her.

Moleskine watercolor book (A5 portrait), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009

Backyard Plants – They’re Always There

The thing about backyard plants is that they’re always there.  Chantal plants them, tends, them and I always say “I’m going to draw them.”  I never do because they’re always there.  But about this time a year, when the days are getting shorter and cooler, I realize that very soon, they won’t be there.  This happens every year but I’m a very slow learner.

And so I make the point of drawing some flowers.  I can’t possibly draw them all because, like a student waiting until the night of the exam to study, I don’t have enough time because I’ve ignored the task all summer.

The silly thing is that I thoroughly enjoy sitting in the yard with all my concentration directed at a bunch of leaves and flowers I know little about.  Chantal tells me these are anemone flowers.  I know nothing about cultivated plants except they’re fun to draw as long as you don’t have the attitude that they’re “always there.”

Moleskine watercolor book (A5 portrait), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009, Daniel Smith watercolors