Family Day At Cap Tourmente

The Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area is a great place to get out into nature.  It’s a place with lots of short hiking trails through several habitats and, if you go during the week and outside ‘goose season’ it’s largely devoid of humans so it’s QUIET.  We city-dwellers don’t get quiet anymore and I think it affects us more deeply than we think..if we think about it at all.

I mentioned goose season.  Cap Tourmente is a major stop-over area for migrating geese.  In October/November and thousands of geese aggregate there during their journey south.  It’s pretty cool to see them turn a marsh white with their presence and fill the sky in squadron-like fashion.  But geese bring with them hundreds of humans, filling over-flow parking lots with their pollution devices and that pretty much ruins the experience for me.

But on this day, we were there on a Monday, out of season.  The day was delightful.  We watched a lot of young hummingbirds at feeders, enjoyed the presence of a young porcupine, saw egrets, blue herons, marsh and red-tail hawks, and we even saw the Perigrine Falcons that nest in the cliffs that overlook the refuge.  They told us to beware of bears but the only ones we saw were on the beware of bear signs on the garbage cans.

It wasn’t a sketching day but I couldn’t resist the urge so I did this little landscape while wife and daughter were off investigating the building featured in this sketch.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5x8.5), Esterbrook J9550

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Esterbrook J9550

We stopped for lunch and sat near the information center because there is a gaggle of picnic tables there and we were the only ones using them besides a few tussock moth caterpillars.

Once we were sufficiently nourished we decided to head out in the opposite direction, but I spent 2-3 minutes doing this really quick sketch of a copse of trees.  Not much but it was still good fun.  The washable ink made it even more fun/quick.

Mostly, this day allowed us to fill up on quiet and that’s worth doing.  Give it a try, it’s refreshing, particularly during an election year.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (3.5x5.5)

Stillman & Birn Alpha (3.5×5.5), Pilot Metropolitan, J.Herbin Cacao de Brezil washable ink.

A Whale Of A Time In Tadoussac

Tadoussac is a major whale-watching spot in North America.  It sits at the confluence of the Gulf of St. Lawrence (salt water) and a major river fiord (Saguenay River) that is both deep and rich in nutrients as it flows into the Gulf.  This interesting dynamic results in a place where large whales come into the Gulf just to amuse tourists paying to go out on boats to see them (I think that’s right), while smaller whales wander around in the mouth of the Sagueny, feeding.

This generates lots of tourist trade, boat traffic and a whole bunch of people sitting on rocks on the edge of the Saguenay, yelling “Ooooooo” in unison every time a whale decides to take a breathe.  This is great fun and very relaxing, except for my butt which doesn’t think much of sitting on rocks for long periods.

But I was there, with my family and as we watched for whales (saw pilot and beluga whales), I started making tiny sketches of the stuff I could see around me.  This was the end result.  I do a lot of tiny sketches but I rarely post them but in this case I did them all on one page and it does document the area…well, sort of.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8x10), Esterbrook J9550, DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Esterbrook J9550, DeAtramentis Document Black

After some whale watching we went back to the car to get stuff for a picnic and sat in a grassy area and chowed down, enjoying the sea breeze.  When we finished we headed back down the main street.

I posted a couple days ago a sketch of a Tadoussac street lamp that I sketched while I waited for wife and daughter near a public toilet, but I was not finished with my sketching day.  I’d seen a house that I thought particularly sketcha-genic so I proposed that we get an ice cream cone and sit on the boardwalk, watching the tour boats come and go.  We got the ice cream and I found a place for us to sit that just happened to let me sit on the end of the bench and see that house.   I managed to do this sketch of it while my family patiently waited.  They seemed amused by the interest shown in my scribbling by those passing by.

Stillman & Birn Beta (5x8), Esterbrook J9550, DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (5×8), Esterbrook J9550, DeAtramentis Document Black

We had a great day as tourists and I had a fun time as a sketcher.  It couldn’t have been better.

Apple Picking Time In Quebec

2014-09-14ladderBecause we have a large grocery store only a minute away, I can buy 10 lbs of apples in less than 10 minutes.  It will cost me 99-cents a pound.  Or, I can drive for half an hour, pick my own apples, pay 99-cents a pound, and drive home.  It’ll only take me 90 minutes.

So, of course, once a year, we head out to pick apples.  It’s fun.  I don’t know what it is about apple picking, but clean air and greenery is always appealing to me.

The place we go is on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River and at the back of the orchard, just above the St. Lawrence, is the top of a church that was built in 1667.  It existed on the site until 1720 so one assumes that this ‘steeple’ came off the church at that time.  It’s been repaired with modern nails and bolts to hold it together and architecture in early Quebec wasn’t very fancy but I like it.


Sketching Marais Du Nord, Quebec

Marais du nord is one of my favorite places in the Quebec City area.  It’s only a few kilometers out of town but when you go there, you leave the hectic, noisy city behind and enter the world of chittering squirrels, bird noises and, most of all, the silence and peace that comes from being close to nature.

Marais du nord (north marsh) is situated within and around a large expanse of marshland between Lac Delage and Lac St. Charles and is maintained by a consortium of concerned citizens who decided that too much of the land around the lakes was being bought up and developed.  They took on the Herculean effort of convincing the government to give them money and developed the “park” (I’m not sure whether park or reserve is the better word) to maintain the marshland and to provide hiking trails, bridges, overlooks and benches for people wanting to get away from the city for a while.  A lot of Quebec kids are getting to see nature up close because of Marais du nord.

Chantal and I headed there for the day, mostly to clear our heads with a bit of hiking, lunch in the woods, and maybe, just maybe, to find some mushrooms to sketch.  She has a “mushroom book” in which she sketches mushrooms and the mushroom diversity at Marais du nord is extraordinary.

It was a glorious day, though it was cut a bit short by threatening clouds that dumped a few tons of water on us as we sat in the car.  Sometimes things do work out and we guessed right this time.  Nevertheless, we got some hiking done and found some of those mushrooms.

mushrooms from Marais Du Nord

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7), Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Because this was a hiking trip, the notion that I would spend a couple hours doing a landscape was out of the question.  Chantal is patient but there are limits.  There were mushrooms to find, afterall.  I saw this lack of time as an opportunity to force myself to put into practice some of the stuff that Marc Taro Holmes is trying to teach those of us taking his Craftsy Travel Sketching in Mixed Media course.

I’ve been doing a bunch of quick, single-line sketches, trying to capture a scene quickly and simplifying by elimination of details.  My typical sketching style makes it hard for me to capture a chunk of nature quickly; nature is just too darn complex.  So I decided to see if I could grab a scene quickly.  I didn’t use the single-line approach but worked VERY loose and quick, for me, and in 10-12 minutes I’d done this drawing.  This was nothing short of a miracle for me as I can burn an hour drawing a single tree.  The bridge would have taken another hour.  I did several of these quick sketches during the day and I was generally pleased with the results.  Maybe Marc’s right and that by the time I’ve finished up a few dozen of those single-line sketches I’ll have figured it out.

bridge at Marais du Nord

10-12 minute sketch in Stillman & Birn Beta (9×12), Namiki Falcon & Kuretake #13 brush pen.


Sketching In St. Vallier

Last Wednesday several of us drove to St. Vallier at the invitation of Louise Denault, one of our sketching buddies.  This was very exciting because St. Vallier is a beautiful place, with a wide variety of sketching locations.

4x6 toned paper, Platinum Carbon pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

4×6 toned paper, Platinum Carbon pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

I took advantage of the fact that, for once, I wasn’t driving and so I did some quick sketches along the way.  The bumps in the road added to the scribbly nature of the sketches but it was fun anyway.

We picked up Louise at her house and headed to a side road overlooking the valley and its agricultural fields.  Everyone set up next to a wheat field with the expanse of the valley behind it, but I walked down the road to sketch an outbuilding I’d seen as we arrived.

outbuilding in St. Vallier, QC

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×9), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Claudette and Louise came to where I was sketching just as I was finishing and we walked back to the group together.  It had been determined that it was time for lunch and that we would head back to Louise’s house for lunch.

As everyone else was packing up I looked out at the valley and decided it would be an opportunity to do another one of those one-line sketch drawings and so I did one.  I did ‘cheat’ a bit and lifted my pen a couple times to keep the drawing a bit cleaner, but by the time everyone was packed I’d done the sketch, added some darks, and was slopping paint on the piece of cheap Bristol on which I did it.  I mention this last thing because it was a mistake.  I thought I’d grabbed a piece of watercolor paper but instead I was trying to herd water on a piece of slippery, coated paper and I was using a waterbrush to do it.  That was exciting.  But this was a few minutes of fun and the result isn’t horrible (grin).

6x9 Bristol paper, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

6×9 Bristol paper, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Lunch was to die for, and if I’d eaten one more bite that might have happened.  Louise provided quite a spread, with a beautiful salad, lots of cheeses, smoked sturgeon, quiche, baguettes, and wine… lots of wine.  I was stuffed.  And then Louise mentioned the pies…two pies.  And, of course, we had to try both of them 🙂

Louise’s house is amazing but it’s the backyard, with its gardens, gazebo and view of the St. Lawrence that is the real jewel and we were eating in said gazebo.  I’m used to a protein bar and a coffee when I go sketching.   This was different, a really good kind of different 🙂

And now that we were done with lunch, it was time to get out sketching again.  So, barely able to move, I left the gazebo completely delier, my new French word for the day.  It means to be loosened up, and boy, was I loose.  Any looser and I would’ve fallen down.  I needed a nap.

Off we went, to a small nature park not far from St. Vallier.  It was a parking lot, picnic tables, some trails and a gazebo set up for bird watching along the coast.  Most of us decided to draw the gazebo.  Here’s mine.

gazebo near riviere Boyer

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×9), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

It was a great day but by then we were all pretty worn out and called it a day.  Thanks to Louise for all her hospitality, her zucchinis, and that fantastic lunch.