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

Sketching A Classic Yacht

There are signs of autumn in the air, though most of our trees have yet to change color.  I suppose that disappoints those arriving daily on fancy cruise ships so they can see the fall colors, but I’m grateful.  Our summer started so slowly that we need an equally slow entry into winter for sanity’s sake.

I made another trip to Bassin Louise, the harbor for personal craft in Quebec City.  I confess that I’m not impressed by the modern plastic boats that people are so proud of but give me a classic wooden ship and I feel the need to sketch it.  This sketch didn’t do the old yacht justice but here it is, warts and all.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document black, Wing Sung 8009

Where Have The Alligators Gone?

The Artistes dans les parcs went back to what is now called Parc des Moulins, but the area used to be the Quebec zoo.  Oh how I wish we still had animals to draw but politics brought the zoo to an end, a needless end.

Anyway, it was a hot day but I set up in the sun at one end of a large impound that used to house the alligators. It’s a pond with small islands for alligator basking and a building at one end so people could look down on the critters.  The islands are now overgrown so while this sketch doesn’t have any alligators, it does have lots of plants.  The mandatory alligator-proof wall is still in place around it and it seemed only fitting that it be included in the scene.

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

The Urban Sketcher View

I’ve only been an urban sketcher.  Yes, I’ve drawn stuffed animals and a few flowers but mostly I go out somewhere, sit down and draw what’s in front of me, on location.  I like this because I don’t have to make stuff up.  I can see the objects ‘in the flesh’ and from all angles.  Drawing from photos is boring and, somehow incomplete.

But there’s a downside to urban sketching.  You’re always faced with cluttered, complex landscapes.  Drawn verbatim, you end up with confused, messy sketches.  Everyone says “simplify,” but in my opinion, this is the hardest thing to do in art.  What to leave out, what to leave in.  Where should the border of the sketch be>  How do you treat those edges?  Do you zoom in or out to capture a subject?  Too many decisions… too many choices.

I went with Yvan to draw boats.  Specifically we wanted to draw some of the tugboats that are moored in the Quebec City harbor.  I found a place out of the wind and set up to draw a tugboat on the other side of the harbor.  I had this view.

I’m not a master of composition but even I know this is a cluttered view and that having a big rope cutting across a drawing with no reason isn’t a good idea.  So, “simplify” is what I’m told so that’s what I do.

Even so, it was going to be hard to make that tugboat the star of my sketch if I drew it from that far away.  So, the solution was to zoom in, forcing the tugboat onto center stage.  I also decided to greatly simplify the background.  And I started to draw my tugboat.

I was happy with this result but zooming in did present a new problem.  If the boat is drawn that large, don’tcha want to see a lot of detail?  Of course, but because the boat is actually so far away, you can’t see the details.  Some details are faked as a set of textural marks.  Others are left out completely.  It’s a balance I guess.  A balance that makes me realize just how much I still need to learn about sketching.

Are You Afraid Of Clowns?

Many people are afraid of clowns for some reason.  They might be scared to death if they walk down rue St. Paul in the old port area of Quebec City because, between two buildings there is a humongous inflatable clown head scrunged between the two walls.  I think it’s cute but it could also be scary, depending upon your point of view.  I had to draw it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 8009, Platinum brush pen

Doodling Near The Train Station

I was sitting in the park in front of our train station, just enjoying the light water spray from the fountain there.  It was a beautiful day and I’d been out doing my walking exercise.

I love the train station and have drawn it several times but never from this angle through the trees.  As it turns out I drew it a bit wider than it actually is but she’s still a stately building even if I gave her a bit more weight.

Old Expo Exhibition Hall

I go to our new Grande Marché almost every day.  Part of the reason is that I’m trying hard to walk as much as possible to rebuild strength in my bad leg.  But the other reason is that there’s just something soothing about seeing all the local farmer produce on display.  I can’t really explain why that is so and the hectic nature of lots of people running around buying stuff would argue against it, but it makes me happy for some reason.

The other day I drew the corner of a really large, classic building that used to be the Science & Technology building on the fairgrounds on which the Grande Marché sits (it used to be the Agriculture building).  Anyways, I just love the corners of this building.  This was a quick and small sketch.  Some day I’ll have to do a larger one.

Sketching Ocimum basilicum

Today I drew our Ocimum basilicum plant.  Sweet Basil is a one of my favorite herbs.  Did you know that it’s related to mint?  And while it tastes just dandy, it’s those big, puffy leaves that cause sketchers to be drawn to it.

There’s not much to say about this sketch.  I sat on our deck and drew it.  Not a big drawing (about 4″x4″) but I did switch pens.  Instead of my fine nib fountain pens, I chose an old Hero fude pen just for a change.

 

Why Draw A Squash?

Why would anyone draw a single squash?  Because it was there, of course.  There need be no other reason.  And so it was as the squash sat on our kitchen island and I drew it.  This one was odd-looking in that while most Sunburst squashes are round, but flattened, this one was almost as high as it was round.

If I were Charlie O’Shields (Mr. Doodlewash) I’d have a charming story to tell you about how Philippe prepares squash or how his mother forced him to eat it when he was young.  I’m not nearly as talented.  I buy squash, I cook squash, I eat squash and now I can say I’ve sketched squash.  Anyway, I had fun sketching it.