Preparing For 2020

At the end of each year I look at the sketchbooks I have in progress.  If I include my two practice sketchbooks there were six of them.  Two were almost filled, though, and I make an effort to fill those before we turned over the calendar to 2020 for I can get a fresh start on the year.  Besides, both of those books were portrait format and I find that I prefer working in landscape mode.

To replace one I grabbed a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) from my sketchbook stash.  I love this format and Stillman & Birn books are still my favorites.

For the second replacement, however, I decided to try something new.  Out of curiosity I’d picked up a pad of Strathmore 184lb Mixed Media paper.  I cut a bunch of 9×12 sheets in half and created a 26-sheet sketchbook.  I made covers from thick cardboard and took it to Bureau en Gros (Staples to those outside of Quebec) where they neatly spiral bound it for me.

The plan was to wait until 2020 to start using them but I couldn’t wait to try the Strathmore paper so I sketched the small support table that sits to the left of my drawing table.  I really like drawing on the paper and, at least for these light washes, the paper does fine.  I think I’m going to like it even if it isn’t S&B.

So I’m all set for 2020.  I want to thank everyone who followed my blog in 2019 and all who have taught me so much by posting their own work on their blogs, YouTube, Instagram, and the rest.  Happy New Year.

Artistes Dans Les Parcs In A Park Building

The Artistes dans les parcs organization is, as their name suggests, a plein air group that gather in parks to paint.  But at the last event of the year, Yvan lobbied for them to continue into winter, holding indoor events much as we sketchers hold events.

This is a somewhat harder task for a larger group that typically work on easels with oils and acrylics but, somehow, Denise Bujold, the miracle-worker leader of the group, pulled it off.  She found a great room in a town west of us and we all headed there on a Sunday.

It was truly a social gathering because sketching subjects were limited and most of the people had brought photos along and they were painting from them.  But it was also a wonderful day because we got to experience the work of others. I learned some things about oils and got to see someone using pastels for the first time.  Likewise, with several sketchers nearby, these painters got to see what we do, which led to discussions of our sketchbooks.

Denise had set up several objects for us to draw.  One of them was a small teddy bear in Christmas garb and he proved popular with those of us sketching.  Here’s my attempt.

I’m a curious guy and with so many different activities going on I didn’t get any more sketching done that day.  I was too busy watching the other artists.  We also had an extended lunch period where I mostly sat listening, trying to follow several simultaneous French conversations.  I always find this quite impossible.  Still, somehow it’s fun.

A Christmas Card Gathering

With winter upon us we’re into cold weather sketching routine, which means doing things indoors.  Still, we like to sketch together and so, every year, we reserve a room at our local library and draw/paint Christmas cards.  I’m not much of a card giver but this event is a lot of fun.

Sitting in a room without a subject wreaks havoc on my lack of imagination and this is reflected in my results.  I’ve seen a lot of examples of a red vehicle carrying a Christmas tree and so that was my first stop.  I found a volkswagen photo on my phone and went to work.  This was the result:

I decided to draw a little house and remembered a few examples drawn by someone on Instagram.  Sorry, but I can’t remember her name.  Anyways, I drew this one from a memory of those little houses.  Hers were better.

I thought about snow and got out some white gouache.  The sole reason for this one was that I wanted to spatter white gouache to make snow because I’d never done it before.  The rest was an afterthought.

As always, card-making day was fun, with lots of laughs and time with good friends.  The cards produced weren’t the real goal anyway.

 

Sketching A Porcupine Fish In The Dark

For sketchers in Quebec City, the beginning of winter is marked with our migration from outdoors to the museums.  We’re now at the museum, a place that doesn’t seem able to pay its electric bill.  At least it seems that way as they decided a year or so ago to start “lighting” their exhibits with lots of dark.

Currently there are two exhibits in our Museum of Civilisation that are dark, one being a really nice exhibit on poisonous animals and plants, at least the parts of it you can actually see are nice.  There are some things where even putting your nose to the case glass isn’t sufficient to see the details of the object on display.  It’s said that museum clients spend mere seconds looking at any object.  Maybe this is how the museum is trying to slow them down.  I don’t think it’s working.

I decided to draw this porcupine fish.  I took the photo from a position that provided some backlighting of the fish so you could actually see it…almost.  While drawing it I had to make several forays up close to find out where the fins were.  Unlike many porcupine fish, this one didn’t have a lot of spines.  There were some short ones on his belly but otherwise his skin was smooth.  One thing was certain, however, I had to draw this sketch in a somewhat comical fashion.  This guy just deserved that treatment.

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

Quick biological fact of the day:  Porcupine fish (aka blowfish) are popular with suishi eaters with a death wish because blowfish contain a very toxic compound called tetrodotoxin.  This stuff is 1000 times more toxic than cyanide.  I’ve seen references to how poisonous the spines of a blowfish are but that’s not true.  The toxin is in the internal organs, specifically the liver and gut.  I think I’ll stick with salads myself.

Winter Sketching Has Arrived

“And so it begins…” has become a repeated phrase in modern parlance.  Some attribute it to Lord of the Rings and King Theodon commenting on the beginning of the war for Middle Earth.  The most popular meme seems to be references to Star Wars.  For me, though, it was when Kosh, an alien ambassador said it in Babylon 5, a 5 year TV saga that is still, in my view, the best scripted TV series ever.  It’s scope was huge for TV and I’ve watched it several times.

And so it begins, Quebec’s winter sketching season.  It’s a loooong season too.  We’ll come out of it sometime in May, six months from now [sigh].  That means I’ll be spending my “urban sketching” time in museums, sitting in the dark, drawing with the use of a book light.  I’ll spend time scribbling my way through coffee shops, trying to capture the people there just to break the monotony.

But today we’re having a heat wave.  Our temperature hit 1C today (grin).  We went to the museum for the first time in months and drew a new, small display of fire fighting paraphenalia.  It was nice because it was in a hallway and not in the two major exhibits, where many of the exhibits are too darn dark to see, let alone draw.  At least it’s practice and goodness knows I need that.

Moleskine watercolor book (5.5×8.5)