A Quick Trip Across The River

We made a quick sketching trip across the St. Lawrence River, back to Maison Alphonse-Dejardins last week.  With the holidays rushing towards us I entirely forgot to write about it so here’s the abridged version.

We went.  We were there.  We had fun.  I drew a cabinet hanging on the kitchen wall, mostly because of all the goodies hanging from it.  I shot this photo of sketch and cabinet as I waited for the first bit of paint to dry.  Once dry, I added more color and this was the result.  I mucked up the shadows but nobody’s perfect 🙂  Done in a Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10) softcover.  I’ve fallen in love with these sketchbooks.   Same great paper as my hardcover books but at almost half the weight.

I thought I’d throw in this small sketch I did of one of the lights in the house.  I did it quickly a few weeks ago while waiting for others to finish up.

It was great to get out sketching on location again, in spite of the snow and the cold.  I suspect I’ll be returning to Maison Alphonse-Dejardins this winter.

Old-Time Kitchen Sketching

In recent weeks I’ve had to forsake urban sketching because it’s just too darn cold outside and so I’ve started doing domestic sketching (my name for studio sketching as the opposite of urban sketching) and historic sketching (drawing from old photos).  Seems there is jargon-ese convergence in what I present today – historic, domestic, urban sketching.

Yvan and I braved the cold and took the ferry to Levis, where we climbed the hill and made our way to Maison Alphonse-Dejardins.  Dejardins is the guy who started the Quebec banking system and his home is now a museum in his honor.  I was on location and sketching and thus, I was an urban sketcher again.  But this time my target was the sink and counter in the smallish kitchen in this home.  Next time I’ll do the coal-fired stove cuz it’s a dandy.  And in one swoop, this sketch is both historic and domestic.  Voila, I did historic, domestic, urban sketching (grin).

I know, I’m being silly, but then the labels we put on everything, and worse, the debates over what qualifies as fitting a label are pretty silly too.  Anyways, here’s the sketch I did in a Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10) softcover sketchbook.  I kinda let the perspective get away from me but what the heck, if they were all perfect there’d be no reason to continue trying.

Maison Alphonse-Dejardins

The Saga Of A Sunday Sketchcrawl

Last Sunday was our monthly sketchcrawl.  We were to meet at a historic house, the Maison Alphonse-Dejardins, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in Levis.  I was excited to visit the place and thankful that Yvan had arranged for us to sketch there.

Early Sunday morning, I set out on a walk to the ferry that took me just a bit less than an hour.  The ferry took 10-15 minutes to cross and then I had to climb a cliff (a gazillion stair steps are provided) and then into the older part of Levis where the house resides.  I was there at 10AM.  The air was crisp, which is a fancy way of saying I was glad I was wearing gloves, but I knew that people would be showing up soon.

But they didn’t.  Nobody came.  In fact, the house itself was dark.  I began to wonder if I’d written the date wrong.  Cell phones are handy at such times and the website announcement made clear my error.  Because of the house’s Sunday schedule, it didn’t open until the afternoon so the sketchcrawl was scheduled for 1PM.  @#%$!!

And so I walked to the stairs, descended the cliff and walked to the ferry.  I crossed the St. Lawrence and walked home.  I didn’t do the math, though, and when I arrived at home I realized that to get back to Levis by 1PM, I’d have to leave in… about 10 minutes [sigh].

I gave some thought to not returning but being the devoted sketcher (or fool – you decide) I put my coat back on and headed out the door…to walk an hour, take the ferry, climb the cliff, and make my way to the house.  I made it but since I’d been on the move from 8:30 to 13:00, I was exhausted and wasn’t much in the mood to sketch.  I just wanted to sit down.

The house, though, is sketcher heaven if you like sketching items you’d find in a Victorian house.  It’s a place I’ll be going to several times this winter for just that reason.  But on this day I found myself in the kitchen and in one corner there was a wooden, hand-agitated washing machine.  It had been semi-restored as a display piece but the staves that made the body of the machine had been glued together and the metal bands that would normally hold everything together were placed, somewhat askew, just for show.


I couldn’t look at it without seeing it as a cartoon and so, channeling Gary Larsen as best I could, I drew it as such.  It’s not my best work but I had fun doing it which is my criterion for success.  And I only had one more trip between the Maison Alphonse-Dejardins and my place.  I went to bed early that night.

Late Fall Sketching Is The Best

Ever notice that when things come as a surprise they’re just a bit better?  We’re experiencing some late fall weather that’s been really great and it’s extended my outdoor sketching season.  This surprise has been sweetened even more by my boss and true love (some call her my wife) wanting to sketch with me.  Life is great.

We found ourselves on Ile d’Orleans, the island I’ve mentioned in recent posts and we were back in the park I discussed here.  Chantal wanted to sketch the large hotel building and I sat down to sketch an old house on that sits on a hill in the park.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8x10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Brown

When I finished up I went looking for Chantal and found her working away on her sketch.  Not wanting to interrupt her, I sat down and started doodling details of the building she was drawing.  I need to do this more often cuz it’s fun… lots of fun.  I probably could have organized them better on the page but I gave that no thought as I just kept scibbling until the pages were full.  You might want to click on the graphic to enlarge it a bit.  Do you ever do this?

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5x8.5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black


Getting Away From The Noise

For the last few weeks our street has been under construction.  The city is replacing sewer/water lines, repaving the street, replacing our sidewalks, installing new streetlights and, hopefully, they’re going to re-sod the parts of our lawns that are currently torn up.

What does this have to do with sketching?  Not much I suppose except that Chantal and I were all full up with the noise, particularly the beep, beep, beep of trucks and machinery backing up.  So we left.

We drove out to Ile d’Orleans, the large island I mentioned a couple posts ago.  We headed directly to La Boulange, a little slice of heaven that overlooks the St. Lawrence and that has great coffee and pastries.  During our visit we also learned that they have fantastic pesto pizza.  We enjoyed good food, sunshine and some quiet as we at on their veranda.

2016-09-21-60laboulangestatueThe only sketch I did from that location was this little quickie (maybe five minutes) that I scribbled into a small Stillman & Birn (3.5×5.5) sketchbook.  The bit of color was splashed on from a 4-color palette I carry, using a waterbrush as my splashing device.

When the pizza, coffee and pastry was gone we decided to head to the other side of the island (north side) to visit the large church, and its associated park because it’s a great place to sketch.  Chantal wanted to sketch the gazebo that sits at one end of the park.  I decided that was a pretty good idea and we enjoyed some more sun as we sat together sketching.  This was my result.  It was really nice to get away from the noise and we returned refreshed and ready for another round of beep, beep, beep.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5x5.5), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8.5×5.5), Platinum 3776

A Perfect Sketching Day On Ile d’Orleans

Just east of Quebec City, in the St. Lawrence River, there is a huge island that is filled with farms, vineyards, and about a gazillion apple trees.  We go there in early summer to pick strawberries.  Mostly though, we go there to sketch because the small towns that run around its perimeter are full of sketchable subjects and because it’s “out in the country.”

At one of our gatherings Miram Blair came to sketch with us and she offered for us to come to her summer cottage on the island and since there aren’t many outdoor sketching days left in our year, I decided to contact her and arrange for us to descend upon her like sketchbook-carrying locusts.  She graciously agreed to host us.

As it turned out, only three of us could go but go we did, arriving about 10AM on a cold, blustery day.  As it turned out, Miriam doesn’t just have a cottage.  She has a huge barn and a bunch of land associated with her cottage and her cottage has a huge room that serves as kitchen, dining room, and studio.  It’s also a little slice of heaven.  No wonder Miriam is always in a good mood.

We decided to sketch outdoors first, in spite of the wind and the threat of rain.  We figured we could sketch until we got too cold and then head indoors to sketch the amazing stuff Miriam has hanging on her walls, sitting in window frames, and on cabinets in the large room.

I, being the consummate sissy, decided that I couldn’t sit in the wind so I took up a position just inside the door of the barn and drew this scene.  I’d taken a large folding chair with me because my back was still barking at me and, as it turned out, I was really comfortable and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I never really finished the sketch.  I just stopped when everyone went inside.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8x10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Brown, Zig brush pen

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Brown, Zig brush pen

The brave folks, the ones who sat in the wind and drew the barn, were cold so we made our way into the house and for the rest of our time with Miriam, that’s where we stayed.  It was soooooooo much fun.

I spent a lot of time just looking at all the stuff Miriam has collected, mostly during local walks from the looks of the bird nests, shells, driftwood, etc. that graced her room.  She has two long tables, set end to end and a dozen beautiful wooden chairs lining their sides.  We used a few of them as we ate lunch, flipped through art books, and talked.

Eventually, though, we got back to drawing and I chose this scene.  When I started I wasn’t sure how successful I could be with it but I sure had fun doing it.  It’s a very different kind of drawing than my typical building sketches as I had to do a bunch of visual planning to get the bottles in the right places.  In the end, though, I was really happy with it as it captured the spirit that is Miriam’s place.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8x10), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn (4x6), Duke 209, DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (3.5×5.5), Duke 209, DeAtramentis Document Black

Miriam has a small dog named Nicki.  He and I became friends and he sat with me while I did my first sketch and because I gave him a bite of my sandwich 🙂  But as we were packing up to leave, Nicki was laying on the floor and in spite of three sketchers who were all around him as we packed up our gear, he wouldn’t budge.  I grabbed my small sketchbook and did this quick sketch of him.  It was a great end to a perfect day.

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.