Sketching on 12/12/12

Yesterday I had a lunch appointment and as I walked home from it I passed a bright yellow pizza place.  Have you ever done anything goofy for a goofy reason?  Maybe I’m alone in that combination.  It occurred to me that it was 12/12/12, a rather unique date and that I should sketch something.  But, this was one of the odd times when I didn’t have my sketching stuff with me.  Besides it was cold.  Still, as I continued walking I couldn’t get the pizza parlor out of my mind.

By the time I got home, all sense of rationality had left me.  “It’s only 10 minutes back to that place,” I said to myself.  “I’ll work fast and it’s not really that cold.”  I grabbed my sketching bag, threw half a dozen Tombow markers that I thought would I’d need into the bag along with a waterbrush.  Off I went.

It was nuts and I’ve never sketched a building so fast.  It’s certainly not my best sketch and somewhat wonky.  I used the Tombow pens to color it at lightning speed.  and then got out the waterbrush to add some sky color by wicking color from a Tombow pen onto the waterbrush.  I made a mistake and swiped some red from the sign into my sky.  I liked this little “happy mistake” so I did it some more.  This adds to the wonkiness of my 12/12/12 sketch but I liked it.

I liked it better, though, when I got home and got a cup of hot tea in my hands.  It’s definitely too cold for me to sketch outdoors anymore this year.  Have you done anything this crazy in the name of sketching?

The sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbooks, using a Kaweco Classic Sport (fine) and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  As mentioned, Tombow pens were used for color.

 2012_12-Salvatore700

Where The Dogs Run In Quebec City

The keepers of Quebec City have a sense of humor, or so it seems.  On every tourist map there is a pointer to Passage du Chiens, or Dog Passage and people flock to see it.  Well, maybe not flock as it’s down the street from lots of other stuff and they simply see it as they pass by.

But there it is, complete with official street sign – Passage du Chiens.  It is a passageway to a road/parking area for residents who live in the area and whose house fronts on a ‘street’ that is no longer a street but rather a walkway for pedestrians.  And the Passage du Cheins does sit between two art galleries that are quite photogenic and so many photos are taken of the spot.  I suspect dog lovers get a kick out of showing it to their friends.

Towards the end of our outdoor sketching season I was wandering around, trying to get in some last minute plein air sketching, and I decided to sketch this famous landmark.  The sun was bright, which was great because the temps were just above freezing.  Before I finished, though, the sun had moved behind the buildings, shading the entire area.  This, and the fact that I’d been sitting for an hour caused me to be quite cold so I quickly snapped this photo and moved on to find more sunny ground.

And then I completely forgot about the sketch, until today.  I decided it was time to add some color and this was the result.  Hope you like it.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7) and a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.

 

 

Urban Sketching During Winter

Winter has been slow in coming to Quebec City, which has been great for those of us who like to sketch on location.  I’ve gotten at least an extra month of sketching my favorite subjects, the buildings of Quebec.

But winter has arrived and as I write this it’s 11F (-12C) outside.  This is just the beginning, as we’ll soon be experiencing much colder temperatures.  So what’s a location sketcher to do?  Common recommendations are to go to libraries, coffee shops, airports, and train stations.  These are all great if the things you want to sketch are people but even then, these places tend to be people in motion, something that’s hard for the best sketchers and impossible for me.  I’m the slowest sketcher on the planet.

But now that winter has set in, I’ve got more places and things to sketch than I ever thought possible.  They’ve come in two forms thus far: museums and free concerts/events.

Museums

There are a bunch of museums in Quebec City.  In addition to the large museums like Musee des Beaux Arts and the Musee de la civilisation there are numerous smaller museums scattered around the city, principally because this is a tourist town.  Each has sketching opportunities and I expect to live in them this winter.

In particular, I’ve become a member of the Musee de la Civilisations as it seems the richest source of things to sketch.  Right now there are displays of Nigerian art, Maori culture, Samouri armor, swords, and helmets, and a wide variety of permanent displays of Canadian and Quebec cultural people, places and things.  And they’re very friendly to sketchers.  There’s a cafe where you can get soup, tea and sandwiches.  And, in a world with snow and cold outside, it’s warm.

My first adventure there was done with my buddy Yvan Breton.  We went on ‘free Tuesdays’ and expected to find the place crowded with people taking advantage of the freebie.  But we went in the morning and it wasn’t really busy so we set up in the Nigeria display and started sketching.  I sketched some of the masks, doing them in a fairly small size and doing them fairly quickly.  I just wanted to get a feel for sketching in the museum and I wanted to save time to walk around to look at all the exhibits.  We had a great day.

Free Concerts/Events

Cities have events going on constantly.  I’m not talking about Justin Beiber coming to town or NASCAR races.  I’m talking about smaller events.  A fashion show at the mall, school plays, an author signing event, club displays, craft shows, holiday events, etc.  All of these provide things to sketch.

Here in Quebec City there are also a bunch of free concerts, many put on by our music conservatory, where advanced students gain stage experience.   I’m new to these and time will tell but they’re a great opportunity to sketch people, the musicians and spectators as they don’t move much for extended periods of time.

A small sketchbook and a pencil are unobtrusive and just the thing.  I initiated my new Stillman & Birn 4×6 Alpha series sketchbook at the last one.  What could be more enjoyable than to listen to great music while you sketch?

I spent a delightful 1 1/2 hours listening to some truly gifted violinists.  I’m going to use these concerts to practice my people quick-sketching skills.  It’s a cinch I need the practice, don’tcha think?  What are some of your favorite winter sketching locations?

Parchemin Du Roy – Sketcher’s Paradise

I was talking to a sketching buddy and he asked “Do you know about Parchemin du Roy?”  I said no and he told me about a place that sold pens, sketchbooks, and pencils that he’d recently discovered.  To say my interest was peaked was an understatement.  That was a Sunday.

And so on Monday I hoofed my way to Parchemin du Roy, about a one-hour walk from my house.  They were closed, so like a kid in front of the toy shop, all I could do was put my nose to the glass and look in.  And what a view.  I left with the resolve to return.

And so I did.  It’s not very manly to jump up and down while giggling so I controlled myself, almost, as my eyes beheld the interior of this store.  Inks, pens, books, papers, sketchbooks, notebooks, maps, pencils, watercolors, brushes, and lots of other wonderful items to look at and touch.

Maybe more important, is that while they have the more typical Paper Blanks, Moleskine, and Rhodia products, they also have some really nice high-end speciality paper products.  Not only do they have J.Herbin and Pilot/Namiki inks, they’ve got walnut inks and specialized calligraphy inks.  In addition to Brause dip pens, they’ve got handmade dip pens turned from hardwoods.  While they stock Lamy pens and all their accessories, they also have the new Shaeffer “Ferrari” pen.  Yes, I admit it.  I did giggle and I jumped up and down a little.  I hope Roy didn’t see me.

They offer workshops in calligraphy and you can learn to create illuminated pages.  I might have to take one of those.  For my first visit I bought a brush, notepad and mechanical pencil.  I talked with Roy about differences between Parker and Waterman ballpoint cartridges and I looked and looked – and then I looked some more.  I’m still a bit giddy from the experience.

As I left I took a couple photos (it was too cold to sketch outdoors) and ran home to do the sketch I’ve shared above.  I hope you like it.  Do you have a specialty store like this in your town?  I’m so lucky.

Brightest Building in Quebec

The leaves are falling from the trees and temperatures are heading in the same direction.  It won’t be long before I won’t be able to stalk the streets of Québec, looking for buildings to sketch.  I guess I’ll have to go inside and stalk Quebecers to sketch.

But I was out today and walking a street I’d walked many times.  Either I’m going blind or this small ‘casse-croute’ (in some places it would be called a chips stand) has just gotten a very bright facelift.  In any case today gave me opportunity to capture its essense, which I did.

Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (10×7), Pilot Prera/Lexington Gray, Winsor & Newton watercolors

I did the basic sketch on site but decided to come home to do all the signage as I wanted to try out some different tools.  To that end, the large sign and the plates of food were done with colored pencils, a medium I have yet to conquer.  The ‘Frites maison’ sign was done with some Stabilo felt pens I just bought…and like very much for doing such things.   The building’s kinda cute, don’tcha think?

Cheers — Larry

larry@larrydmarshall.com

A New Sketching Adventure – Drawing Trees

I was walking back from a sketching session last week and I took a slightly different route.  I found a new house I want to sketch and a nifty little restaurant that may become a future sketch.  But the real discovery was a small “bouquinerie.”  In French, a “bouquinerie” is a bookstore that sells used books and I decided to go in to see if they had any cheap books on Quebec architecture or history.

They did, but what really caught my eye was a small art section.  Among the offerings, mostly in French, was a copy of Henry Pitz’s How to Draw Trees. This book was first published in 1956 and redone several times since then.  It does appear to be out of print, though you can still buy used copies of it via Amazon, Abebooks and probably elsewhere  but the prices run from $30-100.  The one I was looking at cost five bucks.  I snapped it up and it has launched a new sketching chapter for me, and I haven’t even read the darn thing yet.  The sketches are cool, though.

I’m not sure how long that chapter will be or what story it will tell, but right now I’m having fun discovering trees.  I’ve drawn trees in many of my sketches but I’ve never featured a tree in a sketch.  I still have much to learn from this book as I’m still looking at the pictures, but I thought I’d share some of my meager attempts that have sprung from my new-found interest.

Small Vignettes

I started by doing some small sketches in a really cheap, blank notebook I picked up at the dollar store.  Until Stillman & Birn decide to produce a small sketchbook, I’m stuck with this less than optimal paper as I really don’t like Moleskine sketchbook paper.  Anyways, here’s a sample of my efforts.

Plains of Abraham Trees

 

The Plains of Abraham is a natural place to sketch trees – the park has a lot of them representing many, many species.  I went there with the idea of capturing a couple ‘likenesses’ of these tall neighbors on our planet.

I started in a handmade sketchbook, with Canson Mi-Teintes tan paper.  I think this sketch may be improved with a splash of color but for now, this is the result.  Proud, but lonely, this tree stands in a very open area of the park.  Click on this image for a larger image.

I got out my Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (6×8) and moved to a comfy bench in the shade and I sketched this tree.  Again, you can get a larger image by clicking on ths small one.

Some Misc Doodles

I thought that while I had my dollar store notebook out I’d show you a few examples of the doodles I do, often while watching TV.  There’s not much to them but I thought some might find them interesting.

An old, plugged window in old Quebec

Attempt at a classic pen & ink roof corner

Simple pencil sketch

Fence post and its reason to be

Anyone have a recommendation for a decent 3×5 sketchbook that isn’t made by Moleskine and is available (without paying as much for shipping as for the sketchbook) to those of us in Canada?

Cheers — Larry (larry@larrydmarshall.com)

 

Inuit Urban Sketching

Here’s something you won’t see in many urban sketcher’s sketchbooks, an Inukshuk.  The Inuit have used these for years to provide directions, mark locations, and even to aid in caribou hunts.  Because of this, you can find these human-like rock piles scattered across the northern parts of Canada… or in souvenir shops, as miniature versions are quite popular.

This one, however, is in downtown Quebec City, on the Parliament grounds.  I’d guess its height at ten feet.  Yesterday wasn’t the optimal time to sketch it as there are barriers up around the grounds due to construction so I couldn’t get as close as I’d like, nor could I view it from its front, the optimal way to sketch an inukshuk (“in-ooo-shuck”).  But, I was there; it was there; and I sketched it as, these days, I’m interested in rocks and how to depict them.

This sketch was done in a Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8) sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink. Winsor & Newton artist watercolors provided the color.  I REALLY like the Beta sketchbook paper.  So thick, so friendly to both pen and watercolor.  I’ve become quite spoiled by my Alpha series sketchbooks but the Beta series is yet one step better for the kinds of sketching I do.

Any inukshuks in your town (grin)?

Esthetics Vs Cheap: What We Are Missing

One of the things I’ve noticed since since I became a sketcher is that most man-made objects have short lifespans, and getting shorter in our disposable economy.  We really need to do something about that.

But architecture is the big exception, largely because buildings built before the 50s and 60s were built to last a loooooong time.  Construction was brick, with thick walls and roofs covered with metal.  And oh do they last…and last.  There are hundreds of buildings in Quebec City that were built in the late 19th Century and hundreds more built during the first quarter of the 20th.  Many remain have not been torn down to make room for the square box buildings we build today for one simple reason.  These old buildings were built to be as attractive as they were functional.  As I compare the beauty of these old buildings and compare them to the more modern parts of our city, it’s not hard to conclude that we’re sacrificing a lot in the name of build it cheap.

The Fire House Example

As in every city, in Quebec City things occasionally catch on fire.  And like other cities, we have a fire department and their facilities scattered around the city.  And if you look at the fire engines that arrived at fires in the early part of the 20th Century they looked like this.  Very cool and people now visit museums to see them.

But today modern fire equipment are marvels of engineering, far more capable at quenching the flames.  Far more expensive too but we spend the money because they do a better job.  As a fire hydrant sketcher, I know there are some fire engine sketches in my future but it’s the fire houses that have caught my eye.  I’ve seen several here that can only be described with a single word – KEWL!

And so this past weekend I sat on the sidewalk across the street from this majestic building and sketched it.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn 10×7 Alpha sketchbook, using a Pilot Prera (fine) pen filled with Noodler’s Lexington Gray.  Aren’t I right?  Isn’t it KEWL!  Why don’t we build buildings like this anymore?

 

 

The Day It Rained On My Parade

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Into each life some rain must fall – Henry Longfellow

I wonder if Longfellow was thinking of plein air sketching when he wrote that famous line.  Probably not.  But as spring came to Quebec City it came in couplets, a a day of sunshine followed by a cold, rainy day.  And I was poised with sketchbook, wanting to hit the streets to do some sketching.

And so it was when I woke to a ‘to do’ list that said, ‘go sketching’, but the day greeted me with cloudy skies and cool temps.  I’d made that appointment with myself and I wasn’t going to let a few clouds prevent it, no matter how ominous they looked.  And so I headed out, hopping a bus for the downtown area.

Though it was a bit cool, I was having a great sketching session as I sat on my Walk Stool, capturing one of the many interesting buildings within my habitat.  As the Urban Sketchers say…show the world one sketch at a time.  I’d gotten the sketch to the point of adding details when it started to rain.  In atypical fashion, I’d actually anticipated the need for an umbrella and I got it out, opened it, and decided that I should take the proverbial ‘location shot’ before I left for the day.

Aside from the fact that the umbrella was one of those small things that are too small to truly protect humans my size, I bumped against another problem; I didn’t have enough hands.  If evolution was so smart, we’d have three.  I only have two.

I needed to hold the sketchbook up so the photo would include both the sketch and the actual building and, of course, I needed to hold the camera.  I could put the umbrella down but then the sketch would get wet.  And so it was that I was trying to hold umbrella AND camera in one hand, the sketchbook in the other.

I had looked relaxed and confident while I was sketching.  Now I looked like some sort of contortionist.  Trying to hold camera and umbrella while looking through the viewfinder, while holding the sketchbook out in front of me was, well, trying.  And then there was the problem of having a free finger to push the button.  I gave up on trying to look through the camera.  I shot several quick photos, hoping that one of them actually included sketch and building.

Somewhere along the line my oldsheimers caused me to forget this sketch and a couple weeks has gone by.  I ‘discovered’ it as I was flipping through my sketchbook and I decided it was overdue for completion.  This is the result.  Hope you like it.  Have you ever been caught in the rain while sketching?

Like all of my sketches, this one was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7) sketchbook.  I used a Lamy Al-Star and Platinum Carbon Black ink to finish it.  I may have used the same pen when I started the sketch too but oldsheimers strikes again.  Color is Winsor & Newton Artist Watercolor.

What Makes A Sketching Day Fun For You?

Spring is still struggling to show its head here in Quebec.  It’s raining here today,  but yesterday was gorgeous.  Heck, we got all the way up to 68F!  So I grabbed my sketchbook and headed out to wander the back streets, looking for something new to sketch.  I went to an area I hadn’t been before.

It was a residential area, constructed during the early 20th Century.  Many of the buildings had a lot of peeling paint and some even had molding pieces missing or damaged.  But there were some gems too.

But I was drawn to a fairly small, simple house, mostly because of its bright colors and absolutely immaculate condition.  I think someone must dust the exterior regularly.  Obviously its residents cared about their home.

I set up across the street and started drawing it.  Here’s what my finished sketch looked like.  I hadn’t carried my painting gear with me so I added color at home, after dinner.  The sketch was done in my 10×7 Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook using a Lamy Al-Star and Platinum Carbon Black ink.   Here it is with color added.

One difference you’ll see between the finished drawing and the actual house is that the shade is pulled in the window on the right.  During my session, that shade went up and a little, round-faced old lady looked out at me.  I envisioned the dialog.  “Hey Clarence, there’s a guy out there staring at our house.  Looks like he’s making something in his lap.  Should I shoot him?”

Alas, there were no shots.  this is Canada, after all (grin).