The days are becoming cool and raining and between that and days when my hands won’t let me draw that coincide with the good days, I’m not getting a lot of opportunity to sketch on location. But Yvan and I did get out and into the alleyways of old Quebec to do a bit of sketching. This, and the smile on my face, was the result.
Denise Bujold is doing an amazing job of organizing events for us to attend. While most art groups are held together by the love of a particular medium or way of working, this one is held together with smiles. It seems everyone is working in a different medium, some carry easels, others tripod stools. But everyone shows up with smiles on their faces and that’s all we need.
This week we assembled at Domain Cataraqui, which at one time was a huge estate. I guess it’s still a huge estate but now it serves several purposes, most central of which is a cooking school. For a sketcher, there is a large cluster of unique architecture and gardens that are all surrounded by forest. Oh…and it’s quiet, one of my favorite things.
Yvan and I arrived a bit early and we chose an area to start sketching. I decided to do a larger sketch of a view of the building complex and because I’m slower than molasses as a sketcher, it took me until lunch to complete it.
Everyone else had set up and were painting on the other end of the estate so I headed up there to take part in the smiles, some chit-chat, and maybe some lunch. It was a gorgeous day and sitting in front of a multi-million dollar mansion just felt right.
When faced with opportunity, a sketcher shouldn’t hesitate and Yvan and I are no exceptions. Miriam invited us to sketch at her place on Ile d’Orleans and we jumped at the chance. The location is beautiful and Miriam is there to sketch with us. What’s not to like?
The day was delightful, though my hands seemed to have a mind of their own. These days, straight lines are becoming hard to make. But we had a lot of fun sketching together and enjoying the day. Here are a couple of my sketches from the day.
I got the chance to hitch a ride with Claudette and Yvan, who were headed to the Ile d’Orleans for a day of sketching. It happened to be on a “good” day for my leg and hand so I was optimistic. The day was ideal. We’re still experiencing high temps and humidities but I’m learning that Quebec City’s “colder than everywhere else” translates into “cooler than everywhere else” when the world is facing heat waves.
We ended up in the town of St. Jean, which is on the northern end of the island and we parked near a large church and strategically positioned to walk across the street for coffee when our session was over. We headed off in the other direction, though, down onto the intertidal zone near the St. Lawrence.
This rock-encrusted area is gorgeous and affords great views across the river as well as back towards the church and other houses along the river front. For me it was slow-going as I walked like a drunken sailor over the uneven surfaces, trying not to upset my new overlord – my knee. It was so nice to be out sketching that I hardly noticed, but people watching must have wondered what was wrong with me.
I decided on a scene and to work in a little 5×7 spiral bound book from Winsor & Newton. The paper is 100% cotton and the size is really convenient. I was only half content with the results but since I’m trying lots of different watercolor techniques I’ve never used before, I expect very little from the results. It was fun, though, to play around with some dry-brushing and wet-n-wet (complete fail on that one).
Then it was time for coffee and we had a great time looking sketchbooks that Claudette had filled while on a recent trip. When we finished we drove to Miriam’s cottage, though she wasn’t on the island this day. It was threatening rain so Claudette and I set up inside a large barn and drew outward from it. I wanted to emphasize the framing of the scene by the barn door but I feel that I let the depth of the scene escape me so I was pretty disappointed with the end result. The doing, as always, was a lot of fun. Funny how it works that way sometimes. I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t stick with pen and ink and leave the watercolor to others.
I’ve mentioned the Collectif before, whose complete name is Collectif des ateliers libres en arts visuels de Québec because people here love long, impossible to remember names. They are mostly a portrait group and like nothing more than to sit around a naked person while they draw in a stuffy room. In recent years, though, they’ve discovered that sketching outdoors is fun, too, and so have started scheduling outdoor events during the summer.
They scheduled an event at a large garden in Ste-Foy, or rather Quebec City. Which name you use depends on whether you acknowledge the aggregation of the small cities into what now makes up metro-Quebec City. For me it will always be Ste-Foy though I realize that people reading this blog might be confused by my using the two names to refer to the same place. Such is life on planet Quebec City.
The garden is a large one but mostly rows and rows of different species of plants, and thus most of it is not the same as a typical botanical garden. If I knew more about gardens I’d probably know why this is the case. In any event, it’s a great place to draw flowers but I didn’t do that on this day. Instead, I drew a small kiosk and the surrounding vegetation. It was a nice day and the sketching was relaxing. When I was done I walked around to talk with everyone and to look at what everyone was drawing. By the time that was done my knee was screaming at me and so I settled for the one sketch for the day. I hope you like it.
While many are counting spring flowers, Quebec City lags behind planet Earth as we still have lots of snow. I’m hopeful it will melt away ‘real soon’ and it was with that optimistic view that I decided to go outside and draw.
It was still too cold. It was windy and I had to stand up while drawing, something I’m not good at, but by standing against a wall, out of the wind, it wasn’t too bad. Here’s my first outdoor sketch of 2018.
We made a weekend trip to Montreal to visit our daughter, which meant that within a couple hours of arriving we were standing in Notebene, my favorite pen/paper/pencil store. I was there to talk to Carol about a pen and to pick up some Platinum Carbon Black cartridges.
It was to be a ‘no spend’ visit because I didn’t need much. But, you know, a guy’s got to look around and, you know, it’s hard to resist, you know, finding stuff I “needed.” Of course I “needed” a dozen Tombow Mono 2B pencils I found. Not too bad, though. We were twenty minutes into the visit and the pencils were all I “needed.”
Then it happened. My daughter handed me a notebook and said, “This feels so good.” It was an A6-size book that must have had a couple hundred pages in it, nice cream-colored blank, as in could be used as a sketchbook, pages. And she was right, it felt right. It was heavier than I like in a sketchbook but holding it made me feel like I had something important in my hands. I could tell my daughter wanted it badly. She did her best to argue that I shouldn’t buy it for her but her heart wasn’t really in it. By then, my wife was there and she wanted one too.
I now had nearly $60 worth of books in my hands and I was sort of wishing they had a third one for me. I say sort of because they also had a thinner version of the book that was just as elegant but much lighter and it suited my “needs” better than the thicker book. One of those ($14 CDN) ended up on the pile. And with smiles all around, my “no spend” day warmed up the credit card quite a bit.
So what is this sketchbook? It’s a Paperlarias Emilio Braga notebook with blank, cream-colored 90gsm paper. These notebooks are handmade and both sewn and glued together. They lay flat. The covers are cardboard covered with brown paper and reinforced with a fabric spine and corners. The blank page books come with a writing guide with lines on one side and a grid on the other.
Because the paper is only 90gsm it’s best used with dry media, or at most light washes as it will buckle if you add a lot of water. In the one drawing I’ve done, I did get some buckling but no bleedthrough or ghosting. I’m really happy with it; it feels so good in the hand. I just might have to get one of the thicker ones the next time I’m in Montreal.
It’s now 2018 and I’m hoping there will be fewer doctor and physio appointments this year. I’ve tried to doodle my way through the last few months of 2017, working on using my elbow and shoulder more and my wrists less. I draw small, though and find that transition to be tough sledding, particularly for drawing small-size curves that my wrist just won’t do.
Nevertheless, if I made any resolution for 2018 it was to get back to drawing. This morning I decided to draw a scene from a photo. My wrist was feeling “pretty good” which is my shorthand term for “it’s not locked up and doesn’t hurt constantly” and so I grabbed a Platinum Carbon pen and a 5×7 piece of Fabriano Artistico CP and tried to capture a photo I had of Quebec’s Finance Building. The pen isn’t flowing like it once did, probably because I’m being too careful about how I’m moving my hand, but I did produce a sketch and I share it with you here.
Hopefully things will improve as I get back into it. I sure hope so because Liz Steel’s new watercolour course starts January 10th and I hope to do a lot of fuzzy stick practice ‘real soon.’
I should be writing blog posts about how life would be for a snail trying to do location sketching. Movement from point A to point B is so slow and energy-draining for me these days that I have to make decisions based on how long it will take me to get there. I suppose that’s true for everyone but I’m talking about how far I have to walk in a museum. Distances measured in feet have become important (grin). Weird that.
But I am starting to get out and about and it feels really good. I went to the museum on Tuesday. I used to walk there (about 45min). Now I take two buses and when I get there I’m exhausted. Once I’ve hobbled up a couple flights of stairs I have to sit down and rest before I try to sketch.
The significant thing about all this is that the majority of my sketching time isn’t spent sketching so I have to keep the subjects simple and just try to get as much enjoyment from the short sketching fix as possible. There’s a row of weathervanes on display right now and they fit a snail-sketcher’s approach really well. Hope you like this one. The original is made of sheet metal.
It’s been several weeks since I walked out of my house wearing my larger art bag. That was the day I met Brigitte, the new sketcher I mentioned in my last post. We met in the small park along St. Denis street within the walls of the old city of Quebec.
We were to meet at 10AM but Claudette and I arrived earlier, I think it was around 9:30. We both started sketching and I was well into a drawing when Brigitte arrived. When she did, we started talking about everything and anything and had a delightful conversation about her, about the sketching world in Quebec City, her house renovations and a bunch of other stuff. She’s really a delightful person but eventually we decided that maybe we should draw and so got back to it. By then, though, it was nearing lunch time, or at least coffee break time so we didn’t get much more sketching done.
I was starting to have my leg problems and when I got home my bag went on the shelf and the only thing I’ve done with it since was to remove my pen case, because all other materials are replicated on my desk and/or in my smaller bag. Yesterday, however, I decided to organize for what I optimistically view as my imminent return to street sketching.
And guess what I found? That partially complete sketch from weeks ago. It seems very unlikely that I’ll ever complete it so I thought I’d show you an ‘in progress” photo of it. Hope you like it.