Weathervane Sketching Is Fun

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.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Pilot/Namiki Falcon

Sketching On The Side Of The Road

We headed to Berthier last Thursday, to enjoy each other’s company and because Claudette has a new project – sketching Casse-Croutes.  I don’t even know what you call them in English but they are generally smallish, roadside food dispensaries.

Our first stop was a Casse Croute that sits on Rte 132 near Berthier, Quebec.  My sketch was going well until I started adding color.  I made a big mistake, though I only half know what it was.  I started adding shadows to the building and the shadow color started melting the Quin Gold already in place on the building, causing a mess.  Could be that the Quin Gold wasn’t dry.  Could be that I used too much water in the shadow.  Could be that I rubbed too hard.  In any case, I made a mess.  I post it here as an example of a sketch gone wrong.  Other than a bit of grumpling at the time, it was still fun.

It was time for lunch so we headed for the marina/park in Berthier, scored a great spot overlooking the St. Lawrence, and Louise started digging food out of a big case she brought along.  My goodness did we eat…and eat.  And drink.  Wine and sun can certainly mellow a sketcher.  By the time I was done consuming a gazillion calories and a sufficient ration of alcohol, I was ready for a nap.

But time was a wasting and we were sketchers.  We piled into the car and headed to a Casse Croute called L’Extra.  Claudette and Louise had already drawn that one but they wanted to draw some of the “extras”, which were a bunch of plywood cutouts of all sorts of stuff.  I have to be honest, between the wine, the sun and the goofy sketching subjects, I was less than enthused.  I still wanted my nap.  But I sat down with the rest of them.  Yvan took a photo of us.  I share that photo with you as it looks like we’re sitting on the side of a road praying.  I’m sure I had my eyes closed.  I did get out a sketchbook, though, and quickly doodled a few of those “extras.”  It was more fun than I thought it would be.  I think the wine helped.


My Love Affair With Street Lamps

Long ago, Pete Scully introduced me to the notion that the mundane in our lives could be great sketching subjects with his series of fire hydrant sketches.  I started drawing every fire hydrant and garbage can in sight.  When you start looking at these things as art objects, they become art objects and that Pete’s important lesson to the rest of us.

I feel the same way about street lamps.  I draw them all the time.  They serve as practice; they serve as fun.  They also serve as the basis for sketches that give me joy.  Here’s one I did recently in Tadoussac where my family spent the day last week.  I’ll talk more about sketching Tadoussac in a future post but for now, imagine a place with these all over the place.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x9), Esterbrook J9550, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×9), Esterbrook J9550, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Taking A Break By Drawing A Bridge

I was out walking the other day and realized that I’d forgotten my stool.  This limits where I can sit to sketch so I started looking for the magic sketcher’s triad.  A shady spot, a subject to sketch, and something to sit on.  Eventually I found a bench under a tree and the end of a bridge I could sketch.  This was the result.

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

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

Backyard Urban Sketching

You don’t have to go far from home to do urban sketching.  All you have to do is get a wife that’s an avid gardener and scenes worth sketching just pop up around your house.  I have one and this is a sketch I did one afternoon.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Esterbrook J-2048

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Esterbrook J-2048

Trinity Church Entry Gate Sketch

Yvan and I had been quick-sketching people at Place d’Armes in Quebec City when the sun just became too much for us so we started walking around.  We decided to sketch the entry gate to the small parking lot in front of Trinity Church.  Mine is rather spartan as my arthritis was acting up and I was having some difficulty directing my pointy device.  Thought I’d share it anyway.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Esterbrook J-2048

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Esterbrook J-2048

Summer Sketching On The Plains Of Abraham

The largest park in Quebec City is officially called Battlefield Park.  It’s just west of the “old city”, the walled part of Quebec City and it was named Battlefield Park because this is where the British climbed the cliffs and fought the French for control of the city in a famous battle.

But we locals still call it the Plains of Abraham because, well, that’s what it’s called.  Abraham was a farmer who farmed the land before the Brits came along and it’s not likely that we’ll start calling it Battlefield Park anytime soon.

On this day, however, we were there to sketch, near a large open area that has rollerblade and running circuits that measure, I think, a kilometer around.  I sat in the sun and made this sketch of what used to be the natural history museum before it was decided that we didn’t need one 🙁

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5c8.5), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5c8.5), Platinum 3776

Nouvelle France People Sketches

2016-07-09-57TraitCarre2Yvan and I went to Galleria Margelis-Paradis in Trait Carre because the Charlesbourg Watercolorists were having an event to promote the gallery, their group, and their upcoming participation in Quebec’s annual Fete de Nouvelle France celebration.

2016-07-09-57TraitCarre1I’m not much of a people sketcher, particularly when the targets are moving, which was the case as the watercolorists were talking with visitors, showing them period items and paintings.  But, practice makes perfect and I’m sure I only need to draw a couple thousand more before I figure it out.  Anyways, here’s a few of the sketches I did that day.  All were done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha softcover sketchbook with my Platinum 3776 pointy device.



The Trials Of Creating An Urban Sketch

Many artists never do their art on location.  They’re happy sitting in a studio, laying out drawings, tracing the layout onto their watercolor paper, and then painting from a photo, or some such approach.  For me, sketching is all about the chase.  I have to go somewhere.  It might be just down the street or even into my backyard but I’ve got to actually ‘discover’ my subject.

There are compromises in this approach.  Anyone who does it knows them.  Time, weather, interruptions and sitting on a tripod stool balancing your sketchbook are among them.   Some times are better than others, however, and I’d like to share a couple “oops” sketches with you.

The first is a train engine.  I’ve wanted to sketch this small switch engine for a long time.  It’s tied to our large grainery and is responsible for moving the grain cars around.  I saw an opportunity to draw it and sat down to draw.  It was going pretty well until…well…it drove away.  I could follow its tracks (pun intended) and did, which allowed me to complete, sort of, the engine but the mood was broken.  I became disinterested in completing the sketch by including some entourage behind and in front of it.  So here it is, as is.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Last week we were supposed to meet on the Plains of Abraham for a group session.  Only three of us showed up because it was raining.  We ended up huddled under the overhang of a building with only a single subject, the realty business across the street. So we drew it.  It was cold and I had a hard time keeping my mind on drawing and I worked fast – too fast.  Sometimes urban sketching isn’t what it’s cracked up to be 🙂

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

With urban sketching you sometimes win and sometimes lose when it comes to the end product.  When it comes to the fun, however, it’s always more fun than sitting in a studio.

Editor’s note:  I’m getting behind in my posting.  I apologize for that and hope to get a bunch of sketches posted in the upcoming week. 

Tugboats Are Cool

When I was a kid, one of the characters, in books and later in a Disney series, was a tugboat named Little Toot.  I don’t remember anything about the stories and don’t have a clue whether it was as good as the modern maritime character, Sponge Bob, but in some strange way I was touched by that character as I have an undying affinity for tugboats.

This is really odd because I’ve spent most of my life living in places like Phoenix, Arizona and there aren’t any tugboats in the Sonoran Desert.  But there are tugboats in Quebec City and I love to draw them.  They all live in a basin with an opening to the St. Lawrence where they push and pull large ships in and out of port.  Here’s my latest effort.

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

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