Cemetery Sketchcrawl Was A Big Success

It’s too late in the year to have an outdoor sketchcrawl in Quebec City.  We did it anyway.  Our group met at 10AM at the Mt. Herman Cemetery, a large expanse of rolling hills, tall white pines, oaks and maples and an ambiance that makes one want to meditate.  There’s a haiku group that meets weekly just to sit and write haiku poems.  I can understand why.

But we were there to draw.  Mark Brennan, one of the nicest guys in all of Quebec City and director of the cemetery, offered us the facilities of his building so we had toilet facilities as well as a kitchen and table around which we could sit for lunch.  As it turned out this really put the frosting on our sketchcrawl cake.

We went out to sketch and after some wandering, I sat down to draw a monument with a statue on top.  I had just done some organizational lines when Rene came over, introduced himself and told me that there were some other people that had just arrived.  So, as the organizer, I grabbed my stuff and hoofed it back up the hill to welcome people.  The cemetery is huge so it was no small feat to find everyone but find them I did, all busy sketching and in no need of my smiling face.  I gave it to them anyway.

I was heading back down to my sketching location when I met someone and that encounter became an hour-long discussion of fountain pens and inks.  Eventually I realized that there was something of an information overload occurring and so I told her I’d send her some links to the products we’d been talking about (Goulet Pens should give me cut) and I finally got back to sketching.

I got a few more lines drawn before I saw Rene and Gilles walking along the road and realized that we’d agreed to meet at the house at noon for lunch.  Guess what time it was.  So, once again, I packed up and walked with them.  Lunch was fun as we sat around talking (well, mostly I listened as I still have a hard time maintaining a conversation in French), some other people arrived, and we were having a bit of a party, sharing sketchbooks, talking about the virtues of gathering to sketch, etc.

Having had food, drink and comraderie, we headed back out to sketch and I was determined to finish at least one sketch so I headed immediately back to my statue.  It was now 3 1/2 hours into our sketchcrawl and I’d sketched no more than 15 minutes of it but I was having a lot of fun.  Sometimes it’s just not about the drawing.

It had also cooled somewhat and my Arizona bones were hurting, literally.  My arthritis and the cold froze up my hands to the point where I was having a hard time holding the pen and getting a straight line was out of the question.  But I finished the sketch and then ran over to a car full of sketchers and spent a few minutes inside warming up (grin).

Mt Herman Cemetery

Stillman & Birn Beta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

In all, we had a dozen sketchers, enjoying one of those ‘crisp fall days’ that authors talk about.  We sketchers call them ‘awfully cold’ but we did have fun.  Thanks to everyone who came and to Mark Brennan who made it all possible.

Sketching At Ecole De Cirque – Are You Kidding Me?

The great folks that organize the Collectif des ateliers libres en arts visuels  (longest group name ever) arranged to allow us to sketch at the Ecole de cirque where young people train to become circus entertainers.  It was a wonderful opportunity, or so I thought.  In the end, though, I wasn’t up to the task.

Attempt with a washable ink.

The school was fantastic and just getting to see it made the outing worth the trouble.  there were people jumping, bouncing, swinging, and being thrown across rooms everywhere you looked.  And they were good…really good.  Sketching them, however, was another matter.  It was like trying to draw popcorn being popped.  No two movements were identical and most not directed.  I simply couldn’t keep up.  Need more practice – more experience.

Attempt with a washable ink.

Attempt with a washable ink.

2015-10-30cirque2_colorHere’s an example of my failures…many failures 🙂  The woman on the left was spinning around and around in this hula-hoop thingie hung from the ceiling.  She’d hang from it, zip up through it and sometimes dangle with hands outstretched in different directions.  By the time I had  a line or two “defining” the woman on the right, she was upside down and she too was swinging, hanging and moving… a lot.

This woman made it a bit easier on me as she was working with a coach.  Her thing was to have two sets of belts hanging from the ceiling, as a gymnast working on rings might do, except she had no rings, just the loops of the belts.  She was practicing hanging vertical and moving her legs into and out of different positions.   She’d also dismount once in a while and stand, talking to her coach.  It seemed more like the popcorn in a bowl rather than in the popper and I took advantage of it.  I also drew a bunch of people who were just sitting/standing around but I’ll spare you those.


While we were eating lunch, a bunch of kids came into the room to eat lunch.  They were all bundled up in coats so I took the opportunity to do some quick pencil sketches of them.  It was a fitting end to the day as eventually I put my coat on too.  It’s that time of the year where I always lament that I’m now having to put on a coat before I go outside (grin).

Museum Sketching Exercise


Stillman & Birn Beta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

We’ve got a sketchcrawl coming up on Saturday and it looks like an unexpected blob of warm weather in early November is going to reward us for scheduling an outdoor event this late in the year.

But, truth be told, outdoor sketching is mostly over so I’m making regular trips to the museum to draw.  The big exhibit right now is Egyptian and composed, mostly, of small statues, jewelry, and some miscellaneous goods.  I’m in a mood right now to work on speeding up my sketching so rather than doing slow, precise drawing of these items, I’ve decided to draw a bunch of them more quickly.  I’m not quick-sketching (2 min or less) but rather I’m spending 10-20 minutes per item, trying to capture them as accurately as I can in that time.  Given my normal snail-like pace, I admit to feeling rushed.  It’s fun and I’m hoping that this exercise will add something to my skill set.  Here are a couple of the sketches I did during the first exercise session.

Egypt exhibit

Stillman & Birn Beta, Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Eventually I’ll do more detailed renderings of some of these pieces, but I feel that varying the time I give myself to do sketches has really helped me improve and I want to continue playing with that variable.  Do you do that?

Sometimes It’s More Than Sketching

The change of seasons, for me, means transition from street sketcher to museum sketcher.  It’s a sad time, but also an exciting time. There’s so much shape variation in museum exhibitions.

Our Musee de la civilisation has a new exhibit just opened that presents Australian/New Zealand aboriginal art and as I play didjeridu and love aboriginal art, I’m quite excited about it.  Most of the exhibit is paintings, rugs, and such but there are some statues and masks that I’ll be taking advantage of this winter.

I was there a few days ago, drawing a large wall-hanging mask.  So were a bunch of kids on school outings.  The kids were great as they’d come to see what I was doing and when I talked to them I got half a dozen more coming to see what was going on.  This begat more and more kids to the point where I was mostly just talking to them about the watercolor pencils, waterbrushes, and how much fun it is to draw.  Kids “get it.”  They haven’t learned the feelings and emotions about art that adults somehow acquire.

Eventually they wandered away, though, and I got back to drawing.  I was really enjoying the music and serenity of the room.  A mother and her two young daughters (I’d guess they were 4 and 6) came by and, again, the kids were interested and, as is often the case with parents, the mother told them to leave me alone.  I told her it was fine and I showed them what I was doing.

The older girl had some sort of writing/sketching book with her and started to draw with me.  The younger one, of course, wanted to draw too, which sent mom scrambling for paper and pencil.  She found some paper but had only a Seattle Seahawks pencil with her and it needed sharpening.  I sharpened it and we chatted as I did.  They were on vacation from where some of my favorite urban sketchers live – Seattle.

The kids drew a bit and I finished my sketch.  The older girl came over to show me her drawing and I asked her if she wanted to use my watercolor pencils to color her drawing.  Her look was priceless and I loaned her one pencil at a time.  The same thing happened with the younger girl.  We had a regular sketchcrawl going on.

I wish I had been smart enough to take some photos.  Sadly, all I can share is the sketch I did, but it was the most insignificant thing that happened on this day.

aboriginal mask

Stillman & BIrn Beta (9×12), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black, Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils

A Token Autumn Tree Sketch

As I follow Facebook groups and Instagram one thing is clear.  Sketchers sketch autumn colors, often as a single tree.  I’ve never done that but as I was out walking yesterday it occurred to me that I should.

Why?  Because there were steps I could sit on at the bank.  Across the street there was a red maple, showing off how it got its name.  I was only carrying my ‘short kit’ which amounted to small sketchbooks with inexpensive quick-sketching paper but I sat down and drew it.  The drawing took only a few minutes and I had to add the color at home, very carefully as the paper buckled quite a bit.  Regardless, here is my autumn tree.  The U-shaped things are supposed to protect the trees from errant snow plows.  Somewhat of an anachronism as it’s not going to snow any more – is it?

red maple